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R.I.P. Google rankings!

We are Sorry for your Company’s Loss

R.I.P Google Rankings

by Midas Media — Updated for Halloween, October 2015

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RIP Google Rankings

So, you’ve lost beloved Google rankings for no apparent reason..?

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‘No Apparent Reason’ is bound to be a common phrase muttered by those reviewing their search engine rankings this sad time during October 2015, a month full of demise for those aiming to game the Google ranking system. Similarly, and most painfully saddening, for those who aren’t…

In the context of Google results pages, it may mean there really doesn’t seem to be a valid reason for events of such a negative nature. (Valid in the sense of; not humanly possible to determine without an algorithmic formulation the size of Einstein’s…….blackboard).

It may mean there is a very valid and tangible reason, but traditional marketers and employees who lack advanced knowledge of the web and digital tools simply can’t put their finger on it. Heck, even SEOs and online specialists get stumped by these happenings. And that’s WITH the knowledge.

Either way, if your visibility on Google has plummeted, your traffic will undoubtedly look as ghoulish as the zombie man.

Now, let’s bow our heads for a moment and remember the good times when our rankings were alive and kicking…


That was painful!

With the added pressure of the Christmas season on your horizon, Halloween may be a scary period for many of you online, but let’s tackle the Google Grinch head on.

Why have I lost my Google rankings?

The chances are, you have been hit with a manual Google penalty (not a football, a punishment) OR the latest algorithm updates have negatively impacted you because:

  • You have close to zero content on your website, or lots and lots of shoddy content which doesn’t help anyone
  • You have tons of duplicated content, or you are scraping someone else’s
  • You have bought links in the past
  • You are attempting to manipulate search engines in some form or another
  • You have many dodgy cobwebs websites linking to you
  • You have p*ssed Google off by withdrawing millions of dollars of PPC spend

If all but the last two points are you and your doing only, then you deserve it! Sorry. But it’s true.

If you have fallen victim to a bad SEO agency, or you have realised the sin of your own actions, fear not. You can be saved. Discover if you have been hit with a Google penalty with these handy tips.

Penalty #1

Diagnosing a manual Google penalty

Visit your Google Webmaster Tools casket where you may be greeted with a lovely notification, similar to this:

Google webmaster tools - penalty notification

Unfortunately (not sure if that is the right word in this context), it isn’t always this easy and pointed out as plainly.

If you haven’t received a manual penalty, you shall have to do some further research (or hire someone amazing to do the leg work) in order to determine WHY you have received an algorithmic de-bunk.

Breathe. Your business isn’t doomed forever. There are still actions you can take to remedy this loss.

Penalty #2

Diagnosing an algorithmic Google penalty

First thing’s first. Let’s get to the bottom of the problem. The root of all your troubles. The bare bones of the equation.

To bring your website back from the dead, the main tools to use are:

  • Google search (waheyyy)
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Webmaster Tools
  • Xenu’s Link Sleuth
  • Ahrefs

I’d highly recommend that you allow sufficient time to check your rank monitoring software each week. (If you haven’t attained access to any ranking tools at present, I’d recommend purchasing Authority Labs or SEMRush – these will help you to review progress during the recovery process.)

There are also plenty more useful tools to come:

Initially, the primary point of call is the Moz Google Algorithm History. From this handy content chart, you can cross-match the points where you lost search traffic (Google Analytics >> Channels >> Organic) with the times of deployment of new algorithms. Clever, huh?

I’d also recommend taking the following actions to future-proof your website and keep ‘in-the-know’…

Algorro statistics

Did you know there has been a major Google update rolling out over the last few months?

Panda 4.2 has been refining the Google search results for quite some time now – it’s a release which has spanned many weeks in duration…the longest ever from Google.

The predicament many businesses will find themselves in: You’ve made changes to your website and rankings are jumping up and down like a yoyo. How do you know what’s working and what isn’t?

Unfortunately, nobody will fully know until this version of the Panda update has stopped rolling out.

You probably don’t need to know every single Google update in history. But do keep these two animals in mind: Panda and Penguin.

