Is it worth chasing search engine rankings?

From: Copyright 2004 Richard Grady

We all know that the best way of getting quality, free traffic is by achieving a first page ranking on one of the main search engines. For the past few years, Google has held the position of being the most popular and probably the best search engine there is and as such, this is the search engine that everyone wants their site listed on.

Of course, I am no exception to this and my various websites hold numerous first page rankings on Google and have done for several years.

However, like so many things on the Internet, your search engine ranking is completely out of your control. Sure, there are things you can do to make your website more 'attractive' to the search engines but if they decide that what was attractive yesterday is not attractive today, then you can be dropped like a stone.

Towards the end of last year (2003) I wrote about how Google had suddenly changed its algorithm (the formula that it uses to decide which order websites appear in within the search results) and caused me to lose countless top place rankings. These were rankings that I had held for up to three years without change but suddenly they were gone.

Getting those rankings had taken many weeks of work and whilst it had been worthwhile, it wasn't something that I fancied doing all over again just to find that Google changes its mind once more and puts me back at square one.

Therefore, I took the decision that I wasn't going to make any changes to my websites and if Google no longer wanted to include them for some keywords, then so be it.

Following my decision, two things happened that are really the moral of this story....

Firstly, despite the loss of the above rankings, my sales were not affected in any noticeable way.

And secondly, this week, most of my rankings have come back AND I have gained some extra ones for competitive keywords that I have spent years trying to obtain but always without success!!

Remember, I didn't make any changes to my website to 'win back' these positions. It was simply down to Google amending their algorithm once again.

Naturally, I am very pleased that my website rankings on Google have been restored but I am even more pleased that I didn't spend time back in December re-designing my sites to try and get Google to re-index them. Had I done this, I could very well have gained the rankings back for three months and then lost them again this week.

Of course, just because my websites are back where they should be in the Google index (in my opinion at least!), it doesn't mean that they will stay there. There is every possibility that I could lose the rankings again tomorrow, next week, next month, next year.... It could go the other way and I might gain even more top positions - who knows?

Running an online business involves a huge amount of testing and this doesn't just mean the small website owners such as myself and you folks. It includes the big companies like Google too. When Google (or any other search engine) changes their algorithm, they are simply testing to see if they can improve their service or increase revenue or whatever.

Do you really want to spend your time chasing a top position on Google or any other search engine when you have no control over when the factors that enable you to gain this position could be changed completely?

My advice is stick to the basic rules when designing a website - excellent content, quality inbound links etc and let the search engines sort themselves out.

Richard Grady has been helping people earn online since 1998. Find out more about Richard at:
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