Like Me? Follow Me.
I love reading search engine optimisation forums when Google makes changes to their results pages. Every webmaster and SEO consultant is full of ideas about why their sites are bouncing up and down for keyword searches that had previously been stable for months, if not years. The best theories are always the ones which suggest that Google changing their rankings is part of a great conspiracy to destroy the humble webmaster and make the world bow to the might of Search.
To be honest, watching the results change in Google is a huge part of the fun of working in SEO. If your sites move up in an update then you've served your clients well. If your sites move down then you have a puzzle to solve and some really meaty work to get stuck into to bring your listings back. One thing everybody knows who's ever seen an old-fashioned Google update, complete with a Google Dance, is that you really can't determine anything until the dust settles and the listings stablilise.
This last fact is why I was so amused recently to see SEO Roundtable highlight a suggestion from Webmaster World that Google has decided to make the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) fluid to improve click-throughs on Adwords. The post in question suggests that if the organic listings move around too much that searchers will start clicking on the more "consistent" PPC ads. This theory, however, falls at the first hurdle as PPC listings in Google are hardly consistent. They change based on time of day, bid prices, number of advertisers, changes to campaigns, budgets being expended, etc. PPC results will never be "consistent" for any keyword. If they were, Google's profits would eventually plateau because new advertisers would not be able to make inroads into a viable PPC campaign.
All this Google paranoia, while entertaining, is ultimately unhelpful to webmasters who are genuinely looking for information about why their search traffic has suddenly changed. What webmasters and SEO novices need to remember is that Google lives and dies by the quality of the organic results. If people become unhappy with organic search at Google they're not going to start clicking ads, they're going to start using a competitor so when they make changes it's because they think the changes will provide better SERPs. When a site finds its rankings drop drastically during an update it is not because Google has it in for webmasters, it is because of something directly related to that site or that site's competitors.
The best thing to do if your site has been affected by a Google update is to wait a couple of weeks and if your results have not improved undertake a thorough SEO review. If you're unsure where to begin, you should consider an external SEO audit from an experienced SEO consultant. A good SEO review will not only take into account the content and structure of your website, as well as the number and quality of back links to the site, but it will also examine how your site compares directly to the competition - giving you an idea of why you've been affected. It may also help you to build a solid online marketing strategy for your business and save you a lot of sleepless nights wondering how you can ever possibly succeed in marketing your business online.