The Google Honeymoon

by Canonical SEO on September 4, 2009

Google Honeymoon

There is a frequently misunderstood phenomenon that occurs within the Google index that is affectionately known as the Google honeymoon.  This short lived romantic vacation with Google brings to new webmasters feelings ranging from euphoria in the early hours of a new site or new page on their site being indexed to feelings of deep frustration and sometimes even shear terror when it ends. LOL  As it is with any marriage, when the Google honeymoon has ended, the real work begins. 

What is this Google Honeymoon? 

Generally speaking, the Google honeymoon is a temporary artificial boost in rankings for newly indexed content at Google. It almost always occurs when URLs on a new site are first indexed by Google.  It also frequently happens when new URLs on existing sites are indexed as well. 

What happens during this honeymoon period is as follows.  For reasons unknown when Google indexes a new URL they will often show that new URL on page 1 of the SERPs for hours, days, and sometimes even a week or more for keyword phrases Google feels are relevant even though the URL should NOT legitimately rank on page 1 by normal ranking standards.  The URL is new and has almost no real quality backlinks other than possibly links from other pages on the site where it exists, yet the page is shown on page one of the SERPs. 

This is when the new, inexperienced webmaster jumps up and down, calls his close friends, and jumps on every SEO forum he can find and posts about how he/she is an SEO guru because their URL made it to #1 or #3 on Google for its targeted keyword phrase(s) in under 24 hours. 

Euphoria!  Google romance!  Aren’t honeymoons great? 

Why does this Google Honeymoon Period exist? 

Theories abound as to why this Google honeymoon period exists.  The two most logical reasons for the honeymoon are: 

  • Google uses it as a way to get late breaking news or popular topics of the day to the top of the SERPs ahead of old outdated content which might normally rank well for the same keyword phrases but are NOT relevant to what people are looking for today.
  •  Google uses it to gather some user behavioral statistic(s) needed by it’s algorithm like click-thru-rate or some relevance rating based on click-thru-rate that can ONLY be gathered IF people actually see the URL in the SERPs… i.e. if it shows up on page 1. 

I tend to favor the first explanation for the Google honeymoon myself since Googlers like Matt Cutts have emphatically denied that Google uses behavioral statistics like click-thru-rate in their ranking algorithm because it would be so easily spammed.  

What happens when the Google Honeymoon is over? 

As occurs in marriage, the Google honeymoon, too, must come to an end.  Typically after being on page one of the SERPs for a day or two (sometimes a week or longer), the new URL drops far back into the search engine results where it SHOULD have legitimately ranked all along.  

Unfortunately, this typically leaves new webmasters in a bit of a tizzy.  They don’t understand how they can go from page 1 and possibly even #1 one day to not even ranking in the top 500 a few days later.  WTH?  It is at this point that those same webmasters run back to their SEO forums and start making frantic posts with topics like, “Google banned my site!”, “Have I been penalized by Google?”, “Google kicked me out of their index!”,  or “Rankings dropped dramatically!  What should I do?”  I seem to answer at LEAST one post per day like this on one or more of the SEO forums that I troll. 

I will typically explain to them calmly that what they are experiencing is VERY normal… that it’s simply their Google honeymoon.  Then I have to break the bad news to them that the honeymoon never lasts forever and that after the Google honeymoon is over, the “real” work begins… just as it is in marriage.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bhavin Thakkar February 17, 2010 at 1:49 am

Nice Post.. Will request you to highlight on steps one should take to retain or regain those positions one enjoyed during the Google honeymoon period. As I feel, every one will be even more interested in this as they all need a solution or a good piece of advise.

Keep the good work going.
Thanks, Bhavin

Canonical SEO February 20, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Just like with marraige, you only get one Google honeymoon period where your rankings are given an artificial boost due to the “freshness” of the page or site. Once the honeymoon is over, similar to marraige, the real work begins.

How you build your rankings back up to where they were during the Google honeymoon period is by using various on-page, on-site, and off-site SEO techinques. IMO off-site SEO carries the most weight in typical ranking algorithms for the various search engines. Having inbound links from pages on other sites that are indexed pointing to your URL with your URL’s targeted keyword phrase (or a slight variation of the that phrase) is the most important way to increase your URL’s ranking for it’s targeted keyword phrase(s). It’s even better if the page linking to your URL has high PR and/or is relevant to your page’s targeted keyword phrase.

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