Google local ranking changes in early May? Thank a bug

End of April and early May, the local SEO community were noticing a lot of ongoing fluctuations and volatility with the Google local search results both in Google Search and Google Maps. It turns out, this was not the result of an algorithmic update but rather a bug.

Danny Sullivan of Google said last week, “Just wanted to update. Thanks for the examples. They helped us find a bug that we got resolved about about [sic] two weeks ago, and that seems to have stabilized things since.”

The statement. Here is Sullivan’s set of tweets around these local ranking fluctuations:

The fluctuations. Here are charts from WhiteSpark and BrightLocal tools showing the unstable nature of the local rankings in Google in both late April and early May.

Source: WhiteSpark
Source: BrightLocal

It’s not you, it’s me. Sometimes, just sometimes, changes you see in search rankings have nothing to do with you. Sometimes Google makes mistakes. The local rankings have been much more stable over the past couple of weeks since Google fixed this particular bug.

Why we care. This shows you that sometimes reacting to changes in search when your site appears to have been “hit” by a change is not always the best move. Often it makes sense to wait a bit, look at the data, see what your competitors are doing, analyze your own site data before drawing conclusions or taking action.

While it is rare for Google to confirm a bug fix around indexing and rankings, it can and does happen on occasion.

About The Author

Barry Schwartz a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land and a member of the programming team for SMX events. He owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry’s personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here.

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