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May 2020 Local Ranking Fluctuations Were The Result of a Bug

Back in November 2019, we noticed some extremely volatile local rankings for businesses all over the USA and Canada.  Rankings were so choppy that we decided to label it as an algorithm update and called it Bedlam.  We noticed the same thing happened recently starting at the end of April.

Colan compiled a list of examples of what we were seeing with our clients and on the Local Search Forum and we sent this over to Google.  They confirmed yesterday that fluctuations were, in fact, the result of a bug.

I’m really impressed with the transparency Google provided along with the quick response.  It’s important to note that all the fluctuations we saw in April & May of 2020 were not an algorithm update.  It was a technical issue and it has been resolved.  All the cases we were tracking have gone back to normal.

Are these updates related to the core update?

I don’t believe these updates are related to the core update that happened in May 2020.

If we see this pattern again should we assume it’s a technical issue?

This is the first time I have ever seen ranking volatility of this kind due to a technical issue.  If we see this pattern in the future, I would not assume it’s the result of a technical issue.  This experience has taught me, however, the importance of notifying Google when you see widespread issues after witnessing their willingness to respond.

Remember, ranking fluctuations are normal.

It’s also important to remember that ranking fluctuations are normal.  For example, this personal injury lawyer has frequent fluctuations.  Because he’s in a large city (Philadelphia), tons of people are competing for the same keywords and we see a lot of filtering that causes ranking graphs to look like this:

If you’re ever noticing ranking fluctuations like this and are unsure about if it’s “just you” or if there is something bigger going on, I’d encourage you to post about it over at the Local Search Forum.  I’m probably a bit biased here, but I think it’s one of the best ways to find out if something that’s going on is impacting “just you” or if there is something bigger going on.

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Joy Hawkins

Joy is the owner of the Local Search Forum, LocalU, and Sterling Sky, a Local SEO agency in Canada & the USA. She has been working in the industry since 2006, writes for publications such as Search Engine Land, and enjoys speaking regularly at marketing conferences such as MozCon, LocalU, Pubcon, SearchLove, and State of Search. You can find her on Twitter or volunteering as a Product Expert on the Google My Business Forum.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I am a Surgeon urologist in pune city in India . I have been experiencing lot of fluctuations in my GMB listings since April 2020 as per my Seo analyst it’s happening only with my listing.We have good reviews with a strong online presence. Kindly provide me your expert views regarding this issue. Will be greatly obliged regards

    1. Hey Dr Lunavat,

      I’d suggest hiring an SEO company in India to do an audit to identify what the issues are. It’s not really possible to offer any accurate advice without taking a close look.

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