Rankings fluctuate so it is understandable that you will see a ranking drop at some point. Even the tiniest drop in your ranking is enough to cause a considerable panic session. You probably have worked so hard to boost your ranking up and then all of a sudden it has dropped. And you don’t know what to do next.
Now, if you see your ranking free falling it can create obscene amount of panic. When you are in the middle of a solid panic attack it can be difficult to see clearly. However, I am here to tell you that there is a way to stop the bleeding.
No matter how big the ranking drop is, it is important that you follow a few steps to understand what is going wrong. Once you understand where you are going wrong, you can fix the situation and this will hopefully mean your ranking will stop falling (and even start climbing back up again).
No one likes to see a fall in their rankings, no matter the size of the drop.
Small fluctuations shouldn’t be of too much concern for you. But it is when that small dip turns into a full-blown nosedive that you will need to take serious action. It is important that even when you see a small dip, you still take precautions. This is to limit the chances of the rankings taking a turn for the worse.
You need to be proactive with your approach.
This will hopefully turn things around before it gets too serious. Don't wait for things to get really bad before you deicide something needs to be done. I can tell you right now that it is a lot easier to fix a small ranking problem then it is to fix a substantial one.
No matter how much your ranking has dropped, there is a process that you should take. By following the below steps it will assist in identifying the source of the issue. As well as this, these steps will help you resolve the problem which will get your SEO (and your ranking) back on track.
So, if you see a drop in your rankings don’t freak out (or be disheartened), have a read of the top 7 steps below that will help turn your ranking around:
Before you go to deep into SEO and the problems your website may have, take a look at how users and search engines view your website. Sometimes the reason for your ranking drop can be something incredibly simple. Don’t overcomplicate things if they don’t need to be complicated!
There are things you should always check that will impact how users and search engines see your webiste:
- Whether your website returns a 200 status code?
- Can search engine bots crawl your website?
A 200 series status code will specify whether your website can be communicated with properly. The standard 200 OK status code will show a successful HTTP request. I know this doesn’t sound like a basic SEO problem – but it is.
Let me break it down, if your website cannot be properly communicated with by users or bots (i.e. you have a lot of error pages) this will greatly impact your SEO ranking. Lucky for you there is a tool called HTTP Status Code Checker, which helps you identify any issues you may have.
This tool is free to use and if your website is successful then you don’t have to worry about this being the issue. However, if unsuccessful then the tool will help you fix the issues.
Below are the results for SEO Shark. As you can see we return a 200 status code:
The second basic component you need to check is whether bots can crawl your website. Your robots.txt is a text file that is located on your web server and basically it tells search bots how to interact with your site. With your text file you can set inclusions and exclusions. This means you can choose certain sections of your website that you don’t want the search bots to see.
You need to check the text file is set up properly and that the search bots can see everything they should be able to see. Sometimes I find that websites accidentally set really tight restrictions. This prevents bots from crawling through the main pages of your website. And obviously, you don’t want this!
Once again, lucky for you, there is a tool you can use to double check the robots.txt file of your website. Google’s Robots Testing Tool will help you identify anything abnormal and will allow you to upload a new and improved robot.txt file to ensure search bots can crawl your website better.
You need to check these two things first because no other features of your website really matter if users can’t actually see it properly or search engine bots can’t crawl through it. Things like title tags, meta descriptions, and headings of your website should be checked afterwards to ensure these components are optimised for SEO.
2. The basics – title tag, meta description and headings
Once you confirm that user’s and search engines can navigate through your website properly, then you turn your focus to the basics of your website that are proven to hold back your rankings. Basic elements like your title tag, meta description and headings are thought to be declining in significance as a ranking factor.
However, it is still necessary for you to check whether they are optimised or not!
Think about whether you have your page title and meta tag optimised and whether they are properly displayed in search results. The most important page to check is your homepage. It is the simple opportunity to inform search bots what your homepage is about. You cannot be generic with your title, otherwise you are likely to see a flop in your rankings.
Your meta tag doesn’t directly impact SEO and your rankings. HOWEVER! An awesome and compelling meta tag will encourage users to click on to your website. This will improve your click through rates which will in turn help your SEO.
