If you've ever done SEO, you know how good it feels when your rankings go up.
You put a lot of hard work into getting up the SERPs and it is finally paying off.
But then the unexpected happens. Your leaderboards are falling.
Few things in search engine optimization are more daunting than falling in the ranking. You feel like all you did was useless.
You wonder what went wrong or if you made a mistake. You beat yourself up because you didn't get it right.
You're back in first place and have to start over.
Or do you
In my experience this is not always the case.
My ranking has dropped more times than I can count. At first I panicked.
As I learned more, I found that losing a position or two isn't the end of the world. Obviously, it's not ideal, but there is a lot you can do to correct the problem.
I'll show you that today. Even if your leaderboards are where you want them to be, you need to be clear about how to get them back when they fall (because they do).
Analyze the drop
Ideally, before taking any action to improve your leaderboards, you need to track your leaderboards daily so you can see if they are rising or falling.
The reason you want to keep track of your rankings on a daily basis is because Google makes 3200 algorithm changes per year, which is a little over 8 algorithm changes per day.
Hence, you have no choice but to keep track of your leaderboard on a daily basis.
How you do that?
First, go to the Ubersuggest dashboard and click "Add Your First Project".
It's as easy as adding your url.
Then select the locations where you do business and from which you want traffic.
Then add the keywords that you currently rank or want to search for.
And of course, set up your traffic preferences. Make sure you select "Daily" ranking and turn on mobile ranking.
And then you're good to go.
Then you will be notified by email when your leaderboards go down (or up) as there is no way you will have the time to manually check each day.
When you log into your Ubersuggest dashboard, you will see an updated view of your website:
Then when you drill down into your leaderboard you will see a report of what is increasing or decreasing.
When you look at your leaderboards, it's normal for them to fluctuate a few places here or there. However, when you suddenly see all of your leaderboards falling, you know you have to do something.
Have you been punished
In most cases, your website has not been penalized and you don't need to worry about it.
If you haven't done anything wrong like "buy links" then you don't need to worry about a penalty.
If you're not sure, read this list and wonder if your website is guilty of any of these SEO sins. If so, identify the problems and take action to correct them.
Even if you haven't done anything on this list, you could still have received a penalty. Google's algorithms are updated frequently and are incredibly complex.
They take hundreds of factors into account when considering ranking. One day your site may not deserve a penalty, the next may.
It is important to understand the types of penalties: manual and algorithmic.
Manual penalties are imposed by the Google webspam team for being notified of suspicious activity.
This could be due to unnatural links or someone filed a spam report against you.
If you received a manual penalty, you should have received a notification in Google Webmaster Tools. Here is an example of an unnatural link message:
The other type of penalty is an algorithmic penalty.
These penalties are harder to understand because there is no definitive way of knowing you received one.
To determine if you received an algorithmic penalty, you need to know how Google's algorithms work.
If you find yourself doing something that an algorithm doesn't like, there is a good chance that you will receive a penalty. But you also have to think about new penalties.
If your rankings happened to be down, check Moz's handy directory of Google algorithm updates to see if a new one is at work.
A new algorithm could be the reason you're seeing lower placements. In that case, research the algorithm and find out what penalizes it.
A cool way to keep track of new penalties (and a host of other Google-related things) is to follow Gary Illyes, John Mueller, and Google Webmasters on Twitter.
Gary and John in particular have a lot of great advice, and you can often find them talking to other Twitter users.
You can even ask them a question directly and have them answered. You may not get an answer, but it's worth a try.
Do you have link problems?
This is a big one.
Think of links as the currency of SEO. It is essentially how you "gain" authority.
So it's no wonder that a strong link profile correlates with high rankings.
The downside is that a weak link profile correlates with low rankings.
I spend a lot of time working with clients in the SEO field and have seen many websites with numerous link problems.
Usually the company is not aware of this.
That's because the weak links are the silent killer of SEO. This is why you need to make sure that your link profile is robust.
First, do a link audit of your site. You can find step-by-step instructions here.
For the short version, use a backlink analyzer like SEMrush Backlink Checker to determine where your broken links are.
If you find bad links, contact these websites and ask them to remove the link. If that doesn't work, then as a last resort, use Google's Disavow tool.
However, I've found that doing a backlink audit around 90% of the time will help you find bad links.
But there is a problem here. Often times, the reasons for connection problems aren't that obvious.
If your link profile looks fine after an audit, problems can still occur. Here are some of the issues your link profile might face.
Did you know you can lose links? Both internal and external links?
This could also be the cause of your ranking drop.
Yes, you can lose internal links even if it is content you already own.
Let's talk about this first.
If you frequently restart, rename, or redesign your website you may lose some links.
Why is this happening?
It has to do with redirects and a smooth transition of your website.
Let's talk about site transitions first. If you've deleted an old blog post, links to that post won't work. This in turn weakens the internal link structure of your website and affects your SEO.
You have one less link that removes part of your internal link network.
This is not optimal as it means two things:
- You need to fix the link
- You have less content on your website to link to. For this reason, I recommend that you only delete content if you absolutely have to. You can update it anytime.
This is just one example of a lost link.
Another reason you could lose an internal link is because of an incorrect redirect.
This often happens with 301 redirects. I've talked about 301s before, but there is a unique issue that you need to be aware of.
Since a 301 is called a permanent redirect, many people assume that the redirect always works.
But that is not the case.
This is exactly how a 301 redirect works:
If you're just setting up a new site, you can easily switch from the old domain to the new one. The problem is when you revise your site more than once.
