It is not an uncommon occurrence that a domain’s visibility suddenly drops drastically over a short period of time, even as little as a week. It is important to identify the source and to take the necessary steps to remedy this. Here, we will show you an example of an affected domain and an analysis of what you can do.
The three most common causes that can lead to massive breaks in the Visibility Index of a domain are algorithmic or manual Google Penalties, a re-launch of the website, or a competitor gaining momentum.
Recognising a Domain Crash in the SISTRIX Visibility Index
The visibility of the domain karstadt.de dropped 41.4% in the calendar week from October 28th to November 4th, 2013. From an original 28.6 points in the SISTRIX Visibility Index down to 16.7 points.
The following steps show you one possible path of how you can use the SISTRIX Toolbox for your evaluation. Here, we stay entirely within the SEO-module.
Checking hostnames for loss of visibility
On the left-hand navigation select the “Hostnames” option.
Using this analysis, check whether karstadt.de’s visibility loss can be traced back to one or more specific hostnames.
Thereby you get an insight whether a specific area of the domain is affected by the change, or the domain as a whole.
The top three hostnames, which contribute the most to the visibility of the domain karstadt.de, are shown on top of each other in a chart. By clicking on the colour-marked check-box in the table below, the visibility graph for the specific hostname may be shown or hidden.
It is obvious that the host name www.karstadt.de, with 15.76 points, has the most visibility. In second and third place we see the hostnames bewertung.karstadt.de with 0.03 points and werbung.karstadt.de with 0.02 points. The loss of visibility of the domain karstadt.de can therefore be traced back to one single hostname – www.karstadt.de.
In the next step of our analysis, we go a bit deeper and look at the directories on the domain karstadt.de.
Checking directories for loss of visibility
On the left-hand navigation select the “Directories” option.
Using this analysis, you may see whether the visibility loss of the domain karstadt.de can be traced back to one or more specific directories.
Often, one of the top-3 directories that generate the majority of the domain’s visibility will be detected as a potential cause for the visibility crash.
None of the three directories that contribute the most to the visibility of the domain karstadt.de appear to be indicating a visibility crash. Therefore, we must look in other places.
Checking ranking-changes for lost or dropped keywords
A loss in the SISTRIX Visibility Index can always be traced back to a loss or a decrease of ranking positions for valuable keywords.
Since you were able to already exclude the possibility of a specific hostname or directory being responsible for the visibility loss of 40% for the domain karstadt.de, you now have to identify which keywords drastically lost ranking positions.
For this, you can use the analysis of the ranking-changes. Select this through the menu item of the same name.
First, select the type of ranking-change you want to analyse. In this case, wer are interested in the lost keywords.
In the second step, define two date-ranges to compare. In this case, to identify the keywords responsible for the loss of visibility, choose the date #1 for the week before the crash and the date #2 for the week where you noticed the change in the Visibility Index of the domain.
You will then get a list of keywords including their absolute changes of position within the selected timespan.
The table above shows the ranking positions of those keywords with the highest ranking on the 28th October, 2013 which had the largest drop in rankings when compared to the time of the visibility crash (4th November 2013).
An additional look at the ranking changes of the type “lost keywords” shows you all the keywords which do not show up on the first ten results pages on Google anymore.
In the case of the domain karstadt.de, you can see that top-ranking positions for valuable keywords, for example [dkny uhren] (dkny watches) or [damenuhren] (womens watches), worsened drastically during this time. In part, the ranking positions dropped by almost 90 places from the first Google result page to the tenth. Other valuable keyword placements, [elektrogeräte] (electronic devices) for example, completely dropped from position #1 and out of the top-100 search results.
Now we need to find out what caused these drastic ranking losses.
Checking the ranked contents for availability
Why did these keywords drop so massively in the rankings? The main reason is often that the ranking URL is not accessable and will return a 404-error code, for example, or has been set to Noindex.
Because of this you need to check whether the URL for [dkny uhren] is accessable.
