Hi Jill,

I'm an avid reader of your newsletter and have gained much from your advice, for which I thank you very much. My question is one that I have not seen addressed, unless I somehow missed it.

I tried to apply your suggestions to my web pages and decided to check the results on several major search engines back in June. I was pleased with some rankings and not so much with others, but then got sidetracked on one of our other websites. As a result, I did not make any changes to improve the original website. But I still kept checking the rankings once a month and the numbers have me confused.

Why do the numbers on some search engines fluctuate so wildly from month to month? I've seen my site go from number 83, to 96, to 67, to 226 in Google, from June to September.

I can understand why my rankings would go down in a given month because I have made no changes to my site while others may have made strides to improve their sites. If I remember correctly, you have also stated that leaving your pages static over too long a period of time will lower your rankings. What is confusing to me is the constant up-and-down movement of my rankings.

Why is there such fluctuation and can anything be done to try and control it?

Thanks for your help.

Ross Haynes

~~~Jill's Response~~~

Hi Ross,

I'm glad you've gotten a lot out of my newsletters. That's what makes it all worthwhile. (As a side note, I'm starting to get mad at myself for giving out all my secrets every week. I'm really beginning to notice a difference in the search results these days, with more and more pages being optimized. This is a generally a *good* thing for the Internet as a whole, but not when the optimized sites are competitors of my clients! -grin-)

As to the topic at hand, I'm really glad you asked this question. I still send ranking reports to my current clients once a month, and very often they ask me the same thing. Since I've been in this biz for so long, I forget that most people don't realize that ranking fluctuations are totally the norm. Sure, there are times in some engines when your site may sit at a given position for a search phrase for many months. But it's more "normal" to see positions change at any given time.

The Internet is very much a dynamic medium. That's what makes it great. Sites come and go. New pages are being added to the search engine databases at astonishing rates. Google claims to have 3,307,998,701 pages in its index today. I remember a couple of years ago when it was 2 billion instead of 3 billion. That's a billion more pages that can come in and push your rankings up or down at any given time.

Rankings are not static, nor have they ever been. In fact, when you see your rankings *not* changing position in any particular engine, it's often because that engine hasn't been updating its database. That's a bad thing. The engines that update frequently will always be in a state of constant change, as will your rankings.

Regarding your comment about your rankings going down because you didn't work on your site, that's a fallacy. If your site is optimized to be the best it can be, there's no reason to work on it any more, as far as optimization goes. (You may want to work on it for other reasons, of course!) Sure, if you're not in the top 2 pages of results, then you may not have it optimized as well as it could be and you may want to tweak things. But once you hit the top 10 or 20, leave things alone for a while and see what happens. Don't be scared if you go from 3 to 8, or even to 17. Very often, even if you drop from 1 to 17 at some point, you may very well find that you're back to 1 soon enough. Since the search engines should never be your sole form of marketing, these fluctuations should not make or break your business.

The thing with SEO is that there is no way to choose your position. Nobody can buy a particular position in the engines, unless they're using pay-per-click ads that show up in the sponsored results. This is what drives many people crazy with SEO. They want to understand exactly why their page is at a certain spot in the results, but since it's fluid, there's no way to be exactly sure. All we can do is understand and implement the fundamental things that will give our pages the best chance of showing up high in the rankings for our targeted keyword phrases. The rest is up to the search engines. They have to agree that our page is indeed the most relevant, and they have to then rank it accordingly. Sometimes it happens just as we'd like it to, sometimes it doesn't. Just be sure to use all your knowledge and do the best you can.

Never think that you have to redo your site just because it doesn't stick in any one position in the search engines. That is the roller coaster that we call SEO.


October 27, 2003

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Site Won't Stay Put in Rankings