Andrew Shum
Posted by Andrew Shum

Google Ranking Dropped Dramatically? Here’s What You Need to Do

18 min read

Have your Google rankings dropped significantly, leaving you without an explanation of what went wrong? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

It’s an issue that has affected many websites and remains a hot button issue on Google’s Search Console Help forums.

Google’s Search Console Help forums

For instance, this user expressed that one of their pages dropped from the first 1 to 3 positions, sliding to 100 overnight despite having great content.

This goes to show that if your Google ranking dropped dramatically, it’s not always easy to tell the reason. You have to assess all issues that could contribute to a drop.

Why Have Rankings Dropped on Google?

Now, before figuring out what caused the Google rankings to drop, it’s crucial to have some proper context for the issue. Ideally, you want to find out:

  • When did the Google ranking drop occur? It could be a specific day or a gradual loss over a couple of weeks. Getting an exact timeline can help you pinpoint some of the causes.
  • Was it sudden or gradual? Sudden drops may indicate issues like deindexation or manual actions, while gradual drops may stem from neglecting your SEO efforts or due to increased competition.
  • How significant was the drop? If your Google ranking suddenly dropped by large margins, it may signify a more serious issue that demands more urgency to resolve.
  • Have you lost a few positions or plummeted dramatically? If a few keywords have been affected, the issue may be specific to some pages. Site wide losses affecting hundreds of pages could point to a larger issue.

To find out when your rankings started dropping and by how much, you’ll need the help of a few tools.

For starters, you need to use Google Search Console (GSC), as it’s the only tool with first-hand data from Google’s index. You can check for ranking drops affecting your average position, individual pages, or specific queries from the Performance Report:

  • Navigate to GSC and select your property.
  • Go to “Search Results” under the “Performance” section. Checking for ranking drops on Google Search Console
  • To analyze drops in your average ranking, select “Average Position” and set a custom date range.
  • To track ranking drops for specific queries, click “New” and specify your target keywords. (You can filter pages, devices, and even track ranking drops in each country.) Filtering by search query in GSC

Check your coverage report to pinpoint any indexing issues or errors. Go to “Pages” under the “Indexing” section.

Checking the index status of pages in GSC

Checking for ranking drops on Google Analytics

You can also use Google Analytics to gain insights into user behavior and traffic patterns. In GA 4, you can view two specific reports:

  1. Organic traffic trends: Go to Reports>Acquisition> Traffic Acquisition. You can set a custom date range to see when the traffic drop occurred. GA4 also shows traffic from other sources, such as direct and organic social.
  2. Behavior metrics: Google Analytics provides behavioral metrics that inform you about how users are interacting with your site or pages in general. While they are not directly tied to rankings, user engagement metrics can help you uncover any UX issues that may have even caused Google to penalize your site.

Using other SEO tools to track ranking drops

In addition to these tools, we recommend using other SEO tools such as Ahrefs, SERanking or SEMRush. They are useful for providing more comprehensive keyword tracking, as you can see changes in the first page results. For instance, if you’re using Ahrefs, you’ll want to get the rank tracker report:

  • Add keywords to tracks and locations
  • Provide URLs of your top competitors
  • Track your positions in search over time.
  • Find keywords and pages that dropped significantly

If you use SERanking, you can also generate the ranking report as follows:

tracking rankings with SERanking

Two types of ranking drops you may experience

To properly assess the reasons for the Google rankings drop, we need to distinguish between the two kinds of ranking drops your site may be experiencing:

#Scenario 1: Steady and Continuous Decline

The first scenario involves a steady and continuous decline in your website’s performance.

Gradual drop in rankings showcased in GSC

In this case, it isn’t a big and sudden problem. Some of the reasons behind a steady and continuous decline in search engine rankings include:

  • Neglected SEO efforts: Sometimes, the decline isn’t due to a sudden issue but rather a lack of consistent SEO efforts. If you’ve stopped optimizing your website, neglected content updates, or failed to adapt to algorithm changes, your rankings may gradually decline.
  • Content stagnation: Search engines favor fresh, relevant content. If your website hasn’t seen new content or updates to existing content, it may lose its competitive edge. You can resolve this by having a consistent publishing schedule and making regular updates to your top performing pages.
  • Technical issues: Slow page loading times, broken links, or mobile optimization issues can gradually harm rankings. Regularly audit your site for technical problems and address them promptly.
  • Backlink decay: Losing high-quality backlinks over time will decrease your page rank, impacting rankings.
  • Keyword cannibalization: If you optimize multiple pages for the same keywords, they will start competing against each other. Consolidate content and focus on one keyword or topic per page.