In the ranking change results you will see the URL for the result if your screen resolution allows for it (if you do not see it, use your browser zoom to make everything a little bit smaller). In our case, the domain karstadt.de ranks with http://www.karstadt.de/Uhren/884188/ for the keyword [dkny uhren]. Clickon the little arrow in front of the URL and the restul will be opened in a new browser tab.
We did not end up on an error page, and due to the application of a small browser-plugin for Google Chrome, you can also see that the URL has not been set to “noindex”. There has to be another reason for the massive ranking loss.
Checking the previously ranked URL of a keyword in the SERP-archive
A common cause for major set-backs of a domain’s ranking is the re-working of the URL structure without applying 301-redirects.
To check whether this is true for the domain karstadt.de as well, we can look at the keyword [dkny uhren] in the SERP-archive. For this, move your mouse slightly behind the keyword and click click the left mouse button.
In the SERP-archive for the keyword [dkny uhren], first select a time before the visibility crash of the domain in the “Information” box to the right from the dropdown-list. In our example for karstadt.de, it’s the calendar week for the 28th October, 2013.
Now you are in the SERP-archive for the keyword [dkny uhren] where you can see the results for the week of the 28th October, 2013. Here we can see, as before in the ranking-changes, that the domain karstadt.de was at position #7 for the keyword [dkny uhren].
When you click on the “Show Keyword History” button you are shown the ranking-history for the keyword [dkny uhren] and the domain karstadt.de.
Here, the position changes for the keyword [dkny uhren] on the domain karstadt.de for the week of 28th October, 2013 to the 4th November, 2013 becomes clear again.
Go back to the SERP-archive for the 28th October, 2013 (just use the return button in your browser) for the keyword [dkny uhren] and look at the ranked URL of the domain karstadt.de.
If we compare the URL in the SERP-archive of the 28th October 2013 where the domain karstadt.de ranked in 7th position for the keyword [dkny uhren], and the URL from the ranking changes analysis “lost keywords” of the 4th November 2013. You will notice that the URLs are different.
Ranking URL on the domain karstadt.de for the keyword [dkny uhren]
- until the 28th October, 2013 (and before): www.karstadt.de/DKNY-Shop/k/?kid=875170
- since the 4th November, 2013: www.karstadt.de/Uhren/884188/
Now we should check whether the old URL is being redirected to the new URL? To do this, click on the link button before the URL, marked blue in the above screenshot.
After opening the URL, a 404-error page is displayed. The previously well-ranked URL for the keyword [dkny uhren] is not being redirected to the new URL. This means that both the user and Google cannot find the content, which has therefore dropped in the rankings.
The loss of more than 40% in the SISTRIX Visibility Index for the domain karstadt.de between the 28th October and 4th November, 2013, was caused by a new URL design that affected many valuable and well-ranking keywords. The non-existing 301-redirects from the old URL-structure to the new led to Google moving content which could not be found anymore much farther back in the search result pages.
To find all affected keywords and those that are possibly not being redirected to the new URLs, filter for the lost and decreased rankings at the “Checking ranking-changes for lost or dropped keywords” step.
After making changes to the URL-structure of the entire website or just a specific piece of content, as well as after a site re-launch, the previous URL(s) must be redirected using a HTTP-status code 301, with the new URL as a target.
Tip: Documenting your findings with an event-pin.
To always remember why the domain lost many points in the SISTRIX Visibility Index in the week of the 4th November 2013, in the future, you should document your findings with an event-pin.
To create an event-pin, hover your mouse over “My Account” on the top right with and select the menu item “Pins”.
Using the dialogue in the “Add Pins” box, add a new event-pin and select the time of the visibility loss, meaning the 4th November 2013, as the date. What you what to write in the description text is up to you. In the optional box of the domain name, it is advisable to put in the domain for which the event-pin should be displayed in the SISTRIX Visibility Index history graph. If the domain box is left empty, this event-pin will be displayed in the visibility history of every domain.
When you have added the event-pin for the domain karstadt.de, type the domain name in the search box of the toolbox (top right). You will now see a green event-pin with your note on the 4th November 2013 in the Visibility Index graph for the domain karstadt.de. This event-pin is only visible to you.