Playing Detective: Solving The Mystery Of Your Dropped Google Rankings
Oh dear… has your website ranking dropped to page 2 of Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP)? Before you start panicking, we might have the answers to why your website’s SEO rankings drop.
If you’re a small business owner or an online marketer who is looking for ways on how to improve their website rankings, then this post will be useful to you. We are going to share with you 12 possible reasons why your website ranking dropped and what you can do about it.
Why Your Website Ranking Dropped
You might be the top dog of Google SERPs one day and on page 10 the following day. What happened?
1. Understanding Google algorithm updates and their impact on rankings
Google has rolled out a couple of algorithm updates in the past and they are known to cause drastic spikes and dips in one’s rankings and traffic.
Unfortunately, there is no way to get a foolproof strategy against Google core algorithm updates. The only way you can maintain your ranking a midst Google algorithm updates is to have a long-term strategy that deliver quality content and stellar web experience consistently.
Do keep yourself up to date with the latest SEO news. This would loop you in on the most recent Google algorithm updates and the patch notes released by Google. At the same time, SEO titans like Barry Schwartz at SEO Round Table often blog about what they are observing on the SERPs, including commonalities between ranking drops. If your website’s drop in ranking falls within the mentioned scenario, you might find SEO strategies to adopt.
Pro tip: for the past few updates in 2022, Google has been leaning towards penalising unnatural links and rewarding content that provides non-run-of-the-mill content. As such, look to revamp your content to provide first hand experience and expert opinions on your niche.
2. The crucial role of user experience in website ranking
Is it easy to navigate on your website? If the answer is “no”, then you only have yourself to blame.
Google tends to favour websites which make navigation easy for users. So make sure your website has a stellar layout with enough relevant information about your brand and what you do.
In fact, following the Broad Core Update in May 2022, it was observed that websites with poor UI/UX were penalised despite having acceptable quality content. Do particularly be careful about differences in content displayed between desktop and mobile versions of your website.
3. The damaging effect of broken links on your SEO
It is no secret that your backlink profile is critical for SEO. This is where years of link building often pays off when your rankings start to climb. However, these same links can become broken, and thus you lose the precious value of these links. This is a natural occurrence as pages on both your website and external 3rd party websites change over time. As such, inbound links can easily be lost where there are content updates, or pages get deleted.
Monitoring all inbound links regularly is a key process of SEOs. Here is where link audit tools like Ahrefs can help to speed up the process. Ahrefs helps you to find such lost links at the click of a button, thus empowering you to follow up and restore it.
Other than external inbound links, you should also constantly check on the status of your internal links. This is particularly pertinent where other staff members of your organization perform consistent work on your website.
4. How slow loading speed can hurt your website’s ranking
Frankly, if your website takes more than 2 seconds to load, you’re probably going to get penalized for poor loading speed. Google doesn’t want to have users waiting for ages to get the information they need.
Considered a technical issue, page load speeds are measured via a set of metrics known as Core Web Vitals. Particularly, where pages take forever to load on mobile or have content being misplaced due to layout shifts, users suffer.
To start addressing CWVs, you can first refer to your Google Search Console property to find which pages are struggling. From there, various technical fixes would need to be made. If you do not have a Google Search Console property verified yet, then try the free PageSpeed Insights tool to find potential issues with your page load.
For more information on improving CWVs, you can refer to our CWVs guide.
5. Dealing with hacked websites & implications for SEO rankings
If you’ve ever had a hacked website, you know how frustrating it can be. It’s not just an inconvenience but also a security risk. Hacking is one of the most common reasons why websites rank poorly. Hackers use different methods to access your site and steal data from your database. They may even try to redirect visitors to malicious sites.
As SEOs, we often first observe a hack when suspicious pages being to our website show up on the SERP. These pages often have titles that contain adult material, completely irrelevant to our website’s niche. In the worse case scenario, content populated on these pages can lead to a manual penalty being placed against your website.
If your website has been hacked, 3 actions need to be taken on your part.
– Hiring a website security service to find the source of the hack, remove the vulnerability, and delete hacked files
– Blocking all hacked pages in robots.txt
– Using the Google Search Console temporary removal tool to have these spammed URLs added
6. Avoiding the pitfall of irrelevant content
Staying on the first page of Google SERPs is all about feeding users information that is relevant and engaging. In this sense, outdated content based or low-quality content can be highly harmful for your search engine rankings.
Often times, Google changes how it interprets a particular search term. When this happens, widespread changes occur on the SERP as the term is taken to reference a different intent from before. Here is where you will be required to pivot your content to meet the new direction of the search query.
Based on Google’s Helpful Content Update, content scraping that does not add new value to users should also be avoided. Do perform a content audit to find such low value content or bad content and have them refreshed or repurposed.
