Well, you’ve taken huge efforts to optimize your page and win the first page of search results. But one day you wake up, do a search for your website, and see your rankings dropped, and your page doesn’t drive high traffic anymore. What has happened?
As there are lots of ranking factors, it’s pretty challenging to find out the reason for such a drop not knowing where to start. This article will provide you with seven questions you should ask yourself when looking for what has caused the drop.
1. Is Google testing its algorithms?
Sometimes all the sites in the search results change their positions. So, if your rankings dropped, pay attention to the SERP. It may appear that nothing has changed on your website, and Google is just testing its algorithms.
In case of any problems with a site, SEOs start investigating the SERP. But not knowing what they should look at, they may come to wrong conclusions.
Serpstat suggests a graph of the SERP storm to help you understand how much the positions have changed lately. To analyze it, you should create your project in Serpstat, and start rank tracking for the specific keywords (you can add a list of keywords by yourself when selecting settings for your new project). Once the report is ready, you’ll see the data on your website positions for the chosen keywords. From this moment, the service will start tracking the history of changes in the positions in the top 100 of search results.
On this chart, you see that on December 26 there were significant changes to the search results. Let’s look at how the top 10 of Google SERP was changing this period.
The graph shows you that December 26 saw the sharp drop and rise of most of the sites’ positions. The day after everything was all right again. Such changes tell us that Google was testing its algorithms and webmasters even didn’t have to fix anything to restore their site’s positions.
You see that whenever your rankings plummeted, it doesn’t mean your website had faced any technical or other issues. So, once you see serious changes happened to your rankings, start from checking the whole SERP. Perhaps, you just need to wait a bit.
What if SERP remains stable?
Let’s suggest you’ve checked the graph but found out that it’s only your page which lost its positions. It means that your site has some on-page or off-page SEO issues, and you’re still not aware of it. So, here’s the next question you should answer on your way to identifying the reasons for a drop in your rankings.
2. Are you tracking the right keywords?
It may appear that you’re targeting the wrong user intent with your keywords. Your site could have been ranking for these keywords successfully for some time, but then Google might have changed its opinion on your site intent.
To be more precise, let me give you several examples. The first case has happened to the site which provided building services. The site didn’t contain any texts, but only commercial content such as fly pages. Google started to consider this data to be of informational intent, and the website lost its traffic.
The second example is about one gift store website. When it was ranking for the commercial queries, the site was in the top of search results. After Google changed its intent, the website’s rankings dropped sharply. The webmasters had to add keywords with high commercial intent, such as ‘buy,’ ‘order,’ and more.
If your website is facing the same problem and your traffic is plummeting, pay attention to the queries you rank for. Maybe, you should change intent?
3. Did Google penalize your site?
If you see your website dropped about 10 – 20 positions, it could mean you’ve been penalized by Google. There may be two reasons for it:
- Google updated its algorithms, and the penalty is automatic.
- A Google employee applied it manually.
To make sure you’re suffering from Google’s penalty, check your rankings on Bing or Yahoo. If everything is alright, then Google definitely doesn’t like your website for some reasons.
First of all, go to your Google Search Console account and pay attention to the Google notifications from Google concerning the issues which made them reduce your rankings. There may be warnings in the Site Messages menu and the Manual Actions Section. You’ll find out why Google employee considers your page not quality enough and discover the ways of fixing the problem.
4. Are there any technical issues?
You may think that if you’ve optimized your site technically, then no issues should prevent it from ranking high. But every time you add or remove something, troubles may occur without you noticing it. So, once you see your positions dropped, check whether some technical issues had happened to your site.
Here are the main technical factors which may influence the way search robots index your site.
If you added images, pages, or documents to your pages, it might have increased your page loading time. This factor not only influences your rankings but also affects user experience. You can check your page speed with PageSpeed Insights tool.
Did you redesign your site or remove your redirects? After you change your site structure or move to another server, make sure you set up all 301 redirects. If you don’t map out redirects correctly, it may also hurt your search rankings.
Your server may simply have failed to be prepared for the surges in traffic, which take place pretty often. The server may experience downtime even if you’re on a shared server, and there’s an increase in traffic on someone else’s website. Such a crash will negatively affect your site’s rankings.
Not adding a canonical tag in Accelerated Mobile Pages is the most common mistake that may cause search robots to consider your site not to be mobile-friendly.
5. Did you lose links?
Although you keep gaining new link sources, the number of lost links may be much more significant. Moz and Ahrefs may help you find out whether you’ve lost more links than you’ve earned over the last 90 days.
Losing a lot of links may result in a drop in your search positions, as backlinks are known to be one of the ranking factors. If your link profile is your weak spot, make an effort to improve the situation. Determine which links are lost or broken and fix the issue. If website owners removed backlinks deliberately, look for new sources. If links were lost during a site update, you should try to convince a site owner to restore them.
6. Is there a poor user experience?
What if all the issues seem to be alright? You can fix all the technical problems, research the right keywords, and earn quality links, but these actions still don’t guarantee your website will take the first positions for a long time. The case is that user experience is one of the most important factors search engines consider when reindexing your site.
Perhaps, all you need is to increase the time people spend on your website and lower the bounce rate. To improve user experience, you need to undertake several steps:
- Provide a clear structure and a simple design. Your visitors don’t need a complicated structure and not readable fonts. They need to get the information they’re looking for. The quicker they’ll get the access to it, the more chances there are they’ll continue surfing your site.
- Make sure the data users see in your snippets correspond to your page content. If users don’t see on your page what they were promised, they’ll leave it quickly.
- Give the main ideas in the headings. Some users don’t want to read the whole article to find the answer to the only question. If they see catchy headings which concern their questions, they’ll keep reading these specific paragraphs.
- Forget about pop-ups. These pop-up windows irritate users most of all. If you want to add banners, they should use a reasonable amount of the screen. Nothing should prevent users from seeing your page content.
7. Did your competitors outrun you?
The last reason doesn’t even depend on you. Your competitors could have done better and outran you. Analyze their activity to find out what helped them to hit the top. Visit their sites to see what aspects attract visitors most of all.
If your competitors improved their content marketing strategies, learn from them and implement something new into your ones. Moreover, they could have made efforts to improve their link profiles. Check it with Serpstat, Moz, or Ahrefs and think which sources you could reach as well.
After you understand what helped your competition to outrun you, use this knowledge to improve your strategies.
You can never predict whether your rankings will drop this day or another. You should always be aware of what’s happening to your site’s rankings to react to all the changes quickly. Once you’ve noticed your site lost its positions, ask yourself seven simple questions to find out the reason for such a drop.
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