If you have reason to believe your website’s rankings in Google may have declined, there are 5 easy steps you can take to figure out why. Just like anything else Google does, there is a systematic approach to why a site moves up in ranking and a systematic approach to why it moves down. So it only makes sense that we use a systematic approach in figuring out why your website’s rankings may have dropped.
1. Confirm your suspicions. It’s easy to search for your favorite keyword to determine if your website is not coming up; however, it’s never a good idea to make decisions based on simple search results. Use data to determine if, in fact, your website is experiencing a drop in rankings. If you’re using Google Analytics, look at your keyword report over the last few months and compare it to the previous time period. If you see that a large number of long-tail keywords that used to drive traffic are now showing little or no traffic, chances are your website ranking has dropped.
2. Did your keyword optimization change? If you adjust the keywords for a page, according to Google, you could potentially shift the focus of that page’s content. In doing so, you may see a lower ranking for the term your website used to rank for and a slow increase in ranking for the new term. For better optimization, evaluate the amount of traffic and conversions coming from the page you want to change (preferably over a time frame of three months). You may lose those numbers when you optimize the page for a new keyword.
How to Fix it: Change the page’s focus back to your old keywords and create a new page of content for the new keywords. If that’s not possible, do your best to extend the content of the current page and optimize for both keywords as much as possible. This isn’t ideal, but it could help.
3. Did your link profile change? This can be a tricky one. In order to really know if your link profile changed, you need to have a record of what it previously was. If you don’t, this step won’t be much help in finding out why your website has dropped in rank; however, it’s never too late to start recording it. If you are familiar with the number of links you should have, take a look to see if Google is still reporting that same number. If you see a dramatic drop in the number of links pointing to your website, there is a good chance something in your link web has been removed or penalized.
How to Fix it: The best way to fix this is to create link bait ideas that will generate buzz through social media and potential offline media. Link acquisition is never easy or fast, but the more relevant and interesting content you create, the faster you’ll generate links. If you don’t already, use Google’s Webmaster tools to see your backlinks. From there you’ll be able to get a good sense of what your link profile looks like, as well as export your links to a csv file. Doing this once a month will help you to stay on top of what Google is reporting. There are other SEO tools that can also help with this.
4. Did your URL structure change? If you have recently updated the URL structure of your site, you may have created dead links (blocked pages from being seen by search bots) or maybe even dropped content to a lower level than it was before. When updating your URL structure, never place content deeper in your site. This means if your content page is sitting at domain.com/topic/page.html, you don’t want to move it to domain.com/topic/subtopic/page.html.
How to Fix it: To check for broken links, refer back to your Google Webmaster account and look at the crawl errors report. This will give you a good idea as to where any broken links might be. If content has moved to a new page, be sure to implement a 301 redirect from any old URLs to their new counterpart. If you’re dealing with a content hierarchy issue where content is sitting deeper in the site than it used to, do what you can to move it back up. If this isn’t possible, make sure you have a new sitemap.xml in place and submit it to Google. Then, work on your link building as much as possible to these new pages.
5. Did your hosting environment change? If you just moved to a new host there may be a number of issues harming your rankings.
How to Fix it:The best way to fix any of these issues is quite simple: get a new host, preferably using a dedicated server.
1. If there was down time during the migration and Google crawled your website and only found 404 errors, your website will probably lose its ranking. If your website is crawled again and content is found, after a while rankings will typically come back. It may take some time, but your website ranking should make its way back to the top. Sometimes being patient is the best thing to do.
2. Check the speed of your new hosting environment. If your website is taking a long time to load, this may impact how well it ranks. This typically won’t drop you completely out of the race unless it is piled on top of other issues as well.
3. Check out your neighbors. Believe it or not, if you are sitting on a server with a bunch of “parked” domains or questionable websites that are notorious for spam, you could very possibly lose credibility in the eyes of Google.
Using domaintools.com to find out what’s going on with your server and who your neighbors are is highly recommended. If you’re serious about your SEO then paid services are well worth it.
If you have any other tips to share, we’d love to hear them. Or, if you have further, questions, feel free to ask away!