How to Diagnose and Fix a Rankings Drop in 6 Easy Steps

5 min read

If you’ve been running an online business for a while then you are probably used to those nagging rankings and traffic fluctuations by now. Huge plummets? You may have seen a few of those too. But if you’re new and have had a good, uninterrupted run at the top then the current ranking drop might be giving you a panic attack. Be assured that it is not permanent; what is lost can be reclaimed. As to why does it happen? Well, there are a lot of reasons. Luckily for you, and us, there are methodologies that can help you diagnose and fix a rankings and traffic drop. And there are ways you can pinpoint to the exact reason(s) and work your way upwards from there. Below we’ve compiled a list of what we think are 6 easy steps to diagnosing and fixing a rankings drop. Read on!

1. Confirm That Your Rankings and Traffic is Actually Dropping

“But this is why I’m here on your website, reading this blog.” is what you’re thinking, but wait, hear us out. Do NOT make major changes simply because you have a hunch. It is advised that you confirm first. If it’s a minor rankings drop, say from Position 3 to Position 5, and the traffic too keeps fluctuating around your average, then there’s no need to sound the fire alarm just yet. Some amount of Volatility is normal, and doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means.

However, if you see a big downward drop — say from Page 1 to straight to Page 5 — then there’s definitely something wrong. A quick check on Google Analytics will confirm which is it, and will also be the most accurate out of other methods or tools. We use a combination of Google Analytics, Search Console, SEMrush, and Ahrefs to diagnose and confirm a drop in rankings and traffic. If you still haven’t linked your website to Google Analytics, you better get to it quickly.

2. Check for Errors on Google Search Console

Think of Google Search Console as a doctor keeping your site’s health in check and notifying you every time there’s an error or a warning, however major or minor, or worse still, a penalty. Log on to Search Console to find out:

  • Are there pages being blocked by Robots.txt?
  • Page or pages marked in No Index?
  • Does the page have a crawling issue? Anomaly? Duplicates?
  • Are there 404 Errors, Server Errors, or Redirect Errors?
  • Are there any Mobile Usability Errors?
  • Are there any manual actions against your website?
  • Or are there any Penalties that need to be taken down?
  • All this information will be pretty easily accessible and need to be taken care of on priority.

In case you find a penalty and unsure how to fix it, we recommend you go through 10 STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR SERP RANKINGS IN 2020 WITHOUT BEING PENALIZED BY GOOGLE: A COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE.

3. Review the Latest Algorithm Changes in Google

Yes. They happen all the time, every day, and are not always made public. Well, at least the smaller ones aren’t. They affect your rankings and traffic on a daily basis without you knowing. Hence, the fluctuations. Things go back to the usual usually without you having to do anything. But the major Google Algorithms are almost always listed and documented at different places, on different websites. It’s inevitable, really and not in your control.

If there’s a major algorithm update made around the time your rankings and traffic took a plunge, then the chances are high it is what’s causing a dent in your website’s popularity. And the best you can do is try and remodel and readjust (read improve) your website according to what the update has been targeting specifically. If, however, there is no algorithm update at the time your site started performing badly, it’s time to check other issues.

4. Review the Latest On-page Changes Made on Your Website and Content

Whatever changes you make to your page you’re trying to rank can directly affect its position and traffic inflow based on how relevant or irrelevant Google thinks you’ve made the information with respect to the target keyword and the queries it wants to address.

This includes content that appears on the page. Lengthier it is, better are its chances of getting ranked higher, given that it is originally written and written well. On the other hand, short content will keep your progress, well, short. Try and write or rewrite each of the pages to at least a thousand words. Remove pages with thin content altogether if they don’t add any value. If you don’t, Google will rank them down anyway.

Other On-page SEO factors like Title Tags, URLs, Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, Keyword Selection and Density et cetera can also directly affect your rankings.

Check for New Plug-ins added or Any Major URL Structure Change

It’s quite possible that you did some changes without doing any changes. As crazy as it sounds, there are things you could have passively done without giving it a thought if it would affect your rankings and traffic in any way. And chances are, it did. Like adding a new plug-in to your website or updating a previous one. It might be that you may have changed your website’s theme or added some new pages. All of this can, at times, inadvertently affect your site’s ranking. Review them all step by step to see if something stands out.

URL structures too can be a cause of that nasty rankings and traffic drop. Have you moved your site to a new URL, or have two different (or even more) sitemaps running with Google? Do review the latter on priority and see if things get back to the same normal as before.

5. Review Your Site’s Backlink profile

Simply put, the more high-quality backlinks you have, the higher you will rank. Reviewing your backlink profile should reveal the complete story.

Check for Broken or Lost Backlinks – The high-quality backlink that had been bringing you quality referral traffic might have decided to remove the link. Or it might not be working. SEMrush can be of help. If you are able to pinpoint to a particular link or more, try and re-establish y reaching out to them.

Check for Spammy Backlinks – You might think every backlink is an asset, but you’d be thinking down the wrong line. In order to improve your site’s health and rankings, it is of utmost importance that you do disavow all such links and rethink your backlink strategy with natural and in-content links.

Check for Anchor Text Ratios – You can use Ahrefs to make things easier. Simply check by opening the site and clicking ‘Anchors’. Keep your anchor text non-keyword based, branded, and naked. Try and keep exact match keywords 10% or under of referring domains.

It’s important that you don’t skip any of the above mentioned steps when trying to diagnose and fix a rankings drop of your website. However, if you still feel this is all too overwhelming or if the problem persists, you can schedule a consultation with us, SarkarSEO, and we will help your website get back on Page 1 of Google and stay there.

Sarkar SEO
[email protected]

Mohit Parnami aka Sarkar is an entrepreneur, marketer and Co-Founder of SarkarSEO. He is passionate about SEO and lifelong learner to learn new things. He has been in the internet marketing industry for 10+ years.