How to Handle Shifts to Your Business’ Search Engine Rankings

If you put a lot of work into SEO, it can be worrisome when you notice your company’s website slipping in search rankings. Here’s what you should know about the potential causes.

How to Handle Shifts to Your Business’ Search Engine Rankings

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Spring can feel a bit wishy-washy. One day it’s in the high 60s and the next it is snow flurries yet again. As marketers, this up and down weather reminds us of something else we often see: search engine rankings fluctuations.

Those words can give any business owner goosebumps and sweaty palms. But is it really something to worry about?  

When you invest in SEO (search engine optimization), it can be easy to fall into the trap of expecting your website to always rank at the top of organic search results. You might check your rankings obsessively at first, looking for improvements and hoping there aren’t any significant drops. 

Is that really how SEO works? Or is that a bit like expecting spring to be steady and consistent? We’ll give you a hint: SEO is a lot more like spring weather than you might hope.

Sure, we’d all like our websites to rank No. 1 for all the keywords that matter to our businesses. We’d all (respectfully) like our competitors to eat our dust. But it takes some time to see some progress. And even well-optimized websites see ranking changes. Here’s why.

#1 Google’s algorithm changes and prioritizes different things

Google isn’t stagnant. They run tests and make changes to their algorithm all the time, and not all of these are announced. 

Sometimes algorithm changes prioritize things that weren’t previously all that important. Sometimes they demote things that used to be incredibly important. And when they make these changes, it can cause sites that ranked high to drop in rankings and sites that ranked lower to jump in rankings. 

For example, after the “vicinity” update (which rolled out in November 2021), keywords in the business name seemed to lose some weight, while proximity to the searcher seemed to increase in importance. As a result, businesses with keywords in their names that had been ranking well in areas far from their physical location saw a drop in rankings. Businesses that hadn’t been ranking as well but had offices in or close to the areas they were wanting to rank in seemed to fare well.

No changes were made in terms of these businesses’ websites or SEO efforts — it was a change that Google made that sent them higher or lower in organic search results. 

The biggest takeaway here is that Google is going to do what Google wants to do, and it can impact your business. But that’s out of your control, so there’s no point in worrying about it. All you can do is stay informed and react and strategize based on the changes they make. For example, if you lost rankings because of the vicinity update, you could respond by setting up a physical location in the area you most want to rank in.

#2 Your competitors might have stepped up their game

Truth be told, it’s easiest to rank high in areas where you have little to no competition. Of course, most of us aren’t that lucky. 

But if you’ve always done well and have noticed a drop in rankings but haven’t made any changes to your SEO or website, and you haven’t been affected by an algorithm change, take a look at your competitors. Have they stepped up their SEO game? Are they doing anything different? A ranking drop might just mean that the competition in your area is getting hotter. In these instances, it might make sense for you to invest more heavily in PPC (pay-per-click), LSAs (Local Service Ads), or to start making some changes to your site (like adding more highly authoritative, local content). 

Should you worry when rankings fluctuate?

So what’s the bottom line? Should you worry when rankings fluctuate? 

Not necessarily. But do take notice. If you see rankings fluctuations, get curious and keep an eye on everything. Remember, rankings fluctuate for all sites — big and small. And while rankings are important, they aren’t everything. They’re a piece of the puzzle. 

There are so many other things you should get right besides just your website — like your Google Business Profile, your PPC ads, your social media strategy, your email campaigns, and your word-of-mouth and referral marketing. SEO isn’t a silver bullet. It’s a piece of the marketing puzzle — a big, important piece, but still, just a piece.

About the authors
Carter Harkins and Taylor Hill are the authors of Blue Collar Proud: 10 Principles for Building a Kickass Business You Love and the owners of Spark Marketer, a "no bull" digital marketing company that’s been getting sh*t done for home service businesses across the nation for a decade. They’re trusted thought leaders in the industries they serve, which is why you’ll find them regularly speaking at service industry trade shows and conferences and writing for trade magazines. Tired of empty promises and ready for focused digital marketing and balls-to-the-wall dedication that gets your business seen? Visit


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