This is because redirects from older versions of a website are seldom propagated to newer ones.
If you get a new domain and an older domain expires, it can result in a significant loss of traffic as the 301s will no longer work.
If you spot a bad 301 giving you problems, you need to fix that.
First, you need to find the destination links your 301s want to go to.
If these links are dead then you will most likely need to remove the link.
You can also save the old content or create new content to keep the link on your page. This is a good idea if the site in question has a lot of traffic.
You have to do the best for your visitors. If you're missing out on great, in-depth content, make sure the content is still on your website.
You should also check for broken links. You can use a tool like deadlinkchecker.com to do this:
Ideally, you don't want to see any errors:
However, if you see errors, you can see the urls that are not behaving correctly:
But what about outbound links? If you find an outbound link that no longer works, just remove it and replace it with a link to another authority site.
In conclusion, let's talk about backlinks that you got from other websites.
Go here and enter your url.
If you see your link diagram pointing to the top right, everything is fine. If it goes down we have to fix it. For example, Ubersuggest lets you see which websites are no longer linked to your sites.
And for these websites, you can use a template like this to reclaim these links:
Hello (website owner name),
I hope you are well!
You linked to my website a while ago and I want to thank you for that. However, it looks like the link is actually gone.
The link was displayed in your (content / page here), but it no longer appears to be there.
Here is the page on my website that you linked to: (link url here)
If you could restore the link I would be very grateful. I am a huge fan of your website and I would be happy to return the favor if I can.
Most people will ignore you, but a percentage of people who contact you via email will link back.
Polish up your website
If all else fails, you may need to spend some time improving your website.
I'm talking about design, user experience, and speed. Each of these are an integral part of a site that is performing well and ranked well.
I'll go over each category briefly:
Mobile-friendly design is important as more searches are done on mobile with Google than on desktop.
If you don't consider mobile users first, that's where you need to start.
Having a mobile-friendly website isn't as easy as making sure your website is responsive. It is definitely important and you should, but it is not enough.
Remember to make all of your content mobile-friendly.
There's a big reason you should be focusing on this. Google has a mobile-first index. That alone should be more than enough to convince you to focus on mobile-first design.
For more information on this, please see my article on mobile usability.
User Experience (UX)
This is another reason responsive design is so important.
Your mobile users should have a great experience designed for mobile devices. Likewise, your desktop users should have a great experience designed for desktops.
If your UX is bad either way, you lose visitors.
If you look at the most popular websites in your niche, you will find that 9 out of 10 websites have great user interfaces.
Let's say you're in SaaS. Without a doubt, Salesforce is one of the biggest SaaS players in the niche.
And sure, their desktop and mobile UX is fantastic.
Cell phone, mobile phone:
This is what you should aim for when polishing your own site.
Search engines (and people) love fast page loading. In fact, 47% of customers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less.
If your site speed is longer than 2 seconds, you may lose traffic.
Speeding up your website is a long term strategy. You need to monitor your website and make sure nothing is pulling it down.
Start by adding compression.
Next, make sure that your server is running fast. It shouldn't be longer than 200 milliseconds.
You can test the speed of your site by using Ubersuggest's Site Audit feature. Enter your url and click "Search".
From there, click on "Site Audit" in the left sidebar and scroll down to "Site Speed". You will see:
There are myriad factors that can cause slow site speed. The best way to avoid slowness is to keep your site as light as possible. And Ubersuggest will break down how to do that and what to fix.
As a rule of thumb, if you have unnecessary elements on your website, remove them so that your speed is as good as possible.
Don't forget the content
Through Ubersuggest, we track millions of popular websites around the world for better data intelligence on algorithm changes.
We know for a fact that 641 websites we track update old content every day.
Can you imagine how many of them have seen search traffic decrease by 10% or more since the last algorithm update?
Only 38! That's 5.92%, which is extremely low.
What is crazy, however, is that 187 websites saw their search traffic increase by 10% or more.
So make sure you keep your old content up to date. After all, why would Google want to rate old, outdated content when it can rate something new and useful for people?
Another strategy I like to implement is to expand my content that is already ranking well.
For example, suppose you rank for the term "digital marketing".
You want to go to Ubersuggest and type in the phrase "digital marketing". You will see a report that looks like this:
Click on "Keyword Ideas" in the navigation bar on the left.
You should now see a report that looks like this:
This will give you a list of keywords that are similar, longer terms that are also searched for frequently.
When you rank for the main term, it's easy to rank for the longer end terms as well. So make sure you add the relevant to your content.
It may seem like a chore, but be sure to go through 100, if not 1000, keywords on the Keyword Ideas report as it can be a great way to get traffic gains quickly.
When you add the new keywords to your content, don't just paste them there. It has to flow naturally and make sense to your website visitor.
And if you don't make sense for a particular keyword, don't. Put the user first. Remember, you are writing for people, not Google.
The strategy I've broken down here may seem simple and silly, but it's one of the main reasons I get around 9 million visitors a month.
Losing a position or two in the leaderboard happens to the best of us.
It even happened to me.
In that case, don't panic.
Almost every client I've had who has seen a fall in rank was very scared when it happened.
You probably felt that way too. But you don't need to worry.
You can easily recover from a decline in rank.
Do not you believe me? Try these strategies out. These aren't just little tips. These are best practices that you can use to reclaim your place on Google.
Nobody deserves to lose the ranking when they have an amazing website that users love. Plus, it's easy to fix.
Don't let the initial shock stop you from regaining your ranking.
When was the last time your ranking was deleted?