Help IDENTIFY WHY YOUR SEARCH TRaffic dropped with our free 13-point checklist
Learn all you need to know to recover your search engine rankings based on reverse-engeering sites that rise and those that tank
Check for Messages Inside Google’s Search Console
Ensure your website is connected to Google’s Search Console and check to see if there are any warnings in the ‘messages’ section. You may have been hit with a manual action or similar that alerts you to why your rankings have dropped.
Confirm Whether You Have Omitted Results Using a Site: Search
Search for your site in Google using “site:yourdomain.com” without the quotes, replacing yourdomain.com with your actual domain. Look to see if there are pages indexed which may be duplicates of other pages, or you probably don’t want Google crawling. If you get to the end of the results and see Google give an ommitted results warning, it’s a strong signal you have duplicate / thin content issues.
Look for Thin Content Using ScreamingFrog or Similar
There have been many case studies in recent years of sites fixing their thin content issues and improving their search engine rankings. We define thin content as pages which typically have less than 500 words of unique content on them.
These may be caused by duplicate pages, product pages with thin descriptions or far more navigation pages (tags and categories) than actual content. Use tools like ScreamingFrog (free to search 500 URLs) to help identify these pages.
Have You Engaged in Shady Link Building Practices?
One of the most common issues we see with sites that have lost rankings is that they’ve engaged in shady link building practices (also known as ‘greyhat’ or ‘blackhat’) from questionable sources. If someone is handling link building for you it’s wise to make sure they know what they are doing and aren’t using automated software or outdated strategies to build links.
Ensure You Have An SSL Certificate And It’s Working
Back in 2014, Google announced that having your website load over https would be a ranking factor, albeit a small one. While Google don’t give specifics about it’s important, it’s possible this now holds more weight than ever before, especially since all sites without an SSL certificate now have a ‘Not Secure’ message in Google Chrome.
We have seen cases where people are using an SSL certificate but they still have the non-secure version of their website load, so ensure you have a 301 redirect in place that takes you from http to https.
On A Mobile Device Is Your Internal Navigation Still Visible?
In March of 2018, Google started rolling out Mobile First Indexing. With this in mind you’ll want to make sure that the mobile version of your website loads quickly, provides a great user experience and has all of the same internal linking elements as you would want on a desktop version. If your navigation bars suddenly disappear on mobile (we’ve personally seen this) then that could cause some issues.
Do New Elements Appear in Search Results for Your Target Terms?
It may be the case that your website doesn’t have any issues, but rather Google made changes to the search results you rank best in.
Check to see if there are knowledge boxes, video carousels or other elements that may now be getting more clicks that didn’t appear before.
Check for Spam or Malware Warnings Against Your Site
It’s possible your website has been flagged with spam or malware warnings that you have missed Google’s warnings about. You can use their transparent report tool here to test. Another option is to check your website on WOT (Web of Trust) as this may affect anti-virus software warning that people use on their computers.
Check Google Trends to See If Any of Your Rankings Are Seasonal
It might not be you that’s the problem. For once, it really could be everyone else. If you’re losing traffic for certain terms, check to see if they’re seasonal using a tool like Google Trends. Not that you’ll likely have to look for ‘head terms’ such as “Beauty tips” rather than long-tail terms like “Best beauty tips 2018”.
Is “Freshness” Likely Playing a Part For Top Ranking Competitors?
It’s possible that either a news event happened relating to some of your most important search queries or that Google is placing more weight on fresh (recent) results than before. If you found most of the top results to be updated or published recently, it may be worth updating your content to give it a chance to compete.
Did You Recently Make Major On-Site Changes?
If you’ve made major changes to your site, it’s possible to see rankings fluctuate as a result of that. Especially if you made changes to headlines, title tags or internal navigation. Ensure your website is still crawlable and you don’t have issues like hidden text, and then ‘wait it out’ to see if your rankings return, or consider reverting your changes and having an expert look into them.
Do You Have Genuine Links & Mentions to Support Your Rankings?
We hate to suggest this as most people don’t like hearing it, but your past rankings may not have been what your site truly deserved due to its authority (or lack of it) in your space. Google ranks sites based on hundreds of factors, but having links from other websites is a crucial part of that.
Can You Honestly Say You Are The Best Result for a User?
Despite how much we may dislike Google algorithm updates, they are a business at the end of the day. Google typically want to provide the best end result for a user so that people continue to use their search engine and continue clicking on ads. If you can’t honestly say you are one of the top 10 results a user could find for specific queries then you should really look to fix that before anything else.