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SEO 21 min read February 19, 2019

Why Did Your Website Suddenly Lose Rankings And How To Fix It

Why Did Your Website Suddenly Lose Rankings And How To Fix It

Stacy Mine
Editor at Serpstat
The real murder for any SEO is a sudden website ranking loss. You're lucky if you don't know anything about this:
1. Your website can't be found in search results.
2. The website visibility has suddenly crashed.
3. Your website lost a lot of traffic.
If you're well acquainted with these situations, you should identify the causes of the crash as quickly as possible to fix them and prevent consequences. Let's go!

Ranking loss: what should you do?

If there's a suspicion that your rankings have changed, you should find some proofs. To do this, carefully examine the following metrics:
1
Visibility of your website in search results. You can track this metric using several SEO tools. Serpstat calculates the added value based on the quantity and the search volume of keywords for which a particular website ranks in search.
2
Traffic to your website that you can track using the Google Analytics account. Particularly important for the analysis are traffic sources.
3
Positions of your website by keywords. To analyze the rankings of your website, you can apply SEO tools that automatically track the positions for selected keywords. With such monitoring, you can not only evaluate the efficiency of the SEO measures taken but also notice the sudden crash.
Attention! Here and further the ranking problems are solved with the help of Serpstat. Note that you can also use other SEO tools as alternative solutions. Nevertheless, instructions remain the same.

Check your site's positions

Preventing problems is always easier than fixing the existing ones. To avoid the sudden ranking loss, you should constantly monitor positions of your website. How do you do this? Track your SEO achievements with the Rank Tracker tool.

Most SEOs collect 20-30 search queries that they think are the most important, and track locations in the search results for those queries. Nevertheless, this approach is fundamentally wrong. Relevant keywords are likely to be lost, and SEO won't get an overview of the whole situation. What is the solution for that?

When creating a project in Serpstat, you can download an unlimited number of keywords (according to your plan, of course), group them by topic, and analyze the top 100 search results. As a result, you're analyzing not only your site but also your competitor's, which appears in search results for those keywords. In reports you'll get:

  • Number of position your website has for a specific keyword
  • Changes in the rankings during the selected period
  • Traffic share of your website in a corresponding niche.
1
Create a new project:
2
Start by selecting a search engine, mobile or desktop search, region, keywords, tags, competitors, and schedule.
3
Check out the report. Are the results disappointing? Then read the second step.

Determine the severity

So, you're sure that your site lost its positions. Before you start to panic, evaluate the severity of the ranking loss.
1
Not that bad! Your website has lost rankings just for some keywords. This is a normal situation, which happens because of ranking fluctuations. Possible reasons for this are SEO measures and changes in the competition in the niche. Regular competitor analysis and tracking your SEO achievements are good preventive measures.
      2
      It could be worse. In this case, the rankings of a website for a larger number of search terms worsened. To avoid the disaster, you should check the site for technical errors, carefully examine content and backlinks. Otherwise, this can turn into a dangerous situation.
          3
          Dangerous. If you find that your website has not only lost a few ranking points but also dropped out of the multiple search index, you should take countermeasures as soon as possible. In this situation, you can lose both visibility and customers. Therefore, check your website immediately for the above errors and make sure that there were no search engine updates.
              4
              Worst-case scenario. A highly dangerous situation can be seen if your website has fallen out of search results for a majority of keywords. In this case, it's most likely about search engine penalties or legitimate algorithm updates. The faster you find out the possible causes, the more chances your site has on recovery.

                  Check the weak spot on your website

                  Even if the situation is very bad, don't let that upset you too much. The most important step is to determine the reasons that led to this situation. Start a website audit using an SEO tool and correct the mistakes found. The weak spots that can lead to the ranking deterioration are:

                  • robots.txt file
                  • metadata
                  • server problems
                  • AMP pages
                  • HTTPs
                  • redirects
                  • backlinks
                  • content

                  Of course, this is not a full list of ranking loss causes. Nevertheless, you can start with it.

                  The most common reasons for the ranking crash and possible solutions

                  If you find out why your website is losing track of your ranking, you can initiate the necessary countermeasures. Examine your website and discover which factors cause the ranking crash:
                  #1

                  Search engine updates

                  Search engines, Google in particular, are constantly evolving the algorithms to provide users with only relevant and helpful content. Nevertheless, these updates may make search engines prefer your competitors. If Google determines that some search queries require more informative pages or special search elements such as images, videos, news, and so on, your page can no longer be considered relevant.

                  Google can experiment with rankings and show dynamic results so that you can see both top and bottom ranking pages in top results within a day.

                  How to figure out:

                  Analyze the visibility of your website and determine if it is affected. You can do this with an SEO tool.

                  Another step is to examine SERPs for a specific keyword. If the search results have changed sharply, this is exactly the case. So, after a change, additional boxes will appear in Google search results. Serpstat's Rank Tracker stores SERPs, and you can track any changes in the search results.

