SEOers Saying Rankings Drop Without Extensive Data to Back Up Their Claim

Steven Kang 👑

SEO Cause and Effect

One of my pet peeves is that SEO users attributing anything to rankings drop without extensive data to back up their claim. Instead, they'll blame everything and anything from a link they bought yesterday to a title tag change made five minutes ago.
What's your investigative process?

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Martin
Google is a tricky destination at best. Lots of things can cause your ranking to drop in Google. The most common are changes we make made to our sites. They can range from simple new content to technical issues. However, it's often possible that an algorithm update will cause your site to dance. Some other reasons could include improvements competitors have made (which can include any number of things like getting rid of their bugs), Search Engine Result Page (SERP) layout changes affect what keywords show up next to yours on searches for products or services, etc., if you got hit with a penalty then there's always a chance Google finally caught you in your cheating endeavors. One thing I do is check my GA to find out what areas took a hit then follow through. Compare the period in which your rankings dropped to the period in which they were still going on well. There are so many factors to take into account, but for sure never ask a psychic about your website rankings.
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Nick
Effective learning requires a tight feedback loop between action –> results.
I *think* it also requires being able to isolate variables so you can understand how each variable contributes to the result.
Both of these are missing from Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which makes it so hard to learn.
For rankings drop, I look at
1. Who replaced us
2. Evaluate whether they did a better job at creating value for the user
3. How old our content is compared to the pages that replaced us
4. Evaluate the number of internal links and word count between my page and the new pages
5. Ask SEO Signals Lab 😃
Brian
Pretty straightforward approach:
1) What keywords dropped
2) Do those drops persist after a few days/weeks
3) What sites and URLs are affected
4) Has anything been changed on those URLs recently
5) What has been done to optimize those URLs
6) Are other URLs we have optimized the same way affected
7) Were competitors affected
😎 What's the scoop out in the industry specific to any algo changes
The above are just spot checks. Not a lot of time taken to drill down unless all of the sites we manage are affected (since we take a std approach for all sites).
The last organic craziness I remember was a few years ago when rankings for a few keywords dropped 2-3 pages (without any apparent reason) then popped back up to where they were 2-3 weeks later. Posted a pic at that time since a similar question was asked.
Aaron
1) have detailed monitoring of, keyword, competitors, onpage / backlinks metrics plotted over time
2) It's pretty obvious what has changed from the data we have
3) Then we make a call based on volatility of the rank, metrics, rumours on whether we tweak a little or wait
Robert
In my experience, cause and effect can be impossible to pinpoint with data. We monitor many sites, that were not doing any search engine optimization for and know for a fact that nobody is doing any search engine optimization for. And the organic, maps, and localized organic rankings all swing, sometimes wildly, all the time. Part of this is what I believe to be built-in randomness in the algorithms. Then there's the obvious other factors such as competitor SEO and algorithmic changes. You cannot accurately measure variables when you don't have an absolutely stable control.
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Tripper
I'm always amazed in several different groups how many people give a very brief very confident answer, when someone asks "why did my rankings drop".
I don't have a perfect nor definitive process for rankings and/or traffic drops. However, my process starts before it happens. I try and keep notes for any meaningful or all changes. Anything from making a one word title changing to dumping in a ton of new content. I'm also a date geek and like to make annotations in Google Analytics (GA) if I think it is a change that is going to make a difference one way or another.
My next step is trying to get as micro as possible in where the drop is. I see a lot of posts with a Google Search Console (GSC) overall traffic drop screenshot asking why.
For me everything after that might differ, but probably involves lots of coffee and reading.
Truslow
I'm not sure I could describe the process. It's everything from creating a hypothesis and seeing of that carries out over other similar search terms I'm familiar with or if I can see a reason why that wouldn't be the issue. It's about looking at the players who moved up in front of me. It's about knowing what the search field looked like yesterday or a few days ago, and so on.
I can say, I can't think of a time when I did a ranking drop analysis where it took less than 4 or 5 hours of my time over the course of at least a week to come up with an answer that I felt confident about. And it's more often 8-10 hours over at least a week – sometimes more. Granted, I usually only get called in to do those when the primary team can't seem to figure it out.
I can also say… I cannot think of a time when any one single thing that anyone did was the cause of a huge drop that had any lasting effect. It's always a combination of things someone did or didn't do (consistently) that didn't give the results we expected.
Luckily, I'm pretty good at anticipating what's coming next – so I try to get us killing old strategies that will eventually hurt us or implementing things that will eventually help us months ahead of when they actually start to help or hurt in any real way.
Most of our drops (the few we get) come back to the client not following the strategy properly or not giving us the things we need in time to get the strategy implemented properly. But due diligence must still be done.

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