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How to find reasons for your ranking drops and how to fix it

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Every day we strive to increase the position of our website in the search engine. However, it happens that ranks, instead of getting higher, fall. What might be the reasons for all this? Whose fault is it? What should I do then? How can an SEO specialist help us? And above all: should we panic when our position on Google drops by a few places? You can find all of the answers to these questions below.

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Why did your search ranking drop?

The drop in the position of your website, especially a sudden one, can give you the willies. Many of the reasons for the drops are completely independent of us. Even if this happens, you also don’t have to be in a blue funk – the effects of most of them can be repaired. Nor are these effects always negative for us. Let’s explain – one by one…

Which reasons for ranking drops are independent of us?

Google algorithm update

Google improves the functioning of its algorithm literally overnight. Of course, these are not updates that would completely change the visibility of the results page within a day. Changes to the algorithm also could work in our favour. As pages with good, well-optimized content get higher and higher positions, the weak ones get lower and lower. In addition to that, daily changes are due to the algorithm learning the behaviour of websites and internet users and are not controlled by anyone from above.

However, several times a year the change in the algorithm is slightly bigger, and that’s when there may be turbulence in the positions of your phrases.

Your competition’s actions

When you work on your website, your competition keeps an eye on it. Sometimes it means spending a larger budget on SEO actions,  offering a massive discount or publishing an article that generates a lot of traffic to the site—any of these could affect the search engine results. Let’s remember that, Google positions are like a podium that everyone is fighting for. The difference is that the results are constantly changing and whoever is at the top today, can quickly be overtaken by someone else.

Seasonality of the industry

Before you start wringing your hands, make sure that the phrases and queries you’re positioning are not currently typed less frequently than usual. Seasonality does apply not only to the most obvious industries, such as ski equipment. It depends on very different factors that are not necessarily easy to predict.

Viruses and hacking attacks

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Even when you made efforts to secure your website, it can happen that the virus that slips on it will link it with some suspicious subpages. This can happen both to small, medium and larger pages, and it’s a completely normal part of the lifespan of a site. The effects of such attacks can be difficult to predict, but they can also affect your position on Google – the ground is to check the site on a regular basis so that you can detect such attacks quickly.

Drop in positions as a result of actions on the site

It may also happen that your page’s position in search results decreases as a result of your actions. It happens to everyone: sometimes you have to quickly remove, add or change something quickly. Unfortunately, it’s common that such changes without consultation with an SEO pro will influence your ranks.

Changes to page structure

Changing page elements such as category names, subpage names and addresses, or moving them within parent categories, can not only change positions but even lead to a lack of correct indexing of subpage data. As a result, they will be invisible to the search engine and to the customers looking for us.

No redirections

When you move a page to another domain (or delete one of the subpages), it’s important to redirect it from the old place to the new one. If we forget about it, for Google, it’s a message that the page no longer exists and won’t take it into account in search results over time. Deleted subpages should be redirected to other subpages with the same subject as possible (e.g. removed product to other products in the same category or to the category subpage of the removed product).

Keyword oversaturation and overdoing SEO recommendations (when optimizing)

People who are just learning SEO sometimes don’t fully understand the principles. One of the most common mistakes is overusing keywords, by using them too often. This can be seen, for example, when you type the phrase “best shoes for running” – you can often find articles in which this phrase appears even twice in one sentence. Such saturation at the very beginning may (though not necessarily) lift the page to a high position, but when Google notices that users spend little time on our website (because such text sounds unnatural and are of little value to the recipient), then the position of the page may begin to decline. The position of the site can also decrease when we get external links from sources with poor reputation and position.

Other changes to the site that slow it down

Changes to the page, such as installing new plug-ins, adding a large number of photos, and other modifications often negatively affect the performance of your webpage. And speaking about that, Google’s robots pay close attention to the loading time and quality of these elements. If they get worse, the site may lose its position in favour of faster and better optimized pages.

The site drops in the ranking. Is it a reason to panic?

Not necessarily. It’s possible that even if you run your website properly and keep an eye on all of the recommendations of your SEO specialist, the positions still will fluctuate. That’s perfectly normal and what you should look at is whether the position of the website grows in a certain time frame, e.g. during the whole month. We can compare it to running: most people never run at a perfectly even pace – sometimes they speed up and then slow down for a while, but we are still on the move and get closer to our goal. It’s similar to your page rank in Google’s results.

Position drop and page traffic

So before we get overwhelmed by fear, let’s see if the fall in positions has any effect on our business and actual traffic to the website. Simply specify a time range in Google Search Console or Google Analytics and see if traffic and conversions have also dropped since the positions dropped. It’s also common for rank fluctuations to have absolutely no effect on traffic and sales. Then you should not be too worried about it – although keeping that in mind and checking on never hurt nobody.

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What does an SEO specialist do in the case?

If you have constant contact with an SEO agency that deals with your website, then you do not have to worry about anything. The role of an SEO specialist is to find the reason for ranking drops and to get into why it happened. With their broad knowledge, they adjust the way of operation depending on the reason for the ranking drops.

In case of reasons we don’t have control on (changes in algorithms, competition activities and others), an SEO specialist develops new changes to the existing SEO strategy and makes recommendations or introduces them – depending on your contract.

In the case of a drop resulting from your actions, an SEO specialist will want to know what changes have been made and then remove the fallouts. There’s no rule here – if you delete subpages or move a page to another domain – redirecting isn’t a particularly difficult task. On the other hand, if the plug-in or code modifications that we have installed cause changes in many parts of the page, you need to restore it to its previous state.

Decrease in positions and keyword visibility

It’s also the task of an SEO specialist to check whether the drop in positions is not the result of a decrease in visibility on the phrases on which the page is or has been positioned. This is the case, for example, when a product is withdrawn from the offer, but for some time Google continues to ask us about these products. Then, depending on which phrases have decreased in visibility and what they mean for traffic on our site – SEO specialists make further decisions and recommendations.

Summary. When should I worry about ranking drops?

Drops and fluctuations in search engine results are completely normal and should be expected. It may sound very lofty, but Google is a bit like life – a lot of things are not given once and for all, and you can’t put together a scenario that works 100% as we would expect. The difference, however, is that with the help of SEO specialists, you can react quickly and make changes that will overcome the effects of lower positions. If at all this decline will have negative consequences for your business – because it does not have to be so.

Mateusz Malinowski – Technical SEO Audit

Author

Mateusz Malinowski has 5 years of experience in running several hundred SEO projects. He works in Fabryka Marketingu as SEO Manager – he manages the SEO and Content department.He is responsible for creating comprehensive SEO strategies on the domestic and foreign market, auditing websites, content marketing recommendations for SEO, linkbuilding process and customer training.

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