Note that a steady and slow decline could be harder to detect. That’s why we recommend using Google Search Console data to track changes in your rankings. Here is how to go about it:

  • Keep reviewing your performance reports by logging in to the Google Search Console.
  • Observe trends in clicks, impressions, and average position.
  • Look for gradual declines over a few weeks or months.
  • Set date ranges to compare performance.
  • Check to see if clicks and impressions have consistently decreased.
  • Pay attention to specific landing pages affected.

Google Search Console lacks the ability to send out alerts for keyword position changes. To automate the process, you can use SEMrush. Just add your website as a new project and start receiving alerts on a weekly basis.

#Scenario 2: Domain Simply Disappeared

A website can experience a sudden and large loss in rankings and traffic. Drastic losses mean something has horribly gone wrong that has caused search engines to stop ranking the website’s pages.

As a result, if Google discovers that you are manipulating PageRank through backlinking schemes, for instance, the offense may have been the result of serious issues that are not acceptable.

drastic drop in rankings

Here are other causes to be aware of, but we will dive deeper into them in the next section:

  • Google Updates
  • Technical issues
  • Indexing issues
  • The content on the site has been changed or has disappeared
  • The design or structure of the site was changed
  • Moving to a new domain (surprisingly, you have expected everything to remain unchanged 🙂
Restore Your Rankings with SeoProfy

Our team has helped our clients restore traffic after Google updates.

  • Detailed audit of all SEO aspects
  • Clear action plan for recovery
  • Consistency and transparency

Next, we’ll look at the most common problems and how to fix them.

What to Do if Your Google Ranking Dropped

Google Algorithm Updates

Google is akin to a restless mechanic, tweaking its algorithms frequently to improve performance. Once they make improvements to their algorithm, they tend to re-evaluate rankings based on the new metrics and standards they have enforced. For instance, the release of the Penguin (2012) Update, focusing on unnatural backlinks, affected sites involved in link manipulation.

So, the first step if your rankings have dropped is to check for any updates from the Google Search Status Dashboard. If the drop coincided with a Google update, here are some steps that will help you recover if your Google ranking dropped:

  • Understand Google’s current focus – Is it on people’s first content, healthy core vitals; or backlink quality? You can study Google’s guidelines and priorities in Search Essentials.
  • Audit your website: Based on the core focus, perform a content audit and technical audit to find problematic pages.
  • Make improvements: Whether it’s creating more original content or performing user experience optimization, make the changes as quickly as you can.
  • Watch and wait: Be patient, as it takes time to recover from devastating ranking losses, especially when your website ranking is going down.

Google Updates from Google Status Dashboard

That said, note that most Google updates are minor. It’s only a few major updates (like BERT or Passage Ranking) that shake up rankings significantly:

  • Core updates: These are the big ones—the tectonic shifts—aimed to improve relevance and quality of search results. You can expect several core upgrades per year. For instance, Google is rolling out the March 2024 update that will reshape how the search engine evaluates if content is helpful. Big updates impact a substantial percentage of keyword searches. Recovery from core updates takes time—weeks, not days.
  • Spam updates: These target spammy practices (e.g., keyword stuffing and link schemes) to keep searches clean and fair. SPAM updates are more targeted, for instance, Google regularly updates its spam detection capabilities. They don’t have a broad effect, only punishing a few sites caught propagating spammy practices.

You can stay informed about upcoming and rolled out updates using the following resources:

  • Google’s Search Liaison: Visit the Google Search Liaison Twitter page for updates from Danny Sullivan.
  • Google’s Search Central Blog:  Subscribe to the official blog to get updates on core algorithm updates, new Google Search features, and SEO tips.
  • Google Search Status Dashboard: It tracks the real-time status of Google Search services.
  • Third-Party Tools: You can check out SEMrush Sensor, which monitors volatility in search results. Moz’s MozCast tracks the turbulence in Google’s algorithm and can give you a hint if something is cooking.

semrush sensor

Ahead of major updates, Google will emphasize some best practices websites need to follow. Therefore, you need to be on the loop about ongoing conversations revolving around Google Search. For instance, Google’s recent focus has been on making the web faster and has emphasized that websites need to have a healthy set of core web vitals. Subsequently, major updates in 2022 and 2023 have penalized sites with slow-loading pages and bad UX.

