Friday, 8 January 2010

What to do when your search engine rankings drop

Search engine rankings are not set in stone and are constantly shifting as your site and your competitors sites are analysed and ranked by the search engines. Going up the rankings can be exciting and rewarding and there are plenty of guides on how to do that, but what do you do when you start to fall, and fall, and fall, and fall, and fall…?

The first thing you do is absolutely nothing. Sit back, chillax and wait. The search engines are constantly fiddling with their algorithms and the weighting of ranking factors which affect how websites are ranked in the results. Sometimes a change can occur that doesn’t have the desired effect they wanted and penalises sites that were previously well ranked. When this occurs (and they notice it) the changes may be rolled back or amended and you can find your site jumps back to its previous positions over night. Give it a couple of weeks or so before you start making any changes.

SEO audit: Is your site fully optimized?

Do an audit of your on-site SEO to make sure you have covered all the areas you can optimize. Your website doesn’t exist within a vacuum and there are thousands of websites working to grab your position and who are squeezing every bit of juice out of their website to do it.  Make sure you are using your target keyword(s) across these areas: title tag, H tags, image alt tag, image file name, internal link anchor text, internal link alt tag, site map, first paragraph of copy and page URLs.

Roll back any ‘black hat’ tactics you have undertaken
You can click here to read Google’s guidelines for webmasters which spell out what Google expects from a website as well as what not to do. If you have recently undertaken any of the following practices you may have been slapped by Google!

  • Bought links

  • Used hidden text or hidden links

  • Introduced cloaking or underhand redirects

  • Created pages with irrelevant keywords

  • Added multiple pages, sub-domains, or domains with substantially duplicate content

  • Set up a “doorway” page created just for search engines

Not necessarily ‘black hat’ but if a larger proportion of your website is now allocated to advertising space rather than original copy Google is going to take a dislike to you…”If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value. Provide unique and relevant content that gives users a reason to visit your site first”

Update content more regularly
Google likes fresh content and sites that are updated regularly. If you haven’t made any changes for a long time go back and review your web copy or investigate ways you can introduce regular content to your site e.g. articles, news, a blog etc.

Build up alternative sources of traffic
Because of Google’s dominance in search and putting your eggs all in one basket can almost become unavoidable, but direct traffic is still a source! Once they arrive to you from a search engine do everything you can to turn them in to a repeat visitor. As well as increasing repeat visitors percentages build a following on social media sites e.g. Twitter, Facebook et al as well as within your websites community e.g. forums, blogs et al.

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