Many website owners have had that moment of panic. After seeing their web site on the first page of Google for their primary keywords, all of a sudden they are no longer there. If the website owner was practicing unethical, black hat techniques for that top ranking, they can lose ranking once Google catches up to them. For other website owners, they are doing everything right and don’t understand why they lost ranking. It can happen for many reasons, including the ones listed below.
Changes to Google’s algorithm
Search Engine Land is a good resource for following changes to Google’s algorithm. Some more well known ones were designed to catch poor content or spammy backlinks.
Have the things people search for declined in terms of specific keywords? Check Google Trends to see if search patterns have changed for your primary keywords. Maybe searchers are using different terminology than they were six months ago.
Is your robots.txt file blocking certain pages from being crawled by search bots? Google needs to have access to pages you want found online. If the robots.txt file blocks the search engine from crawling the pages, people will not be able to find those pages either. Make sure important pages were not accidentally included in the robots.txt file.
Hopefully, you designed your site to be friendly to mobile devices from the start because it is one of Google’s ranking signals. In fact, the number of people searching on mobile surpassed those searching on desktops a few years ago.
You can check mobile friendliness with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and by looking at user behavior by devices in Google Analytics.
Revisit your meta tags
Look for ways to improve your site’s meta descriptions and titles. Can you do a better job of including important keywords or including calls to action in the tags?
Re-submit yoor sitemap
If you had major changes to your website since it was launched, you can re-submit your site map through the Search Console. Although not necessarily required, it can be helpful if you have a lot of new content or revised the navigation of your pages.
Check for NoIndex
Make sure there were not any pages that were accidentally marked as NoIndex. This tells Google that you do not want a page to be indexed or found in search. This code is part of your robots.txt file and is commonly used to stop Google from crawling internal staff pages.
Are multiples pages on your website covering the same content? With canonicalization, you indicate to Google which page you want to show up in search when you have duplicate content on your website.
Check your page load speed
Are your pages loading slower? It could be due to new images added since the launch that negatively impacted the speed. This has been an important factor for Google for a while now, as you can see in their 2010 announcement.
Log into your Search Console and see if there are any crawl errors. If pages are down for a while, Google will remove them from it’s index. If you see a number of 404 errors in Search Console, download the list and set up 301 redirects for any URLs that may have changed.
Your site is crawled via links so pages on your website without any internal links are considered orphan pages. There are a number of tools to discover these pages, such as Xenu Link Sleuth.
Even with great preparation before a website launch, there may be pages that were not redirected properly and quality backlinks were lost as a result. A tool such as ahrefs will help you find those lost external backlinks.
Analytics Tracking Code
If you are concerned about traffic in addition to your ranking, check that Google Analytics is on every single page of your website. You may see a drop in your Analytics that is a result of pages not being tracked rather than not being visited. GAChecker is a great resource for this task.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is never a one time task. You need someone on your team who follows the latest news with Google algorithms and is up to date with best site practices. If your organic ranking did drop, start with the above steps and make your corrections as soon as you can, but remember it does take time. Ethical SEO ranking does not happen overnight.