Sometimes, doing SEO of your site can be frustrating. Yesterday, your website ranked on the top Google SERPs. But, when you performed the same search today, you found your site ranking on the second SERP. So, what went wrong? Was your website pawed to pieces by Panda or pecked full of holes by Penguin?
Newsflash! The Harm is Self-inflicted
You can relax a little. Your pages haven’t been attacked by marauding wildlife or even their algorithmic namesakes. The stability of your website’s search engine ranking is entirely within your control. If your rankings are up and down like the proverbial yo-yo, there are a number of elements within your SEO strategy and tactics that need some scrutiny.
The following five issues are among the most common reasons for unstable search engine rankings. Take a look at them and then prepare a plan of action and execute it. You should see an improvement if you can fix these common errors.
1. You Did Map Your Keywords, Right?
Keyword mapping involves hierarchical classification of keywords pertinent to your website by intent, relevance, and significance, then segmenting them further into groups and subgroups. The aim is to reach a point where each keyword you use can be associated closely with a single, specific page on your website, which should contain content that is relevant to the keyword. If you haven’t performed this process, your page rankings are likely to be unstable, and realistically, a restructure, with pages and content mapped to keywords, will be necessary to improve the situation.
2. Your Website Has Crawling Issues
Another common reason for ranking instability relates to the search engine spiders and the way they work on indexing your website. Reid Bandremer, a project manager at consulting firm LunaMetrics, explains this really well in an article. Amongst the wealth of in-depth information in the article, Bandremer describes the three major types of crawl issues, all of which can contribute to problems with ranking stability. These issues are:
- Crawl errors, resulting from a search engine’s inability to download your URLs.
- Pages don’t get crawled, which is usually because something in your website code is preventing the spiders from crawling your content.
- Spiders crawl pages on your site that aren’t actually meant to be crawled (such as private pages).
Apart from that, with help from Site Auditor, you can find several other crawling issues pertaining to your website.
3. Your Hosting Server is Not Serving You Well
Search engine spiders typically attempt to access your site several times each day. If they try to do so during a period when your hosting server is down, the attempt will, of course, fail. If this happens too often, your site will be flagged as unreliable by the search engine, which affects your ranking.
Host-server downtime and page loading speed (which can be affected by your hosting provider’s server performance) are both taken into account in search engine rankings. Therefore, if your server performance fluctuates, so will the ranking of your website on search engine pages.
4. Poor Internal Linking
Therefore, if your site is suffering from unstable rankings, you should check that you have plenty of internal links on your pages that are neither broken nor linked to pages which can’t be crawled.
When I was a consultant at ClickDesk, I only fixed the internal linking of the website, which generated a decent increase the organic traffic. Here is a quick snapshot from GA.
5. Changes, Changes, Changes
While variety is the spice of life, changing things up too much on your website won’t help its SERP rankings. Of course, it’s essential to refresh and update your content regularly—in fact, it’s vital. But making too many changes all at once will impact the ranking stability of your website certainly.
6. Blog to Target Unachievable Keywords
Sometimes you just can’t target a specific keyword on a product or service page of your website – it just won’t fit and look natural. In these instances, you can take advantage of having a blog always. Do a quick Google search for that keyword and check what other pages rank for it. Read the content on the pages and start writing an epic blog post, which you are sure will have better quality and is more informational than the other pages that are ranking for it. This is an excellent way of bringing in long-tail traffic too.
How to Prevent Ranking Instability
It’s all very well to know what problems you can look for and fix to improve the stability of your rankings. However, as with everything, prevention is better than cure. You can use tools like Website Analyzer to conduct an in-depth analysis of your website and identify hidden ranking opportunities.
Once you’ve identified the SEO elements affecting your rankings, whether they are issues described in this post or otherwise, you owe it to yourself and your website to create an SEO plan to fix every issue.
Your plan should include a schedule of actions to regularly analyze SEO performance and continuously optimize the content on your site. By scheduling your SEO tasks, you can avoid making too many changes at one time. The website analysis will show how your site’s hosting server, keywords, and links are performing; hence, enabling you to take appropriate actions to improve ranking stability.
SEO doesn’t have to be tricky, but it does need to be well-planned and given plenty of attention if you want to achieve stable website rankings.