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What to Do When Your Search Rankings Drop

“I just lost all my Google traffic – help!”

This request hits my inbox every week or two from a distraught blogger who has logged into the blog’s statistics one morning only to discover that most of their traffic has completely disappeared due to the all powerful Google making some kind of change in their algorithm and how they rank sites which resulted in that particular blog either disappearing from search results or at least being buried many pages down in the rankings.

The feeling associated with this discovery of a loss of traffic can be sickening.

I still remember the first time it happened to me (back in 2004) as if it were yesterday – it was like someone had sucker punched me in the gut – really took the wind out of my sails.

Up until the day it happened traffic had been healthy on my blog – healthy enough to just make a full time living from. Then when the traffic from Google disappeared I was down to 30% of what I’d come to see as ‘normal’ traffic and suddenly my dreams of being a full time blogger seemed over.

What to do when your Google Traffic Disappears

OK – so the question that I’m asked each time this happens to a ProBlogger reader is – what should I do?

It’s a tough question to answer – partly because I’m not Google and don’t have any insight into your particular situation and partly because each time it happens it is different. I’m also not an SEO expert am won’t give you any technical advice – but let me give you some general advice to start with:

1. Don’t Panic

I’ve had this happen to me at least 5 times over the last 7 years of blogging and most successful bloggers I know can recall a similar number of Google fluctuations that have brought decreases (and increases) in traffic in their blogging history. It happens to us all – sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways. In chatting with one Google employee recently he told me that they are making daily (and more) changes to the way that they rank sites (mainly small tweaks) so over time we’ll all notice changes.

The key is not to make massive big changes to your site’s SEO too quickly or as a gut reaction to a change in your ranking.

For me the first time that this happened (when I lost 70% of my traffic) I was very tempted to make big changes to my site to try to fix things. I was advised by a few wise and experienced web masters to wait. I did and a few weeks later almost all of the traffic returned. Google fixed itself (phew).

If the traffic doesn’t come back after an extended period you might want to get some expert SEO advice and make some larger changes – but I personally am glad that I’d seen out the dips in traffic rather than doing anything to hurt my long term rankings.

Of course there are times when you might need to make some changes…. such as….

2. Have You Done Anything Black Hat?

Google has guidelines in place for webmasters. If you want to rank well in their search engine you need to play by their rules. Of course there’s a whole industry around ‘bending’ and ‘manipulating’ the rules and many web masters make a living by doing it – however if you are caught breaking the rules by Google you’re likely to be penalized.

If this is the case for you you have two choice:

I know of numerous bloggers who’ve asked for reconsideration and have been reinstated back into the index. It can take a little while (the last one said it took a couple of weeks for them) but in the long run it can be well worthwhile.

3. Build Other Sources of Traffic

The biggest lesson that I learned back in 2004 when I lost most of my traffic as a result of a Google algorithm change was that I needed to diversify my approach to building traffic to my blogs.

Up until that time I was almost exclusively working on driving traffic via Google. It was like a drug that I’d become dependent upon in some ways and much of my day was spent writing content for Google and attempting to ‘get links’ to that content from other sites. I was not really writing for regular readers or trying to build community on my blog – I just wanted traffic that I hoped would click my ads and affiliate programs.

This approach had worked for me – however when my Google traffic disappeared I was left with little and realized how short sighted I’d been. I began to change my focus and started working on other sources of traffic.

I still love the traffic that Google sends me but today if it all disappeared it would hurt – but it wouldn’t be the end for my business. Next week I want to followup this post with another one looking at some of the ways to become less reliant upon Google traffic and to build traffic from other sources – stay tuned for more.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Hi Tom. The same happened to me when I moved my forum around. It took a month for me for it to start recalibrating the links. Actually I think it notices right away b/c of the Google bots crawling, but to index the changes and to commit them and publish them took about a month. HTH
    Cisco Training Videos

  2. gabril says:

    Well, I don’t get it with built other source of traffic, from where you get that traffic if your site gone from serp? we had known the biggest traffic most comes from google.

  3. Mike says:

    Darren,

    Thank you for your well-timed post. My fitness and health blog suffered a big loss of Google traffic about 3 months ago. I have been developing alternate sources since then but perhaps I need to contact Google.

    I hadn’t done anything black hat but I got lazy and invited a posting service to add some content. After 2 months of that and my occasional post things started dropping off.

    Looking closer there were to many affiliate links, too many fat loss articles and the like. I deleted all of that and have been working to add quality posts and good links but still have the low Google contribution compared to where it was. The site is indexed, and ranks for a few things but not like it did.

