Are you sitting at your desk and thinking “Why have my Google rankings suddenly dropped this year? My question would be “Have you previously employed a low-budget SEO marketing agency to improve your rankings?” If their primary methodology was PBN (private blog network) links, that may well explain the ranking drops and reduced search traffic… Those schemes fall under the category of link spam. However, this year has brought many new factors into ranking calculations that impact search results. The E-E-A-T algorithm emphasis, along with Helpful Content and more…
Ranking algorithms evolve almost daily
Google has ever-better algorithm updates designed to detect link schemes and content quality.
- SEJ: December 2022 link spam update released for Google Search (Google)
- OMF: 2023 Google link spam algorithm
Moz: records “official” algorithm changes here: Moz – Google algorithm changes
A number of reputable SEO authorities reported a great deal of ranking turbulence in 2023, associated with a sudden drop in organic traffic. They attribute that to Google implementing new mechanisms to detect and discount such spammy links and thin content. As a general rule, any aggressive link-building efforts are high-risk.
If you are lucky, Google may have only discounted the spammy links to you. Meaning you are no longer getting any ranking benefits from them. However, if your site’s link profile is significantly different to your “industry standard link profile” – you could incur a manual penalty for flagrantly breaching Google’s terms of service.
Either way, remedial action is required. The people who did the link-building work on your behalf may be reluctant to accept responsibility for the harm to your rankings. They may be even more reluctant to remove the links… However, there are things that can be done to remedy known issues. If you need help, ask for a free, no-obligation website SEO audit.
The worst thing you can do is flail around wildly in a panic-stricken effort to solve an unknown problem. Don’t begin any “fixes” until you’ve determined the likely cause/s. Don’t overlook the obvious!
- Check your robots.txt file for any inadvertent blocking of search engines.
- Check the Reading tab in WP admin and make sure “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is not ticked.
- Check Search Console for Manual Actions
- Use Siteliner.com to identify duplicate content
- Use Copyscape,com to find plagiarised content
- Use Copywritely.com to identify keyword-stuffing issues
High-quality content is more important than ever as “user experience” is a core principle of site assessments in 2023. If it is not an inadvertent “shoot yourself in the foot” issue, the next step should be to get a free website technical SEO audit. That should determine the probable cause of the Google search ranking drop, but you may very well need expert technical assistance to fix the issue. Your rank tracker software should show when the drop occurred, assuming you make regular ranking checks. Reviewing the “performance” tab in Google Search Console often shows a precise date alignment of a drop in rankings with a known algorithm update. If you use Google Analytics or other SEO tools, that may also help pinpoint the date that specific keywords lost rank positions. Review Google webmaster tools/search essentials guidelines and consider how well your site adheres to the recommendations.
An assessment of your backlink profile is also important.
The good news is that addressing any manual actions should quickly improve your search results.
Other SEO Topics
There’s a constant process of change in Google’s algorithms, with hundreds of subtle (and a few that are not so subtle) changes each year. All my business SEO packages include a comprehensive site audit that assesses all the parameters that we can possibly influence. This is not an automated superficial review, it’s a hands-on manual assessment that takes several hours to complete.
- The product is a benchmark document that catalogues what we can and should do, and why it’s recommended.
- The objective is compliance with Search Essentials guidelines and current best practice
- The outcome of the implementation of the recommendations is a site which is the best that can be, without any trickery or subterfuge involved.
- The usual result is an improvement in rankings and traffic.
As mentioned in a previous article – Evaluating SEO Proposals – a lot of SEO consultants and companies do not adhere to best practise. Nor do they fully comply with Google’s guidelines or terms of service. Instead, they skirt the rules to implement “black hat / grey hat” shortcuts to boost rankings. This often includes using external links to your site posted on their own PBNs – private blog networks, and keyword stuffing in your site’s content. That artificially boosts rankings in the short term but is a clear breach of Google’s Terms of Service.
- The Hoth – SEO rankings drop guide
- Quora – How do I fix Google ranking drop issues in 2023
- Webapex – Google ranking dropped
Page last updated on Monday, October 9, 2023 by the author Ben Kemp