6 Causes of Google Ranking Drops – and Action Plan to deal with them

Whether this is your first time, or whether you’ve been through this before, coming face-to-face with a Google site ranking drop can be a shocking experience.

During crisis like these, it’s important to stay calm and have an effective “conditioned reflex” to deal with the situation.
Often, the best – and in fact the only! – way to maintain your calm is to know what to do in a situation like this.

There may be many reasons why Google may have dropped your sites’ ranking. But six reasons are the most frequent. To help you through this difficult time, we’ve created a short, but highly effective Action Plan to address those six common reasons.

Listed below are six types of possible rankings issues, how you can diagnose the issue, and how you can prevent the issue from re-occurring in future.  And if, for any reason, you still require expert help in diagnosing and addressing the issues, we’re here for you.

1. You’ve been OutRanked by a Competitor

1.1 What does this looks like:
You may notice slight ranking drops versus the competition. A competitor’s site will be slightly ahead of yours and other sites in your niche.

1.2 How to diagnose it:
Constantly monitor the competitors’ site and analyze their site and social profiles. This will give you a better understanding of what they may be doing to cause the out ranking.

1.3 How to deal with it:
Here’s your Action Plan to deal with possible competitor out-ranking challenges:

  • Keep a close eye on what your competitor has done
  • Typically, it includes an improvement of content and/or backlinks profile
  • Make sure your content provides at least the same – if not higher – levels of usefulness
  • Make sure you support the content with a solid backlinks profile

2. You’ve been Penalized by Google – Either manually or by Google Algos

2.1 What does this looks like:
Usually, when this happens, you’ll notice a sharp decline in your sites’ ranking. This often indicates a penalty.

2.2 How to diagnose it:
Typically, this would appear as a precipitous decline of anywhere between 10 and 20 (or more!) points on a Google SERP, but your ranking on other search engines – e.g. Yahoo or Bing – may be unharmed. The reason may either be as a result of a Google algorithm, which will often reverse itself when the next update cycle runs. Or, it may be a manual penalty by a Google employee.

2.3 How to deal with it:
When you want to check if Google has penalized your website, we recommend looking at a few core factors:

  • Check GSC –> Search Traffic –> Manual actions to make sure that you don’t have a manual penalty
  • Make sure your Google Analytics tracking code is working properly
  • If you are seeing drops in rank checkers, check rankings manually on an incognito browser to see if the rankings truly are down
  • Make sure you’re looking at Google organic traffic and not all traffic.
  • Losing organic search positions and, consequently, traffic, does not necessarily indicate that your website was filtered algorithmically. Your competitors may have outperformed you in organic search results

3. On-page Issues Cause a Site Demotion

3.1 What does this looks like:
It can appear either as a steep decline in site rankings or, try as hard as you may, your sites’ rankings just won’t rise. Even with all your efforts at hosting great content, or your link-building efforts, you notice site rankings decline.

3.2 How to diagnose it:
Your first point of diagnosis is through Google Search Console. The dashboard will offer additional insight into likely causes.

3.3 How to deal with it:

  • Check the on-page SEO factors manually to see if there are any visible issues
  • Run a site audit via any special tool available to you. If you don’t have access to such tools, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to support you

4. Loss of Links Has Caused Your Site to Drop in Rankings

4.1 What does this looks like:
Your link profile displays consistent loss of inbound links. The resulting situation may manifest itself as either a minor or a huge decline in site ranking.

4.2 How to diagnose it:
Check patterns of lost links over the past 60 to 90 days. Major link losses may point to reasons for a decline in your sites’ rankings. Webmasters from linked sites may have deliberately (or unintentionally) removed those links.

4.3 How to deal with it:
The only way to deal with such a situation is by using specialized backlinks tools (such as ahrefs.com). If you don’t already have an account, you may try creating a free account and then check for broken links. Alternately, if you require expert help and advice to deal with the issue, please feel free to reach out to us. Our experts will be happy to support you.

5. You Site Rankings Dropped As Google Updated Their Algorithm

5.1 What does this looks like:
Because Google’s algo updates are sometimes so broad-based, this is yet another one of those rankings drop situations where an exact “looks like” scenario isn’t predictable. The drop in rank may be marginal, or it might be steep. Regardless, if you suddenly notice a precipitous and continuous rankings decline, it looks like you’re the victim of an updated-related drop.

5.2 How to diagnose it:
Check all available news feeds and technical bulletins to confirm is an update was in fact applied in the timeframe of your sire ratings drop. If so, understand exactly what the update does, and how your site may be violating the new provisions.

5.3 How to deal with it:
Recovering from algo update-related rankings drops will require a deep audit and, in each case, the recovery strategy may be different depending on the reason for the drop. To avoid further complexities, it’s best to get help from professional SEO experts or companies to deal with these issues. However, the only (and extremely generic) advice here, on how to prevent such issues in future, is to be as organic as possible. Generally, first find out what the update changed to make your site non-compliant, and then address those issues.

6. You’ve Suffered a Google Flux Ranking Drop

6.1 What does this looks like:

This too is an unpredictable situation that no one can say with certainty how it may look. The causes are as diverse as the symptoms, and may manifest themselves differently for different sites.

6.2 How to diagnose it:
Because of its erratic nature, Google Flux ranking drops are extremely hard to diagnose. They may not be as a result of any specific factor – on-page issues, known updates, competitor outranking or issues with links. One clue that you are being “Google Fluxed” may be if you notice unexplained drops in site rankings.

6.3 How to deal with it:
This is the only case that is not in our (or your!) control. It’s important to understand that each website experiences such fluctuations from time from time – which is normal.

Just keep calm and check the rankings in few days. Most probably your rankings will revert to the old rank. Or, you may will see a new page from your website ranked instead of an old page. For instance, a Google flux may happen when you update to https:// version. In this case, one day the http:// version of your website may lose rankings, and then, few days later, you may see the https version gain your previous rankings.

If you've experienced decrease in rankings or organic traffic and need a professional help - we are here to do that for you! Order "Rankings Drop Diagnostic" and we will:

- double check each & every possible issue
- provide a description of the actual problem
- provide a detailed plan on how to fix that
- consult you in case if additional info is needed

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