How to Recover When Search Rankings Suddenly Drop (Beginner’s Guide)

Confidently recover from search ranking drops with this guide's actionable steps and strategies.
Mohit Tater
July 17, 2024
min read

When there’s a sudden drop in organic search rankings, you don’t need to panic. More often than not, it’s never your fault. It could be a curveball from an algorithm update or a glitch in the matrix. 

Data shows that 90% of ranking drops are recoverable, so breathe – you’re not alone! Although it can be time-consuming and boring to effectively diagnose the issue, this guide will help you figure out what went down and crucial steps to take to recover your rankings and traffic.

Why Do Organic Search Rankings Suddenly Drop?

If you want to successfully fix a sudden drop in organic traffic, it’s important to understand what could have caused it.

1. Google Algorithm updates

Ever heard of search engines tweaking their formulas? They do, and it affects your ranking. Updates like Google's Core Updates can shake things up. 

You don’t necessarily have control over these changes that Google makes. For each update that Google launches, some websites lose as much as 50% of their traffic. So keep an eye out for these changes (every other month) and adapt your content, link-building, and marketing strategies accordingly.

2. Technical issues

Behind the scenes, technical issues can hurt your site's speed or make it unfriendly on mobile. Everything from site speed, mobile-friendliness, and several other technical factors matters. If they’re subpar, they could correlate with other factors that affect your rankings.

3. Content issues:

Your content is still the #1 ranking factor. It can either improve your search rankings or mar it. 

If it's outdated or stuffed with keywords, it can drop your ranking. Search users want fresh, relevant content that answers their questions clearly and completely. Focus on these users and Google will reward you with higher rankings, traffic, and more revenue for your business. 

4. Irrelevant links

Not all links are created equal. Low-quality or spammy backlinks can harm your reputation and impact your rankings negatively. Jenny covered the 8 types of links to avoid on Ahrefs.

Surprisingly, one single high-quality and relevant backlink could be more impactful than 10 average links from generic websites with low domain authority. 

For example, if you own an outdoor or sports website, then a link from will ‘likely’ pass more juice or value than several links from websites that get fewer than 1,000 organic visitors per month.

5. Competition

Intense competition can hinder your website from ranking higher in the organic search results. New players in your niche and evolving strategies can impact your position. 

Find a way to collaborate with your competitors for guest blogging, podcast interviews, or video creation.

That way, you’re exposed to a new audience that will find your content helpful and impactful. The backlinks you get from collaborating with them can help you get your rankings back. 

Emergency SEO: How to Fix Search Ranking Drop

Let’s explore the 7 effective ways to recover from a drop in your organic rankings.

1. Utilize Page-level analysis to fix rankings

Use the Google Analytics tool, Semrush, or Ahrefs to understand the extent of the drop. Numbers don't lie, and they'll guide you to the root cause. A page-level analysis is crucial at this point – zoom into specific pages to spot patterns. 

Issues on individual pages could affect your search rankings. So check your older posts and refresh them with accurate factors and actionable information.

2. On-Page Optimization: Fine-tuning Your Content

Does your content align with the search intent? If you notice a drop in your rankings, it might be the perfect time for a thorough content audit. A content audit is going to be messy with a Spreadsheet or Excel, but it’s completely worth it. Here’s a template you may want to use from Orbit Media.

To get your content not just on the first page but at the top, a content audit is like giving your website a makeover – making it relevant, keyword-savvy, and user-friendly.  

Follow these simple steps to conduct a content audit like a pro:

a). Identify Your Pages: First things first, list down all your web pages. This includes blog posts, service pages, and everything in between. Make sure you've got a comprehensive inventory.

b). Assess Content Relevance: Go through each page and ask the golden question: Is this content still relevant? Ensure that it aligns with current trends and the needs of your audience. Trim any outdated or irrelevant content.

c). Check for Keyword Alignment: Keywords matter. Review each page to see if the keywords are still on point. What are people searching for now? Adjust your content to match the current keyword landscape.

d). Evaluate Content Quality: Quality always wins over quantity. Did you know regularly updated content gets 3.5 times more traffic? Scrutinize the quality of your content. Is it engaging, informative, and error-free? Adjust or update facts where needed. 

e). Enhance User Experience: The user is king. Check if your pages are user-friendly. Is the layout intuitive? Are images and multimedia elements enhancing the experience? A smooth user experience boosts your site's credibility.

Now, why do the above factors matter? How do they help with ranking recovery?

  • Relevance Rules: Search engines love what users love. Relevant and updated content aligns with current search intent, signaling to algorithms that your website is helpful.
  • Keyword Mastery: Updating your keywords ensures your content stays in tune with what people are actively searching for. It's like speaking the same language as your audience.
  • Quality Signals: Search engines prioritize quality content. By improving the overall quality of your pages, you're signaling to search algorithms that your content deserves a prime spot.

3. How to Fix Important Technical Site Issues

Site speed and mobile optimization are crucial aspects of technical SEO. According to KISSmetrics, 47% of users expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. 

