Google Rating Dropped Dramatically? (This is What to Test)

It may be alarming in case your web site’s Google rankings drop instantly.

However earlier than you make any modifications, it’s essential to examine sure issues first.

1. Test for any Google algorithm updates

Google’s algorithm updates are among the many commonest methods your web site’s rankings might be negatively impacted.

Google doesn’t like low-quality or deceptive outcomes showing on the prime of its natural search outcomes, so it runs common algorithm updates to protect the standard of its search index. 

Updates are introduced on Google’s status page. So it’s price checking if any dates align together with your web site’s rating drops. 

Google ranking updates, via Google

It takes time to align these dates towards your natural visitors information, so a quicker technique to perceive the affect is to make use of a instrument like Ahrefs. 

To do that, head to Ahrefs’ Website Explorer, plug in your area, and scan the Ⓖ updates on the backside of the Overview 2.0 natural visitors chart. 

Google ranking updates highlighted in Overview 2.0, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
The highlighted Ⓖ image signifies that there was a Google replace at every of those factors. 

Hovering over the Ⓖ symbols gives you extra detailed details about the updates. 

2. Test your natural visitors in Ahrefs’ Website Explorer

When you’ve established there’s been a Google replace, you’ll must examine its date towards your whole natural visitors to see if there’s been a drop on the identical time. 

To examine your natural visitors in Website Explorer, you can:

  1. Plug in your area and scroll all the way down to the Overview 2.0 chart.
  2. Uncheck every part aside from “Avg. natural visitors.” 
  3. Set the timeline to “All” and “Weekly.” This lets you see the entire timeline for the natural visitors, providing you with a greater concept of how important the drop is.
Avg. organic traffic filter with drop highlighted, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

I’ve highlighted the newest visitors drop for this web site. Let’s see if we are able to work out why this occurred. Let’s zoom in and alter the timeline to “1Y,” hovering our cursor across the time of the drop.

March 2023 Core Update detail, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

The March 2023 Core Replace roughly aligns right here. 

It might have contributed to the lack of visitors, however we are able to additionally see that the actual date of the natural visitors drop doesn’t align with the discharge of this replace.

So we are able to’t say that this algorithm replace prompted the drop. On this scenario, it’s often greatest to maintain investigating.

In case your web site’s natural visitors drop does align precisely with an replace, then a Google replace has doubtless impacted you.

3. Test your prime traffic-driving key phrases

When you’ve established a major drop in natural visitors, you’ll need to know which of your web site’s key phrases have misplaced rankings.

To do that, head to the Natural key phrases report in Website Explorer. I like to check key phrases 12 months on 12 months (YoY), so let’s add a YoY “Evaluate” filter.

Drop in traffic change, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We will see that within the “Change” column, there’s been a major drop for this web site’s prime key phrase, “yamaha bikes.” 

Keyword closeup, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Let’s head over to Ahrefs’ Key phrases Explorer by clicking on the key phrase “yamaha bikes.”

Scrolling all the way down to the SERP overview, we are able to see what occurred if we make a year-on-year (YoY) comparability. 

SERP overview with highlight on YoY comparison, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Google has switched the /bike web page for the homepage. So there could also be a problem with the /bike web page.

For reference, in Website Explorer, we are able to see the precise date of the drop is March 14.

March 14, 2023, traffic drop, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Let’s take away the comparability and plug this date into the SERP overview in Key phrases Explorer.

404 page, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Utilizing the SERP overview, we are able to see that this web page was a 404 web page on that date. If we alter the date to March 16, 2023, we are able to see that this web page disappears from the SERPs.

SERP overview for "yamaha motorcycles," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

As this date matches up, it’s prone to be the rationale for the numerous drop in visitors for this web site.

Utilizing Website Explorer and Key phrases Explorer in conjunction is a good way to diagnose the explanations for rating drops.

4. Test any latest technical modifications to the web site

Technical points can affect your Google rankings. You’ll must run a web site crawl to find out these points.

For my part, the best technique to establish technical points together with your web site is to run a crawl utilizing Ahrefs’ Website Audit.

To set one up, head to Website Audit, click on “+ New challenge,” and observe the prompts.

Navigating to Ahrefs' Site Audit

When you’ve accomplished the crawl, you’ll see an “Overview” display just like the screenshot under.

Overview example, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

This web page offers a chicken’s-eye view of technical points and displays your web site’s well being rating.

When you’ve clicked on a selected difficulty, click on “Why and learn how to repair.” A sidebar will then seem, explaining the issue and learn how to repair it—this data is important to serving to you resolve your technical points.

"Why and how to fix" closeup, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

In case your web site crawl reveals that you simply’ve obtained many technical points, it’s price spending time fixing every downside till your general well being rating improves. 

When you’ve carried out this, you’ll be capable to eradicate the opportunity of any technical points impacting your web site’s Google rankings.


Technical points can happen any time however typically occur throughout a web site migration. Working Website Audit earlier than and after your migration means that you can examine crawls to see if there’s been a rise in technical points following the migration.

