Has Your Website Search Ranking Dropped Lately?

Possible reasons why your website search ranking changes over time or even overnight.

Search ranking sinking

Search engine algorithm

Times change, people change and so does search engine algorithm. If algorithm sounds like a big word to you, as it does to me, then consider it as a giant set of complex [mathematic] formula that search engines like Google, Yahoo! or Bing develop to decide which websites are more relevant to what people search, thus will be displayed at the top, compared to all the sites indexed in their database.

If your website suddenly disappears from search results for certain keywords that it used to rank very well, chances are your site suffers from changes in search algorithm. According to a VP in charge of search quality at Google, there had been about 450 to 500 improvements or updates to the algorithm a year in the past years. The ultimate purpose is to improve the relevancy of search results. Thus, any of those 450-500 changes can easily change your website ranking.

Relevancy, relevancy and relevancy

I emphasize the term relevancy as it’s the core of how search engines work; this was true in the past and becomes even more true today. A good example for the algorithm change is the fact that major search engines are ignoring the meta keywords – whatever you put or try to squeeze in your meta tag keywords doesn’t really matter anymore. A few years back, you’d see that keywords meta tag was an important area that could seriously affect your search ranking. However, because people have gotten really smart [or the opposite?] about this and tried to add too many unrelated/irrelevant keywords that had nothing to do with the rest of the site content, major search engines decided to totally ignore this meta content. This link will take you the page that Matt Cutts, a Google lead engineer, officially announced Google doesn’t use the keywords meta tag in web search in 2009.

Localization, personalization and much more

To improve relevancy , search and search results have become more and more personalized and localized. You can run a few simple tests with Google to see this. For example, if you are in San Jose, California and search for “pizza san jose,” what you will likely see first is the information from Google Places including a Google map with a list of pizza stores in or near San Jose, CA labelled A, B, C… in red. This is a clear example of localization; Google gives more priority to local listings – in this case pizza stores – compared to general listings.

How about personalization? Continue with the example about the search for pizza stores. If in the past, you’ve performed the same search and/or browsed www.abcpizza.com a few times using the same computer/network you’re using now, you’ll likely see www.abcpizza.com show up at the top of the search results. Your friend, who’s never visited www.abcpizza.com, on the other hand, may see a different set of search results on his computer. This is refered to as Google’s personalized search results, and things may get really complicated from here when you try to do search engine optimization for your website because the perception/definition of ranking or high ranking has been changed: high ranking when you do a search or when I do a search, and whether it’s possible to have high ranking when we both do the same search using different networks or in different locations. A couple of times I thought that visibleranking.com ranks really high for certain keywords; sadly enough :), as you may already know, it’s not the case; Google just displays my website at the top for me because I visit it regularly.

Google has been personalizing the search results based on your recent search engine queries; Yahoo! and Bing are believed to do the same thing if not done so already, so what’s next?

Admist all the changes in search algorithm, the items mentioned in my other post about Simple Ways to Increase Website Traffic & Search Ranking have stood the test of time. If your website just got vanished in search results, you may want to re-evaluate the keywords you chose to optimized in the past; re-evaluate whether or not your website should become less ambitious and target only certain geo-related keywords such as pizza store in San Jose instead of shooting long range for pizza store; review your website content to see if your selected keywords were properly used through the site from the title, to the heading and the rest of the text content; and last but not least, review your coding to see if the title tags, heading tags and so on have been put to best use.

If you want to solve the search ranking drop issue a bit more systematically, this related post may be helpful. Although it doesn’t show you how to tackle the problem directly, you can still use the technique and solve your own problem. Read more about What to Do When Your Website Traffic Dropped.

Again, hope this is useful!

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  1. Terrific work! This is the type of information that should be shared around the web. Shame on the search engines for not positioning this post higher!

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  3. Your articles are very inspiring indeed. I keep coming back! There are so many things I agree on. I hope we can exchange ideas in the future.

  4. Great blog! much appreciated.

    Sent from my iPad 4G

  5. Bing is great for finding cool websites.

  6. I have a chat site that was ranked very high for keywords that were not even in the title tag. Following the advice of a SEO company, I finally decided to include these keywords into my title tags. My site dropped significantly for all these keyword. I really hope this penalty doesn’t last much longer. My traffic has dropped to half.

    • Add keyword(s) to the title tag is usually the way to go, the question is how and what to add [to the title and the rest of the page] so that it doesn’t look like you’re spamming keywords is another question. Also, when dealing with search, I always stress the 3 components: science, art and… luck. Look like you need the last one now, so good luck!!!

  7. Hi I found your site by mistake when i was searching Google for this issue, I have to say your site is really helpful I also love the theme, its amazing!. I dont have that much time to read all your post at the moment but I have bookmarked it and also add your RSS feeds. I will be back in a day or two. thanks for a great site.

  8. Thanks for the great post. Page Bookmarked

  9. Well done, thanks for the great post.

  10. Thanks for the great share. Amazing post.

  11. Amazing blogpost. Hope this post will help others.

  12. Thank you for your post. Great share.

  13. For all those Penguin affected people –
    Several of our clients immediately felt the effects of a drop in search rankings.
    We found that removing the excessive keywords and swapping them with keyphrases, our clients page rank return within a few days.

  14. My suggestion is forget about search engines and develop your website for the users. Think how you can make your website more efficient for the users. If you have user centric website site you will start getting recognition from the search engines automatically.

  15. I was studying some of your blog posts on this website and I think this site is very instructive!

  16. For a novice, still confused.

  17. Yes it is bound to change, as Google, constantly updates its search engine algorithms. To avoid the sudden disappearance of your website from top rankings, keep up with the latest developments in Google search engine. Only work on quality not on quantity.

  18. I ponder exactly why you titled this specific blog post, “Has
    Your Website Search Ranking Dropped Lately?

    | Visible Ranking – Visible Marketing”. In any case I enjoyed the
    article!Thanks for your effort-Hye

  19. Hello There,
    Thanks for your outstanding illustrations on search rank dropping.
    To be honest, it is very common situation for getting this type of horrible moment when you drop organic traffic or organic website leads.

    Do not take to much panic. Just try to check risk values of your backlinks and other technical issues on your website.

    Thanks for your general guides on this term

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