You also need to ensure that your homepage has an optimised H1 tag. This is the main heading of your website and it lets users and search bots know what the central focus of the page is about. It is important that you put this focus in the H1 tag otherwise search bots won’t have the ability to differentiate it from the other content on your webpage.
3. Google algorithm updates
Google updates their algorithm on a constant basis.
This means that something that is vital for your SEO today may not be so important tomorrow. There are little changes to the algorithm made in real time. This means you will always need to be on the lookout for tweaks that may impact your ranking.
Make sure you are always checking Twitter as well as other SEO platforms that will provide you with the latest developments in Google’s algorithm. Changes in the algorithm shouldn't impact you too much if you are doing things properly, i.e. quality content, easy site layout, fast speed, mobile friendly etc.
4. Google Analytics
If there has been a drop in your rankings it is important to check your Google Analytics account. This will show all the details you could possibly need about your website. Google Analytics will show if there has been a decline in traffic or other user metrics including time spend on page, the amount of pages users look through each session or your bounce rate.
You will be able to see the time that any drops may have occurred. You can then coincide that with any changes you made to the website i.e. changes in content, functionality or design. If you find that these changes do overlap it is important for you to either reverse your decision or go in a different direction.
Google Analytics provides so much information and you should look at every function and statistics on this tool as it will all help you in terms of your SEO. Using Google Analytics, you will be able to understand how visitors find your website, what they do on your website and even what caused them to leave your website.
Your ranking could have taken a hit because of the poor content you have on your website. Content is important and Google favours websites that include large amounts of quality content. This is usually done through a blog!
When creating any type of content it is important that it is unique and interesting. Duplicate content is not valued by Google and you may receive a penalty if you are found copying other people’s content.
As well as this, low value content is difficult to be connected with by users. This will result in visitors not staying too long on your website and not looking through different pages. These results will be sent back to Google and will show that users aren’t connecting well with your content and you will probably see a drop in you rankings as a result.
You should never knowingly copy content, however there are circumstances where you could have accidently written something the same as another website. Therefore it is important for you to check for plagiarism. To do this you should use a tool called Copyscape. It will show immediately if there is any duplicate content on your website.
Do you want to take your content up another notch? Have a read of a previous blog I wrote about the things your content must include.
How fast is your website? Have you ever checked the speed of your website? One of the things you should check after you have experienced a ranking drop is your speed. Google will rank your website lower if your speed isn’t up to scratch.
As well as this, users expect fast download time as well. If not they are likely to leave your website, this has negative impacts on the bounce rate and conversation rate etc. which will in turn impact your SEO. Kissmetrics found that almost half of consumers expect a website to load in 2 seconds or less.
2 seconds, that’s really all you have!
To check your speed Google has an awesome free tool for you to use, called PageSpeed Insights.This tool will give your website speed a mark out of 100. You will get a mark for both your desktop and mobile speed. It will also provide recommendation in order for you to fix your speed.
More and more users are searching on Google with their mobile. Google understands this and it means that they are indexing mobile versions of your website first. This is bad news if you don’t have a mobile friendly version of your website.
Obviously you know there are differences between a desktop and mobile. There are changes you will need to make to your website in order for it to be fully optimised for mobile. Therefore it is important to check whether your website is mobile friendly or not if you have seen a drop in your rankings.
To check mobile compatibility, there is a tool from Google called Mobile Friendly Test. Just input your URL and Google will tell if your website is mobile friendly or not. If your website is not considered to be mobile friendly, the tool will show you the changes you should make to fix it.
Below are the results from SEO Shark, you can see that our website is mobile friendly:
So there you have it, the 7 steps you should take after your experience a ranking drop. I know that a drop in your rankings can be stressful and very disheartening, especially if you have done so much work (or paid a lot of money) to get a good rank.
However, no matter how big the drop is, it is important not to panic too much. There are a few things that you should check and they will help you identify any problems. Once you understand the reason behind your drop in rank, you can come up with a proper solution to not only stop your ranking from dropping but also boost your ranking back up.
Charlotte is a digital marketing and communications practitioner working in our Sydney office. She takes on a range of roles relating to SEO and has a keen interest in studying the SEO industry and its future direction, particularly in relation to content marketing. Charlotte takes her writing very seriously and always seeks ensure the content she produces is of a high standard of quality.