Facebook Pixel
Join our Facebook Community

What to Do When Your Search Rankings Drop

Posted By Darren Rowse 1st of December 2009 Search Engine Optimization 0 Comments

“I just lost all my Google traffic – help!”

This request hits my inbox every week or two from a distraught blogger who has logged into the blog’s statistics one morning only to discover that most of their traffic has completely disappeared due to the all powerful Google making some kind of change in their algorithm and how they rank sites which resulted in that particular blog either disappearing from search results or at least being buried many pages down in the rankings.

The feeling associated with this discovery of a loss of traffic can be sickening.

I still remember the first time it happened to me (back in 2004) as if it were yesterday – it was like someone had sucker punched me in the gut – really took the wind out of my sails.

Up until the day it happened traffic had been healthy on my blog – healthy enough to just make a full time living from. Then when the traffic from Google disappeared I was down to 30% of what I’d come to see as ‘normal’ traffic and suddenly my dreams of being a full time blogger seemed over.

What to do when your Google Traffic Disappears

OK – so the question that I’m asked each time this happens to a ProBlogger reader is – what should I do?

It’s a tough question to answer – partly because I’m not Google and don’t have any insight into your particular situation and partly because each time it happens it is different. I’m also not an SEO expert am won’t give you any technical advice – but let me give you some general advice to start with:

1. Don’t Panic

I’ve had this happen to me at least 5 times over the last 7 years of blogging and most successful bloggers I know can recall a similar number of Google fluctuations that have brought decreases (and increases) in traffic in their blogging history. It happens to us all – sometimes in big ways and sometimes in small ways. In chatting with one Google employee recently he told me that they are making daily (and more) changes to the way that they rank sites (mainly small tweaks) so over time we’ll all notice changes.

The key is not to make massive big changes to your site’s SEO too quickly or as a gut reaction to a change in your ranking.

For me the first time that this happened (when I lost 70% of my traffic) I was very tempted to make big changes to my site to try to fix things. I was advised by a few wise and experienced web masters to wait. I did and a few weeks later almost all of the traffic returned. Google fixed itself (phew).

If the traffic doesn’t come back after an extended period you might want to get some expert SEO advice and make some larger changes – but I personally am glad that I’d seen out the dips in traffic rather than doing anything to hurt my long term rankings.

Of course there are times when you might need to make some changes…. such as….

2. Have You Done Anything Black Hat?

Google has guidelines in place for webmasters. If you want to rank well in their search engine you need to play by their rules. Of course there’s a whole industry around ‘bending’ and ‘manipulating’ the rules and many web masters make a living by doing it – however if you are caught breaking the rules by Google you’re likely to be penalized.

If this is the case for you you have two choice:

I know of numerous bloggers who’ve asked for reconsideration and have been reinstated back into the index. It can take a little while (the last one said it took a couple of weeks for them) but in the long run it can be well worthwhile.

3. Build Other Sources of Traffic

The biggest lesson that I learned back in 2004 when I lost most of my traffic as a result of a Google algorithm change was that I needed to diversify my approach to building traffic to my blogs.

Up until that time I was almost exclusively working on driving traffic via Google. It was like a drug that I’d become dependent upon in some ways and much of my day was spent writing content for Google and attempting to ‘get links’ to that content from other sites. I was not really writing for regular readers or trying to build community on my blog – I just wanted traffic that I hoped would click my ads and affiliate programs.

This approach had worked for me – however when my Google traffic disappeared I was left with little and realized how short sighted I’d been. I began to change my focus and started working on other sources of traffic.

I still love the traffic that Google sends me but today if it all disappeared it would hurt – but it wouldn’t be the end for my business. Next week I want to followup this post with another one looking at some of the ways to become less reliant upon Google traffic and to build traffic from other sources – stay tuned for more.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. My blog is doing quite well. Though it’s new and has only 10 posts I am getting majority of my traffic from Google! Only one of my post never appeared on Google search, Reason: I guess I had an e-book published on a different server whose content was same as the post. I had provided a download link to the e-Book from my blog post. May be Google penalized me for duplicate content. How to prevent this kind of scenario? Any guess? I removed that e-book and now the post is getting indexed.

  2. When I happen to my blog I really got depressed, I thought that might be I use some unauthorized tips, but again I see my increase of blog traffic.

  3. Such an important point there about not writing for an audience, but just trying to play the linking game. I’d rather be authentic and create meaningful content than just lure people over to sell them something. Doesn’t it feel better to create something of worth? Love what you’ve done with ProBlogger, so I can tell you agree…

  4. Thanks for sharing this to us. I’m a newbie and a new member of Problogger Forum starting to build my brand in the internet. I’m very depressed this week because I lost almost 50% of the traffic and thinking of quitting my quest for online living. But I realized that this is only temporary. Maybe I made mistakes in my SEO campaign or any other things that get my site penalized by Big Google.

    Now, back to normal. I am setting a goal to get 500 visitors a day before the year ends and make $300 from Adsense alone.

