It’s every site owner’s worst nightmare; you spend a long time building up your visitors, working on your content and improving your rankings, only to find that your ranking suddenly takes a sharp drop and all your hard work is slipping through your fingers as you watch.

The first thing to do is check online to see if there has been an update to the search engine’s algorithms. These happen periodically to close loopholes used by website owners to try to circumvent the normal process by which you can make your site visible and be ranked highly in the search engine results. Occasionally, a practice, which had previously been considered a legitimate technique to improve rankings, is abused to such an extent that action is taken to penalize sites that use it and the results can be devastating if your site is affected. Checking webmaster forums and SEO news sites can give you an idea of whether other people are noticing the same trends that you are. They may point to things that people have identified which could have been included in any updates.

Because they are trying to avoid those who would cheat the system, search engines only release very limited details of the practices they are hoping to eradicate, but experts consolidate evidence from a variety of sources to make educated guesses as to the culprits. Checking Google Webmaster Central can help you to get ahead as warnings about spam will sometimes be sent to sites that are contravening their guidelines in order to give the owners a chance to clean up their sites and avoid losing rankings.

The best way to avoid losing rankings overnight is to regularly assess the content of your website and look for elements that may be harming the way the search engines ‘see’ what you offer. Ensuring that everything on each page adds value to the visitor experience should protect you from most of the transgressions. These could see you languishing at the bottom of the rankings as most of the unscrupulous tactics involve adding content that appeals only to search engines and doesn’t make it easier for visitors to navigate around the site and find the information they are looking for. You can help yourself by using a trusted SEO company to offer advice on how to improve your rankings through legitimate means and advise you of anything on your site that could cause you to lose out if the algorithms change.

Techniques such as keywords stuffing, where you have a page that contains nothing but variations on keywords which you want to rank for, or link farming, where you pay sites to link to yours, are considered to be an underhand way of improving your rankings and should be avoided by sites that want to maintain relevance for visitors who find them online. If you have pages such as this on your site, removing them will improve your status and could help regain a good position in the search engine results.

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