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January 20, 2008

How to Troubleshoot Dropped Search Engine Rankings

Are you baffled about a recent drop in your search engine rankings? Do you know where to start and get a handle on what the problem might be and how to remedy it? One option to consider is using search engine forums as a resource. They are full of questions from people who have experienced similar situations and are great resources for an answer or two. But let’s say you really want to get to the bottom of the problem and you want to do it yourself. The following are some of the beginning steps StepForth takes when evaluating dropped rankings.

Retrace Your Steps

Write a list of everything that anyone has done to your site within the past 3 weeks. Now look for anything that could have negatively impacted your content, site structure, or the reliability of your URL’s. Once you write down the course of events the answer might pop right out at you. Here are some common situational culprits:

You just moved your website to a different hosting provider: did your site experience much, if any, downtime during the switch over? Quality hosting companies will allow you to setup your site on their servers before the switch takes place so that downtime is minimized if not removed entirely. If a search engine happened to visit your site while it was down there is a small chance your rankings would be negatively affected but it will only happen for a short period. Once the search engine re-indexes your website everything should be back in order.

The structure of your site has permanently changed: did you redirect the traffic from the old URL’s to the new URL’s using a 301 redirect? If not then you should. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect which tells any visiting search engine to permanently change its index to reflect the new site structure.