What To Do When Your Rankings Drop

What To Do When Your Rankings Drop

What To Do When Your Rankings Drop

Episode 035

It’s a horrible feeling. All of a sudden your Google rankings drop or disappear altogether, and with it your traffic. What are you supposed to do in a situation like this? That’s exactly what we cover off in this episode. From diagnosing the problem to the course of action you can take to try and recover, we’re talking all things dreaded ranking drops this week.

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Speaker 1 (00:02):
It’s time for the SEO show, where a couple of nerds talk search engine optimization. So you can learn to compete in Google and grow your business online. Now here’s your hosts, Michael and Arthur.

Speaker 2 (00:24):
Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of the SEO show as always. I’m here with a wonderful Michael, how you doing today? Wonderful. I’m I’m doing wonderful, but I like being described as wonderful. Is it the first time? I think it is the first time you, you have ever called me like a nice intro like that. Well, you’re a nice guy. So I thought, why not? I’ve earned it after 30, 35 episodes or so, whatever the number is 34 34 34 35. Who’s counting. Yes. Yeah. Well us <laugh>. We definitely are. I don’t think anyone else is. What are we talking about today? Today’s an interesting topic. So today we’re gonna talk about what to do when your ranking suddenly drop. So this is something that’s inevitable. One, one day or another, whether you’re working on a client side and, or your own site, rankings will drop. It’s horrible. It is.

Speaker 2 (01:14):
It’s not a good feeling. You get, you get a bed at night, happy with the world and you wake up in the morning and rankings have dropped. Traffic’s gone and you don’t know what to do. No, the good news is there’s no need to panic. That is true. We advise against panicking. Always. Normally we, we are all situations. Yeah. Especially when you’re rankings drop, stay calm. What’s this, what’s this saying? Um, keep calm and carry on. That’s it keep calm and carry on. Don’t change things immediately is the first point of advice, but we’re gonna run through what we would normally do to try and diagnose what a drop in traffic or a drop in rankings. Yes. So without further ado, what do you do? How do you go about things? What do you, do you try and break it down into different areas? Is there an approach that you normally use?

Speaker 2 (01:58):
Like, let’s say we come in on a Monday morning, there’s been a Google hour update or not even that we come in a Monday morning, rankings are dropped rankings, drop clients upset. What, what do you do? Sure. Well, I guess the first thing before we kind of get into it would be how are you tracking your rankings? So, um, there’s a number of ways you can use tools, such ASFs, which is really great, but not super accurate. Or you can invest in a, in a proper rank tracker, which updates daily. Um, and it’s gonna give you far more accurate results. So first and foremost, make sure that you are tracking your rankings accurately mm-hmm <affirmative> and relying on data. That’s up to date because like I said, with AHF, it could be weeks or months before it revisits your site and as great of a tool as it is.

Speaker 2 (02:41):
It’s not gonna be the most accurate when it comes to, um, daily rankings. Okay. So make sure you are tracking everything the way you should be. Um, and if you do find that your keywords or, you know, your rankings have dropped, the first thing you need to do is analyze. Yeah. So you’ve come in. Things have, you’ve confirmed it with your rank tracking tool that let’s say your, your keyword was best builder in the world and you were ranking for that and you’re getting tons of leads. And then all of a sudden you’ve fallen off the face of the planet for that keyword it’s time to try and figure things out. And the, the obvious starting point is always has Google changed something? Yes. Yeah. Like a bigger update. Yeah. So first thing I’ll do is I’ll have a look at a timeline of all the updates check, all the main CEO sites, all the CEO blogs forums to see if anyone’s search engine round.

Speaker 2 (03:31):
Table’s always a good one. They’re always reporting about always, um, update. It’s pretty much like my Bible when it comes to algorithm updates. Yep. So just making sure and seeing if there’s a correlation with any, any sort of confirmed or UN unconfirmed update mm-hmm <affirmative> is a good starting point. Yep. Because you, you might find it most of the time. It usually does correlate with some sort of update. Yep. And so again, what I would say at this point is if there has been an update don’t run out and immediately change everything on your site, trying to fix it. You need to wait a little bit and let the dust settle. Exactly. There will be FCO nerds that dig into this stuff and start sharing their findings. And then you can start, start to drill down on what might have changed. Exactly. So as much as you want your rankings back, you have to be patient.

