Your company website lost rankings overnight? Here’s why and how.

One of the worst imaginable scenarios for any well-established online business is to spend months or even years developing the perfect SEO strategy, only to experience a sudden drop in online rankings for no apparent reason. It can take months for an SEO agency to build a strong organic rankings result for a website. And with continuous Google algorithm updates and tweaks, maintaining s strong online presence can prove extremely challenging for any digital marketing agency, let alone in-house marketers. So, to help smooth the weigh of it all, we are going to offer a precautionary tale of how to identify and resolve the scenario where your company website lost rankings overnight.

9 common reasons behind your website losing online rankings overnight

Despite your primary urge to do so, don’t let panic get the better of you. Composure and patience are some of the best tools in a marketer’s arsenal. And there is no reason to lose your cool over your website or that of a client losing rankings overnight. This is something that every website experiences at least once due to one or more reasons.

So, rather than panic, your first step should be to take a step back and analyze the situation. Go through a list of reasons that could have caused a drop in rankings in order to identify and fix them as soon as possible. Your responsiveness in resolving the issue at hand will mean the difference between your website taking days or months to recover. Start by going through the following causes:

1. Inaccurate data

Two persons looking at stats and doing calculations.
No need to rush to conclusions – sometimes, the data is simply off.

In unexpected situations such as these, it’s important to confirm that the drop in rankings is real. Start by double-checking whether or not your company website lost rankings overnight. With so many analytics tools and marketers constantly looking at different data reporting approaches, false alarms are a common occurrence, especially when:

  • There was a reset of your analytics tools
  • One of your team members tampered with the settings
  • A time span, device, or page type got excluded, etc.

Another important fact to consider here is that rankings tend to fluctuate due to all the influencing factors that search engines use. And so long as you are aware of the range of these fluctuations, you should be able to account for any drastic changes. To best check this, you should look at your historic data. Go back a year or two, and check for any patterns that might emerge and indicate normality in this rankings drop your website experienced. Whether the data is inaccurate due to Google making modifications to its algorithm or your analytics tools experiencing issues, taking a patient approach to the problem can lead to it resolving itself.

2. Manual actions

Google has its reviews that audit web pages to determine whether or not they are compliant with webmaster quality guidelines. When they are not, manual actions in the form of penalties and devaluation are imposed by Google. The causes for manual actions from Google reviews can most commonly include the situation where a website:

  • has been hacked
  • uses cloaking.
  • contains user-generated spam, unnatural backlinks, thin content, sneaky redirects, etc.

Google explains the ways in which you can deal with each type of manual action that your website comes across. You can log in to Google Search Console and go to the Security & Manual Actions > Manual Actions. There, you will be able to find confirmation in case your website has indeed receive any type of manual penalty. There should also be a statement explaining the cause of the issue and noting the pages that were affected. Off-page issues usually round back to backlink profiles and unnatural links whereas on-page issues are oriented toward website performance.

3. Algorithm updates

Google constantly works on its algorithm – so much so that they have thousands of tweaks per year. However, when it comes to updates, they are almost never announced. And the changes that they bring are usually not big enough to notice, but some have been known to introduce chaos to a well-established digital marketing strategy.

The history of Google updates teaches us that it takes several days for SEOs to notice shifts in online rankings. Immediately after they do, they start consulting with other SEO agencies and asking for official statements from Google representatives. Although they are reluctant to announce updates ahead of time, Google reps have no issue with confirming that an update has been introduced. Some updates are niche-related and can only affect certain industries and it might take more for the world to find out about those updates.

4. Competitive analysis & comparison

Three people competing
Your company website lost rankings overnight? Look at the competition.

Sometimes, no matter how much we would like to believe that the reason a company website lost rankings overnight is internal, it might not be. With the constant development of digital marketing and branding tactics, more and more industries are getting in on the action. And so, losing your online rankings to your competitors might simply be the result of their strategy being more effective than your own.

However, before you give credit to the competition, you should still conduct a cross-comparison between your SERP history and that of your competitors. Consider some of the following scenarios based on what you see:

  • When you have unsystematic and rapid changes in terms of new websites, shifts, position movement, etc. – it is usually due to the effects of multiple small tweaks that lead to high SERP volatility. In most cases, this is temporary chaos that subsides in a matter of days. But an in-depth analysis never hurts to go through.
  • If your company website lost rankings overnight to a single competitor, then there is a good chance that they have utilized a site-wide modification. And the sooner you audit their website from both a technical and SEO perspective, the faster you’ll be able to realize what enhancements they made.
  • When you experience a loss of several keywords, in particular, the cause usually has to do with on-page optimization. That means that your competition is working on their inner pages by updating content, optimizing headlines and sub-headlines, images, HTML tags, etc. Visit their pages and compare them with your own, to realize how their content fares against your own.

