Quick Fixes For Common SEO Ranking Issues

For those who rely on the web to power their businesses, the difference between ranking and being unfindable for a given search phrase can spell the difference between success or failure.

Businesses spend huge sums of money and invest enormous amounts of time and energy to rank because ultimately they know that if they do, they will be successful as a downstream consequence of that.

Anything that threatens that is a serious problem – and that’s what we’re talking about here, ranking problems.

Ranking issues come in two distinct forms, and it is essential to be clear here, right at the outset.

Chronic ranking difficulties are the kind that plague every business and every industry.

For example, the permanent competition that exists online amongst NYC restaurants, this manifests itself as a very high amount of difficulty in ranking for a new restaurant in NYC – this is perfectly normal and not a ranking “issue” so much as it is a ranking “reality”.

The other type of ranking concern, the kind we’re discussing here, is the acute kind.

Acute ranking issues are problems that occur suddenly or specifically to a given website and are stand-alone problems with a relatively discrete cause, or at least objective outline that gives us the ability to describe them independently.

Long term (chronic) difficulties are universally manifest in a variety of common ways– a lack of website content, lack of backlinks, lack of off-site content etc – “universal” chronic problems.

Acute search problems of the kind we’re going to cover here are the sort of thing that strike quickly – one day your website is ranking #1 for 5 search phrases and the next day it’s buried on page 50 – that’s an acute problem.

In this piece, we’re going to uncover and analyze the most typical acute ranking problems and the quick fixes you can apply to resolve them.

Common Problems

The following is a list of the top ten acute ranking issues websites face:

  1. Dead Pages (404’s) & Redirects
  2. Incorrect Directory Information
  3. Slow Website Load Time
  4. Lack of Backlinks
  5. Toxic Backlinks
  6. No Alt-Text
  7. Bad Anchor Text
  8. Lack of Sitemap file
  9. Poorly Configured Plugins
  10. Site Obsolescence & Search Updates

These ten acute problems do not represent, by any stretch of the imagination, a full or comprehensive list of things that can plague a website – but they do represent the most common ones of an acute nature.

These are the kind of problems that may strike unexpectedly and cause sudden, abrupt harm.

The most common way website owners learn of these problems is long after they’ve struck, months down the road, when the damage has already been done and is only now becoming apparent.

This is why it’s important now, more than ever before, to be vigilant and work only with professional companies, the root of many of these problems resides in poor administration and general negligence.

#1 Dead Pages & Redirects

Often times in the rush to update websites in a hurry, webmasters forget to purge dead links, delete old pages and generally conduct the kind of routine housekeeping that’s necessary to run a clean website.

The net result of this is that the search engine has indexed web pages which are now dead, they return a 404 error.

If your website has enough of these and appears damaged and severely shrunken from its previous size, it can cause serious harm to your rankings.

It can be hard to quantify how much harm will be done, but, depending upon how long the pages stay offline and how many were removed.

Unfortunately, this can harm rankings for many months – or at least until the search engines re-index the site.

It’s important to make sure to remove links to dead pages from your site’s navigation and elsewhere, keeping them up will only prolong the damage.

Redirect Damage

In the same vain as dead pages are incorrectly executed 301 URL redirects.

Redirects refer to website URL’s that are set to ‘redirect’ the visitor who types in the URL to another discreet location apart from the one they typed.

Why would this be useful?

There are many reasons for setting up URL redirects. For example, if you updated your website and changed its structure, you might affect inbound links to the site – causing them to go offline.

This can cause enormous damage to your website’s SEO rankings, as your site loses the link equity from backlinks it has built that point to that URL.

If a website has a popular piece of content, and it has many backlinks pointing to it, the damage can be substantial.

This is why setting up redirects is essential, it means that even if the original page is gone that used to reside at the location in question, you can direct traffic looking for that location to another location—preserving the links and link equity you’ve built.

#2 Incorrect Directory Information

It may sound ridiculous, but incorrect information being either manually entered into a directory or accidentally scraped up erroneously can cause your website big problems with search.

This issue occurs for a variety of reasons – incorrectly submitted information, incorrect updating of information, malicious internet actors and many more.

Fortunately, this is an issue that is usually corrected quite easily by simply contacting the directory and letting them know – they will usually update it manually pretty quickly.

Unfortunately, this is not something often spotted by website owners – who is really keeping an eye on all of these obscure directories? By the time you know there’s a concern, it’s usually been a while since it happened.

#3 Slow Website Load Times

It may sound ridiculous, but sites that load slowly can be penalized tremendously by search and suffer for it big time.

With the advent of the mobile web, more and more users are online on-the-go, and this has lead search engines like Google and Bing to modify their ranking criteria and stiffen the penalty for a slug of a website.

The answer to this? There is one very simple answer – purchase quality hosting that’s fast!

Don’t mistake expensive hosting for quality either, often times site owners tend to stick with their hosting long past its expiration date.

