One of a business’ worst nightmare is seeing a drop key term rankings. Losing your position within Google’s search results can cause a confusing panic. It may only be for a brief period, but dropping down in Google’s search results can lead to damaging effects to your website, and we don’t want to see that happen.
You may think, “Why has this happened to my website?” or, “How can I rectify these drops?”
Don’t worry. We can help you!
Ricemedia have created a 10 point checklist with solutions that your business can use, should you ever encounter ranking drops.
1. Dropped Page Redirects
When implementing technical changes and re-branding your website, duplicate/error pages can create instances where there is a lot of link equity sitting behind permanent redirects. Websites regularly form a dependency on URL redirects to sustain rankings. In many occasions we have seen sites that have not prepared for site migration. This often results in these redirects being removed or modified, which ultimately has an adverse impact on the site’s keyword ranking performance.
When you make technical alterations to your site, we strongly advise that you check any historic redirects to ensure that:
- They re-direct to the correct page on the site. This can be done by creating a 301 redirect for the existing URLs on the site, to the newly structured URLs.
- You regularly check the redirects ensuring they have been updated and fixed, before the changes are implemented. If not, this will negatively affect keyword rankings and organic traffic to your site.
The best precaution to take in order to avoid dropped page redirects is to make sure you have full-site migration in place, before any alterations are made to a live site.
2. New Linking Domains
You may think an influx of high-authority links pointing to your business’ domain is going to automatically increase rankings for the key terms targeted, but this is not the case. In some instances, a sudden surge in links to a site may temporarily affect rankings.
These drops in rankings could be due to the trust flow and overall authority of a linking domain, which will determine the impact of new links to the site. It is also important to consider how trustworthy your site is from Google’s perspective.
If you have been previously notified or even penalised for unnatural links to your site, you may find that for a short period of time Google will negatively impact the new links to your domain. In the industry is known as, ‘The Google Rank Transition Patent’. This patent acts to confuse or hide the impact of any attempts to manipulate search results. Even if you have obtained high-authority and relevant links to your site, it could simply come down to how much Google really trusts your backlink history.
We strongly advise that you use a reputable backlink tool, such as; Majestic or Ahrefs. Both of these tools are able to show you the new links discovered over a given period. Once you have access to one of these backlink tools, you will need to check the links themselves in order to see if they are genuinely new linking domains. If there is an unusual influx of linking domains, it could be a possible contributor to your ranking drops.
3. Lost Linking Domains
As mentioned prior, obtaining new linking domains could initially have a negative impact on rankings. So, it comes at no surprise that losing links within your backlink profile can also have an adverse effect on rankings.
For many websites out there, having a small backlink profile means having to heavily rely on a certain amount of backlinks linking to the domain. If these backlinks are removed from your site or become temporarily unavailable, this may have a significant impact on the authority of a website, and could trigger a rankings drop for your website.
We strongly advise you to use a reliable backlink tool to discover whether the links have in fact been lost, and haven’t just fallen out of the backlink tool database. To do this, you access the tool, and select whether to ‘show’ or ‘hide’ the deleted backlinks from your site.
This screenshot from Majestic highlights where this feature within the tool is available;
There is also a feature available within Majestic where you are able to identify where and when the linking domains have been lost from your site:
It is normal for backlink tools to show a certain level of activity of lost links, as pages fall out of their index meaning the links are unavailable.
We strongly advise that you create a database of your site’s lost links, in the context of your competitors. You can then begin to benchmark these backlinks and then form parameters on what may be perceived to be unnatural to Google and other Search Engines.
4. Manual or Algorithmic Penalties
Google’s Algorithm updates are becoming stricter when it comes to what they identify as an SEO friendly and healthy website. They continuously tweak and improve their algorithms, in order to make sure search engine users are visiting the most relevant sites, in relation to their search terms.
If you have noticed a ranking drop for for your website, alongside a number of suspected backlinks pointing to the pages affected, then there is a probable chance that the drop in rankings are the result of a Google Penalty. These Google penalties are put in place by filters that have been applied to an algorithm, or manually.
No matter what penalty your site has been hit with, it is incredibly important to take action immediately, and remove the issue straight away. In our diagnoses, we give a detailed explanation as to why you have been hit with a penalty, how to resolve the issue.
If you have been hit with a Google Penalty, you are likely to be notified within Google’s Search Console messages section, which looks like this;
As shown below, you can also look within Manual Actions under the Search Traffic category, within Google’s Search Console;
Search Console is the primary way that Google will communicate with webmasters about penalties that have been issued. From there, you are able to view the current issues that Google has with your site.
