The End Of Google Rankings As We Know It! Rotational Rankings?

I always worry about posting new found research as some clever dick always pops up to tell you they discovered it in 1999, however I have noticed something in the rankings recently that has made me re think Google rankings.

The Story

OK so I decided a couple of weeks ago to rank for “SEO consultant”, just something I fancied really, not the most competitive term.

Anyway….. I have obviously been keeping an eye on the rankings over the past few weeks on this particular keyword and a few more as well and there has been some pretty dramatic trends in the rankings.

One day I checked and I was 7th for “seo consultant” refreshed and I was 15th, refreshed again and I was 4th!!!

It’s not just that keyword either, I searched “search engine optimisation” I was 11th, refreshed and I was 26th and again and I was 7th.

Now rankings have always been up and down but this was a little crazier than usual.

Webmaster Tools Update

So…. Google announce the webmaster tools up date only a few days ago which explains that they are now tracking click through rates in the keyword sections of webmaster tools.

Now I don’t know how accurate these figures are and they seem to differ quite a bit to Google analytics, however the data it presents is interesting.

Just take a look at the below screen shot;

webmaster rankings

Now I am only using “bing SEO” as the example but the data establishes a few things across multiple keywords.

The first thing you notice is that out of 320 impressions I only ranked first 260 times (these impressions figures aren’t accurate as I usually receive around 600 visitors on this keyword a month), this means I don’t rank number one, I only rank there around 70% of the time.

The Old Theory

The old SEO theory determines your rank based on page optimisation and the number of links your page/domain has, the only thing affecting rankings would be competition in Google’s algorithm. I now think this is outdated and wrong, over the last 6 months I and other SEO’s have seen massive fluctuations in rankings suggesting a new way of ranking sites and determining traffic.

My Theory

Well, this is what I suspect, Google have confirmed nothing yet or any other SEO authority but the evidence I have seen strongly suggests rotational rankings.

Let me explain…. You do a search in Google on your main key term and you rank 4th, so you rank 4th??? Wrong you may rank 4th in that instance but you could complete the same search 10 seconds later and you rank 10th, a huge difference not only in ranking but the traffic too.

So… Google determines the rank of your site determined on page factors and links and then ranks you in a range of positions could be 5 – 10 or it could be position 2 to 4 pages back, depending on the person searching, there location, personalised search, time of day.

Ultimately how well optimised your site is determines how often you rank in a top position.

So your aim is not to rank in the top 5, which is now impossible, your aim should be to rank their most of the time.

What Does This Mean?

It means quite a lot.

1 – Determining traffic in a certain position is now impossible

2 – Your ranking position can change every second even if you’re searching on the same IP using an incognito window on chrome

3 – You can never say I rank number one, but only I rank number one most of the time

You see there are so many websites competing for the same space that Google has no choice but to use a rotational system like this and for all we know they may use the click through rate to decide whether your ranking gets better or worse, maybe.

I’d love to know everyone’s thoughts on this and if anyone has noticed these changes.

Google SEO Report Card: Some Important Take Aways

With all the focus clearly on links and link building in the search engine optimisation field it easy to forget about the importance of focused keyword content and a clean site architecture.

On page optimisation often gets left behind in the online marketing discussions but thankfully Google have given a huge and in my opinion very effective reminder.

Google have recently released an SEO report card based on improving the optimisation of their product pages.

Within the report are some vital insights and reminders to us all about page optimisation and URL structure.

If you want to read the report please download it here: Google SEO Report Card

I thought it would be a good idea to run through some of the points within the report as they are useful to both bloggers and webmasters in general.

Title Tags

I know you have heard it all before but here are few things you may not have heard of:

  • Only the first 60 characters of a title tag give any real ranking benefit
  • Sometimes users click links based on brand, so use your brand name in the title tag
  • Google wants you to use keywords users will search

I know the last point is a little lame, but there are still some ‘keep it natural’ fundamentalists out there. Just write it for users, don’t use keyword tools. Keep it natural.

News flash! Google wants you to use searched keywords. This is not writing for engines because who ultimately invents these terms?

Google go through the usual reminders about being descriptive and keeping the title tag accurate and to the point, but you’ve heard all that before.

As it’s only the first 60 characters that count it is important when writing blog posts to make your first 6 – 9 words as optimised as possible, or if you use thesis you can customise the title tag of each post.

Meta Descriptions/Keywords

Google made it official that META keywords don’t count at the end of last year, however they have now confirmed that the description is also a waste of time for ranking purposes. However, I and many other SEO’s always recommend using your main keywords in the description tag as they are bolded and this increases the chances of clicks.

Site links

These are the little links that appear below your main link in Google like so;

Please note that your site will only get these once Google trusts the domain and classes the info as authoritative

Google gives us some nice suggestions for optimising the type of site links we have appear in Google;

  • Use a strong hierachial Structure
  • Make use of descriptive anchor text
  • Avoid deep directories

Let’s talk about each of these points a little;


This is fairly straight forward, if you want an important/relevant page to appear as a site link in Google then you need to link to the page from your strongest pages, normally this means your top level domain. An ecommerce site should look to optimise their best selling product pages in the site links.

If you still find low quality pages are being used as site links, you can remove them directly from webmaster tools.

Descriptive anchor text

I have been shouting about this for years but it always gets brushed under the carpet, probably because it has a low ranking value.

