If your website normally performs quite well in the organic search results and you have recently found yourself losing positions for certain keywords then here are a number of things you should check in order to diagnose the problem – along with a few simple ideas on how to rectify the situation depending on the issues at play. Hopefully, by following this simple guide you should be able to recover your previous ranking positions without experiencing any major headaches.
A sudden increase in the number of new links.
If you have previously suffered from trust issues owing to a large number of backlinks which were placed on untrustworthy sites then you may be suffering as a result. Google gets suspicious whenever there is a sudden surge in the amount of (questionable) links pointing to a domain and will demote a website’s position in the organic listings if it thinks that a webmaster is trying to manipulate things unnaturally. Use a backlink checker to see if there are any links which need to be disavowed and make sure that any new links pointing to your site are added slowly whilst ensuring they are trustworthy.
Loss of links
Of course, it’s not just the appearance of new links that will affect a website’s performance in the SERPs – it’s also the loss of links that will influence your positions. Again – use a backlink tool such as Majestic or Ahrefs and check to see whether any links that have disappeared are simply down temporarily or whether they have gone completely. Remember – any suspicious activity will flag the alarm bells as far as the search engines are concerned. You should also check your competitors’ backlinks to see if they have been affected in a similar way.
If you have recently changed domain names and you are relying on link juice being passed from page redirects from a previous website then it is important that those redirects are still in place. You need to make sure that any historic redirects – 301s, 302s or any others – are still live or whether they have been removed or modified. If they have been altered or removed then you need to address the issue.
Search engine penalties
Have you incurred a penalty – either manual or algorithmic – which has had a negative effect on your search engine positions? Go to Google Search Console and look for any messages that you may have received which should tell you whether you have been issued with a penalty for some reason.
You will need to look at the Manual Actions section which can be found in the Search Traffic category to see if there is anything you need to know about and fix.
Have you been negatively affected by a new algorithm update? Check any worrying fluctuations in terms of ranking positions with any newly released algorithm changes. To keep on top of any new algorithm updates – make sure you frequent the news sections on quality SEO websites such as Moz.
Make sure that there are no technical faults on your web pages that are affecting your SEO performance and that everything renders correctly. No index tags, dodgy canonical tags and even the robots.txt file can make it difficult or impossible for the search engine’s to crawl and index your site – so if there are any issues here then they need to be resolved as quickly as possible to get things back to normal.
If your server is not working properly when your site is being crawled – then it stands to reason that Google won’t be able to index or cache the pages. You can use the Fetch and Render function in Search Console to check for any issues here – and also take a look at the server logs and try to identify any problems that might inadvertently stopping Googlebot from doing its job.
Changes in search engine behaviour
Every now and then, the search engines change the way they deliver results to end users and this obviously affects how highly a page will rank in terms of the keywords it is listed under. For example, if Google decides that a search term is news based – then it will preferably deliver freshly updated blogs and articles as opposed to static content. Products can also be affected in a similar way – so make sure you list the latest products and services that users are searching for and on a regular basis.
By keeping a careful eye on your search engine positions and constantly checking for any issues that may be affecting your website’s performance – you should always be able to recover from any minor fluctuations and losses relatively quicker before suffering any major negative impact. However, if you don’t monitor things regularly and you don’t take the required action then you are unwittingly giving your competitors the edge that they need whilst losing out on those all important visitors and sales conversions.