You turn on the computer, go to your analytics tool and you almost spill your coffee: your SEO rankings dropped overnight. The first thing you must do is take a breath and calm down. This is not the end of the world. It happens from time to time even to the most astute marketers, who do everything by the book.
When SEO rankings dropped, your first instinct is to start tinkering with your keyword strategy or your on-page SEO settings. Don’t. The first thing you must find out is why it happened. In some cases, Google took manual or automatic action against your site. In other cases, something, indeed, went wrong with your SEO strategy.
Should You Wait if SEO Rankings Dropped?
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some business owners who want to wait and see if the issue goes away by itself. It usually does not. If your site was penalised, the penalty will not expire after a time. On the contrary, if Google notices you do nothing to fix the issue, they will continue demoting your page rank.
You should investigate the problem as soon as you notice it and start taking action. It is the only way to climb back and regain your SEO ranking. The longer you wait, the harder you will have to work.
Let’s Find Out Why Your SEO Rankings Dropped and What You Can Do!
Here are the most likely reasons why SEO rankings drop:
1. Google Tests New Algorithms
In this situation, once you noticed the drop in ranking for your page, go to the search engine page results for your keywords and see if every other competitor suffered the same issue.
In this case, the most likely explanation is that Google is testing new algorithms. This happens without prior notification. In most of the cases, the rankings will go back to normal in a few days.
2. Your Site Received a Manual Penalty from Google
If your SEO rankings dropped massively overnight for several keywords, then you received a manual penalty from Google. How does this happen? You will find the explanation in your Google Search Console -> Security & Manual Actions -> Manual Actions.
Google will issue such a penalty for 12 different reasons. Leaving aside spammy websites (we know you run a legitimate business), your site may receive a Manual Action for:
- User-generated span
- Unnatural links to and from your website
- Think content with little or no added value
- Hidden text and/or keyword stuffing.
After you identify and solve the problem, go back to the Google Search Console and click on the button “Request Review”.
3. Technical SEO Issues
If you notice a steady drop in rankings, your website may have technical issues that prevent the Google spiders from crawling it. The top three issues for which your SEO rankings dropped are:
- Your server is overloaded and cannot handle all the incoming traffic
- Your page speed is slow
- Your website has redirect issues after migrating it from a different hosting provider.
Once again, we stress the importance of making sure that your website has a clean code, with proper redirects and proper optimisation for speed. A slow loading page will not only prevent Google spiders from indexing it; it will also drive potential visitors away.
4. You Lose Free Traffic to Paid Campaigns
Some businesses want instant results, so they use both SEO and PPC campaigns. Here is the issue: Google will always give priority to paid traffic over free traffic. Thus, if you use the same keywords in a PPC campaigns as the ones you try to rank for with SEO, you are competing against yourself.
More precisely, you suffer what SEO experts call “SEM traffic cannibalisation”. The overall traffic is good, but you are getting more from your paid campaigns than from organic search results. To solve this issue, stop the campaigns promoting the same keywords as those you are using for SEO.
5. You Lose Backlinks
One of the places you must check if your SEO rankings dropped is the backlinks panel in your analytics tool. If you see a sharp drop in high quality links, there are a few explanations for this. The simplest explanation is that they are broken links, and you can easily fix them.
Another issue may be that the websites migrated to a new hosting or the webmasters performed some updates and the links no longer redirect properly. In this case, you can contact the respective websites and ask them to restore the links. If the webmasters intentionally removed the links, there is nothing you can do about it. You should verify the web pages those links pointed to and discover whether:
- They load to slowly
- The information on them is outdated
- There are spam comments left by other users, which you forgot to remove.
6. Poor User Experience
We will state is as many times as possible: user experience becomes one of the most important ranking factors with the new Google algorithm update in January 2021. This is the last moment to check that:
- Your website loads fast
- It has a simple navigation, easy to use by anyone
- It offers optimal browsing experience on any screen.
Other best practices for a website that offers great user experience include clean design, without pop-up windows and a careful selection of fonts and colours, to prevent eye fatigue while reading your content.
7. Your Website Has Been Hacked
It happens even to big brands with lots of security features in place: a hacker manages to gain control of your website. From now on, the hacker may alter, delete or add content and links to your website.
In most of the cases these are viruses or malicious files, as well as links pointing to deceptive websites or harmful downloads. When you go to the Google Search Console and check Security Issues under Security & Manual Actions, you will get a clear description of the problem. In this case, you first need to regain control of your website, change all passwords and then remove the malicious changes.
8. A User Accidentally Tagged Pages as Noindex
This situation usually occurs when you have several editors ion your websites who create and publish blog posts. It is most frequently seen in WordPress websites with the Yoast SEO plugin.
In this case, the SEO rankings dropped because the person who published the post selected by mistake the option Noindex. This is a tag that instructs the Google spiders not to index this page. In other words, it is as if it does not exist. To solve the issue, go to the backend of the website and open any page. In the Yoast SEO panel, click on Advanced and select the default choice Yes under “Allow search engines to show this Post in search results?”