During a Google webmaster Q&A session, John Mueller, a Web Trends Analyst at the search giant has offered up some advice to answer the age-old question; ‘why has my website lost rankings?’

Answering a general question on the topic, Mueller stated: “just because a site was appearing well in search results for a number of years does not mean that it will continue to appear well in search results in the future.”

Whilst reluctant to provide a definitive answer, Mueller did offer up some considerations that marketers should keep in mind.

Things change

“…[ranking changes] are essentially to be expected on the web, it’s a very dynamic environment. On the one hand things on the web change with your competitors [and] with other sites.

“On the other hand, things on our (Google’s) side change where there are algorithms in search. Finally, on the user side, expectations change over time. Just because something performed well in the past does not mean it will continue to perform well in search in the future.”

Analysis – short but important advice

Whilst light on detail, Mueller’s comments are no less useful. When firms lose rankings, panic often ensues and as such, having a simple strategic process to lean on is useful.

In this case, Google’s spokesperson is essentially suggesting a few steps to help understand why your rankings may have changed:

  1. Review what has changed on your own website
  2. Review what has changed for your competitors
  3. Review what has changed on Google (new features, algorithm update etc)
  4. Review what has changed in your market – are audience priorities different now to the past?

Google, it seems, is suggesting that most ranking changes can be attributed to one, or a combination of more than one of these considerations.

Watch the Google online webmaster session in full here.