10 years ago, some deceptive strategies such as creating spammy backlinks, keyword stuffing using hidden text, and more dominated the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They were marketed as “quick fixes” to trick or game search engine algorithms, promising to boost a page’s rankings on the search engine results page (SERP) without having to invest in a technical SEO agency typically required to improve a website’s incoming organic traffic. To reduce the efficacy of these spammy, sometimes known as “black hat”, SEO tactics, Google developed a search algorithm feature that was later termed a “rank transition.”

According to Google’s 2012 patent filing, a rank transition function is described as:

A system determines a first rank associated with a document and determines a second rank associated with the document, where the second rank is different from the first rank. The system also changes, during a transition period that occurs during a transition from the first rank to the second rank, a transition rank associated with the document based on a rank transition function that varies the transition rank over time without any change in ranking factors associated with the document.

In other words, independent of how SEO changes made on a given page would typically affect the page’s rank, Google’s search engine algorithm ensures that there is a transitionary period in which the page’s position on the SERP fluctuates before finally settling on its new rank. Such a period allows Google to combat spammers who may otherwise repeatedly adjust a page using the SERP’s real-time feedback. Since rank transitions were implemented, webmasters and SEO agencies alike are sometimes required to wait up to three months for an optimized page to achieve its “new steady state (target) value.” Unfortunately, when Google’s rank transition algorithm is triggered websites need to wait months until they can properly analyze the results of their SEO changes.

Adding even more complexity to this system is the fact that it does not happen with every change. It is meant to prevent manipulative behavior, so the rank transition algorithm only activates when it detects changes that indicates potentially spammy behavior. Since Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm, what might have gone through without a waiting period one week could get you placed in a transitionary period the next.

Don’t worry though! If you suspect a page you edited is being affected by Google’s rank transition, but you know your edits were on the up-and-up, all you need to do is wait it out. You should see the page stabilize eventually. If you panic and immediately revert the change, that will only signal to the algorithm that it was right and you were attempting to game the system, which will reset the random rank transition timer for up to another 3 months.

For any business competing on the online marketplace, 90 days is understandably a lengthy span of time. However, if you make the choice to hire strategic SEO services from an agency like Radd Interactive, you can be at ease knowing that your website will have a team of SEO specialists analyzing site performance and implementing strategic updates to improve incoming traffic and expand conversions. With such complicating issues as Google’s rank transitions, professional SEO services can help your business adapt and succeed in the today’s evolving online landscape.