The Benefits of Waiting for Results

Not too long ago I was frustrated with the results we were getting on a client’s site. The site, though strong in its market segment, was gradually slipping in the SERPs (search engine results pages) for a couple years. We tried various new or revised content with the goal of improving keyword rankings, only to see little positive, and often negative results. And that was weird because our content strategy (improved title tag, H1 and page text) was the same that we’ve used for all our other clients with quite positive effect.

Not getting the results we wanted, we’d go back and tweak the pages some more, and the results were not good. So we’d adjust them again…. You see where I’m going with this story? It felt like our client was being punished. And they were.

We had forgotten a change Google made back in 2012 to help thwart black hat SEO. They implemented a randomizer that would be in effect for up to 90 days after changed were made to a page. In our desire to see improvement, we kept making changes to pages typically within this 90 day window, further randomizing or even negatively affecting placement in the SERPs. Palm slap to the forehead.

Immediately we backed off making further changes, sat back and monitored the most recently changed pages through the next 90 days. Sure enough, results were initially up and down, generally down, and then they started improving as we would normally expect and settling in towards the end of the 90-day window.

Now this doesn’t happen with most of our clients, primarily just this one, where we were very actively striving to improve rankings. Our take is that the site was in effect flagged for too much change, as if we were trying to scam the Google system, and that the randomizer was heavily applied. So now we take it things a little slower, and wait the full 90 days to see the “final” results in the SERPs.

For all of our work we track our web page changes with a date stamp in spreadsheets. Now we have color coded field highlighting red if it is within 90 days since the last change or green if the 90 days has passed. At a glance we can see if we’re clear to measure a page’s progress or if the final result is not yet set.

So here’s our rule of thumb: with SEO take it slow.