5. Algorithm changes
As well as Google Penalties affecting your rankings, algorithms update and change on a regular basis. These rolling algorithm updates result in many keyword positioning drops.
Prior to 2015, Google released algorithm updates and the SEO world provided detailed analysis in order to understand the reasons behind the winners and losers of the updates. But as updates have continuously become more complex, sophisticated and less frequent, the SEO industry has had less understanding of these algorithm updates. It is immensely important to understand whether your ranking drops coincide with these ongoing algorithm updates.
As well as keeping up to date with Google’s latest announcements, we often use the tool ‘Searchmetrics’ to discover when Google’s algorithm updates have rolled out and whether or not it has made an impact on search visibility & rankings:
We strongly recommend that you use this tool, or find out when an algorithm update is imminent in order to avoid being penalised by algorithm updates. The best way to keep up to date is to follow the latest announcements made in the SEO industry via social media
6. Alterations made to your site
We previously mentioned that changes made to your site can negatively impact rankings on your site. To oppose this, you could instruct your developers to make changes to the site. Whether these alterations are made to the meta titles, meta descriptions, H1s and even the content on the site, it is really important that you benchmark the rankings and highlight when the changes are made.
When you make alterations to the site, make sure you have scheduled crawls for the site. This will allow you to compare crawls that took place before and after the changes are made. During this site crawl, it is really important to highlight changes that have been made to your site, in order to identify whether or not the alterations made have negatively impacted rankings and traffic to specific pages.
7. Check the technical fundamentals
It is really important that you don’t overlook the most basic technical elements that control the crawling and indexing of your website. When you are making technical alterations to a site, it is vitally important to make sure there are no issues within the site.
Here are a few technical elements that can have an negative impact on your site’s ranking performance:
- No Index Tags
- Incorrect Canonical Tags
- Missing Robots.txt File
- Missing Alt Text
- Content that cannot be rendered
We strongly advise that you download Our Free Technical SEO guide on how to improve your site’s health, and go through each section of the guide, to ensure it that these technical elements are not the cause of your site’s drop.
8. Changes in search behaviour
Ranking drops may not be due to issues with Google Penalties, alterations made to your website or even the quality of inbound links to your domain. Keyword ranking declines could be a result of changes to the type of results Google wants to return to users.
“Query Deserved Freshness” may kick in when there is a sudden surge of searches for a particular topic, indicating that the query requires up to date and fresher news-based results. This can push static and out of date content onto page two.
We strongly advise that you keep your site up to date with consumer search behaviour. It is vitally important for you to create content that your target audience is searching for. Consumer behaviour trends are always changing, so whether it is the term that they are searching for, or even how they are searching for your product or service, it is important to show your customers that you are up to date with the latest trends.
9. Click-through rate changes
It is fair to say that declining click-through rates are less likely to negatively impact rankings, but they can underline why Google may prefer your competitors keyword listings.
User signals are continuously growing in terms of performance. There is more evidence now than ever that click-through rate does have an impact on ranking performance. If the click-through rate has dropped on a number of your onsite pages, it could ultimately cause rankings to drop within Google’s search results. Below are some reasons why your click-through rate has dropped:
- Irrelevant Ads
- Poor Landing Pages
- Ad Extensions Not Used or Not Showing
- Poorly Optimised Content
Go to Google’s Search Console and analyse the click-through rate, over the previous 90 days of the keywords affected, to see if click-through rate has dropped:
If the ranking term has been affected by the click-through rate, then you’ll need to research into how you can improve the performance of the listing.
10. Server issues
Out of all the points on this list, this is one of the hardest to diagnose, and the most complex. Server issues are often out of your hands, but they are something that can be resolved by yourself or other technical team members. If your site is affected by a server error, it can ultimately bring down your website and make it invisible in Google’s search results. We have seen server errors bring down websites entirely and cause severe ranking and traffic drops – but don’t worry, this issue can be resolved!
Get in touch with the team responsible for your server and check the server logs for any unusual errors. There is a “fetch and render” function, within Google’s Search Console:
This enables you to see what is served to Google when it makes a request for a particular page. By following our ranking drop diagnoses, we hope you have a deeper understanding of the cause of the drop and restoring your rankings.
If you have any questions regarding ranking drops for your business and how you can rectify these ranking drops, please get in touch with Ricemedia today and find out how we can help you and your business with ranking drops.