Website Rankings Tanked Recently? If So, Here’s Why… (and How to Turn It Around Fast!)
It was just a few weeks ago that Google made one of the more major changes to its algorithm that it’s made in a long time. The result? A lot of websites (and their business owners + SEOs + webmasters) watched long-held and hard-earned keyword rankings TANK overnight.
Throughout the years, those of us who make our living from teasing, courting and hopefully winning over Google, have become accustomed to the search engine’s fickleness. We’ve even made our peace with never feeling 100% secure with our position – or the balance of power – in our relationship with the web giant.
However, to some extent, for the recent years at least, that relationship has at least been founded in something we could trust—merit. In other words, if we did the “right thing” or “right things” Google would reward us with their return loyalty.
All we had to do to “win” in the search engine game really revolved around 4 simple requisites:
- Provide real value
- Be genuine
- Be honest
- Follow a few basic, outlined, rules
Sure, there was a little finesse to it in order to beat out and especially, dominate the competition. A little talent and perhaps a bit of “skilled clairvoyance” as to how to best interpret and follow those requirements, could separate the good from the great. But for the most part, you knew the general standards you were expected to meet and uphold and if you played the game well, you – your clients, your sites, and/or your businesses – would reap the benefits.
On the other hand, many web optimization experts are claiming the August 1, 2018, change Google made to their algorithms, threw that long-standing, reciprocal, relationship in the trash. They say that not only did Google change the rules of the game, they did so at the expense of some of their most dedicated and committed suitors.
This was a broad core ranking update. Meaning, it included a variety of different factors and resulted in some far-reaching, dramatic, changes to the way Google ranked sites. Yet, one specific point most experts agree this update targeted in a big way was relevance and site-level quality.
Relevance is just as it sounds—how relevant a site is for the keywords it’s targeting. Does it answer the questions the searcher is looking for and does it answer them well? Is there enough content that is comprehensive—for the searcher to get the answer they were seeking and more?
Site-level quality is a little more abstract and hence, a little more complex. And although Google won’t just hand us the answer key, they do provide a cheat sheet in the form of their Webmaster tools and other tips and guides they provide to business owners and webmasters.
One such “quality factor” is making sure the site has a depth of content about its core subject matter. Another is more time-consuming and exacting—ensuring that all technical SEO standards are met—and met right. The good news is this one is a bit easier and even quicker to correct if your site is coming up short.
Interestingly, some of the most negatively impacted sites were health and wealth sites (sometimes called Y-M-Y-L sites—Your Money or Your Life sites) and E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritative and Trust) sites. This is likely because Google holds these sites to a much higher standard than others because their impact on visitors can be higher than most other sites as well. Therefore, there is much supposition that this latest update – with its relevance and quality requirements – affected these types of sites more than others.
What to do? How can you fight these changes if your site or sites were harmed by them?
- Perform (or have performed) an SEO site audit that specifically looks at relevance and quality. The first step to repairing – or even securing – your rankings is undertaking a thorough SEO audit of your website(s). You need to know where you stand before you start touching a thing. This definitely includes examining relevance factors and site quality—both for content and structure. You need to know what you need to know, before you even know what you need to touch—and how you need to touch it.
- Create a reasonable timeline & begin addressing all shortcomings. Yes, you need to start correcting all the issues identified in the site audit. No, you can’t do it – address them all – at once. Furthermore, when you try to do everything quick AND fast, you often miss and overlook the (REAL) deeper issues. Meaning, you might see temporary surges from fast fixes sure… but they’ll often be followed by (sometimes bigger) drops that take you lower than where you started.
- Be patient. In no way can you expect any changes you make in response to your audit to re-establish your site rankings overnight. But this is actually good because it seems – and is – more authentic… which was Google’s whole goal behind these changes in the first place.
Yes, it can sometimes seem like you – your site and your business – are at the mercy of Google. Believe me, it feels that way to almost everyone who plays in the Google game at some or any point in time. However, it seems that’s the way it’s going to be for now and the foreseeable future. Thus, we must play the game well—and according to their rules. Which for now, seems to be simply… being good. And then, staying good. And then, being better than good. If we can do that genuinely, honestly, and consistently, we stand to win… and win big. If we don’t, we will very likely suffer… and suffer big. Right now, Google is King and we are merely its subject—just hoping they let us be one of the lucky ones who gets close enough to kiss the ring.