What Happened to My Google Ranking? Explaining The Google Dance
By Karyn Greenstreet
copyright © 2004, by Karyn Greenstreet. All rights reserved.
Have you noticed your website slipping in the Google rankings over the past few weeks for keywords that previously scored high? Join the club and welcome to The Google Dance.
The Google Dance is a phrase that was coined to explain the new search engine algorithms that Google puts into play on occasion. Many of the recent Google Dances startled website owners as they watched their previous number 1 site plummet to number 400 in the rankings – or disappears off the Google charts all together.
Many of my clients called me in a panic, wondering if they did something "wrong" to cause this to happen. The answer is mostly: no. You didn’t do anything wrong. Google is testing new search algorithms to help people find more relevant results from their searches and to give penalties to people who use illegal techniques to try to get higher rankings in the search results.
I can't say that the results are any more relevant, though. For instance, when I use the keyword "small business coach," I expect to receive results that list small business coaches' websites. But when I type in "small business coach" in Google, the first result I get is an Amazon.com site. In fact, only four out of the top 20 sites listed are coach's sites.
So, what to do? The knee-jerk reaction is to try to figure out what the "new" algorithm is and to optimize your site accordingly. That's a bad idea. First of all, the search engines use over 100 elements to rank a site. Since you can't possibly know what all 100 elements are, or what weight is given to each element, you will be wandering in the dark. Second, you don't know how long this particular Dance will last, so you might be optimizing your site only to have it all wrong when the Dance is over. Third, you might optimize your site for Google, only to harm your rankings on Yahoo or MSN.
My advice to my clients is two-fold: First, read the guidelines for each of the search engines and make sure that your site isn't doing something against policy, as your site will be penalized and dropped in ranking. Next, sit tight. Wait a week to see how the Dance goes. Monitor your site once a day to see where its ranking is for each keyword phrase you're tracking.
Search engine optimization should be just one part of your fuller Internet Marketing strategy. While the Dance is happening (and some Dances last a few weeks), focus on other pieces of your Internet Marketing strategy and use other techniques to bring visitors to your site. In the end, your strategy and results will be stronger.