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Swift 6: What to do if your Google rankings drop

By Nick Leech - November 21, 2016

In this latest Swift 6 video, I’ll be looking at one of the most terrifying things that can happen to a business – a drop in its website’s Google rankings. I’ll explain what you need to do to identify the reason behind your fall in Google rankings, and then you’ll be able to start working towards a recovery.

Has your website started to appear lower down the Google search results page? Here are six things that you should do right now.Number 1. Make sure that you have actually dropped by using a rank checker. The thing is – for the last year or 18 months, Google has personalised the results that each one of us sees based on the information that it holds about us. So based on where you are, the device you’re using, the searches that you’ve done in the past and the websites that you’ve visited – Google will take that information and it will provide a set of results that is just for you, and not for anyone else.

If you can’t see your site anymore, if you see your site lower than you think it actually is, it might well be because you’ve been doing that same search a number of times, you’ve not been clicking on your website. So Google has started to think “well, hang on, this site obviously isn’t appealing to this user. I’m going to start dropping it down and putting other websites there instead”. It might be that your site actually hasn’t dropped. You need to use a rank checking tool to see what the average person sees.

There are good, free rank checking tools. If you’re checking one or two keywords out there, I recommend checking SEMrush.com. Also have a look at serps.com. Two good free rank checking tools. So make sure you have actually dropped before you start to do anything else.

The second thing that you can do is to log into your Google Search Console. That used to be called Google Webmaster Tools. Check out to see if Google has left you any messages. If you’ve been hit by a manual penalty, if Google engineers have taken a look at your site and they think that you might be trying to trick Google into appearing higher up, if Google considers that that is the case, then they will give you a message there telling you that that’s what they think.

If your site has been hacked, Google will give you a message in the Google Search Console. So check your messages, find out if you have anything there from Google, read it. That might explain why your site is lower than it used to be. That’s the very first thing that you should do. It’s the first place to check if you think you’ve got a problem.

The third thing that you should do is once you’re in the Google Search Console check it for 404 errors. A 404 error is when you arrive on a particular web page and the content for that web page is just no longer there. It’s called a 404 error. If you’ve recently updated your site and perhaps you’ve changed your URLs or you’ve deleted some pages from your site, if these were pages that were previously ranking on Google and now there’s no longer any content there, they will be throwing lots of 404 errors. You will get that report within the Google Search Console.

If you’re getting lots of 404 errors, it means that users are arriving on a page that doesn’t exist anymore. Soon Google will learn that and it will stop showing that page in its results, which means that your site will probably disappear or the page that you were ranking for will probably disappear from that set of results. So log into the Console, check your 404 error report and find out if there’s been a burst of 404 errors, which may well be down to the fact that you have deleted a page or moved content elsewhere in your site.

The fourth thing that you can do is use the Panguin tool (just Google the Panguin tool). What this does is it overlays your Google Analytics data with all of the updates that there have been to the Google search algorithm. If you know that there was a particular update on a day and then after that day your traffic started to fall, then you have a clear reason as to why your site is no longer ranking. If you know what update has affected you, whether that’s Panda or Penguin, you will know what to address, what problems to solve in order to get your site back ranking again.

So just search for Panguin tool, take a look at what it shows and find out if your traffic has started to fall after a particular update from Google.

The fifth thing that you should do, and do this particularly if you have been dropped entirely from the Google search results, is try searching for site:”yourwebsite.com”. What doing this search will do (and we’ll leave some notes below if you haven’t quite grasped what I’m asking you to do) is it will let you know if Google has dropped you from their index entirely, if they are no longer looking at and crawling your site. If they’re not crawling your site, in almost every case this is down to the fact that you’ve updated some code on your site. You might well have disallowed Google from crawling your site with the robots.txt file.

You should also check if something called a noindex tag has been added to your site. A noindex tag will prevent a page from being included in the results page. If it’s applied across your whole site, then none of your pages will show up. You can actually look for this in the Google Search Console again. Just look under Crawl errors and robots.txt tester.

The sixth thing that you should do is look at if whether you’ve dropped further down the page, why are these other sites now ranking above you? Perhaps it’s something that they’ve done that made them rank higher, rather than something that you’ve done to make you rank lower. Try to understand why these pages and these websites are ranking above yours.

Analyse the pages that now outrank you. Do they have better SEO metrics? Is their content richer, is it better written? Is their usability better, do they provide a nicer place for their users? It may well be that people have been clicking through to their site and staying there a long time, and Google sees that. Whereas for your site it might be that they click through, they stay for ten seconds and then they click the back button.

Google will have that data, it will think that you aren’t really answering users’ questions so it will start to move you down the page. So look at those other sites and try to understand why they might be performing better from an SEO point of view.

At this point I have to mention the 123-reg Search Engine Optimiser tool because it’s a really great troubleshooting tool to let you look at your competitors and understand why they might be ranking better than you.

That was the 123-reg Swift 6 – What you should do if your website starts to drop on the Google search results page. I’ll see you next time!