Now we all know learn how to arrange and analyze a Website Audit, let’s have a look at some particular technical points that usually end in misplaced rankings and natural visitors.

4XX Pages

Ahrefs 404 page, via

4XX pages are error pages. You’ll in all probability be most aware of the basic “404 web page not discovered.” When these kind of pages happen, it may end up in misplaced visitors.

If we return to our earlier web site (/bike web page) instance in Key phrases Explorer and scroll all the way down to the SERP overview, we are able to see it’s a 404 web page. 

404 page, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

However are there any extra 404 pages on this web site? Let’s return to the Natural key phrases report and click on by different prime key phrases, akin to “r7” and “yamaha r1.”

List of keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

If we click on by on the key phrase “r7” to Key phrases Explorer, scroll to the SERP overview, and set the date to March 14, 2023, we are able to see that this key phrase additionally has a 404 standing code.

404 page shown in SERP overview, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Repeating the method with the “yamaha r1” key phrase, we are able to see this web page can also be a 404 web page on March 14, 2023.

404 page shown in SERP overview, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

It appears honest to conclude that this web site’s prime traffic-driving pages have been lifeless pages.

Though now we have shortly used Key phrases Explorer and Website Explorer to seek out this data, the identical data might be discovered utilizing Website Audit.

That is what it should seem like as soon as your crawl has been accomplished and the place you’ll be able to establish the 404 or 4XX pages within the report.

4XX issues, via Ahrefs' Site Audit


Canonical tag illustration, via Ahrefs Blog

Lack of or poorly carried out canonical tags is one other technical difficulty that may trigger issues on your web site. 

In relation to figuring out them, you’ll be able to spot-check them on a page-by-page foundation utilizing Ahrefs’ search engine optimisation Toolbar, or you’ll be able to run a Website Audit crawl to get a full view.

I’ve highlighted under the varieties of points that may be flagged by the Overview report.

Canonical tag issues, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

For extra ideas, examine our “canonical tags” newbie’s information to be taught extra.


Forgetting so as to add or poorly implementing redirects is likely one of the commonest causes for a drop in rankings and natural visitors. 

There are a few easy factors to recollect with redirects:

Detecting these redirect points is greatest carried out utilizing Ahrefs’ Website Audit. Merely run a crawl of your web site after which examine the Redirects report back to get a view of the problems.

Redirects report, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Try our redirects for search engine optimisation information to be taught extra.


Modifications to a web site’s robots.txt file may affect how Google crawls your web site. Typically you, or one other stakeholder, can unintentionally block some important pages. 

You possibly can preserve observe of your robots.txt file modifications when you run an everyday crawl of your web site utilizing Ahrefs’ Website Audit. 

For every crawl, Web page Explorer shops the main points of your robots.txt file, making it straightforward to grasp if any modifications have been made to the file that would negatively have an effect on the web site.

Disavow store, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Should you’ve seen a rating drop whereas migrating your web site, it’s price heading to your robots.txt file to see in case you are blocking the crawling of any search engine bots or important pages of your web site. 

Test our robots.txt newbie’s information to be taught extra.

5. Test your opponents’ rankings

Should you’re assured your web site’s technical search engine optimisation is so as, it’s price checking to see in case your opponents have outranked your web site on a few of its key phrases. 

It might sound apparent, however that is one other widespread cause a web site loses rankings. Sadly, generally your opponents are higher at search engine optimisation than you are.

The quickest technique to monitor a competitor’s rankings is by plugging its area in Website Explorer and heading to the Natural key phrases report.

On this instance, I’ve entered Backlinko’s area.

Organic keywords report with positions highlighted, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Right here, you’ll be able to see the rankings of your competitor’s web site and efficiency week on week, month on month, or some other customized date comparisons.

Test your tracked key phrases towards theirs

One other technique to examine your opponents’ latest actions is with Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.

Competitors overview report, via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

The beauty of this instrument is which you can examine the rankings of your opponents and your web site facet by facet.

Right here’s an instance of me three totally different opponents’ rankings.

Competitors' and ahrefs' rankings for "google discover," via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

When you’ve established {that a} competitor performs higher than you on particular key phrases, you would possibly need to be taught extra about their whole technique. It’s price testing our information to key phrase competitor evaluation to be taught extra about this subject.

As hyperlinks are a confirmed Google rating issue (sure, they nonetheless matter), right here’s what you must examine:

Test for damaged hyperlinks

Conserving observe of all damaged hyperlinks to your web site could be a time-consuming activity. Many web sites hardly ever examine damaged hyperlinks that time to them.

Utilizing Website Explorer, we are able to have a look at any web site’s damaged hyperlinks by plugging in a site and heading to the Damaged backlinks report. 

Right here’s an instance of the damaged backlinks for the web site we checked out earlier. 

Broken backlinks report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

There are 3,442 teams of observe hyperlinks that we are able to repair right here.

Should you can’t see the rest fallacious together with your web site, this report is a superb place to begin.

