Do A Few Bad Pages Tank Your Entire Website?

4 min read

SEO expert John Mueller addresses concerns about a website’s ranking decline: Can ten pages dropping in March/April’s Core Update lead to a sitewide crash in May?


Can 10 Pages Cause a Website-Wide Penalty? John Mueller Investigates


A website owner on Reddit is facing a ranking mystery! Ten pages (out of a massive 20,000) took a hit from the Helpful Content Update (HCU) back in September 2023. After fixing the pages, they recovered. But things worsened in March/April with another core update impacting the same ten pages. Here’s the twist: on May 7th, the entire website (all 20,000 pages!) plummeted in rankings.

The owner wonders: did those ten problematic pages trigger a sitewide HCU penalty, or could the recent announcement of Site Reputation Abuse penalties (manual actions) be the culprit? John Mueller of Google weighs in to help solve this ranking rollercoaster!


Don’t Jump to Conclusions: Diagnosing Ranking Drops


Ever feel like your website ranking is a mystery? You’re not alone. This post dives into common pitfalls when analyzing website traffic drops, mainly after Google algorithm updates.

Here’s a scenario: a website owner sees a page dip in rankings after a September 2023 update (potentially the Helpful Content Update). They fix the pages, and rankings recover. But then, disaster strikes in April with another update hitting the same pages! Finally, the entire website (all 20,000 pages!) plummets in May.

The owner suspects a sitewide penalty triggered by those ten problematic pages or the newly announced Site Reputation Abuse penalties. Hold on! John Mueller of Google warns against jumping to conclusions.

Here’s why:

  1. Correlation vs. Causation: Just because a ranking drop happens around the time of an update doesn’t mean it caused the drop. Google’s core algorithm updates can affect multiple ranking factors, and the Helpful Content Update isn’t a single system.
  2. It’s Not Always About Your Site: Ranking might be due to changes in how Google interprets search queries, not necessarily something wrong with your website. More competition offering “better” content could also explain the drop.
  3. Beware the “Patch My Site” Syndrome: Fixating on a specific update as the culprit can lead to focusing on the wrong solution.


So, What To Do?

Instead of chasing shadows:

  • Think broadly: Consider technical issues, unannounced Google algorithm changes, and even competitor improvements.
  • Look at the bigger picture: A holistic understanding of your site’s health is critical.
  • Don’t just focus on updates: Correlation doesn’t equal causation.

By taking a more comprehensive approach, you’ll be better equipped to diagnose ranking drops and find the real road to recovery.


Ten Pages Tanked My Site! John Mueller Weighs In


A website owner recently faced a ranking nightmare: Ten pages took a hit, and then the entire 20,000-page site plummeted! Was it a sitewide penalty triggered by those ten pages? John Mueller of Google sheds light on the situation.

Mueller downplays the likelihood of ten pages, causing a massive ranking drop for the entire site. He points out that core updates typically affect websites holistically, not just a small subset of pages. Additionally, the May drop wouldn’t be directly connected to the March/April core update.

Here’s the key takeaway: the ten problematic pages likely aren’t the sole culprits behind the sitewide decline.


Beyond the Update: Diagnosing Ranking Drops


Ranking drops can be frustrating, and blaming the latest Google update is tempting. However, SEO expert John Mueller warns against such a narrow focus. Here’s why:


Looking Beyond the Announcement:

  • Correlation vs. Causation: Just because an update happens around the same time as a ranking drop doesn’t mean it caused the drop. Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving, and ranking factors can shift unexpectedly.


A Holistic Approach:

  • Inspect Your Site: A technical audit can uncover issues impacting your site’s performance.
  • Analyze the Competition: What are your top competitors doing differently? Are they offering more relevant or engaging content?
  • Dive into the SERPs: Reviewing the SERP) for your target keywords can reveal search intent or user behavior changes.


Don’t Get Stuck in the Update Loop:

  • Avoid “Update Chasing”: Focusing solely on recent updates can lead to overlooking other potential causes.

John Mueller reminds us that diagnosing ranking drops isn’t always about SEO. It could be that your content isn’t resonating with your audience anymore. Rethink your approach, analyze your competition, and focus on creating valuable content for your users.


Look Beyond the Headlines: A Broader Approach to SEO


Focusing on recent Google announcements is a natural first step for website owners, and it’s something they should continue doing. However, Google’s John Mueller emphasizes the importance of a broader view when diagnosing website issues.

Here’s why:

  • Limited Scope: Updates may not be the sole culprit. Google’s algorithm constantly evolves, and ranking factors can shift independently of announcements.


The Bigger Picture:

  • Site Analysis: Technical issues on your website could be impacting performance.
  • Competitive Landscape: Learn from your top competitors. Are they offering more relevant or engaging content?
  • Understanding User Intent: Analyze the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) to see if user needs or search behavior have changed.


Beyond the Update:

While staying informed is essential, don’t get stuck chasing the latest announcements. Ranking drops might be due to other factors.


The Takeaway:

A comprehensive approach to SEO is critical. By looking beyond headlines and delving deeper into your website and the competitive landscape, you’ll be better equipped to diagnose and address ranking issues.

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Shilpi Mathur
[email protected]