Using the Flowchart Method for Diagnosing Ranking Drops – Whiteboard Friday
Posted by KameronJenkins
Being able to pinpoint the reason for a ranking drop is one of our most perennial and potentially frustrating tasks as SEOs. There are an unknowable number of factors that go into ranking these days, but luckily the methodology for diagnosing those fluctuations is readily at hand. In today’s Whiteboard Friday, we welcome the wonderful Kameron Jenkins to show us a structured way to diagnose ranking drops using a flowchart method and critical thinking.
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Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins. I am the new SEO Wordsmith here at Moz, and I’m so excited to be here. Before this, I worked at an agency for about six and a half years. I worked in the SEO department, and really a common thing we encountered was a client’s rankings dropped. What do we do?
This flowchart was kind of built out of that mentality of we need a logical workflow to be able to diagnose exactly what happened so we can make really pointed recommendations for how to fix it, how to get our client’s rankings back. So let’s dive right in. It’s going to be a flowchart, so it’s a little nonlinear, but hopefully this makes sense and helps you work smarter rather than harder.
Was it a major ranking drop?: No
The first question I’d want to ask is: Was their rankings drop major? By major, I would say that’s something like page 1 to page 5 overnight. Minor would be something like it just fell a couple positions, like position 3 to position 5.
We’re going to take this path first. It was minor.
Has there been a pattern of decline lasting about a month or greater?
That’s not a magic number. A month is something that you can use as a benchmark. But if there’s been a steady decline and it’s been one week it’s position 3 and then it’s position 5 and then position 7, and it just keeps dropping over time, I would consider that a pattern of decline.
So if no, I would actually say wait.
- Volatility is normal, especially if you’re at the bottom of page 1, maybe page 2 plus. There’s going to be a lot more shifting of the search results in those positions. So volatility is normal.
- Keep your eyes on it, though. It’s really good to just take note of it like, “Hey, we dropped. Okay, I’m going to check that again next week and see if it continues to drop, then maybe we’ll take action.”
- Wait it out. At this point, I would just caution against making big website updates if it hasn’t really been warranted yet. So volatility is normal. Expect that. Keep your finger on the pulse, but just wait it out at this point.
If there has been a pattern of decline though, I’m going to have you jump to the algorithm update section. We’re going to get there in a second. But for now, we’re going to go take the major rankings drop path.
Was it a major ranking drop?: Yes
The first question on this path that I’d want to ask is:
Was there a rank tracking issue?
Now, some of these are going seem pretty basic, like how would that ever happen, but believe me it happens every once in a while. So just before we make major updates to the website, I’d want to check the rank tracking.
I. The wrong domain or URL.
That can be something that happens a lot. A site maybe you change domains or maybe you move a page and that old page of that old domain is still listed in your ranking tracker. If that’s the case, then the rank tracking tool doesn’t know which URL to judge the rankings off of. So it’s going to look like maybe you dropped to position 10 overnight from position 1, and that’s like, whoa, that’s a huge update. But it’s actually just that you have the wrong URL in there. So just check that. If there’s been a page update, a domain update, check to make sure that you’ve updated your rank tracker.
So it’s software, it can break. There are things that could cause it to be off for whatever reason. I don’t know how common that …
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