Why the Heck Have My Google Rankings Dropped Dramatically?

7 min read
25-Mar-2024 1:30:59 PM

Have you recently checked your Google rankings and felt your heart drop as the numbers plummeted? You're not alone. Many websites have seen a sudden decline in their Google rankings, sparking confusion, frustration, and a pressing need for answers. In the ever-evolving world of SEO, staying updated with Google's algorithm changes is as crucial as the content you create. We'll look at the recent ground-shaking changes to Google's algorithm—the Helpful Content Update and the March 2024 Core Update—and how Google's partnership with Reddit may impact your SEO. Let’s dig in.

The Helpful Content Update (September 2023)

First, the Helpful Content Update, completed in September 2023, represents a pivotal moment in Google's ongoing efforts to ensure the internet is where user experience and valuable content take center stage. Aimed at prioritizing "people-first" content, this update has introduced a new era in which SEO strategies must align closely with creating genuinely helpful material for users rather than merely optimizing for search engine visibility.

Focus on People-First Content

The core of the Helpful Content Update is its emphasis on content that serves the user's needs above all else. Google has clarified that content should be informative, engaging, and, most importantly, created to benefit the reader. This shift signifies a departure from the days when content could rank well by merely ticking off SEO checkboxes. Today, the content that resonates with readers, providing answers, insights, and value, will truly stand out in search results.

Changes Regarding AI-Generated Content

In an age where artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly integrated into content creation, the Helpful Content Update has also addressed the role of AI-generated content. Google's stance has eased, allowing the use of AI in content creation as long as it adheres to the principles of creating helpful, user-centric material. However, this doesn't mean that AI-generated content will automatically rank well; instead, the quality and usefulness of the content will determine its success.

Hosting Third-Party Content

The update has also provided new guidelines for websites hosting third-party content. Google advises against using a site's main domain or subdomain for content unrelated to the site's primary purpose or lacking direct oversight. This ensures that the content presented to users remains relevant and trustworthy, maintaining a high-quality standard across the web.

Recovering from Traffic Loss

For websites that have experienced a drop in traffic following the update, Google offers guidance on making the necessary adjustments to align with the new criteria. The focus should be on reviewing and improving existing content to ensure it meets the "people-first" standard. This involves thoroughly assessing the content's relevance, value, and engagement from a user's perspective.

Analysis of the March 2024 Core Update

Second, the March 2024 Core Update has been a watershed moment for the SEO industry. This update introduced a strict evaluation framework for content, emphasizing eliminating unhelpful, irrelevant, or unoriginal content from search results. Its effects have been far-reaching, causing significant shifts in website rankings and, in some cases, leading to the complete deindexing of sites that failed to meet the new standards.

Enhancing Search Quality and Combating Spam

One of the primary goals of the March 2024 Core Update was to refine the search quality by closely scrutinizing the content's helpfulness, relevance, and originality. Google aimed to purge the search results of low-quality content that cluttered the web without providing real value to users. This update has shown that Google's algorithms are becoming increasingly adept at identifying content that exists solely to game the system, penalizing those who rely on such tactics.

Significant Impacts on Websites

The fallout from the March 2024 Core Update has been stark. Websites that once enjoyed top rankings were penalized or even completely removed from search listings. The update targeted up to 40% of websites deemed low-quality, affecting those with poor SEO practices and even sites previously untouched by algorithm changes. The message was clear: only content that truly serves the user's needs and adheres to the principles of E-E-A-T (Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) would be deemed worthy of ranking.

The Role of E-E-A-T in Content Evaluation

The update renewed the focus on the E-E-A-T principle, penalizing sites with outdated, error-riddled content or those relying heavily on AI-generated content lacking depth or originality. This shift underscores the importance of demonstrating genuine expertise and authority in content and ensuring that it provides substantial value and accuracy to the user.

Increased Scrutiny on AI-Generated Content

With AI's rise in content creation, the March 2024 Core Update also revealed Google's enhanced capabilities in detecting AI-generated content. Small sites relying on AI for content faced particular scrutiny and penalties, highlighting the need for a balanced and thoughtful approach to using AI in content strategies.

Advice for Sites Affected by the Update

For websites hit by the March 2024 Core Update, the path to recovery focuses on elevating content quality and user experience. Google advises affected sites to conduct comprehensive audits and make meaningful improvements to align with the updated standards. There are no shortcuts or quick fixes; the emphasis is on producing content that satisfies and engages users, embodying the principles of the E-E-A-T framework. 

