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Rankings drop: what could cause it and how to fix it

30 March 2017 Olga Svetchkar Leave a comment ALL-HANDS SEO

Every SEO, even the most experienced one, once in their experience has faced the issue when the rankings drop without any obvious reason. In such cases, the first and only reaction is panic. But instead of that, it is better to start analysis. What could cause such a catastrophe? Do search engines love you less? Is there any other reason? Let’s try to find out that together.
Rankings drop what could cause it and how to fix it

Some reasons don’t always depend on search engines. Furthermore, it is more about the human factor. So, what are the main mistakes made by SEO specialist?1Content.
You have changed the text on the page and then noticed that the positions fell. In such case, it is better to return the old text or work hard to modify the new one.

Most of the human beings don’t feel the moment when they should stop. “The more, the better” rule doesn’t usually work for good. As a rule, when you buy a lot of backlinks at once you should expect that your rankings will drop. It is likely that you overdid when purchasing backlinks. One of the solutions is removing of the last purchased links and constant monitoring of the positions of your site.

3Design of the site changes.
Also, you can notice weird dynamics of your rankings after you have redesigned the site with a new template, changed the structure and layout of it. In this case, the only helper is time. Wait till the search engines re-index your site. If the text has not changed, then it will take 3-4 updates for positions to get back to normal.

4The relevance of the page has collapsed.
Let’s imagine you promote a particular page on a specific request, and after the next update, you have noticed that the request fell and the page in SERP appears another page. The problem is in relevance. In 99% of cases, if such thing happens for the first time and you promote the site for a long time, you just have to wait, and the search engine will return everything back.

What if you didn’t change anything on your website and didn’t get any penalty from search engines but your rankings have dropped. Probably there is a new competitor appeared on the market and they are more powerful in SEO. From your side, you should track your main competitors to understand their link building strategies and keep a close eye on the content tactics they use. With this data, you will be able to predict their next moves.

If you notice that they continue steadily grow, then there is a need to understand and adapt your strategies according to what they do because they do it right. Also, try to be more creative with content marketing strategy.

When all human factors are eliminated, you can start analyzing the technical side of ranking issue.

1Hosting. Sometimes problems with positions, actually their drops, may happen because the hosting does not work correctly. To eliminate such an issue, check your resource for hosting problems with the help of special programs.

2Robot.txt. Make sure that this file doesn’t have restrictions for the search engine you are going to optimize your website for.

3Penalty. If you think that bad backlinks are the only factor for which you will earn a Google penalty, then you are a little bit wrong. In general, there are two types of Google penalties:

  • Algorithmic penalties. They happen when Google’s search algorithms update and your site is guilty of a new infraction.
  • Manual penalties. They occur when the Google WebSpam team reviews an algorithmic penalty and finds a site wanting. A partial manual penalty is one that only applies to some pages. It may affect the rankings for those pages. And a site-wide penalty means that Google considers your entire site as spam. In this case, the rankings will be reduced significantly.

The sitemaster will be informed of a manual penalty immediately. For this, you need to log into Webmaster Tools and go to Search Traffic > Manual Actions.
If you see that manual penalty has been applied to your site, you should read a description of the issue carefully. After you eliminate all the issues, click a “Request A Review” button.

The practice shows that in 75% cases penalty measures are applied for reference and anchor spam, 10% for uninformative and useless content (usually as an addition to abuses for copyright infringement), 10% masking and hidden redirection, 5% for other faults of the recommendations for webmasters.

4The main algorithms of Google. There are four of them which may affect rankings:

  1. Page Layout Algorithm. It penalizes sites for excessive amounts of advertising. You should not overload the top of the web page with advertisements. A flurry of advertising should not attack users which coming to your site.
  2. Pirate Algorithm. It will punish your site according to copyright infringement (DMCA). Google also has a special form through which the copyright holder can send the complaint. In practice, there were the situations when due to a complaint by the copyright holder for the illegal using of images, the main page of the site was removed from the index. All information about such violations/abuses is eventually collected in Lumen (earlier in Chilling Effects).
  3. Google Penguin. It is probably one of the most famous algorithms in the webmasters’ environment. It is designed to fight against types of spam on the Internet.
  4. Google Panda is an algorithm that got its name from the name of one of the engineers of Google – Panda Navneet. Google Panda is an algorithm which changes the results of Google’s search rankings, which was first released in February 2011. Changes are aimed at the reducing the rank of low-quality sites or useless content and the returning to the top of the search results to high-quality sites.

There are diagnostics methods of the impact of the algorithms

Of course, the information about how the algorithm affects the website is known only by Google employees. Naturally, they do not share this studies with webmasters.
Thus, webmasters can only assume if their site is penalized or not. There are several markers to guess which algorithm affects the site and why.

1Consequently, the first and the primary marker is a fast traffic and positions drop in the SERP. It indicates that in the eyes of Google your site has been dramatically lost in quality. You need to establish the cause.

  • If the site is covered with advertising as a Christmas tree – it won’t be an exception that Page Layout algorithm influences. Here it is necessary to take into account the information that since November 2015 pages with interstitial ads about applications for smartphones that hide a significant amount of content when switching from SERP, will be considered as not adopted for mobile devices. Instead of full-page interstitials, we recommend the webmasters to use more user-friendly formats, such as banners.
  • Enter in the search bar of your browser “site:domain.com” then press the Enter key. Add the “&start=990” at the end of the link in the browser and press the Enter key again. Review from the end selectively five pages of the results of the issue. If you see the message “In response to a complaint received by the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed several results …” then it means that the copyright owner complained against you. The more complaints, the higher the chance of being affected by Pirate Algorithm.

2Spam diagnostics. To find out if your website is not on the spam list, analyze your domain by SEO software. Pay attention to the highly-increasing dofollow-links. Link appearance dates can also be used to detect spam. Usually, a “law-abiding” page attracts backlinks slowly. A high increase in the number of backlinks may indicate that the page could be a source of hot news or signal about a try of a search spam. Don’t forget to pay attention to the structure of the anchors of your backlinks. Also, the excessive number of keywords in the content and the meta tags indicates as spam.

3The third marker is the quality of the content. The automatically generated text, the text about “how to pour a glass of water”, the lack of useful and informative basic content – may be the reason for the penalization of the site. The best way to see if the site has avoided the influence of the algorithm is to track organic traffic using analytics, paying attention to the massive changes in the traffic results. Then you should check if Google experts have confirmed the update. You can check if the Panda or Penguin algorithm influence on the site using online tools or analyze by yourself.

To complete the last task, sign in to Google Analytics, go to Traffic Sources > All Traffic > Source / Channel. Here you need to pay attention to what is there on the list is “google / organic.” Usually, it is the first or the second position. Check the box next to “google / organic” and click on the “Show on chart” button. Match the periods of sharp decline in the organic traffic from Google with confirmed dates of updates of the algorithms of Google.

When you reach TOP 10 ranks, don’t stop optimize and promote your site. In fact, a complete rejection of search engine optimization is not recommended. The period of active work on the site ends when it goes to the desired positions for the desired requests.

After that, you need to maintain the accumulated reference mass and do not forget to update your web resource according to new trends. Only in this case, the termination of promotion will not entail loss of the achieved results.


When you start losing your rankings, try to understand what is going on, start working on the elimination of the issues if there are any, track your competitors because they never sleep and their ranking position may become stronger. Also, always remember about Google and its penalties. Do your best to avoid the situation when your site gets under its filters. SEO arena is a place where you should focus on every single detail and never lose a tiniest search engine update. Follow the rules and may the Google love be with you!


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