Editor's Note: Anthony Tisara is a Content Marketing Strategist and SEO expert with My Biz Niche. Today he joins us to discuss recovery from an SEO rankings drop and troubleshooting guidelines that will keep your site on page #1.
For webmasters, few things are more horrifying than waking up to find their website has dropped out of page 1 of the search engine rankings for a particular keyword. They will naturally ask themselves, "Why did my website drop in Google?" over and over again, wondering why their coffee tastes more bitter than usual.
Panicking is a perfectly understandable reaction dropping in SEO rankings, but it’s definitely not the most productive one. In the midst of a crisis, online marketers have to keep a clear head and recognize that losing SEO points is not the end of the world. It’s not even the end of the website!
Websites fall in rank and recover all the time; this is simply the natural cycle of running a website, and it will happen no matter how hard you work. With that being said, after calming down, walking the road to recovery is the next crucial step. So in this article, let's discuss troubleshooting tips to determine why your SEO scores have gone down, and how you might recover them.
1. You got penalized by Google
Did you know that Google has webmaster guidelines? Whether intentionally or unintentionally, it's not very hard to play fast and loose with these rules. Google will automatically or manually penalize websites that don't follow these guidelines carefully, so reviewing them and auditing your site for compliance is important.
Finding out if you've suffered a penalty isn't too hard: pull up your Google Webmaster Tools account, and see if Google sent you any notifications about a penalty and the reasons for it. Dozens of Google penalty checker tools can also help with this step.
Whatever prompted the penalty—duplicate content, unnatural links, etc.—you just have to accept Google’s decision calmly and focus on fixing the problem. Remove the duplicate content, unnatural links, irrelevant keywords, or anything else that is strictly against Google's guidelines.
After cleaning up, send a reconsideration request to Google to recover from the penalties. Keep in mind, however, that getting back your position in SERPs can take some time.
While you’re waiting to recover, make sure to tighten up your website so future penalties are unlikely to occur. Employing honest white hat SEO tactics at all times is a good place to start. Don’t even think about trying to sneak in so-called black hat SEO tactics; Google’s latest though algorithm update dubbed 'Fred' is scrupulous, and you won't get away with it.
2. You lost important backlinks
It’s very possible that your rankings dropped because you lost backlinks from a high-quality website. There are several reasons why something like this would happen:
- The website with your backlinks could have gone offline
- Google may be having issues connecting to the host
- The page or content where your links were hosted may have been removed, updated or replaced
As a solution, you can contact webmasters and ask for links to be replaced, but your time and effort is better spent on building new, high-quality inbound links. The best way to do that, of course, is by creating more relevant and helpful content that will make your site attractive to other webmasters.
To prevent rankings loss in the future due to lost links, consider keeping track of backlinks to your websites using a variety of tools for that purpose. This will allow you to act before losing a backlink dings your site.
3. You need a better web host
Your website can check off all the "awesome" boxes. You can have all the bells and whistles like great content with rich anchor text, good SEO practices, and still suffer a rankings drop.
This can happen when your pages take an eternity to load, no thanks to your web hosting company.
No internet user wants to wait for extended periods of time to reach a website. According to statistics, if users have to wait more than 10 seconds for a page to load, they are almost certain to go somewhere else. This will cause your traffic to fall, which will eventually impact your rankings as well. Google has made it clear that website speed impacts Search Engine Rankings.
Speed tests can help to determine if your web host is bringing down SEO scores. If the problem lies with your web hosting company, find a better one. Even if your host is fine, your hosting plan may still cause problems: for instance, 'shared hosting' plans are popular because they are cheap. But a shared host serves hundreds and maybe even thousands of other websites.
Switch to a more expensive but infinitely faster dedicated hosting instead if your loading time stubbornly refuses to improve.
4. You redesigned your website
On the Internet, never underestimate the potential impact of small changes, much less big ones. If you redesigned your website immediately before experiencing an SEO drop, it’s likely that the launch had a negative impact on your search rankings.
You may have forgotten to install redirects, for one thing. It’s also possible that Google re-evaluated the relevance of your page for certain topics or keywords because of changes you made to content while redesigning the site.
When doing a site redesign, it’s always smart to have a 301 redirect plan in place. This way, you can send visitors to new and improved pages. In the process, you also get to tell Google to disregard the old page and rank the redesigned page instead.
5. Your competitor outranked you
Search Rankings are a competition, and sometimes going down doesn't mean you failed; it can mean someone else did a better job.
Getting to the top of a search page is one thing, but staying there is another. If you do not defend your position and keep an eye on competitors, sooner or later they will have their day at the top of the search engine mountain, pushing you down in the process.
Getting outranked by a competitor is an everyday fact of SEO life. Here’s one more fact of SEO life: your competitor’s rankings can fall too, and your site can take their place. Contrary to popular myth, SEO work never gets done. Just continue your optimization efforts. Monitor and analyze your competitor’s sites to get a clearer picture of what they’re doing, and adjust your SEO strategies accordingly.
6. The mysterious Google flux
At the end of the day, no matter how well you run your website, you are the mercy of almighty Google. And as Google tampers with its algorithm, unpredictable changes occur on a regular basis that upset the position of websites. This phenomenon is called "Google flux". Like a freak weather disaster, nothing can be done to prevent these fluxes, and if trial and error can't show you where you went wrong, maybe you didn't go wrong. Maybe you were the victim of Google updates.
On the one hand, this may seem depressing. But on the other hand, it can be comforting to realize that every dip in SEO rankings does not prove bad practice. To minimize the possible damage brought on by algorithm updates, just make sure to follow SEO best practices, and never put all of your eggs in one basket. Rank for several keywords so that a drop in one does not necessarily equate to a drop in another.
Also recognize that at the end of the day, Flux is just as likely to boost your website for a certain keyword as it is to sink you, so it will theoretically balance out.
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