How to recover lost rankings in Google
If you’ve checked your Google rankings and discovered that your site has dropped significantly since the last time you checked, don’t panic. Trust me when I say that we’ve all been there and that it happens to the very best of us.
In the SEO world, fluctuating search engine results page (SERP) rankings are basically inevitable. After all, user behaviours and search algorithms are constantly in a state of flux, so it goes without saying that we will occasionally drop a few positions here and there.
But while managing expectations with regard to lost rankings is half the battle, it is also imperative to implement smart strategies when responding to these not-so-uncommon events. Let’s not forget that it is these responses that set successful SEO professionals apart from those who struggle to bounce back from a setback.
What you need to do
1. Determine why you have lost rankings
2. Evaluate the impact that lost rankings have had on your online presence
3. Identify tangible strategies to recover your ranking positions
4. Proactively protect your ranking positions
So, let’s dive in.
Why have my Google rankings dropped?
While this isn’t necessarily something you’ll want to hear right now, the reality is that there are many factors that can lead to a drop in rankings. Some of these reasons will become clear very quickly, say if you have recently reorganised the structure of your URLs. However, other reasons may be trickier to identify.
So, let’s take a look at some of the most common factors that contribute to lost rankings.
1. Algorithm updates
In a bid to provide the best possible service to its users, Google is always making updates to its algorithm. These changes often have an impact on search rankings, so it is important to keep up to date with the latest updates to avoid being caught out. As long as you’re optimising your site in line with new update guidelines, you will find it easier to maintain your ranking position even throughout periods of change.
2. Slow page loading speeds
Page loading speeds are part of Google’s Core Web Vitals, and adhering to these guidelines is essential if you want to maintain your SERP rankings.
Additionally, slow page loading speeds are likely to impact both your dwell time and your bounce rate because users just don’t want to wait longer than a few seconds for a piece of content to load.
Utilise the PageSpeed Insights tool to determine how quickly your pages are loading and make changes as necessary. Some of my top tips for boosting your loading times include keeping code to a minimum, utilising browser caching, and ensuring all image files are compressed.
3. Your competitors are outranking you
We all want to outrank our competitors, so it is likely that one of your closest competitor brands will outperform you and claim your ranking position at some point. If you discover that this is the case, it is important to determine exactly what new strategies they have employed that have pushed your content further down the rankings.
I recommend paying close attention to a few key factors here, including:
– Whether their new content is more informative
– Whether they have built a more authoritative backlink profile
– Whether their user experience is better
4. The robots.txt file isn’t formatted correctly
The robots.txt file lets search engines know which specific web pages can be accessed by crawlers. A lot of bandwidth is required to crawl URLs, which is why search engines limit the number of pages they crawl. This means that you need to ensure that your robots.txt file is granting access to your most valuable URLs.
5. Lost Backlinks
Google wants to recommend high quality, accurate and authoritative content to its users, which is why building a solid backlink profile is crucial for every site owner who wants to perform well in SERPs.
Maintaining a strong backlink profile is key, as losing backlinks can have a negative impact on your ranking position. It is also important to ensure that your backlink profile doesn’t include any spammy or unnatural links, as this can also have a detrimental impact on your rankings.
6. On-page SEO errors
There are a number of on-page SEO issues that can impact your rankings, including under or over-optimising for your target keywords, failing to incorporate a keyword-rich meta description and title tag, and publishing thin content.
Google wants to provide its users with informative search results to every query, which is why it typically doesn’t favour webpages with fewer than 1,000 words. It isn’t always necessary for a webpage to contain thousands of words of content, however, if you are publishing a piece of content that is intended to be informative, it will likely pay to include as much detail as possible and, ideally, cite authoritative sources throughout for additional credibility.
7. Domain and/or hosting problems
If none of your online content is ranking, you might be experiencing problems with your web hosting, or your domain may have expired. Although this sounds like incredibly basic stuff, it isn’t always easy to think logically when you’re faced with an apparent rankings catastrophe.
8. Unpopular target keywords
It is completely normal for keywords to increase and decrease in popularity, particularly if they are linked to specific events or trends. If your target keywords have lost traction, it can be helpful to use a keyword tool to identify a related keyword that is still securing a high search volume.
9. Redirects or broken links
It is always worth checking HTTP status codes to determine whether you are dealing with any broken links, 404 errors or failed redirects. Every webpage you want to appear in SERPs and attract traffic should show a 200 OK code.
As we have seen, there are a number of reasons and scenarios in which lost rankings can occur. So, it can sometimes feel as though we need to solve a jigsaw puzzle without all of the correct pieces before we can even start to address the root cause of the problem.
It can also be easy to feel discouraged when discovering lost rankings, however, it is essential to remember that it is an incredibly common occurrence, and there are always steps that can be taken to restore your online visibility and continue driving traffic from key SERPs.