                  Check if there were no messages in the Google Webmaster Blog or the corresponding blog of the other search engine. Often such updates are also announced or confirmed on official Twitter.
                  How to solve:

                  You can't predict search engine updates, but you can react to them in time. If you see that your website doesn't meet the new requirements, you should evaluate your SEO strategy and make the appropriate changes:

                  • create quality content which is relevant to your niche
                  • optimize existing content for new search hits.
                  #2

                  Penalties of search engines

                  If your site doesn't meet the recommendations of search engine webmasters, it may also be severely affected by penalties. There are two types of search engine penalties:
                      1
                      Manual penalty if your site violates Webmaster Guidelines. It's made by search engine employees in an individual case.
                      2
                      Automatic penalty operated by an algorithm. This punishment affects all search results as the rule changes by which rankings are built.
                      How to figure out:

                      In the case of a manual penalty, you'll be notified in the Search Console.
                          If you haven't found such a message, you should check the following:
                              1
                              Whether organic traffic to your website hasn't changed. If the number of visitors has dropped rapidly, your website is most likely affected by an algorithmic penalty.
                              2
                              Whether your website isn't deleted from the index. To do this, enter the Google search: "site: yourdomain.com." If you see too few results or you don't see any, that's one of the signs of Google penalty.
                              3
                              Whether there were any announcements about search engine updates that coincided with the time of ranking loss. The site can be penalized if you have taken some actions that are not approved by search engines. Are you sure you don't wear a black hat?
                              How to solve:

                              Determine why your site was penalized. Next, delete or correct these weak spots: pages, content, links, etc. Be prepared for the recovery to take time.

                              Here are the preventive measures:

                              • Create unique and quality content
                              • Use microdata markups to achieve better ranking with structured data
                              • Check the backlink profile regularly to avoid inferior links.
                                  #3

                                  Technical errors

                                  On-page optimization of a site can be a major source of error, which can lead to a decrease in rankings.

                                  How to figure out:

                                  Your website's weak spot can be:
                                      1
                                      The robots.txt file. If the robots.txt file is set up incorrectly or the webmaster has accidentally prohibited the indexing of the website, this may affect the website's position.
                                      2
                                      Loading time. This can significantly affect behavioral factors that search engines perceive very seriously. Nobody wants to wait when a page loads forever. Slow pages are poorly valued not only by users but also by search engines through UX signals. If your website is too slow, it won't be crawled enough by Google bots.
                                      3
                                      Canonical tag. This line can have serious consequences and cause the page to fail the index.
                                      4
                                      Meta tags. If the meta tags are absent or duplicated, this is one of the reasons for the position loss. Also, check if the Title and Description properly appear in SERPs. Also, take into account the fact that these tags don't need to contain so many keywords. Otherwise, this can worsen the user signals.
                                      5
                                      Broken links. If you have invalid links on the page, this may be a bad signal. They are perceived as irrelevant to searchers because, in most cases, such pages show bad UX signals. So, find and correct all links and pages that provide 404 status code.
                                      6
                                      Website's structure changes. The changes in the URLs almost always lead to a ranking crash. In this case, you should pay particular attention to redirects to avoid both duplicate content and 404 errors.
                                      How to solve:

                                      Start the website audit and check your website for the errors and weaknesses. Then correct all the errors according to the recommendations in line.

                                      The easiest way to find the crash reasons is the website audit. Serpstat's audit option lets you find more than 50 technical errors and weaknesses on the site.

                                      To start the check, create a project:
                                          After the audit you'll receive the following data:
                                              What do the experts think about the ranking loss?
                                                  This can have several reasons. Old links to the page may have been deleted, which weakens the authority of the page. Above all, the content of the page should be checked. If the users are dissatisfied and leave the page after a short time, e.g., because they didn't find anything, that's a bad sign to the search engine. The other factor can be good SEO measures of the competitors. Of course, the technical part of the website should always be kept in mind: page speed or mobile friendliness.

                                                  About a year ago, I wrote an article and answered many user questions. Added a few more links, and the article was # 1 in a couple of weeks. About six months later, the post steadily lost its visitors. As I checked this, I noticed that several competitors had published my article. I optimized mine again and added more links. Soon I was back to the top and still is. When it comes to SEO, it's important to stay tuned, continuous optimization is essential. Good luck with your rankings!
                                                  Marcel Fees, SEO specialist at CrossfireSEO
                                                  #4

                                                  Content

                                                  Duplicate or bad-quality content is unappreciated by search engines and prohibited in any way. If the search engine decides that your website offers the poor quality content, you'll lose your rankings in the top results.

                                                  How to figure out:

                                                  Which content is of high quality? Compare your pages with competitor's ones to make sure your articles cover the topic completely and are not too short. To check your content, start the website audit and text analysis. Avoid thin content! If you have only 300 characters on the page and your competitors have 3000, then don't be surprised that your website has low rankings.

                                                  Search engines strive to ensure that users get the most relevant pages. If your content is limited to texts or hasn't been updated for a long time, then I have bad news for you.