    Hope someone will help me in my quest and give me more advice.

  5. I think that not only do you need to ask yourself whether you’ve done anything black hat, but whether you’ve made any changes at all in the 2 weeks or so prior to the loss in ranking.

    If so, just undo the changes and see what happens – you’ll need to be patient though.

    At the end of the day it is an extremely risky strategy to rely upon one blog or website. You need to diversify so that if this does happen to you your business isn’t wiped out overnight.

    I speak from personal experience and was surprised at the number of successful internet marketers who have also suffered.

  6. I think it’s inevitable that a site’s page rank suffers as backlinks erode over time due to site shut down, google policy change, no fellow policy…
    The key is to continue building new backlinks through different means to stay ahead of the game.

  7. Thanks for the tips. I have 6 blogs and was concerned with traffic decreasing on my most popular (cooking) blog. Yet it appears I’m still getting good traffic from the search engines including Google. So it looks like I have to work harder at generating traffic from other sources. I too would be interested in what these other sources are. I know advertising your blog works somewhat and social media brings me some traffic. Are there other ways to generate traffic?

  8. Ugh, this post is invaluable. Im going to bookmark it but hope that I will never need it.
    Thank you for the calm and sensible advice on a topic that I think everyone fears. Google is fascinating and keeps us all on our toes and I also appreciate the additional advice from the comments as well.
    I agree – diversify, diversify, diversify!

  9. Thanks for another ripper post, Darren. I am thoroughly sick of striving to orient myself to Google’s Fickle Finger of Fate.

    The whole adsense/adwords rip-off is also galling.

    So now I spend my former Google prayer time creating high quality content that will eventually get picked up no matter which way the wind happens to be blowing.

    I’m happier, I’m writing heaps more and I think I’ll live a lot longer. Best regards, P. :)

  10. The good and the bad…

    1. I get between 10-30% of my traffic from Google, depending on how many other sources are firing. Basically, I get pretty much the same absolute traffic from Google every day. I’d like to get the organic search percentage up, but I’m that concerned with it right now.

    2. Anyone concerned about absolute numbers dropping right now is not seeing a bigger picture. My absolute numbers have dropped pretty big in the last 10 days. First, I’m not spending hours per day promoting as I was last couple of months… and second, everyone’s numbers have to be dropping because my Alexa ranking is holding steady. So my traffic with respect to similar websites is holding up well.

  11. I try to get traffic from many places. Do not put all your eggs in one basket sort of thing!

  12. Adam S. says: 12/02/2009 at 1:50 pm

    Good note. I would suggest to add hot words Google Hot Trends, Bing iRank or other sites which collect hot words in real time mode. I use http://www.newsonrails.com , that one publishes 100 Google hot trends (Google publishes only 40 hot trends). Just filter out garbage like “gagagaga”, and your blog will be picked up by GoogleBot.

  13. nice,
    is the sitemap exclusion can be included as Black Hat effect?

  14. Guest blogging to other related-niche websites is a good practice, and it is also good for your site, even if you post content off-site

  15. Yeah, I used to worry a bit more about Google rankings. I think Darren’s right about having diversity. It seems diversity is key in a lot of areas, including traffic and income.

    One topic that Google baffles me about is their willingness to almost arbitrarily cancel Adsense accounts deeming a blogger a threat to their advertisers. Google can be a bit overbearing. Yeah, diversity IS a good idea.

  16. Very good article that I can connect with. It happened with me twice. But my site did not go away completely, but it went away for few keywords. But it came back automatically after few weeks.

    After that I had started targeting Yahoo and Bing. I am still to find out if other source of visitors are beneficial for my blog or not.

  17. Same happened and happening to my blog, but i am still waiting.

  18. Good suggestion! I would like to add one more thing that is if one give full attention towards Google rules and avoid spamming, then there will be less chances to drop your site in Google.

  19. Haven’t had this problem as I don’t think my site has been noticed by Google yet. Dying to know what your other traffic sources are though:)

  20. One of my sites have experienced this before, though it was a little drop in ranking. Social Sites are good sources of traffic apart from google

  21. when rankings dropped we should build more quality backlinks from the same niche blog.doing this ranks will increase

  22. I suffered the same dramatic traffic loss as you did back in 2004 – it was painful! Fortunately, I had several websites with different designs spread over a range of subjects, and with these I was saved from a total wipe-out. It’s still a bumpy ride with google at times.

  23. Darren,
    I think the biggest thing I take from this is the fact that you’re so intraspective about what you do. You admit when you’ve made mistakes or have been short sighted. I really like that.

    Also, pretty good info here. I’m not too concerned about all of this yet as I really don’t have any traffic coming in yet. Just trying to get content, and then I can continue on day 3 of your 31DBBB.

  24. wow. what a great post! This is what we are trying to preach to so many people. Not only can search engine traffic be unpredictable, it can also be tapped out. Affiliate marketing (using others to promote your website) is another way to “build other sources of traffic.” The performance based model is really incredible when you crunch the numbers right.
    I put up a post today about “what is affiliate marketing” for those that are novices and want to learn more.