Google's Agreement with Reddit: Impact on Content Visibility

In an unexpected yet strategic move, Google entered into a content licensing agreement with Reddit, marking a significant development in how content might be used to train AI models and influence content visibility online. This partnership, valued at approximately $60 million annually, allows Google to utilize Reddit's vast and diverse content repository to enhance its AI algorithms. Here's how this agreement could impact your content's visibility and SEO strategy:

Diversifying AI Training Data

Google's access to Reddit's content for AI training purposes signifies a leap towards more sophisticated and nuanced search algorithms. By incorporating insights and data from Reddit's myriad discussions, Google aims to refine its understanding of user intent, context, and content relevance. For SEO professionals and content creators, this means a potential shift towards creating content that aligns more closely with natural, conversational user queries and the diverse topics and nuances captured on Reddit.

Enhancing Content Authenticity and Engagement

Including Reddit's user-generated content in training Google's AI models could increase the emphasis on authenticity, user engagement, and community-driven content in SEO strategies. As Google's algorithms become better at recognizing genuine user interactions and the value of community-centric content, websites might need to focus more on fostering genuine discussions and engagement within their content to stand out.

Strategic Content Placement and Visibility

With Reddit's content entering the fray, content creators might also need to rethink their strategies for content visibility. Participating in relevant Reddit discussions, leveraging subreddits for content promotion, and understanding the dynamics of Reddit's user engagement can offer new avenues for increasing content visibility and driving traffic. This agreement underscores the importance of diversifying content distribution channels beyond traditional SEO tactics.

Preparing for SEO Evolutions

Google's deal with Reddit reminds us that SEO is continuously evolving. Strategic partnerships and advancements in AI technology can introduce new variables into the content visibility equation. Staying informed and adaptable will be essential to having success with these changes.

What To Do If Your Google Rankings Dropped Dramatically

Strategic action is essential if your Google rankings dropped dramatically. Here are streamlined steps to help your website recover and align with Google's evolving standards:

  1. Audit your content: Assess the quality, relevance, and E-E-A-T of your website's content. Improve or remove low-quality or outdated pages.
  2. Prioritize people-first content: Create content that genuinely addresses your audience's needs and queries, moving beyond SEO-first tactics.
  3. Refresh existing content: Keep your content up-to-date and relevant, ensuring it continues to meet your audience's evolving needs.
  4. Enhance user experience (UX): Improve your website's UX by focusing on mobile friendliness, speed, and easy navigation to support SEO and encourage deeper user engagement.
  5. Diversify your strategy: Expand your content strategy beyond traditional SEO. Use various formats and channels to engage your audience, including social media and platforms like LinkedIn and Reddit.
  6. Stay informed and adapt: Keep up with SEO developments and be prepared to adjust your strategies. Engage with the SEO community and follow industry news.
  7. Utilize ThinkFuel's expertise: Tap into ThinkFuel for guidance through SEO changes. Our team stays ahead of trends and updates to help your site not only recover but also rank.

Remember, SEO best practices are evolving, especially with these new updates. Concrete evidence and strategies may still be emerging, but staying proactive and informed, plus working with your digital marketing team, are all keys to successfully navigating these changes.

Streamlining Lead Generation Beyond SEO

This constant evolution makes diversifying your lead generation strategy beyond traditional SEO more crucial than ever. Here's how to expand your reach and strengthen your marketing strategy:

  • Google Ads: Gain immediate visibility by targeting specific keywords, providing a quick boost as you refine your SEO.
  • Social media ads: Utilize Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter's targeting options to reach your ideal audience with engaging ads.
  • Content marketing on LinkedIn & Medium: Establish authority by sharing high-quality content on platforms ideal for B2B engagement and broader audience reach.
  • Engage on Reddit: Participate in subreddit discussions related to your niche to tap into engaged communities and subtly promote your content.
  • Email marketing: Use personalized, content-rich emails to nurture leads through your sales funnel and complement your SEO efforts.
  • Webinars & workshops: Host events on relevant topics to showcase your expertise and engage directly with your audience.
  • Influencer collaborations: Partner with industry influencers to leverage their audience and credibility for your brand.

This streamlined approach ensures you're not solely reliant on SEO for lead generation, opening up multiple channels to engage your audience and boost conversions.

Don’t Be Discouraged

Seeing your Google rankings take a dive can feel disheartening, like suddenly finding yourself in uncharted waters. Yet, it's precisely these moments that highlight the importance of staying connected with your audience. Despite the tumultuous shifts in Google's algorithm and the subsequent impacts on rankings, the value of building strong relationships, sharing impactful content, and earning glowing customer reviews remains paramount. These efforts form the bedrock of your online credibility and foster organic growth over time.

Our dedicated team at ThinkFuel is always on the lookout for the latest trends and updates, ensuring our strategies are adaptable and forward-thinking. If you're pondering over the recent changes and what your next moves should be, reach out to your account strategist for guidance. For newcomers eager to learn how ThinkFuel can support your journey, contact one of our experts today. By working together, we will help you through these changes and continue to prosper in this digital marketing domain.

Get Email Notifications