The hosting many recommend, and we can’t disagree, is CDN based – content delivery network – based. 

CDN hosting takes the website and mirrors it around the world in different locations, giving every viewer a local mirror to be served the site from.

Because the site loads locally, it means it also loads quickly, increasing speed dramatically as well as creating a redundancy in the case of downtime.

#4 No Backlinks

One of the MAJOR causes of off-site ranking issues is simply a near total lack of backlinks.

It doesn’t matter if a site is beefed up tremendously in terms of content, if it’s suffering from an emaciated link profile.

If your site is literally hidden online with no one linking into the site, it’s probably not going to rank for very much – at all.

There are a couple different reasons this occurs, one is very straight forward – the site never had backlinks, and it currently is at its maximum number (few) right now – no recent changes.

If this is the case you probably are well aware not surprised, but what about when it does strike suddenly?

There are times and situations where a website can lose a ton of backlinks in a real hurry due to a number of different events:

Website Updates – sometimes site updates trigger changes to the site’s directory structure and this can cause all inbound URL’s to 404 error all at once.

Coordinated Attacks – There are situations where criminals, competitors, or other internet bad actors coordinate take-downs of backlinks from various sites.

Publisher changes – Sometimes a website has a single hot link on it, or few links and the traffic coming inbound is largely from a handful of publishers or even a single big one, and they sometimes remove backlinks – sorry.

These kinds of things and about a thousand other random technical glitches and circumstantial happenstance things can cause this, and it is a very big deal when it occurs.

What can you do to prevent this from happening?

The best strategy to avoid pitfall situations such as this one is to pursue backlinking on a continuous and broad basis so that you foster a broad and durable network of links – not just a few.

Though there rages an argument between the quality and the quantity of backlinks, the simple fact is not having enough quantity is a liability because of situations just like this one.

#5 Toxic Backlinks

Black Hat is a term which refers to methods of marketing and SEO that blur the lines between legal and illegal and generally incur the ire of the search giants such as Google and Microsoft.

There are numerous Black Hat methods for developing backlinks, these include spamming forums and website comments sections, purchasing links from link farms and PBN’s (private blog networks) or other dubious methods.

These types of tactics are exactly what Google and Microsoft despise because they manipulate the normal healthy function and flow of their relevancy driven search engines by short-circuiting it.

Search is not impotent to do something – they will do something, a big something!, and if it happens to you, you will know it.

Which brings us to our namesake of this section, toxic backlinks.

These links, as the name implies, are toxic, meaning that they grant the website getting them no link equity and may in fact harm it rather badly instead.

Now back to that something search will do, toxic backlinks, if found out, especially if they are a part of a PBN or link farm, may incur severe penalties for the target website.

Penalties are hard to precisely decipher – since it varies on a case by case basis – but what is clear is that in some cases those who have many toxic backlinks pointing to their website have had their sites flagged for manual review.

Often, these same people lose rankings – and seldom ever get them back.

The only way to avoid toxic backlinks is to avoid black hat SEO methods entirely.

We use absolutely no black hat methods at OutReachFrog and stand entirely opposed to them, the very slim short-term benefits reaped from these methods pale in comparison to the tremendous catastrophic potential for harm from them.

#6 Poor Maintenance

Most websites built in the past fifteen years have been built atop CMS systems – Content Management Systems, such as Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress.

This CMS technology revolutionized website maintenance by making most of it very streamlined developmentally and database driven allowing for dynamic content, as opposed to clunky and file driven, as it was in the HTML web era.

The maintenance process for most websites includes cleaning the site’s cache, making sure all files have proper alt-text, and making sure each page’s anchor text is correct.

That isn’t although, maintenance also means making sure that all site content is properly placed and this is a job that needs to be done right – so take heed and ensure yours is properly maintained by someone with experience.

#7 Search Changes

Though you might not want to hear it, sometimes rankings drop through not fault of our own and there is nothing that can be done about it – or is there?

Google updates usually come and go, and the impact is mild, but when big updates come down the line the effects can be felt sometimes, especially when changes are made that impact how websites are ranked.

The best way to handle these kinds of random ranking changes isn’t to panic! What’s best is to read the update release information from Google and/or Microsoft completely and thoroughly.

You will likely need to make some necessary or at least recommended changes to comply with the new best practices – and that’s okay, so does everyone else.

The simple act of reading and knowing what it is you need to do can be the difference between losing rankings for a few weeks and losing them for months or even years.

#8 Deleted Files

It isn’t just removed web-pages that can have a big impact on rankings, files like your website’s sitemap.xml and robots.txt documents do too – and deleting them is not a good idea.

Files get deleted for all kinds of reasons, accident is probably top of the list, but sometimes it’s hard to fault the admins who make mistakes when the stuff they are deleting is mislabeled, old and placed haphazardly.

