Is The Google "Yo-Yo Effect" Due to Universal Search?

Jul 29, 2008 • 8:04 am | comments (13) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

About 15 days ago, I reported on the Google Yo-Yo Effect. This yo-yoing is a lot different then the typical ups and downs of Google's rankings. I know many of you are going to say, Google's results always differ. Trust me, I have been covering search a long time, this is different.

Over the course of the weeks, I have obtained results that are experiencing this "yo-yo effect." I am sorry, but I promised not to share the actual results. But I can tell you, this is real. Let me explain what I see with the fictitious keyword phrase [blue widget] and domain has been finding itself ranking well in the morning hours for the keyword phrase [blue widget] over the course of the past few weeks. But it is only the morning hours. After the morning hours,'s Google rankings for [blue widget] drops to the third page or so. Why? It is not known. But the pattern continues each day for the past few weeks.

There are some theories, as Tedster summarizes in WebmasterWorld. Here they are:

  1. Maybe Google is counting clicks and after X number of clicks, Google is pushing that result back.
  2. Maybe this has to do with Google Universal Search and the position shows up for correlates to the universal search spot?

The first theory just makes no sense. Why would Google cap a specific page from getting more than X clicks per day. It just doesn't make sense to me and to most people.

The second theory might just fit. Tedster notes:

Watch that #4 position on the SERPs that don't have Google News in the spot. It seems to be the position of choice for some kind of testing. I see urls that yo-yo between page 2 and position #4 during different times of the day. Then the SERP sometimes changes and Google News is back at #4.

But it's always #4. Universal Search technology, I assume, allowing Google to force feed certain tests into specific positions - maybe even the same kind of goodies that blew up a few months ago and gave us the position #6 bug.

Maybe Google is testing throwing in certain pages into the universal spot, as a test? Or maybe it is the opposite? Maybe Google is giving up the #4 spot of for [blue widget] and pushing to the third page?

It just doesn't seem like normal Google behavior. It just doesn't seem like a "feature," but more like a bug. It would not be totally unreasonable to suggest Google does create bugs, accidently, that appear to be some sort of ranking algorithm or penalty. Just take a look at the minus 6 penalty bug, which was reversed.

I do wish I could share examples, I apologize again.

Forum discussion continued at WebmasterWorld.

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: July 28, 2008



07/29/2008 01:13 pm

Hi, It is interesting to read about this as I have been seeing the same behavior in last couple of days. For the 2 keyword phrase related to 'insurance' there were results appearing in 4th position out of nowhere for couple of hours over few days. I located one of te results later on on second page. Today, there is a news listing taking 4th place for almost the whole day. Interesting, but why is this happening? Rob

Barry Schwartz

07/29/2008 01:28 pm

Rob, thank you for sharing an example.

Hugo W.

07/29/2008 01:59 pm

Hello, as like u said, im experiencing the same thing, today my 3 main keywords have simple disapear from the first page, like yesterday, but in the night, everything come back to normal.


07/29/2008 02:03 pm

We've been seeing this position 4 yo-yo in UK search results for insurance related terms for over a month now. The balance of opinion here seems to be that Google are using the empty universal slot to test user engagement & relevance of sites that do not rank highly in the current algorithm - so pretty much what Tedster said. Whether Google. By doing this Google can gather a lot of user data in a fairly short time on all the sites that are ranking on pages 2, 3 & 4 that would otherwise not get a huge volume of traffic. You could think of any number of uses for data like that.

Michael Martinez

07/29/2008 02:56 pm

"Why would Google cap a specific page from getting more than X clicks per day. It just doesn't make sense to me and to most people." It would be more fair and searcher-friendly than allowing click popularity to overwhelm other factors in the ranking algorithms. Google's SERP HTML code has a lot of embedded onclick logic. They could be capturing every click if they wanted to (although the internal code changes over time). However, given that Google rolls out about 10 algorithmic changes per week, even allowing for distribution of changes across services, language search tools, and regional search tools, the Yo-Yo Effect could be explained in part by periodic minor algorithmic adjustments.

Jaan Kanellis

07/29/2008 08:20 pm

I doubt universal search much to do with it as these results would only move lists 4-5-6 places fro top to bottom. This Yo-Yo effect has been moving websites 20-30-40 places at certain times of the day.


07/30/2008 12:56 am

What amazes me is that people notice this yo-yo-ing effect! How often do you get check your SERPs, and how do you track historical data?!? I track visits, conversions, and other metrics from the user - but check SERPs maybe only once a week. And not even that many keyphrases, just enough to get a general feeling. Am I dropping my eye off the ball? Should I be tracking more SERPs? But how do you keep track of them all, there are so many!


07/30/2008 09:14 am

What I am seeing correlates to #1, I have seen that for the last month at least google are capping the traffic for a site. I give you an example. I get pos 2 or 3 for main search term, then I go for other search terms, broaden my index and targets. That works, traffic starts to come from all new targets but overall traffic only rises by 10% because the main term falls way down to 30s, then after a while back up t pos 2 etc (short lived). They are now capping traffic on sites. limiting gains to small amounts and removing positions when no / referrals > X

No Name

07/30/2008 10:39 am

It's true. Lots of sites are experiencing heavy drops in its keyword SERP. This is because of google new major updates which is going on! just like google big daddy algorithm update. however its not perfectly on the line the new update is called "Screwy Dewey update" where Google it self is promoting its own sites, previously it included its You tube results now this time its including google books result. One more thing in this SERP result, you must have noticed that lots of old pages (even 5 years site) came to top 10.


08/03/2008 08:38 am

I am getting the exact same thing with my site. We usually rank around 20 for a two word key phrase, but recently we suddenly appear at number 4 - but only after 6.00pm at night. During the day we're back at our usual spot. Very odd.


08/12/2008 01:16 pm

Therer does seem to be a worrying trend of Google promoting Google pages in search results - I wonder when Knol pages will start outranking Wikipedia ones?


03/17/2009 05:28 pm

my site and my blog has sam eproblem with out any change on content my blog gets position5 on first page some houre later pos 64. 88- 110-11- 132- 64- 6- 9- 5- 74- 66- 68 again #5 today morning and 64 now! I think It is a bug


04/11/2009 04:32 pm

my blog is experiencing the same effect. Every day i wonder why for certain keywords my blog is stable and for other keywords the search result are so illogical

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