Google Rating Dropped Dramatically? (Here is What to Test)


It may be alarming in case your web site’s Google rankings drop instantly.

However earlier than you make any adjustments, it’s essential to test sure issues first.

1. Test for any Google algorithm updates

Google’s algorithm updates are among the many commonest methods your web site’s rankings may be negatively impacted.

Google doesn’t like low-quality or deceptive outcomes showing on the high of its natural search outcomes, so it runs common algorithm updates to protect the standard of its search index. 

Updates are introduced on Google’s standing web page. So it’s price checking if any dates align along with your web site’s rating drops. 

Google ranking updates, via Google

It takes time to align these dates in opposition to your natural visitors information, so a sooner option to perceive the influence is to make use of a device like Ahrefs. 

To do that, head to Ahrefs’ Web site Explorer, plug in your area, and scan the Ⓖ updates on the backside of the Overview 2.0 natural visitors chart. 

Google ranking updates highlighted in Overview 2.0, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer
The highlighted Ⓖ image signifies that there was a Google replace at every of those factors. 

Hovering over the Ⓖ symbols offers you extra detailed details about the updates. 

2. Test your natural visitors in Ahrefs’ Web site Explorer

When you’ve established there’s been a Google replace, you’ll have to test its date in opposition to your whole natural visitors to see if there’s been a drop on the similar time. 

To test your natural visitors in Web site Explorer, you can:

  1. Plug in your area and scroll all the way down to the Overview 2.0 chart.
  2. Uncheck all the pieces other than “Avg. natural visitors.” 
  3. Set the timeline to “All” and “Weekly.” This lets you see the entire timeline for the natural visitors, providing you with a greater concept of how vital the drop is.
Avg. organic traffic filter with drop highlighted, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

I’ve highlighted the newest visitors drop for this web site. Let’s see if we are able to work out why this occurred. Let’s zoom in and alter the timeline to “1Y,” hovering our cursor across the time of the drop.

March 2023 Core Update detail, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

The March 2023 Core Replace roughly aligns right here. 

It could have contributed to the lack of visitors, however we are able to additionally see that the precise date of the natural visitors drop doesn’t align with the discharge of this replace.

So we are able to’t say that this algorithm replace induced the drop. On this scenario, it’s normally greatest to maintain investigating.

In case your web site’s natural visitors drop does align precisely with an replace, then a Google replace has probably impacted you.

3. Test your high traffic-driving key phrases

When you’ve established a big drop in natural visitors, you’ll need to know which of your web site’s key phrases have misplaced rankings.

To do that, head to the Natural key phrases report in Web site Explorer. I like to check key phrases 12 months on 12 months (YoY), so let’s add a YoY “Examine” filter.

Drop in traffic change, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

We will see that within the “Change” column, there’s been a big drop for this web site’s high key phrase, “yamaha bikes.” 

Keyword closeup, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Let’s head over to Ahrefs’ Key phrases Explorer by clicking on the key phrase “yamaha bikes.”

Scrolling all the way down to the SERP overview, we are able to see what occurred if we make a year-on-year (YoY) comparability. 

SERP overview with highlight on YoY comparison, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Google has switched the /motorbike web page for the homepage. So there could also be a problem with the /motorbike web page.

For reference, in Web site Explorer, we are able to see the precise date of the drop is March 14.

March 14, 2023, traffic drop, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Let’s take away the comparability and plug this date into the SERP overview in Key phrases Explorer.

404 page, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Utilizing the SERP overview, we are able to see that this web page was a 404 web page on that date. If we alter the date to March 16, 2023, we are able to see that this web page disappears from the SERPs.

SERP overview for "yamaha motorcycles," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

As this date matches up, it’s prone to be the rationale for the numerous drop in visitors for this web site.

Utilizing Web site Explorer and Key phrases Explorer in conjunction is an effective way to diagnose the explanations for rating drops.

4. Test any current technical adjustments to the website

Technical points can influence your Google rankings. You’ll have to run a web site crawl to find out these points.

In my view, the simplest option to establish technical points along with your website is to run a crawl utilizing Ahrefs’ Web site Audit.

To set one up, head to Web site Audit, click on “+ New venture,” and comply with the prompts.

Navigating to Ahrefs' Site Audit

When you’ve accomplished the crawl, you’ll see an “Overview” display much like the screenshot under.

Overview example, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

This web page offers a fowl’s-eye view of technical points and screens your web site’s well being rating.

When you’ve clicked on a particular problem, click on “Why and learn how to repair.” A sidebar will then seem, explaining the issue and learn how to repair it—this data is important to serving to you resolve your technical points.

"Why and how to fix" closeup, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

In case your web site crawl reveals that you simply’ve bought many technical points, it’s price spending time fixing every downside till your total well being rating improves. 

When you’ve accomplished this, you’ll be capable to eradicate the opportunity of any technical points impacting your website’s Google rankings.


Technical points can happen any time however usually occur throughout a web site migration. Operating Web site Audit earlier than and after your migration permits you to evaluate crawls to see if there’s been a rise in technical points following the migration.