The simple truth is that competitive SEO analysis is a necessary step in understanding shifts in online rankings and how best to improve your online presence.

5. Lost backlinks

The backlink profile of a website can carry the day when it comes to online rankings. Getting low-quality or irrelevant links that lead to your website can offer little value while some links can even cause a loss of value for your website. That is why companies need to pay attention to their choice of backlinks. However, simply gaining quality backlinks for your website is only the beginning of the work. Then comes the matter of monitoring and maintaining those links.

A company website loses rankings overnight and no one is quite sure why. Google and the competition made no changes. Nobody tampered with the website in the last couple of days. But what about the backlinks? So, the time comes to visit your backlink history and examine whether you’ve lost any of the links in the past 24 hours. When you lose one or more high-value links, your online rankings can easily plummet as a result. And if that is the case, you need to do everything you can to retrieve those links. Try getting in touch with the webmaster or site owner to request that your link be re-instated.

6. Site changes

Website redesign illustration
Changing your website can lead to losing rankings overnight.

Although often necessary and desirable, large changes to your website can easily lead to fluctuations in online rankings. Whether you are recoding the website, going with a new design, changing its CMS, or shifting to HTTPS – it can all have a bearing on its value in the eyes of Google. And you need to be extra careful with each new modification, as it can have a significant impact on the SEO performance of your website.

Upon making any changes to your website, make sure to examine them by opening the Google Search Console, and going to Index > Coverage. If you notice a change in errors and warnings on the date when you made the changes, then you might have just come across the reason behind your website losing rankings overnight. Google logs and describes all discovered crawling and indexing issues right there in the Coverage tab, so it’s fairly easy to identify and fix the problem.

Another useful step would be to leave any major changes to your website in the hands of skilled web development teams that can double-check everything and ensure that your rankings don’t suffer due to those changes.

7. User behavior changes

Your company website lost rankings overnight? It might have to do with CTR.
CTR can often lead to loss in rankings and traffic.

According to Google claims, the behavior of online users is too unpredictable and wide-scaled to influence rankings. However, experienced digital marketing agencies understand just how much the behavior of users can impact Google’s algorithm. In fact, the favors have shifted in the past couple of years and as a result, content is now less oriented toward optimization and more focused on meeting the expectations of readers.

And so, it is only logical that if the click-through rates of your website are dropping, certain pages are getting less traffic, and thus losing their value. To check on this metric, all you need to do is look at your CTR for the entire website and individual pages. If you notice a drop in visits or CTR, then the cause could be found in one of the following conclusions:

  • Your competition has updated their content and snippets;
  • The content on your pages is outdated and no longer viewed as relevant;
  • Your content is not responsive to all devices that target audiences might be using;
  • Your pages are too optimized and lack a more natural and engaging flow.

Whatever the case is, the conclusion is that you need to revisit the pages that are losing clicks and update them. Content is King and it takes commitment to continue ruling a kingdom.

8. SEM vs. SEO traffic conflicts

Sometimes, the combination of Paid Advertising and SEO can lead to a conflict. Implementing successful PPC advertising campaigns can lead traffic away from organic search results, resulting in your SEO strategy losing its grip. To prevent this from happening, make sure to compare the keywords you use in your PPC campaigns with those that you target through SEO. It’s important not to waste your advertising budget on keywords that you have organic rankings and traffic for. And this is also something that you can discuss with PPC agencies.

9. SERP changes

Much like with algorithm changes, Google is always searching for innovative ways to improve user experience. And that includes enriching search results with knowledge panels, rich snippets, Q&A sections, video clips, products page, job ads, etc. True enough, all those add-ons make the search process simpler for search engine users. But they also take away organic traffic from websites. So, when you start losing rankings, make sure to explore SERP enhancements. And if it turns out to be true, you need to cross over to using structured data to enhance your snippets and become part of the solutions that Google offers.

A quick step-by-step checklist to help you realize how your company website lost rankings overnight

  • Consult your Google Search Engine Console
  • Check for NoIndex and NoFollow metadata and tags
  • Check for Robots.txt Errors
  • Make sure that your website hasn’t been hacked
  • Analyze your inbound and outbound links
  • Re-examine your content
  • Look at the competition
  • Consult with other SEOs

Start fortifying your online rankings with the right team by your side

Digital Dot understands the different ways in which websites can gain and lose online rankings and awareness. Our teams work closely together and follow digital trends and strategies, as well as Google algorithm updates and guidelines. With such knowledge and resources on your side, you will be able to avoid losing any online positions.

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