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It’s a common occurrence for SEOs and webmasters that track their rankings to experience sudden website ranking drops. Since Google’s algorithm is continuously updating, SERP volatility is common and affects hundreds or even thousands of websites in different industries. The problem with undiagnosed ranking drops is the decrease in your website’s search visibility. This could lead to less traffic, and for business websites, this leads to fewer conversions and profit. Identifying the cause of the rankings drop is tantamount to fixing it and, hopefully, recovering your rankings. So, how do you identify the cause of your website’s rankings drop?
Knowing Where to Look
The first step to identifying the cause of your rankings drop is to identify the variables that changed. This is because a drop in rankings won’t happen for no reason. There will always be a reason for changes in rankings (positive and negative) and this usually happens due to a change in a factor/s that affects your page’s rankings.
This may sound easy but it’s not. There are numerous factors that affect a page’s rankings, some we can identify and some are still a mystery. That is why determining the exact factor why your rankings dropped is easier said than done.
But here’s what you should do: Limit the scope of your search. Since you’ll just tire yourself out investigating factors that no one knows about, limit your scope to factors that YOU have control over. So, once you have limited your scope of search, this is when you’ll investigate deeper.
The way we do it in SEO Hacker is to identify changes in 3 major places that contain a variety of factors that can affect our rankings. Then, we’ll dive deeper and deeper until we find the changes that COULD contribute to the website rankings drop and we either change them back or improve them further than they initially were. So, where exactly are these 3 major places?
INSIDE Your Website
Since we need to limit the scope of our search to things we have control over, it makes sense that we start with the page/website immediately. You have to first identify if the website is experiencing ranking drops in multiple keywords or if you only experience a drop for a specific keyword that a single page is ranking for. Take a look at this example:
The rankings drop happened to a single page that has been consistently ranking positively for numerous months. We automatically limited the scope of our search to the page itself. After determining that technical factors such as title tag, h1, etc. have been changed, we took it a step further and changed it for the better (not revert it back to the original). After a few days waiting for it to be recrawled, It ranked higher than it has ranked for the past few months.
Since we limited our scope, easily found out the changes made and fixed them immediately, we didn’t waste our energy and time checking other factors that would have turned out to be unrelated to the drop. So, we highly suggest that you start INSIDE your website.
But what happens if nothing changed inside the page or website? Then, you check out other factors outside your website.
OUTSIDE Your Website
The scope for this is limited to your search competitors overtaking you on the results page. This usually happens when they update their page to serve better intent, contain more information and become more relevant and useful for the users, or an overall upgrade of their website’s technical factors. Here’s an example:
This happened recently and we’re confident that we did not change anything on the page that’s ranking for this specific keyword. So, we started our diagnosis in the search results of the page and that’s where we saw it. Competitors updated their pages with new content, a new design, or a fully revamped one. All of these changes enabled them to overtake our page in the search results which resulted in us having a lower ranking than before.
So, it’s important for you as an SEO or webmaster to take note of the competitors you have for a specific keyword. Taking note of their content, their page design, and every other factor that they could change will enable you to know which of them they changed. This allows you to quickly adapt and regain your rankings as soon as possible.
Google Algorithm Update
We continuously report confirmed Google algorithm updates and its details to help our readers be able to understand why they experienced a change in rankings immediately. It is well-known in the industry that an algorithm update causes ranking volatility in the search results. A massive drop in rankings usually means that you’re doing something wrong and Google is penalizing you for that.
Sticking to proven white-hat strategies and having an in-depth understanding of Google’s search algorithm will enable you to avoid penalties every time Google updates their algorithms since what you’re doing is in-line with what they want you to do.
Identifying the reason behind your website or page’s rankings drop is important to achieving search success. Knowing where to pour your efforts in and properly invest the time and energy to investigate them enables you to grow as an SEO and webmaster.
Problem-solving is a necessity in the SEO industry since it continuously changes and gives us no choice but to adapt our strategies to reach success, that’s hopefully, for the long-term. How do you investigate whenever your website’s ranking drops? Let me know in the comments below!