If you’re like most people, you won’t recall the last time you ventured onto the third or fourth page of Google Search results, much less anything further. Even the second page can often seem a bit unnecessary when compared to the first.
That first page of returns is coveted real estate for businesses, and for good reason.
Top rankings with Google means more visibility to potential customers, more legitimacy in the eyes of those customers and more click-throughs, which results in more traffic, more leads and more conversions. Where your business ranks within Google’s hallowed halls is a potentially critical factor in how your business fares, so when that rank you’ve worked so hard to achieve suddenly drops, it can be more than a little disconcerting.
The first thing you may ask yourself is what went wrong? What changed? Most of the time, it’s not necessarily even you or your site, but what’s happening around you, that’s shaking up the competitive power rankings. Here are the top six things to look into when your Google ranking shifts, and how best to respond.
Perhaps the most obvious answer is Google itself. It is no great secret that Google’s search algorithms are in a constant state of flux, always seeking to find new and better ways to provide internet questers with the answers they seek. In a single year alone, there may be as few as several hundred or as many as several thousand changes. It’s a lot to keep up with. But in order to maintain your Google ranking, it is an unfortunate necessity.
However, while you should certainly keep tabs on the updates, that doesn’t mean you will need to change up your entire website every single time Google makes a tweak to the formula. You’re running a business after all; nobody has the time or the patience for that. The most surefire way to survive the onslaught of algorithmic changes is to make your website absolutely rock solid in terms of content and that your landing pages convert.
One of the most important factors in maintaining your Google ranking is making sure you continue to implement the tried-and-true SEO strategies or, in other words, ensuring your site is crawlable by Google’s bots and staying up to date on the latest SEO trends. Creating a crawlable site means striking the right balance between keywords and phrases that are relevant to the subject matter being searched and enough quality content and site mapping that the crawlers can determine the site – and therefore your business – to be legitimate.
Staying abreast of the algorithm changes will allow you to recognize when an adjustment to your SEO strategy is necessary to maintain or even boost your business’s place in the Google ranks.
To learn more about how Google qualifies, organizes and rates web content, take a look at their search criteria.
Even more important than keeping tabs on the ever-changing algorithms is watching what other businesses in the industry are doing, for your competition, too, is changing on a daily basis. Every day, old competitors might go out of business, while new ones are coming onto the scene. And these new businesses may be bringing in fresh, innovative SEO content and strategies that can help move them up the ranks, while your business slips and becomes displaced.
Analyzing the sites and strategies of the top-ranked performers in your industry can help give you an idea of the areas where your own approach is on point, as well as where it could use improvement. You’ve heard the old saying, to be the best you have to beat the best, and it’s no different on the internet. Identify your competition’s SEO strengths, and then learn to do it better within your own site or outsource the SEO work if you’re a small business.
Something else to consider is why those new businesses are bringing a fresh new strategy to the table. Oftentimes, this is an adaptation driven by changing customer expectations. Current events and social movements, in particular, can motivate a shift in expectations of the kind of content people are seeking out, as well as the intent behind any given search term.
As customer needs and wants shift over time, successful businesses will adapt to meet those demands. Is your business continuing to meet the needs of your clients, or is it a step behind? And, directly tied to that in terms of Google rankings, is your website reflecting the changes your business is making to meet your customers’ needs?
If not, make sure your website’s information remains current and that any new, different or innovative products and services you might offer – particularly those that can meet these changed expectations – are given the appropriate spotlight within the site.
In an unfortunate twist, it could very well be those site updates causing that sudden dip in your business’s ranking. If you’re busy making changes and your keywords are tweaked or replaced altogether, your site could potentially flicker out of the scope of the algorithm. If Google’s crawlers find less relevance in your site post-update, the site slips in rank, and your updates were not a successful component of your SEO strategy.
However, you can’t allow your site to wallow and become irrelevant either. You will have to make the updates. To prevent any significant change in your rank through the update process, make sure that you keep the relevant terms and retain elements of your SEO strategy that have been consistently successful. In other words, don’t fix what ain’t broke.
And it’s important to note that content isn’t the only thing you’ll have to keep updated. As website hosting platforms evolve and technology changes, the back end of your website must also evolve in order to keep up. You may have the best content of anyone in your industry, but if your site returns a lot of errors, or if web pages can’t be found because they are no longer compatible or functional, the site certainly cannot earn a top ranking.
Finally, there’s a whole host of other possibilities outside of the internet – such as changes made within your business, brand management and other marketing strategies – that all have the potential to be reflected in your online presence and reception. Are you creating a great customer experience and responding to all of your reviews, even the negative reviews? That’s right, even responding to the negative reviews will bring legitimacy to your business.
Increasing or decreasing ad campaigns – whether those campaigns are digital, print, television or radio – can result in a change in the relevance of your brand or traffic to your site. Similarly, a particularly poorly received campaign could drop your rank, just as a highly successful campaign could improve it.
Other potential factors include procedural changes, such as a tweak to the formula or production of an item that results in a noticeable effect on quality. Maybe your business itself has reorganized or rebranded, a policy has changed or the way your company handles its customer service is different.
There’s a seemingly infinite number of business decisions that have the ability to impact brand reputation and sentiment, in which case your team may have to work to rectify something much more complex than a couple of keywords.
However, that is not to say you should rest upon your laurels should you manage to obtain one of Google’s coveted top rankings. In this world of search engine optimization, algorithm innovation and constant cultural flux, your business’s work is never truly finished.
Whether the specific factors that result in your change in rank is within your control or not, you have many options to mitigate the effects, and even a great opportunity to come out ahead of the competition. Here are some quick SEO tips to try and get those rankings back up in the meantime.