Make sure to do your best to maintain order with your website behind the scenes, clean up old junk files and don’t let things pile up that might confuse an admin!

#9 Website Plugin Problems

There exist numerous plugins which are useful for various aspects of SEO.

Correctly configured, these plugins can help with many components of on-page optimization and aid in your site’s quest to rank.

Incorrectly configured, and some very same plugins, can actually harm rankings.

It is critical to always make sure to do a good job configuring the plugins that power your website – both SEO plugins and otherwise.

A stitch in time saves nine is not just an old saying, it can mean everything when you’re trying to focus on obtaining rankings, and a methodical approach often outpaces a wreckless one.

#10 Site Obsolescence

We saved the best for last because it will eventually apply to every single website online – they will all go obsolete if allowed to.

The question here is, why allow it?

A website should be replaced long before its technologies have festered and decayed, in fact, a strong argument can be made that sites should be replaced on a periodic basis.

How does an obsolete site hurt my rankings?

As a site goes obsolete, it will begin to have incompatible code on it.

As this code ages it will begin to load slower potentially, it will also suffer from security vulnerabilities and require patching to stay online, its design will also not age well.

At some point these issues will become bad enough to impact the relevance of the site because the site will not serve correctly to modern devices.

If you’ve ever been on the unfortunate side of hearing your website is going the way of the vacuum tube, you know it’s not a good feeling.

This happens a lot, and their only way to ward off obsolescence is to stick to an upgrade plan and do your best to stay up on the latest trends.


Before delving into diagnostics, it’s important to take note of some facts about ranking issues.

If there is any common theme with ranking problems, it isn’t that they’re impossible to correct – but it is that they’re easily overlooked or mistaken for other things.

The truth is, in fact, that most of the kind of ranking difficulties that occur suddenly are also the kind of ranking issues that are also relatively easily dealt with.

The real pressing thing isn’t so much fixing the issues as it is discovering them in a timely manner so that you can address them before serious damage is felt at your business.

Unfortunately, there is no single universal answer to this since the issues that may impact search rankings come from numerous origins, both on-site and off-site.

With this in mind, diagnosing ranking issues is extremely context specific, with many nuances to keep in mind.

Taking Stock

The first step in conducting an analysis of a given website is to look at all the areas that must be considered when evaluating its SEO situation to look for issues.

What is a fantastic amount of content for one industry may be not enough at all for another, the same can be said for backlinks, site size and any number of other factors – they vary.

It is extremely hard – nearly impossible – to really do a deep evaluation of these ranking issues with diagnostic tools alone, this is why taking stock of things yourself is important.

Broadly speaking, ranking diagnostics can be broken into two separate areas of consideration – on-site and off-site.

On-site diagnostics considers everything to do with the website in question itself, including:

  • Domain Name (What is the top level domain of the website? This has a minor effect)
  • Site Age (How old is it?)
  • Site Type (WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.)
  • Search Friendliness (all the technical necessities of best practices)
  • Content Volume (How much and what type of content is on the site?)
  • Site Size & Structure (Is it large? Is it relevant? Is it intelligently built?)

Then there are the Off-site areas of consideration:

  • Backlinks (Do many exist? From where?)
  • Social Media Presence (Does one exist? How large?)
  • Reviews (Do any exist from anywhere? What about from customers?)
  • Directories (Has the website been submitted to all the directories it should have been?)

Then there are neutral factors which must be thrown into the mix of considerations as well – think of these as modifiers:

  • Competition (Is this a competitive industry, geography, or niche?)
  • Trends (Are there trends working for or against this website?)
  • Search Updates (Has Google recently updated things?)
  • Budget (Does one exist to cover the cost of adding essential tools and services?)
  • SEO History (What was done before – this is critical)

A proper diagnosis of a website’s ranking problems has to take all of this into consideration when evaluating for potential problems, but also, potential opportunities.

If the site’s had SEO run in the past or currently has a campaign running, it may be possible to help the site to rank by focusing strategically upon what’s lacking – usually backlinks.

Diagnostic Tools

Though many diagnostic tools exist for SEO, perhaps the most relevant to this article is the simple and straight forward Google Page Speed Insights (PSI).

PSI is a free tool from Google that evaluates sites across several areas of performance including their load times, Accessibility, Best Practices and SEO.


This free tool can help you to evaluate whether your site has problems and help you to correct them, but keep in mind – each and every situation is unique.

A second, very solid tool is Ahrefs Backlink Checker, you can use this to take a look at your site’s backlink profile and get an idea of who is linking in and more:



Staying vigilant while being open to new technologies and possibilities is one of the cornerstones of the entrepreneurial spirit that we encourage everyone to adopt.

Your website has unlimited potential and the key to unlocking that resides with those who use it every day as the mainstay of your business.

To learn more about what it is Outreach Frog can do for you and your business, don’t hesitate to contact us today!