Speaker 2 (04:13):
Yeah. Patience is a virtue and it can take weeks for an update to roll out. So you might find your rankings do drop, you, leave your site, you don’t touch it. Like you said, two weeks later, your rankings are back. Yeah. So going back to the first point, don’t panic. Yeah. Um, let the dust settle. And that would even like, even if it wasn’t, uh, Google algorithm update, but your rankings just have dropped that can often happen. I’d already come back days later. Yeah. So again, don’t panic and do things instantly rankings fluctuate, you know, um, if it drops one or two positions, that’s pretty normal. Yeah. So we’re talking about proper drops, you know, going from position one to page two. Yeah. So fluctuations completely normal. Don’t panic. Yeah. Okay. So you we’ve looked, we’ve looked for a Google algorithm update. It might align with one of them.

Speaker 2 (04:56):
It might not mm-hmm <affirmative> but let’s say you’ve done that check. Where are you going next normally to try and figure things out and have some sort of an answer for a client? Well, normally what I’ll do is I’ll have a look and see if there’s any sort of pattern. So if there’s a specific page or group of keyword, which have dropped, or if there’s a site wide drop, because you know, that could mean there’s an issue with one page or the whole site. Mm. So that would be my next step. Yeah. So going into like first and foremost, looking at rank tracker, seeing if there’s a specific page, having a look at traffic in, um, analytics to see if there’s any particular page that how to drop in traffic and then also using search console and having a look at average position. Yeah. Clicks, impressions, indexing, see all your pages are still there.

Speaker 2 (05:40):
Not any problems. Yeah. Cool. That pretty much makes sense to me. Like they’re the good starting points often you’ll find, you know, if, if, if there’s a drop on a page, for example, let’s say your glory page was ranking really well. Now it’s not, that’s gonna point you in the direction that you can go. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> start investigating further. Exactly. Because you might start looking at onsite then, right. Content, that sort of stuff. Exactly. So I guess the next question will be, what have you done to the page? Have you made any changes or has someone made any changes can happen all the time? Yeah. Depends on frequently business. If you have more people in your team that have access to the site. Yeah. Things can change. Updates can be made. One person might be doing something without talking to the next person. And exactly.

Speaker 2 (06:25):
Yeah. I mean also, you know, if a client is like a e-com site, they have a homepage and they’re constantly changing the homepage, adding different products, categories, removing them that too can have an impact on deeper pages with internal links and things like that. Mm. So just making sure that you’re across any changes that are done sitewide yep. Because you can make annotations in whatever tool you’re using. And if you do notice a drop, you know where to look yep. Very important. Yep. The other thing would be competitors changing stuff on their site and then Google lighting, what they’ve done, pushing them up and then you go down, so it might not even be something you’ve done. Exactly. Yep. So what would you do? You’d go have a look at the top ranking sites in your space. I guess we had Kyle Ru from the other day and he was talking about benchmarks.

Speaker 2 (07:09):
Like maybe you should have a benchmark of your competitors when they’ve changed things. Mm. You know how to act. So our, our tool match.ai does that yeah. Keeps track of all of this sort of stuff. So you, in an ideal world, you’re keeping track of what is going on with your site, but also the top rank sites that you’re competing with. So, you know, when things have changed exactly. Um, you might run a tool like pop page optimizer pro on your search term and just see, has things changed like previously, maybe you were doing quite well, but now competing sites have really expanded their content and you’ve been left behind. Yeah. So then, you know, all right, well maybe I need to go away and start working on my content a bit more here that goes back to having, like, you mentioned a change monitor because you obviously don’t wanna be doing that on a daily basis.

Speaker 2 (07:52):
But you know, when you can tell that your competitors have made changes to their content, it’s always worthwhile rerun it and pop, or any other tool that you may use. Mm-hmm <affirmative> and see if, see, having a look and seeing what they’ve changed and whether or not your content is in line with what they’re doing. Yeah. Because Google might like their content more than it likes yours, and that’s why your rankings have dropped. So then you’d have to go and revisit your, you know, onsite your keywords and reoptimize. Yeah. Um, other things would be maybe pages that were ranking, well, you getting drafted, clients love doing this. Well, it happens a lot, uh, e-com sites, you know, if they, rather than putting a client, uh, putting a, sorry, putting a product outta stock, they’ll remove a page. And then they’ll find that, you know, they’re getting a lot of traffic for a particular keyword that page no longer exists.

Speaker 2 (08:37):
And then by rankings. Yeah. Yep. And then maybe even like on the note of topic of removing pages, has someone inadvertently gone and no index to page or accidentally, you know, in, in WordPress change a setting that means WordPress, Shopify, whatever that means that no longer even seeing these pages. Yep. It can happen. Yeah. So I don’t know, that’s sort of, that’s writing the line between content and technical there. What about adding pages without, you know, letting the SEO know? So for example, they create a product or a category, and then you start seeing some Keywood cannibalization mm-hmm, <affirmative> multiple pages starting to compete for a keyword, which was previously ranking really well. Yep. That can happen too. Absolutely. So making sure, again, going back to staying on top of any changes that are done on the website, so you’re across it and you know where to look.

