According to recent findings by Chitika, an online ad network, the top is very lonely, at least in terms of Google’s rankings. The study shows that the top-ranked website in Google’s organic search results receives 33% of the traffic with the second position getting 18%, and the list degrades from there.
If this study is anything to go by, then it’s obvious that each one of us would want our respective websites ranked at the very top or at least on the first page. This would mean that the business or the website is garnering a lot of traffic.
This, in turn, generates emails, phone calls, leads and sales. Needless to say, a sudden drop in search engine traffic and Google rankings is a terrifying prospect that would spell doom for your business in terms of losing revenue.
Recent changes to your website, poor optimisation, technical issues and Google algorithm updates are some of the factors that contribute to your Google rankings. A drop in your hard-earned rankings would mean that you will need to address these issues including several others.
As a Sydney SEO agency, we actively work with clients who have suffered SEO ranking drops. Whilst some penalty issues are simple to reverse, other cases may require a deep dive, followed by months of re-optimisation.
In this article, we have listed the 20 most common issues why your SEO rankings may have dropped in Google.
1. Outdated keyword and tracking strategies
Google often change tracking codes and come up with new ideas for website optimisation. For instance, searches have moved from using a few generic keywords towards the use of ‘natural language’. With that in mind, your keyword strategy might be outdated.
Diagnosis: To rectify this, you should double-check and update your tracking and keyword strategies to allow searchers to get the desired results. Instead of using outdated generic keywords, structure your keywords to be more natural and to appear like complete sentences.
2. Manual Google penalties
When pages on your site are not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines, it’s highly likely that you’ll incur manual search engine penalties. These manual penalties are imposed by Google’s human reviewers who will determine whether or not your site is non-compliant.
Some of the common reasons for manual penalties include; user-generated spam, hacked site, cloaking, thin content and unnatural backlinks.
Diagnosis: You should check for manual penalties if you notice a sudden huge drop in your search engine rankings. You can learn about each type of manual action here and log in to your Google Search Console and visit the Search Traffic Manual Actions section where Google will tell you the reason for the manual action and how to rectify it.
3. Low-quality links
Buying low-quality links because they’re cheap is not a wise move. It’s a move that’ll affect your website’s ranking or even make it disappear entirely. Google, as well as other search engines, have come up with various updates to stop ‘search engine spamming’.
Diagnosis: Avoid unnatural or low-quality backlinks like a plague.
4. Losing high-quality links
Losing high-quality links will definitely affect your website. You should, therefore, check whether there’s a problem with these high-quality links and that they are directed correctly.
Diagnosis: You should continually build high-quality links naturally. For instance, create amazing content that is helpful to people who will love sharing them.
5. Google updates & algorithm changes
In its quest to always improve and provide better services to its customers, Google will always roll out with algorithmic updates (the most being the Broad Algorithmic update, and Link Spam Update), not once, but hundreds of times each year. Some of these updates and changes can be disruptive and hurt your site’s rankings.
Diagnosis: To avoid being sent packing as a result of these updates and changes, you should constantly use effective cross-channel traffic and marketing strategies such as the inclusion of social media and other marketing channels on your website.
6. Competitors outranking you
It’s a known fact that Google rankings are a zero-sum game. In other words, if a given website improves its rankings, another website will be affected and drop in ranking. After all, there can only be one. This is basically why websites must always seek SEO services and look to constantly improve to stay in the game.
Diagnosis: Search engine ranking is an eternal game. Competitors are constantly looking for ways to improve their websites and rankings and so should you.
7. Poor web hosting
Using or switching to low-quality hosting company or platform will not only affect your site’s visitors but will also attract user behaviours that will then send signals to search engines to lower the rank of your site.
Diagnosis: You should use a high-quality hosting platform that improves user experience by making sure that your website is fast, mobile-friendly and user-friendly.
8. Broken 301 redirects
Whether you are creating a new website, shifting to a new server or carrying out structural changes to your website, using a broken 301 redirect plan will negatively affect your rankings. A 301 redirect is basically a notice to Google that you’re planning some changes on the website.
This is essential as it notifies Google to redirect or send your website visitors to your new site and not the old one.
Diagnosis: You should do a 301 redirect plan correctly and make sure to include things such as canonical tags, XML sitemaps and updated backlinks.
9. Normal fluctuations
It’s always a normal thing for Google rankings to fluctuate. This might happen from one day to the next, from one location to another and even from one computer to another. In essence, rankings may fluctuate based on a host of variables.
Diagnosis: There’s no specific way to rectify this other than ensuring that your website is constantly improved and updated with great content.
10. Geographical discrepancies
Your ranking may be affected depending on the location of the search. This is because Google often looks and takes into account the sites that a searcher previously visited before bringing up search results.
Diagnosis: Check your site’s geographic traffic distribution and ensure that you’re not blocked or spammed in areas where you do not operate. You should also make sure that your site is specific, precise and accurate as to which geographical areas you cover.
11. Page speed
Page speed will not only affect user experience but will also affect SEO rankings. Your page will be impacted if it’s slow, heavy and takes a long time to load.
Diagnosis: Make sure that your website is loading as per Google’s recommended 2-second page loading speed. You can check your page speed here.
12. Changes in click-through rate
Google is paying more and more attention to user experience and will rank sites based on how user-friendly they are. With that said, your ranks are likely to drop if your Click-Through Rate (CTR) drops.
Diagnosis: Users will click through your site and stay there if they’re satisfied with your site’s content. Great content and fast loading pages will drastically lower page abandonment rate and improve engagement.
13. Server issues
Your site may have various server issues such as an empty markup served or a broken cache.
Diagnosis: It’s important to solve server issues quickly and avoid errors that might arise in server logs and URLs. Use Google’s Fetch and Render tool to test whether or not your URL is working optimally.
14. Technical SEO issues
Search engines are becoming more refined and a simple technical issue that doesn’t conform to the engine’s guideline may lower your rankings.
Diagnosis: You should always be aware of search engine changes and updates, as well as technical SEO issues. This will help you take better care of your site and keep your hard-earned ranking up. Fix things such as 404 errors and long page load times.
15. Server overload
A web server can easily overload if it’s structured in such a way where it cannot keep up with the demand of too many users visiting the site at a single instance.
Diagnosis: It’s crucial to optimise your site and be ready to deal with high volumes of traffic.
16. Poor quality content
As obvious as it may sound, having poor quality content that is full of mistakes in grammar & spelling will have your site degraded.
Diagnosis: Always make sure that you offer great content that is relevant and reliable for the user.
17. Lack of fresh content
Fresh content is a must if you want to keep your rankings high. If your last blog was over a year ago, Google will be whipping out its wrath on your site very soon.
Diagnosis: Make sure that you constantly update your site with fresh, original and great content.
18. Excessive use of keyword-rich anchor text
If you’ve been using lots of the same rich anchor text, Google will see it as spam and may lower your rankings.
Diagnosis: Avoid using excessive “click here” leads because Google doesn’t like the excessive use of keyword-rich anchor text.
19. Plagiarised content
Plagiarism is strictly restricted on Google and may adversely affect your rankings. In fact, your site may be entirely removed from Google’s index if you duplicate content that’s not original to your site.
Diagnosis: Keep your site’s content original and do not plagiarise content.
20. Incorrect robots.txt file
Using an incorrect robots.txt file will flag down your site as robotic and Google may end up removing your site from its index completely.
Diagnosis: Always employ robots.txt best practices to optimise your site’s ranking.
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