Gaining rankings on Google can be quite the challenge. It takes a lot of skill, expertise and time to rank for the right keywords on Google, but what can be even more challenging and perplexing is losing rankings on Google.
You invested a lot of time and effort to rank at the top of Google and now you have lost it – what do you do? Is there a way to regain your rankings on Google? In short, yes, but at the same time, you need to figure out why your website lost its rankings in the first place. And that is why I made this guide.
Here are two reasons why your website’s rankings dropped on Google:
1. Manual action or penalties from Google for not following Google’s webmaster quality guidelines
2. Noindex tagging – the noindex tag is a global setting for posts telling search engines not to index pages and posts and thus could affect rankings
Besides these two cases, there may be other reasons why your website has suddenly lost rankings on Google.
Disallowing robots.txt file, which directs crawling of pages by search engines: The setting also directs search engines not to index and therefore rank your pages, which affects overall rankings directly.
Incomplete changes during migration and redesign: Some redesigns, redirections and migrations come with errors such as changing site and page URLs, which means they are not visible to users. In other cases, they may be visible but their ranking is different because search engine crawlers see and rank them as new pages.
Change of content on the website pages: A drop in page rankings can result from a drop in the volume of keywords. For instance, if you have been tracking a high-volume keyword for your site, it is critical to increase the volume of the keyword as you change the content on a page. Otherwise, the rankings will also drop. However, this drop is not as immediate.
Significant loss of backlinks: Links are among the ranking metrics Google uses to rank sites, especially the external backlinks of your site located on other websites. Hence a change in the number of backlinks and removal of some of them from other articles and sites will significantly affect rankings. These articles might have been deleted. However, again this would happen gradually and over time and not immediately.
Increase in ranking competition: Google Analytics and other similar tools track the level of competition for each particular keyword. It is also possible for web owners to monitor search volumes per given keywords. Hence, for each particular keyword, you can expect to increase the volume of keywords by generating more articles for particular keywords.
Otherwise, over time, you would naturally expect to rank lower on search engines. It’s the reason Google recommends fresh but also regular content for better rankings. If other web owners are publishing better quality, more backlinks or more comprehensive articles than yours, you rank lower.
Decrease in user experience: User experience is determined by combined issues including page load speeds, mobile-friendliness and intrusive interstitials. Design can also affect user experience where the pages appear clumsy and hard to navigate. Therefore, changes in designs can affect rankings.
Volatile search results: Some pages will mostly carry static search engine results pages (SERPs) for their queries. In other cases, SERPs can change very frequently, due to several factors.
For instance, it can happen for timely result queries or in cases where the search engine isn’t confident in the searchers’ intent. Thus it may display results as it tries to satisfy the user intent.
The intent for a particular keyword can also change. An example would be when a large volume of people have been searching for the keyword, as may happen when there is news with related keywords. In the case of SERPs changing frequently due to timely result queries, searches for news are always prioritized as timely search results but some other content may also apply as demanding timely search result ranking. Hence the queries may be said to have volatile search results.
Change in search engine algorithm: This one is the most obvious cause for a drastic change in rankings. When search engines change their algorithms, they affect rankings drastically.
The solution to quickly recovering lost rankings on Google will obviously depend on the cause. We already listed several reasons for a drop in your website’s rankings on Google. So here is how to fix the problems on your website and recover lost rankings on Google.
Google Search Console provides tools and reports to measure traffic and site performance over a variety of factors. It tracks down clicks and impressions yearly or monthly. It can also be used to identify and fix issues Google has with your site pertaining to ranking and SEO. Simply visit this link and log in with your Google account if not yet logged in.
By visiting the Security and Manual Actions tab on the left-hand side of the website, you can see if there are manual actions taken against your site. If none, you will see the statement “no issues detected” on the page. This applies to both the Manual Actions and Security Issues tab.
Otherwise, the specific issue you have been penalized for will appear. It also includes instructions on how to recover from these issues as they may be specific to your site.
Google can also issue manual penalties if you’re manually buying backlinks or if user-generated spam is present, among other issues mentioned on Google’s page on manual actions. Most of these can be easy to remove, for instance by deleting the comments and links. This Search Console Help article also explains the meaning of different errors that could appear on this page.
These issues will still be reflected on the Google Search Console if you or a hacker has installed malware or harmful software on the site. Some of the solutions include, of course, removing the malware code and software.
As explained, the no-index tag is either your own or the developer’s error when editing or moving the site. Of course, the first step is identifying what pages and posts are non-indexed.
You can use the Robots Exclusion Checker extension for Chrome or Seerobots for Mozilla Firefox users to identify what pages have not been indexed by checking the status of robots.txt.
You have the option of using the View Page Source resource on the browser by right-clicking anywhere on any page while opened on the browser to check if it is indexed. After the page properties code appears, click Control + F (Windows) or Command + F (Mac) to pop up the Find function and search for “noindex.” If any is found, you can go into your website and remove the no-index tag.
The tag applies to an individual post and page. You can also change the setting back to Yes using Yoast SEO and update the page or post.
Also, by pasting the link of non-indexed pages and posts on the Google Search Console search and requesting a re-index, you can add it to the crawling queue.
This will also fix the robots.txt file errors for indexing issues because this is the basic website file that directs crawlers to index your site.
To check if the site’s robots.txt file has issues, simply type the domain name followed by /robots.txt. Then, from the list that appears, review those with disallow against them. You may have disallowed some pages intentionally for crawling, in which case you should allow them on the robots.txt file, which can be found from your site’s Control Panel.
Simply log in, locate the robots.txt from your root directory using the File Manager, open it and change the code on this file to include dofollow code instructions.
As previously mentioned, changes in site URLs will affect the rankings as Google sees new URLs as new web pages and will index them again. In that case, redirects can help. You can retain your old rankings using the 301 redirects where you direct old URLs to point to the new ones.
These redirects can be implemented using different plugins for content management systems. You can simply install these plugins on your site and input old and new URLs on their interface to redirect a given old URL to a new one manually.
There are multiple tools you can use to monitor rankings when changing content, and therefore determine if your SEO rankings dropped due to changes in content.
Then you can inject more keywords, internal links and backlinks if you establish that this is the reason for the changes in your rankings. There are several tools you also can use to monitor your backlinks for free, so you can count them and their sources. It is then necessary to generate new ones or restore those that have been lost.
Creating more relevant content for your website is also key to regaining your rankings again if no other problems are arising in your website.
If you have lost rankings on Google, the thing you don’t want to do is to get emotional and try to fix everything on your website right away. I would actually recommend you to NOT do anything on your website for about a week and to use this guide as a reference to figure out why your website has lost its rankings on Google.
Once you are able to understand why your website lost its rankings on Google, then you can start taking small steps to correcting the errors you may have.