Has your site fallen off the search engine results page? Your site’s ranking drops and rises according to the algorithm of the search engine being used. A sudden and extreme loss on the Google Search Console can often be attributed to an algorithm update. When Google (and Bing) update their algorithms, they change their respective ranking formula which will impact your Google ranking. If your website isn’t aligned with this new formula, it may see a dramatic Google ranking drop where it generates little to no organic search traffic. When your Google rankings drop after an algorithm update, how do you recover them?
Look for Information About the Update
The road to recovery begins with research on Google rankings, and if needed, check Google Search Console. The more you know about the Google algorithm update, the easier it will be to recover from it.
Maybe the Google algorithm update introduced a new ranking signal, or perhaps it devalued an existing ranking signal. Either way, your Google ranking dropped dramatically, so now what?
While a search engine may typically remain silent about minor updates, they may release information about core updates. You can visit Google’s Webmaster Central Blog to see it mentions a recent algorithm update. Moz also lists both confirmed and unconfirmed Google algorithm updates.
Check Webmaster Accounts for Notifications
Log in to your webmaster accounts at Google and Bing to check for notifications. Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools both have a notification feature. If they encounter a critical problem with your website, they’ll notify you via this feature.
While a Google penalty notification in Google Search Console typically involves manual penalty, they may also be triggered by an algorithm update. Algorithm updates can help a search engine identify websites that violate Google Search Console data guidelines.
If your website is flagged for a violation, the search engine’s quality control team will manually review it. Assuming the violation is true, they may penalize your website. You can find notifications for manual penalties on your own site in your webmaster accounts at Google and Bing.
Evaluate Recent Onsite Changes
You should evaluate any recent onsite changes made to your website. Certain changes, especially major changes, can affect how search engine crawlers understands your website. When they roll out a new algorithm update, that search engine may then rank your website lower.
If you change your website’s URL structure, for example, search engines will have to start over from scratch. Search engines may continue to display the old URLs in their search results. Upon rolling out a new algorithm update, though, they may deindex the old URLs. If the new URLs aren’t properly optimized, they may not rank as high as the old URLs.
You can still change your website’s URL structure, but you should optimize the new URLs with 301 redirects or canonical tags to retain your site’s search engine optimization (SEO).
Common onsite changes that can affect your website’s rankings include:
- Changing the URL structure
- Changing the meta tags
- Migrating to a new domain
- Migrating to a new hosting provider
- Switching the theme or template
- Installing new plugins or apps
Delete Low-Quality Pages
If your rankings dropped, deleting low-quality pages may help your website recover from an algorithm update. Low-quality pages can drag down your website’s overall ranking authority, and these negative effects can be magnified by an algorithm update.
A page is considered low quality if it has little or no unique, valuable content. They don’t offer an incentive for users to visit them, so a search engine will try to keep them out of their search results. An algorithm update by a search engine will identify low-quality pages on your website, in which case they may demote those pages as well as your entire site.
To recover from an algorithm update, go through your site content to delete low-quality pages. You can retain any original and valuable content before deleting them. Just copy the content and integrate it into one or more other pages. When finished, you can delete the low-quality pages from your website.
Remove Disruptive Ads
If your website has disruptive ads, you may want to remove them. Disruptive ads, including obtrusive pop-ups and autoplay video ads with sound, interfere with search engine usability. They disrupt the activities of visitors, thus making it more difficult for them to use your website.
Many of the Google Search Console algorithm updates have specifically targeted websites with disruptive ads or spammy links. In a February 2020 post on its Security Blog, Google revealed plans to invest in new technologies and systems to counter the growing threat of disruptive ads.
Therefore, you should choose a different way to monetize your website. With algorithm updates, Google is constantly demoting search results for websites that have disruptive ads.
Disavow Harmful Backlinks
Disavowing harmful backlinks may help your website recover from an algorithm update. Not all algorithm updates involve on-page ranking signals. Some of them involve off-page ranking signals, such as backlinks. Both Google Search Console and Bing regularly roll out new algorithm updates targeting websites with harmful backlinks.
Harmful backlinks consist of paid, spammy, and manipulative backlinks, all of which are against Google ranking guidelines. Search engines, however, realize that anyone can build them. A competitor, for instance, may build harmful backlinks to your website in an attempt to have it’s ranking drop. Since search engines can’t tell who created the backlinks, the competitor may be successful.
You protect your website from harmful backlinks by disavowing them. Disavowing isn’t the same as deleting. Disavowing is a feature offered by search engines to webmasters. It’s designed to discredit harmful backlinks so that they don’t impact your website’s rankings.
To disavow harmful backlinks, use Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools. Both webmaster platforms have a disavow tool. You can upload a list of all harmful backlinks, and after they’ve processed it, Google rankings and Bing won’t use the listed backlinks in their algorithms.
You don’t need to delete disavow backlinks just because they are of low quality. Low-quality backlinks, such as those on irrelevant websites, aren’t harmful. They may not raise your website’s rankings, but you wont see your rankings drop, either.
Algorithm updates can change the positions and keywords for which your website ranks. Some of these algorithm updates may improve your website’s rankings, whereas others may lead to a rankings drop. When the latter occurs, don’t panic. Instead, take a few steps back while investigating the recent algorithm update and making the appropriate changes to your website.
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Amanda serves as the Head of Sales and Enablement for Pressable. She's worked in the tech space for well over a decade and has spent the majority of that time building/training/leading teams. She loves travel and adventure and when she's not working, you can find her spending time with her family, lounging pool/beach-side, playing tennis, working out, and meeting people/making friends all along the way!