Have you ever wondered by a certain search result moves "up" in search? Here's how to find out why a search result has risen in Google or Bing.
Check for new backlinks
Use a tool like Ahrefs.com to find new backlinks. To do this, login to ahrefs.com and paste the entire URL of the page in the search box at the top. Doing so will show you how many backlinks a page has.The number you are looking for is the one under Referring domains. The image above shows 0 Referring domains. That means that, as far as ahrefs knows, there are no websites linking in. In the example below you can see that there are a large number of backlinks.
To find out if there are new backlinks, click the blue number under Referring domains. You will then see a list of all the backlinks. On the right side of the table click "First seen" to sort the links so the most recent links are at the top.
How to know if new links are causing the page to rank
If the article was originally published some time ago, but there are a significant number of new links being added to it, the new links may be something that is driving the page higher in search results.
Check if the content has been updated
If the modified date is visible
If the original publish date is visible in the blog post you should see it at the top (it could be elsewhere). In the example below, you can see the date the post was updated to the right of the author's name (circled in red).
If the modified date is not visible
If the publish date is not visible in the blog post content, check the source code (HTML) of the page.
To check if content for a web page has been updated, right-click on the page and choose Show Page Source or View Source. This will show you the HTML of the page. Next, perform a search of the source code (HTML) that you see and look for words like:
The publish date is the date the post was first published on the site. If the page has been updated since the original publication you may see the updated date.
Check for updates to the title of the page
Sometimes publishers will tweak the title of an article, blog post, or other online content to get more traffic. To find out if this is the case, use Wayback Machine. Wayback Machine (Archive.org) takes snapshots of web pages over time. You can compare what a page looked like in the past to what it does today.
First, go to Archive.org and perform a search for the entire URL of the page you want to compare versions of.
One you have entered the entire URL into Wayback Machine (Archive.org) hit Enter. You will see a calendar with the dates of various snapshots. Click a date and you will be able to see what the page looked like on that date. If the page is different than what it looks like today, it's been updated. An update to a page can often cause it to rank better in Google, at least temporarily.
You may not see any results for a page in Wayback Machine. If so, it could be because the site owners have excluded the site from the Wayback Machine.
Check for refreshed body content
Updates to the title of the page are more common than updates to the body of the page, but you can check that using the Wayback Machine method mentioned above as well.
Check for Google updates
If you use notice that a page jumped up in search results on or around a specific date, you can check to see if a Google update happened around that time. At Reputation X we use many tools, including SemRush to test this. There are other free tools as well such as MozCast, RankRanger, Algoroo, and others.
In the example below we are using SemRush. You can see that just before a page rose in visibility, a Google Core Algorithm update had just appeared. This is probably a big reason the page jumped.
The red box shows a tiny icon. When you click on the icon, you get this pop-up (see image below).
Social media activity can cause a page to rise
So far we have covered new inbound links, title refresh, content refresh, and Google updates. But social media can play a part as well. Even if none of the above methods shed light on the reason a page became more visible in search results, more traffic to the page could still cause it to rise.
For example, if an influencer were to post about an old blog post, their followers would visit the page. Their visits would not show up as links, or content refreshes. But search engines detect when people perform navigational searches. For instance, they paste the URL into the Chrome browser and hit enter. In this case, Google notices the visit and may adjust search rankings for the content.
Retweets, likes, and other social media activity can also lead to more traffic. Search results are nearly omnipotent at this point. Their algorithms are a mystery even to many of the engineers who created them.
In an effort to provide the most relevant results possible search engines often move search results around to see which ones get clicked on the most. The more clicks a result gets, the higher it is often ranked.