If you’ve been hit by the Panda Update, the chances are you have annoyed Google with thin content, duplicated pages or by giving your affiliates the same product descriptions as on your website. Yes, that would be a massive Homer DOH!

If the almighty Penguin Update has caught you out, you may have annoyed Google with spammy links (inbound as well as outbound), paid links or a spammy anchor text profile filled with exact-match anchor text.

i.e. You sell yellow shoes. 95% of your links point to you with the text ‘yellow shoes’.

Hmmmm. Slightly suspect! Off to the crematorium you go.

Graveyard - Panda and Penguin

The up-and-coming Penguin update is set to be welcomed by business owners and webmasters alike.

The reason for this is Penguin, like many other updates, was historically released whenever Google were ready. The newest version will be constant and occurring in real-time!

That means if your website has been hit by Penguin, you will have the potential to recover much faster than you would have previously, having to wait for Google to push the button.

However, this also means that you could end up with a Penguin penalty just as quickly!

If you want to avoid Penguin, don't 'build' crappy links. This guide reveals how you can rapidly build your business online the right way using strong relationships and epic content.

Initial checks

1. Domain search

Head on down to your favourite page in the world:

Type into the search box

Do any results appear? Are just a portion of your pages appearing? If the answer to the first is no, this really isn’t good. Your domain has been completely de-indexed from Google. If the answer to the second question is yes, not so bad news. But still pretty bad.

Google domain search

If the above returns no issues, you can also try searching for your brand name in Google. If nothing appears, this is another tell-tale sign of a hit.

You can also check Webmaster Tools: Left hand navigation >> Google Index >> Index Status which gives an indication of how many pages were previously indexed in comparison to recent times.

2. Duplicate content discovery

Content within a page

To perform a duplicate content check for on-page wording, copy a paragraph of text directly from a few pages of your site and paste into Google. I’d try at least 15 paragraphs from varying pages to be über sure.

If multiple results from your own site or other sites appear with the same or very similar text, you may well be in the scope of Google’s algorithm gun if you haven’t been hit by Panda already.

Google result page

A secondary tool to use for identifying duplicated content across Google and Yahoo is Copyscape. Simply pop in your URL and hit Go! The premium version is exceptionally helpful and allows you to check every single page on your site in one batch.

Of course, if you have been removed from Google’s search engine index, results won’t show regardless. So in this instance, the only way to determine duplicate content is manually. (I can hear the sighs).

If you have been the victim of content scraping, you can inform Google here.

Page meta titles and descriptions

For an extremely quick retrieval of all your meta descriptions, my favourite no-frills tool of the day is Xenu’s Link Sleuth. What’s more, the brand logo is perfect for the occasion!

Xenu Link Sleuth logo

Once you slap your domain URL into this bad boy, you can sort the results by title and description, which makes it easy to immediately spot any duplicated content.

There’s a whole wealth of information that can be gained from Link Sleuth including size of page, server responses and subfolder levels. I won’t go into detail here, but State of Digital have a really handy guide for quick SEO checks.

3. User-friendly content

Next, a more qualitative study to determine if your content provides value to the visitor. Read through your pages. Put your pride aside. Does the tone bore you? Would you get excited about these pages? If not, then changes need to happen.

Here’s a perfect example of a website asking for a penalty:

Example of a website asing for a penalty

I really don’t need to comment any further!

To gain a better understanding of how your content is interpreted, reach out to others and request reviews. Does everything on your website make sense? Is everything easy to find? Are your visitors interested in staying on the juicy pages for more than a minute? Attention span is everything.

Useful on-site survey tools such as Qualaroo (paid) and SoGoSurvey (free) are imperative tools for metrics of this nature.

Your bounce rate calculations in Google Analytics will only aid this process. Analyse the most important pages with a high bounce first. (Bear in mind the type of content on these pages. A bounce is calculated by an exit without any physical interaction – which could mean the visitor had a fun time reading every word on the page, concluded what they searched for, then left.

