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SEO Case: How to Recover from Google Ranking Drop

Recovering from Google ranking drop

Have you ever experienced a sudden drop in your website’s Google ranking?

 

It can be one of the most disheartening experiences for any webmaster or a business owner. You may be wondering what caused the sudden decline in rankings, and more importantly, how you can recover quickly.

 

Don’t worry, you’re not alone – this is a common problem faced by many website owners. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to quickly recover from a Google ranking drop. In this guide, we will provide you with an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide on how to recover quickly from a Google ranking drop.

 

You’ll learn about the various causes of ranking drops, what you can do to identify the source of the problem, and effective strategies for quickly restoring your rankings. So if you’re looking to recover quickly from a Google ranking drop, this guide is for you.

 

 

Table of contents:

Ranking loss: what should you do? [SEO Case Study]

Causes of Google Ranking Drops

Strategies for Preventing Google Ranking Drop

 

 

 

Ranking loss: what should you do? [SEO Case Study]

Imagine this: you look at your ranking report and see your hard-earned rankings suddenly drop dramatically. Maybe by a dozen positions—or maybe they’ve dropped outside the top 100.

 

It’s not the best feeling in the world. What now?

 

How do you go about diagnosing what the issue is, and in what order? What are the most likely reasons for your rankings to have dropped?

 

 

 

Step 1. Google Ranking Dropped Dramatically? No panic!

No messing things up! This happens. This is a part of SEO.  Just be ready to recover from whatever caused the ranking drop like a superhero.

 

If you notice your rankings fall, wait a few days for them to bounce back.

 

A dramatic drop in your Google rankings can be caused by a variety of factors, including increased competition, a manual action from Google, an algorithm update, or even an accidental character in your robots.txt file.

 

Since Google’s tuning their ranking algorithm regularly, your site can be affected anytime. So, check again the next day, and often you’ll see that things have gone back to normal.

 

When you work with companies, it’s not always easy to keep track of what’s going on behind the scenes. First, check with your team and/or agency to see if there were any high-impact changes made to the website:

  • Changes recently made to the site
  • New SEO campaigns
  • New content added to the site
  • Additional plugins or code changes

 

You’ll need to ask these questions to both internal and external teams to gain true insight into what changes may have caused rankings from Google to disappear. Ask teams about any minor or major changes that have been made in the past few weeks to find things to check on to see if they’re impacting rankings.

 

If you’re the one managing content, servers, and optimization, it’s easy to correlate changes you’ve made with lost rankings.

 

If so, go through the steps listed in this guide to quickly determine whether your website is suffering from SEO issues, or all is good and Google only needs a bit of time.

 

Cause, when your ranking drop lasts for a few days, you must take a strategic approach to solve this issue.

Even if the situation is very bad, don’t let that upset you too much. The most important step is to determine the reasons why the SEO setup crashed.

 

Perform an SEO audit to correct the mistakes found. The weak spots that can lead to the ranking deterioration are:

  • robots.txt file
  • metadata
  • server problems
  • AMP pages
  • HTTPs
  • redirects
  • backlinks
  • content

 

Of course, this is not a full list of ranking loss causes. Nevertheless, you can start with it.

 

 

 

Step 2. Make sure that your Google ranking actually dropped

A drop in Google rank can be a legitimate cause for concern, but it may not be what you think.

 

Before taking drastic measures to find out why your Google ranking dropped dramatically and fixing the Google rankings drop problem, it is important to confirm if your Google rankings dropped overnight. 

 

How do you do that?

  • 1. Go into your website’s Google Analytics and check the average deviation in the weekly traffic for the past six to twelve months. Are you still receiving your normal traffic range? Are the pages where the keyword is pointing to still receiving a good amount of traffic, or has there been a dramatic drop in visitors?
  • 2. You should also verify your Google ranking and organic search traffic by using Google Search Console.  View your:
    • Total clicks
    • Total impressions
    • Average CTR
    • Average position

 

If you see a steep reduction in traffic, the problem is real and you should do something about it to prevent further traffic loss.

 

Here’s a screenshot from Google Search Console’s performance screen of one of our clients that shows performance that goes down:

 

 

 

Do all signs still point to a Google ranking drop? There is a reason for that definitely!

 

 

 

Step 3. Identify the source of Google ranking drop [Quick guide based on the client’s case study]

Google ranking drops are often caused by different technical changes to a website. When you’ve migrated a bunch of pages, rolled out a (responsive) redesign, or reworked a lot of content you’ll see big fluctuations in your rankings.

