Inconsistent Google Results

By Scott

Recently, i’ve received a number of emails regarding the inconsistency of Google search results as of late. Here is a scenario:

Day 1: Your listing appears high for an important search term
Day 2: Your listing completely disappears, or drops substantially
Day 3: Your listing appears again
… And So On.

What’s going on? Fluctuation in search results is to be expected. Google indexes over 8 billion web sites, and from time to time, unexpected changes in rankings will occur for no apparent reason. However, the recent update (over the past month or so) seems to be a large update. I haven’t seen this level of fluctuation for a long-time.

The reason your listings can be inconsistent, is that Google has a number of data centers that control the listings you see on the Internet (probably around 50). At any given time, you may see data from one data center or another. When the data centers are not perfectly synchronized, the results will be inconsistent. Here is an example:

A) 1 Google Data Center, as of 2/15/05 (10:10AM), lists luggageonline, 1800luggage, and ebags as the top 3 natural results on a search for luggage (http://64.233.161.105/search?hl=en&lr=&q=luggage).

B) A different Google Data Center, at the same time, lists luggageonline, worldtraveler, and irvs as the top 3 natural results on a search for luggage (http://66.102.7.99/search?hl=en&q=luggage).

By the time you read this, the listings may be synchronized, but this example hopefully gives insight into the fact that things are not always what they seem. Just because your listing appears today, and not tomorrow, does not necessarily mean you’ve been dropped from Google. The example above shows a major e-commerce company who no doubt invests substantial resources into search engine optimization getting inconsistent results, which means this can effect almost anyone.

How can you be less vulnerable? Keep adding good content to your site, keep getting relevant in-bound links to your site, and do your best to communicate the “theme” and “relevance” of your website as they relate to your important keywords to the search engines. That’s the best formula for sustainable rankings.

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