As many have noticed, Site Rankings at Google, (and as a trickle down result the other Search Engines), over the past few months seems to be exceptionally unstable and volatile – rankings have been changing quite often, and if you are not paying attention to the changes implemented into Google’s ranking factors, business owners have reported as much as a 36-40% drop in organic traffic as a result of ranking changes.
Site Ranking Changes in 2021
So I have been frequently asked what is going on? Why is this happening – and why are these site ranking changes coming so fast this year – how many changes are there?
At some point, I should just report when there is NOT a Google search ranking update on the weekend. Because it seems like every weekend the tracking tools spike and the SEO chatter increases around some sort of update. But why so often on the weekend?
Here are the past Google updates I have noticed and tracked – weekend or weekday:
- October 9th – Weekend
- October 6th & 7th – Weekday
- October 2nd & 3rd – Weekend
- September 24th & 25th – Weekend
- September 16th & 17th – Weekday
- September 9th – 12th – Weekday & Weekend
- September 4th – Weekend
- August 11th – Weekend
- August 6th – Weekday
There truly have been so many incremental site ranking changes during this past 90-120 days, that it is difficult to summarize them into a single article or posting, but here are some of the highlights that I have made note of – and my thoughts towards improving ranking for clients to compensate. *
*(To note; these are based on my own work and experience with SEO – these should NOT be consider Gospel, though if you implement these changes, you SHOULD see improvement – not just with Google, but SEO in general).
So here is a list of the top 20 ranking factor changes that I have observed over the past 90 days:
1- A slight reduction in the emphasis of data from WikiPedia.
2- A reduction in the benefit of having an EMD or Exact Match Domain. Exact Match Domains are when the keyword being search for, matches the domain exactly, “Buy Snow Shovel” and buysnowshovels.com. These domain used to rank very easily, and there still is a small amount of benefit – but now the quality of the site content is scrutinized more.
3- A change in the effect of Keywords in a Domain. As of now, a domain containing a keyword doesn’t help you rank any higher than a branded domain. Although having a keyword in your domain may help people searching better understand what your website is about therefore encouraging more clicks from relevant people.
4 – The history of your domain with Google also has an impact on how your site performs. If the domain has been in trouble with Google in the past through link spam, it will be harder to rank.
5- The Age of Domain is now not supposed to be a ranking Factor. With the recent changes, whether you have an old domain or a brand new domain – It will not affect your ranking in Google’s search results. But older domains tend to have more backlinks, which DOES have an impact.
6- Domain Registration Date has an impact on documents and attachments as well. It now appears that the date that a domain with which a document is registered may be used as an indication of the inception date of the document.
7 – Country TLD Extensions – Having a cTLD like a .es domain (indicating Spain) does help with geo-targeting indication. But at the same time, it doesn’t mean they are inherently easier to rank in their target country. You could rank a .com in the Spanish Google just as easily.
8 – Private Whois Data – Having your data marked as private for Whois isn’t causing problems, but in the US, it appears that keeping this data masked or private can be combined with other ranking factors as a negative signal to Google’s Ranking algorithm.
9- Having listed in Whois a Google Penalized Owner – there is no official reference to this, but there have been quite a few examples of where a site having an owner listed in Whois that has had another site penalized for abuse – this has caused other sites with that owner to also be removed from the index.
10- Parked Domains – If you have a parked domain, Google is actively removing them from their index as of now.
11 – Two domains that are on the same shared hosting and have the same URL parameters, Google will assume they are the same. Ensure you have different URL parameters, such as dedicated IP Addresses, or separate hosting locations, and make them unique to each other to avoid this.
12 – Changing hosting providers often – or having hosting suspended – if you change hosting often in a short period of time, or EVEN WORSE, have your hosting suspended, Google will temporarily reduce your crawl rate. This is because it cannot yet figure out what load the server can stand.
13- Have a 503 Status Misuse (Service Unavailable – Overloaded – or marked down for maintenance)— If you keep a 503 status in place over a few days Google may think that the site will not be put back up. They will also reduce your crawl rate.Then the crawling will stop completely if a robots.txt file request is returned 503.
14 – Emphasis on Order Success pages – For e-commerce Sites, it appears that there is increased scanning during the indexing process to check things such as number of successful orders completed, checking to see if items listed are in stock and available. With the numerous supply chain shortages worldwide, this may why this is becoming more important.
15 – A Higher emphasis on Data Schema code and inputs – if your SEO provide is not implementing Schema for your site, you are missing out on what is becoming an important ranking factor.
16 – Comparison of your site ranking to your competitors – it appears that the ranking is being influenced by comparisons to competing sites in the same industry segment – if the competition updated or published more change and edits to their site than you over a time period, the more current site (that has made more effort), seems to be benefit as a result. Republishing a page can help, but ideally there needs to be newer content, or revolving changes made to main pages of the site on an ongoing basis – to take advantage of this.
17 – Mobile Usability – AMP Pages – if your site does have issues appearing on mobile, or is not implementing AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) – this can reduce your scoring and drive rankings down.
18 – Inconsistent Location or NAP Data – If your site stills shows an address, hours, or office location that was closed or shutdown as a recent of recent events (you went virtual for awhile during the pandemic or relocated) – and you did not consistently update all of the NAP (Name Address Phone – Maps) data to be the same on your site, map sites like Google Maps, Apple Maps, and Yahoo maps, as well as your social media sites, and other linked pages, your site is shown to be misrepresenting false information – and this can result in a ranking penalty. Again, recent events over the past two years have influenced this increase in accuracy focus.
19- SSL Encryption and HTTPS: sites – It goes without saying, if you are still hosting your site without good encryption, you are getting a ranking penalty. To be even more clear, if you are using a free SSL or shared certificate VS having your own dedicated IP Address, your own Paid SSL certificate, multiple things contribute to a decline in performance; the site takes longer to load, longer to index, has delays in DNS resolution at peak hours, mail takes longer to delivery and more – all of these issues can cause your site to rank lower.
20 – Shorter Page Title Length – the optimum title length for Google’s algorithm is now 5-6 words. Longer than this can result in a possible penalty for perceived Keyword stuffing.
These site ranking changes continue, and are expected to become more frequent as we get closer to Singles Day in China, Black Friday and Cyber Monday here in the US.
To learn more about your website’s performance in site ranking, or to get a clearer picture of how these changes will affect your site’s performance, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 844-2GETSEO – and get a free detailed analysis.