Lost your rankings? Sometimes doing nothing is the best action.

by Tim Hill (aka Doodled)

February 7th 2016
When you lose your rankings doing nothing is an option worth thinking about
When you lose your rankings doing nothing is an option worth thinking about.

When you lose a valuable position in Google's search result there is understandable panic and a desire to 'do something' - anything. But there are circumstances when you should consider doing nothing at all!

Google is not infallible. It is not beyond making mistakes of its own and there have been a fair amount of these in the past. Here's an actual story from one of my own websites.

When 'How to SEO' went ouch!

How to SEO (howtoseo.link2light.com) is a site I created to help my clients understand the steps and processes we go through to bring a websites rankings up the search results.

From its name you can guess it tells people 'how' but my clients are too busy running their own businesses or lives or are limited in the knowledge of things like HTML and hence they instruct us to make it happen.

For many years the website ranked on Google's first page for the keyword term 'How to SEO your website'. It ranked alongside other websites or pages which I had to admit also provided very useful 'How' information.

Of course I'd like to think that my site was the greatest on offer but I had to recognise those beside me were pretty good to. This other content addressed things like 'how to SEO a WordPress website' or 'How to SEO in 60 seconds'.

Then in the Autumn of 2014 I received an email from a reader who asked, "How come you no longer rank for 'How to SEO your website'?".

Clue hunting a keyword ranking loss

I had a look and sure enough I wasn't there anymore. I had tumbled down to page 2 (and I would reach page 3 before the end of the episode). But neither were any of the websites I used to rank alongside - we had all lost our rankings and been replaced by other alternatives.

I checked my Google Webmaster Tools but no penalty message and it was only two or three phrases that had taken a tumble. Some of my other keywords had risen.

I rummaged through the pages Google now proposed for a 'How to SEO my website' searcher and realised they weren't that relevant. The sites were authoritative - this wasn't a case of being spammed out of the top ten - but they addressed things like 'Why you should SEO' and 'What is SEO'

Doing Nothing

My conclusion was that Google had got it wrong. Some update in its algorithm had made the results of this particular search worse.

From there its easy and its difficult! The easy part is knowing that Google will sort itself out in the end. If it doesn't people will move to other search engines which provide better results which means I don't need the rankings anyway.

The difficult part is doing nothing and it takes a fair bit of will power.

Google's many mistakes

What makes waiting so difficult is that general air that Google is infallible. It is the master to which all SEO practitioners must run circles around.

The opposite is reality. The Google Graveyard is testament to the many mistakes made by this search giant.

I waited it out ... and I waited ... and I waited. 6 months later most of my old neighbours and I popped back into the top ten.

Save your rankings by walking away

Now if I had gone and made dramatic changes to my site in an attempt to recover my rankings I might have ended up altering the site so much that when the Spring 2015 Google algorithms came it would no longer have understood my content (or felt it spammy) and my rankings would have gone for good.

My old neighbours in the top ten who had done nothing would have seen their rankings recover while I would have been sent to nowhere land.

So if your rankings disappear the best steps are:

  1. Check your Google Webmaster Tools to ensure there is no penalty message there
  2. Check to see if you have lost all your rankings or just a selection
  3. Check to see if the websites you were competing against have also lost their position
  4. Consider, as objectively as possible, if the new websites ranking are better than yours for a user experience ... and be honest with yourself here.

If the answers to the above are No; Just a few; Yes and No then go and put the kettle on for 6 months!

And one last point to remember, don't rely on just one or two keywords to bring in all your traffic (howtoseo.link2light.com relies on hundreds) because Google does make mistakes and you don't want one of its errors, no matter how short lived, to have a major impact on your livelihood.