When someone calls Artonic and makes this statement, we follow it up with a few questions:
- What search phrases do you no longer rank for?
- When did you first notice the drop in traffic?
- Have you ever invested in digital marketing? If so, when and what activities did they perform for you?
- Where do your competitors rank in relation to you? Where did they rank before your rankings dropped?
A drastic drop in your search engine ranks is a signal to us that your website does not follow Google’s (or Bing’s) best practices. The reason for the sudden change is because Google has updated its algorithm, and your website no longer complies with the algorithm.
Google’s algorithm is complicated and secret. It is also updated hundreds of times every year. Most of those updates are minor and affect only a handful of website rankings. But a few updates are massive and impact many websites.
If you noticed a drop in your ranks (usually signaled by a drop in visits to your website or a drop in online sales) in the last few years, it is possible that your website was hit with a major Google algorithm update. These updates are Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird.
Why did this happen? It depends on which algorithm you were hit with.
Penguin: Arrived in April 2012. Penguin hit websites with a lot of bad backlinks. This means that your website has links pointing to it that are spammy, unnatural, and irrelevant. SEO or digital marketing companies you worked with may have created these links during a marketing campaign.
To Fix Penguin: Start with a full backlink analysis to determine the quantity and quality of your backlinks. This is extremely time-consuming, but must be completed. Next, the bad links must be removed. This process is also time-consuming because you must determine how to remove the link, follow the correct procedure, and follow up to ensure it is completed. After removing as many links as you can, you may then submit a spreadsheet of bad links you cannot remove. This is called “disavowing” the links. Google will ignore those links after they have been submitted. This disavow process also takes a great deal of time and may need to be repeated. Conduct regular link analyses to ensure the bad links are disavowed.
But it’s not over! Now that your bad links are gone, you have to build new, high-quality links to your website. Proper link building must be done carefully, considerately, and consistently to be effective.
Panda: Released February 2011 and updated regularly through 2013 with updates continuing today. Being hit by the Panda algorithm reveals that your website is of “low quality” according to Google. Google considers several factors to determine if your site is of low quality, including onsite content and offsite optimization techniques.
To Fix Panda: The main thrust of Panda is content. You may have very little content or duplicated content on your website that Google doesn’t consider high quality. To correct this you must write high-quality, unique content to replace the low-quality content. To rank well after Panda, Google must consider your website relevant and authoritative, and it does this based on the quality of your content. It also considers the quality of your backlinks.
To ensure you’re safe from Panda, a link analysis must be done. All bad links need to be removed from your website so that they do not affect Google’s rankings (see “How to Fix Penguin” above).
Hummingbird: Rolled out August 2013. Hummingbird focused on searcher intent, meaning that the search results would include websites that were closer to the searcher’s intentions. Hummingbird took into account the entire search a person typed in (“How do I make tomato soup” vs “tomato soup”) so that it could return better results. Hummingbird moves away from focusing just on major keywords and instead focuses on synonyms and context as well. This means that websites rank well that match the meaning of a person’s search not just a few words.
To Fix Hummingbird: You’ll first need to evaluate your website content thoroughly, and determine where you need to adjust things. Ask yourself if you’re really answering your target audience’s questions and if you’re really providing value to searchers. If you’re not, add more pages to address more topics, and cover those topics thoroughly.
Competition: A drop in rankings can also signal to you that a competitor is investing into digital marketing. If they invest in optimization, you can expect them to have better rankings.
To Beat Competition: You’ll need to combat your competitors with a strong digital marketing campaign that may include an increase in budget.
Mobile Friendly: In April 2015 Google’s algorithm required that websites cater to mobile users. Is your website designed for mobile visitors? If not, Google’s algorithm may knock you out of your previously-held top spot.
Become Mobile Friendly: Make sure your mobile visitors enjoy their visit to your website. You have more than one option, but our recommendation (and Google’s) is to build a responsive website. A responsive website changes based on the user’s screen size, which means that no matter what device someone uses to visit your website, your website looks great and is easy to use. Your website will look slightly different on a tablet versus a smartphone or desktop, but the differences will only enhance the user’s experience.
Have your rankings in Google dropped significantly? If so, an audit of your online presence is highly recommended. You may have been hit with an algorithm update or your competitors may be on the move. It’s also possible that your website is the culprit, and it’s time to re-design it.
Whatever the case, one of our friendly team members can help you determine the real reason you’re not showing up in Google’s search results. Give us a call or send us an email:
Phone: (517) 902-7851