The report reveals this web site has misplaced three excessive Area Ranking (DR) hyperlinks from high-profile websites.

Broken backlinks examples, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Do a backlink audit (and if you’ll want to, disavow)

When you’ve checked your damaged hyperlinks, it’s a good suggestion to run a backlink audit in your web site when you consider there is a matter with the general high quality of your web site’s hyperlinks.

In some cases, you may even see unnatural hyperlinks pointing to your web site that will affect your rankings. Listed below are some examples of what Google could classify as “dangerous hyperlinks”:

Should you consider you’ve got some hyperlinks that negatively affect your web site, it’s possible you’ll need to think about using Google Search Console’s disavow instrument. 

However bear in mind to make use of the disavow instrument with warning:

We stated a number of occasions that the disavow instrument is a really heavy gun. And when you don’t know what you might be doing, you’ll be able to shoot your self within the foot with it.

Gary Illyes

In case your web site has a whole lot of low-quality content material and also you misplaced rankings throughout a content-focused Google replace, you’ll want to enhance it.

However how precisely are you able to enhance your content material? Step one is to do a content material audit of your web site. Right here’s a visible illustration of the method we use to audit content material at Ahrefs.

Flowchart showing how to do a content audit, via Ahrefs Blog

Google additionally provides some self-assessment questions that you should utilize to additional audit and enhance your content material:

  • Does the content material present unique data, reporting, analysis, or evaluation?
  • Does the content material present a considerable, full, or complete description of the subject?
  • Does the content material present insightful evaluation or fascinating data past the apparent?
  • If the content material attracts on different sources, does it keep away from merely copying or rewriting these sources and as an alternative present substantial further worth and originality?
  • Does the primary heading or web page title present a descriptive, useful abstract of the content material?
  • Does the primary heading or web page title keep away from exaggerating or being surprising in nature?
  • Is that this the type of web page you’d need to bookmark, share with a pal, or suggest?
  • Would you count on to see this content material in or referenced by a printed journal, encyclopedia, or e-book?
  • Does the content material present substantial worth when in comparison with different pages in search outcomes?

Though there isn’t any assure that enhancing content material will instantly affect your rankings, guaranteeing your content material is the very best on your guests is an efficient concept.

Google SERPs are always altering. And sure, it’s one other issue that may affect rankings and natural visitors to your web site—one that you’ve got little management over.

To clarify this idea, let’s have a look at a historic instance of a dramatic SERP intent shift by plugging the key phrase “corona” into Key phrases Explorer. 

We’ll set the date to March 31, 2020, and examine it to the SERP pre-pandemic on January 3, 2020.

SERP overview and comparison for "corona," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

On this instance, we are able to see Corona beer–associated web sites on the left-hand facet have been displaced by web sites protecting COVID-19 and “High tales” within the area of some months.

If we set the date to one thing newer, we are able to see that Corona, the beer, has regained its quantity #1 place. Why? Properly, the search intent has reverted.

Corona beer SERP overview, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Should you assume a SERP intent shift could have impacted your web site, then it’s price utilizing the “SERP overview” instrument in Key phrases Explorer to see how the historic SERP has modified.

9. Test Google Search Console for a handbook motion

In case your web site has misplaced all natural search visitors, you must examine Google Search Console’s “Manual actions” report.

To do that, click on on the tab on the left-hand facet:

"Manual actions" tab highlighted, via Google Search Console

If there’s no difficulty, you’ll see a “No points detected” discover in Google Search Console that appears like this:

"No issues detected" under "Manual actions" tab, via Google Search Console

If there’s a downside, it should look just like this. This can be a “Pure spam” handbook motion. 

Example of manual action identified, via @rainprofit's Twitter page

In case your web site will get a handbook motion, a human reviewer at Google believes you’ve got violated the search quality guidelines severely. Google will then typically take away your web site and its pages from the search index.

Right here’s a listing of the several types of handbook actions you’ll be able to obtain:

  • Website abused with third-party spam
  • Consumer-generated spam
  • Spammy free host
  • Structured information difficulty
  • Unnatural hyperlinks to your web site
  • Unnatural hyperlinks out of your web site
  • Skinny content material with little or no added worth
  • Cloaking and/or sneaky redirects
  • Pure spam
  • Cloaked photographs
  • Hidden textual content and/or key phrase stuffing
  • AMP content material mismatch
  • Sneaky cell redirects
  • Information and Uncover coverage violations

Steering from Google on learn how to repair these kind of points might be discovered here.

It’s often uncommon to obtain a handbook motion, but it surely’s not remarkable. To remain on the proper facet of Google, bear in mind to take our search engine optimisation coaching course and observe the Google Search Essentials.

Ultimate ideas

It’s by no means straightforward understanding why your web site’s rankings have dropped dramatically. It includes investigating, analyzing, and discovering information you’ll be able to depend on to make selections.

Instruments like Ahrefs can assist, as they allow you to look backstage to see what’s going on.

Obtained extra questions? Ping me on Twitter. 🙂