Is your website no longer ranking at the top of the search results? The number of visitors your website attracts is largely dependent on its search rankings. With a sudden drop in rankings, your website’s traffic will suffer, meaning fewer opportunities for your online business to generate a sale or conversion.
To regain your website’s lost traffic, you must understand what caused its rankings to drop. Here are 7 possible reasons your website’s search rankings have dropped and what to do about it.
1. URL Change
Changing some or all of your website’s URLs can cause its search rankings to drop. Search engines treat each URL as a unique page. Therefore, changing a page’s URL will cause search engines to stop ranking it. They’ll typically delete the old URL from their index and, instead, add the new URL.
If you’re going to change any URLs on your website, use a 301 redirect to change a page’s URL so when a user clicks on the old URL, it redirects them to the new one. Redirects protect against loss of rankings when changing URLs.
2. Content Stagnation
Another possible reason your website’s search rankings have dropped is content stagnation. Search engines reward websites that feature fresh content with higher rankings. Conversely, they punish websites that feature stale or stagnant content with lower rankings.
You don’t have to publish new content daily, but you should strive to keep your website’s content fresh. According to HubSpot, publishing one to four pieces of content per week should suffice for most small websites.
In addition to publishing new content, you can revise or expand old content on your website to keep it fresh. Making small changes to a piece of content shows search engines that your website is fresh and, therefore, highly relevant. Use your All Pages report to see your most visited pages and expand on these topics.
If you want to know what keywords your visitors are USING to land on your site, your Google Analytics Acquisition report > Campaign > Organic Keywords is where you can see this information. Or if you have Search Console connected to your analytics (which you should!), go to Acquisition report > Search Console > Queries. Google Search Console is another place you can find this information. We also have an organic search dashboard to help make getting this information super easy.
3. Decreased User Engagement
Changes in user engagement can cause your website’s search rankings to swiftly drop. If visitors stop interacting with your website, search engines may believe your site is no longer relevant to the search queries for which it currently ranks. As a result, your website’s search rankings may drop, at least until its user engagement signals improve.
Some of the most important user engagement metrics for search engine optimization (SEO) are found in your Google Analytics Audience Report and include:
- Average pages per session
- Average session duration
- Average time on page
- Bounce rate
- New vs returning visitors
4. Crawling Error
Crawling errors are often responsible for drops in search rankings. Search engines must be able to crawl your website to determine its rankings. If Google or other search engines can no longer crawl your website, or if you inadvertently tell them not to index your site, they may delete it from the search results.
Most crawling errors are the result of code that either blocks search engines from crawling a page or tells them not to index the page. While you can check for crawling errors by reviewing your website’s code, including its robots.txt file and .htaccess file, an easier way is to use a URL inspection tool. Available for free through Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, it allows you to view your website from Google’s or Bing’s perspective. If either of the search engines can’t crawl your website, the URL inspection will tell you why.
5. Loss of Backlinks
While undoubtedly a powerful ranking signal, backlinks don’t last forever. A blogger, for instance, may remove a link pointing to your site, or he or she could shut down the blog linking to your site. If your website loses more backlinks than what it gains in a specified period, you may notice your search rankings have dropped. For consistently high rankings, your website’s backlink profile needs to grow.
6. Increased Competition
Even if you follow all the best practices for on-page and off-page SEO, increased competition may cause your website to rank lower. Hundreds of thousands of new websites are launched every day. If some of these websites are optimized for the same search queries as your site, you may struggle to stay on top of the search results.
Unfortunately, you’ll have little or no control over the amount of competition your website faces. You can’t prevent others from pursuing the same search queries for which your website ranks. If you’re worried that competitors will push out your website in the search results, though, you can target narrower and longer search queries.
7. Algorithm Update
Your website’s search rankings may fluctuate in response to a recent algorithm update. All search engines use algorithms to evaluate websites and determine their rankings. However, search engines frequently change their algorithms by rolling out new updates. When an algorithm update occurs, it may cause your website’s rankings to change with it.
In January 2020, Danny Sullivan revealed in a tweet that Google’s algorithm undergoes an average of two to four major updates per year. Also known as core updates, they have a wide-reaching effect on how websites rank. Some major algorithm updates performed by Google affect over 10 percent of all search queries.
With that said, Google performs many more minor algorithm updates. While minor algorithm updates are less influential than major updates, they can still affect where your website ranks.
Recap: Possible Reasons Your Website’s Rankings Have Dropped
Maybe you recently changed your website’s URLs, or perhaps your website contains a crawling error. Regardless, if your website is pushed down to the bottom of the search results, it will generate less traffic. By diagnosing why your website’s search rankings have dropped can mitigate its effects to retain or even increase your website’s traffic.
Interested in other ways to optimize your website? Check out these blog posts.