If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve suffered a nasty blow to your search ranking. I know this can be alarming but don’t worry, we’re here to help.
There’s no denying that staying on the digital map is crucial; search engines are often the first touchpoint people have with your business, driving them to either enquire, purchase or visit your store. If you notice your digital presence has been jeopardised by ranking drops, it could be a sign that your site has been penalised by Google.
Before you panic, let’s take a moment to consider why. Whilst the biggest causes of ranking drops can be the simplest to fix, it’s important to remember that – underneath technicalities – Google always considers the user first. Why might Google (or another search engine) not prioritise your content? If Google reads and reviews your site with the user in mind, what does it not like about your website in relation to the search term you’re trying to rank for?
Now we’ve got you thinking, let’s take a look at a few reasons your website might have suddenly dropped in ranking.
1. Website migration
Moving to a new website? Whilst the pay of will – in most cases – certainly be worth the upfront work, website migration is one of the biggest cause of sudden ranking drops. It’s important you get this step right if you want to maintain or grow your rankings. Often redirect aren’t set up properly or new pages aren’t optimised to maintain existing rankings. To avoid this, ensure you have a strong migration strategy mapped out before you attempt to move site.
2. Keyword cannibalisation
Keyword cannibalisation is a silent killer in search ranking drops. Many people suffering from keyword cannibalisation aren’t even aware anything’s wrong. Yet, when you’re trying to rank for a keyword across multiple pages, it tells your users that your content is probably stretched thin. It also signals to Google that your content may not match your keywords on each page. You’ve essentially turned your pages into competitors. The best way to avoid this is to make sure each page has a separate purpose for the user, with specific keywords that don’t compete with other pages on your site.
3. On-page issues
According to Google, the biggest drop in rankings is linked to duplicate on-page content. With duplicate content, you’re confusing Google about which page you want to rank for, so certain pages can begin to compete with each other. You might also have some on-page issues that are causing Google to drop you in the rankings. These issues can be anything from page speed, meta titles and page titles. If these are set up wrong, it can seriously affect your ranking.
4. Lost or bad links
If backlinks to your site are lost or removed, the chances are it could have a big impact on your ranking. Firstly, check your sites lost links with specialised software. If those links were intentionally removed by webmasters it could be a red flag to Google that those were unnatural links. With these type of links, the chances are they would have been removed sooner or later. Your best plan of action is to keep track of your links and start building credible, long-lasting links that will benefit your ranking now and in the future.
5. Google Penalties
Human reviewers at Google impose manual actions when they determine pages on your site to be non-compliant with Google’s webmaster quality guidelines. The first step to identify what has happened is to check your Google Webmaster Tools account. Here you’ll have notifications from Google regarding manual actions they’ve taken against your site.
There could be several reasons Google has taken manual action against your site, including a hacked site, user-generated spam, unnatural backlinks, thin content, and cloaking. Each manual action is accompanied by “Reason” and “Effects” information that can help you rectify the issue.
To lift a penalty from your website, you must take actions to rectify the problems specified in GSC Manual Actions messages. And finally, if you want to make your website untouchable, ensure you meet Google’s Quality Guidelines.
This article was written and submitted by Jack McCann, a digital marketing strategist at Splashbox. Splashbox is an innovative digital marketing agency that offers tailored design, marketing and technical solutions.