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10 Factors to Check When SERP Rankings Suddenly Drop

Date published: August 03, 2016
Last updated: August 3, 2016

Google ranking dropped suddenly? Well, it is a pretty common issue in SEO. As an SEO professional, you work hard to achieve high rankings, and a few days back you made some crucial changes to your website. You have kept your finger crossed with the expectation that it will boost your ranking. However, when you checked rankings for your prime keywords, you found a major downfall.

SERP ranking drop can deliver a major shock because top rankings are what we aim for when we structure and design our website. When you realize that your website is no longer enjoying the top SERP position in search results, it is very likely that you will go into a panic mode and start searching for reasons and solutions frantically.

This can be quite a challenge as there are a multitude of varying factors that could cause a drop in SERP position. It could happen due to low-quality content, onsite technical issues, algorithm updates (most likely cause for major websites), a Google penalty, or the competition finally getting to decode your strategy and getting the better of you.

Also Read: Is SEO Still Giving You Positive ROI?

Being an SEO professional, you are aware of Google SEO ranking factors, but knowing reasons for a sudden drop in rankings is inevitable for you. So, no need to worry if you saw a drop in rankings. Instead, what is important is to delve into the issue to find out the reasons behind the drop.

Being a digital marketing professional, I have encountered several such issues where marketers faced an unexpected drop in rankings. There are several reasons why your website or web page could experience a drop in SERP position. In many cases, it could be loss of traction for the search term being used or could be because the post has not been updated in recent times.

In this write-up, I am trying to shed some light on this issue from my perspective.

Take a glance at the following possible reasons to know why you encountered a sudden drop in Google rankings .

Sudden Surge in New Links

No doubt link building is an inevitable part of SEO strategy, but only quality backlinks matters to Google. Being a digital marketing professional, People often ask “Why has my Google ranking dropped?” And, the reason is a sudden surge in fresh links pointing to that domain. However, in some instances, we saw a temporary decline in rankings.

Take a glance at this image that shows a surge in new links.


Surge in New Links

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Over the years, I have seen various cases in which rankings get dropped due to the surge of new links. In some instances, SERP position of a website can change dramatically if the new links are not added as a part of the organic process and have suspect elements. One such situation arises when your website has had credibility issues in the past and received notification for unnatural links. Though you have now revamped your strategy, and the links earned by you are natural and relevant, Google may consider it as an attempt to manipulate search results. However, the impact, either positive or negative, of new links depends on the credibility and domain authority of sites you earn backlinks from. That is why quality backlinks matter. Further, it is advised to perform a timely backlink analysis with the help of tools like Ahref, Open Site Explorer, SEMrush, and Majestic SEO.

Related: Get Your Free Copy of " Top 15 Advanced SERP Features To Look Out For In 2018" Todays

Losing Quality Backlinks

Just like gaining fresh links influences search engine rankings, losing quality links creates a negative impact on search results. A website that possesses few backlinks has a significant dependence on quality backlinks. In case these backlinks are removed or temporarily unavailable, then it will not only trigger a ranking drop but impact the domain authority of the website.

For better illustration, take a look at the following graph that shows the impact of losing backlinks.


Losing Quality Backlinks

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Therefore, it is your responsibility to include regular backlink analysis in your SEO strategy to sustain long-term results. For this, use backlink tools to get in-depth details for your lost backlinks. Further, perform competitor analyses to make your SEO strategy impactful.

Redirections While Rebranding

Online visitors are precious to every business, and if your website attains significant traffic, it means it has a good reputation. During rebranding, redirections are the most crucial thing that one needs to pay attention to.

See the graph below explaining the loss in traffic after website redesigning.


Traffic after Redesign

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If you revamp your website, then, with the aid of 301-redirects, you can pass between 90-99 percent of link juice to the redirected page. But, if it is not done in a proper manner, it may cause a drop in rankings.

Algorithmic or Manual Penalties

Penalties can be manual or algorithmic, and both affect rankings. Therefore, whenever you find an unexpected drop in your rankings, you can go to Search Console to check new messages.
Take a peep at the image below to understand manual penalties.


unnatural links

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Check the “Manual Actions” that come under the “Search Traffic” category to check messages from Google in the case of penalties, and remedy them lightning fast. For more details, you can refer to the article on Google penalty removal.

Google Updates

One of the most crucial things associated with rankings drop is algorithm updates. Whenever you find your Google ranking has dropped dramatically, it is probably because of an algorithm update. It is nothing short of a nightmare for SEO professionals when Google releases algorithm updates.

See the image below to understand how updates affect rankings.


google updates

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Remember every single update by Google is toward improving the web experience for online users. Rather than viewing it as a nightmare, take it as an opportunity to contribute to making the web a better place for online users.

Check On-Page Factors

Human beings are prone to mistakes. A good professional is one who never disregards essential elements like crawl errors (can be found in Google webmaster tool), incorrect/inappropriate canonical tags, robot files, and several others because these things can affect ranking performance.

Take a glimpse at the following graphic to know how rankings get affected due to on-page factors.


crawl errors

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Always have a prepared checklist to use to ensure the cause of the drop in keyword ranking position.

Developmental Changes to the Website

Developmental changes on a website often lead to a fall in rankings, especially larger changes in structure. Therefore, ask your development team to inform your marketing team if they are going to make any changes. In case you see a drop in rankings, check cached version of the page to notice the changes, and revert those changes back. Keeping a backup of the page before making changes is a good practice that everyone should follow.

Everything is Okay but Server Issues

If you are an SEO professional or a company, then no need to explain how difficult this one is. It is something that is pretty difficult to diagnose.

See how your site would appear due to a server issue.


Server Error

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Server issues can put all your hard work down the drain if not resolved quickly. No need to worry, as you can collaborate with the team responsible for the server. Further, whenever you see a rankings drop, check server logs to trace strange errors. Drops may happen as a result of empty markup that is being served to Googlebot or because of a broken caching function. Go to Search Console and use the “fetch and render” function to see what Google received when it made a request for a particular page.

Change in Online Search Trends

Digital marketing is an evolving arena, and the things that work today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Similarly, search results heavily depend on online queries, and it is the responsibility of search engines to show the relevant and latest results as per the queries of the online audience.

I have seen that a sudden surge in the searches of a specific topic can drag down evergreen static content to page two. So, a change in online search trends can definitely affect the performance of your keyword search rankings.

For better illustration, see how search trends change.


online search trends

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Therefore, SEO is not a one-time done process. If you want to stay ahead in the competition, a timely analysis is a must.

Change in CTRs

Click-through rate is a ratio of people who saw your ad and clicked on it. It is one of the most important metrics to measure how good your keywords and ads are doing is the search engine. In simple words, CTR is the number of clicks your ad receives as a result of the number of times your ad has been shown to its online audience.

The graph below shows CTR with respect to the organic positions in SERP.


click through rate

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If we consider this factor in the context of sudden rankings drop, then indeed, a decline in CTR impacts rankings, but slightly. To check the status of CTR, go to Search Console and check the stats to see the effect of dropped CTRs on rankings so that you can work to improve your listing.


Clearly, many external factors play a part in determining search rankings. As a result, even after working diligently to improve a business’s ranking, many SEO professionals are still faced with an inevitable drop. The points explained above show how an SEO professional could check the reasons for a sudden drop in rankings and work to relieve the issues. If you have any other advice to add, please share in the comment section.


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