Keywords Still Volatile from Panda Update

You’ve consistently targeted certain keywords, so why is your website’s position in Google for those keywords jumping around like a ballerina on chocolate and espresso? You can blame the search engine’s Panda update, which is continuing to affect the SERPs.

How bad is it? According to Nathan Safran, writing for Conductor Blog, it actually seems to be getting worse in some ways rather than better. He analyzed more than 2,000 ranking keywords for eHow, tarred with the content farmer brush by the Panda update. At first, a little over a third of those keywords showed movement in one direction or another. But when he examined the same set of keywords for eHow the following week, 43 percent of them showed movement.

That’s uncomfortably close to half. Just how do you make plans when half of your keywords are shifting position from one week to the next? You start by digging deeper to find out just how bad the movement is. Are we talking about half the words moving 20 positions or more? And is it generally up or down, or what? And how does it compare to previous volatility?

Safran notes that “Comparing the last three weeks of yo-yoing in the ranks to the weeks of zero movement from Feb. 6 to Feb. 13 makes us wonder if the newfound volatility might be the new norm for right now.” Painfully, 15 percent of eHow’s keywords dropped by at least three positions, which is a new high. On the other hand, the average drop in position was 18 places, as opposed to 46 the previous week. So while more keywords are moving, and more are moving by at least three positions, fewer keywords are showing huge drops.

That’s good news for most site owners and webmasters. While Google may still be tweaking its Panda update, the changes will probably be more subtle – so rankings will start settling down, and we can catch our breath a little. Obviously, all of this jumping around in keyword rankings for websites has had a huge effect on traffic, and if you’re seeing that, you’re not alone. Several SEO Chat forum members reported large swings in traffic (10 percent to 50 percent or more in some cases) – first down, then up, then back down, but often stabilizing at a higher level than before the swings occurred.

What, exactly, does this mean for you? Should you start targeting more keywords, or increase the number of pages that target your current keywords? If your rankings show little sign of recovery just yet, neither of these approaches will solve the problem. With every update and algorithm change, Google tries to improve the relevance and quality of its results. Take a very good look at the sites that now rank above you in Google for your targeted keywords. Ask yourself if their content is better than yours for those keywords – and answer honestly. If it is, then you know where your problem areas are and what you need to do about it. The good news is, you’ll be filling in gaps where your content is thin, and building your site for the long haul. Good luck!

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