How to troubleshoot dropped search engine rankingsAre you baffled about a recent drop in your search engine rankings? Do you know where to start and get a handle on what the problem might be and how to remedy it? One option to consider is using search engine forums as a resource. They are full of questions from people who have experienced similar situations and are great resources for an answer or two. But let's say you really want to get to the bottom of the problem and you want to do it yourself. The following are some of the beginning steps StepForth takes when evaluating dropped rankings. Retrace Your Steps Write a list of everything that anyone has done to your site within the past 3 weeks. Now look for anything that could have negatively impacted your content, site structure, or the reliability of your URLs. Once you write down the course of events the answer might pop right out at you. Here are some common situational culprits:
- You just moved your website to a different hosting provider: did your site experience much, if any, downtime during the switch over? Quality hosting companies will allow you to setup your site on their servers before the switch takes place so that downtime is minimized if not removed entirely. If a search engine happened to visit your site while it was down, there is a small chance your rankings would be negatively affected, but it will only happen for a short period. Once the search engine re-indexes your website everything should be back in order.
- The structure of your site has permanently changed: did you redirect the traffic from the old URLs to the new URLs using a 301 redirect? If not, then you should. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect which tells any visiting search engine to permanently change its index to reflect the new site structure.
- Contact your hosting company to check if your server has had any downtime recently. In most cases search engines will not drop your rankings if they visit your site and it is offline once; however, if this happens consistently then your rankings can fail. If your hosting company states that downtime has occurred, then you have at least one possible answer for your ranking woes. As long as your site is now reliably online and has not been offline for an extended period (days or weeks) the rankings should reappear as your site is re-indexed. There may be a notable drop in rankings but, in most cases, they will return to pre-incident status.
- Whether your site is currently banned. If you are, in some cases they will tell you why.
- Notes on any impediments the search engine has experienced when trying to index your website.
- Who is linking to your website.
- Which pages are the most popular on your website.
- Which keywords lead the most traffic to your website.
- 15 Shades of SEO SPAM \ by Jim Hedger (written in 2006 but still applicable)
- Wikipedia's Definition of SPAM has some great content worth reading as well.
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