 

If you experience a sudden drop in your Google rankings, the first thing you should do is try to identify the source of the problem. If the drop was caused by one of the issues mentioned below, you should be able to identify it quickly. If not, you’ll need to conduct a thorough analysis of your website’s SEO health.

  • Tip!
  • We highly recommend performing an SEO audit regularly. This complete overview of site health and optimization efforts lets you check how your web pages appear in search results, so you can find and fix any technical SEO issues easily.

 

 

Guide, based on the example of our client’s case:

 

Step 1.

In Google Search Console (NOTE: All requests to the Google Search Console API must be authorized by an authenticated user),  quickly check keywords/pages with traffic drop in comparison with the previous period and identify sections that took a hit by heading over to:

 

  1. Performance > Search results
  2.  Choose Date > Compare > Custom
  3.  Compare the period in which your rankings dropped to the period in which they were still good.
  4.  Go to Pages Tab > check Clicks differenceImpressions difference

 

 

 

 

 

 

In our case, we’ve noticed an almost double drop in total clicks and impressions.

 

Step 2.

Export data to Sheets and add any comments that may be useful (for instance, any changes made to this page). Often just doing this, lays out a pattern. It could be that the ranking drop only impacted specific sections of your website. Finally, analyse the whole picture and try to discover the presence of correlation dependencies in the data.

 

  • Tip!
  • Use this quick guide when investigating possible reasons for the ranking drop in the future.

 

Doing that in our client’s case, we find out that most of the pages that dropped were product pages.

 

Step 3.

Choose a few pages from the list and check whether they are indexable. To do this:

Go to Google search and browse site:example.com/page , if the page is not indexed, try to proceed with further investigation.

 

Step 4.

If the page is indexed, then check how Google cashed this page. In our case, we found out the product page content cashed by Google was not Product Details Tab content, but info from the Delivery & Returns Tab. As we realized later, the new tab was added by the client using a specific Magento extension and its content started to be indexed by Google by default.

 

  • Tip!
  • Web crawlers rely on the content within the search queries and match it with the internal keywords of your site, to generate the search results. Hence any important changes made to the site can bring a bigger impact. Content hidden from Google won’t be taken into account for the ranking.

As soon as we fixed the issue and made the Product Details Tab to be active by default, the traffic volume has gone back to the previous value.

 

 

 

Causes of Google Ranking Drops

 

Before you rush into recovering your rankings, it’s important to understand the possible causes of a Google ranking drop. A dramatic Google ranking drop can be caused by many factors, such as for instance content changes, an algorithm update, technical SEO issues, improvements competitors made, SERP layout changes and a Google penalty. Some of them might be easy to identify and fix, while others might require assistance from a technical SEO specialist.

 

Let’s dig into common causes of ranking drops:

 

 

 

1. Google Manual Action Penalty

If you see a sharp drop in your Google SEO ranking (more than 10 positions), Google manual penalties are the first thing to check for. Manual actions are imposed by human reviewers at Google when they determine that your website pages are not compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines.

 

Some of the common causes of Google penalties are: your site contains user-generated spam, your site has been hacked, unnatural backlinks, thin content, and cloaking. You can find out more about each type of manual action and how to deal with it as explained by Google.

 

What’s the fix?

Log in to your Google Search Console account and go to the Security and Manual Actions > Manual Actions section. If the site has indeed received a manual penalty, there will be a notice in the account.

 

Google won’t be too specific, but they’ll give you a solid idea of where to look for the culprit. Identifying exactly what harmed your site is the first thing you have to do to fix it.

 

If you have no idea what caused the Google penalty, check below these most popular violations and SEO tips for each.

 

 

 

2. Google Algorithm Update

Google makes regular major and minor changes in its search ranking algorithm. The updates help improve the algorithm so it can provide users with the best search experience. Changes in search engine algorithms can seriously affect your website ranking. SEO experts closely monitor Google updates for algorithm modifications that can impact their clients’ businesses.

 

Keep in mind that ranking drops after core updates may be linked to the overall site quality and relevance.

 

What is the fix?

  • If you suspect there may have been an algorithmic update rollout that affected your rankings, check the search engine news. Google will normally confirm the update and this information will immediately make it into SEO news platforms. To be up to date, you can monitor detailed Google updates at MOZ Google Algorithm Update History.
    • Tip!
    • Keep in mind that the update may also be niche-related and affect a small number of sites.

     

  • If the update is covered in the news, you will find the information on what the update was about and what you need to fix to recover.
  • It’s crucial to watch changes in the SERP for your niche keywords and look for any unusual ranking shifts. To do that, use a rank tracker tool and look for sudden jumps and trends. The rankings fluctuate but any keyword that declines and stays down is a cause for concern.

