Search Engine Volatility

The graph below shows the ranking volatility for hundreds of thousands of keywords. If your website ranking is changing, and the number here is high, then there’s a chance there’s something going on at Google.

Google updates

When Google pushes an update, it can affect your ranking. Here’s a list of major updates, check to see if your symptoms match the description. If they do, we may be able to help you to fix it.

Oct 2019


This update helped Google understand natural language search better. People no longer type in one keyword when looking for things, so it seems ever more important for Google to understand a sentence. This makes even more sense when you consider the use of smart devices that people speak to.

Jun 2019

Site Diversity

This was meant to address sites that appeared two or three times in the top ten for the same keyword. If the results meant that more relevant answers were being left out, then this update tried to change that so there was more diversity in the supplied sites.

Aug 2018


Sites in health and wellbeing niches were affected hard by this update. There’s no real understanding as to what was particularly affected, but it appears Google was cleaning up its act by demoting sites with poor information, and promoting the good ones.

Jul 2018

Mobile speed

Speed has become an ever more important aspect in ranking, and this updated was where it all started, with sites that provided quicker results being promoted.

Mar 2018

Mobile first

Mobile now accounts for more searches than desktop, so it makes sense for Google to prioritise mobile results. This update pushed them to the front and centre of results.

Mar 2018


Google didn’t give any idea what this update was about, but the search engine weather pages went crazy as ranking positions were extremely volatile.

Jan 2017

Intrusive Interstitial Penalty

Basically, sites with annoying pop-ups got a kick, especially if they were on mobile. This was Google’s plan to demote sites that had annoying content or wasted bandwidth.

Sep 2016


This took things further with local search, making it easier for more relevant results to be given to people, even if the businesses were outside of a central location.

Oct 2015


Possibly the most confusing of all the updates because Google admitted it didn’t really know how RankBrain worked. It was the “neural net” update that uses machine learning to understand context. What’s important about it is that it now means sites not only have to have good content, but the interface, speed, usability and a whole host of other aspects were taken into account.

Apr 2015


If you didn’t have a mobile-ready site, this update was likely to affect you. Also, if your site was slow, heavy (lots of images etc.) then again, you’d find your ranking dropping.