Google rankings aren’t the only (or even the most valuable) SEO metric that marketers should be monitoring, but they are important and highly visible.
Virtually everyone who has run a website for more than a year has experienced a dramatic and sudden decrease in traffic, which is usually accompanied by a drop in search ranking. When Google drives 80% or more of your traffic, it’s very important to maintain your position. When you drop suddenly and precipitously, you have to wonder what went wrong. Did your site go down? Did you get hit by a negative SEO bomb? Did a change in your metadata trip spam filters? There are a ton of reasons, so here are the ten most common and what you can do to fix the problem.
Rankings can fall for various reasons. Sometimes it’s due to a mistake that could have been prevented. It might have less to do with what you’re doing than what your competition is doing. In other cases, a drop in rankings is the natural and temporary result of an intentional action on your part. Here are 10 reasons you might experience a drop in rankings and what you can do in each case.
1. An Unnatural Links Manual Action
This is perhaps the most likely reason for anyone to be visiting this article now, on the heels of Penguin 4 and its permanent inclusion into the search algorithm.
There are essentially two forms of link penalty. One is the manual action and one is algorithmic. If you think your penalty has something to do with your backlinks, you can check which one it is very easily. Just log into your Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) account and check the manual actions menu on the side. If you have something listed there, it’s a manual action, rather than an algorithmic penalty. If there’s no entry, skip to the next section.
So how do you fix a manual action for links? You need to use a tool of some sort to pull your backlink list. Google Analytics, Majestic SEO, Moz, Cognitive SEO; there are dozens of options out there, free and paid, for you to pick through.
Pull your links and audit them to find any that are irrelevant or spammy. Once you have that list, start approaching webmasters and ask for links to be removed. Sometimes they will be happy to do so; others they won’t answer. For those that aren’t removed, add them to a list and disavow them.
2. An Algorithmic Penguin Penalty
Penguin is an algorithm that Google uses to penalize sites with poor quality backlinks, which can be organically acquired rather than the result of unnatural link building. It’s harder to diagnose, because it’s not really a penalty, it’s just an adjustment of where your ranking sites, according to changing criteria on the part of Google, or new information they discover. “Recovering” from an algorithmic penalty is not actually recovering, it’s taking steps to improve your SEO and seeing the benefits of doing so. Penguin 4 is the most recent iteration of the algorithm, and with it, Google confirmed that it is being merged with the core Google algorithm, like Panda before it. This means there will be no future Penguin updates, as such; merely algorithmic updates in general. For more on those, skip to number 10.To diagnose a Penguin penalty, see if your drop in rankings corresponds to a known Penguin update date. If so, all you have to do to fix it is the same link audit and removal/disavow process outlined in the previous step. They are, after all, more or less the same penalty.