P.S. You can stay ahead of what Google likes by following the Google Search Central Twitter page:

Google Search Central X profile

Screenshot of Google Search Central X (former Twitter) profile

Check for Technical Issues on the Site

Technical changes on a website can lead to sharp Google ranking drops. They may be related to:

  • Server configuration
  • Site migration
  • Code quality
  • Site architecture
  • Performance optimization
  • Design
  • Website security measures.

You should watch out for the following technical issues:

  • Robots.txt issues: Robots.txt is a file that instructs search engine crawlers which pages to access or avoid.  Misconfigured robots.txt can unintentionally block essential pages from being scanned or prevent Google from indexing your entire site.
  • Canonical tag problems: Canonical tags indicate the preferred version of a page where the same content exists in multiple pages. Failing to add canonical tags can confuse search engine bots.
  • Missing redirects during site migration: You need to ensure smooth transitions when you move your site to a new domain or change URLs or redirects (301 or 302). Without proper redirects, Google treats old and new URLs as separate entities, causing its crawlers to encounter dead ends.
  • 404 error pages: A 404 error occurs when a page is not found (usually due to broken links or deleted content). High 404 rates frustrate users and harm SEO as they will hit a dead link.
  • Hacked websites: During SEO hacks, cybercriminals gain access to websites by exploiting vulnerabilities, then link out to domains they want to boost. A famous case involved 15,000 websites in 2022. Google programatically detects hacked sites and flags them as unsafe in search results. It may remove sites altogether, and admins have to remove the malicious code and request reinclusion.
  • Changes in the .htaccess file: This configuration file controls server behavior, and incorrect changes can disrupt site functionality.

Remember that technical issues happen at any time. You need to stay on top of them through regular and automated audits. GSC comes in handy as it provides daily coverage reports that report on indexing and mobile usability issues. It can also help with page load time optimization. Check for recommendations under the Core Web Vitals.

Core Web Vitals recommendations from GSC

Configuring a third-party security plugin can proactively protect you from new website errors, malicious code, and SQL injection attacks.

Keep in mind that Google’s algorithms assess technical health across three main metrics: Crawlability, Indexability, and User experience. Make sure you’re providing an easily-crawlable, fast loading, and mobile-friendly website with secure pages.

Check if your website pages are getting indexed in Google

Status of indexed and not indexed pages in GSC

Drastic drops in your search rankings may result from changes in the indexing status of your pages on Google SERP. There are various ways to identify indexing issues:

  • Check the meta robots tag: Confirm that your site isn’t labeled as “noindex” in the meta robots tag. You can use Developer Tools on Google Chrome to examine the HTML code. Check the meta robots tag
  • Use the “site:” search command: Use the “site:” search operator in Google. For instance, type If your pages appear in the results, they’re indexed.
  • Google Search Console: Check the “Page indexing” section in Google Search Console. It provides insights into which pages are not indexed and why.

Subsequently, you can get your pages indexed by creating and submitting an XML sitemap, adding internal links, regularly publishing high-quality content, and fixing broken links. If you have specific URLs that need indexing, you can also use Google’s URL Inspection Tool in the Search Console.

Check Your Content

Your Google rankings may have also dropped if Google detected duplicate content that confuses crawlers. Someone else could have copied your content and ranked higher, affecting your site’s visibility. Over-optimization through keyword stuffing and excessive use of exact-match keywords could have also triggered Google SPAM filters, leading to a demotion in rankings.

When assessing whether your content is the cause of a Google rankings drop, consider the following factors:

  • Content changes or removal: Check if the page content has changed or been removed. Missing or altered content can impact rankings.
  • Duplicate content issues: Copy and paste your content to Google to see if it’s ranking under other URLs. If someone else ranks higher with your content, take action. Duplicate content issues
  • Content over-optimization: Review your content’s optimization efforts. Ensure it aligns with best practices and doesn’t violate any guidelines.
  • Content quality: Assess whether your content provides value, answers user queries, and sends the right E-E-A-T signals to Google.
  • Harmful сontent: Check if your content harms users or violates ethical standards.

