Why have my Google rankings dropped?

Have your site’s rankings suddenly taken a nosedive? Here are 9 possible reasons and 9 ways out.

Reason #1 You used Black-Hat SEO Techniques: Have you been participating in link schemes recently; buying or selling links, creating “doorway pages”, or using “hidden text” on your site? These illegitimate (Black-Hat) SEO practices could be the reason behind the drop in your rankings.

The Way Out: Google has Webmaster Guidelines which all SEOs and webmasters must abide by. If you think you’ve run afoul of the rules, you might want to re-read Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and find out where you’ve gone wrong. You should then file a reconsideration request.

Reason #2 Changes in Search Engine algorithm: Search engines have a hard time keeping spammers at bay due to which they frequently change their algorithms. Take Google’s latest big algorithm update known as Panda (or Farmer), for example. Intended to deal with sites that offer poor-quality content, this update also happened to affect other sites that were not actually supposed to be affected.

The Way Out: Stay tuned to the happenings in Search Engine Land. Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land [http://searchengineland.com/], the official Google Blog (http://googleblog.blogspot.com/), and the inside-Google Matt Cutts’ blog (http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/) are sites you would want to keep an eye on for the latest updates.

Also consider changing your SEO techniques after an update. If you don’t think your site was supposed to get affected by an algo change but it did, you can always write about it on Google Webmaster Forum; your problem will most probably be solved.

Reason #3 Someone stole your site’s content: Search engines hate duplicate content with a passion. So, if someone has stolen or “scraped”, as they call it, the content from your site and posted it somewhere else on the Web, rankings of both your and the copycat’s site are lowered.  Don’t worry; your site will be ranked higher than before once it’s been found who is at fault. This may take some time, though.

The Way Out: You can do any of these; locate the site that posted your content and contact their webmaster, email their host, file a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) request or take the matter to court. We recommend that you contact the scrapers first.

Reason #4 Maybe it’s the other way round: Maybe you’ve been penalized for Copyright Infringement. It could be that your in-house SEO or a third-party firm you hired used somebody else’s content. This could have caused the owner of the content to file a DMCA request or report your site to Google for copyright infringement.

The Way Out: The first thing you need to do is remove the duplicate content. You should then hire a new SEO or an SEO services provider. Also submit your site for re-inclusion. (http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35843)

Reason #5 You’ve been pipped in the SEO race: Competing sites could have managed to boost their rankings to a substantial degree causing your rankings to go down.

The Way Out: See how they’ve managed to do it and do what needs to be done (give them competition, we mean).

Reason #6 Crippled site structure: Maybe there are broken links, HTML code errors or other structural discrepancies on your site making your rankings go down.

The Way Out: Running an audit and fixing all the flaws; that’s what you need to do. Or maybe your site is invisible because your host is down and the server is not responding. A thorough site audit should show that, though.

Reason #7 Important Backlinks Got Removed from Your Site: “Juicy” backlinks with top Google positions pointing to your site being removed could result in a rankings drop for your site.

The Way Out: Tackle this problem by checking the backlinks pointing to your site. Have experienced SEOs run such checkups to see if any of the links got assigned the “nofollow” attribute, were hidden from search engines because of the robot txt file or were simply removed. If this is found to be the cause, get these links back or get similar backlinks from other websites.

Reason #8 This is Google’s QDF Algo at Work: QDF, which stands for “query deserves freshness”, is an algo used by Google to balance its appreciation of older content and is applied to trendy queries that become popular on the Web all of a sudden.

The Way Out: Since the query will eventually stop being trendy and you’ll get your power back, you just need to sit back and wait for it to cool down. However, you can check what topics are all the rage at sites like surchur.com and www.buzzfeed.com.

Reason #9 Google Started Picking “the wrong” Canonical URL for Your Site: It could be poor canonicalization making Google decide to pick your non-www page to include into its search results, thus causing your site to end up at a lower position.

The Way Out Get your canonicalization right by using internal linking, 301 redirects, and canonical tags ( which by the way, isn’t always justified) to explicitly point out your canonical URLs to Google.

Well, these are just 9 reasons for your site’s rankings to have dropped out of the blue; there are plenty of others that could be causing it. However, something is better than nothing, right? We’re sure the advice we’ve given you is going to come in handy when finding problems and fixing them.

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