In the SERPs (as well as in life), the only constant is change.
And that’s exactly what the “Google Dance” is.
The “Dance” is Google’s friendly way of using AI (and all the hundreds of other SEO ranking factors) to figure out where to place a new web page in its index relative to thousands (or more) of other new pages on the same or similar topics.
The Google Dance matters are the algorithm’s way of testing a page’s ranking prowess.
Rankings change every day. And, in today’s SEO world–the algorithm updates in near real-time.
That means you won’t need to wait between Google updates for another meteoric rise or gut wrenching drop in search results.
It’s just going to happen.
But don’t worry, as pages mature, volatility tends to level off.
Here’s we’ll discuss ranking volatility and what you can do to prepare (practically and mentally).
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What Factors Impact the Google Dance?
The Google Dance is most often evident for new pages.
When a new page is published, the algorithm will provide a friendly “test” for that page, driving it up in the SERPs, allowing them to collect data on how users may react positively or negatively to the page (usually in the form of click through rates and dwell time metrics).
In fact, a newly published page may see very wild swings.
When initially published, it may show up in position 100+ and then a day or two later it may crop up in the top 20, only to drop again a short time later.
In some cases, Google may shove a brand new web page into the coveted top 10 position, or even above the fold, even for competitive terms.
When this happens, it’s typically Google’s QDF (quality deserves freshness) factor at work:
If the algo determines your piece to be noteworthy, you may find an immediate boost for that piece into a much higher ranking than perhaps it deserves by other factors.
However, don’t be too surprised when you notice new posts that receive the QDF boost settling in at a lower rank a few weeks later.
But, keep in mind, QDF is only part of many factors that will impact the inevitability of your content dancing around in the SERPs.
Here are a few others factors that can have immediate and delayed impact on your pages’ rankings dance:
1. Maturity. As a rule, newer pages and domains tend to dance more widely and rank more erratically. More mature websites fluctuate less frequently. It’s website maturity that is a big contributing factor as to why it can take so long for websites to rank. Website maturity (or apparent lack thereof) is also one of the reasons many wrongly postulate their site has been shoved into Google’s sandbox.
2. Backlinks. New backlinks have a greater and immediate impact on volatility. Greater link velocity means greater volatility. And, if you’re acquiring links from high authority sites to your web pages, you will notice even greater volatility–regardless of whether your page is new or three years old.
3. Website Updates. If you’re making significant updates to your pages and posts, you’re almost guaranteed to see greater volatility in your search rankings. Such changes could include:
- Content updates to pages and posts.
- Newly-released page or post.
- 301 redirects from retired content to new content.
- Internal link building to pages or posts.
4. Competitiveness. The more competitive the term, the greater the volatility and the more difficult it will be to rank.
How Long Can I Expect the Google Dance to Last?
The factors affecting your new page’s volatility in the SERPs are varied.
The several days factors listed above will impact different pages differently and for different periods, depending on the maturity of the root domain, maturity of the page itself, the competitiveness of the target keywords or the number of backlinks.
For more competitive terms, the dance can last for years.
We recently had a client finally bounce and hold into position 5 for a highly competitive and highly lucrative keyword in the finance space.
It took them five years of painstaking effort, includes lots of dancing, link building and a bunch of pay per click in between.
Here’s a breakdown of their dancing, represented by a couple of years of work:
And another client in the property management space:
In this case, an initial QDF boost followed by regular and recurring fluctuations throughout the length of the last two years.
Each of these separate terms saw steady fluctuations as traditional SEO principles were applied to make them relevant long term.
The key for most webmasters is not to panic when rankings fluctuations occur, particularly after new links (and especially high authority links) have been acquired.
Here’s a prime example from Google Search Console (GSC) of volatile rankings from one of our own websites: Website.Design (for the term “website design”):
Massive drops across the board might indicate something more, like perhaps a Google penalty, but in most cases, it’s more likely the search results of natural SERP volatility. In other words, the proverbial Google Dance at work.
What’s the Best Strategy to Deal with Google Ranking Volatility?
When a new page is dancing in the SERPs it will do so for a period of time until it “settles in.” Once this settling occurs, it’s good practice to then reevaluate your strategy for this particular page.
For instance, if the more mature and settled page does not land in the position you would like or think it deserves, perhaps it’s time to promote it with various link building strategies.
As you do, expect more volatility before the next “settling in” (this time hopefully higher than the previous rankings summit).
Then, rinse and repeat until you achieve the search results you desire.
But, don’t stop there. The web’s linkgraph is ever morphing and the occasional content update, internal link, reference, mention or outside backlink to the page will ensure it stays relevant for the months and years ahead.
Google Dance Summary
- The Google Dance is the high(er) volatility in search rankings, typically reserved for new, updated or promoted pages.
- Google’s ranking volatility is really just a soft test to see if your content and your newly published page is truly worthy of sending traffic and eyeballs to it. Remember, Google may temporarily boost your rankings to test click through rates (CTRs) and the overall user feedback of your page. If that feedback is good, your initial QDF boost may stick. So, write good content, promote it well and keep your fingers crossed!
- When you see the dance happening, just continue implementing SEO best practices, including white hat link building and content marketing.
When you see wild swings, don’t panic. This is a very normal and expected component of SEO and Google’s algorithm. In other words:
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