    Thanks,
    Mike

  4. SEO Blog says:

    Great tips! Thanks for the post, I would say that blogs and forums, even twitter, is a great way to get your traffic going again.

  5. Fruitful tips are mentioned in this post for increasing web traffic when ranking goes down. One of our blog also getting more traffic by blog commenting and these visits comes from real visitors also. We have done social bookmarking, blog commenting and article submission and getting good rank for our targeted keywords.

  6. Great post. We are doing social bookmarking, article and blog commenting for getting good rank in serp.

    Thanks.

  7. wopular says:

    So, where’s the article about diversifying your traffic? It’s been more than a week. Get cranking :)

  8. Jonathan says:

    Hello,
    I really enjoy this post. A few important guides here. It is hard to not panic when you see how much of your work just disappeared :(. Anyway , keep it up !

  9. Tom Durkin says:

    It would be interesting to see what would happen if say..google was completely taken away. It would really make you reach out and look for other sources of traffic. I think the lesson is that its essential to build a number of traffic sources: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket seems like a very fitting idiom here.

    Having such a big dependency on google (even from your experience) can prove costly at times.

    My blog is relatively new after I had to start again due to a hack, and currently around 90% of my traffic is coming from Facebook and Twitter.

    Thanks for a great blog

  10. janelle says:

    Huh… like being hooked on OIL as a country;)…

  11. Patrick says:

    Very useful post, I went through a similar experience and entirely disappeared from google inexplicably for a few weeks. I decided to plough on regardless, and thankfully my site reappeared as before, as if nothing had happened. My first instinct was to panic, and redo the whole thing, but it turned out that sitting back and waiting for google to realign itself was the remedy I was after…. even though the only reason I didn’t revamp everything was because of hopeless levels of procrastination, it’s good to know this was an approved method!

  12. This happened to me a few weeks ago. I was chugging along great and getting good back links. One of my sites was “on the rise”. Life was good. I was spending several hours a day building links by myself. No blackhat, no linkbuilding programs…just me and my keyboard. I woke up one day and had fallen off the cliff. No first page rankings, nowhere to be found in the index. I was panicked and tried to get into every forum I could to see if anyone else had experienced the problem. I got a few old hands to reply and their advice was to just keep on “keepin’ on”. One went so far as to say that Google did this to a certain percentage of sites all the time, to keep them on their toes. He said that the google strategy is to maintain the “google slap” fear by dropping sites off. That way, everybody keeps looking over thier shoulder for the google cops, and is wary about stepping too far over the line. I’m not sure that’s the case, but it makes sense to me. Anyway, mine came back in three days and my blood pressure went back down to normal. Thanks for the article.

    Quality pages and honest links…

    Steve Benedict
    Suave Doggie

  13. SEO Dallas says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I have also been facing the same problem, but now i would do as per your advice & hope it will work out for me as well. :)

  14. Google is a tough one to crack because you never know what they are going to do.

  15. I would get get just 5 to 10% of the traffic is from google. I don’t know the problem here. I really like you tips. Thanks a lot…

  16. Don’t freak out, play by the rules and diversify. Good laws to live by my friend. Thanks

  17. Argodots says:

    Nice article!
    Fortunately this did not happen to me until now. But I would certainly not panic about it. Just keep writing interesting content for your readers. I believe that this is the only thing we should not forget as we are not blogging for Google but for real human beings.

    I also strongly believe that in the future Google will be able to understand the real meaning of text in blog posts through the means of text mining. I hope I will still be here when the semantic web hits in ;)

  18. Or maybe we all should boycott Google for it’s starting to manipulate the market monopoly just like Microsoft did. Just kidding!

  19. Mel Menzies says:

    This happened to me three months ago: a drop of about 40% on traffic. I had recently discovered that I had no meta tags on my site and had asked my web designer to incorporate them. He used a default set of meta tags/titles and descriptions across my whole site and Google didn’t like it because under the banner An Author’s Look At Life: Resources To Inform, Inspire, Encourage, I blog on a broad number of issues and the defaults didn’t relate to many of the articles.

    However, when I queried it, I learned that Google had changed their algorithms at precisely the same time as I’d changed my site.

    Now, 3 months later, I haven’t regained my former position as far as traffic is concerned (though, inexplicably, my ranking went up from 3 to 4), but neither have I lost any more. Fortunately, as a book author, I don’t rely on my blog for my income. Still – it’s very disappointing when you’ve put in the hard slog.

