Recently I've came across many frazzled website owners posted questions about their Google Ranking dropping. Actually one of our websites dropped in its ranking as well. While searching for the answers, I've been collecting all the information I came across and now would like to share it with you. Here is a list of the most common reasons why a website's search engine rankings fall. I would also like to suggest some methods of its recovery.
First of all, you need to decide if your website's ranking dropped in all search engines or only in Google. What I mean is that sometimes your website is still ranking high in Yahoo, Bing,.. and that it's completely down in Google search engine.
Let's cover the case when your ranking dropped in Google only. I'm going to divide the reasons or factors into 2 categories - External and Internal. In this article I'm going to cover External problems in more detail. Separately, I'll write about Google Panda algorithm.
External Factors / Problems of Google Ranking Drop
By External problems I refer problems between your website and other websites, hosting, links,…
1. Your Page Rank (PR) dropped.
1A. This can happen if some websites with the Page Rank higher than yours remove links to your website. Let's say your website has PR2, it's best if other websites pointing to you (having links to your website) have PR2+ (meaning Page Rank of 2 or higher). So if many of such websites remove their links, then your Page Rank will drop.
1B. Most of the website designers participate in link exchanging or link building. Sometimes, they buy links. But it's very important to understand how many links, what kind of links and how often you can buy those links not to get punished. Again, if your website's PR is 3, and if you purchased many-many links with PR0, then you didn't benefit enough for your money. Most likely, you even made it worse. If you suddenly got too many links with lower PR pointing to your site, then most likely your own PR will go down.
1C. If you link to a "bad neighborhood website". Before exchanging links, always check the website, make sure that if your visitors click on this link, they don't go to a so-called "bad neighborhood" website you don't want them to visit. My advice is to click on a few pages of such website first. I've come across a few websites that had a nice home page, let's say about purchasing of purses or something like that and then, when you click on another page, it's about something completely else. It's always a good idea that if you doubt about the website, don't exchange links. At least try to use "nofollow" attribute in your link tag: . Usually if you have just a few links pointing to the bad websites, it's not so bad. However, if you have other problems as well, you can get penalized.
1D. If you exchanged links with the farm websites or websites that are just ads. Google started being very aggressive on that.
2. If you have a relatively new website.
2A. Sometimes, Google will boost a new website for just some time. You need to continue working on link building - collect links from different sources. Please check out my other article "SEO and Online Marketing Strategies" about the SEO and link building.
2B. If you exceeded the optimum amount of links that looks reasonable for Google. Let's say you purchased or exchanged links with other websites and the ranking of those sites is good but you still overdid it. You got too many links at once… then you can get into a sand box.
3. Your website was hacked.
It feels that hackers don't have anything else to do these days:) Websites get constantly hacked. So if your website was hacked and visitors to your website reported it, then Google will respond to it accordingly. You can use Google's tools for checking your website. Re-install the clean version of your website and use Google tools make sure it's really clean. You can contact your hosting and if your website was flagged as having malware, request a review to determine whether your site is clean. If you are using wordpress, update all the plugins and themes (however, remember, if you previously adjusted a theme for your website and made it more custom, then, after you reinstall the theme all your custom settings will disappear). There is a detailed article on what you should do at http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2008/04/my-sites-been-hacked-now-what.html
4. Websites that sell ads or links.
Recently Google became very aggressive on punishing the websites that sell Text ads and sell links. Google can easily drop your Page Rank. Again, if you decide to keep these links, then add attribute "nofollow" in the link tag - please see above.
5. Multiple domains.
If you have many different domains pointing to one website, then Google may penalize you. Try to keep one domain name per one website.
6. Don't forget to set 301 "canonical redirects" for your website.
It means that for Google www.yourwebsite.com and yourwebsite.com (without the "www") are two different websites. So if you promoted let's say www.yourwebsite.com and then switched your efforts to yourwebsite.com, then Google will be confused.
7. Your server was down for an extensive amount of time.
When your server is down and you didn't set your server to respond with the 503 code, Google can take your PR down. If your server is down or if you know that your server is going to be down, set it to respond with the 503 code, it will tell to Google or another search engine that you are aware of the problem and working on it.
These are just some of the External factors / Problems that make the Google Ranking go down. There are some other ones, but it looks that these seven factors are the most common. It's always a good idea to check Google Webmaster Tools where you can have your website checked for any issues and also find a lot of useful information. After you fixed the problems of your website, submit Reconsideration Request to Google so your website will be re-evaluated. It might speed up the process significantly. More in the next article:)
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