  25. Hello I just search the google and I found out your site. Nice post I am very worth reading it. Thanks!

  26. Has happened to me also a few times. It usually only last for a short while.

  27. The main source of traffic is link building. Exchnage link with high PR websites. If you get link from high PR websites it increases you position on Google and also give traffic.

  28. That is a very nice post. Thank you to this, for Google’s webmaster link. This is the first time that I read the guidelines. LOL

  29. We also faced same problem 4 times with in a year.What darren said that exactly correct.Diversification is important.But Google is a Market Leader.Other than Google we may concentrate Bing , Yahoo & Lycos search engine. Now a days Social Bookmarking sites (Digg,Reddit, StumbleUpon etc..) bring great traffic and doing good job.

  30. My traffic from google is not too good, so I try to find another traffic resource, for now my traffic from social bookmark is quite satisfaction although it’s not always stable, I need to work hard to make it better :)

  31. Google’s webmaster tools can also give you a lot of information about your indexed pages, rankings, etc.

    That would be the first thing I’d start and check for valuable information too

  32. I especially like the third recommendation regarding building other sources of traffic. This is just good business advice. No business should feel comfortable with most of their revenue coming from a single source. What if something happens to that source? You are totally dependent upon something outside of your control.

    You can control your actions and diversifying your sources of traffic (and income) is a wise business move – regardless of whether or not Google change regularly.

  33. Thank you for the post.

    It hasn’t happened to me yet but forewarned is forearmed so I know what to do now.

  34. Very usefull tips, for understand the Google impact for trafic. That’s why we need multiple sources of incoming trafic (blog, facebook, twitter, and so much communautary networks)

  35. This is some great information…the question I have as many have posted is where and how have you found other GOOD traffic sources? Much of my traffic comes from Google and I have had pages disappear for a week or so and then return to page 1, like you mentioned….But, I would love to build other traffic sources. How did you go about doing that? I really do hate to have all of my eggs in one basket. Not good!

  36. Very good article. I’ve been blogging for about 3 years. My site has lost some Google ranking in these 30 days. The big things I’ve done is to publish more frequently, and quality contents. Also, I promote my site on Facebook, Twitter, and forums related to my niche. However, in general I agree with you, Darren. Patience is all you need with google.

  37. It is important to remember that Google is always testing, so it may be that they tweaked their algorithm or are testing a usability feature.

    My local business listing was ranking #1 for a highly searched term and all of a sudden it fell off the map. It was tempted to start changing my LBL or even remove it and verify a new one. Luckily I waited a few weeks and it ended up coming back.

    As long as you didn’t do anything drastic to your site, it is best to wait and see if it is Google just doing testing.

  38. great post. It’s happen to me a few times but like yourself the rankings came back. sometimes you just have to keep writing through the storm and not second guess yourself

  39. I’m a newbie and I too mainly rely on google for traffic. Not too long ago I was dealt a blow by the mighty G to one of my blogs.

    On my webmasters account it says im ranked 6 for my target keyword but my site is Nowhere to be seen. I don’t believe I’ve done anything black hat so I’m just waiting it out and hoping I show back up again in Google.

    I’ve tried to diversify my traffic but as a noobie, it can be tough and at most times I find that I stretch myself too thin.

    Anyways good post on sites that get the sandbox =/

  40. This is exactly why you should focus on other traffic AND income sources, in case the sky falls on your head one day :)


  41. I guess I understand how the white mice in laboratory feel now. All of us are like white mice in Google’s laboratory. The minute they start new experiments, we react exactly like white mice

  42. Noticed that this happens around the holidays for the past few years. Just be patient. One of our site went from 1 to 60 few weeks back, yesterday, it was ranked 1 again. No changes were made to the site during this time.

  43. You should keep more valuable content
    for the users so more visitors can come
    to your website. There should be a
    better design so that search engine
    gives you a better rank.

  44. Sometimes its hard to figure out especially for new bloggers whats Black hat and whats White hat. Well I appreciate this post as ti will provide guidelines whenever it hit the fan.

  45. SEO needs trial and error. Error but not to the extend that your site will be punished. Just keep it simple and be consistent with your posts. Don’t overdo things.

  46. I’m in the situation where my top earning site has bombed on me during the busiest period of the year, thanks a lot Google!

    Hopefully it will pick up again!

  47. I will probably analyze my competitors to see what kind of improvements they have made.

  48. What percentage of your traffic is from Google? My guess is 90.

  49. One needs to target for specific keywords and update the content frequently.

  50. Great post.

    I recently shuffled the pages on my website Tekrux. Now when you click on a link, to my site on google, it leads you to the wrong page. eg, when you click on page 5 on google, you are sent to page 7.

    Any idea if and when google will correct this problem?


A Practical Podcast… to Help You Build a Better Blog

The ProBlogger Podcast

A Practical Podcast…