 

 

 

3. Your Website Has Been Blacklisted

If your organic traffic is declining rapidly, it could be because your website has been blacklisted or compromised by hackers.

 

As Google only lists safe websites to its search engine users, it regularly scans all websites for any malware infections. If your website is among the hacked ones, then Google either suspends your website from its search engine or even marks it deceptive, depending on the severity of the infection.

 

How can the problem be solved?

The immediate solution is to scan for malware on your website and remove it permanently.

 

 

 

4. Website Technical Issues

You may also experience changes in ranking because Google itself is having technical issues crawling and indexing your website. A Google crawl anomaly could explain why it is unable to access your website. As a result, it will not be able to index and rank your website on its search results.

 

What should I do?

Analyze your website log files to check for logs about search engine crawlers and affected URLs.

 

Log file analysis is a technical process so unless you’re handy with FTP, the terminal command line, and file editors, you might use a tool like SEMrush’s Log File Analyzer.

 

Configure Google Bot as your user agent or check if your website has blocked Google-specific IPs.

 

 

 

5. Lost Backlinks

 

Backlinks are still among the most important SEO factors for organic traffic. When a site loses good backlinks,  it has a huge impact on rankings and the site’s position in the SERPs usually drops.

 

If you’ve recently removed a large number of backlinks from your website, Google might interpret this as a sign that your content is low-quality. This could result in a drop in rankings.

    • Tip!
    • It’s recommended that you monitor your backlinks with one of the tools so you get alerts when backlinks are lost. You can then reach out to the linking websites to see if you can get the backlinks restored.

     

Acquiring new, low-quality links can also impact your performance in SERPs, so you can lose the high-quality backlinks you already have.

 

How to deal with this?

  • Use a backlink checker tool to discover where you might have lost links. Many tools will send alerts on changes in the backlink profile.
  • It’s best to work with a technical SEO specialist and communicate with linking websites to rebuild your links.

 

 

 

6. Your Competitors Getting Stronger and Outrank You in Google

Websites can lose page rank without breaking any rules or being negligent. It’s just that competitors got better – either faster loading times, the better user experience offered by competing websites, or better SEO practices, excellent keyword research and optimization skills of competitors could have triggered a ranking drop for you.

    • Tip!
    • If the changes are chaotic (new websites, frequent shifts, a lot of movement), then you are likely experiencing a Google dance — a short period of high SERP volatility due to small algorithm tweaks. In this case, no action is required. But if you see many of your positions being overtaken by the same few websites, then it’s time for an in-depth investigation.

     

What should be done?

  • If you’re seeing sudden drops in your rankings after your competitors have made significant improvements, it’s best to work with a technical SEO specialist to resolve the issue.
  • Tracking your main competitors is almost as important as tracking your own site. As you track rankings and run both on-page and off-page audits, make sure to also audit competitor sites to see and understand their progress and the tactics they use. To check the areas where your competing website is performing better, use website analysis and optimization tools like SEMrush to discover how their website content helps them rank.
    • Tip!
    • If you have seen shifts across a few keywords, then the cause is probably on-page optimization. The competitor is likely updating their pages one by one, improving content, and optimising keywords, headers, and HTML tags. In this case, visit the pages in question, see how they compare to your own pages and borrow optimization ideas.

     

7. Recent Website Changes

Making essential changes to your site — such as redesigning it, migrating, changing your CMS, or making a website HTTPS enabled — is all but guaranteed to mess with your rankings when implemented incorrectly.

 

Check if anyone on your team has executed any of the following website changes:

  • Changed your website URL
  • Implemented 301 redirects from older URLs incorrectly
  • Reworked or optimized your website content, including SEO keywords
  • Implement changes resulting in lost indexing of your web pages (set pages to noindex)

 

 

How to deal with this?

Open Google Search Console, and go to Index > Coverage to check if any significant increases in errors have occurred because of site changes recently implemented. The search queries and pages that are impacted by a ranking drop say a lot about the underlying issue, thus making it easy to identify and fix them.

 

Switch between the tabs and go through the error report to see any issues that occurred since you implemented the changes on your site. Google reports all crawling and indexing issues on this tool, thus making it easy to identify and fix the issue.

List all search queries that are showing a ranking drop:

  • What cluster the query belonged to
  • Their old ranking (to establish a baseline)
  • Their new ranking
  • The difference
  • The URL that was ranking
  • The content type that was ranking, etc.
  • Tip!
  • Use our Technical SEO Issues Guide to check for HTTPS issues, redirect chains, and other possible technical problems that might result from website changes.

 

 

8. Mobile-first Indexing

Is your site mobile-friendly?

