Sudden ranking & traffic drop, help?

By the Editor In SEO 1 Comment

Was your website performing perfectly one day and the next moment it no longer ranked and the traffic decreased dramatically? This scenario is becoming common as Google roll out their algorithm updates. The aim of these algorithm updates is to isolate quality websites and put them in front of searchers (at the top of the search results). The problem is, Google has specific criteria which might go against what you’ve been doing. Search engine optimisation has become more complicated than ever, most of the quick and dirty guides online will get your website penalised, the cheaper SEO providers will cut corners to try and get you results but this will ultimately result in a penalty down the line and you’ll be worse off than before.

Do any of these fall into your SEO strategy:

  • Buying Links
  • Exchanging Links
  • Article Submission
  • Guest Blogging
  • Web Directories
  • Widgets
  • Forum Links

If you answered, “yes” to any of these then that might well be the reason for your rank and traffic drop. One good thing that Google has done is make announcements about each of these “tactics”. Here is the list of things again, but this time they’re linked to articles that state the facts:

Several years ago these were the things to do in order to get a website right up to the top of the ranks and for many years they were the standard. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case and if you had an aggressive strategy that involved these, there’s a good chance that they’re catching up with you now. Of course, nobody can predict the future and in some cases it’s quite unfortunate to be penalised for something that was previously not known as being incorrect, that’s just how Google rolls and we have to conform or pick another search engine.

This leads us to a simple question, “What now? How do I fix my website?”.

Enter: Disavow

Google launched an online tool called Disavow. The aim of this tool is to give webmasters an opportunity to effectively remove bad links that are pointing to their website that are potentially damaging the website. The idea is that you isolate all the links pointing to your website, analyse them and then send them to Google. Google in turn removes the value that the links pass to your website and once the bad links are no longer passing negative value to your website, your website may recover. It’s simple in theory, but there is quite a bit more to it. If you simply remove a great deal of links that point to your website, these links might have once upon a time passed positive value which got you the initial rank and traffic, now you’re removing them because they’re negative, your website in many cases won’t simply spring back up to where it was because you’re now falling short on positive links.

Let’s look at the steps to isolate those links pointing to your website:

  1. The first thing you want to do is log into your Google Webmaster Tools account, click through to search traffic and then expand the list of links available to you. This list may be exported in csv format for further manipulation in Excel.
  2. Secondly, Moz’s online tool Open Site Explorer is another fantastic way to find links pointing to your website. Using Open Site Explorer’s free version will show you a number of links but if you’re really serious about this you’d want to use the paid version to get all the links.
  3. Combine your list of links from Google Webmaster Tools and Open Site Explorer into one Excel spreadsheet.
  4. Remove any duplicate or broken format links.
  5. Save your spreadsheet.

At this point we have a list of all (or at least most) of the links pointing to your website. We’re now ready to begin with some analysis of these links. There are two options:

  1. We use a tool that can take the list of links and produce feedback on which ones are good or bad.
  2. We do things manually by investigating each link.

Using a tool is naturally faster, but in many cases if the tool isn’t accurate and you take its algorithms for granted you may lose some positive links. If your spreadsheet has a huge number of links then it’s probably best to find a paid for tool such as rmoov or Cognitive SEO to do the heavy lifting, but if the list isn’t too long then we’d recommend doing things manually. It’s going to take you time, but this is about your website and its success, it’s worth spending the time to get the site back! Note: Here is Google’s “Fighting Spam” list.

Let’s assume you’ve been successful in identifying the bad links and the good links. We’re now sitting in a really great spot and the light at the end of the tunnel is in view.

Most people at this point will simply assume that they take their list of bad links and submit them to Google through the disavow tool. Wrong. In our experience, as painful as it sounds, the next best thing you can do is reach out to the websites that contain a link to your site and ask them to remove it. This is going to take time as you can imagine, but it’s going to be highly effective if the sites containing the links agree to remove them. Before you start doing that, take a read of this article which outlines 4 far more automated ways of gathering contact details from websites – in other words, paste your list of website links into the tool and in return it will provide you with contact details. This will allow you to quickly build up a list of people you need to contact to have the bad links removed.

Finally, once you’ve attempted to have the links removed and you’ve updated your spreadsheet accordingly, those links that remain on the spreadsheet are the ones you’ll need to put through the Disavow tool. To do this, export your list of links in .txt file format, click through to the tool and submit the .txt file.

Now everything boils down to a waiting game whilst Google takes over. This process can take a few weeks so you’ll need to be patient – Check your links in Google Webmaster Tools from time to time, the minute the total count starts decreasing you can gently assume that the process is underway. Remember, whilst this happens, it would be a wise idea to get some positive links to your website to compensate for the removal of the negative ones – this is how you’ll land back up top.