Now we all know learn how to arrange and analyze a Web site Audit, let’s take a look at some particular technical points that usually end in misplaced rankings and natural visitors.

4XX Pages

Ahrefs 404 page, via

4XX pages are error pages. You’ll in all probability be most aware of the basic “404 web page not discovered.” When most of these pages happen, it may end up in misplaced visitors.

If we return to our earlier web site (/motorbike web page) instance in Key phrases Explorer and scroll all the way down to the SERP overview, we are able to see it’s a 404 web page. 

404 page, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

However are there any extra 404 pages on this website? Let’s return to the Natural key phrases report and click on by different high key phrases, akin to “r7” and “yamaha r1.”

List of keywords, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

If we click on by on the key phrase “r7” to Key phrases Explorer, scroll to the SERP overview, and set the date to March 14, 2023, we are able to see that this key phrase additionally has a 404 standing code.

404 page shown in SERP overview, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Repeating the method with the “yamaha r1” key phrase, we are able to see this web page can be a 404 web page on March 14, 2023.

404 page shown in SERP overview, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

It appears honest to conclude that this web site’s high traffic-driving pages had been useless pages.

Though we’ve rapidly used Key phrases Explorer and Web site Explorer to search out this data, the identical data may be discovered utilizing Web site Audit.

That is what it’ll appear like as soon as your crawl has been accomplished and the place you possibly can establish the 404 or 4XX pages within the report.

4XX issues, via Ahrefs' Site Audit


Canonical tag illustration, via Ahrefs Blog

Lack of or poorly applied canonical tags is one other technical problem that may trigger issues to your website. 

In the case of figuring out them, you possibly can spot-check them on a page-by-page foundation utilizing Ahrefs’ search engine optimisation Toolbar, or you possibly can run a Web site Audit crawl to get a full view.

I’ve highlighted under the forms of points that may be flagged by the Overview report.

Canonical tag issues, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

For extra suggestions, test our “canonical tags” newbie’s information to be taught extra.


Forgetting so as to add or poorly implementing redirects is likely one of the commonest causes for a drop in rankings and natural visitors. 

There are a few easy factors to recollect with redirects:

Detecting these redirect points is greatest accomplished utilizing Ahrefs’ Web site Audit. Merely run a crawl of your web site after which test the Redirects report back to get a view of the problems.

Redirects report, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

Take a look at our redirects for search engine optimisation information to be taught extra.


Adjustments to a web site’s robots.txt file can even influence how Google crawls your web site. Generally you, or one other stakeholder, can by chance block some important pages. 

You may maintain observe of your robots.txt file adjustments should you run a daily crawl of your website utilizing Ahrefs’ Web site Audit. 

For every crawl, Web page Explorer shops the main points of your robots.txt file, making it straightforward to grasp if any adjustments have been made to the file that might negatively have an effect on the web site.

Disavow store, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

In case you’ve seen a rating drop whereas migrating your website, it’s price heading to your robots.txt file to see in case you are blocking the crawling of any search engine bots or important pages of your web site. 

Test our robots.txt newbie’s information to be taught extra.

5. Test your rivals’ rankings

In case you’re assured your web site’s technical search engine optimisation is so as, it’s price checking to see in case your rivals have outranked your web site on a few of its key phrases. 

It could sound apparent, however that is one other widespread cause a web site loses rankings. Sadly, generally your rivals are higher at search engine optimisation than you are.

The quickest option to monitor a competitor’s rankings is by plugging its area in Web site Explorer and heading to the Natural key phrases report.

On this instance, I’ve entered Backlinko’s area.

Organic keywords report with positions highlighted, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Right here, you possibly can see the rankings of your competitor’s web site and efficiency week on week, month on month, or another customized date comparisons.

Test your tracked key phrases in opposition to theirs

One other option to test your rivals’ current actions is with Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker.

Competitors overview report, via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

The beauty of this device is which you could evaluate the rankings of your rivals and your web site facet by facet.

Right here’s an instance of me taking a look at three completely different rivals’ rankings.

Competitors' and ahrefs' rankings for "google discover," via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

When you’ve established {that a} competitor performs higher than you on particular key phrases, you would possibly need to be taught extra about their whole technique. It’s price testing our information to key phrase competitor evaluation to be taught extra about this matter.

As hyperlinks are a confirmed Google rating issue (sure, they nonetheless matter), right here’s what it’s best to test:

Test for damaged hyperlinks

Maintaining observe of all damaged hyperlinks to your web site could be a time-consuming activity. Many web sites hardly ever test damaged hyperlinks that time to them.

Utilizing Web site Explorer, we are able to take a look at any web site’s damaged hyperlinks by plugging in a website and heading to the Damaged backlinks report. 

Right here’s an instance of the damaged backlinks for the web site we checked out earlier. 

Broken backlinks report, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

There are 3,442 teams of comply with hyperlinks that we are able to repair right here.

In case you can’t see the rest unsuitable along with your website, taking a look at this report is a wonderful place to begin.

