This is the second post in our series of community questions, taken from our Facebook Group and customer support tickets.
It's quite common that somebody will ask us a question about their rankings dropping, and even if you've never experienced this, you probably will at some point.
First of all, there are actually a few different definitions of ranking drops, so let's cover them first:
- The number of keywords you rank for has reduced
- Rankings that you've been tracking have dropped
- Some keywords have vanished
So let's tackle the first of these situations.
This isn't actually any cause to panic, and is something that affects newer sites quite often. Semrush for example, only shows keywords that you rank in the top 80 positions for, and Ahrefs is similar.
So the most likely explanation in this situation, is that you had a bunch of keywords ranking positions 70-80, and then some of them dipped below the top 80 positions, and therefore no longer showed up in the total keywords list.
This isn't a problem at all, since you weren't getting traffic from your posts in those positions anyway.
As your site grows, the number of keywords you rank for will increase, and your rankings will become more stable.
If your traffic has dropped as well, then this is likely NOT the explanation (or it could be one of several explanations).
When your traffic also drops, it could be because your higher ranked keywords have dropped as well. It could also be a number of other factors, which is why I'm going to write a separate post to troubleshoot traffic drops, and keep this one on topic of ranking.
So what about when actual keywords you're tracking have dropped?
It's quite common that you have keywords in the top 10, or top 20, or top anywhere, and even though you build links to them and grow your site, they move in the wrong direction.
There are a few explanations for this, and it's never easy to know for sure which is the right one:
- Normal ranking fluctuations - Not much you can do about this
- Your competitors are also link building - Most notable if your keywords are on page 1 or 2
- Link rot - If your site is old and some of your links have lost their link juice, or been removed
- New site - The Google dance hits new sites harder
- A penalty - This is only likely if your whole site has suddenly taken from page 1 to page 4, for example.
Most people who are asking this question are just experiencing typical ranking fluctuations, and if you wait long enough and keep link building, you'll see your rankings stabilize. Also, when you're on page 2, rankings tend to bounce around a lot more before they finally break onto page 1. It's a strange phenomenon, most likely caused by page 1-2 being where most of the link builders are.
This is also why you might build 1 link when you're on page 5 and see your site jump up to page 2, but when you build links on page 2, not much movement happens.
Nine times out of ten, ranking drops like this are harmless, and the solution is to just keep growing your site and keep building links.
While a penalty is possible, it's usually a lot more noticeable than just a few ranking drops, and is a subject we'll have to tackle in a later post.
So what about the final question, when rankings just vanish?
This is a strange one. Sometimes the rank tracker you're using simply misses your site during an update. I've seen a rank tracker tell me my site's rank was "n/a" while another tracker tells me it is still where it was. It doesn't help that sometimes you do a manual search in Google and you can't find it either.
If you're using Google Search Console, this happens pretty often, because the "average person" in search console really seems to be completely wrong, and your site just doesn't appear where GSC says it does.
For other trackers, it's either the tracker messing up, or some temporary thing. During the Google dance, this happens often. I've seen a new site/new post steadily climb up the rankings, then seemingly fall off the face of the earth, then the next time I check, it's right back where it should be.
When this happens to you, the best thing to do is just wait, and the ranking will probably come back. Unless you've been naughty.
Got any more questions about ranking drops? Ask below!