Challenges Faced by Google in Revealing Every Ranking Fluctuation

Challenges Faced by Google in Revealing Every Ranking Fluctuation

Explore the hurdles Google encounters in divulging algorithmic ranking fluctuations and manual review processes.

Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, recently shared information on how the search engine deals with algorithmic spam actions and ranking drops. The conversation began when a website owner expressed concern over a sudden decrease in traffic and the inability to request a manual review.

Many websites may see a drop in their ranking for reasons other than being penalized by a spam algorithm, as explained by Sullivan. It is important to consider various factors that could be impacting the site's visibility.

It is common for website owners to wrongly assume that a drop in rankings is solely due to algorithmic spam actions. Sullivan highlighted the need to carefully assess all potential reasons for a decrease in visibility before jumping to conclusions.

Many people have complained about losing rankings on various websites, thinking they have been hit with an algorithmic spam action by Google. However, in reality, this may not always be the case.

Understanding Google's transparency challenges can be better achieved by looking at Sullivan's full statement.

Furthermore, he also discusses the potential misconception of preferring manual review over automated rankings. It's important to note that there are two distinct scenarios to consider. One scenario is when a site has been penalized algorithmically for spam. The other scenario is when a site is not ranking well due to other non-spam related factors that simply do not find the site helpful.

I've looked at many sites where people have complained about losing rankings and decide they have a…

Google SearchLiaison (@searchliaison) May 13, 2024

Challenges In Transparency & Manual Intervention

Sullivan recognized the importance of increasing transparency in Search Console by considering the possibility of informing site owners about algorithmic actions that are similar to manual actions.

However, he highlighted two key challenges:

Revealing algorithmic spam indicators could allow bad actors to game the system.

Algorithmic actions cannot be undone manually, as they are not specific to any particular site.

Sullivan understands the frustration of experiencing a sudden drop in traffic without knowing the reason behind it, and not being able to discuss it with anyone.

However, he cautioned against the desire for a manual intervention to override the automated systems’ rankings.

Sullivan states:

Avoiding Manual Actions for Your Website

You definitely don't want to find yourself wishing for a manual action on your website. It's best to steer clear of catching the attention of spam analysts. Manual actions aren't a quick fix and it's better to keep your site in good standing from the start by making genuine changes when needed.

Sullivan moved on from talking about spam and instead focused on different systems that evaluate how helpful, useful, and reliable content and websites are. He mentioned that these systems are not perfect and may not always recognize high-quality sites as accurately as they should.

Some websites were ranking well initially, but have since dropped in position, leading to a noticeable decrease in traffic. Despite assuming there were underlying issues, it turns out there weren't any, prompting the addition of a new section on troubleshooting traffic drops.

Sullivan mentioned that there are ongoing talks about introducing additional indicators in Search Console to assist content creators in evaluating the performance of their content.

Advocacy For Small Publishers & Positive Progress

I, along with many others, have been discussing the possibility of enhancing Search Console to display more indicators. This poses a challenge similar to the issue of spam, where we aim to prevent manipulation of the system. There is no simple solution like a button to manually boost rankings. However, there may be a way to share more information that benefits everyone. With improved guidance, this could greatly assist content creators.

Sullivan shared his thoughts on potential solutions in response to a suggestion from Brandon Saltalamacchia, founder of RetroDodo, about manually reviewing “good” sites and providing guidance. He mentioned exploring ideas such as self-declaration through structured data for small publishers and learning from that information to make positive changes.

Sullivan said he can’t make promises or implement changes overnight, but he expressed hope for finding ways to move forward positively.

Featured Image: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

Editor's P/S:

The article highlights Google's challenges in balancing transparency and preventing spam. While site owners may assume ranking drops are solely due to spam algorithms, Google emphasizes the need to consider various factors. The search engine recognizes the frustration of not knowing the reason behind traffic loss and the desire for manual intervention, but cautions against overriding automated systems.

Despite ongoing discussions about improving transparency in Search Console, introducing additional indicators poses the challenge of preventing system manipulation. Google is exploring ideas such as self-declaration through structured data for small publishers to gather information and make positive changes. The article underscores the importance of avoiding manual actions and maintaining website quality, while acknowledging the need for improved guidance to assist content creators.