The fact is that internal descriptive anchor text may not pass link juice but still pass relevance. I spoke some months ago about using descriptive internal linking to create indented listings and proved it with my ‘bing seo‘ page.

Don’t go silly with these and stuff target keywords in but try to use them whenever appropriate, Google clearly clarifies that “read more” and “click here” links are worthless and this is something the search giants do not recommend.

Deep Directories

Very simple don’t bury your best content in a deep file.

/file1/file2/file3/file4/my-great-content/ – Never going to be a site link

301’s vs 302’s

Ok if you have ever got in the world of redirects you will know there are a few different ways to do it.

301 = Permanent Redirect

302 = Temporary Redirect

You should always try to use permanent redirects, if not and you use a temporary redirect Google will consider both URL’s to be of use and index both. This can provide a bad user experience and cause duplicate content issues.

There is a load more detail in the report including advice on;

Alt tags = Yes they are still important, keep it descriptive and keyword rich

Canonical = Use the rel=”canonical” link to help Google know your main URL’s and also make sure internal links point to the canonical URL, this helps stop duplicate URL issues and content from arising.

If you find 30 minutes you should definitely read through the report, very interesting.

Google Finally Gives More Weight To Editorial, Natural Link Profiles

You no doubt monitor your ranking within Google and even though many online authorities say keyword ranking is not as important as it once was there are still a number of reasons to keep track of it.

1) It lets you know Google is happy with your optimisation practices

2) It helps you understand how site and page changes affect your rank

3) And of course it helps keep you motivated (if you’re moving in the right direction)

So, monitoring your own site is a given, however do you monitor the search results page in general for your target keyword?

For example I am targeting the keyword ‘search engine optimisation’ it is highly competitive and after 8 months of hard work I am sitting on the second page in the UK.

As part of my SEO practice for this keyword I check my rank position weekly; however I also check the top 20 – 30 positions to look for changes and any websites that may have been penalised.

Now recently there has been a major movement in the UK within the SERPS for the keyword “search engine optimisation” and that is with the website and seo company SEOconsult. They have recently dropped from the first page down to the third page.

It’s important to remember at this point that we are NOT dealing with a site that spammed it’s way to the top, SEOconsult are a reputable business and still sit on the first page of Google for the keyword SEO, they have over 50,000 back links and a Page Rank 6 (for all it is worth).

However, if you take the time to look at the link profile of the site it will soon become clear in my opinion.

First Let’s Contrast It

If you ever see this happen to a competing site or indeed if it happens with your own site, the first place to go is the front page of Google. Look down the top 10 results of the SERPS and pick out a ranking site that seems the weakest out of the bunch, or the one with the least amount of links.

I did this for the keyword ‘search engine optimisation’ and picked out the page Topclickmedia, this site has a significantly less amount of links pointing to the page, in fact it only has around 6000 but in order to see why this page ranks on the first page and SEOconsult have been dropped you need to look at the link profile in a little more depth.

I quickly used the SEObook backlink analyzer to do this but you can use any software you wish. It only pulls out 1000 of the most important links but it is enough to understand why the sudden drop has occurred and why the smaller page is ranking higher.

First let’s take a peek at some of the links pointing to Topclickmedia;

link profile

Now looking down this link profile I specifically targeted links using variations of the keyword “search engine optimisation” and as you can see it is a very interesting link profile.

There are a few things to note here;

1) The links are made up of lot’s of different variations, there is obviously exact anchor text but only around 25% were exact, 39% were variations of the keyword.

2) The links come from deep pages of other sites and not homepages

3) The links are mainly in content making up part of a blog post or an article

I would say this is a big thumbs up for Topclick they are getting in content/editorial links using multiple variations and hey they rank higher with fewer links.

Google have been spouting for a while that they want to give more credit to natural looking anchor text profiles and editorial links but the evidence has been thin to say the least. Has there been an update?? I strongly believe there has.

Let’s Take A Peek at SEOconsult

Right, time to compare the link profile to see how it differs and to see if we can see any clues as to why the rankings may have been hit.

link profile

The snippet above is pretty much what you see throughout the rest of the links, most of them anchored with exact keyword terms “SEO” “search engine optimisation” and “search engine optimization”, there is very little in the way of variation. However, that’s not all, it is also quite clear that most of the links are in footers, sidebars and directory listings.

So my verdict…

I believe SEOconsult has been penalised due to their highly optimised anchor text and lack of editorial like links. These kinds of changes have been seen on the domain months ago and it looks like they’re filtering through to the side.

Why would Google make these changes??

It’s simple really and makes sense;

1) Directory links, footer links, sidebar links are more likely to be either paid for or site wide.

2) Even though Google encourages keywords in anchor text, highly optimised link profiles scream manipulation and Google does not want to look stupid.

3) Links within content are generally on deeper low PR pages, this means they have a higher probability of being editorial in nature.


I am not saying to stay away from site wide links or even footer links completely. I am simply highlighting that in general your link profile needs to be editorial in nature and your anchor text needs to look naturally varied, stick to around 25% exact anchor on manufactured links.

I hope this has been helpful.

This is definitely my last post before the Jolly Holidays, hope everyone has a good one and wakes up on Christmas morning with a first page ranking :)

Disclaimer – The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not factually based principles. The author is not associated with Google in anyway or any of the above businesses mentioned.