Why Google Rankings and Website Traffic Dropped? How I Fixed It?
I think every website owner’s nightmare is to see a huge traffic drop on their website. Well, the worst has happened to one of my websites. All my effort that I put into my website over several months just started to go down the drain. Over a one week period my site lots over half of its traffic.
I thought there is no way back. But I found the solution!
In the following I will show I lost my Google rankings and a big part of my website traffic and how I regained it in one week.
About Website Traffic Fluctuation
It is normal to have traffic fluctuation on your website time-to-time. In different niches website traffic drops even 30% on weekends. Traffic can have fluctuation when a bigger Google update is rolling out.
Usually when I see high fluctuation of traffic, the first thing I do is to check my website. If there is no technical problem with my website and the hosting server works great too, I check different websites such as Algoroo and Accuranker to see if there is any Google dance or maybe a new update is rolling out.
Why Traffic and Rankings Suddenly Dropped?
There are many reasons why your website can lose rankings and traffic. One of the most common reasons is a Google algorithm penalty. If your website is penalized by the algorithm, that means you have done something wrong with your website’s ON and OFF page SEO. Maybe the content is not as good as your competitions, maybe you were too aggressive with link building, and maybe you have been using SEO techniques that are against Google guidelines.
Another reason why traffic and Google rankings can drop is some sort of technical problem. If your website is hacked, Google might consider it not safe and might remove it from their search results. Slow and unreliable web hosting can also result in losing Google rankings.
Other technical problems such as redirects done wrong, disallowing Google bot from crawl your site, or partial or entire de-indexing of your website can also result in losing traffic.
But What Has Just Happened to My Website?
The website usually gets on average 250 hits from Google, but can climb up to 300 visits on better days. When I checked the Google Analytics, I just realize that on that particular day the traffic dropped. I don’t usually pay much attention to these type of change because this happens time-to-time. But when I saw that the traffic has dropped to half, and it looked that it won’t get back to normal, I started to worry.
Google Algorithm Update?
I also looked to my other sites and there were no major changes in the traffic or in rankings. There was no sign of any Google Update. Accuranker just confirmed this:
Great! So my website was not penalized by the algorithm! Was it a manual penalty? Why would Google web-spam team penalize my website? What I did wrong? I’m confident that the link profile of that website was very clean. The content was also great, I wrote everything myself. I’m not native English, but I speak and write in English for a very long time, I think I’m pretty good at creating web content.
Google Webmasters Tools / Search Console
Let’s see what the Webmasters Tools has to say. The Google Webmasters Tools is one of the best tools for gathering information about your website, but it has a major pitfall. It displays data with few days delay. So if your website has any problem now, you will only see it in 3-4 days, maybe a week. This is a long period, because in this situation time plays against you.
Luckily I didn’t receive any email from the web-spam team. Usually you get an email from Google if your site is getting penalized, but in this case there was no message. I hoped that I will find something, and I did found it on the Index Status page. According to the tool half of the pages were de-indexed. When clicking on the “Advanced” tab I realize that these pages were blocked by robots.txt. What?! Why?
And I remembered! Few days back I was working on the robots.txt file, because I wanted to restrict the Google bot from crawling some pages on my website. It was 2 AM in the morning when I did these changes, and after a long day of work I did not pay too much attention to what I was doing. Well I messed it up, pretty bad!
In the robots.txt I put a line that disallowed a specific folder, which was actually a WordPress category. Every page that was published under that category was de-indexed by Google. Because the pages were non-existent for Google anymore, it has removed them from the search. I lost the rankings of these pages too.
I was released because at least I found out what was the problem, but I was afraid that I will not be able to fix it again.
How I Fixed Google Rankings and Regain Traffic?
First, I updated the robots.txt file. In the Google Search Console I submitted a new sitemap. After few hours there were still no changes. So I decided to go the “hard core” mode and manually index each page. Remember, there were 82 de-indexed pages.
Probably you have never heard about this, but in the Search Console there is another tool which you can use to manually submit any URL to Google for crawling. There is no guarantee that the submitted URL will appear in the Google index or there is no estimate time of when it will be indexed, but I think it is still a better option than waiting for Google bot to crawl your site.
I have manually submitted all those pages that were missing from the index. After few hours the pages started to appear again, but did not regain the rankings they had before. It took more than one week to see the traffic raising again, and after 3 weeks it went back to the stage where was before I broke it.
It was a good lesson for me! I learned that sometimes a line of code can break the whole website. I also learned that when you are tired you should not “tweak” your site, because it is very hard to focus on little details. I think that, because I took action relative fast to fix the problem, has really helped in regaining the rankings and traffic. So if you break anything on your site, take action fast, and don’t let to pass to much time!
I hope that this article has helped you and hope that you learned something from my mistakes. If you enjoyed the reading please share it with your friend. Thanks for the support!