What To Do When Your Site Drops

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It’s happened to all of us. You wake up one morning feeling like a million bucks, you stretch and if you’re like me, you notice the eye-rolling as once again your significant other catches you with a toothbrush dangling from your mouth and a laptop or iPhone in front of you while you check rankings and emails. And then it happens – you start your browser with a search phrase already set to display and you notice that your site no longer holds it’s previous position and the move is not in the right direction. We’ve all faced it and the longer you’ve been an SEO or website owner the more times you’ve seen it happen. But still … what do you do? To quote the immortal Douglas Adams, "Don’t panic."

Believe me – I know how hard it is sometimes. It’s easy for me to say this to clients when I see an engine fluctuating or a site has dropped only a position or two and we’re working to react but it’s a completely different thing when it happens to you and (might I add) a good reminder to SEO’s as to what our clients go through. But I still haven’t answered the question have I? What do you do? What … do … you … do?

There are five basic steps one must take when their site drops (I like to keep things simple and a 5 step check-list is a great way to do that). These steps assume that to start with you had a well-optimized website with good SEO practices followed. If you don’t then the reasons you dropped are pretty clear but if you’ve got a well-optimized site and your site has fallen – then this is for you. You should:

1 – Build Links

It’s very difficult for people to not want to do something proactive when they notice their site drop. I know – I’ve been there. One of the easiest things to do to keep yourself busy while working on the other 4 steps below is to build links. Building good, solid links to your site will never hurt and will only help you out so even if one of the later steps might show you other actions you need to take (or not take) you’ll never go wrong with some solid link building and if nothing else – it’ll make you feel like you’re doing something and stop you from doing other things that might do you more harm than good.

I’m not going to go into all the different types of links you could build or what the anatomy of a good link is. Many articles, forums and blog posts have been written in the past and are easily found online. I’m sure if you monitor a few good SEO forums you’ll find more being written every day. If you can – find articles by Eric Enge. While he doesn’t give it all away (who does?) – you won’t go wrong taking his advice and even seasoned SEO’s are likely to learn a thing or two from reading his work.

2 – Relax For A Couple Days

Before you rush to your favorite site editing tool – relax. Slight tweaks in content are unlikely to make much of a difference (if any) to your rankings. If you’ve got solid, well-optimized content and suddenly your site’s fluctuating – cramming in a few more instances of your targeted phrase will likely do more harm than good.

Now – when I say relax I basically mean, don’t touch your site. There are steps (such as link building) that you can work on including the analytical work noted below. Just don’t go editing all your copy to try to chase some tweak in Google’s algorithm. Relax.

3 & 4 – Analyze The Sites That Have Out-Ranked You (Onsite And Offsite)

One of the best things you can do is to take a look at the sites that are out-ranking you to find out what they’ve done. This will tell you two things: One – are there some good tactics that you’re missing, and Two – are these rankings likely to hold or are they flawed? There are two areas you’ll want to look at and those are the onsite optimization and the backlinks.

When you’re looking at the onsite optimization you need to only briefly look at their keyword densities, H1 and title tags, internal linking structure, number of indexed pages and the amount of content on the page. Remember: I’m assuming that (as you were ranking previously) you have a solidly optimized website with some good SEO practices and content guidelines followed. If you look at these and compare the newly ranking sites with your site and with other sites that have held their positions and dropped you’ll get a feel for whether there are trends. If there are common traits among the sites that have moved up then you may be on to something. Remember the common trends among the sites that have climbed and held and also remember what they have that the sites that have dropped do not. Remember: there may be no common trends or nothing you can find out with this small a sample. Once this step is complete it’s time to move on to backlink analysis.

