The SEO world is notoriously dynamic, subject to fluctuations and sometimes sudden drops in rankings. Recently, Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, offered valuable advice to a webmaster who experienced a significant drop in organic traffic. By analyzing this exchange, we can learn practical strategies for diagnosing and addressing ranking drops, staying on course in the often turbulent sea of organic search.

This is what we learn from a Search Engine Journal article here.

The Story: Wesley Copeland, owner of a news website dedicated to Steam Deck, expressed his concern on Twitter about a drastic drop in traffic from Google. He wondered why his site, previously considered an authoritative source for Steam Deck guides, had experienced such a loss of visibility.

Danny Sullivan’s answer: In response, Sullivan suggested a 5-step methodical approach to identify and analyze the possible causes of the problem:

  1. Time Comparison: Use Google Search Console to compare site metrics over the past 6 months with the previous period.
  2. Drop Identification: Analyze the “Query” report sorted by click change, focusing on significant drops.
  3. Ranking Verification: Check if the site still maintains good ranking for those search terms.
  4. Fluctuation Interpretation: Remember that Google’s ranking algorithms are constantly evolving, inevitably generating fluctuations in rankings.
  5. Staying Calm: If the site still ranks among the top results, no fundamental correction is likely needed.

The Lesson Learned: Sullivan emphasizes that traffic variations can be due to Google’s systems occasionally finding other content that they deem more useful to users at that specific time.

Implications for SEO Professionals: This case highlights the importance for SEOs to constantly monitor site performance using tools like Google Search Console. Sullivan’s recommended approach can provide valuable insights into traffic variations and potential areas for optimization.

SEO and Resilience: Maintaining top rankings requires constant alignment with Google’s ever-evolving ranking criteria. As these algorithms continually improve to offer more relevant results to users, ranking fluctuations should be considered almost physiological.

Conclusions: Copeland’s case illustrates the inherent volatility of SEO, demonstrating that even established sites can be impacted by changes in Google’s ranking priorities. Sullivan’s final words offer a mix of reassurance and realism:

“You probably don’t have any fundamental problems, and the way we show content could change to help you over time.”

The exchange between Copeland and Sullivan is a lesson in the need to remain vigilant and responsive to the constant evolution of Google’s algorithms.

By following the path laid out by Danny Sullivan, you will be able to navigate the changing currents of Google’s algorithm with greater awareness and resilience, keeping your sites afloat in the ocean of search results.