What Causes a Dramatic Drop in Your Google Ranking & How To Fix It

When your google rankings drop, your traffic heads south. And when your traffic decreases, your business suffers. If you're here because of this, I'm guessing you'll want to fix this issue as soon as possible.

Any unexpected drop in traffic is a reason to send alarm bells ringing and rightly so. Your Google rankings have a big role to play in your traffic.  What if you wake up one day to find that your website’s Google ranking dropped dramatically. There are many reasons why this could have happened. The good news? Most of the issues that caused it are easier to fix than you think. Keep reading to know how you can fix the drop in your rankings.

A sudden and unexplained drop can be the result of a competitor's SEO campaign, like a new product launch or an industry update by Google. It can also mean that you're not meeting Google's guidelines for high-quality sites.

dramatic drop in google rankings
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Did Your Google Rankings actually drop?

A drop in Google rank can be a legitimate cause for concern, but it may not be what you think.
Before fixing the Google rankings drop problem, it is important to confirm if your Google rankings dropped overnight. How do you do that? 

Check the average deviation in the weekly traffic for the past six to twelve months using Google Analytics. You should also verify your Google ranking and organic search traffic by using Google Search Console.  If you see a steep reduction in traffic, the problem is real and you should do something about it to prevent further traffic loss.

11 Reasons Your Rankings Dropped Dramatically – and How to Fix Them

We've put together 11 reasons for ranking changes along with tips and suggestions on how to fix them. Our experience with hundreds of websites has taught us what works and what doesn't. The following are the most common reasons for a drop in rankings and traffic.

1. Google Manual Action Penalty

If you see a sharp drop in your Google SEO ranking (more than 10 positions), Google manual action penalty could be the main reason. This penalty is imposed by Google if they find that your website pages are not compliant with its quality guidelines. Some of the common causes of Google penalties include user-generated spam in your site, your website getting hacked, and unnatural backlinks.

What's the fix?

Use Google Search Console to check the “manual actions” list in the “Securities and Manual Actions” tab. If your Google ranking has dropped because of manual actions, you will find the reason listed here. 

2. Your Website Has Been Blacklisted

Does Google blacklist websites? It sure does

If your organic traffic is declining rapidly, it could be because your website has been blacklisted or compromised by hackers. How does that happen? Well, there are many ways hackers can compromise your website, including malware attacks.

As Google only lists safe websites to its search engine users, it regularly scans all websites for any malware infections. If your website is among the hacked ones, then Google either suspends your website from its search engine or even marks it deceptive, depending on the severity of the infection.

What should I do?

The immediate solution is to scan for malware on your website and remove it permanently. If your website is hosted on WordPress (our recommendation), you can use a security plugin like MalCare to scan and remove malware from your site in a few clicks. 

3. Google Algorithm Update

Google makes regular major and minor changes in its search ranking algorithm. The updates help improve the algorithm so it can provide users the best search experience. Changes in search engine algorithms can seriously affect your website ranking. SEO experts closely monitor Google updates for algorithm modifications that can impact their clients’ businesses. 

What is the fix?

  • For the niche keywords for your website, use a rank tracker tool to check for any major ranking shifts. Look for sudden jumps and trends. The rankings fluctuate but any keyword that declines and stays down, is a cause for concern.
  • Monitor online news for any significant Google update, along with tips on how websites can respond to updates in Google algorithms.

4. Competitors Outranking You

Even for diligent businesses, websites can lose page rank without breaking any rules or being negligent  – your competitors might be doing a better job.  If your competitor has better SEO practices and excellent keyword research and optimization skills, they may win the rankings game for some important keywords.

Other major reasons for being outranked include the faster loading times and better user experience offered by competing websites.

Check out our favorite tool for tracking keywords and URL rankings.
Try a 14-day free trial of SE Ranking.

Thin content is another culprit. Typically, websites with tons of content but no value for users tend to do poorly over time. While Google does not penalize for thin content, it rewards sites with high-quality, informative, well-researched content.

What's the fix?

To check the areas where your competing website is performing better, use website analysis and optimization tools like SE Ranking and SEMrush to discover how their website content helps them rank. You can also use Chrome extensions for SEO analysis. to Use Surfer SEO or Frase to discover what your content is missing (compared to your competitors), and improve your site content in the same areas.

5. Recent Website Changes

Redesigning, migrating, or making a website HTTPS enabled can also have a negative impact on Google rankings when implemented incorrectly. Check if anyone on your team has executed any of the following website changes:

  • Changed your website URL
  • Implemented 301 redirects from older URLs incorrectly 
  • Reworked or optimized your website content, including SEO keywords
  • Implement changes resulting in lost indexing of your web pages (set pages to noindex)

What should be done?

