Diagnosing a Sudden, Dramatic Drop in Google Rankings

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Google is a mysterious entity. “There’s always more information out there” for them, which means there’s often no telling when the search engine will roll out a new algorithm update or what exactly it will entail. What we do know, though, is that these updates can sometimes cause your website traffic to take a downward dip.

Or maybe you’ve noticed that your page ranking has taken a hit but you haven’t heard a word about a new algorithm. This can be a warning sign that your website is experiencing an error, you’ve received a Google penalty, or even that keyword rankings have shifted.

While it can be hard to immediately identify why your Google ranking dropped dramatically overnight, there are a few theories that may help you determine the cause.

Diagnosing A Dramatic Google Ranking Drop

Google Algorithm Update

The first culprit to investigate when your Google ranking drops dramatically is Google itself. Algorithm updates can completely change Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices in a matter of minutes. Since SEO relies heavily on Google’s algorithms, it can account for this sudden change in your ranking. It’s best to stay as up-to-date on algorithm changes as possible to prepare for these shifts.

Search Engine Penalty

Unfortunately, Google has some pretty strict rules when it comes to SEO. It’s meant to discredit pages that are trying to cheat the system, but it can cause a penalty to your own website on rare occasions. If you can’t find any other cause, it’s time to check for a manual penalty.

The first step is to check your Google Search Console for any messages. Penalties often occur due to black hat SEO practices. Unless you’re purposely aiming to break SEO principles, this is commonly caused by an accidental violation that can be corrected.

Broken Pages

The dreaded 404 error. When technical errors occur on your page, it can cause your Google ranking to drop dramatically. Users will be unable to view your content, leading to a higher percentage of these users clicking away from your site quickly. This may indicate to Google that your page is not relevant to the query, leading to a drop in ranking.

In this situation, a trusted technical SEO team can likely correct the error and have your page making its way back to its original ranking.

Organic Search Changes

Though keywords may not change, the intent behind them might. Every now and then, Google may shift the intent behind a query. This shift leads to a change in what pages it deems relevant, causing your Google ranking to drop dramatically if your page no longer makes the cut.

By analyzing the pages that have begun to rank higher for a certain keyword, you may be able to determine the new intent and adjust your content accordingly.

Major Website Adjustments

Whether you’ve decided to rebrand your business or are just updating your website to keep up with online trends, a website change can cause a dramatic drop in your Google ranking. Since Google keeps a running log of website changes via Google Search Console, your best bet is to re-evaluate any changes and see if an error was made along the way. If so, you can work on correcting that error and getting your website back to its high ranking.

Content Modifications

Since Google relies so heavily on your content to determine its relevance to queries, substantial changes in your content can cause your Google ranking to drop dramatically. This can be anything from your meta data to the actual content on the page. Google may pick up on these changes and drop your ranking if it deems your new content to be less relevant.

Competitors Outranking You

Unfortunately, your website traffic may be down simply due to competition. Your competitors may have published content that slowly made its way up the rankings, eventually taking your spot as a top contender. You can monitor changes in competitors’ rankings using SEO tools like Ahrefs and see what keywords may be helping them take the lead.

Lost Backlinks

Backlinks are an incredibly useful SEO tactic that can drive traffic to your website. When other sites with high authority link to your website, you’ll often see an increase in traffic and rankings. This also means that losing these backlinks can lead to the dreaded Google ranking drop. If possible, you may want to reach out to the webmaster and inquire about any lost backlinks. You may even help them catch an error on their own site and help their rankings as well!

Mobile-Friendly Indexing

One of the latest algorithm updates Google has made revolves around mobile-first indexing. This new update is shifting the way rankings are determined. Before this update, Google focused rankings on desktop versions of websites. Now, Googlebots are spending their time crawling and indexing pages with a smartphone agent. If your website isn’t optimized to be mobile-friendly, you’ll likely see a dramatic drop in rankings. It may be time to revamp your website to match this new algorithm.

SERP Update

The final cause behind why your Google ranking dropped dramatically may be a change to the search engine results page (SERP). From time to time, Google will decide to update the layout of SERPs. This can mean that Google has included new features that have pushed your content lower on the page. Elements such as new snippets can take control of the page and cause a dramatic drop in website traffic.

Still not sure why your Google ranking has dropped dramatically? It may be time to contact an SEO marketing team like Markitors. We can audit your website, help you determine why your website traffic is down, and assist you in getting your content to rank. Contact us today to learn more about our SEO small business tactics!

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