Why Would Optimizing Existing Content Cause Rankings To Drop?

If good intentions lead to SEO.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, as Tamar from Israel recently found out. I submitted the following to ask an SEO:

Helps! I just got started at a startup. Blogs are an awful mess for so many reasons, but there are about 20 blogs out of 140 that convert a few people to try our software.

I wanted to do the bare minimum to make it better, so I corrected all the H-titles, made sure every post had a meta description, and checked that any images had an alt tag.

In less than a day, all of these blogs lost ground relative to the main keywords they were ranked for, according to Google Search Console. What gives?!

I can’t find an explanation for this anywhere! Almost all of them dropped by at least 20-30 in position for the keyword… going from 9, for example, to #55 for the most important search query. please help. “

Although Tamar has provided the domain, we don’t have visibility on 20 of the 140 blogs indexed that we’re discussing here.

Furthermore, we have no context as to what keywords it was ranking for and we lost position.

If this were my client, these would be the first things I wanted to look at.

So let’s talk about what we know.

Fluctuations in ranking are normal as Google evaluates new/updated content, so I wouldn’t panic soon after a change.

If the problem persists, we’d like to start investigating the possible causes.

Tamar, the chances of your rankings dropping due to adding alt text or meta descriptions are very slim.

Meta descriptions are not a ranking factor.

Alt text, while important in aiding accessibility, is only a ranking factor for image searches.

Going back and improving by just adding alt text can help.

So it remains for us to “correct” the HTML heading tags.

We’ll assume this isn’t a technical SEO problem, as the ranking drop would be more widespread than the 20 posts with content updates if that were the case.

We’ll also assume this isn’t a case of a competitor or two stepping up their game and bumping into you because those are fairly big changes.

I have two main suspects.

Are you keyword stuffing?

Google Webmaster Guidelines clear in this:

Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of loading a web page with keywords or numbers in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. These keywords often appear in a list or group, or out of context (not as normal prose).

Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can hurt your site’s ranking.

Focus on creating useful and informative content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.

If in “correcting” the subheadings you add an abnormal amount of keywords, Google may have demoted those pages.

Did you make a mess of importance?

Depending on the keyword terms you’ve tried to optimize for, you’ve likely negatively impacted Google’s perception of the relevance of your content to the terms it’s already ranked for.

For example, you might assume that because a page was ranking well and that leads to more traffic that would qualify for it [JIRA project management] You can take advantage of its success and benefit from it [agile project management]Also.

That would be wrong.

User behavior and their semantic understanding of the topic may lead Google’s algorithms to believe that:

  • people looking for [JIRA project management] They are looking for a tool.
  • people looking for [agile project management] They are looking to learn about a process.

In an attempt to optimize the existing content for a keyword with conflicting search intent and topical relevance, you may have mudded the waters.

Making the widget less focused may affect Google’s perception of it as the best answer to the queries you want to rank for.

Other content quality factors that affect your ability to rank

I think one of the two above was most likely responsible for the ranking drop I experienced across those 20 blog posts.

However, when you take a look at the site, there are several content quality issues that may hold you back.

Put these on your priority list and see if you can get better performance for money pages in search:

Update your old content.

I’m seeing blog posts with 2020 in the title and URL as the most recent content in some categories.

It gives Google and potential customers the impression that you are not actively creating and maintaining the information that you put out into the world.

Create an internal linking strategy.

I don’t see any internal links in the 10 blog posts I’ve vetted topically.

Not only does internal linking help Google understand your site hierarchy, but it also bypasses PageRank and helps visitors stay connected and move around your site.

Improve writing quality.

There are grammatical errors, issues with sentence structure, word usage, and other writing mechanics throughout that make the content difficult to read.

Set an editor and make good use of tools like grammar And the Hemingway To improve the quality of your writing.

Test any other improvements before continuing

If nothing else, this experience should serve as a good reminder of the importance of testing any changes to existing web pages before rolling them out on a larger scale.

Document and test the changes you intend to make.

See what happens. Measure the results.

Also, remember that the same optimizations may produce completely different results on another page.

This is just part of the SEO fun!

A good next step would be to do a content audit to see what the best opportunities are for you right now.

Then prioritize your results. You don’t need to do it all at once—in fact, it can have unintended consequences, as we’ve seen here.

Refreshing and improving existing content is a great practice that can greatly improve user experience and ranking.

But it is practical. Do not rush.

Focus on your most profitable pages and optimizations first, and always be ready to fall back on them if you accidentally lower your rankings.

More resources:

  • How to get your traffic back after google rankings drop
  • Traffic declines but the arrangement remains unchanged? How to fix
  • What to do when things go wrong with SEO

Featured image: Shutterstock / ViDi Studio

Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, hand-selected by Search Engine Journal. Do you have a question about search engine optimization? Fill out our form. You may see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

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