One of the most common questions I get on a daily basis is this:
My rankings are dropping, what should I do?
Now, I’m not a big believer in tracking rankings because search has moved towards a long tail game. And as long as your search traffic keeps going up quarter after quarter, you are fine.
But if you insist on tracking rankings, and you want to ensure that you maintain your positioning, there are 7 things you can do when you start noticing a drop for a specific keyword.
Solution #1: Internal linking
The biggest mistake I see sites making right now is that they tend to forget to use internal linking, in which you link one of your web pages to another. And if you happen to use internal linking, you are probably using rich anchor text, which isn’t a good thing.
In the introduction above, I linked the phrase “search has moved towards a long tail game” to a Quick Sprout blog on long tail SEO. This is an example of internal linking.
Doing this will help that article rank for long tail SEO-related keywords. The key to leveraging internal linking is to avoid using rich anchor text. For this reason, I wouldn’t link that long tail SEO article 10 times with the anchor text “long tail SEO”.
The tactic of using non-rich anchor text is so effective that Mashable ranks on the first page of Google for terms like “YouTube” because of internal linking efforts.
Don’t expect immediate results when you start adding internal links. It typically takes 3 plus months for the links to start kicking in. And you can’t just go into your old web pages and posts and shove tons of internal links. You need to do this slowly, over time, and add internal links to new pages as well.
Solution #2: Speed up your site
In 2010, Google announced that it would take site speed into account when determining a site’s ranking. Do you know why Google cares how fast your site loads? They noticed that when they rank slow loading websites, users tend to have a bad experience, which causes them to use Google less…and that means less income for Google.
So, how do you improve your site speed? Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you a list of technical stuff to do. Instead, I am going to share with you a simple free solution.
It’s called Google Page Speed. All you have to do is sign up and follow a few non-technical steps. You should see an increase in the loading speed of your website.
Solution #3: Build links, but not to the page that dropped in rankings
When your rankings drop, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? You need to build more links, right?
Most people make the mistake of building tons of links at a fast pace to the web page that dropped in rankings. Google is smart and can detect if a web page is gaining links at an unnatural pace. So, if you build too many links to the web page that dropped in rankings, you’ll notice that your rankings will drop even more.
But if you build links to other internal pages and avoid using rich anchor text, you’ll find that your rankings will not only stabilize, but they will increase. This tactic helps increase your overall site authority, which means all of your keywords will start ranking higher.
If you want to get ideas on how to build links, check out this guide on link building as it will teach you everything you need to know.
Solution #4: Update your web page
This tactic is probably the simplest out of them all, and it is usually the most effective one as well.
Google prefers ranking fresh pages to stale, old ones. So, by adding updated content and images to your web pages, you are going to create a better user experience.
This will cause people to stay on your site longer and increase the likelihood of them linking to your site and even sharing your content on the social web.
A good example of this tactic is my blog post that teaches you how to get more Instagram followers. During its peak, it received 121,550 visitors a month from Google.
But the advice within the post eventually became outdated; my rankings dropped; and the traffic dropped to 14,952 visitors.
Updating the content caused people to read it more and share it via Facebook again. Within 90 days, the traffic went up to 62,855 visitors a month. Sure, it hasn’t gotten back to where it was during its peak, but it is continually rising, and I think it will get back to where it was within 3 to 6 months.
Solution #5: Increase your click-through rate
If you log into your Google Webmaster Tools account, you’ll notice that Google tracks your click-through rates.
One way to increase your search traffic is by increasing your rankings. Another way is by increasing your click-through rate. If a search engine detects that your click-through rate is extremely low for the position you are ranking, it can easily drop your position as this tells the search engine that your listing isn’t very relevant.
To combat this, optimize your title tag and meta description to increase your click-through rate. You can do this by using some of the following keywords within your meta tags as they tend to get clicked on a lot:
- How to
- [List-related numbers]
- Blog post
Another way you can increase your click-through rate is through Google Authorship.
- Make sure you have a profile photo with a recognizable headshot.
- Make sure a byline containing your name appears on each page of your content (e.g., “By Steven Levy”).
- Make sure your byline name matches the name on your Google+ profile.
- Verify you have an email address on the same domain as your content (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org).
Solution #6: Optimize your design
Mobile and tablet devices are growing at a much faster pace than laptops or desktops. By ensuring your website is compatible with all device types, you’ll increase the odds of keeping your rankings high.
Otherwise, it would be a poor choice by Google to continually rank mobile-unfriendly sites when a large portion of searchers use mobile phones.
Through Google Analytics, you can see the type of devices people are using to visit your website: everything from mobile phones to tablets to laptops and even desktop computers.
To find out what types of mobile devices they are using, all you have to do is log in to Google Analytics and then click on “audience”, then “mobile”, and then “devices”.
A simple way to ensure you are providing a good mobile experience is first to ensure your site loads fast because not everyone has a fast data plan. You can do this through Google Page Speed, which we talked about above.
Next, you can ensure you are providing a good mobile or tablet experience by making your website design responsive. This way, no matter what screen size someone is using, your design will adapt to it.
A good example of a responsive design is Quick Sprout. Load it from your iPhone or tablet, and you’ll notice a design that looks something like this:
If you want to create a responsive design, these tutorials should teach you how.
Solution #7: Increase your social shares
There’s been a recent debate on whether social shares impact rankings or not. Whether they do or they don’t, more social shares means more traffic. And the more people visit your website, the higher the chance that someone will naturally link back to you. And more links mean higher rankings.
For this reason, you should try to get more social shares.
There are 7 simple ways you can get more social shares of your web pages:
- Add social sharing buttons to your web pages. Similarly to plugins you maybe using on your blog like Sharebar, you also want to use social buttons on the web pages that contain valuable content.
- If you have a blog, you can always ask your readers to share a specific web page via Twitter or Facebook. Trust me, begging works.
- If you have connections to any influential social media users, you can ask them to share your web page as well.
- If you haven’t used Triberr, you should check it out.
- You can always pay for a social share through Twitter ads.
- You can pay for Facebook shares and likes through Facebook ads.
- Bribe your visitors by letting them get a free ebook in exchange for a social share.
I’m still a big believer in the idea that tracking rankings isn’t useful as SEO has moved to a long tail strategy. But if you do want to track and continually improve your individual rankings, especially when they are starting to slip, you can leverage the tactics above.
You’re going to see the best results if you combine all of the tactics, but even then your rankings won’t bounce right back. It typically takes a few months after implementing the strategies above before you start seeing results.
So, what do you do when your rankings start dropping?