Ranking higher on Google is a gift that keeps on giving.
However, there are one too many moving parts to a great on-page and off-page SEO strategy that, when implemented correctly, will ensure maximum SERPs exposure.
Until recently, you’ve enjoyed a ton of organic traffic.
Users could quickly locate your site on the top pages of search engines — as a result, your website received great rankings.
Then one day, you notice a distinct loss in traffic.
So you check your analytics reports, and, sure enough, the proverbial leads and sales ‘wells’ have dried up.
Now you’re panicking!
You’re also wondering what could be the issue and what can be done to fix it and get your website ranking at the top of SERPs.
If the above describes your current situation, you’re in the right place.
There’s quite a buzz around search engine rankings being the “be-all-end-all metric.”
However, you should also pay attention to other equally relevant SEO metrics to ensure ongoing success.
A drop in rankings might have less to do with your SEO strategy and more to do with what your competition is doing.
Additionally, rankings can also fall because of mistakes beyond your control, for example, a change in the Google algorithm.
We will look at the top five issues that affect search engine rankings and what you can do for better outcomes.
But, you must first determine that there’s an actual drop in ranking.
To do this;
- Use rank monitoring tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or free SERP tracking by Google Search Console to compare week-over-week organic traffic on the affected page(s).
- Google updates its algorithm regularly, so check with MozCast, Search Engine Land, or Search Engine Watch for the latest news.
Note: Ensure you understand the reasons behind any changes by Google, including associated algorithmic penalties for non-compliance.
- Find out from other SEOs in your industry who run similar tests if they are experiencing ranking issues.
- Check out the Analytics section of Google Search Console to see clicks, impressions, and average position for a specific keyword, page, (or combo).
- If the issue is with your website, I recommend tracking rankings daily for your important keywords. This way, you will know when the drop in rankings happened.
- Make use of reputable link counters like Ahrefs to check and fix any lost backlinks from reputable sites that link to your affected pages.
Sounds like a good start, right?
With that said, consider these top five site ranking issues you are most likely to encounter and what you can do to fix them.
1- Broken Backlinks
Also known as inbound links, backlinks are a valuable metric of Google’s algorithm for ranking websites.
While a site containing high-quality incoming links will rank higher, backlinks are simply a means to an end.
In this case, quality trumps quantity.
One “link juice” from bigwig sites like CNN or Forbes can be worth hundreds of links from lesser-known sites.
Such a link is worth protecting at all costs.
You should make finding and fixing broken, lost, or temporarily unavailable backlinks part of an ongoing SEO Audit.
According to Ahrefs, “broken links point to non-existent resources. They’re a waste of link equity.
They have a negative impact on your site’s authority and trigger a drop in search engine rankings.
Ultimately, contributing to a poor user experience.”
SEO analytics tools like Ahrefs, Screaming Frog, SEMrush, etc.
They make valuable additions in a digital marketer’s arsenal for checking broken links.
Depending on the tool, you can crawl from 500 to unlimited URLs to locate a wealth of data on temporary and permanent redirects.
You can also use analytics tools to check the authority rank of referral links, track the progress of your backlink building strategy, and more.
2- Issues with Google indexing
Imagine your website’s home pages, articles, product pages suddenly disappeared from searches.
Not only would you experience a massive drop in organic traffic, but your content marketing strategy will also no longer be relevant.
Even as the world’s largest monopolies on search engines, with a staggering 92.27% market share, Google still faces indexation issues.
In 2020, many eCommerce owners on various marketing channels reported crawl errors and de-indexing issues, which resulted in Google dropping them from its search index.
If the indexing issue is on Google’s end, the search engine giant will always inform users to expect errors.
Therefore, to ensure that search engine bots can find, crawl and analyze your pages, check the following parameters during an SEO audit;
- Duplicate Content
Having a substantial amount of matching content across domains confuses search engine robots because they don’t know which web page to rank for a particular keyword.
Also, any organic traffic, referral “link juice,” including page and domain authority splits between the duplicated URLs.
It’s counterproductive and, quite frankly, time-wasting.
With Google Search Console, you can find and keep track of duplicate content, including URL variations, to ensure search engine crawlers find and index the correct pages.
You can also get rid of duplicate content by using:
- A 301 redirect tells the search engine crawler where the SEO and traffic value should go.
- A rel = canonical attribute code tells search engine bots that a page is a duplicated version of the specified URL.
