I’ve always loved the phrase – “Well SEO is what call a “dark art” in our industry” This is why we have a specialist called “Tom” who consults for us and works with many our clients. I recently asked him a few questions to try and get to the bottom of the commonly asked question – “What’s causing my site to go down in the Google Rankings?”
Tom says “Though many factors cause this the truth often lies in your Google Analytics dashboard.”
Where should you look to figure it out?
If you look at your Google Analytics “organic search history”, you will see that visits can come from a variety of sources, (Google, social media, referral websites, direct, etc) and seeing the source of the drop(s) in visits will help you identify the issues.
A drop in visits from the Google source means you aren’t appearing high on Google’s SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), meaning fewer people see your website and visit it less frequently.
If your website has not had Google Analytics installed for very long, other services such as www.semrush.com can be used to check the websites SEO history.
Google Search Engine Rankings are the “leaderboard” of Google results. And the same applies for other search engines (as per my tweet below)
— Keren Lerner (@topleftdesign) August 29, 2016
Here are 6 common causes – why your website is dropping on the Google Search Engine Rankings
1. Google search algorithm changes:
Google makes changes to the criteria for ranking webpages from time to time, this can change the primary emphasis for SEO activities.
For example, a major Google ranking algorithm update called Google Penguin has had a major impact on SEO activities over the past few years. Google downgraded the importance of some of the links from external sites to the websites, which previously helped SEO keywords rank well.
To help recover SEO keywords (which had dropped because of this change to the algorithm) SEO optimising people had to remove some links and put more emphasis on the SEO keywords contained in the content of the website pages.
2. Technical SEO (page speed, robots.txt, sitemap configuration, https, 404 pages, etc)
These are common things which should be checked for all websites using SEO. For example; page speed can be improved: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/ – to help improve the user experience.
3. On page SEO (Meta title, desc, headings, main content, internal links, duplicate content, etc)
Other common things which should be checked & updated for all websites using SEO. For example the meta title should contain the websites name & the primary keywords associated with the webpage and the meta description is a short paragraph trying to entice people to click the websites listing in the search results.
4. Inbound links – (sometimes bad links need removal & disavowing)
This is related to the Google Penguin Ranking Algorithm update mentioned earlier, where links which previously ranked websites well, no longer do so.
These tools can help you check the inbound links to your website:
Then, you can contact webmasters from websites with bad links and simply ask them to remove these.
Disavowing: If they don’t respond, then you can use disavow (for how, visit this page on Google’s webmaster tools, and read carefully)
Disavowing tells Google that you are aware these links are bad & you have tried to have them removed, but the website did not respond to your request & you ask google to ignore these links going forward.
5. Inaccurate citation audit
Your business name, address, URL, telephone number, etc need to be accurate and consistent on your Google, social media & referral websites around the internet. This is a common problem, – listings are not properly updated around business listing websites such as Google My Business, Facebook, Yell and Yelp. It’s worth someone in your business (or you!) doing a proper check on all of these. Ensuring these listings contain info which is accurate to those on the main website can improve the websites presence on the Google Maps local listings.
This is particularly important for websites which predominantly cater for a local area.
6. Persistent “DDOS” attacks
If you are running a business, you certainly don’t want your website to be the victim of this sort of thing, where “bots” overwhelm your website with so much traffic it goes offline. It’s one of those phrases that we as business owners don’t really want to learn about, but while it’s unlikely it will happen to you, it would cause site downtime, and the website would be inaccessible not only to humans & search engine robots (those robots by the way our friends, they keep our sites ranked higher when we do good things like update our sites often enough!).
This video gives a good explanation of DDOS attacks.
Whether its for this reason or any other, if your website isn’t findable by search engines it can cause longer term SEO problems.
If the website is down for a few days, the search engine robots will return later that week, however if the website is down for longer than a week, then it can affect the SEO keywords rank as the search engines may think the website has been taken down permanently.
Recovering SEO keywords which have lost rank is possible for most websites, however it is very often a combination of some of the causes above which have caused the drop & a variety of things on and offsite may need to be checked & fixed accordingly.
Our SEO specialist can assist with this as required, or advise about good SEO learning resources for those with the time who would like to try & fix themselves initially, for example: https://moz.com/learn/seo and https://www.distilled.net/u are good starting points for learning about SEO.