To aid this process, you can implement some cool heat mapping software on your pages using tools like Crazy Egg.

In order to gain a real picture of the success of your content serving, piece the jigsaw together using a combination of methods and a dash of common sense. No single tool will tell you everything.

4. Spammy links

Using Webmaster Tools

That’s content basics out of the way. Now to discover any culprit links.

Open up Google Webmaster Tools and use the left-hand navigation to find Search Traffic >> Links To Your Site.

You can see anything of mass proportion from here. If there are domains with site-wide links pointing to your site, it will be evident under ‘Who links the most’.

Google webmaster tools screenshot

So, if you have 51,000 links from, you will most certainly be better off rectifying this issue as soon as possible by contacting their webmaster! Buzzstream is an ideal tool for finding contact information. It works by crawling and locating such details from each domain, so you don’t have to!

Failing that, if no response is received after extensive exploration, use the Google disavow tool to render these links unassociated. (You can find out exactly how to follow this process with this Google Penguin Penalty Recovery Guide)

Another spot check: your impressions for queries in Google. Navigate to Search Queries >> Search Traffic and take a peek at the graph. Are you seeing a big drop? Is that blue line steeply falling into the pits of hell? If so, your visibility in Google has dramatically decreased.

Bonus Webmaster Tools check

While you’re in Webmaster tools, it is a good idea to do a spring clean on any 404 errors to maximise your inbound link juice. Otherwise it will all be going to waste. This will only be of benefit after bad links are cleaned up (either nofollowed or removed).

Navigate to Crawl >> Crawl Errors and view the tabs. You will usually see the tabbed selection as below:

URL errors

Click each tab to uncover your problem URLs.

If you have a few mild server error spikes showing timeout, this is usually nothing to worry over. However, frequent spikes will warrant an email to your host to gauge any underlying issues.

The ‘Soft 404’ and ‘Not found’ tabs are juicy sections. If you see a large number as above, get clicking on that tab!

But hold your excitement. They may not all be external links. Click on each result to delve into the linking URLs. Select the ‘Linked from’ tab for details.

Error not found

If the links are showing from your own domain, they are internal. It will be beneficial to change the actual broken link on the containing page rather than do a bone idle redirect.

If they are from external domains, congratulations! You can now claw back some link juice (providing they are from worthy domains – do check).

301 redirect these links from trusted URLs to a relevant, alternative piece of content on your website which relates to the original (or as closely matched as possible).

Alternatively, create a whole new page focused around this subject matter. I’d especially recommend this if the source link is highly reputable.

Using Ahrefs

This friendlier, user-centric tool which has a significantly more vibrant interface is perfect for depicting the big picture when it comes to inbound links. However, you only receive a small batch of reports before a moderate fee is required. Definitely worth considering though. No point in being the richest man in the graveyard!

Navigate to the left hand panel where you will find Referring Domains:


From this selection, the central area will return all domains which have links pointing to your website.

Again, it will be immediately clear if you have a million and 1 links from a single domain, or single links from domains such as or

You can achieve a more granular view of each individual link by visiting the Links section:

Inbound links

Contact the Webmasters and request removal of anything suspect.

Now that’s the basics over with, you should now have the knowledge to successfully diagnose and revive a Google penalty.

In the meantime, while your website is still gasping for air, there are of course numerous ways to keep afloat…

Rankings aren’t everything

Yep, I said it. You CAN still be profitable without Google rankings!

1. Harness the power and authority of social networking platforms

If you’re not on Social Media, you’re dead in the water.

There are BILLIONS of people to be reached via these channels. And they have undeniable stance in search engines. Win win!

Build reputation, encourage engagement, gain exposure, make money.

  • Use Social Bookmarking websites Reddit*, Digg and StumbledUpon for ‘out there’ content which is certain to receive interest. If you can make it big on these, you will receive instant spikes in traffic. Although this is not always the easiest method, it pays

    *Hint – These guys tend to dislike self-promotion, so be clever with your approach. Get involved with the community, spend time commenting and sharing other posts BEFORE mentioning yourself. And even when mentioning yourself, be smart! Or get banned
  • Use Twitter for outreach. Use Facebook for competitions. Use Google+ for emotion-provoking posts. Use LinkedIn for growing your network and personal kudos
  • Produce simple, snappy 6 second videos for Vine and promote on Twitter. This is massive

Most importantly: Know yourself and know your audiences. Tailor each piece of content with this in mind.

