How to Analyze the Cause of a Ranking Crash

In 2012, I had a large client that was ranked in the top position for most of the terms that mattered to them.

And then, overnight, their ranking and traffic dropped like a rock.

Have you ever experienced this? If so, you know exactly how it feels.

The initial shock is followed by the nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach as you contemplated how it will affect your business or how you’ll explain it to your client.

After that is the frenzied analysis to figure out what caused the drop and hopefully fix it before it causes too much damage.

In this case, we didn’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure out what happened. My client had insisted that we do whatever it took to get them to rank quickly. The timeframe they wanted was not months, but weeks, in a fairly competitive niche.

If you’ve been involved in SEO for a while, you probably already know what’s about to go down here.

The only way to rank in the timeline they wanted was to use tactics that violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. While this was risky, it often worked. At least before Google released their  in April 2012.

Despite my clearly explaining the risks, my client demanded that we do whatever it took. So that’s what we did.

When their ranking predictably tanked, we weren’t surprised. Neither was my client. And they weren’t upset because we explained the rules and the consequences of breaking those rules.

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