Search Engine Algorithm Quandaries

Before you make drastic changes to your website after a rocky search engine update, take time to study your web server logs, changes in traffic to your site, and your ranking in the search engines.

Making Changes Before Analysis

Making rash decisions when you are hearing one thing then another from forum postings and articles is not the best choice to make. Much of the talk about fluctuations in the search engine rankings is just that--talk. Cold hard facts come from established tests of what is going on and why. Don't jump ship before examining what is going on with your website first. Panic will lead you nowhere.

Let's talk about basic search engine fundamentals you need to know.

Search Engine Rankings Fluctuate

First, you need to know that search engine rankings fluctuate; that is just the way it is. Google is a prime example of ranking changes happening throughout the day. The best way to find out how you are faring is to study the traffic coming to your site over time. Nope, not just a day or two, try a week or two at least to see if your rankings return. A search engine update may last a week before finishing and the rankings settle. Most importantly, are you receiving traffic at your website? Are you still making sales? Okay then, something is working. Don't jump on the "change everything" bandwagon. Pay attention to what is true in regard to your website.

No One Knows Algorithms Like The Search Engines

The truth is much of the talk about organic (natural) search engine marketing information is speculative. The people who know exactly what the search engine is doing are the engineers who created it, and they are not going to give away their secrets. This means that understanding what happens when updates occur may be difficult to pin down. Keeping tabs with leaders in the industry through articles, forum postings and blogs may give you a general idea of what is happening. Take that information and then apply it to what is actually happening with your website traffic and sales.

You Need A Log Statistics Program

If you do not take anything else away with you from this article be sure you heed this advice: you need a log statistics program in place. With a good log statistics program you will be able to see various reports showing the number of unique visits taking place on your website, what keyword phrases visitors use to find your pages, what pages are being visited, which search engines are being used to find your website, and much more. Knowing what the "normal" website traffic of your website is will give you a good idea of what may be actually changing over time when updates do occur.

Resubmitting Doesn't Help

Don't resubmit your web pages in the crush of an update. Search engines have crawlers, known as search engine robots or spiders, that are able to pick up a web page through links in order to add it to the search engine databases. For this reason you do not need to submit your pages to search engines anymore. Even if you mysteriously go from "top ten" to number 500 in the rankings, the fact that you are still listed means that you are still in the search engine's database, and you do not need to resubmit. Watch search engine robot activity in your server logs and you will be able to see when your web pages are being revisited by the robots.

Google PageRank Should Not Rule Your Life

So many people fixate on Google's PageRank. I suggest you should be more concerned about the traffic coming to your website, sales, the amount of content on your site and the number of on topic or directory backlinks you have acquired. PageRank is part of a much bigger equation of over 100 ways in which Google evaluates your website. Don't forget about the traffic that comes from the other search engines as well. Google may not always be the leader in search engines, keep current with the other major search engine players in the industry.

Common Sense Makes Sense

Use common sense. If you are a small business you can ill afford to make changes that may adversely affect your bottom line. Observation and patience will gain you more than quick fixes. In my experience, the true test of an update is watching the search engine results settle over at least a week or two worth of time. Let the dust settle, analyze the situation, and see what happens from there.

Moderation may be helpful, whether in gaining backlinks, making website changes or your reactions to changes. Don't panic. If it isn't broken...don't fix it.

Daria Goetsch is the founder and Search Engine Marketing Consultant for Search Innovation Marketing, a Search Engine Optimization company serving small businesses. She has specialized in Search Engine Promotion since 1998, including three years as the Search Engine Specialist for O'Reilly Media, Inc., a technical book publishing company.

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