Google loves a clean, accessible website. Here’s how to fix your technical SEO issues and win back your rankings. Ready to fix your technical site issues, here are some tips:

i). Check your site speed:

Start by assessing your website's speed. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights or Pingdom tool to identify any sluggishness. 

Aim for a load time of around 2 seconds. To help with improving your site speed, optimize large images, enable browser caching, and consider a faster hosting provider if needed.

ii). Make your website mobile-friendly: 

Today, more users browse on mobile than ever before. Google checks your mobile site first. 

Most premium WordPress themes are mobile-friendly, so there’s no reason why your website shouldn’t be responsive across all devices.

iii). Optimize your images:

Large images can slow down your website and affect rankings. Compress your images without compromising quality. Tools like TinyPNG or ImageOptim can help. By reducing image sizes, you'll speed up your page load times, pleasing both users and search engines.

iv). Enable browser caching:

Enable browser caching to make returning visits smoother. When a user revisits your website, cached resources mean their browser doesn't need to reload everything. It's like saving time and bandwidth, a win-win for both speed and user experience.

v). Streamline Code and Scripts:

Clean up your website's code and scripts. Bloated code can slow things down. Minify CSS and JavaScript to reduce their sizes. Consider deferring non-essential scripts so they don't block the rendering of your page. A cleaner codebase means faster loading times.

4. Fix Your Backlinks

When it comes to backlinks – quality wins over quantity, always. Link is one of the three most important ranking factors.

Did you also know that a single high-quality backlink can be more powerful than a dozen low-quality ones? Of course, it is. Focus on getting or building only relevant, credible, and contextual inbound links. Use tools such as to check your link profile. 

If you notice a bunch of low-quality links, use the disavow tool to get rid of harmful links to your site -- so that the credible links can improve your search visibility. 

So why does it matter? Should you even use the Disavow tool? The Disavow Tool tells Google to ignore harmful links pointing to your website. It safeguards your website's reputation and ensures search engines focus on quality signals for ranking.

It's your shield against SEO pitfalls.

5. Algorithm Updates: Adapting to Change

SEO is an ongoing process. While it can deliver consistent traffic, leads, and sales for your business, you need to stay updated with Google algorithm updates.

Algorithm updates can be sneaky, but adapting your strategies is the key.  

  • To navigate Google's ever-changing algorithms, stay in the loop with industry news to anticipate updates. 
  • Swiftly adapt your content and SEO strategies when changes hit, using analytics to monitor shifts in rankings and user behavior. 
  • Keep a keen eye on user search intent and align your content accordingly. 
  • Prioritize mobile optimization, as Google favors mobile-friendly experiences. 

By embracing these adjustments, your SEO strategy remains resilient, ensuring your online presence stays ahead amidst the dynamic landscape of Google's algorithm updates.

6. Content Refresh: Breathing Life into Your Pages

Did you know that regularly updated content gets 3.5 times more traffic than outdated pages? Refreshing content to regain lost rankings involves a strategic approach to ensure relevance, quality, and user engagement. This important step should be part of your content strategy going into the new year.

Begin with a comprehensive content audit, identifying outdated or irrelevant information. Analyze current search trends and update keywords accordingly, aligning them with the latest user search intent.

Next, focus on enhancing content quality by polishing it for clarity, correctness, and engagement. Correct any errors and improve overall readability to create a seamless user experience. 

Integrate multimedia elements such as images, videos, or infographics to add visual appeal and elevate content engagement.Establish a regular update schedule to keep your content fresh and aligned with industry trends. 

Stay informed about the evolving landscape of your niche and incorporate relevant updates promptly. 

7. Rebuilding Authority through Social Media

Social media can be very helpful in helping you recover from sudden organic traffic drops. It's not just about posting but engaging actively. According to this study, 73% of marketers find social media engagement effective.

While social signals aren't a direct Google ranking factor, the indirect benefits are profound.  Building a community on platforms like Facebook or Twitter fosters a loyal fan base. Responding to comments and initiating conversations transforms your brand into a dynamic dialogue, not merely a static statement.

This social engagement creates a ripple effect. The increased visibility and brand affinity from social interactions can lead to amplified brand searches and mentions, positively influencing your overall online presence. 

Although not a direct SEO signal, this movement on social media cultivates a broader audience and brand loyalty, indirectly contributing to the recovery from an organic traffic dip. It's a strategic blend of community-building and brand visibility that harmonizes with the dynamic nature of online ecosystems.

Final thoughts

Ignoring a sudden drop in search ranking and traffic risks long-term consequences, impacting visibility and business growth. Taking deliberate steps for recovery is crucial. 

Waiting for a natural rebound may prolong the decline. 

At Black Book Digital, we specialize in website management -- we leverage data-driven strategies to optimize content, fix technical issues, and adapt to algorithm changes, ensuring increased traffic and improved conversions. 

Book a free strategy session today to speak with a professional about your website and SEO.

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