2. Leverage industry relationships for referral traffic

Okay, your website has lost its rankings. You aren’t going to gain as many eyeballs on your stuff for the time being, but you CAN make the most of the eyeballs of those you already know.

Seems simple enough, but this is all too often an area which is missed by marketers. Instead of focusing on new custom, reach out to those existing!

Your brand will have connections to other brands. Your company will have current customers or bloggers. Your employees will have relationships spanning further than the office. Maximise this potential and delve into opportunities for joint promotion, content marketing and yes…Social Media cross-promotion!

  • Make use of the authority of referrers. Their traffic is your traffic
  • ‘You scratch my back...’ is the theme here. What mutual benefit is there of cross-promotion? Outline these benefits and feed them
  • Pick up the dog and bone. This is the bread and butter of healthy relationships and will forge a lasting impression. Not only will the recipient of the call feel special, they will be willing to help you out more often than not

I’ve just realised the amount of references to food in that last paragraph. Must be getting hungry! Better wrap this up soon.

3. Join an affiliate network


Particularly lucrative for B2C ecommerce websites, affiliate programs can assist your online marketing with great effect. You only pay affiliates when they make a sale of your product. They don’t even need to physically hold your stock! A tracking cookie is placed on each product link on their website. When the site’s visitors click the products to ‘buy’, they are redirected to your product page. Purchases are made, you earn money, they earn a percentage.

What’s more, the potential for exposure is boundless. Thousands of your products on hundreds of websites which rank..? Bonus.

  • Opportunities for the formation of countless industry contacts
  • Not only website exposure, but Social Media promotion is also possible on affiliate profiles
  • Provide your best performing affiliates with larger commissions and get in touch with those who could be doing more. Offer incentives and reap the rewards

You have a few options here: Affiliate Window, affilinet and CJ Affiliate are my top 3 affiliate networks.

4. Launch a pay-per-click campaign

Yes, this will initially cost you money. But if done right, you will earn everything back and more. Optimised PPC accounts can bring respite to difficult periods of low revenue as a result of lost organic visibility. Serving secondly as a short-term boost for your exposure, PPC is undoubtedly a quick win (however much we hate ploughing more money in Google’s direction).

  • Analyse areas of your website which are most profitable BUT have lost most organic traction. Pump PPC spend into these pages
  • Remember, a visitor attained through PPC is not always going to be seeking the same call-to-actions which an organic visitor seeks. Consider page redesigns or new landing pages created solely for paid traffic
  • If you have a blog (which you certainly should), point some spend towards this. Focus on big, attractive social share buttons on each post and aim to provide the visitor with some key insider knowledge and information which is hard to find anywhere else. This is your chance to show authoritative value, brand distinctiveness and knowledge - which eventually leads to sales.

5. Delve into email marketing for high ROI

Get your messages out there with a well-planned email drip-feed. Nurture existing databases and attract new custom by exporting your LinkedIn contacts. Use the CSV file to send your campaign to each contact…clever, huh?

P.s. If you’re not on LinkedIn, refer to point 1! Consider a Premium account to enable you to perform deep-dive searches and discover potential leads and customers.

  • Sort your campaign audience into groups and tailor your emails to suit each segment
  • Use clear, concise call-to-actions and a smart subject line
  • Hire a reputable email marketing platform provider. You should know your open and click-through rates in order to review and refine

Time to smash that tombstone! You won’t be needing it anymore :)

Death to #chasingthealgo – Long live well deserved visibility

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This beastly guide was brought to you by our very own Frankenstein: Sam Hurley, Head of Search at Midas Media.

You can ask Sam a question directly here, or get in touch with us for more information. Don’t be a ghost!

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