All too often I’m approached by a frantic new client who’s concerned about a sudden drop in their rankings for a target keyword phrase. Here are five potential reasons for the drop:
- The Algorithm Changed – Google changes their algorithm hundreds of times a year and although most changes are minor and large updates occur only once or twice a year, minor tweaks can have an effect on rankings. I suggest checking your analytics to see if there is a noticeable date on which there was a traffic drop, and then checking SEOMoz’s Google Algorithm Change History to see if there was a change on or around that date. Once you know the update that affected the site, you can do some research and determine what changes were made.
- You Lost Some Links – If you have links with an expiration date, it’s possible you lost a slew of them in one short span of time. The best solution is to go to www.ahrefs.com, run a site analysis, and see if there were any major link losses around the time of the drop. Ahrefs will tell you which links were lost, so you can go out and get those highly effective links again.
- You Were Penalized – This is the absolute worst case scenario. To determine if you were penalized, and how you were penalized, read this article. Once you’ve determined the type of penalty you received, you can start figuring out how to fix it. In recent years the most common SEO penalty has probably been over-optimized links to a website, meaning too many links use exact keyword match anchor text and too few use the sites URL or the site name.
- Your Site is Over-optimized – There is such a thing as over-optimization, and there’s nothing Google hates more than someone who’s trying too hard to rank for specific keyword phrases. They’re all about “natural” optimization, so doing too much SEO to your site may be telling Google “I’m trying to manipulate you,” which is a big no-no. I recommend reviewing your website and checking for overuse of penalized keywords in ALT tags, internal links, Titles, H tags, and content. Chances are, you’ll be surprised by the amount of times that phrase occurs on your site. An old-school way to check content quickly for keyword stuffing is Webmaster Tools. SEOMoz’s On Page Optimization tool is also helpful for determining whether or not a page is over-optimized.
- You Need to Wait it Out – As recently reported by Danny Sullivan in his article The Return of the Google Dance, it’s very possible that your site is caught in a post-algorithmic dance that sends your site jumping around the rankings. There’s no explaining it, and sometimes the best solution is to wait a week and see if the site settles again.
Owning a website can be very stressful, especially when you rely on traffic via keyword phrases, and a loss in rankings can mean significant effects for small and large businesses alike. Hopefully, these 5 potential reasons your site dropped in rankings will help you identify your site’s problem and solve it.