Googles Page Update Life Cycle

December 9, 2008 // Internet Fun, Search Engines, seo

People know (or at least they should do) that implementing a number of SEO techniques and methods on any given page can influence the search rankings in a positive way. There are plenty of resources to help explain how you can create the “perfect page” in regards to SEO but are there any clear metrics for success? What can you expect if you change or alter page content, or perhaps the Meta data?

One thing we do know is that if a good SEO gets their hands on your website or specific page you will see positive results. What I’ve been doing is benchmarking when the changes take place in Google and whether the changes are positive and negative.

The Google update test

I optimised around 50 pages of a website I own that I initially setup around 3 months ago, the Meta data, page tags and content was not optimised at all. I created a strategy to optimise these pages, the actual content of these products were products i.e. one product per page. I changed the following:

1.    Optimised the meta data
2.    Included keywords and alternative keyword phrases on page
3.    Optimised the images on the page

I had read somewhere that updating large numbers of pages on a website all at once could lead to a possible penalty, although I have never seen this I thought this test would help determine this theory.

I benchmarked data over a six week period on Google, based on individual pages and their targeted keywords, which had been optimised.

Week 1
Around 80% of the pages actually increased rankings in the first week with around 15% remaining the same and only 5% dropping rank

Week 2
In the second week there were some more keyword increases and very few positions dropped – a good week all round.

Week 3
In the third week it was the complete opposite, just over 85% of the keywords dropped below their original ranking with 5% remaining the same and 10% increasing

Week 4
Huge increase of positions, now around 70% of the pages I originally optimised are ranking well above their previous position with many on page 1 or 2. Very few position drops from original positions but there were some.

Week 5
Not much movement between keyword positions but 30% of keywords have improved from week 4, 80% remain the same with around 10% dropping slightly.

Week 6
Final week and only one page has increased from week 5 while 2 pages dropped slightly, the rest remained the same.

Time for some graphs:

The first graph is has been taken as an average from over 40 optimised pages over the period of 6 weeks so visually you can see the update life cycle.

Google Update lifecycle

The next graph shows five randomly selected keyword behaviours over the 6 week period

5 keywords positions

The final graph shows another 10 randomly selected keywords and their position changes

10 keywords

Google’s Page Update Life Cycle

Yep, think that’s what I’m going to call it! Anyway I’m aware that this lifecycle of position changes probably goes on for a bit longer but the data over the 6 week period was the most active. This is something that I’ve seen many times before but have never benchmarked for such a test. It’s also worth mentioning that you do see position changes before Google has re-indexed the optimised page.

So if you go about updating pages of your site don’t worry if they go all over the place for the first month or so, if they have been optimised correctly then you should see some kind of improvement.

Matt Ridout

About the author

My name is Matt Ridout, I've been working in digital marketing for 9 years; worked for agencies and currently Head of SEO at fashion startup called Farfetch. Try to test my own theories.


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  2. Lots of spammy links at the bottom of the post (at least on my bberry). Looks like its been hacked or something. Just wanted to make sure you knew.

  3. I think this is some great findings, actually. I’ve noticed similar things in the websites I work with, but had never taken the time to actually graph out and time the changes. This is a pretty useful guide that anyone should be able to follow.

    The only confusing part was the graphs. A drop in SERP rank actually being an increase on the graph is a bit disorienting.

  4. In my experience, major changes to a website (including optimization across several pages and redesigns) tend to result in rank fluctuation as search engines re-evaluate the content on each page and their relevance to specific keywords.

    This can cause some confusion – several clients have flipped out about a sharp decrease in rankings after making important optimization and design/layout changes, but so far their rankings have always improved in the long run, after some initial fluctuation.

  5. Thanks for the comments guys.

  6. i wonder if these same fluctuations are accurate for a site that has been recently optimized & a recent entry into the G index. Or if new pages in the index are treated differently?

  7. That would be another good test to follow through Michael

  8. The timeframe of 6 weeks is way to short. Would like to hear again about those rankings in a couple of months.

  9. Ok,

    Well I am continuing to benchmark so will revisit these insights in a few months


  10. So did traffic go up?

  11. The traffic went up in about 70% of all the product pages that were optimised for. Remember I just optimised standard product pages in a larger shop so not all the products had competitive search volumes.

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  13. The worst bit is Week 3. I’ve seen it happen quite frequently and trying to explain it to clients isn’t much fun!

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  15. Interesting findings and lovely graphs. How about traffic? I’m curious about the relationship between rankings per keyword and traffic per keyword? I find that they do not always match correctly.



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  17. who know what gogle goign to do…the last update my pr drop to 0 arggggggg

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  19. We just saw some major fluctuations after some site changes. It happens.

  20. I hate week 3, but nice article

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