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Google Rankings Dropped? Diagnose the Problem & Fix It Now

updated on Sep 17, 2015
Google Rankings Dropped? Diagnose the Problem & Fix It Now Google rankings are hard to earn while they can drop suddenly. It is a nightmare that you were gaining good rankings, steady traffic and large sales but looking at the stats one day finding that you are losing all of them – the rankings have gone down or disappeared. If people cannot find you, how can they read your content or buy the products?

In the case that you are serious about Google rankings, even a small drop can make you nervous and eager to make a fix. But before working out a solution, you must take some time to figure out what is wrong with your website.

What Kind of Ranking Drop Are You Suffering from?

There are various reasons for a Google ranking drop, and if you cannot say what the problem is, it is hard to make a recovery plan. Therefore, the first task is to determine which of the following types of problem you are coming across.
  • Drop of the rankings of one or several keywords
  • Drop of the rankings of the whole website
To find out the answer, you can check Google Analytics to see whether you are constantly losing traffic for just one keyword. If so, you can perform on-page SEO for the post where the keyword comes from. But if the traffic for all keywords has dropped, it is probably an issue of the entire site.

Besides checking the stats, you can also manually check the rankings of several well-ranked keywords in Google. If one or several of the keywords have lost their positions dramatically but other keywords are staying in nearly the same positions, you are encountering a keyword issue.

In addition, it is important to note that if all the keywords you check do not appear at the places they should be, and the same situation comes to your domain or brand name, your site might be under a severe Google penalty. The solutions for this problem will be offered later in this post.

What Kind of Ranking Drop Are You Suffering from

Reasons and Solutions for Single-Keyword Ranking Drop

The decline of an important keyword's ranking is terrible, but the situation is not as severe as the other incident. Once you have found out which keywords you are losing rankings and traffic for, you can make a quick fix by analyzing and improving your keyword strategy.

Reason 1: You are surpassed by your competitors

When you are making efforts to increase the rankings, your competitors are also trying to improve theirs. When one website is more favored by Google than yours, your rankings can go down. SEO is a long-term task, and that is why SEO services are popular even if they cost dozens or even hundreds of USD per month.

Solution: There is no way you can bring the rankings of your keywords to the top once for all. We'd suggest you to monitor your main competitors' sites and analyze their SEO strategies using some tools like SEMRush. Once you are outranked, adjust your strategies and optimize your content accordingly. Also, make sure that your content is always original and creative.

Reason 2: The keyword phrase has changed

Have you ever updated your keyword strategy in recent years? If not, you may need to do it now. With the trend of "natural language", people looking for your content might be using new keywords or phrasing. You should have a research on that to see whether you have to update your keywords or even the whole strategy.

Solution: By using an SEO tool like SEMRush, you can get detailed stats for your keywords as well as your competitors' best keywords. Analyzing the reports should help you improve your keyword strategy. If you are really confused, consult a professional.

Improve the Keyword Strategy

Reasons and Solutions for Ranking Drop of the Entire Site

If the ranking drop is the disaster of your entire site, the situation gets much more complicated. There are many reasons, and you should figure out the exact one so that you can make the right recovery plan. Now learn about the most common causes in below.

Reason 1: Your website has been badly affected by Google algorithm updates

Google has released multiple algorithms and keeps updating them. When an update of an algorithm is released, some websites lose their value while others gain higher rankings. The algorithms that you should pay close attention to include:
  • Panda. The purpose of releasing Panda is to wipe out the websites with low-quality or thin content. If your website includes duplicate content, keyword stuffing issue or valueless information, Google will lower your rankings.
  • Penguin. Penguin is designed to resolve the over-optimization issue of links. If the anchor texts of the backlinks to your site include your site's keywords, you are considered to improve your rankings in an unnatural manner. To fix this issue, you can use more natural and diverse phrases as the anchor texts.
  • Mobilegeddon. This algorithm gives priority to mobile-friendly websites. Mobilegeddon does not bring a significant impact like Panda or Penguin, but it carries the suggestion that you should make your website mobile friendly now.
Depending on how many mistakes you have made on your site, the effect of algorithm updates varies. The ranking drop can be either slight or big.