Check Google Search Console to see if any significant increases in errors have occurred because of site changes. Google reports all crawling and indexing issues on this tool, thus making it easy to identify and fix the issue.

6. Website Technical Issues

You may also experience changes in ranking because Google itself is having technical issues crawling and indexing your website. A Google crawl anomaly could explain why it is unable to access your website. As a result, it will not be able to index and rank your website on its search results.

How can the problem be solved?

Analyze your website log files to check for logs about search engine crawlers and affected URLs. 

Log file analysis is a technical process so unless you’re handy with FTP, the terminal command line, and file editors, it might be better to use a tool like SEMrush’s Log File Analyzer or Screaming Frog’s Log Analysis tool.

Configure Google Bot as your user agent or check if your website has blocked Google-specific IPs.

Perfmatters optimizes website performance by reducing HTTP requests, disabling unnecessary WordPress features, and optimizing the database, which can indirectly help improve crawl efficiency and site speed, factors known to influence Google rankings.

7. Change in User Intent

Google’s search algorithms can modify their results based on the popular and trending user intent. As a result, Google may give a higher ranking to other websites for the exact keywords that previously attracted more traffic to your website.

Another example of user intent change can be for products or services that are no longer in demand. For example, keywords like “latest movie releases” or “best places to visit in” are less relevant during the COVID pandemic. 

How can I fix a poor CTR?

Align your blog titles, meta descriptions, and content with the user intent. If users are looking for answers to a specific question, make sure you answer it thoroughly. Your title and description should show that your content will satisfy the search query. This will help improve the click through rate (CTR) and reduce the bounce rate (when people click back on their browser and go to another website).

Optimize your content according to your target audience, their interests, pain points, etc. A/B test and optimize headlines, images, videos (if applicable), and other elements in the content to ensure that you are providing the best answers to a query and when someone clicks through to your content they don’t leave right away.

8. Changes in Google SERP

Google often makes changes to their search engine results page, which can have both positive and negative effects on click-through rate. For example, they may add featured ads or code snippets, short Q&A sections, and much more. This can effectively push down your website on the search results, along with your organic traffic.  We recommend that you keep up with any changes they make – if your website falls down the ranks, there are ways to improve its visibility.

How to deal with this problem?

Take a look at the SERPs for your target keyword to see exactly what appears. Notice anything different. Many SERP tracker tools can show you exactly the kinds of SERP features that each keyword generates. Sometimes it can be as “simple” as Google demoting your URL from the featured snippets or removing featured snippets entirely. Analyze your competitors and the search results to see if you can enhance your snippet for a better outcome. AI-powered copywriting software can really help with creative ideas for snippets.

9. Lost Backlinks

Backlinks are still among the most important SEO factors for organic traffic. And link building is still one of the main tasks of a search engine marketer. High-quality backlinks can improve your SEO rankings, while low-quality ones can do the opposite. When a site loses good backlinks, its position in the SERPs usually drops.

How to deal with this?

  • Use a backlink checker tool to discover where you might have lost links. Many tools will send alerts on changes in the backlink profile
  • Communicate with linking websites to restore your links

10. Ads above organic

Paid search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns always appear higher in the search results than organic (free) links. And your own SEM may even be diverting (or cannibalizing) traffic away from your organic listings. This could potentially have an impact SEO ranking of your website. For better or worse. But you’ll need to do some investigating to find out. 

What is the fix?

Compare the keywords in both your SEO and SEM campaigns and ensure that you're not wasting ad spend on keywords that you would naturally rank 1st for and your competitors are not targeting. This is a simple mistake to fix. Of course, if your competitors are using Google Ads to rank above you, you will have to pay to play.

11. Mobile-first Indexing

It seems a bit strange to ask in 2021 if your website is mobile-friendly. But I still find sites that are optimized for desktop browsers and look terrible on mobile. Some don’t even work properly for mobile visitors. Huge mistake. Most traffic on the web is now mobile.  

Google’s index is now mobile-first so if you’re nor optimized for the small screen, your site will drop the rankings until it’s invisible on the SERPs too.

The mobile version of your website may not be mobile-friendly due to several factors such as slow loading speeds, incompatible plugins, large and poorly formatted images, and wide content that cannot be read on mobile devices.

What you need to do:

  • Check the website loading speed on mobile phones using the Google PageSpeed Insights tool and start implementing changes based on recommendations.
  • Check for any mobile-related problems using the “Mobile Usability” feature in Google Search Console – and correct each of the issues listed using their recommendations.

If your Google ranking is getting affected by any of the reasons listed above, these tips on resolving the issues should help you fix the drop and get your rankings back to normal. Any suggestions or reasons you think we’ve missed out? 

We’d love to hear them from you in the comments section.

google ranking dropped dramatically

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