Why Have My Google Rankings Dropped?

Few things in SEO are more discouraging than a drop in the rankings. However, most of the time, you can diagnose exactly why your Google ranking dropped, take steps to solve the issue, and recover your lost rankings.

There are many reasons why a site’s ranking might suffer an abrupt plunge, and the majority of them can be remedied with a bit of time and effort.

The search queries and pages that are impacted by a ranking drop say a lot about the underlying issue.

When your site first launches, Google will have never heard of it, and it won't have your site indexed, which means you can't show up in any search results.

After an introductory period, your rankings will probably drop again as Google tries to make better sense of who you are and how authoritative you are.

It is common for traffic to ebb and flow, to change from day to day, month to month, and deteriorate over time.

It goes without saying that you should be monitoring your keywords and their relevant positions on Google on a regular basis so you can identify ranking drops.

Content Problems

Search engines use content to determine relevancy for search queries, so your content can have a big impact on your rankings and a subsequent drop in Google rankings.

Google favors long-form, highly detailed, original content with heavily researched elements and understandable wording.

In case you accept content contributions, make sure each of them is reviewed, and that included links are natural and preferably nofollowed.

Using tools like Copyscape can help you ensure that all of your content is completely original.

Technical Changes

If you've made technical changes to your site, dig in deeper to see if they are related to the ranking drop you're experiencing.

Its good practise to document any changes you make to the site so that you can roll back if necessary. Backups are also useful in this situation.

Lost Backlinks

If your link profile is diverse enough, this shouldn't be enough to move you on the Google barometer, but if several of your links or a majority of your links disappear overnight, you could easily experience a significant ranking drop accordingly.

To prevent lost links affecting your rankings in the future, it is worth the effort to invest in link monitoring software or programs to actively track lost links.

Competitor Improvements

Another possible cause of ranking fluctuation is competition; a new competitor or new content from an established competitor can jump in and outrank you, driving your ranking down.

Search engine rankings take time to build, so its unlikely that a new competitor could completely catch you off guard, but it isn't unheard of.

Keep an eye on your competitors by analysing and monitoring their social media activity, link building strategies, and content marketing.

If the competitor has outranked you across a large number of keywords, then they have probably implemented some site-wide enhancements.

As you track rankings and run both on-page and off-page audits, make sure to also audit competitor sites to see and understand their progress and the tactics they use.

Change in Geographical Area

If you check your rankings in one geographic area, you will need to check them in several other areas to get a more precise and more accurate understanding of your rankings.

Google Penalties

If you didn't do anything fishy like buying links, you dont really need to worry about a penalty.

However, if your site continues to rank on other search engines like Yahoo or Bing, this is an almost sure sign that you are suffering from a Google penalty.

There are essentially two forms of Google penalties which can result in either a drop in rankings or you dropping out of the index altogether. These are Manual Actions and Algorithmic penalties.

A big difference between algorithmic and manual penalties is that the first ones are automatic and are usually released with various Google Updates, while the second ones are manually applied by a Google employee.

You won't know about the algorithmic penalties but if you face a manual action it will be flagged up in Search Console.

This could be the result of having unnatural links, or someone could have filed a spam report against you.

Once you've made your best efforts to remedy the problem, you can file a reconsideration request with Google and hope for a positive outcome.

Google Algorithmn Updates

Googles algorithms are updated frequently and they're incredibly complex.

It's rare for Google to announce algorithm updates, even the major ones, so most of them will be rolled out quietly.

Check the SEO news sites for news related to a possible Google update.

Keep in mind that the update may also be niche-related and affect a small number of sites, in which case, the news might not get covered right away.

You need to identify whats changed in the algorithm and how your site might violate the Google guidelines.

As you can see, there are multiple factors that could play a part in your site’s sudden decline in search results.

There are an unknowable number of factors that go into ranking these days, but luckily the methodology for diagnosing those fluctuations is readily at hand.

SEO Consultant

This article was written by Gaz Hall, a UK based SEO Consultant on 23rd January 2019.

Gaz has 20 years experience working on SEO projects large and small, locally and globally across a range of sectors.

If you need any SEO advice or would like him to look at your next project then get in touch to arrange a free consultation.