How to Deal with Rankings and Traffic Volatility Through SEO

The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated the world’s economies. Digital landscapes have not been spared, either. Extraordinary rankings volatility has been observed by the SEO community since the outbreak. Search Engine Rank Page (SERP) Volatility refers to constant changes in the position of website ranking in Google’s result pages.

While SERPs volatility is common, rankings fluctuations witnessed during the onset of the Covid-19 health crisis are unlike the usual metrics. To illustrate, pages previously holding the #1 position on Google SERPs suddenly dropped to #16 position the next day, and then miraculously landed on the #5 position the day after. The uncharacteristic fluctuations pose problems to SEOs as they struggle to find ways to retain or recover their previous page rankings. Through an algorithm monitoring service that measures daily search result fluctuations for 10,000+ domains and keywords, Rank Ranger’s Mordy Oberstein confirmed prolonged rankings fluctuations between March 15 and April.

SERP Fluctuation

Site traffic is also down across many industries. Imperva’s latest research revealed the industries experiencing reduced site traffic:

  • Automotive (-35%)
  • Sports (-46%)
  • Travel (-41%)
  • Financial services (-7%)
  • Healthcare (-3%)

In a recent twitter survey, 49% of SEOs believed that the Covid-19 health crisis has negatively impacted their client’s sites and its organic site traffic.

Reasons Behind the Drop in Site Rankings and Traffic

Has your website experienced a sudden rankings drop over the past few weeks? Has your website traffic dropped dramatically during the outbreak? If yes, here are some reasons that could be triggering the volatility of your site rankings and traffic.

  1. Google’s Imposition of Penalties

    SEOs dread a Google penalty and understandably so. A Google penalty is a punishment imposed on a website whose content-creation practices violate the guidelines enforced by Google.

    Google imposes a manual penalty on sites with suspicious behaviour. Some common practices that get penalised are:

    • Hidden texts
    • User-generated spam
    • keyword stuffing
    • Unnatural links to your site
    • Thin content with little or no added value
    • Cloaking and/or sneaky redirects
    • Unnatural links from your site
    • Pure spam
    • Spammy freehosts
    • Spammy structured markup
    • Cloaked images
    • Hacked site

    The commission of the foregoing forbidden practices is a sure way to get Google’s attention, for all the wrong reasons. The case of JC Penney, the US retailer giant is a good example. When Google caught J.C. Penney resorting to black hat SEO methods and buying links, it took necessary actions against the site. As a result, J.C. Penney’s website was delisted – it was nowhere to be found, not even for queries it previously ranked number one for – and suffered loss of traffic.

    Google also penalized the popular after it detected a pattern of deceptive, unnatural and manipulative links pointing to the pages on the guest blogging site. Shortly thereafter, as in J.C. Penney’s case, MyBlogGuest got delisted from search results for their brand keywords.

    According to Neil Patel, besides rankings drop, a sharp decline in traffic also signifies the imposition of a Google penalty.

    decline of traffic

    Google notifies a penalised site through an alert in the Google Search Console dashboard. There you’ll have notifications regarding any manual actions Google has taken against your site.

  2. Roll Out of a Core Google Algorithm Update

    Google’s ranking algorithm changes from time to time. It even happens on a daily basis, according to Google’s John Mueller. Usually, what’s published are only major algorithm updates.  Just recently, Google confirmed the release of a core algorithm update on 4 May officially known as the “May 2020 Core Update”.

    Google May Update

    A broad core update produces widely notable effects across search results. Unfortunately for SEOs, changes in algorithms, no matter how small, can have a HUGE impact on a site’s SERPS. When a core updates rolls out, sites inevitably drop or gain positions in search rankings. A core update enables Google to fulfill its mission to ensure that it delivers relevant and authoritative content to searchers.

    Unlike a penalty, a core update does not target specific pages or sites. Google’s system only assesses the content overall. This only means that changes in search rankings reflect a site’s content relevancy. Naturally, a more content-relevant and authoritative page will move higher in the rankings and an outdated site, content-wise, will descend. Pages that were previously under-rewarded, but invested in greater content, likewise achieve better ranks.

  3. Competition from other Websites

    A drop in Google SERPS doesn’t always mean a penalty. It could also mean that a website is being outranked by a competitor. Your website dropped a few notches because there’s probably more deserving content. A competitor’s website might be offering up-to-date relevant content, might have a strong site structure or have more credible sites linking to them. In sum, their website is more SEO-friendly than yours.

    If so, it’s time to evaluate your own SEO strategy, identify strengths and address weaknesses so you can get better rankings and traffic results.

  4. Duplicate Content

    Is it wrong to copy content from another website or feature the same content in more than one web address? You might think it’s not a concern at all as site visitors won’t be able to detect duplicate content. But you’re wrong. When duplicate content is present, site owners can suffer rankings and traffic losses.  Duplicate content makes it difficult for search engines to determine which is the original version of the text. As a result, all pages showing the same duplicate content lose their search visibility.

    duplicate content

    As the digital landscapes continue to evolve amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and in light of the recent Google algorithmic updates, adopting a formidable SEO strategy that works long-term should be a priority. Short-term solutions to rankings drop and reduced site traffic simply won’t work. The hallmarks of a great SEO strategy is quality content.

    Content is the lifeblood of SEO. Brands should make it a goal to publish the best content on their website. Great content builds site authority and makes your website attractive not only to readers, but to search engine bots as well. Through substantive and valuable content, you establish familiarity and trust with site visitors. When creating content, remember these basic guidelines:

    • Conduct keyword research to understand audiences, their search intent, and how they want to consume information for a particular keyword.
    • Create content primarily for human readers, not for search engines.
    • Publish content that’s unique, valuable or engaging. This ensures that you stand out from competitors.

Why is it now a Good Time to Review your Digital Marketing Strategy

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the digital marketplace. Many businesses are affected and shifting their priorities, while re-evaluating their marketing strategy to adapt to the new digital normalcy. If you want to thrive amidst these trying times, invest heavily in SEO.

Get in touch with us today. We’ll help you implement a results-oriented SEO strategy that triggers enhanced SERPS rankings and better site traffic.