Have you noticed a shakeup in your keyword rankings recently? Were you hoping it was temporary and you would get back to #1 quickly? Did you look for a Google algorithm update and came up empty?
As you may know, a lot of factors contribute to keyword rankings, so it can be difficult to pinpoint just one reason why your ranking may have dropped. Here are some of the biggest reasons why we tend to see ongoing fluctuation, and some of the things we can do to fix it so you can get back on top.
These reasons are also why SEO is never “complete” – continuous optimization to keep pace with your competitors is essential to ensure you have the best chance of always ranking #1.
1. Backlink Volume and Quality
It’s helpful to think about backlinks as a form of a review, or recommendation. The more recommendations a site has for a keyword, the more trustworthy the site is in the eyes of Google.The more trustworthy the site, the more likely Google is to recommend that site to its customers. If you don’t have as many high-quality backlinks as some of your competitors for the Google search, that could be one of the main reasons why your ranking dropped.
See, for example, the SERP shown below:
In this example, the #1 ranking site has almost 50x the amount of backlinks as the site ranking #3, but it’s not always such a landslide. If you are neck-and-neck with your competitor, you may see turbulence as Google continues to adjust based on the “recommendations” it’s seeing for you and your competitor.
How to fix it: Link building is one of our major service lines for a reason, since building quality backlinks at scale is essentially impossible to do on your own. If you’re our customer, this is going to be one of the best ways we can set you up for success if you are seeing turbulence in your rankings. We’ve built relationships with publishing networks, journalists, website owners, etc. and we secure you quality and effective backlinks on their site. If you don’t have an SEO agency to turn to, it’s time for some serious reach-outs!
2. Quality Content On Page
The old standby “content is king” exists for a reason. Content, of course, is very important for gaining and stabilizing high keyword rankings.
Google has the entire internet to read! It’s not going to take the time to understand confusing content or pages without a clear, singular theme. It’s important that we make the specific themes of our content very clear to Google, on each individual page. Without clarity, your page will become vulnerable to the more focused and optimized pages, that will take it over for a higher keyword ranking.
How to fix it: SEO content optimization, of course is key to making your content sing, not just to readers, but to Google. Make sure you are following the best practices of SEO content creation. At Victorious, as part of SEO campaigns, we can help you write or optimize previously-written content, to make it clear to Google what the theme is and what keywords it should be ranking for.
3. Quality Content on Domain
Maybe it sounds like a weird metaphor, but I like to picture websites like human bodies. If you want your body or website to be in its best shape, you have to keep it active. You can’t go to the gym once and miraculously be in great shape.
Google prefers to rank active websites over inactive websites. Google doesn’t know if you’ve gone out of business, are in your off-season, or are focused on a rebranding strategy for next quarter. All Google knows is that you have very few pages with quality content and you haven’t posted a new blog in a few months. They think you’re dead.
How to fix it: There is no better time than now to start writing quality blogs that best serve your customers and that are also optimized for Google. Build a content calendar and commit to getting a new, quality blog published every other week (at least). If you need more help with producing this content, just let us know.
4. Maintaining a Technically Clean and Organized Site
If backlinks and content are going to the gym and eating right, then maintaining a technically clean and organized site is getting a full night’s sleep. Too much metaphor? Ok, I’ll drop it.
Google’s priority is to understand your individual pages and your domain as a whole. It’s crawling your site to see what might be valuable for its customers. If you have too many dead ends (404s), too many detours (redirects), or other technical issues that impede Google from easily navigating the site and understanding the relationships of each URL, it’s going to give up and move on.
How to fix it: Our technical audits are performed in month one of our partnership because fixing these items are critical to your site stabilizing its keyword positions. Some of these recommendations can take time to clean up if you have an older or larger site, so getting those started quickly is key. Our recommendations should be prioritized if we want to see stable and high ranking keywords.
5. Keyword Cannibalization
Keyword cannibalization is when you have multiple pages competing for the same theme. This can be difficult for internal marketing teams to diagnose. The pages may appear distinct to you as an expert in your given industry, but if Google doesn’t understand the distinction, you’ve got keyword cannibalization.
It is especially prevalent among niche businesses and their websites. If you have a technical product that a layman wouldn’t readily understand, you’re more likely to experience keyword cannibalization. When Google sees two pages on one domain targeting the same theme, it will split the authority. Ultimately, you end up with two pages ranking poorly for one keyword. You may also see keywords changing positions drastically due to keyword cannibalization.
How to fix it: We look for these types of issues in our preliminary audit, but they can always appear later as well. Let us know if you feel you might have some keyword cannibalization on your site. We’re happy to investigate and provide recommendations to fix the issue.
6. Internal Linking
The more internal links a page has to it, the more important the page appears to Google. The more important the page appears to Google, the more likely Google is to rank that page highly. The great thing is that you control all the internal links on your website!
How to fix it: Find ways to embed more internal links in blog posts to your target pages. Reference our keyword research and use keywords for the target page as anchor text. Be careful not to over-link in one blog post. We recommend 3-5 internal links in each blog post.
7. Making Changes to a Page
When we see keyword fluctuations, it’s often coupled with someone making changes to a page or pages. As we’ve said before: backlinks, content, internal linking, and more are all factors in keyword position ranking. Any change that alters these items could affect the keyword position on Google.
How to fix it: Check if any changes were made to the page that was previously ranking, especially content changes. Were there any changes to the URL or the website structure? Did you add more pages or blogs on the domain that may be cannibalizing? Did you delete old posts that were linking to that fluctuating page? Let us know and we can help provide next steps to stabilize the keyword ranking.
8. Competitors Making Moves
Unfortunately, the number of page-one positions on Google is limited. If competitors start to increase their SEO efforts, they become a threat to dethrone you. SEO is a battle, and sometimes your competitors beat you. You never know when they’re going to start investing in SEO.
How to fix it: If you’re noticing competitors making a run for it around you, we can perform a competitive analysis on certain keywords we’re seeing fluctuation on to see how you ranking against your competitors and what aspects you need to focus on to regain dominance over them.
9. Google Testing Changes
Google broad-core algorithms tend to make up the majority of SEO headlines. However, Google is constantly making smaller changes to its algorithm, sometimes multiple times a day. Remember that Google is a business. To maintain their users, they have to produce the best search product on the market. This means the pages they rank #1 have to best match the customer’s intent and desire when searching a keyword.
Just like we marketers run A/B tests, so do they. Google will, on occasion, change their interpretation of a keyword being searched to see if customers stay on those pages longer than the pages previously ranking. In addition to your competitors, and you, Google is constantly tinkering with the factors that influence rankings.
How to fix it: The last thing we want to do is be short-sighted and overreact to changes. At Victorious, we monitor your keyword ranking changes, as well as larger industry and theme changes across Google. SEO is a long game, so we need to wait for the dust to settle, to get confirmation that this is not a test, and make sure the change is semi-permanent before making any drastic changes.