A sudden rank drop on Google and being clueless as to what happened – is probably the worst nightmare for a webmaster. Unfortunately, it looks like that these days, a lot of such cases are popping up.
Why do sudden rank drops on Google happen and what can be done suddenly to fix the problem? While the problem itself looks huge and makes you want to take a bullet in your head, it might after all be “fixable”, if you know how to deal with it that is.
Why do websites lose their ranks all of a sudden on Google?
Google, is on a constant look out for unnatural jumps and patterns in its ranks, especially top ranks. Well, you knew it. That’s what their clever bots and algorithms do, all the time. So, what makes them disapprove some sites, while webmasters claims to have done nothing on their websites recently?
Well, it appears that the sudden ranks drops mostly cannot be attributed to any recent changes you made on the website. Instead, the rank drops are in most cases, attributed to linking or traffic patterns two-six months ago. In most cases, sudden drops mean either of the two things.
a) Temporary discounting of “doubtful” pages from the index.
b) Permanent discounting or penalization.
In one way or the other, penalizations can be attributed to link building and cheap neighborhood problems. (Observation, not confirmed.)
The sudden drop in ranks are often caused by a low quality score, as detected by the Google algorithm. And low quality scores can be (and in 90% of the cases are) caused by link building schemes.
Low Quality factors that can get you negative points
Shady Link Building Schemes
Low quality link building schemes are in many cases, the villain. Many webmasters fall for those link building packages that sell thousands of backlinks from cheap, spam websites in a short time. It might sound great at first, and in fact, will give you great results as well, like a sudden jump in ranks from Page 5 to Page 2. But its not going to remain there for ever, unless all the links you sourced were reputed and good quality ones. The results come in about 4-6 months, and the website is either flushed completely off the index (depending on the severity of the cheap backlinks) or discounted for a particular or many keywords.
Unnatural number of links
Google keeps an eye on unnatural patterns in backlinks to any website, especially the ones on the top of their index (first page results). So even if you are buying links, make sure they are under the radar kind, and not from the super popular, too good to be true, link building scams. Any unnatural patterns in backlinks (back link history) will be frowned upon and checked. To figure out if you have any such back link history, try Majestic SEO, they have an SEO tool that will show the back link history for even other websites that you don’t own.
Backlinks from low quality websites
I am unsure how this factor affects a website but it appears that (though Google have been denying it) if someone wants to harm you, they can do so by constantly submitting your websites to shady link building spams. Once your website gets linked from spam sites, your reputation goes down as well.
Sudden drop in Google ranks: What to do?
There is hope. Sometimes, it so happens that you hired the wrong SEO agency, or might have submitted some links in mistake without checking the authority of a website or may be you gathered some links without even knowing from some spam websites. And Google knows it.
For such cases, Google encourages the Re-inclusion Request Tool.
About the re-inclusion tool:
If your site isn’t appearing in Google search results, or it’s performing more poorly than it once did (and you believe that it does not violate our Webmaster Guidelines), then you can ask Google to reconsider your site.
While filing the re-inclusion request, you have to make sure that all the tiny details are submitted.
Tell in detail about what happened, what actions might have led to any penalties, and what corrective actions have been taken.
If you used a search engine optimization (SEO) company, please mention it. Describing the SEO firm and their actions is a helpful indication of good faith that may assist in evaluation of reconsideration requests.
If you recently acquired this domain and think it may have violated the guidelines before you owned it, let Google know that as well. In short, sites that directly profit from traffic (e.g. search engine optimizers, affiliate programs, blogs, marketers etc.) may need to provide more evidence of good faith before a site will be reconsidered.
Google takes about a week or so, roughly to get back to you. They may come with more questions or rectify the problem if found that you weren’t guilty. So the idea is to give them as much details as possible.
Additional Resources: Google Engineer Matt Cutts’ unofficial Reconsideration request guidelines.
YouTube video from Google: Tips on requesting reconsideration.