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When your rankings decline, your brand’s visibility decreases. That may also be accompanied by less traffic and, for many businesses, that means less revenue. Swiftly identifying the affected areas of your site and the factors that may have resulted in the decline can enable you to reclaim or even improve your rankings. Holly Miller Anderson, former SEO product manager for Macy’s Tech, detailed her systematic approach and the tools she relies on to diagnose and fix rankings drops in a talk during SMX Next (free registration) this week. The tools and resources Anderson uses to get to the bottom of rankings declines. Why your rankings might have fallen Anderson noted the three possible causes for rankings declines and addressed how to diagnose each. “It’s either something that changed on your site, Google changed something or external factors are affecting your rankings,” she said. Related: Essential SEO Guide: How to master the science of SEO Something changed on your site. “This can take the form of a folder getting moved, code was updated or pushed live that broke something, your dev teams unknowingly created redirects, Googlebot is being blocked from crawling and indexing important pages or parts of your site because there was a change to the robot.txt file, maybe something happened to the site map,” she provided as examples of site changes that could negatively affect rankings, adding that these issues are generally easy to resolve. Google changed something. An algorithm update may also cause ranking volatility. “Broadly speaking, if you notice a sharp decline in your rankings and traffic, it’s a good indicator that you need to dig in and find out where Google feels your site is falling short of expectations,” she said. If competitors within your sector also lost rankings, there may be a commonality that needs to be addressed, she added. The Google Search Liaison Twitter account and Google Algorithm Update History page from Moz are two resources that Anderson recommends to verify whether an algorithm update actually occurred. Was There A Google Update, created by Search Engine Land News Editor Barry Schwartz, can also be used to surface algorithm update news based on date. External factors in the market. These factors can range from competitors launching content that is more authoritative or comprehensive than yours to breaking news shaking up the search results for a given term to search behavior swings due to COVID-19, for example. In the case of a competitor overtaking your rankings, SEOs can revisit their content to improve it. However, there are other scenarios, such as the coronavirus pandemic, in which things are “just out of our control,” she said. Pinpointing the cause of a rankings dip Anderson recommends using an enterprise software platform, Google Analytics, Google Search Console and the following checklist of questions to narrow down the possible causes behind a rankings decline. Which high volume search terms lost rankings? If your high volume terms lost rankings, it may have been caused by a site change that made your page less relevant. Keeping a record of what changes were made and when can enable you to identify and resolve the issue. Alternatively, your site may have been affected by an algorithm update. Keeping an eye on your competitors’ rankings can validate this explanation. Did your rankings drop while direct competitors’ rankings increased? » Read More
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