Wouldn’t it frustrate you to see your search rankings drop after months of pure hard work? Anyone who’s done SEO or search engine optimization for years now knows that this can happen to anyone―even to the most dedicated marketer.
Before you end up losing all your website traffic and potential customers, you need to do two things. First, figure out the reason behind the decrease in your rankings. Second, fix those issues as soon as possible so that you can get back on track.
In this article, you’ll find a checklist of all the possible reasons why your SEO performance has plummeted. But if that hasn’t happened yet, consider this a helpful guide to minimize, if not completely avoid, such problems soon.
Let’s get started.
1. An algorithm update
While this isn’t an SEO issue, to begin with, it’s worth mentioning! As a website owner, you need to check for a recent algorithm change that you might not be aware of. This is a good place to start.
Google has done countless algorithm updates, with hundreds being done each year. The reason? To ensure that its users get the best possible search experience.
What to do: Keep up with algorithm updates. You can do this by following Google Search Liaison on Twitter. They often announce the updates there. At the same time, join SEO online forums.
2. Slow page speed
Page speed refers to the time it takes for a web page to show its content. Google made it clear that it considers page speed as one of its ranking factors. So, be sure to include speed on your SEO success checklist.
Slow pages lower rankings by causing visitors to bounce or spend less time on the page. One of the reasons behind slow-loading pages are big, high-resolution images. Another culprit is bloated code.
What to do: Diagnose speed issues using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. Simply enter your URL and click ANALYZE. Google will provide an overall score and a list of suggestions to boost your page speed.
3. Duplicate content
Duplicate content means that the same piece of content appears more than once on the same website or in different places on the internet. Sometimes, this is done to manipulate rankings. Other times, it happens unintentionally.
For instance, let’s say that you run an e-commerce website. You use the same descriptions across multiple product pages. That’s considered duplicate content. Yet, it’s clear that this wasn’t done with any malicious intent.
Google is smart enough to identify duplicate content with the intention of manipulating search results. In such cases, a website may suffer from a penalty or get deindexed.
What to do: Be sure to specify which page is the right one. One solution is implementing a 301 redirect from the “duplicate” page to your preferred page. In case your content is being syndicated elsewhere, tell that website owner to “noindex” that page. That way, Google won’t show it on its search results.
4. Bad backlinks
It’s no secret that links matter for SEO. Backlinks or links coming from another website to yours, specifically. Whether you’re building backlinks to rank higher or have already been getting them naturally, they need to be high in quality.
Toxic or bad backlinks are those that come from unreliable sources. Common examples include private blog networks (PBNs) and cheap link services like Fiverr. Websites in niches that Google monitors closely often experience the impact of these bad backlinks.
What to do: Got a bad link from a site without your knowledge? Contact the site administrator and request for the backlink to be removed. Alternatively, you can use Google’s disavow tool. Note that Google recommends using this tool only if you’re convinced that your backlinks have caused SEO problems.
5. Redesigned website
Don’t get this wrong. Redesigning your website can actually help increase your SEO performance, user experience, and conversions. However, if you’re not careful, you could lose your rankings.
A common mistake is changing your URL structure even if there’s nothing wrong with it. Concerning that, another mistake is not setting up redirects.
What to do: Should you decide on a website redesign, avoid any disaster by first saving your old website on a dev subdomain. Do the necessary redirects and do not fix what isn’t broken! As much as possible, have a professional do it for you―someone or a team with a good track record.
6. High bounce rate
First of all, what does bounce rate mean? It refers to the percentage of visitors who arrive on your website without taking any sort of action. They don’t click any button or read other articles. If you’re seeing a high bounce rate in your Google Analytics, that might help explain why your rankings are not improving.
A high bounce rate can mean a lot of things. Basically, it tells you that your site has problems that prevent people from converting.
One possibility is a slow-loading page as we’ve discussed earlier. Another is that your content hasn’t met their needs or is low in quality. If visitors are bombarded with ads or pop-ups, they won’t hesitate to leave.
What to do: If you see a high bounce rate of at least 70% coupled with low conversion rates, you need to do something about it. Try to identify potential problems from a user’s perspective. Are there technical errors? Is your content enticing? You might also want to use heat maps to better understand visitor behavior.
7. Lost backlinks
Backlinks still remain as a factor that determines your rankings. If you’re getting quality backlinks that helped boost your website traffic, you’ll also want to make sure to not lose them.
The most common reason for losing a backlink is a change in your website’s URL structure. You may have created a new page and forgotten to set-up a redirect. Another reason is that the website that linked to you changed their outbound links from dofollow to nofollow.
What to do: First, find out whether you’ve lost some links by using a backlink tracking tool. There are many tools to help you with this. Once you’ve confirmed a lost backlink, reclaim it. Reach out to the webmaster of that website via email and ask that they link to you again. Be sure to include the new URL in your email. Not all webmasters may respond, but this strategy is worth a shot.
8. A change in search behavior
This isn’t an SEO issue on your website but rather it reflects your audience’s behaviors that may change over time. A perfect example is the recent COVID-19 pandemic that shifted people’s preferences to help them adapt.
Certain topics in your niche may increase in demand and what’s currently on your site may no longer be relevant. As a result, you will see a drop in your article or page rankings.
What to do: Make an effort to stay up-to-date with current search trends. You can know this using Google Trends. Next, create valuable content that reflects your audience’s new reality. Update outdated content where possible. By doing this, you’re letting Google know that you’re being helpful!
9. The Core Web Vitals
Have you heard about the Core Web Vitals? If not, then you should know that this will become a ranking factor in 2021. Once it rolls out in May, it’s going to impact search results for both desktop and mobile.
The Core Web Vitals takes into account the overall experience of your users. It measures the following: A page’s loading time, interactivity, and visual stability. Low scores mean a poor user experience and therefore, lower rankings.
What to do: Find out how well your site is performing in terms of the Core Web Vitals. There are many Google tools to help with the investigation process, but a good place to start would be the PageSpeed Insights tool. It’ll show scores for all 3 web vitals and suggest actions for improvement.
10. Website downtime
Google doesn’t want to rank websites that are down to avoid bad user experiences. Keep in mind, though, that website outages do not result in a penalty. Rather, your search performance decreases when Google bots crawl and the outage happens during that time.
While outages aren’t 100% preventable (they can happen and that’s the truth), make sure that your site isn’t down frequently. If not, your rankings won’t only suffer, but your brand also loses its credibility.
What to do: Invest in a high-quality web host. Do not use shared hosting to prevent overcrowding servers and reducing your own website’s performance. It’s also important to prevent hacking attempts by updating your plugins, using stronger passwords, and making security checks regularly.
These are just some important issues that lead to a reduction in your website rankings and traffic. When you experience it, start making your diagnosis by employing checks right away so that you can recover in no time.
Even if you’re satisfied with your current performance, stay up-to-date with the best SEO practices. As mentioned previously, Google updates its algorithm frequently. Whether these are small or big updates, being on top of your game is the best way to stay visible on search.