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Why Have My Google Rankings Gone Down?
Have you noticed that your website has recently lost its ranking position in search engine results? Working at an SEO company in Maryland, I’m used to hearing new clients say things like, “I used to rank on the first page of Google search results for X,Y, and Z and now I’m nowhere to be found! Why have my rankings gone down? How can I get them back up?”
At Blue Corona, we use a special in-house-designed tracking software to keep track of hundreds of thousands of strategically-chosen keywords for each of our clients (and for ourselves). Because we’re incredibly awesome at what we do (hey thanks!), we’re used to seeing pretty dramatic increases in our clients’ rankings from month to month. But from week to week and day to day, it’s not completely unusual to see some flex in rankings.
Of course if you’ve lost a significant amount of your Google rankings, it could be a sign that something else is up:
Google Algorithm Updates
In roughly the past two years or so, Google has done massive updates to its search algorithm to target and penalize webspam. If you’ve ever heard of Google Panda or Google Penguin, we’re not talking about rainbow colored zoo animals—these are names of two of the biggest Google algorithm updates.
First noticed by SEO experts in February 2011, Google Panda penalized websites with low quality content. Google Penguin didn’t come on the scene until April 2012. It was designed to penalize websites engaged in various forms of webspam such as keyword stuffing and paid link building.
According to Moz, each year Google changes its search algorithm 500-600 times. Some of these updates are minor, while some of them impact search results (and your site’s rankings) more significantly. If your site was impacted by a Google algorithm update, you may still find your website when you search for your company name and even for some generic keyword searches, but you’ll probably find that your overall rankings and traffic from your most competitive keywords are down.
My recommendation? Check your non-branded organic traffic in Google Analytics and see where you first noticed a drop (if I lost you at non-branded organic traffic or Google Analytics, please call us immediately because you desperately need our help). Then head over to Moz and check to see if the date coincides with a Google algorithm update. Once you’ve confirmed the nature of the update, it should be pretty clear what you need to do to get back on track with Google, but you can always hire an SEO company to help you out to save some time and potential headaches.
Manual Google Penalties
According to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, there are two different types of penalties—manual penalties and algorithmic penalties. With a manual penalty, you probably won’t even be able to find your website by name. In other words, if you Google, “www.yoursite.com,” you’ll get nothing. This indicates that your site has been completely removed from Google’s index. A manual penalty probably cannot be resolved without contacting Google and making a “consideration request.” Luckily, when you receive a manual penalty, you’ll be notified in Google Webmaster Tools–so make sure you check it regularly.
Using Google Webmaster Tools
Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) is helpful for monitoring the general health of your website and can be extremely useful in catching Google penalties early on. For example, GWT will alert you of unnatural links pointing to your website. If you (or your SEO firm) have engaged in manipulative linking strategies and Google has messaged you, you’ll want to take immediate action. My shark-week obsessed coworker has a good blog post on what backlinks you should remove and how.
GWT may message you if your site:
- Flags an unnatural link warning
- Is ready for an update to your CMS (including WordPress and Drupal)
- Experiences a big traffic change
- Has a large increase in 404 errors
- Blocks access from Googlebot
These are all great warnings from Google of current or potential future manual penalties. After using white hat (i.e. ethical) techniques to optimize your site in response to these messages, you can submit a reconsideration request to Google’s spam team in attempt to lift manual penalties and begin restoring your rankings. When you receive a manual penalty from Google, you will know exactly what has violated the webmaster quality guidelines and can quickly take action to fix the mistake.
Other Potential Sources for Lost Google Rankings
This is going to sound weird, but it’s possible that your site is TOO well optimized for search engines. Google wants to create the best user experience possible for its users, so a site with a bunch of keyword stuffing and other unnatural optimizations could get you flagged.
Another common issue we’ve seen is over-optimized links to a website. This basically means that too many links use the exact same optimized anchor text. If you’ve been doing a lot of guest blog posting and sending a lot of press releases with links on identical anchor text, this is a problem.
Of course, your site might have been inadvertently penalized for something completely out of your control. In one situation, we saw a company that had their site “scraped” (copied) by dozens of other websites. This caused an “unnatural link warning” in Google Webmaster Tools and appeared to cause their organic rankings to tank. Nothing they had done caused the problem, but they were able to get the copied sites taken down and, over time, their rankings returned to normal.
How to Get Your Google Rankings Back
At Blue Corona, we understand that losing your Google rankings means losing traffic, leads, and sales for your business. That’s why we offer Google penalty recovery services to help get you back in Google’s good graces as fast as possible. Our team of SEO experts will help you quickly and accurately diagnose the problem and come up with a plan to recover your lost rankings, leads, and sales.
Contact us today and we’ll analyze why your rankings have gone down and what to do to recover them.
About The Author: Blue Corona is a data-driven online marketing company with offices in Gaithersburg, MD and Charlotte, N.C.
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