 

Most traffic on the web is now mobile. Search engines are particularly keen on making the web mobile-friendly.  Google’s index is now mobile-first and mobile-friendly websites are a lot more prioritized. So if your store is not optimized for the small screen, your site will drop the rankings until it’s invisible on the SERPs too.

 

The mobile version of your website may not be mobile-friendly due to several factors such as slow loading speeds, incompatible plugins, large and poorly formatted images, and wide content that cannot be read on mobile devices, etc.

 

 

What is the fix?

  • To find out if your SEO rankings drop relates to mobile-friendliness, you can filter out your traffic by device with the help of Google Analytics.
  • Check the website loading speed on mobile phones using the Google PageSpeed Insights tool and start implementing changes based on recommendations.
  • Check for any mobile-related problems using the “Mobile Usability” feature in Google Search Console – and correct each of the issues listed using their recommendations.

 

 

 

9. SEM traffic cannibalization

SEM traffic (Search engine marketing) comes from paid advertisements while SEO traffic comes from organic search campaigns. SEM campaigns always appear higher in the search results than organic (free) links, since ads are given priority in SERP.

 

Thus, your own SEM may even be diverting (or cannibalizing) traffic away from your organic listings. This could potentially be a reason for Google ranking drop.  Sometimes, it could be a reason for its rise, what’s awesome.

 

 

What is the fix?

  • Compare the list of keywords in both your SEO and SEM campaigns. Ensure that you’re not wasting ad spend on keywords that you would naturally rank 1st for and your competitors are not targeting. If you spot any duplicate keywords, don’t hesitate to pause the PPC campaigns that they come from.

 

 

 

10. Google SERP Updates

And the last, but not the least reason that may impact your rankings: Google changes its Search Engine Result Pages layout by adding other elements which push down your snippet, or attract more attention than your snippet.

 

For example, Google has been increasingly enhancing its search results with Q&A sections, knowledge panels, video clips, products page, rich snippets, job ads, etc. This can effectively push down your website on the search results, along with your organic traffic. 

 

We recommend that you keep up with any changes they make – if your website falls down the ranks, there are ways to improve its visibility.

 

How to deal with this problem?

  • Take a look at the SERPs for your target keyword to see exactly what appears. Notice anything different. Analyze your competitors and the search results to see if you can enhance your snippet for a better outcome.
  • Tip!
  • Many SERP tracker tools can show you exactly the kinds of SERP features that each keyword generates.

 

The main reason for working on your on-SERP SEO is to enhance the visibility of your brand. Not everything is about traffic! If you’re interested, check our SERP & SEO Guide on How to Rank Your Site in The TOP 10 of Google.

 

 

 

11. User behavior changes

Google’s search algorithms can modify their results based on popular and trending user intent. As a result, Google may give a higher ranking to other websites for the exact keywords that previously attracted more traffic to your website.

 

If you see a drop in the CTR, it is either because your competitors have improved their snippets and stolen a share of your clicks, or because the intent of the query has shifted and your snippet doesn’t look as relevant as it used to (e.g. products or services that are no longer in demand).

 

How to fix a poor CTR?

  • First, check your CTR: open Google Search Console, go to Performance > Search results and see if there are any changes to your click-through rates. You can view your CTR for the entire website or add filters to view CTRs either by page or by the query.
  • Optimize your blog titles, meta descriptions, and content according to your target audience, their interests, pain points, etc.  If users are looking for answers to a specific question, make sure you answer it thoroughly. This will help improve the click-through rate (CTR) and reduce the bounce rate.
  • Improving your CTR isn’t a “quick fix”, and you’ll probably need to experiment for a little until your efforts are effective.  A/B test and optimize headlines, images, videos (if applicable), and other elements in the content to ensure that you are providing the best answers to a query.

 

 

 

Strategies for Preventing Google Ranking Drop

Once you’ve identified the underlying cause of your Google ranking drop, you can start working towards resolving it and quickly recovering your rankings. Depending on the cause of your drop, you may want to employ a combination of the following strategies.

 

1. Google’s Core Web Vitals.
Is your website losing rankings? Use Google’s Core Web Vitals Guide to improve your website’s ranking in search engines. They can also help keep it clean and well-organized, which enhances user experience (UX).

2. Technical SEO audit.
Conducting a regular technical SEO audit will allow you to analyze each aspect of your website’s technical SEO, identify the problem areas, and develop a plan to fix them. Ideally, the audit should be conducted from a third-party viewpoint, taking into account Google’s algorithm and its expectations for your website.

 

 

 

Need specific, targeted advice for your store?

Get in touch, and we’ll provide you with a free audit of your website and show you where you can improve conversions.

 

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