Let’s say that you install a new website and have done some basic search engine optimization (SEO) on it. It is not uncommon for it to appear at the top of a search engine results page (SERP) rather quickly—especially if the keyword phrase targeted by the site’s content has little competition. However, you cannot breathe a sigh of relief and forget about checking it in the future. More than likely, in a very short time, it will drop in its ranking due to what is known as a ranking fluctuation. There is no doubt that ranking fluctuations must be dealt with because the ultimate goal of any webmaster is to have his or her site stay towards the top of a SERP consistently. So how does the webmaster or SEO professional live with ranking fluctuations and why do they occur. Let’s examine this further.

There are many factors affecting the overall ranking of a page. Of the various search engines, it is debatable that there is any individual who understands their ranking algorithms in full detail. These algorithms are extremely complex and changing constantly. A person could be considered an expert in ranking algorithms today and tomorrow have outdated knowledge because of changes in them.

Web pages are always being added to the internet. Your web page may rank at the top today for a particular keyword but pages from other domains will soon be added that compete with it. This reality creates more competition in the keyword therefore the search engines will weigh other factors (whatever they are). If your website is not strong in the other factors then it could get pushed down on the SERP. 

Major search engines have information about websites spread throughout more than one database. And, you can be certain that those databases are not perfectly synchronized. Your website might rank at the top for a geographical region serviced by one search engine database but another database in a different region might have slightly different information thus causing a ranking a fluctuation.

You could see a temporary drop in search engine ranking after making improvements to your website. Many are surprised to find their rankings quickly drop after making what they thought were changes to better the SEO of their website. The improvements might be totally valid but the search engine needs to evaluate them. Also consider that while a change might be positive, a ranking algorithm might view it as a negative factor, unawares to the webmaster. The risk of this happening is high because no one really understands everything about any given ranking algorithm.

One quick way to deal with a ranking fluctuation is to look at what your competitors are doing. See if you can determine why you were pushed down based on the recent marketing initiatives they have initiated. It could be that their content is targeted towards its keywords better. Look at your competitors’ inbound links. It could be that their links originate from websites that are more relevant to their niche.

Never use black-hat SEO techniques to gain an unfair advantage. This is the best way to quickly make your website drop in rankings. Since search engines change all the time, what might have been an acceptable SEO technique yesterday may be unacceptable today. In other words, if the SEO methodology you use borders the black-hat realm, don’t do it. Before you try anything on your website, take a look at forums and see if someone else has done the same thing successfully in the past.

Make changes slowly. Don’t implement several SEO improvements to your website at the same time if you can avoid it. It is better to be patient and evaluate the impact an individual change has on your site’s SEO. This way, if you detect a change has caused a drop in rankings you can easily reverse it and try a different approach.

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