Has an Algorithm Change Harmed Your Rankings?
Building a successful presence in various search engine results pages is a cornerstone of good SEO. It also happens to be one of the most pursued content marketing and brand promotion strategies out there. As such, it should surprise nobody that brands are concerned with where – and how – they rank in various search engine results.
Occasionally, a website may notice a sudden shift in how well they’re ranking in specific niches. While this could be either an improvement or drop, more often than not, it is the latter. This calls into question everything the website has been doing – but is it really the fault of the brand, or simply a change in how search engines rank content?
To help you answer this question, we’ve put together some instructions on what to do if your rankings suddenly take a turn for the worst – and to determine whether an algorithm change is responsible.
Verify Any Algorithm Changes
The very first step in determining whether you’ve been damaged – and how – by an algorithm update is to verify whether one has occurred. In the past, it was quite easy to determine whether there had been any changes: search engines like Google and Bing would push out regular updates detailing any changes to their ranking systems.
However, it’s a bit harder to figure things out in the present day. While major algorithm updates will be announced, the smaller and less noticeable shifts that may impact you – but not necessarily many others – may go unmentioned. Nevertheless, if a dramatic shift hasn’t occurred that’s affecting how you’re pinging links in SERPs and to what extent, then there’s a good chance that it is not the fault of algorithms.
Examine Search Referral Traffic
If you’re still unsure whether or not an algorithm shift has caused damage to your brand, then the first place you should look is at your search referral traffic. It is here that dramatic shifts in the number of people visiting your website will be most visible. A sudden loss of traffic could be coming from anywhere, but if there is a big shift in search referral traffic specifically – while all other sources of traffic remain steady – then that is a good indicator that you are being impacted by an algorithm change and/or penalty.
Last but not least, any questions about sudden shifts in a particular niche or SERP may be indicative of an algorithm change if others are noticing dramatic shifts as well. While it can be difficult to walk up directly to the competition and ask for insider metrics, you may be able to find information through various SEO forums and blogs that cover topics relevant to these events.
Additionally, industry-specific changes may be observable via free or premium analytics software for other sites in your niche as well. An industry-wide shift implies that something has changed – but not necessarily algorithms. If, however, some sites within your niche are performing poorly while others are improving, then an algorithm change may be responsible.
With this information in hand, you’ll now be able to walk through the process of determining if an algorithm change is responsible for a loss in traffic. The same tips can be used to likewise determine whether a sudden spike in traffic is the result of changes as well, but more often than not, the former situation will be more applicable.