In the ever-changing world of SEO, ranking fluctuations are inevitable. When your website’s search engine rankings drop, it’s important to investigate the reasons behind it. Time is of the essence, and prolonged low rankings can translate to revenue loss. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help diagnose and recover from ranking drops.
A good place to start is to check if your site has any broken links. This can be done through Google Search Console.
- To do this go to “Pages” under “Indexing” on the left-hand side.
- Scroll down to the bottom of this page and look for “Why pages aren’t indexed.”
- Click on “Not Found (404)”.
You’ll then see all the instances of 404 errors within your domain. These are the pages that Google can’t find, and users can’t see.
In the past, I have seen rankings drop because of extreme interlinking between two separate sites. It’s fine if the two domains have different goals. However, if you’re cluttering search engines with similar domains, there can be negative consequences.
For example, it is fine for a business to have a swimsuit domain and a sunscreen domain and interlink once. The problem would be if the swimsuit site also had a baby swimsuit site which interlinked on every page (with keyword anchor text). This can quickly be viewed with a review of the links on your site.
Excessive reciprocal link schemes are a thing of the past and can often hold back your rankings. Having many reciprocal links on the same IP address seems unnatural to search engines if they are sitewide. To spot this you can use a variety of link analysis software.
Sitemap Spot Checks
Checking your XML sitemap is a crucial step. This ensures that the pages you want to rank are actually included. It’s surprising how often a sitemap doesn’t contain the pages it should, which can impact your rankings. So, take a moment to verify that your sitemap accurately represents your site’s content and your SEO objectives.
Excluding pages unintentionally in a robots.txt file is a common oversight. If you have a section of your site that isn’t performing well in search rankings, it might be because those pages have been mistakenly blocked in the robots.txt file.
The good news is that it’s a quick and straightforward check that takes only a few seconds. So, ensure that your robots.txt file isn’t accidentally hiding pages that should be visible to search engines. It could make a difference in your rankings.
Unnatural backlinks can be the culprit when your rankings take a hit. So, let’s ask some important questions:
Have you purchased links? Are many of your backlinks coming from the same IP address? Are there multiple links from a single domain pointing to your site? These are questions that should be on your radar.
The good news is that all of the above can be analysed using standard link analysis software. It’s like having a magnifying glass to examine your backlink profile.
Now, here’s the tricky part: What’s considered a healthy link profile can be a bit of a gray area. What works for one site might not work for another.
While buying links might provide a quick boost, it’s rarely a sustainable strategy. Search engines favour natural, high-quality backlinks, so focus on building those instead.
View the Source
If your site is on a CMS it can sometimes be weeks or even months before you view the code of the site.
A simple view of the source can help you check there is no hidden text or hidden links which could be causing issues. On very rare occasions I have seen sites which have been hacked and hidden links have been placed on the bottom of the page. If you have any hidden code this can have extreme detrimental effects.
A crucial aspect of addressing ranking drops is monitoring your competitors. Determine who your main online competitors are in your niche or industry.
Investigate what strategies and tactics your competitors are using to achieve better rankings. Compare your website’s performance and SEO practices against your competitors. Identify gaps and opportunities. Look for strategies that work well for your competitors and adapt them to your SEO strategy.
Conclusion: Regaining Your Rankings
After thoroughly examining the areas discussed above, make sure your SEO strategy is consistent with current best practices. SEO is an ongoing process, and staying vigilant regarding algorithm changes and adjusting your strategy accordingly is essential. If you’ve experienced a ranking drop, these strategies will help you diagnose the issues and work toward restoring your website’s visibility in search results.