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A sudden dip in search engine positioning is bad news, no doubt, but there’s no reason to freak out. Understanding why your website’s ranking may have dropped is integral to rectifying the issue. In order to do so, however, you’ll need to know what causes these dips in the first place.

Before we get into the specifics of rankings and diagnostics, it’s worth clarifying what it actually means to nosedive. Simply put, the term refers to a sudden, unexpected drop in position on a search engine results page (SERP). Perhaps only a few of your high ranking pages have dropped or, in the worst case, you have experienced a site wide plummet.

It’s worth noting that a drop in rankings can occur suddenly and dramatically or very slowly, over a number of weeks. The latter is sometimes harder to identify. Fast or slow, a nosediving website equates to a loss of visibility, site traffic and sales.

Diagnosing why your Site has Nosedived

So, you’ve nosedived. Once the realisation has set in and you’ve overcome the first wave of panic, it’s time to diagnose the issue. But, where do you start?

As far as search rankings are concerned, there are a multitude of factors that may have contributed to an unexpected dip, so it takes a little detective work to determine the cause of a nosedive. From indexing errors to algorithm updates, let’s take a look at a few reasons your website may have plummeted.

1. Human Error

As tempting as it may be to point the finger at Google or blame some mysterious force, the first thing to consider is human error. Yep, that’s right. More often than many would care to admit, sites go down due to technical slip-ups. Maybe you’ve made an update to your site or staging, pushed it live and there’s no index. Perhaps you’ve undergone a site-wide restructuring, but forgotten to implement 301 redirects. If this is the case, Google will be unable to locate the pages it’s looking for and your site will be penalised.

Whatever form it takes, human error is often the culprit when a site or page drops in search ranking. If your site has experienced a dip, consider any recent changes that could impact ranking.

2. Broad Core Updates

If you’re certain that no mistakes have been made on your end, you may find that an update is to blame. Google’s broad core updates are notorious for throwing spanners in the works, and can take the best of us by surprise. Essentially, these updates alter Google’s overall search ranking algorithm, a little like changing the rules mid-game.

If this is the case, Google will confirm that an update has taken place. In instances such as these, it’s worth recognising that your site is not necessarily doing anything wrong. Rather, others have been ranked higher owing to their newfound content and keyword relevancy.

SEO news sources such as the Search Engine Roundtable are particularly useful in the aftermath of an update, offering up to date information regarding changes and best practices. That said, don’t react too hastily; I’ll explain why shortly.

3. Low Quality Content

If you’ve ruled out human error, and there have been no recent algorithm updates from Google, it might be worth taking a look at the quality of your site’s content, in particular, its relevance.

In order to determine whether or not a site’s content is relevant to a search, Google assesses it based on experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness. Often referred to as E-E-A-T, these criteria can majorly affect your website’s rankings.

If your site has nosedived, assessing the quality of your content is essential. For example, are you demonstrating genuine expertise on the topic you are discussing? Is your content relevant? What are other, high-ranking sites doing that you are not? If you’re not hitting these requirements, an overhaul or re-write may be the best solution.

What Next?

A sudden drop in search positioning is far from ideal. However, the worst thing to do if your site nosedives is panic. Knee Jerk reactions, historically, do more harm than good. For example, Google may release an update that collaterally affects your site for a day or two, before levelling back out.

These ups and downs are natural, and your site ranking will usually return to normal within 48 hours or so. However, panicking at the first sign of turbulence can lead to rash decision making, harming your rankings further.

Before acting erratically, take the time to consider your options. How long has it been since your website dipped? Are your analytics showing any signs of recovery? Once you have determined the cause of the issue, you can begin to formulate a plan. This may focus on re-optimising specific pages or it may be site-wide.

The good news is that nosedives are not the be-all and end-all of your site’s rankings. Here at Superb Digital, we’ve seen our fair share of downward spirals and have helped clients of every size to reclaim and even exceed their lost search engine positioning.

Book a call today to discover how we can help your business.