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Why Have My Google Search Rankings Dropped?

We’re in a summer of tremendous Google algorithm flux and the result is that many websites have recently dropped in the search rankings.

For a marketing manager, there’s almost nothing worse than checking your company’s Google Analytics only to find that your site traffic and Google search rankings have dropped.

Panic ensues as you scramble for explanations, causes and remedies. 

In today’s marketing climate, businesses have become ever more reliant on strong search engine rankings to drive site traffic, leads and new business as more traditional forms of marketing take a back seat among a fully plugged-in younger generation of buyers.

Who doesn’t love the self-serve nature of the Internet, where (non-spam) leads generated from your website are typically not only highly qualified, but also very serious buyers, as they’ve already done the work of investigating your company and products before filling out that contact form.

So finding that steady flow of new business opportunities shrink to a trickle as your site’s visibility on Google drops can induce sheer terror as you come to the realization that you’re not as much in control of your destiny as you thought you were.

SEO firms, like Pilot Fish, share our clients’ pain. Every day we work diligently to apply the correct and successful mechanics that help our clients’ sites shine on Google and other search engines. And, when rankings drop, we take it personally, oftentimes spending many hours to find the source of this reversal in fortune.

There are a number of reasons why a website’s search engine ranking can drop:

  1. Site changes that void SEO work:  For sites that have been optimized and were performing well on Google, the first think we check is to see if someone within the company has made changes to the website that removed or voided prior SEO work. This can include changing page text, removing pages, changing meta tags, and more.
  2. Not keeping up with SEO: Search engine optimization isn’t a “build it and forget it” type of project. It takes a regular commitment to on-page optimization with fresh, optimized content, the regular addition of valuable backlinks and content marketing to promote your site Internet-wide. If you’re competing with hundreds of thousands or millions of web pages for a spot on the first page Google, you can’t expect it to be easy, right? Ceasing SEO activities is the easiest way to see your Google rankings drop and once you’ve had a big slide, it can take a long while to get back to where you were.   
  3. Adding too many backlinks in a short period of time: Google doesn’t like sites that are overly aggressive with SEO and backlinking and will temporarily penalize sites that add too many backlinks suddenly.
  4. Losing a lot of backlinks suddenly: You might decide that a particular online trade publication ad program has become too costly or a site that linked to you goes out of business. Losing a lot of backlinks suddenly can cause a temporary decline in your SEO rankings.
  5. Server or site issues:  If your site loads too slowly or can’t be accessed when Google is trying to index it, your ranking could take a temporary hit. Site speed is now a part of the Google algorithm, so it’s important to check the recommendations Google offers in your Google Analytics in the site speed report to see if there are ways to improve performance.
  6. Manual penalty:  Google can apply a manual penalty to your site that will cause your search rankings to drop if it feels you’ve done something it doesn’t like. Check your Search Console to see if Google has sent you any messages about penalties.
  7. Algorithm change:  It used to be that Google would release algorithm updates to much fanfare and advance notice, giving SEO firms and their customers plenty of time and information to get their sites in order.  However, as of late, Google’s become much more secretive about changes that impact site rankings and now typically rolls out changes very slowly in a way that can be much harder to detect initially (think of the frog in the boiling water). As a result, drops in search rankings might be noticed but much more difficult to diagnose. 

If you’ve ruled out website or SEO issues that you could have caused, then it’s possible that your site is the victim of the latest algorithm change. Advanced Web Ranking charts Google algorithm and site visibility changes. As you can see, we’re in a summer of tremendous Google algorithm flux (orange and red bars) and the result is that many websites have recently dropped in the search rankings (blue line).

During a period like this, you don’t want to get too crazy switching things up until the algorithm changes stabilize and it’s fully known what the algorithm changes are and how best to adapt to them.  For now (July 2016), it’s best to heed the advice of 1950s actress Bette Davis in All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night!”



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