Solution: To eliminate the bad impacts brought by algorithm updates, you should follow the steps below. Note that the ultimate goal is to optimize the user experience instead of correcting the mistakes only.
  1. Check SEO news sites to see whether an update was carried out recently. If no update is released, there should be another reason for your problem, so you can skip the rest steps.
  2. Once finding out the update, read the guidelines carefully to see what is wrong with your website.
  3. Remove or modify the contents and links that cause the problem. This can cost you lots of time if your website has serious content issues that have been caught by Google Panda.
Google Algorithm Updates

Reason 2: Your website is under a Google penalty

Google penalty is a severe issue that may get your site disappearing from SERPs. It can be either an algorithmic penalty or a manual penalty. The most common causes of a penalty are:
  • You are practicing Black Hat SEO techniques, such as selling links or hosting blog networks.
  • You have terrible linking issues, such as a large number of broken links or unnatural links.
  • Your website includes low-quality content, spam keywords, or duplicate content.
  • Your website is hacked and now hosting malware.
For manual penalties, you can see notifications and suggested solutions in Google Webmaster Tools. And for algorithmic penalties, you have to figure out the problems by yourself.

Solution: You can refer to our specially-made tutorial about Google penalty to identify a penalty and get rid of it. If you are not sure you can do all the things by yourself, seek help from an SEO company or a professional.

Reason 3: You are losing backlinks

Link profile is an import factor of SEO. If you lose a lot of incoming links in a short time, it could a red flag to Google which will lead to a ranking drop, especially in the case that those links are removed by the webmasters intentionally.

Solution: First of all, check your backlinks to see whether you have lost links. If the answer is yes, this can be the cause of the ranking drop. For quality links that have disappeared, you should contact the webmaster and try to get them back to the websites. And for other links which are not highly relevant to your site, you'd better forget them and build some new natural and quality links by creating helpful and attractive content.

Losing Backlinks

Reason 4: The robots.txt file is incorrect

The robots.txt file tells search engines which parts of your website to crawl and which ones to bypass. Even a simple error in the file could lead to the result that your entire website is ignored by Google.

Solution: Visit Google, type "site:yourdomain.com" in the search box, and then take a look at the results. If all pages are displayed correctly, there should be no mistake in the robots.txt file, but if the result pages include only a partial of your website or there is an error in result display, you should check the file and make corrections. Once the errors are corrected, your rankings are expected to be back within days. You can read Google's tutorials to learn more about robots.txt.

Reason 5: There is a Google flux

This is an unpredictable cause for a ranking drop, and the impact can either be slight or severe. You might find that your rankings drop suddenly on a day, but there are no algorithm update, no on-page issues, and no SEO mistakes. After checking over your site, you just cannot figure out which is wrong. Then this is probably a Google flux.

Solution: There is nothing you can do to help because a Google flux is completely out of your control. In most cases, the rankings and traffic can recover themselves in a few days.

Reason 6: No new and quality content is added

Google likes websites with new content added regularly. So if you do not make any update for a period, you may see a drop of search rankings due to a decrease of value.

Solution: Start updating your website with fresh content. Do not rush to increase the number of articles. Instead, you should make sure that every new article is informational, original and helpful.

Reason 7: You are not improving your SEO strategies

Everything on the web is changing quickly. If you cannot keep up with the pace, you will lag behind undoubtedly. With the updates of Google algorithms and the emergence of new technologies, you must check your SEO strategies periodically to make sure they are not out-dated.

Solution: Keep a close eye on what new strategies Google suggests you to adopt, and analyze your competitors to see what their best practices are. You should keep learning SEO as long as you are running a website.

Improve Your SEO Strategies