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Why Sites Gradually Lose Rankings

One might blame a site that gradually loses rankings and web traffic for several reasons. One cause could be due to backlinks and auto-generated content. However, in a Webmaster Hangout on February 21st, 2020, Google’s John Mueller helps to explain why a website might be having a gradual decline in traffic.

He states:

“I don’t think that any of your changes that you’re seeing are related to this content and those particular links.

But it’s probably… a more general thing. In particular when you’re seeing kind of a gradual drop over a longer period of time then that to me points at kind of natural ranking changes where things in the ecosystem have changed, things in the algorithm are slightly changing, maybe users are searching in different ways or expecting different kinds of content in the search results.

And that generally wouldn’t be a sign that there’s this one thing that you’re doing wrong which kind of made everything blow up if you’re seeing these kinds of granular step by step changes over a longer period of time.”

John Muller – Webmaster Hangout 02/21/2020

Within that statement, he gave a few answers:

  1. Ecosystem changes
  2. User searches have changed
  3. User content expectations changed
  4. Algorithm has changed

Ecosystem Changes Rankings

Though he didn’t expand much on this, one can assume that he’s referring to out-side interference. For instance, Link Rot, the constant and natural disappearance of links. Removal of websites or when one goes offline, Link Rot occurs. Another cause of this type of change could be an effect of a competitor. They may be improving their promotional presence. Or there maybe an increase of competition altogether. Naturally, as a competitors rankings go up, it also means that someone’s ranks are dropping.

Users Searches and Content Expectations Have Changed

It’s only natural, a user’s search and content expectations have changed. Different generations are now moving up in ranks. With the newer generation, they have lived with search engines all their life. They have different ways of using search engines and different expectations on what should be appearing to help solve their needs. Because of this google must keep up with the demand for change and work with statistics to make sure their users are able to have a ranking system that solves their needs. Which leads to an Algorithm change.

Algorithm has Changed

Google is always changing their algorithm so that they can better understand what users mean when they search. They’re also learning what web pages are solving their user’s questions. Every major update since August 2018 to the latest BERT is now focusing on user intent and what web pages provide relevant results. Thus, updated algorithms classify search queries and web pages in a better ranking system for users.

Rankings Conclusion:

In the end, John Muller advises to take a step back and take a second look at the website that is gradually losing ranks and try to identify things that could need improvement.

He concludes:

“So, that to me would be something where I try to take a step back and try to take a look at the website in general overall. And find areas where you can make significant improvements to kind of like turn the tide around a little bit and make sure that your site becomes more relevant or becomes significantly more relevant for the kinds of users you’re trying to target.”

John Muller – Webmaster Hangout 02/21/2020

When you notice a site gradually lose rankings, there could be something that stands out as an explanation. However, just because it is obvious doesn’t mean that it truly is the only explanation. Always keep an open mind when researching the causes and don’t assume the obvious. Take the second look and see if you find one of these underlining factors.

Here at #TechStarters, we’re here to help with your SEO needs. If you are noticing your site is losing its rankings gradually don’t hesitate to contact a nerd today!