Backlink analysis is a good practice to undertake every few months regardless of updates but definitely necessary now that you’re dropping. What you need to do now is to analyze the backlinks of the sites that are out-ranking you. Depending on the competition level this can be a brutal task in that it’s not just about numbers. You should use Yahoo!’s link:www.domain.com command and visit many of the sites in your comeptitors backlinks. What you’re trying to do is get a full view of what their links look like. You’ll also want to download SEO Link Analysis (A Firefox extension you’ll find at https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/7505/). When you’re doing a backlink check it automatically displays the PageRank and anchor text of the backlinks though I’d still HIGHLY recommend visiting a good many of the sites to see what kind of links they are.

Once again you’re going to be looking for the architecture of the backlinks of the sites that are moving up. What tactics they’re using, what their links look like on the page, what anchor text distribution they’ve got. Once again you’re going to compare that with other sites on the rise, your site and other stable sites to see what is common between those that are climbing and holding their grown vs those that have fallen.

Once we’ve collected this data it’s time to act. Collect all the common traits that the climbing and holding sites have and …

5 – Take Action

You’re done waiting around preforming the tedious task of link building. You’ve got your data and you’re ready to launch into action and get some stuff done. But wait (oh no – did he say wait again?) is action really the best thing?

When you’ve pooled your data you need to decide what it means. Let’s take for example a situation where the newly ranking sites have very low word counts and tons of footer links (looks paid to me). Do you REALLY want to follow their lead? The question you need to ask yourself in this case is do the factors that are apparently working RIGHT NOW overall going to provide better or worse results? Is less content more or less likely to results in a satisfied visitor? Do paid footer links help Google deliver quality results over the whole of the Internet? In these cases the answer is easily "no" but your findings might be more subtle such as an extremely disproportionate use of targeted anchor text among the ranking sites or sp@mmy copy with keyword densities at 8 or 10%.

What you’re in a position to do now is figure out a moving-forward strategy. If the common trends among the top and improving sites are bad or sp@mmy then you know the algorithm will correct itself eventually and you shouldn’t chase it. If you need to do something – build some additional links and look for new phrases to rank for on other pages to help stabilize your traffic when individual phrases decline.

If you find that the factors that have created the new results are legitimate and will lead to better results overall you know you need to make some changes to what you’re doing and fortunately – with the research you’ve just done you’ve got a great starting spot in that you can probably get some great resources and tactics from the lists of backlinks and onsite optimization you’ve just collected.

It may take hours or even days to properly perform this research but then – you needed something to do while your rankings are down. It might as well be productive.

What To Do When Your Site Drops
About Dave Davies
Dave Davies is the CEO of Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization, Inc. Beanstalk's SEO services include full-services SEO packages, consulting, training, copywriting and link building. Dave has been involved in SEO since 2001, co-authored SitePoint's SEM Kit, has spoken at SES and SMX events and hosts a weekly radio show on WebmasterRadio.fm. WebProNews Writer
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  • http://www.getafreelancer.com GetAFreelancer

    That is great advice Dave,

    I couldn’t have put it better if I tried. I think too often people freak out at fluctuations and instead of relaxing for a couple of days they try various things, like content changes, which ends up hurting them even more.

  • http://www.absoluteinternetmarketing.co.uk/web_marketing Simon Colley

    Very sound advice, it’s good to receive a clear and consise list of actions to take when this occurance happens, i have just recently started ranking for a term i’m targeting and it’s amazing to see how often the position changes even during the day let alone on a day by day basis….as you say overtime when listings change, they will eventually settle back down and then you know the positon you’re achieving is realistic and what extra work needs to be applied to improve…..

  • http://www.tingmo.com Web life

    I like idea of keep adding new backlinks. But you have to also pay attention to the qwality and the ways you achieve them.

  • http://www.tag44.com Tag44

    This post is really very helpful and it solves many of my questions regarding site ranking and site down back. Thanks for posting such post.

  • http://www.adzmedia.co.uk Alain

    Many thanks for the information. It looks as though there has been many fluctuations in results featured on the Google SERPS. This advice helps tackle the problem logically.