                                                  How to solve:

                                                  To fix this problem of site crash, do the content audit and text analysis. Note that:

                                                  • duplicated content and pages can lead to a penalty
                                                  • the search engine can significantly crash the position of your website if it offers only dull and outdated content
                                                  • the quality of the content should by no means be underestimated
                                                  • your content should bring value to the readers.
                                                  Here's my advice:

                                                  1. Create a good website with good content.
                                                  2. Insert links and pay attention to the right content and the appropriate text length for the website title and description.
                                                  3. Avoid duplicate content (duplicate content for the domain name and text content on your own website: check the robots.txt for crawling and .htaccess and configure them correctly if necessary.
                                                  4. Avoid completely identical content with third-party websites
                                                  5. Perform a loading time optimization of the web pages
                                                  6. Configure Google Webmaster Tools properly
                                                  7. Perform link building with high-quality backlinks
                                                  8. When migrating your domain, make sure that you have correct redirects regarding the link address
                                                  9. It is also important to avoid 404-errors in general (otherwise you can receive Google penalty)

                                                  Google algorithm changes may also cause ranking loss. To remain free from crashes, both the above steps and SSL encryption are recommended.
                                                  Christian R. Wrobel, SEO specialist
                                                  #5

                                                  Backlinks

                                                  Backlinks are also a source of ranking problems. You should bear in mind the following things while investigating the backlink profile of your website:
                                                      1
                                                      Lost backlinks. The crash of the site may be related to the fact that links referring to your website have been deleted. If they were of high quality, this could alert the situation.
                                                      2
                                                      Unnatural backlinks. If your site gains links from untrusted sites, or if they suddenly appear in huge numbers, this can get special attention from search engines.
                                                      3
                                                      A decline of a backlink profile. Sharp changes in the backlink profile are always a sign of unnatural link building, which contradicts recommendations of the search engines.
                                                      4
                                                      Anchors. If commercial and unnatural anchors outweigh the anchor list, it is a strong sign of manipulation that is forbidden.
                                                      How to figure out:

                                                      SEO tools are irreplaceable to keep the backlinks under control. For example, you can analyze backlinks in Serpstat. In the main report, you'll find general info of the backlink profile, further information is available in sections Referring Domains and Referring Pages.
                                                          How to solve:

                                                          Analyze the backlink profile of your website regularly, and if you notice any problems, you should rethink your link building methods.
                                                              #6

                                                              UX signals

                                                              User experience is also rated by search engines, and bad UX signals can significantly affect your rankings.

                                                              How to figure out:

                                                              If the above errors aren't detected, you should be aware of this cause. Here are some aspects that can cause bad user experience:
                                                                  1
                                                                  Snippets that don't attract readers or match search engine requirements. Even if you've reached the top spots, if the CTR of your snippets is low, this is a clear sign that your site is not relevant to a search query.
                                                                  2
                                                                  Loading time. No one likes to wait, so your visitors can simply leave the site, sending a bad UX signal.
                                                                  3
                                                                  Content question. So, if you've missed the content audit, it's time to focus on the text quality.
                                                                  How to solve:

                                                                  Analyze the snippets of your competitors. Examine the top results and learn how your snippets can get better. How can you track snippets?

                                                                  To avoid a manual analysis that takes a long time, create a project at Serpstat. The Rank Tracker option stores SERPs for selected keywords and they are available at any time. It's convenient to use this report to track the achievements of your optimization.
                                                                      Optimize the loading time of the website. Check which errors on your website cause the long loading time.
                                                                          Examine your competitors to see which pages have better rankings for a keyword:
                                                                              #7

                                                                              Competitors

                                                                              SEO actions by competitors may change positions on your site because the search engine sees them as a better alternative to what you offer.

                                                                              How to figure out:

                                                                              One should not disregard this aspect, and therefore you should conduct a competitive analysis in time. If you see that your site has had to give way to a competitor, carefully examine your site for errors and those of your competitors to see the changes.

                                                                              How to solve:

                                                                              How can you track changes your competitors have? Rank Tracker is also helpful here. In the Competitors report you'll find:
                                                                                  1
                                                                                  Traffic share of your website and websites that rank for the same keywords.
                                                                                  2
                                                                                  Changes in rankings within a certain period.
                                                                                  3
                                                                                  Competitors showing rising rankings for the maximum number of keywords in the top 100 search results.

                                                                                  Summary

                                                                                  I would recommend some helpful preventive measures to avoid the ranking crash:
                                                                                      1
                                                                                      Regularly track your site's rankings to respond to search engine updates and fix bugs in time.
                                                                                      2
                                                                                      Run your site's SEO audit to fix technical weaknesses.
                                                                                      3
                                                                                      Control the backlink profile and rate the quality of the backlinks.
                                                                                      4
                                                                                      Create unique and diverse content that adds value to users.
                                                                                      5
                                                                                      Investigate competitors and update your website to improve the UX signals.
                                                                                      And what reasons do you think are the most important in ranking loss?

                                                                                      We thank all the experts who participated in the article creation and expressed their opinions on the subject!

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