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August 10, 2011

10 Reasons Your Site’s Search Engine Ranking Dropped

search engine rankings

Search engine traffic is one of the most valuable and targeted sources of traffic because people generally trust web pages which garner one of the top spots in their search engine of choice. It takes a lot of time in link building and building your social search reputation on social networks.

If your search engine traffic disappears overnight, then without being properly diversified in the kinds of traffic you tap, you can find yourself up the creek with no paddle. This is why I preach the importance of traffic diversity.

But why did your ranking suddenly drop? This post will look at 10 of the most common reasons for why your ranking can disappear seemingly out of nowhere.

The Google Honeymoon Ended

If you have a relatively new site which is only a few months old and you found that you were enjoying cushy rankings for much of that time until now, it’s most likely the result of the Google Honeymoon. This is the term for the phenomenon where a new site enjoys high rankings for a short period of time before falling to its more realistic ranking.

Google Sandbox Effect Started

The “Google Sandbox Effect” refers to the effect where new sites get dropped in the sandbox shortly after being created. You may enjoy those nice rankings due to the honeymoon or another phenomenon temporarily, but afterwards you are dropped in the sandbox which is like a punishment for new sites just for being new and unproven. In this case you should stick to low competition keywords, creating great content, and looking for high authority incoming links to prove your value to Google to get you out of the sandbox sooner than later.

Algorithm Updates/Link Juice Lost

Probably the most common reason your site disappeared is due to a change in the search engine’s algorithms. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms which dictate where pages rank for keywords in the search engine results pages in order to keep things fresh and ensure that the best content is kept at the top. Even if your site isn’t being directly affected by an algorithm update, sites which you get a lot of your links from could be which can diminish the amount of link juice which you have overnight, so your ranking will likely drop with it.

Most recently the Google farmer update, also known as the Panda Update, slapped the influence which content farm sites (sites with huge amounts of sub par content with an emphasis on quantity over quality) had in the search engines, so content farms as well as the millions of websites receiving link juice from them were seriously affected practically overnight.

Malware

If your site is the victim of malware and Google detects malware on any of your pages, it will notify and warn any potential visitors in the SERPs who click on your page before they actually get to your site. Very few people will proceed after seeing such a warning (would you?), so this can account for a HUGE drop in traffic and can dissuade not just the casual internet user but other webmasters who would potentially link to you or even those who have already linked to you to break those links. This obviously can have an adverse effect not only on your traffic but your rankings in a relatively short period of time.

Server Issues

If Google cannot access your server because of issues with your host or on your end, this can cause a problem if left unfixed after a period of a few days. I use GoDaddy for my hosting and have never had an issue in 5 years, nice!

Robot.txt File Problems

Make sure you don’t have any bonehead mistakes in your robot.txt which may be prohibiting search engine crawlers from gaining access to certain pages of your site. If that happens all of a sudden, you can find your ranking drop, so make sure you’re only blocking the URLs you don’t want crawled with that file.

Penalization

Your site could have been penalized without your even realizing it if you broke Google’s rules. Steer clear of black hat SEO techniques to ensure that you are not penalized.

Broken Links

Broken links can cause serious problems, especially if it’s a prominent internal link on your site. It can be time consuming/impossible to check each of your links manually, so I use a free plugin with WordPress called Broken Link Checker which gives you a heads up as soon as it detects a broken link on one of its regular checks.

Duplicate Content

Search engines like Google hate duplicate content. This is especially true when it happens on the same site, but it can be an issue on different websites, as well. Not only does this irk Google, but when it finds duplicate content in two or more locations online, Google has to determine which is the true original content, and it may not always be your site that gets the credit, regardless of whether you put that content on your site first or not; so this can have adverse effects on your rankings in a couple of ways.

Why not do a free search on CopyScape to see if anyone has copied your content without your permission.

The Google Dance

The Google Dance refers to the phenomenon of pages randomly jumping around different spots in the SERPs, sometimes drastically. Of all these reasons, this one is the least able to be explained clearly and rationally. Typically, if the Google dance is the culprit for your rankings drop, the good news is that you’ll regain your higher rankings shortly. It’s just a random shuffling and fluctuation of listings which usually doesn’t last long.


For more tips to improve your ranking, visit ConvertingCopy.com.

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14 Responses to “10 Reasons Your Site’s Search Engine Ranking Dropped

    Hi Paul,
    Bulk of information has been shared in the article. Many thanks for it, and there have been many terms and technologies that I came across for the first time like Google Honeymoon and Copyscape, and I have tried Copyscape, I think it would be a very helpful tool.
    Once again thanks.

    Regards,
    Bliss Ellison

    avatar Live Virtual Receptionist says:

    Many companies have multiple websites that all contain similar information. the goal of the update is to improve search results by reducing the number of low quality sites and create a better overall experience for consumers.

    avatar ishaan says:

    Thanks for sharing the information. it gives me a lot of insight on the topic.

    Conversely, you may find that your rankings have inexplicably jumped up – this may be due to your competitors being hit by the Panda update!

    What would be considered a new site? 1-6 months or 1-12 months old?

    avatar geekman says:

    Very very very very true indeed! I have felt this effect on my own skin many times. Google is very cautious for a good reason.

    avatar atifsilal says:

    thanks for such wonderful aritcle i read it several time and i find it very useful ,, such great and honest words , i read your other articles also daily ….once again thanks to writer and sitepronews

    Hi Paul,

    Your article is worth to read as ever. The main reason behind dropped ranking is most of the time in experience SEOs lead the site on a wrong path and which ultimately costs the site owner. This would be helpful to everyone working on SEO,

    avatar Mike says:

    I was getting a lot of quality traffic to my sites and then all of a sudden…nothing. I’m not trying to rank for competitive keywords. I’m not doing breaking any rules or getting too many back links too fast. I think I’m getting around 5 a day.

    My site dropped around 200 positions last week seems I have had an unwanted panda visit, crap!

    avatar Michael Gibson says:

    What can we do after using copyscape and descovering some on has created duplicates of our origional blog post? Google has now slaped a heavy penalty on me how do i get this corrected?

    avatar Jeff says:

    For all those Penguin affected people -

    Several of our clients immediately felt the effects of a drop in search rankings.

    We found that removing the excessive keywords and swapping them with keyphrases, our clients page rank returned within a few days.

    For more click here – http://www.webwonks.co.nz/penguin

    Feel free to contact us to trade seo advice.

    avatar Hasan Zaheer says:

    very good work, most of the issues in dropping website ranking are discussed here.

    Thanks, for the write up. I think my honeymoon is over. We’ll see if I get a bounce back in the next few months.

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