  • http://seotools.kreationstudio.com SEO Tools

    Thanks for your advises there..
    To add to it, first I would really see if my sites are dropping in one search engines or it has dropped in all the major search engines..
    These at times helps while you write down the plan of action. Though it does not make major difference but it can help.

    Secondly I would try and again use the webmaster tools provided by search engines.. Webmaster tool for Google and Site Explorer for Yahoo to submit sitemap with complete site links in it without a broken link. This would help in getting the non-indexed pages indexed.. or the thrown out pages can try and re-enter from the backdoor :)

  • http://www.b2b-club.ru b2bsupplier

    Absolutly agree. The best way to raise your site up in searching engines are: links (forums, bloggs, articles, press releases…) and deep analizing: why this could happend with my site.
    Not to have this “surprise” keep working on the site, pay attention on PR everytime you visit your page.

  • http://ansblog.com nitendra

    Nice article will clarify doubt of thousands. Evey one looking for this questions Thanks for kind help

  • http://www.seo-shumail.blogspot.com SEO specialist karachi

    very nice article i personally i believe backlinks really helps whe ur site gets a dropping issue

  • http://www.yiwu-sourcing-agent.com yiwu

    wow..that’s what I need…
    my site drop a lot…

  • http://www.squidoo.com/theclickbankprofitsystemreview Clickbank Profit System

    Like it how you reiterate not to panic and analyze the sites that outrank you. Keeps me busy learning and doing research instead of panicking. Thanks

  • http://www.freesoft4down.com Free Download

    That’s really necessary for me, my site was suddenly dropped its ranking on many keywords. I’ve tired many way that might solve the problem but all were failure. Now i know i did something wrong.

  • http://www.best-quotes-sayings.com/ Sharon

    Thank you for the excellent advice. Great article!

  • http://www.tarmac.it Tarmac

    RELAX… Easy to say – Hard to do! It is the best advice though.

  • http://www.webpalforums.com Free forum directory

    i agree with you, important thing we need go back when we start that site

  • http://www.contemposuits.com/godfather-hats.html Godfather Hats

    Watching your rank drop is extremely unnerving. Especially when you work so hard to get towards the top. I always find my self adding extra content and tweaking. I guess I’ll just add more links.

  • http://sport-cars-wallpaper.blogspot.com/ Welly

    Stay calm and updates. Because, your blog or website is usually down and lasted no longer, if we update again. We also have to add a directory to find blogs to improve our web visitor traffic.

  • http://www.dontstopshopping.com Dont Stop Shopping

    Excellent advice, this as happened to more then one of my sites and it’s scary. In my case I’ve had sites that Google de-indexed and I’m thinking that Google is getting ready to de-index the site.
    I rush around adding content changing this or that and I’m probably messing the site up.

    • http://medicinesnaturally.com Natural Healing

      I agree with you. I almost did the same thing although a really good friend of mine told me to read this post. Although I’m glad I can tell him that I did do what he said first and that’s build good quality links!

  • http://www.pr-interactive.com florida web design company

    great advice. you can also build content on other pages to help boost the website as a whole.

  • http://www.healthclubhut.com John

    Panicing is the biggest mistake. Just keep doing what you know to work and other than that, it is out of your hands.

  • http://www.clearsense.se Gustav

    It’s good to hear that we in the SEO business thinks alike…
    I have many times been contacted customers that are extremely worried about their rankings, the truth is that this pretty much happens all the time when you start to optimize you website. The site goes from a lot of referral traffic to search engine traffic and a lot of customers start to wonder why this is the case.

    Almost always the case is that they are starting to reach a new segment of traffic that behaves different on the site than previously and this has a tendency to affect the rankings on different keywords.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/dame+scribe Gin

    I see a lot of panic in the blogoshere and often must smile. Traffic will fluctuate and has cycles. I agree, great points and practices to keep in mind. Get proactive rather than run amok. :)

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