    Happy New Year, Darren – and my very grateful thanks to you for all you’ve taught me about blogging over the past year. Mel

  20. Jumpman says:

    Thanks for the advice man. I actually just had this happen to me a couple of days ago, right after I read this article. At first I started to change things, but re-read the article, and decided to leave things as they were, and continue updating the site as usual. Sure enough, I went back to my normal spot. Thanks, you saved me from possibly making things worse!

  21. Whitney says:

    This is a great insight into what to do when your search engine rankings drop. This happened to me on one of my blogs, and I still haven’t gottened the ranking back for that keyphrase, but I’ve learned to find other methods of generating traffic, it’s not the end of the world.

  22. Paul says:

    EXCELLENT!!
    My ranking is up and down all the time, Mainly down. Some good info here. Hopfully its gonna be going up

    Thanks from
    http://www.freebiethings.co.uk http://www.iphone-for-free.co.uk

  23. Rich says:

    I had no luck with getting indexed until I started reading what it takes to ge there. I started a blog and put a link to my website and then submited articles to digg and others. Now with your great website I’m getting better and better at getting indexed. Thanks Rich of http://sanmarcostreeservice.com

  24. fazamania says:

    i have one blog drop from PR3 to PR0 .. i dont know why… but still look for new tips .. this articles is very helpfull

  25. I have noticed that before google page your site up for some reason it page you down. e.g. if your site is at 5th place of results and you made some changes (extra links, change of contents e.t.c.) you will notice after a week or so to loose 2-3 places and after 1-2 days to be in 3nd place.

  26. Good article for those who want to raise their search engine rankings.Keep throwing these type of articles…!!

  27. A similar thing happened to me on my first website, I was ranking on the 6th page for my keywords and then without changing anything my site just disappeared out of site.

    Still don’t know why it happened and probably never will, with the way google keeps changing it’s ranking system.

  28. Lepki says:

    relax, review, tweak and watch!
    Focus on converting rather than ranking – all will be fine.

  29. Hari says:

    Thank you for an excellent article. So far I have not had any issues with Google traffic. But I have noticed that Bing and Yahoo traffic keeps going up and down (sometimes they are not indexing my site at all).

  30. Blog Tactic says:

    Definitely true. You cannot rely 100% on Google traffic. The problem however, it is difficult to gain much traffic from other sources.

  31. mike says:

    definatly other way of marketing also helps in making se better as compared with just to rely on google

  32. JohnnyW says:

    I have found that variety is the way to go, especially when building those backlinks.

  33. I live in fear of Google pulling the plug and it has really bugged me that I have all my eggs in one basket. I know I need to diversify…. i’m really new to blogging and building a “community” that will keep the traffic going if google should disappear is almost equally intimidating! Thanks for all your insights!!

  34. My 4 months old site, little grow of visitor, I still learn how to make more traffic. Lost our link some time happened to us.
    With 0 page rank, I will never surrender.
    Thanks

  35. Ben says:

    Best thing to do is just keep building those links – Weave your website to the web with more and more links.

  36. Great post, and excellent timing, I have hit bottom a month or so ago. I have lost just over 50% of my traffic, and more then 70% of my revenue. I have made some smaller changes, but nothing major, so I guess it is a good idea to wait it out. Traffic and revenue has slowly started to climb again, but very slightly.

    Thanks for some excellent advice.
    Colin.

  37. Nick says:

    Haha, I don’t anticipate I’ll be on any high list of search rankings anytime soon.

  38. Josh says:

    It’s funny how much my websites will bounce around the google rankings. Since my websites are mostly organic traffic I highly depend on keeping my high search rankings and this type of thing is exactly what I live in fear of. I’ll see one of my sites drop to page 5 or 6 and the gut instinct is to massively overhaul the site and build links but that is the type of thing you really need to have self control over.

  39. Keep writing good blog entries. Keep focusing on what you got you on top in the first place.

  40. I have noticed also that google concern about PR of every linked webpage

  41. Saurabh says:

    I had faced a similar problem few months back. Later my friend explained my mistake. I was going through my server pages and accidentely pressed a couple of clicks… and my website redirected to a blank page. But thankfully it ws back in no time.http://www.friendinlove.com

  42. These all stand in a great sequance as they provided as a most useful ways to go ahead when your search rankings go down or drop. Don’t panic, just have patience, don’t ever use black hat technique and the most useful thing to do is to contiune to build links from some other relevant sopurces.

  43. Darren says:

    Black hat practices will cause your ranking to take a nose dive. Don’t do it!