So My Organic Search Rankings Dropped, Now What?

It happened again. You spent months optimizing your website and landing pages for the highest performing keywords you could find. You got your organic search rankings up in the top 3 in the SERPs, your organic leads increased nearly quadruple, and then all of a sudden…WHAM! Google kneecaps you and releases a whole new algorithm update. Your website is falling out of position rapidly. Leads are being stymied. What do you do?

First and foremost, remain calm. It is the nature of SEO to be constantly in flux. You don’t need to start over, and not all your work leading up to this will be lost. Let’s walk through some of the reasons why your website is losing ranking and what you can do to recover quickly.

Figure Out How and Why You Dropped

Before you do anything else, you need to have a process in which you are monitoring and tracking the ranking fluctuations for your website. Google doesn’t make just one algorithm update each year. In fact, according to a recent blog post by Google, they made more than 3,200 algorithm updates last year! 

Why so many? There are emerging technologies and capabilities Google is constantly working to integrate into their search engine. Things like predictive features like Autocomplete and Related Searches, search snippets like the Knowledge Graph and Knowledge Panel (position zero), and spam protection features are being developed to improve the user experience. 

With all Google intends to accomplish, constant updates can be expected and no one’s rankings are ever really solidified. In order to get a grasp on where your rankings are taking a hit, using the tools at your disposal to track changes is a good place to start with any website launch.

Which SEO Rank Tracking Tools Are Best?

First-party Tools

When you want the real deal, getting information straight from the horse’s mouth is the place to start. If you haven’t ready, we always recommend installing Google Analytics and Google Search Console tracking codes on your website. These dashboards allow you to monitor your website performance on Google and across the internet as a whole historically or in real-time.

Search Console is a particularly useful tool to track what search queries users are entering to find your website. Under the “Queries” tab of the “Performance” section of Search Console, you can see the total impressions, clicks, and click-through rate of search queries coming to your website. 

It’s a good idea to look at this daily to see how queries are performing on a day-to-day basis. Take note of queries with high click-through rates and track them in a spreadsheet you can monitor over time. Use this information along with web traffic data you can see in Google Analytics to tie some correlation between search queries and specific pages on your website.

On a spreadsheet, pick a few target keywords for each page you are optimizing them for and track your rankings manually every day. From here you can see definitively the fluctuations in ranking as time goes on. Monitor this list to see if there are any major improvements or drops in Google rankings.

This method of using first-party tools, of course, has its drawbacks. To eliminate the possibility of users taking advantage of their ranking features, Google rarely publishes any details about their algorithm updates or makes these tools a one-stop-shop for monitoring your SEO rankings. 

While Search Console does have website health monitoring features, tracking keyword rankings takes a ton of manual labor. However, there are plenty of third-party SEO tools with built-in keyword monitoring, website health, backlink tracking, and keyword research features take make rank tracking a breeze.

Third-party SEO Tools  

If you have the budget, investing in a third-party SEO tool to monitor your rankings can save you a ton of time and money in the long run. At Cape & Bay, we use many of these third-party SEO tools along with first-party data to track our clients’ SEO performance and to capitalize on top keywords by any industry. 

Our favorites include Ahrefs, SEMRush, and Ubersuggest, although there are a number of options on the market for you to peruse. These third-party SEO tools simplify the SEO research and monitoring processes you can manual perform through Google’s first-party tools and then some. 

Although SEO never follows the “set it and forget it” rule, setting up keyword monitoring through these tools sure do seem like it! Instead of having to manually enter your target keywords and comb through the SERPs to see where your website ranks, these tools do all the hard work for you. 

You are able to log in at any time and see how your tracked keywords are rankings are ranking, how many positions they have moved over time, and get alerted to when you rank for new keywords. What’s more, these third-party SEO tools have advanced competition monitoring capabilities to see how you stand out amongst the competition and if any rank drops are a symptom of the industry, or exclusive to your website. 

Now that you are able to monitor where the decrease in your rankings are coming from, now you must analyze what factors caused your rankings to go down. Here are some factors that would cause a sudden decrease in your search rankings.

Backlink Manual Penalty

Your website’s backlink portfolio is one of the most important ranking factors that influence your ranking potential. The more legitimate and authoritative sites you have linking to your domain, the more relevance your website builds within the Google algorithm. 

However, if you think you can game the system and purchase spammy backlinks from shady SEO dealers across the web, you may be putting your website in danger of getting whacked by the algorithm. Since the release of the Panda algorithm update almost a decade ago in 2011, websites publishing poor quality content are at risk of being removed from the Google search results, including those in which they link to. 

If you haven’t practiced any shady backlinking schemes, you should be in the clear, but always do your due diligence to make sure your backlink portfolio isn’t full of spammy backlinks. Here’s where Search Console comes in big. First of all, if Google has placed a manual penalty on your site or finds it is in some way in violation of their Webmaster Guidelines, they will notify you under the “Security & Manual Actions” tab. There you can see what pages on your domain are in violation of their guidelines.

If you notice you have a manual action against one or all of your pages on your domain, you need to dig through your backlink portfolio to weed out the bad actors. Under the “Legacy tools and reports tab” click on “links.” Here you can view all internal and external links Google has indexed for your website. Export the external links on your website and start auditing them one-by-one. 

If you’ve noticed spammy sites linking to your domain, you need to reach out to the webmaster in good faith and ask them to personally remove the link to your website. If you don’t receive a response in a timely manner, use the Google Disavow Tool to signal to Google that your domain does not endorse the spammy backlink to your site. Once you’ve cleaned out all the spammy backlinks, your manual penalty should resolve itself.

Rank Drop Due to Poor UI/UX

Many people believe that content, backlinks, and metadata are the only things that really influence the algorithm, but that’s not solely the case anymore. As Google has focused more on improving search for its users, website health, and UI/UX factors have weighed more heavily on rankings over the years. Clear evidence of this was seen during their 2015 “Mobliegeddon” update which penalized websites that did not accommodate mobile browsers.

Comparing your website’s health and load speed to your competitors can be an easy way to see where you stack up against them. Once again, Google Search Console will help you pinpoint what pages are broken within your website or are reporting other types of errors. Under the “Enhancements” tab you can find your mobile and desktop PageSpeed scores. It will provide you with a detailed analysis of load times and other factors impacting the speed of your website.

Most of the time, you will need the help of experienced UI/UX developers to help you resolve PageSpeed issues.

We Have Reached the Digital Era

Search engines, particularly Google, have a stranglehold on internet marketing. Its power can no longer be ignored by businesses both big and small. Here are some quick facts about Google and its ever-growing dominance on search:

  • Google occupies 90.46% of the search engine market
  • Google processes 63,000 searches per second and 3.5 billion searches per day
  • The internet average user searches 3 to 4 times a day

In order to take your business to the next level, you need to be paying attention to your rankings. Increased visibility on the search engines could result in an exponential increase in your website traffic, improved customer trust, increased sales, and more. 

If you have noticed a decrease in ranking and need the help of experienced SEO experts and UI/UX developers, Cape & Bay has got you. Drop us a line for a complimentary SEO evaluation, and find out where Cape & Bay can take you!

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