- A meta robot “noindex, follow” code and add it to the HTML head of the page you want to exclude from search engine bots.
Check and fix any redirects and 404 error pages while at it.
Usually, an XML document, a sitemap file, contains a list of the website pages you want search engines to index.
A sitemap is also helpful in speeding up the indexing process as it provides vital information, such as when you created and updated said web pages.
So, even with a well-organized website, it’s advisable to submit a sitemap to improve the overall crawl-ability experience of the website.
To submit a sitemap file to Google, first verify the ownership of your domain with Google Search Console.
Then follow the following simple steps;
- Select your site on your Google Search Console home page.
- Click Sitemaps from the menu on the left.
- Type sitemap.xml in the text field next to your domain.
- Click Submit.
A successful submission should show something like this:
- Issues with robots.txt file
Robots.txt file is a crucial element of technical SEO because it tells search engine bots which HTML, PDF, or non-media formats they can or cannot crawl on your website.
Search engine bots will adhere to the closest matching user-agent block; therefore, it pays to correctly set up the robots.txt file.
So far, we’ve looked at how we can find and the tools you can use to fix backlink issues, including what you can do to improve your site’s crawlability by addressing Google indexing problems.
3- Your Competitor Outranked Your SEO Strategies
According to the famous quote attributed to Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu, you should;
“keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
As aforementioned, you can experience a drop in rank because of circumstances beyond your control.
For example, your competitors went and upped their SEO game.
Again, use competitive analysis tools like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or Buzzsumo, to identify competitors that gained the most from your dropped rankings.
Analyzing your competitors’ social media, SEO, and content analytics is a strategy that gives you a valuable peek into their marketing insights.
Every competitor analysis tool is different, but you can view various reports, including demographic data, average engagement rate, influencers’ outreach, and more.
Buzzsumo is among the most powerful competitor tracking software that simplifies engagement analysis as it measures the success of your content strategy to that of your competitor.
Along with finding competitor data from various web posts, Buzzsumo also performs social media platform analysis to find the most successful content formats among your competition.
For example, you can see users who have shared content on Twitter from a competitor’s site.
Tip — If you’re a beginner, I recommend using a free analysis tool like Google Trends to monitor competitors’ website activity. Note that Google Trends doesn’t have social media analysis.
4- A Change in Search Engines Algorithm
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that Google updates its algorithm regularly, sometimes daily when targeting over-optimized sites.
While most of the changes are minor, Google will always inform marketers when it rolls out significant algorithm changes case and point, Hummingbird and Panda.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to recover your website after an algorithm update affects your ranking.
However, as a marketer, you already know that Google rewards websites with the best user experience.
The best you can do is employ white hat SEO techniques that help optimize your website for a positive user experience.
Pro Tip; Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
According to the 2018 Google mobile-first indexing algorithm update, you may experience a drop in ranking if your website doesn’t provide a great mobile experience.
5- Changing Your Website Page(s) or URL
Google’s ultimate goal is to improve the user experience and provide searchers with relevant content.
You might upset your position in the SERPs if you’re constantly adjusting things like the URL, your H tags or even lowering the keyword density.
Google might decide that a change made to a page no longer serves consumer interest; therefore, it is irrelevant to the target keyword.
Changing the structure of your URLs is sometimes a necessary undertaking.
For example, during a site migration, when redesigning or making platform changes that don’t allow you to keep the same URLs.
However, when done incorrectly, you will experience a significant drop in your site rankings because you may accidentally lose referring “link juice.”
A tiny mistake, such as missing an underscore while changing your URL, can have devastating consequences.
Here, performing a 301 redirect is your best bet, as it will help create a seamless transition from an old to a new site location.
While I’ve mentioned five reasons that potentially contribute to a drop in rankings, there are certainly more pitfalls to look out for.
The key to fixing these issues is to identify why your rankings have dropped using all the tools and tips I’ve provided in this article.
Remember, if your rankings drop results from key algorithm changes, Google will provide adequate information about the algorithm changes and what’s being targeted.
Diagnosing a non-algorithm-related issue can be a time-consuming process.
So, your best defense against rankings drops and fluctuations is to stick to white-hat SEO techniques.
For example, unless you have to, don’t change your URLs.
Also, you can boost your SEO efforts even enhance the ranking of your site in SERPs results by publishing high-quality content and submitting sitemaps.
If all else fails, it pays to hire an SEO expert who will provide constructive and ready solutions to help remedy your ranking changes.