Korrd - 12:40 am on Feb 8, 2010 (gmt 0)
What's it doing at #5?
My observation of the searches I monitor is that the #5 slot is sometimes used as an out of the normal flow SERP position to promote sites from the second page on a temporary basis, rotating a different site in and out about once a month. My sense is that these are pages which based on on-page factors are as valid results for the query as the pages above them, but don't quite have as much off-page push.
One of my pages was ranking anywhere from #3 to #7 for a particular phrase. It's now at #9
Google seems to have lost some focus lately. By that I mean there seems to be a tendency for broader focused more generalized sites with content matching a query to be promoted at the expense of more narrow focused specialized sites with content more limited to the query. My suspicion is it may be a reaction to the "search overload" "decision engine" ads, as one of the results of the softer focus is more recognizable brand name sites at the top of the SERPs.
But another result is worse SERPs in less competitive categories. For example one search I monitor only has five sites targeting a query "examplecity exampleservice"; three local specialists, and two regional providers who offer this service under an umbrella with many other services. Everything else in the results is only random mention background noise.
The norm had been for the three local specialists to be interchangeably one through three, with the two regional providers down at the bottom of the first page, But now the results have shifted and the two regional providers are one two, while the local specialists are number five, twenty, and one is buried at number two hundred and something.
I'm seeing the same trends in my personal searching also. Things that used to be good indicators to me that I had reached the bottom of the useful results are no longer reliable.