SEO Nightmare: What Do When Website Rankings Drop

Girl at computer looking frustrated

Any online marketing guru who has worked with SEO knows no worse feeling than when search rankings drop, seemingly without reason. You’ve put hours and hours of work into your client’s SEO and started to see success, only for your efforts to tank unexpectedly. 

Before you feel too discouraged, reel in your emotions, and let’s take stock.

The drop in search rankings may not be due to a mistake or inadequate SEO work. This experience is more common than you might think, and there is an action plan for marketers such as yourself to rely on when search rankings drop and need some tweaking to get back on track. 

1. Take Stock of the Drop

This is an important step in any perceived crisis: stop and take stock of the situation before you act. If you want to see consistent improvements in your SEO, you want to analyse what is not working right now, and use that data to inform your decisions. 

It’s good practice to track your rankings on a daily basis, largely because search engines are making algorithm changes every few hours in some cases. In a constantly shifting system you want to be aware of what you’re doing daily and how the algorithms are dealing with it. 

You can use an SEO tool such as:

Tools like this will empower you to track your daily rankings, and support you in creating fresh and functional SEO in the future.

With these tools, you simply:

  • Record where you want traffic to come in from
  • Add keywords you rank for, and the ones you want to rank for
  • Tailor your traffic preferences (daily or weekly)

Tracking any increases or search ranking drops empowers you to make necessary changes that drive traffic to your websites and achieve your online marketing goals. 

2. Check for Google Penalties and Violations 

It happens. Whether you know it or not (and hopefully not) you may have done something suspicious with your website that has it penalised by search engines.

If you use white hat SEO techniques, which refer to those techniques in line with search engine guidelines, you’re unlikely to have a penalty against your site. 

If you have done something like buying links, deceiving users, or cramming keywords with no regard for your user, you may be at risk of penalisation.

This could be a manual or algorithmic penalty, the former of which is easier to track. Manual penalisations result in a notification to your websites, whilst an algorithmic penalty is a result of an algorithmic change that no longer supports something you are doing in your SEO. 

Here’s a comprehensive list of search engine guidelines and how you may have earned a penalty. 

3. Find the Weakest (Back-)Link 

Now that you’re tracking your rankings appropriately and done some digging into your penalties (or lack thereof), you can start investigating the finer details. Links from other reputable websites are a critical component of SEO, lending credibility to your websites and increasing your traffic when implemented expertly. 

Conduct an SEO Link Audit 

You could use any number of online SEO link audit tools to check out what’s happening on your websites behind the scenes. Some examples are:

Input your domain and analyse what proportions of your links are legitimate or sketchy. 

Dealing with sketchy or untrustworthy links can be tricky. Your best bet is to contact the domain owner directly and ask them to remove your link from their website. If you run into problems, you may have to resort to the Google Disavow tool and do it yourself, but be very careful here. You should read about the Disavow tool and its possible consequences here

Replace Dead Links 

Another possibility is that you have lost links over time, which can lead to a search engine rankings drop. This can happen when you relaunch or redesign your site, including changes to your content, site structure, and blog posts. 

If you delete or restructure a web page, any links on websites that point to that page could be compromised. They might be pointing to nothing, now! Where your content links to a now-deleted page, you’ll want to replace with a working link. 

This can happen with outbound links too, if another site has made structural changes that kill the link on your websites. The best practice is to remove them, or replace them with a link to another site that serves the same purpose. 

Keep your user in mind here: you want their browsing experience to be as seamless as possible. Broken or dead links will discourage them from spending more time on your site, as you’re not providing them with the value they’re looking for. 

4. Update Website Design 

If it’s been a while since you updated your website design, or you made some changes before you noticed the search rankings drop, you may have another task at hand. Outdated web design can turn users away upon arrival, frustrating them with slow load times, features that aren’t optimised for mobile, or design that doesn’t appeal to a contemporary audience. 

Addressing the mobile-friendliness of your website is paramount these days, with well over half of all traffic coming from mobile devices. Google has a set of mobile-first indexing best practices to get you on track. 

Responsive design is equally as important here: you need to ensure simple and accessible navigation and quick site speeds. Cheap Website Designs can help you update your website template at a very cheap cost. Ask us how.

Working with a professional website developer and online marketing specialist can handle this for you, or you can conduct a site audit using an online tool to check on these metrics.

You always want to be armed with a holistic view of your website and its SEO structure to make an informed decision that gets you ranking. 

5. Keep Content Fresh 

You probably know that original, industry-relevant content is critical to the success of your website, but did you know that keeping it fresh and frequently updated contributes to its success? 

As much as search engines index your pages and images, they also take notice when you regularly update your content and make posts. If you set up an ongoing content creation cycle, search engines will come to recognise your websites as valuable resources that should be displayed to users. 

If you’re dealing with a search rankings drop, you may want to set up a regular content schedule and set time aside to update your older posts.

However, you don’t want to update content purely for indexing purposes. You want to offer value to your audience with the content you create. Regardless, the users are looking to answer questions, find recommendations, or make purchases.

If you produce content regularly that is engaging and informative, you not only appeal to search engines but to the humans that use them. 

6. Consider a Specialist 

The steps outlined above should keep you on track to your SEO goals, but if you find yourself struggling to get your search rankings on the rise, consider reaching out to a local Australian Web Design & SEO Specialist. Online marketing can quickly become overwhelming, so stay plugged into the best resources and don’t hold back from asking for help. 

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