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More Things to Do After a Rankings Decline

In a webmaster hangout someone asked John Mueller what to do about algorithm update recovery. The site had suffered a loss of traffic, recovered and then taken another loss of traffic.

Here is the question:

“The last big core update seems to be provoking some drastic changes on the search results for some keywords. It’s a bit weird that for example this site stopped being relevant for some keywords in the first of August and suddenly it’s back again.

I know you’ll say there’s nothing wrong with your site but it’s a bit drastic for the site owner to see them kind of disappear and come back again.”

Google’s John Mueller responded:

“I agree sometimes these things are a bit drastic and it’s especially weird when things kind of bubble back up. But these are essentially changes that we make in our algorithms to try to improve things across the board.

The feedback that we get from people, from SEOs and from users really helps us to kind of improve these algorithms over time.

…it can happen that because of the feedback we’ll try to improve things in a way that will result in more visibility for sites as well.”

John Mueller went on to discuss how important feedback about algorithm changes are to Google. He also highlighted how important it was to provide examples of actual keyword phrases that Google is getting wrong.

Many updates feature what is known as false positives. False positives are algorithm changes that cause a site to incorrectly be seen as no longer relevant for a phrase. Traditionally this is because the site was incorrectly labeled as spammy. But with today’s algorithms it could be because the site is incorrectly seen as not relevant when in fact it is.

John Mueller’s advice did not extend beyond exhorting publishers to provide feedback.

That’s good advice, but in my  opinion there may be additional things a publisher can do.

The following are my suggestions of things a publisher can do to help communicate what their site is about.

It’s Not a Medic Update

In a Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller specifically disavowed the medical update idea with the following comments:

“The update we launched… around the first of August, was more of a general ranking update. Like we always do. So it’s not specific to medical sites. It’s something that could affect… any website out there.”

I declined to call the August update “Medic” because I understood that Google updates do not generally “target” specific industries.

Some in the SEO industry continue to think that Google “targets” industry niches and specific quality issues with every update. But that mindset overlooks Google’s focus on relevance.
As you can see from Google’s John Mueller’s comments, the August update was a “general ranking update.”

What that means is we’re probably looking at issues related to relevance. Calling it a medic update and focusing on things like E-A-T, in my opinion, did not address all the actual reasons why a site has lost positions.

The Mobile Effect

Sometimes, some of the losses could be attributed to how users are searching, seeing or listening to search results on mobile. So if Google expands “answers” at the top of the mobile page, then unless you’re at the top of the page, you’re going to see a drop in visitors.

Images and Rankings

I think meaningful images could be useful. For example, if the article is about a specific topic or product, then an original photograph would be very useful. Especially if you put a caption beneath that image that describes what is happening in the image. Even if you do not have an original image, try to make that image original in some way or add context to that image with a caption or the file name.

New Article Schema

Google’s algorithm is about relevance. So it’s important to communicate as best you can what a web page is about. If your site is publishing articles then you may wish to implement the article schema. There are WordPress plugins that handle this.

But you don’t necessarily need a plugin. Just fill out the following template and add it to the end of your web page just before the closing “</body>” tag.

Google has a new article schema that can be used as well. You just fill out the template and then place it in the code. If using WordPress, you can switch the editing view from Visual to Text and then add the code at bottom of the article. It won’t show up in the content. But Google will see it. The easier way of course is to use a plugin.

Here is the template.
Just fill it out for each article if you want to skip using a plugin.

<script type=”application/ld+json”>
“@context”: “”,
“@type”: “Article”,
“mainEntityOfPage”: {
“@type”: “WebPage”,
“headline”: “Article headline”,
“image”: [
“datePublished”: “2015-02-05T08:00:00+08:00”,
“dateModified”: “2015-02-05T09:20:00+08:00”,
“author”: {
“@type”: “Person”,
“publisher”: {
“@type”: “Organization”,
“logo”: {
“@type”: “ImageObject”,
“description”: “A description of what the article is, including a keyword phrase that is relevant to the article.


Links are still important. Relevance is more important now than ever. If your link building has consisted of obtaining links to the home page or using somewhat questionable link building topics, then you may wish to consider obtaining relevant links to relevant pages other than your home page.

Losing search positions is tough. Sometimes it can be helpful to think outside of the ranking paradigm and focus on becoming a destination for a certain topic. Thinking in this manner can lead to ideas and strategies that can also lead to better rankings.

Watch the Google Webmaster Hangout Here

More Resources

Screenshots by Author, Modified by Author

Category News SEO
SEJ STAFF Roger Montti Owner - at

I have 25 years hands-on experience in SEO and have kept on  top of the evolution of search every step ...

More Things to Do After a Rankings Decline

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