5 Step Action Plan to Combat a Google Ranking Drop

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  • July 25, 2007
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Lets imagine your site was receiving thousands of visitors per day from Google. The traffic may have been from mainly long tail searches across thousands of keywords or from a few high volume competitive keywords.

One day your traffic levels drop and you can’t immediately see why. This action plan will take you through the steps involved in finding out what happened and deciding what action, if any, to take.

Look at your stats

Check your server logs and traffic stats for anomalies that might indicate your server went down at some stage in the last 2 weeks. If you have server issues while Google is doing a deep crawl you will find the pages that were unavailable will be dropped from the search results until they are crawled again. Losing thousands of pages can result in a substantial drop in traffic.

Webmaster Central

Checking Webmaster Central will show you whether your site still has pages indexed (you can do this using a site:www.yoursite.com search as well) and if Google has encountered any problems crawling your site.

Look out for the “Web crawl errors” section and make sure that any problems Google has found in the past are not still occurring. Common mistakes include errors in robots.txt and htaccess files.

If you find that there have been problems and that the issues are now resolved there is no action you can take to make Google crawl again quickly, the problem should sort itself out within 14 days depending on how often Google spiders your website. Talk to your host or web developer to make sure the issue isn’t going to happen again.

Are you banned?

If the issues can’t be traced to your server or some coding mistake then the situation becomes slightly more worrying. If your site is no longer appearing in Google for a site:www.yoursite.com query then you may have been banned. The best thing to do is sit down and read the Webmaster Guidelines and write down what you have been doing to promote your website, anything that is outside the Google guidelines might cause them to remove your site from the index.

In the event you are confident you haven’t broken any of the rules you should start looking for other websites that are suddenly copying your content or duplicating your pages. Make sure you haven’t suddenly attracted millions of links from p0rn sites as this might raise a flag at Google. Also check your pages haven’t been hacked to include spam content and links.

Common issues frowned upon by Google are buying or selling links, using hidden text on web pages, doorway pages, mass link exchanges and anything else designed to artificially inflate your rankings.

Once you find the issue that caused your site to be banned, submit a reinclusion request to Google and wait. This process isn’t quick but you should see results, depending on the nature of your violation.

I’m not banned

In most cases your site won’t be banned from Google, the pages simply won’t rank as highly as they did before. The search results are changing by the hour and most sites don’t maintain the same rankings for long.

If your traffic drop is major then it is likely that Google either altered the algorithm to place less weight on whatever factors were giving you good rankings before OR they gave your site a manual penalty. A third option is that other sites have overtaken you but if your traffic drop is sudden and quite large this is unlikely.

Try to sit down and analyse what marketing strategies you have been doing to promote your website. Unless you have attracted a few hundred natural links from high quality sites in the last few months it is likely that your rank has fallen due to an over reliance on paid links or directory links.

The first thing I do whenever rankings drop is sit down and create some linkbait articles for a few days.

Don’t panic

If you still don’t have any answers, relax and don’t panic. Google alters the algorithms all the time, sometimes sites can disappear for a couple of days and come back stronger than ever.

Keep an eye on the SEO blogs and webmaster forums and try to figure out what has changed in the algorithm and start working towards solving the issue.

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