Looking at your Google rank report and knowing your website no longer appears at the top of search queries can be nerve-wracking. Especially when you’ve worked so hard to achieve good SEO results! As a small business owner, if you’re committed to your SEO strategy, you know that SERP fluctuations are a reality you have to deal with. If your goal is to create more awareness for your brand by being on top of the SERPs, then attending to sudden drops in ranking is important.
Google SERP updates are due to many factors and some of them are outside of your control. So before you panic, know that changes may also resolve on their own. A wise business owner will take changes in stride and watch Google’s announcements.
You can learn from Google itself when an update was rolled out. This can include a broad core algorithm update that affects everyone or shifts in their core algorithm that are aligned with a specific industry that may, or may not, affect your business. Think of an update that’s only for travel sites or one that affects all e-commerce sites. These updates should be looked at differently depending on your specific business.
There are usually a few major updates each year on average, with several big updates in the past like the Google Panda update or Penguin update causing deep adjustments in how pages show in search.
The truth is, other than optimizing your content to follow best practices, there’s very little you can do to prevent your results from moving up and down in search, so you want to keep up with the basics so you’re not caught off guard.
How It Works & Why Your Google Rank Keeps Changing
Google Search is updated thousands of times a year to enhance customer experience and better improve search results. The search engine’s goal is to ensure it delivers the right information people look for online. Because of this, they implement automated systems that help decrease irrelevant search results.
At the same time, Google’s search engine also offers a wide range of content selection in their search results to help website owners get discovered. Every search query offers a variety of options including video, image, articles, websites, news and more.
When Google shows an option for a consumer to click on, this “impression” tells Google information about your page and how well it aligns with a specific search query. If a person who saw this “impression” then “clicks” on your content, this tells Google even more about the connection between the search query and the consumer’s behavior.
Both of these actions are part of the “user experience” that’s evaluated by Google to decide if your content is a good match for the query. You can take advantage of how Google evaluates the match between your content and the user’s experience by following reports like Search Console to monitor the match between your impressions and clicks.
It’s also very helpful to optimize keywords or phrases that match what your potential customers use when they search for products or services online.
One Thing To Keep In Mind About Your Google Ranking
Rankings are not permanent. If you get a good ranking, make sure that you only implement SEO best practices to keep that ranking. Also, make sure the technical side of your website is working. Otherwise, the errors could also affect your ranking. Speed updates have been quite a big deal over the past few years. You can always review your site’s speed by using Google’s PageSpeed tester or GTmetrix is another favorite most SEO professionals use.
Additionally, Google loves fresh updates. If your website is outdated, loads super slowly, or is not secure with a security certificate, you should expect a drop in your ranking. The rule of thumb is to stay up-to-date and watch for changes in the algorithm and make adjustments as necessary.
Below are other common reasons why your Google rankings have dropped and advice to fix the problem.
If Your Google Ranking Dropped Dramatically, Make Sure You’re Not Blacklisted
Yes, this is a real thing. Google’s blacklist is a dynamic list of sites that have been flagged as being unsafe for people to visit. This can be because the site itself is infected with malware or other spam inflicting software. Your site could have been hacked and is being used to infect other sites with nefarious code. In cases like this, Google will remove sites from their indexing and your google ranking will dramatically drop.
If you’re worried this has happened, your first warning sign is an image like this when you visit your website:
Seeing this warning sign, you can confirm your site as blacklisted using this free blacklisting tool.
Upon confirmation, you should contact your hosting company right away to confirm it from their end. Once you know you’re site has been blacklisted, you can explore steps to restore the site. Just remember, the site was hacked for a reason. There is either a vulnerability or another set of issues that allowed hackers to get into the site.
You need to fix this. If not, the seedy hackers will return and can easily do it again. Reach out if you need advice about how to tackle this kind of challenge.
That said, most ranking drops are less serious and fall into one or a combination of issues listed below.
Black Hat SEO Can Affect Rankings
Black hat SEO strategies are usually hacks or fixes that are not aligned with Google’s SEO best practices. Tactics like this can cause your ranking to suddenly drop and can be hard to recover from. Black hat SEO can include cloaking, keyword stuffing and using private link networks. If your rankings suddenly dropped, it could be due to this practice.
Unfortunately, it will be difficult to redeem your website when you get caught using black hat SEO practices. To avoid this problem, only use strategies that work and avoid those that can get you penalized.
Speed, as mentioned, is one of the biggest culprits why your rank changed. User experience is part of Google’s algorithm and slow speed can affect user experience. The only way to address the problem is by working on your website speed. To remedy the problem, test your website speed performance first to help you determine your next steps.
If possible, consider hiring an SEO professional to help you and certainly, reach out to us if you need support for this issue.
Broken or Lost Links
Lost links could also be the culprit why your ranking suddenly dropped. SEO tools can help you check for lost links so you can work with the websites that removed your links to get them reinstated. Linking is one of the hardest parts of an SEO strategy. But, when you do it correctly, overtime it establishes your website as an authority in your field.
This is one of the parts of SEO you do not want to avoid, even if it’s difficult and takes time to accomplish. If you have questions about link building, please reach out to our team for help.
Never underestimate your competition. If your competitors have a better SEO strategy, they can outrank you quickly. If you have dropped a few positions, consider doing a GAP analysis to investigate your competitors and why your rank changed.
Check the SERP history to see how the ranks have changed. Chaotic changes in the rankings are usually due to small algorithm tweaks. When this happens, don’t worry as it will likely resolve itself. But if the changes stay overtime, you were likely outranked by your competition and this requires further investigation.
Look to see what updates have been made to your competitors website, new content, updated headers, and new content offerings that give a more robust offering to their website. Ranking signals like “time on page” or general user experience are harder to see without paid SEO tools, but that’s something your SEO consultant can do for you.
Remember, you’re not the only one that wants to be on the first page of the search engine results pages. Your competitors are also refining their SEO strategies to get to the top. Do the same if you don’t want changes to your rankings.
Did you recently redesign your website or change the hosting plan? This could also affect your SEO performance and lower your rankings. Google Search Console is free and can give you insights into this question. Look for an increase in warnings or errors. Find out if errors occurred right after you did the website change, as that’s likely the reason why you suddenly dropped rankings.
If your Google ranking has dropped, any one of the issues above (or a combination of them) could be the cause. If you need help with your website, we’re here to support you. SEO recovery isn’t easy, but an SEO expert can diagnose what’s underneath your issues and suggest how to fix the issues.
Don’t hesitate to contact professionals who can help. We can help you analyze and refine your SEO strategy to ensure you get the best and stay on top of the search engine results pages. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation that includes a review of your Google ranking and what’s likely behind your drop in traffic.