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How to Respond when Your Site’s Rankings Drop

December 16, 2011 · 7 comments

in SEO

Many bloggers and webmasters see most of their traffic coming in from Google and other search engines. If you lose some or all of this traffic it can have a devastating effect on your business. What can you do when Google decides that your site is no longer relevant? Here are some tips to move forward.

Don’t Overreact

Fluctuations in your rank are common, and even sites that don’t use SEO tactics can see changes that look almost like a penalty. Darren Rowse of ProBlogger fame uses very few SEO tactics to rank his site, but early on in his career he saw a 70 percent drop in his Google traffic.

Darren advises bloggers that, most of the time, these changes will fix themselves. His site came back on its own after several weeks. He had been advised by experts not to make any drastic changes to his site, because in many cases this will actually do more harm than good.

Rowse advises site owners that the best way to guard against these problems is to rely on other sources for traffic as well. Focus on building a loyal audience, building links that actually drive traffic, and constructing a robust social network can help guard against these problems in the future.

Find Out Why it Happened

In order to react to changes in your rankings, you need to figure out why they happened. Search Engine Land reminds webmasters that all changes in your rankings can be traced to one of three causes: changes to your site, changes to other people’s sites, and changes in the search engine algorithms. Here are some of the most common causes of a loss in rankings.

Changes to Your Site

  1. On site changes such as site overhauls, changes in titles or links, or changes in the content
  2. Off site changes: Typically a dramatic removal of links, a discovery of paid links, or other tactics that go against Google’s terms of service. This can sometimes occur for more legitimate reasons, such as comment links being pushed off the sidebar by new comments.
  3. Down time: If your site is down often or for prolonged periods of time you can lose your ranking.

Changes in the Algorithm

  1. Search engine updates: Changes in how certain factors are weighted or measured can have an impact on your ranking. Major updates, such as the panda update, can introduce new factors.
  2. The Google dance: Sometimes a site will lose its position for no apparent reason. There are various theories about why this happens, but the important takeaway is that the problem typically reverses itself after a few weeks.

Changes to Your Competitors

  1. New pages: Sometimes a site with a great deal more authority than you will add a new page about your keywords, and push your rank downward as a result.
  2. More relevance: Google’s goal is always to show users the most relevant results first. If Google decides a different page is more relevant than yours, you will lose your rank.
  3. A better link profile: Sites with more or better links will almost always rank better than you if they have similar content. It could also be because their link profile appears more natural.

Respond Accordingly

You can’t respond to all of these situations in the same way, since each of them have different root causes. Once you have found out what kind of change you are facing, you can use the following strategies to deal with the problem.

Changes to Your Site

If a change to your site has caused your rankings to fall, you may want to consider reverting the changes. Whether it was the introduction of offensive back linking strategies or changes to your site’s structure, reverting the changes will often cause your site to come back after several weeks. Using redirects to recreate the original site structure while changing the content can also be an effective strategy.

Changes to the Algorithm

Often the best way to respond to these changes is to follow news about the search engines and respond accordingly. For example, the Panda update changed the importance of the quality of on-site content. Sites that fell below a certain threshold of quality vs quantity were penalized. These were changes that couldn’t be foreseen, and could be responded to without knowledge of what was happening to sites all over the web.

Changes to Your Competition

Sometimes the competition is beatable, and sometimes it isn’t. It’s often a better strategy to diversify a little rather than to trying to beat a single competitor over a single keyword.

Visit your competition and ask yourself if it’s possible for you to create a more relevant page than they have. If not, it’s probably best to move on, even if you think you can beat them in the back linking game.

Almost every online business experiences traffic fluctuations as a result of search engine behavior, especially early on. Diversifying your link profile, your targeted keywords, and your traffic sources can help guard against these problems. Don’t overreact when your rank goes down. Analyze the situation carefully and respond accordingly.

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Dana writes for several online car insurance sites covering many of the top auto insurance companies. When she's not working, she loves reading up on the latest technology trends.

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