An Introduction to Volatile Search Rankings on Google:
Search rankings on Google often fluctuate. Your website won’t rank in the same organic positions and for the same keywords indefinitely. Over time, its rankings will change. If your website is experiencing volatile rankings, it could be at the mercy of the Google Dance.
The Google Dance Defined
The Google Dance is an unofficial term used to describe rankings volatility following an algorithm update.
Google regularly refines its algorithm by performing updates. During an algorithm update, Google changes how it ranks websites.
It may remove old ranking signals, add new rankings or change the weight of its ranking signals.
The Google Dance is a side effect of an algorithm update. If your website’s on- and off-page search engine optimization (SEO) is accurately aligned with an algorithm update, its rankings may jump to the top of Google.
If your website lacks the necessary SEO alignment, conversely, its rankings may fall.
It’s called the “Google Dance” because it involves your website bouncing or dancing around Google’s search results, which is a defining characteristic of rankings volatility.
History of the Google Dance
Webmasters have experienced update-related rankings volatility for decades. The Google Dance, however, was particularly common during the early years of Google.
After releasing its online search engine to the public in the late 1990s, Google began to develop algorithm updates to improve the quality of its search results.
Google would adjust the ranking signals used in its algorithm, resulting in higher rankings for more relevant and trustworthy websites. When it released a new algorithm update, webmasters would often notice a substantial difference in their website’s rankings.
Algorithm updates by Google have become more common over the years. Back then, Google updated its algorithm less than once a month on average. Today, it performs multiple algorithm updates per day.
In addition to occurring more frequently, algorithm updates today are less impactful than those in the past.
Most of them won’t affect your website’s rankings.
They are minor algorithm updates that typically affect less than 1 percent of all websites. Google only performs major updates — updates that affect a significant number of websites — once or twice a year on average.
How the Google Dance Affects Your Website
The Google Dance still occurs; it’s just as not as common as it was in the past. Google rarely makes drastic changes to its algorithm.
The updates it performs today are generally smaller and more targeted, with many of them focusing on a single ranking signal.
Nonetheless, algorithm updates can still cause your website to dance around Google’s search results.
If your website suddenly ranks lower for its main search keyword, and you didn’t alter your site’s SEO, it might be experiencing the Google Dance.
This phenomenon can cause your website’s rankings to tank overnight. As its search rankings plummet, your website will generate less organic traffic.
The Google Dance can also involve penalties. Most instances of lower rankings during the Google Dance are algorithmic. Google’s algorithm no longer believes that your website is worthy of its current, high rankings, so it penalizes your site.
Google’s Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird algorithm updates have all involved penalties.
However, whether major or minor, an algorithm update may penalize your website if it’s not correctly optimized.
Keep in mind; the Google Dance isn’t always bad.
Volatile rankings following an algorithm update characterize it, meaning your website can either rank lower or higher.
Some websites jump to the top of Google following an algorithm update. If an algorithm update introduces a new ranking signal for which you’ve already optimized your website, you can expect higher rankings.
Tips to Stabilize Your Website’s Google Rankings
While you can’t prevent Google from releasing new algorithm updates, there are ways to stabilize your website’s rankings.
Updating the content on your website, for instance, can lead to more consistent rankings. Hubspot recommends publishing one to four pages of content per week.
By updating your website with new content pages, you’ll show Google that your site is active. Websites that are rarely updated typically suffer from lower rankings because they are viewed as abandoned.
To show Google that your website is active, you need to update it with new pages of high-quality and SEO-friendly content.
To determine the positions for which it ranks, Google will look at your website’s backlinks. A healthy backlink profile consisting of links from trustworthy, credible, and relevant websites will promote higher rankings for your own site.
Improving your website’s usability can stabilize its rankings. Many of Google’s algorithm updates focus on usability. They are designed to reward easy-to-use websites and penalize difficult-to-use sites.
Usability encompasses elements such as speed and device compatibility. Google has evaluated speed as a ranking signal for over a decade. Even today, it continues to update its search ranking algorithm to emphasize speed.
If your website is so slow that it’s challenging to use, an algorithm update could harm its rankings. You can stabilize your website’s Google rankings by optimizing it for a lower average load time.
Along with making your website fast, you should optimize it for mobile compatibility. According to research by Hitwise, 60 percent of all online searches are conducted on a mobile device.
Not all websites are compatible with mobile devices. Some of them only work when viewed on a desktop computer or laptop computer.
If your website falls under the latter category, you should consider optimizing it for mobile compatibility. Mobile compatibility will help your website weather new algorithm updates without experiencing the Google Dance.
Not all algorithm updates made by Google will cause volatile rankings. It’s usually only major updates that have a noticeable effect on rankings.
Nonetheless, your website’s search rankings may significantly increase or decrease in the wake of an algorithm update. Known as the Google Dance, it involves volatile rankings following an algorithm update.