I don’t encourage site owners to spend their time obsessively scrutinizing search rankings: there are more positive ways to increase traffic to your site. Nevertheless, a drop in search position can have a substantial impact on the number of visitors your site receives, and hence on revenue.
Every site is different, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of declining search position, but, in my experience, these are the five areas that you should focus on if your site has recently tanked in the SERPs.
Although Google’s algorithms have come a long way since the days they entirely depended on incoming links to assess the value of a web page, backlinks still matter.
If a site loses a lot of the links that were propping it up in the SERPs, it’s likely to take a dive. But it doesn’t have to be a lot of links: a small number of links from high-authority pages have an outsized effect, and if they’re removed, the drop in rank can be substantial.
Use a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer to assess your site’s backlink profile at regular intervals, so that you can compare over time. It should help you identify potential problems with the site’s link profile.
The opposite of losing good links is gaining bad links, and that can be harmful too. So-called negative SEO could be the culprit, so look carefully at your backlink profile for evidence of links from bad neighborhoods. The Disavow Backlinks tool might come in handy, but use it with caution or you may shoot yourself in the foot.
The Competition Has Stepped Up Their Game
Rankings are relative. For a site to go up, another site has to go down. If you’re losing position relative to a competitor, take a close look at any recent changes they’ve made to their site: improved content, better backlinks, and anything else that might cause their site to look better to Google.
A thorough competitor analysis can point the way to improvements you might make to your own site.
Penalties And Algorithm Changes
Google is opinionated about what it does and does not like. Site owners who aren’t familiar with the rules can accidentally damage their ranking potential. The first step is to take a look at Google Search Console, which will tell you about any manual penalties that have been applied.
If there are no manual penalties, familiarize yourself with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. If you’re doing something Google doesn’t like, that’s where you’ll find out what it is.
Server Issues / Poor hosting
Google wants to send its users to websites that provide a positive experience. Slow-loading sites, excessive latency, and unresponsive pages do not a good experience make. For the sake of both SEO and user experience, it’s worth making sure that your site is as fast and responsive as possible.
If your web host isn’t up to the job, no amount of performance optimization will make much of a difference. If performance is a problem, consider upgrading to faster hosting or migrating to a web hosting provider with a platform that can support the needs of your site.
Random Fluctuations In Rank
This is perhaps the most frustrating type of rank change: it’s often called the Google Dance or Google Flux. A site will lose and gain ranking with no discernible reason as Google tweaks its algorithm or some other factor changes.
There’s really nothing you can do about random fluctuations other than redoubling your SEO efforts, following best practices, and ensuring that your site offers the best possible user experience.