Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our #1 rankings.
When I was a kid, I got sick and stayed home for a week. It was the longest time I ever stayed home sick. Yeah, I was fortunate that I didn’t get ill much.
This was way before Netflix. I’m an ’80’s kid. Fun decade BTW.
My entertainment was dictated by the programming schedule of the 12 channels we had.
That was the week I got hooked on the soap “Days of Our Lives” whose opening says “like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.”
See for yourself:
Eventually, I recovered and returned to school. It was tough weening off that soap. We did not have any TV recording device. Soap opera writers are brilliant at hooking an audience.
I was reminded of the Days of Our Lives opening when recently reading an SEJ.com article featuring none other than our good Google friend John Mueller who basically said that “top rankings are temporary.”
Specifically, John said “In general, just because the site was appearing well in search results for a number of years does not mean that it will continue to appear well in search results in the future.
These kinds of changes are essentially to be expected on the web, it’s a very common dynamic environment“.
On the surface, this seems obvious. For anyone who has been at this ranking content biz for any length of time, up and down rankings are the norm. It sucks and it’s great.
We cry when we lose rankings. We rejoice when we hit number one.
But do you ever empathize with the site owner we dethroned?
I can’t say I’ve shed a tear for anyone I’ve dethroned in the SERPs. I guess I’m callous.
I’m competitive but at the same time a decent sport. When I win in tennis, I don’t feel bad for the other player(s). When I lose, I’m happy to extend my fist or elbow and congratulate them on their victory.
Of course, there’s more at stake in the SERPs than on the court. Livelihoods are the line.
Winner takes all… almost. 2nd and 3rd rankings are quite good as well. I’m happy with that.
Now that we know for certain that Google views #1 rankings as temporary, what can we do about it?
I can’t tell you how the SEO gurus go about it. I’m not an SEO. I’m just some guy who likes writing and publishing content online.
I know enough SEO to be dangerous; enough to make sure my sites are primed and ready for Google lift off. That’s all.
Ironically, I get more traffic than most folks who pontificate about SEO.
How I go about embracing the fact that #1 rankings are temporary is threefold.
First, I publish in volume rather than put all my eggs in a few high search volume keywords. I literally rank for hundreds of thousands of keywords. Most have low search volume, but when you add it up, it’s a lot.
When I lose #1 rankings for some of them, and I sure do, it doesn’t impact overall traffic. I go after so many keywords that while I lose some rankings, I also gain. It evens itself out. The more content I publish, the more overall traffic I get (in the long run… I definitely have ups and downs in the short run).
Get this, the highest traffic keyword I rank #1 for across all my sites only gets 9,600 monthly searches according to Ahrefs.
That’s not very big.
If I get bumped for that keyword I won’t be happy, but I won’t be destitute either.
Second, by going after low comp keywords, I have less competition which means I stand a better chance for hanging in there if I do rank #1.
I’ve maintained rankings for years. Not because I’m the bomb SEO dude, but because nobody else wants to target those keywords (or they never discovered them).
Third, and I really need to ramp up this practice, and that is I do update/improve older content. I still don’t do it as much as I should, but I actually do it to some degree.
Updating/improving top ranking content is a bit of catch 22. It’s a proactive approach to defending rankings.
The only problem with it is you could actually hurt your rankings by changing top-ranking content. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Even if the content is improved, maybe you adjusted some keyword ratio or some on-site technical measure that drops it in the SERPs. It could happen.
Overall, I believe if content needs updating/improving, the default approach should be to do it.
I LOVE Hedging
My approach to publishing online is essentially hedging keywords.
Investopedia defines “hedge” as “an investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset. Normally, a hedge consists of taking an offsetting position in a related security.”
By going after a high number of keywords, I’m essentially taking an offsetting position in related keywords.
Instead of putting all my effort and resources into one keyword that COULD earn tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, I invest in many positions.
Hedging keywords isn’t always possible
There are instances where hedging keywords isn’t really possible.
If you sell a handful of products, you are limited to the number of keywords to target that will result in sales.
Same with a local business. If you’re a plumber, there aren’t a whole lot of keywords you can rank for that actually get you new customers.
On the flip side, you can then focus on ranking for those few keywords. This is where going all out on content and promotion makes sense.
If I were a plumber, I’d spend day and night working on ranking for X CITY PLUMBER and other great long tails (water heater plumber, plumber emergency, etc.).
My plumbing site, while not huge, would be amazing. I’d spend thousands on the very best content.
I’d put the same effort into my Google My Business page.
Same with YouTube.
Sadly, most local businesses don’t go all out online. The few that do clean up.
If I didn’t have such an aversion to hard work, I’d love to start up some local business, hire a manager to run it and I’d take on the marketing.
But all that work would take away my time from these emails.
Should you hedge?
Far be it for me to tell you how to run your business. I only tell you what I do.
Hedging works for me. I like the concept. I like the process. I like the results.
Unless Mueller is lying, accept that in time, you will lose #1 rankings.
Unless you get as lucky as Days of Our Lives which has been on TV for 55 years, be prepared to lose rankings.
What’s your hedge when that happens?
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.