The report exhibits this web site has misplaced three excessive Area Ranking (DR) hyperlinks from high-profile websites.

Broken backlinks examples, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Do a backlink audit (and if you’ll want to, disavow)

When you’ve checked your damaged hyperlinks, it’s a good suggestion to run a backlink audit in your website should you imagine there is a matter with the general high quality of your web site’s hyperlinks.

In some situations, you may even see unnatural hyperlinks pointing to your website that will influence your rankings. Listed below are some examples of what Google might classify as “unhealthy hyperlinks”:

In case you imagine you’ve got some hyperlinks that negatively influence your website, you could need to think about using Google Search Console’s disavow device

However keep in mind to make use of the disavow device with warning:

We stated a number of occasions that the disavow device is a really heavy gun. And should you don’t know what you might be doing, you possibly can shoot your self within the foot with it.

Gary Illyes

In case your website has lots of low-quality content material and also you misplaced rankings throughout a content-focused Google replace, you’ll want to enhance it.

However how precisely are you able to enhance your content material? Step one is to do a content material audit of your web site. Right here’s a visible illustration of the method we use to audit content material at Ahrefs.

Flowchart showing how to do a content audit, via Ahrefs Blog

Google additionally gives some self-assessment questions that you should utilize to additional audit and enhance your content material:

  • Does the content material present unique data, reporting, analysis, or evaluation?
  • Does the content material present a considerable, full, or complete description of the matter?
  • Does the content material present insightful evaluation or attention-grabbing data past the plain?
  • If the content material attracts on different sources, does it keep away from merely copying or rewriting these sources and as an alternative present substantial extra worth and originality?
  • Does the principle heading or web page title present a descriptive, useful abstract of the content material?
  • Does the principle heading or web page title keep away from exaggerating or being stunning in nature?
  • Is that this the form of web page you’d need to bookmark, share with a pal, or suggest?
  • Would you count on to see this content material in or referenced by a printed journal, encyclopedia, or e book?
  • Does the content material present substantial worth when in comparison with different pages in search outcomes?

Though there isn’t any assure that enhancing content material will instantly influence your rankings, guaranteeing your content material is one of the best to your guests is an efficient concept.

Google SERPs are continually altering. And sure, it’s one other issue that may influence rankings and natural visitors to your website—one that you’ve little management over.

To clarify this idea, let’s take a look at a historic instance of a dramatic SERP intent shift by plugging the key phrase “corona” into Key phrases Explorer

We’ll set the date to March 31, 2020, and evaluate it to the SERP pre-pandemic on January 3, 2020.

SERP overview and comparison for "corona," via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

On this instance, we are able to see Corona beer–associated web sites on the left-hand facet had been displaced by web sites protecting COVID-19 and “High tales” within the area of some months.

If we set the date to one thing newer, we are able to see that Corona, the beer, has regained its quantity #1 place. Why? Effectively, the search intent has reverted.

Corona beer SERP overview, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

In case you suppose a SERP intent shift might have impacted your web site, then it’s price utilizing the “SERP overview” device in Key phrases Explorer to see how the historic SERP has modified.

9. Test Google Search Console for a handbook motion

In case your web site has misplaced all natural search visitors, it’s best to test Google Search Console’s “Handbook actions” report.

To do that, click on on the tab on the left-hand facet:

"Manual actions" tab highlighted, via Google Search Console

If there’s no problem, you’ll see a “No points detected” discover in Google Search Console that appears like this:

"No issues detected" under "Manual actions" tab, via Google Search Console

If there’s a downside, it’ll look much like this. This can be a “Pure spam” handbook motion. 

Example of manual action identified, via @rainprofit's Twitter page

In case your website will get a handbook motion, a human reviewer at Google believes you’ve got violated the search high quality pointers severely. Google will then usually take away your web site and its pages from the search index.

Right here’s an inventory of the several types of handbook actions you possibly can obtain:

  • Web site abused with third-party spam
  • Consumer-generated spam
  • Spammy free host
  • Structured information problem
  • Unnatural hyperlinks to your website
  • Unnatural hyperlinks out of your website
  • Skinny content material with little or no added worth
  • Cloaking and/or sneaky redirects
  • Pure spam
  • Cloaked pictures
  • Hidden textual content and/or key phrase stuffing
  • AMP content material mismatch
  • Sneaky cell redirects
  • Information and Uncover coverage violations

Steering from Google on learn how to repair most of these points may be discovered right here.

It’s normally uncommon to obtain a handbook motion, but it surely’s not unparalleled. To remain on the fitting facet of Google, keep in mind to take our search engine optimisation coaching course and comply with the Google Search Necessities.

Remaining ideas

It’s by no means straightforward figuring out why your web site’s rankings have dropped dramatically. It includes investigating, analyzing, and discovering information you possibly can depend on to make selections.

Instruments like Ahrefs will help, as they allow you to look backstage to see what’s going on.

Obtained extra questions? Ping me on Twitter. 🙂