Keywords, mobile-first, backlinks, sitemaps, Pandas and Penguins – SEO is, without a doubt, a strange planet. And, the fact the Google changes its algorithm as often as the weather, isn’t making maintaining your position in search engine results easier either.
Of course, fluctuations are inevitable, and a minor position loss isn’t the end of the world.
But, who’s to blame when you see a major SEO ranking drop?
Did you make a mistake? Did you lose valuable backlinks? Or did a new Google algorithm update screw you over?
Here are some of the steps you should take to pinpoint the problem and recoup your rankings.
- First Things First, Check for a Manual Penalty
According to Matt Cutts, Google’s team members initiate more than 400,000 manual penalties every month. If that’s the case for your site, then you will receive a message explaining the reasons for this action.
The positive thing about this type of penalty is that it gives you an idea of what went wrong and what you need to change to recover your ranking. On the downside, it can be pretty difficult to get rid of a manual penalty. For example, if a Pure Spam penalty has hit your website, then it would be more time and cost effective to remove that page altogether.
- Make Sure an Algorithm Update Isn’t Responsible for the Drop
It doesn’t matter how much SEO experience you have. A sudden drop in rankings can take anyone by surprise. But, before you rethink your entire internet advertising strategy, make sure a Google algorithm update is not the root of the problem.
Now that Panda and Penguin have become part of Google’s core algorithm and are updated in real-time, any small change you make to your site can affect your ranking. Keep an eye on SEO news sites to stay on top of any development, major or otherwise.
- Check Your Backlink Profile
Backlinks are a crucial part of SEO. They tell search engines that your site is helpful, trustworthy, and provides valuable content.
If you know you have a thin backlink profile, with just a few links from authoritative sites and ton of backlinks from questionable sources, then that’s the first thing you should check. Use tools such as Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs to see the sites that are linking to you, which pages they’ve mentioned and what anchor text they’ve used.
If your backlinks are the problem, then remove the ones coming from toxic or spammy websites. Focus on tactics, such as guest blogging, the Skyscraper Technique or public relations to get quality backlinks.
- Verify Your Content
It can be hard to judge the value of content. What may look like a well-researched, well-written article to you may be hard to digest by your audience.
However, there are a few metrics you can focus on to determine if your content is the main culprit of your ranking drop.
For example, if you have a high bounce rate or a low click through rate, it might be an indication that your audience doesn’t find your content helpful or relevant.
- Check Your Site’s Speed
Is your site taking more than three seconds to load?
Well, then that might be your problem right there.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights to check your site’s speed and see what you can do to improve it. Even if your site takes just a few seconds to load, there still are things you can do to improve user experience, such as optimizing your images or minifying your code.
A sudden drop in SEO ranking can send shivers down your spine. Before you panic, learn that there are a few simple steps you can take to identify and fix the problem.