A special note about stolen content: You can also use tools like Copyscape or Siteliner to check for content duplication. The next step after finding stolen content is to report it to Google. But first, reach out to the site owner politely, requesting removal or proper attribution. If unsuccessful, report the issue to Google via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) process.

Legal Help page from Google

Check Google Search Console for Manual Actions

A manual action, also known as a Google Penalty, occurs when a human reviewer at Google determines that certain pages on a website violate Google’s spam policies. These violations can lead to the demotion or removal of the affected pages or even the entire site from Google search results, leading to a dramatic Google ranking drop.

How can you check for manual actions? Well, log in to Google Search Console and navigate to the “Manual Actions” report under “Security & Manual Actions.” If no manual actions exist, you’ll see a green check mark. Otherwise, details of the manual action will be displayed.

manual action status on GSC

Some common triggers for manual actions include:

  • User-generated spam: Unmoderated user-generated content (e.g., comments, forums) containing spam.
  • Malware: Sites compromised by malware or phishing attacks.
  • Unnatural outbound links: Linking to low-quality or irrelevant sites.
  • Spammy link schemes: Manipulative link-building practices, such as buying or exchanging links solely for SEO purposes.
  • Thin or low-quality content: Web pages with little value, excessive ads, or scraped content.
  • Cloaking or sneaky redirects: Showing different content to users and search engines.
  • Keyword stuffing: Overloading content with irrelevant keywords.
  • Structured data markup violations: Incorrectly implementing structured data markup.

Can you recover from manual actions? Yes. You’ll need to understand the specific violation causing the manual action, correct the issues (e.g., removing spammy links)., and submit a reconsideration request. Google will review your request, and if successful, your site will regain visibility.

And can you challenge a manual action? Well, you can’t directly challenge a manual action on Google, but you can fix the issues and request reconsideration.

There are a few critical things that might have gone wrong with links, causing a Google ranking drop:

  • Losing valuable backlinks: You can lose backlinks due to a number of reasons. Backlinks may be lost if they are intentionally or unintentionally removed. This may happen following a change in ownership of a website or due to wrongful deletions. You can lose backlinks if expired domains are not renewed. Losing backlinks results in a loss of link equity. If the loss happens too quickly, it could lead to a severe loss in rankings. For instance, here is a case where a website lost 1K referring domains, many with high DR ratings, over the last 30 days, causing a severe drop in their rankings: loss of backlinks detected in Ahrefs
  • Backlinks are getting ignored: Google may have stopped passing link juice to your website even if the backlinks have remained intact. This could happen after an algorithm update, improving Google’s capability of determining the quality and relevance of linking domains. For instance, Google’s December 2022 link spam update targeting neutralizing unnatural linking using the SpamBrain AI saw websites losing search rankings after links were disqualified.
  • Gradual loss of domain authority and trustworthiness: Over time, backlinks can lose their impact if linking pages are removed, go offline, or more external links are added to the page, diluting its SEO benefits.
  • Toxic backlink profile: Another factor to check is if your backlink profile has become toxic after accumulating low-quality and irrelevant links. Keep in mind that this might have happened unintentionally or as a result of a planned negative SEO attack by your rivals to trick search engines into penalizing your website.

You need to constantly maintain a healthy backlink profile by making sure you’re not losing your link equity or accumulating toxic links. While some SEO tools come with a backlink monitoring feature, it’s more recommended to use specially designed link monitoring tools. We use LinkChecker Pro, which automatically scans your backlinks daily by checking if they exist on referring websites and verifying their presence on Google.

Beyond link existence, it monitors other metrics like crawlability, canonicalization, and DMCA abuses. You also get real time alerts for broken or deleted backlinks straight to your inbox or Telegram.

LinkChecker Pro stands out due to its ability to handle thousands of links with precision. It’s also easy to use and simplifies backlink monitoring. It seamlessly integrates with Ahrefs and Majestic SEO, allowing you to get comprehensive SEO metrics.

backlinks monitoring in LinkChecker Pro

Analyze Your Competitors

When your website experiences a sudden drop in rankings, it often means that another site has taken your position. To regain your standing, you need to understand who your competitors are and what strategies they’re using.

Start by identifying your direct and indirect competitors. Direct competitors are major players in your niche offering similar products or services. Indirect competitors have different offerings but still create content around your niche.

To find competitors, you can manually search for keywords related to your industry and observe which pages are outranking you. Pay attention to their content quality, structure, and engagement.

