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The Google Dance

Decoding the Enigma of Search Ranking Fluctuations

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If you’re new to SEO, as you invest in your link building month after month, you probably expect to see a steady rise in your search rankings. However, the reality is often quite different. Instead of a linear progression, your site’s rankings might dip, bounce around, or even occasionally vanish from the top 100 results altogether.

You may wonder if you’re doing something wrong…



The Google Dance Explained

It’s a common misconception that search rankings consistently improve with each new backlink. The reality is that even if you’ve flawlessly executed your SEO strategy, Google’s algorithm may still cause your rankings to fluctuate.

The Google Dance is a distinct occurrence, setting itself apart from the typical ranking fluctuations experienced by every website. While it’s normal for a site’s search rankings to vary within a limited range of a few positions, the Google Dance is marked by seemingly random and wider-ranging fluctuations, with websites potentially vanishing from the top 100 search results for days at a time.

While we can only speculate about Google’s motivations for implementing this patented process, it is believed to be their method of obfuscating which ranking factors your website responds to, and drawing conclusions from websites that exhibit sudden changes in backlink behavior after Google has dropped their rankings.


In Google’s own words,

“the rank of a document may initially decrease in response to a positive change in its link-based information. After a period of time, the document’s rank might rise to its new steady state (target) value.” – Google Patent

In other words, Google might temporarily reduce your rankings as a direct result of enhancements to your site’s backlink profile.


The ranking behaviour you see pictured above is not uncommon. This particular client was working in a very high competition niche. They were consistently building quality, authoritative links, regularly updating their website, and providing great value to their visitors. However, their rankings did not seem to be making much of any progress for around 6 months, despite all the third-party tools (Moz, Semrush, Ahrefs) reporting their authority increasing.

One morning, we found they had shot up 8 positions. A couple of days later they climbed to #3, and towards the end of the year the finally snagged the #1 position.


The Timeline and Implications of the Google Dance

The Google Dance is a dynamic process, with its duration ranging from just a few weeks to an entire year. However, it typically takes about 6-8 months for a page to settle into its true target value and reach its merited ranking position. During this phase of evaluation and recalibration, pinpointing the eventual standing of your page in the search rankings can be quite challenging.

To navigate this period of uncertainty, it’s crucial to keep an eye on other performance indicators, such as Domain and Page Authority (Moz.com), Domain and URL Rating (Ahrefs.com), as well as visitor engagement metrics. Monitoring these factors will help you gauge the progress of your website’s authority and ranking potential as your site transitions through the Google Dance.

By focusing on these supplementary metrics, you’ll be better equipped to understand the overall impact of your SEO efforts and make data-driven decisions to optimise your website even as it undergoes the ranking fluctuations characteristic of the Google Dance.


Avoiding the Google Dance

It’s not unusual to feel disheartened during the Google Dance, as you might question the effectiveness of your SEO strategy or the money you’re investing. However, it’s important to remember that while the Google Dance is a natural part of the SEO process, requiring patience and perseverance, there are steps you can take to avoid or at least greatly diminish the ranking disruption it can cause.


Adopt a gradual approach to link building

If you have a website that hasn’t engaged in any link-building activities, start slow. In the first month, acquire just a couple of high-DA contextual links, and then gradually increase your efforts over the next 3-6 months, depending on your desired volume of monthly backlinks to achieve the rankings you’re aiming for.


Focus on high-quality content

Create well-researched, engaging, and valuable content that provides useful information to your target audience. This helps establish your website as an authoritative resource, and it is less likely to be negatively impacted by the Google Dance.


Diversify your backlink profile

Aim for a mix of backlinks from different sources, including high-quality websites, social media platforms, forums, and directories. A diverse backlink profile can help minimise the impact of the Google Dance.


Keep your website updated

Regularly update your website with fresh content, optimised meta tags, and improved site structure. This signals to Google that your website is active and relevant, which can help reduce the effect of the Google Dance.


Leverage internal linking

Establish a strong internal linking structure to distribute link equity throughout your website. This can help maintain rankings even when external backlinks are fluctuating due to the Google Dance.


Optimise for user experience

Ensure your website is user-friendly, with fast load times, mobile responsiveness, and easy navigation. A positive user experience can reduce bounce rates, signaling to Google that your website is valuable and should maintain its rankings.


Build a strong brand presence

Establish your brand across various online channels, including social media, forums, and industry-specific platforms. A strong brand presence can help build trust with search engines and users, making your website less susceptible to fluctuations during the Google Dance.


Engage with your audience

Interact with your target audience through blog comments, social media, and email marketing. Building a loyal following can help drive consistent traffic to your site, reducing the impact of ranking fluctuations caused by the Google Dance.


Be patient and consistent

It’s essential to remain patient and consistent in your SEO efforts, especially during the Google Dance. Continue to focus on best practices and long-term strategies, rather than reacting impulsively to temporary ranking fluctuations.


Mastering the Google Dance: Tips for Success

The Google Dance is an inescapable aspect of the SEO journey. To successfully navigate this challenge, it’s crucial to not only understand this phenomenon but also to adopt a proactive approach that includes:

  Consistently monitoring key performance indicators such as Domain and Page Authority, Domain and URL Rank, and visitor engagement metrics, which can help you gauge your site’s progress during the Google Dance.

 Adopting a gradual link-building strategy, starting slow and steadily increasing your efforts over time, to potentially mitigate the effects of the Google Dance.

 Regularly producing and promoting high-quality, engaging content that provides value to your audience and adheres to SEO best practices.

By employing these tactics alongside a steadfast commitment to your long-term SEO goals, you’ll be better positioned to not only overcome the challenges presented by the Google Dance, but to ultimately achieve success as your site climbs the search rankings and attains a top steady-state position.


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