7. The negative impact of duplicate content on your SEO efforts
Aha, Google absolutely detests duplicate content. And so do your users – it makes you appear unoriginal and inauthentic. Even if you have duplicate content for ‘branding purposes’, it would be best to diversify any form of duplicate content to avoid getting penalized by Google.
Duplicate content also often contributes to higher bounce rates as users recognise content that they have already seen elsewhere. Given this negative user behavior, it is to be expected that an algorithmic penalty would be placed on your website.
To solve a duplicate content issue, start by scanning your website with Copyscape. Based on the duplicate content issues raised, you can begin to revamp your content to avoid overlaps with other content creators.
8. Poor quality links are a hidden threat to your website ranking
It’s not enough just to build backlinks, you need to make sure that they are of high quality. Basically, spamm links or links on websites with little traffic isn’t going to do your website any favours. You would want to get your traffic from a reliable source.
Additionally, a link profile made out of unnatural links from private blog networks could be a major reason behind a penalty. If your website experiences a sudden drop in rankings despite having healthy content and technical scores, then your link profile could be an issue.
To sus out poor quality link profiles, start with a backlink checker like Ahrefs. In particular look out for backlinks from suspicious websites, foreign top level domains, and strange anchor texts. Should you find bad links in the links report, consider using the Google Search Console tool to disavow them.
At the same time, continue to focus on attaining high-quality backlinks for your key pages.
9. The significance of meta titles and descriptions
Meta titles and descriptions play a crucial role in SEO as they influence click-through rates from search engine results pages (SERPs). They provide internet users with a brief snapshot of what to expect from your page, directly impacting your website’s visibility and traffic.
The meta title, or title tag, is the clickable headline in SERPs. It’s one of the first impressions your website makes on potential visitors and tells search engines what your page is about.
Similarly, the meta description summarises your page’s content concisely. It appears beneath the title in SERPs, offering further insight into what users can expect if they click on your link. While it doesn’t affect your website’s ranking, a compelling meta description can significantly boost click-through rates, improving traffic and potential conversions. So if you have made any changes to your meta descriptions or titles and your rankings have dropped, it is a sign to create better ones.
Crafting unique, descriptive, and engaging meta titles and descriptions should be key to your SEO strategy. Ensure they accurately reflect your page’s content and include relevant keywords where appropriate. Remember, your ultimate aim is to entice users to visit your website and to provide them with valuable content once they arrive.
10. How web redesign can temporarily affect your ranking
If your website has undergone any makeovers in the past couple of days, it’s quite likely that your ranking might fall just because it might not have been crawled and indexed by Google yet.
Yet, now would be a good time to carefully crawl through your website with a technical SEO tool like Screaming Frog. Finding any technical SEO issues such as crawl errors, broken internal links, or 404 pages can go a long way towards restoring your organic search traffic.
Checking your website before it is fully crawled and indexed by search bots can be critical to solving complex issues and thus not incurring any penalties.
11. The importance of mobile-friendly websites for better ranking
More than 50% of all web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets, so you need to ensure that your website is free from them. Use the mobile usability report in Google Search Console to find pages that are non-mobile friendly or which have the following issues:
– Clickable elements too close together
– Content wider than width of screen
12. Overcoming server overload to prevent dropped rankings
If you have a sudden influx of traffic coming in, your server might not be able to take it (and it might even crash!). This would cause a lot of website errors and you might also get penalized by Google.
To first determine that a server overload is occurring, refer to Google Search Console to see if 500 http responses are being served. This is a key indicator of the server being unable to service page requests from browsers. Following which, you can also look up your server logs to confirm that indeed server capacity has been reached and thus in need of an upgrade.
In the event of a promotion or an event where you expect a mammoth amount of traffic, ensure your servers are in the condition to handle the traffic. You might want to look to getting a reliable web hosting site to prevent any server crashes.
13. Competition: An external factor affecting your website ranking
Sometimes, it’s not Google. But rather external factors, like your competitors.
Monitor your competitors and track any updates to their website. They may have embarked on a new SEO ranking strategy that is delivering massive amounts of quality organic traffic to their website.
Consider using rank tracker software like keyword.com to track changes in their own keyword rankings. If they are on the rise, consider auditing their website to find the best performing ranking factor, and adopting it for your own website.
Help, My Website Ranking Dropped!
Don’t worry – a drop in your ranking or drops in traffic are not the end of the world.
The good news is that there are always ways to troubleshoot should your website ranking ever fall. While certain penalties require much more effort and time to recover from, a long term strategy will eventually win out.
Feeling overwhelmed? Is your SEO challenge proving to be a tough nut to crack? Don’t fret. Reach out to us at First Page, with premier SEO services adept at demystifying and resolving complex SEO issues. Plus, we offer a free SEO audit to kick-start your journey back to the top. Elevate your keyword rankings with our top-notch expertise. The journey to reclaim your SEO prowess begins today!