Speaker 2 (09:26):
Another one that might happen often is the SEO has worked really hard to get a page really well optimize. And then someone at the client’s side will go in and let’s say, they’re using Jost. And they’re like, oh, well I wanna get green through all the scores. Yeah. And they just go and change stuff and then hurt the page. Yeah. So again, having a change monitoring, having some sort of system in place to track and know what’s gone on with your content super important. What about links? Yeah. Big one. Did you have anything else for content? I don’t think so. Like they’re, they’re the main ones. Maybe people removing internal links, you know, like, um, changing up headers and footers and things like that. Yep. Again, knowing what’s changed on your site, this is also important. Um, we talk about having a website host that has backups.

Speaker 2 (10:16):
Mm-hmm <affirmative> if you find, oh God, I’ve changed all this stuff and it’s, it’s hurt me once. You’ve done all your analysis, but you can roll back to a previous backup where that hadn’t been the case. That’s gonna save you a lot of headache, you know, rather than having to dig into what hasn’t hasn’t changed. And if you don’t have a change monitor, that can be a really painful process. Cause you just flick back to what worked. Yeah. Just roll it back and bang, bang <laugh> bang. Yep. Off the days. But yeah. The other big one, the obvious one, when a site loses visibility and loses rankings is our old friend links, links link building. Yep. And that could be because you were doing too much of it or you weren’t doing enough of it, you stopped doing it. Mm. So I guess that’s the starting point having, yeah.

Speaker 2 (11:02):
I guess you’d know yourself if you’re in SEO, whether or not you’d been link building to a certain page or not. Mm. Um, you know, we don’t always build to the same page every month we mix it up, but you know, it might be a category that you’ve neglected for a couple of months, whereas the competition might have really targeted that category. So you’ve fallen behind mm-hmm <affirmative>, that’s why you’re seeing your rankings go backwards. Yep. Um, things like a, as a competitors being more aggressive with the exact match anchor text, and you’re not doing that. And so if you go and look at the top three or four pages for a search term and see that they have a lot more of that stuff, then maybe you need to do more of that. So it’s just, I guess, staying on top of the competition.

Speaker 2 (11:40):
Yeah. Making sure that, you know, you’re having a look at what they’re doing, whether or not they’re link building, what types of links are they building? Yeah. That they might be building really strong, relevant links, and you might be building more, I guess, less relevant links. How many are they getting each month? Exactly. Like they might be accumulating more the last three months than you haven’t been, you’ve decided to stop or pause or whatever the case may be. And then that’s a sign that you probably need to pick things back up again, losing links as losing links. Yeah. Big one. It happens when you have a very strong, like, you know, you might have a client that appeared in some sort of publication with a really high Dr. And then that, that page was removed over time. That link is removed. And then obviously that Dr.

Speaker 2 (12:22):
Does drop and that can you really hurt a website, which is natural. Like every website will churn links, just like every business churns customers. No, one’s gonna stay a customer of a business forever. Yeah. But if you’re relying on one strong link as your main, you know, source of visibility or organic visibility and that disappears, then you’re in trouble. Exactly. That’s like a business relying on one customer exactly. To be diversified. So with your links, you need to be consistent. You need to be acquiring them. You need to be keeping on top of what the competition are up to and you need to also while doing all of that, not be too aggressive with it to the point that you’re sending signals that you are up to no good. Yeah. Link hygiene. I like to always, you know, whenever I’m working on a client, make sure having a look at the, all the links and seeing if they’re still good, because you know what worked 20 14, 20 15 links that were good at the time.

Speaker 2 (13:13):
Aren’t good anymore. Mm. There might be removed the indexed, you know, Google’s caught onto a PBN or for whatever reason that site doesn’t isn’t in indexed anymore. So yeah. Making sure that those types of websites are no longer linking to you. Yeah. And with links as well, like you do, as we said, need to let the dust settle, like don’t immediately jump in there and start owing. No. Yeah. So take a conservative approach. Yeah. That’s what I do. I would do do it with our sites. So yeah. Making sure, you know, doing it in batches and seeing how the site responds, because you know, if you do it in one big round, you might do more harm than good. You probably will do more harm than good. Yeah. And you won’t know which part of it did the damage. Yeah. I mean, good news is you can remove a disbel file.

