Front Desk SEO: Fluctuation in Ranking on Search Engine Results Pages

Chances are you are googling yourself – or your hotel rather. While looking for your placement in the Search Engine Result Page (SERPs), checking out your competition, and trying to get a clear picture of where your website sits compared to your competitors, you have probably noticed some ranking fluctuations. Search positions are constantly changing, and websites rarely stay in the same spot for very long. Before you panic, let’s look at some of the common causes for normal ranking fluctuations and determine at what point you should really worry.

Ranking Fluctuations: What to Expect

Ranking fluctuations are exactly as they sound, the movement and variety of websites’ positions in the SERPs. Fluctuation is natural and normal, but what should you expect before you worry when it comes to ranking fluctuations? For starters, fluctuation is very common, especially on the bottom half of page one, and becomes even more common as pages go on. However, if you are up on the top half of page one it does not necessarily mean you are going to stay there. Fluctuations also occur on the top half of the page – just less frequently because those websites have proven themselves to both Google and users as valuable results. So regardless of your placement on the SERPs, fluctuation is a normal occurrence you will not be able to avoid.

Drastic ranking fluctuations can occur when Google makes a major algorithm update, although algorithm updates are less disruptive than they used to be considering Google now rolls out routine updates all the time. If you want to stay in the know or just give yourself peace of mind about the current climate of the SERPs, check out MozCast for a weather report on Google’s algorithm from the previous day.

Factors Influencing Ranking Fluctuations

Personal Search History

Google personalizes results based on individual search history to give each user a better experience. If you are searching for something specific and revisit a particular website frequently, Google will understand what you are looking for and provide you your preferred link within the first few spots of the results. It’s important to also keep in mind that personalized search history is just that, personal. It only influences the results for you not for other searchers.

Personal search history is great for finding information quickly that you access often, but can also provide a false sense of ranking placement. If you are constantly Googling your hotel and clicking on your website, Google is going to start presenting your website for ‘hotels in Las Vegas’ searches. Similarly, if you are constantly checking out your competition for ‘hotels in Las Vegas’, Google will start presenting your competitor’s website to you, correlating your click with the query ‘hotels in Las Vegas’. Google uses clicks from SERPs and on-page engagement to determine how well or if they have fulfilled a search. If you continuously clicking on a competitor’s site for a query you hope to rank for, you are telling Google that link is the best answer for your search.

Geo Location

The searcher’s location also factors into ranking fluctuations. Google wants to provide the most relevant content to users, and the results of some queries can fluctuate based upon the searcher’s location to do just that. Searches that contain ‘near me’ are always going to fluctuate because we’re always on the move.

Avoiding SERP Personalization

As a General Manager or Director of Sales, it is hard to not google your competition, so how can you get a true result and avoid thinking you are ranking better or worse than you actually are? One way to ensure your results are not personalized is to search via an incognito browser. Often times this strips many personalized results, but not always all of them. Another way to get a true look at rankings is to perform a search and tack “&psw=0” on at the end of it. This removes all personalization factors and gives you a true look at the ranking of that query.

When to Worry About Ranking Fluctuation

Now that you understand how common ranking fluctuations occur, at what point, if any, should you begin to worry? When you are keeping an eye on your rankings, be conscious of your competitors’ rankings as well. If you are fluctuating, chances are your competitors are too. If you notice they are not, but you have started to see a loss of traffic over a short period of time, that is when you can investigate.

As hoteliers, you know seasonality plays a role in your revenue, so remember seasonality also plays a role in website traffic. More searches in the planning period mean less searches later when users are actually staying at your hotel. However, if you start to see an aggressive organic traffic decline over a short period of time, that is when you should start to investigate. This aggressive drop would not indicate a normal fluctuation of two to four spots, but rather signify a larger problem for your site.

If you suspect a larger problem with your site because you have experienced rapid traffic loss, investigate common causes for lost traffic. There are endless reasons why your website could have a rapid traffic drop off, but first make sure you’re losing organic traffic and not traffic coming from a high quality referral or social campaign. Additionally, make sure you have not been hit with a recent penalty. Log into your Search Console and check for any manual webspam action notifications in your account. These are just a few ways to get you started on determining the problem with your traffic loss.

The bottom line is your website’s search position is always going to fluctuate, and the only time you need to panic is if you are seeing a quick drop in organic traffic, but chances are your SEO already has a heads up about it. If you want to keep an eye on it yourself, implement Google Search Console (for free) into your website to ensure Google can access your content properly.

Ranking Fluctuations: Business as Usual

Now that you are fully versed in ranking fluctuations you can go forth and Google without panic!

Do you have more questions about ranking fluctuations or want to learn more about SEO from Blue Magnet? Contact us for more information or check out our Front Desk SEO series for more on SEO basics!