Suffered a rankings drop? Use this checklist to diagnose why
Columnist Ian Bowden has created a checklist for SEOs to help troubleshoot losses in rankings and organic traffic.
Losing positioning on high-volume generic terms can trigger panic, even if the drop only lasts for a short period of time. However, in the majority of instances, it is possible to find out exactly the reason why.
When you understand what caused a ranking drop, you can determine what actions to take to recover from it. Here is a 10-point checklist to run through should you encounter a loss of positioning.
1. New links
A sudden surge in new links pointing to a domain can, in some instances, trigger a temporary decline in rankings. From previous observations, I’ve found the trustworthiness of the website and the authority of the linking domains determine the impact of new links, either positive or negative.
If a website has had trust issues in the past, especially if it has received notifications for unnatural links, Google may for a short period of time randomize the impact of the new links. Even if they are natural and relevant, Google may apply a “rank transition function” (Patent can be found here), which acts to confuse or hide the impact of any attempts to manipulate search results.
To check if a surge of new links is a likely contributing factor to a ranking drop, use a backlink tool such as Ahrefs or Majestic, both of which have the ability to view new links discovered over a given period. Check the links themselves to see if they are genuinely new (rather than just being new additions to the backlink tool indices). If there is an unusual peak, note this as a possible contributor.