Greed, Gas Stations, & the Stability of Google Rankings

Over the last few days I have repeatedly gone back and forth from the #1 to the #2 position at Google for the keyword “greed”. I’m running a tight race with a “Seven Deadly Sins” site and its entry on greed — to which I won’t link, of course, for fear of further legitimizing those troublemakers.

Marginally more seriously, it is interesting how often I’ve moved back and forth. I have (apparently wrongly) been under the impression that Google rankings were fairly stable, at least until the company reworked its algorithm or did a massive database update. But such is demonstrably not the case.

While it has no more than drive-by financial meaning at my site, imagine if your carefully constructed mortgage site kept flitting up and down in the Google rankings from day-to-day, with the commensurate impact on traffic and Adsense earnings. Would be wildly stressful, me-thinks, like building a gas station along a popular freeway, only to have the highway move random distances towards and away from your station every morning.

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Comments

  1. Cyanbane says:

    You also could be hitting different data centers for your each of your requests to Google.
    http://www.mcdar.net/dance/
    Query ‘Greed’ at the above site, you will most likely notice flux between any of the 50+ G* datacenters. No one can really explain the flux (queue the ‘Lost’ theme) it just seems that they are not always inline.
    Also the serps change frequesntly with minor variations, there are updates still in major shakups (Google Dances) but usually there is just a backlink update and every now and then a major shakeup. Right now G* seems to be in a period called ‘Everflux’ where the algo is tweaked in small ways to only shift serps slighty, but it happens on a continual basis.
    -Cyan

  2. TJ says:

    So you think a good search engine, shouldn’t allow ranking to fluctuate, but should show the same query return back the same results day in and day out, irregardless of the fact that each day millions of pages go dead and millions more are being added?
    Come on.

  3. Paul K. says:

    No, of course not. I had merely assumed that volatility was a function of rank. In other words, a site ranked, on average, 1000, on a particular keyword could on any given day be anywhere between 1100 and 900. On other hand, a site ranked in the top 20, or so, would be less likely to move around — there would, in other words, be less volatility at higher Google rankings.
    Apparently, I was wrong.

  4. Google worked when everybody else really sucked.
    Now days, the SEO profession has an industry around distorting Google rankings.
    The point is, no engine knows what’s the most “truely” relevant website really is for any given query and I get much better results from stumbleupon.com than from G, Y! or MSN. People are much better judges of relevancy.
    Btw, yes. Google volatility sucks. For webmasters, it feels like Google has a monopoly on people finding you and they’re abusing that trust. The crap people get when they query my name, is one good example. ;(