What To Do When Your Search Rankings Drop – a guide

February 5, 2021

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If you’ve ever done SEO, you know how good it feels to see your rankings go up. You put a ton of hard work into moving up in the SERPs and it finally paid off. But then the unexpected happens. Your rankings drop. 

Few things in SEO are more discouraging than a drop in the rankings. It makes you feel like everything you did was useless. Wondering what went wrong or if you made a mistake. And beating yourself up for not doing it right. Thinking you’re back to square one again, and you have to start all over. Or do you? 

In my experience, that’s not always the case, I found out that it’s not the end of the world if you go down a position or two. It’s obviously not ideal, but there’s a lot you can do to fix it.  Even if your search rankings are where you want them to be, you need to be aware of how to bring them back up when they drop (because they will).

Analyze The Drop

Before you take action to raise your rankings, you need to track your rankings, ideally on a daily basis so you can see if they are increasing or decreasing.

The reason you want to track your rankings on a daily basis is that Google makes 3,200 algorithm changes per year, which is a bit more than 8 algorithm changes per day. You don’t really have a choice but to track your rankings daily. So how do you do that? 

  • First, you’ll want to head to the Ubersuggest dashboard and click on “Add Your First Project.” It’s as simple as adding in your URL.

  • Next, select the locations you do business in and want traffic from.

  • Afterwards, add in the keywords you currently rank for or want to go after.

  • Lastly, of course, set up your traffic preferences. Make sure you select “daily” rank tracking and you turn on mobile rank tracking.

Then you’ll be good to go. You will be notified via email when your rankings go down (or up) as there is no way you are going to have the time to manually check every day. Or when you log into your Ubersuggest dashboard you’ll see an updated view of your site. 

A report of what is increasing or decreasing is available, when you drill down into your rankings. 

Now when looking at your rankings it is normal for them to fluctuate a few spots here or there… But if you see all of your rankings all of a sudden drop, then you know you need to do something.

Did you get penalized?

In most cases, your site has not been penalized and you don’t need to worry about this. You don’t really need to worry about a penalty, if you haven’t done anything fishy like buying links. Read through this list and ask yourself if your site is guilty of any of these SEO sins. If so, identify the problems and take steps to fix them. 

Although you haven’t done anything on that list, you could still have gotten a penalty. Google’s algorithms are updated frequently and they’re incredibly complex. They take hundreds of factors into account when considering ranking. One day, your site might not deserve a penalty, and the next, it might. It’s important to understand the types of penalties: manual and algorithmic.

Manual Penalty 

They are given out by Google’s webspam team when they get alerted of suspicious activity. This could be the result of having unnatural links, or someone could have filed a spam report against you. If you’ve received a manual penalty, you should have gotten a notification in Google Webmaster Tools. Here’s an example of a message about unnatural links:
 
 

Algorithmic Penalty

The other type of penalty is an algorithmic penalty. These penalties are harder to track because there’s no definitive way of knowing you received one. To determine if you’ve gotten an algorithmic penalty, you have to understand how Google’s algorithm work. On condition that you find that you’re doing something the algorithm doesn’t like, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a penalty. 

But you also have to think about new penalties. If your rankings dropped randomly, check Moz’s handy directory of Google’s algorithm updates to see if there’s a new one at work. A new algorithm could be the reason why you’re seeing lower rankings. In case that happens, research the algorithm and find out what it’s penalizing.

Do You Have Link Problems?

This is a big one. Think of links as the currency of SEO. It’s essentially how you “gain” authority. So it’s no surprise that a strong link profile is correlated with high rankings. The flipside is that a weak link profile is correlated with low rankings. I spend lots of time working with clients on SEO, and I’ve seen lots of sites that have numerous link problems. 

Usually, the business isn’t aware. That’s because weak links are the silent killer of SEO. This is why you need to make sure your link profile is robust. First, conduct a link audit of your site. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do that. For the short version, use a backlink analysis tool like SEMrush Backlink Checker to see where your bad links are.

When you find bad links, contact those sites and nicely ask them to remove the link. If that doesn’t work, use Google’s Disavow tool as a last resort. However, I’ve found that about 90% of the time, conducting a backlink audit will help you find bad links. But there’s a problem here. Often, the reasons behind link problems aren’t so obvious. If your link profile looks okay after an audit, there could still be problems. Here are a few of the issues your link profile could be facing.

Losing Links

Did you know you can lose links? Both internal and external links? It could be the cause of your search rankings drop as well. Yep, you can lose internal links even if it’s to content you already own. Let’s talk about those first. If you often relaunch, rebrand, or redesign your site, you may lose some links along the way.  Why does this happen? 

Site Transformations

It has to do with redirects and transitioning your site over smoothly. Let’s talk about site transitions first. If you deleted an old blog post, then links to that post aren’t going to work. In turn, this will weaken the internal linking structure of your site and compromise your SEO. You’ll have one less link, which is removing a part of your internal linking network. This isn’t optimal because it means two things you’ll have to do:

  1. Fix the link
  2. You’ll have less content on your site to link to. That’s why I recommend not deleting content unless you absolutely have to. You can always update it.

That’s just one example of a lost link. Another reason you could lose an internal link is a faulty redirect. This often happens with 301 redirects. I’ve talked about 301s before, but there’s a unique issue you need to be aware of. Because a 301 is called a permanent redirect, lots of people assume that the redirect will always work. But it doesn’t. Here’s precisely how a 301 redirect works

301 Redirects explained

If you just set up a new site, you can 301 from the old domain to the new one without a hitch. The issue is when you revamp your site more than once. That’s because redirects from older versions of a site are rarely passed on to newer ones.

On top of that, if you get a new domain and an older domain expires, it could cause a significant loss in traffic because the 301s will no longer work. It’s messy. If you discover a bad 301 giving you problems, you need to fix that.

First, you need to find the target links your 301s are trying to go to. If those links are dead, you’ll most likely need to remove the link. You could also put the old content back up or create new content to keep the link on your page. This is a good idea if the page in question gets a lot of traffic.

You need to do what’s best for your visitors. If they’ll miss out on great, comprehensive content,  make sure that content is still on your site. You should also check for broken links. Simply use a tool like deadlinkchecker.com.

Conclusion

Going down a position or two in the rankings happens to the best of us. It’s even happened to me.

If this happens, don’t panic. Almost every client I’ve had who’s experienced a loss of rankings got really scared when it happened. You probably felt this way too. But you don’t need to worry. A bounce back from a ranking drop is reversible. Don’t believe me? Give these strategies a try. These aren’t just little tips. They’re tried-and-true methods that will help you reclaim your spot on Google.

No one deserves to lose ranking when they have an amazing site that users love. What’s more, it’s easy to fix. Don’t let the initial shock stop you from getting your ranking back.

So, when was the last time your rankings dropped?T

About the author

Ahmad Lerato Lekoloane is the founder and CEO of Ahmad Digital Agencies which was found in 2018. Ahmad has been inspired by the digital world and how it connects everyone in the world togeather and that’s the inspiration behind Ahmad Digital Agencies, simply connecting people to the world. Ahmad Digital Agencies has seen success from the day they launched and has recently been nominated the best digital marketing agencies of south Africa by sortlist.