Speaker 2 (13:58):
So, but you don’t want to be yeah. Going down that path. Yeah. Um, what about technical? What’s the immediately obvious let’s say like you you’ve, you’ve checked your content, you copy your pages, you looked in analytics at traffic, you’re looking at links, getting a feel for what’s going on there. Is there stuff immediately obvious technical things that you might look up? Like I’ve got a few in mind, actually. You do. Do you wanna start? Or should I start? I was gonna say paid speed. Number one. And probably looking at core with vital, um, signals and seeing how you compare to competition, cuz that’s another area of this year that is neglected. Yeah. I feel a lot of the time, you know, you might not even look into search console. You might not know that you have these issues with your page mm-hmm <affirmative> so having a look in comparing and benchmarking yourself to the competition and if they have better, better signals, better scores trying to improve your, I guess, you know, different core vital metrics.

Speaker 2 (14:53):
Yeah. So they’re in line. Yeah. Definitely. Those two HTD PS has your certificate expired, you know? Yeah. That’s pretty simple right there. Um, as we said before, like has someone made a change to your robots, do text that’s messing with ding or, uh, are there 3 0 2 redirects used instead of 3 0 1? So just basic technical things. You probably want to do a little bit of a tech audit, crawl it with a tool like site bulb and just see what’s coming back. You know, the immediately obvious things there exactly. Doesn’t take long, you know, and, or identify, sorry, identify any issues with your site. You can keep a score running score, you can do comparisons and you can see if there have been any tech issues with your site that have occurred over time. So once you’ve done all of this, what’s your general process to try and prioritize work.

Speaker 2 (15:42):
Like you’ve, you’ve done your checks bit of time has passed. How do you try and address this? Like a drop in traffic? Generally speaking my process. Yeah. Like gen like, let, let, let’s let me rephrase it. Like, let’s say nine, you know, let’s the bulk of the time, 80% of the time. Are you starting work by tweaking copy and maybe doing a bit with links or what, what’s your general approach to try? And I guess like we started off, I’ll probably wait a little bit before I start making any changes. Um, a lot of the time the client will let you know that the rankings have dropped. So just giving them peace of mind, letting, letting them know that we are across it. But from our experience, there’s no point in just, you know, um, what do you call it? Rocking the boat. So to speak, we’ll just see what happens.

Speaker 2 (16:29):
They might bounce back. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> give it a week or so if there’s no movement or if they keep dropping even further, I probably start with having a look at the competitor’s content and having a look at the pages that are ranking and seeing, you know, what have the pages changed have, have the other, like have other competitors dropped out of the top positions as well. And having a look at the structure of the page of the sites that are ranking, because you might find that Google now prefers a different type of structure of the page. Yeah. Um, you know, there might have a lot of like PPA types of questions and answers on the page, whereas you might not have that. So just having a look and seeing what, how the pages differ, how the content differs would be my, I guess, starting point.

Speaker 2 (17:14):
So using Google to inform, cause Google’s telling you what it like. Right. Pretty much, yeah. Having a look at what pages now rank and having a look at the page that used to rank for your client or your site and seeing what the difference are. Yeah. Differences are and then using tools, like you said, like pop to see whether or not, um, the copy has changed and whether or not we need to improve the content. Yeah. So they can be tempting to sort of get, go audit links and disavow. You need to be untechnical, but it really is as simple as turning to Google, looking at what the top rank sites are doing. Yeah. It’s all hidden it in plain sight. Google tells you what it likes. Yeah. It’s it’s about reverse engineering that yeah. Yeah. And being, go for the biggest impact things, which is gen normally gonna be content and then probably links will be if it is a link based penalty.

Speaker 2 (17:58):
Yeah. Um, if it’s not that a lot of the time it’s related to the content and if it’s, if you know, there has been an algorithm update, just let the do settle. Yeah. Have a look, go, you know, read the main sites, have a look at, you know, forums and see what other people are, you know, commenting on because you know, you might find a particular pattern or trend and you can kind of work from there rather than trying to fly blind basically. And you know, you might do a lot more damage than you do. Good. Yeah. I agree. Well done. Well done. Thank you. <laugh> so we’ve been on this roller coaster, many times, the old ranking suddenly dropping and the terror. We don’t really feel terror so much anymore. We’re pretty calm. Pretty cool. Yeah. We know how to handle it, but um, if it’s happened to you, it’s not the end of the world. Most of the time, it is something you can come back from. You just need to apply everything we’ve chatted chatted about here today. So was there anything else before we sign off for this week’s episode of the SEO show? Any other little nuggets or keep calm and continue SEOing yeah, there we go. And in the meantime, happy SEOing and you’ll see you later. Bye.

Speaker 1 (19:07):
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