Tools like Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, Similar Web, and Semrush can also help you discover your organic search competitors.

organic search competitors

After finding your top competitors, you need to evaluate their competing content and website quality metrics to find reasons why they are outcompeting you:

  • Is their content better written? Analyze readability, depth, and expertise.
  • How do they build links? Do they have more link velocity? Check which strategies they are using and if they are getting better links from more authoritative and relevant domains.
  • Are they targeting better keywords? Compare your content against competitors by performing a content gap analysis. Find gaps where you can create better content.

If you’re losing your top spots to competitors, you can still recover, as Google will always prioritize the most authoritative source of information. You can even implement the Skyscraper technique to build more comprehensive content pages than your competitors or even feature expert advice in your articles.

Changes in Google SERPs

Google’s SERPs are like a dynamic ecosystem that thrives on change. For instance, consider that the first page now typically features only 7 to 8 organic results, with rare instances of 10. This limited real estate means fierce competition for visibility.

Google experiments frequently by shifting the positions of different results to see what delivers the best experience and clicking-thrus. In fact, it’s this experimentation that leads to SERP volatility. Beyond traditional results, SERPs include rich features like featured snippets, knowledge panels, and local packs.

Therefore, your rankings may have dropped due to changes in Google SERPs to feature new results. You may miss out on the first page if there is a reduction in the number of first page results. Rankings also change during times of high SERP volatility, which increases during updates.

If you previously appeared in a featured snippet or other SERP feature, losing that position can impact rankings. Note that the inclusion of SERP features on the first page, for instance, addition of a knowledge panel or People Also Ask can also displace other ranking pages.

Changes in Google SERPs

While you can’t control all SERP changes, you can control your content quality and relevance. Focus on creating valuable content that is more likely to adapt to SERP shifts. Regularly monitor the SERPs for your target keywords. You should also optimize content for featured snippets, local packs and your Google Business Profile.

Changes in the Intent and Behavior of Users

Search is largely driven by the user’s intent, needs, and interests. If you produce content around what people are currently searching for, you’ll have a chance to rank well and drive more traffic. Consequently, if interest in your niche reduces, it will result in ranking losses and decreased traffic volume.

So, how can you adapt to user intent and behavior if your Google ranking dropped suddenly?

  • Google Trends: Use tools like Google Trends to track interest in specific topics over time. For instance, you can see if interest in a topic is growing or decreasing.
  • Content relevance: Update your content regularly to match current user intent. Understand what users are searching for, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
  • Keyword research: Stay informed about emerging keywords and topics. You can consider tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush that give you alerts about new keywords in your niche.

interest in NFT in Google Trends

Search is all about matching the user’s intent and fulfilling their informational needs. Staying agile and adaptable allows you to retain your top positions for longer.

Recovery after a drop in Google rankings

While there are hundreds of things you can do to recover after a Google ranking drop, many of which we’ve mentioned in this article, recovery is often not an easy road.

First, you need to have a clear scope of the impact and an accurate overview of all the issues that contributed to the drop. In practice, this means spending time reviewing each aspect of your SEO, from your content to backlinks.

If your rankings dropped following a core Google algorithm update, it may take time before SEO experts get an inclination about what Google was focusing on, as the search engine is not always forthright with specific details. Beating your competitors can also be an uphill battle, as you need to figure out how much resources they are dedicating, which backlink building strategies they are using, and how to beat them.

Does it mean that you should give up? Well, no. This is just to confirm that recovery needs a lot of work and time. And that you should adequately prepare for it and have the right mindset going in. It could be months before you start ranking well again, but in the meantime, you still have to do everything right -good rankings or not!

But what we know is that recovery can be easier and less stressful if you work with a professional partner. They will guide through backlink penalties, manual actions, competitor analysis, and content improvement.

And if you don’t need all that, they can also help identify the reasons why your website’s ranking is going down, which is challenging on its own.

If you’re finding it difficult to pinpoint the exact causes of your recent ranking drops, we invite you to contact SeoProfy for an SEO audit. Our professional agency has experience guiding dozens of sites to recovery. We’ll conduct an in-depth SEO audit, determine the reasons for the decline, and provide a clear action plan to restore traffic and improve Google ranking.

Andrew Shum

Andrew is the Head of SEO at SeoProfy. He has been involved in search engine optimization since 2016, gaining practical SEO experience across various niches and countries.

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