The Google peek-a-boo effect


This is something I’ve noticed over the past month and have finally found that someone has given it a name.

So what is the Google peek-a-boo effect? It’s where new, targeted keywords appear occasionally in the top 5 for a search, then you search again and they’re gone. I’ve seen it in relation to a few of our clients recently.

Now-you-see-me. Now-you-don’t.

Initially I thought it was something to do with Google Data Centres, (Google works its data from many different data centres, each with their own IP address which can be viewed. This is where the original ‘Google Dance’ could be watched – basically you could watch the search engine results pages (SERPs) from many data centres and tell what was going to happen with your sites) but after checking a few I was seeing the same – now you see me, now you don’t – peek-a-boo effect.

Changes to the Google algorithm?

From what I’ve been reading over the past week other SEO agency staff are seeing the same. The current thinking is that Google is increasing the level of machine-learning in its algorithm by rapidly changing SERPs to test the performance of new or better performing sites (those with more inbound links, more traffic or new content etc.).

Other thinking is that it’s a randomization algorithm, where the top positions are locked while others below are in a constant flux. This is something I’ve noticed on the keywords I watch.

Some say this is just the natural progression with a new site, which could be true… But at least two of the sites I work with are long-established, but we are re-targeting keywords and not adding new areas or pages.


So why would Google do this in the live SERPs? In my eyes they are bringing new or refreshed sites and content into the SERPs to test them, to see how they perform before actually adding them into the SERPS properly.

But I must say I’m not seeing this across all the keywords I’m watching. And for sites/pages that are affected by Google peek-a-boo the traffic figures are fairly low, all things considered.

Please do leave any comments or questions you have about this topic and I will answer them and add to the topic as I gain more information.

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