We started with a new project last month. They are a tax firm in USA. The project was running smoothly. The first month we’ve just finished Keyword mapping and other On-Page stuff. Suddenly last Tuesday I noticed we’ve lost rankings for the keywords we were targeting on the project, and it was not by a few positions but there were drastic drop in rankings for all keywords. Like anyone I was worried about it.
So I started digging deep to find out what exactly can the problem be. The first thing that I noticed was change in the URL structure of some posts that we were targeting.
And just looking at the website I realized someone at the client’s end has moved their blog to a subdomain (blog.xxxxx.com). So, I emailed client asking about it and he replied saying they did make a change a day earlier and forgot to inform me about it (tips for clients, if you’re making any major changes to the website please inform your SEO guys).
And now the lost rankings for the pages made sense as the old page was redirecting to the home page and not to the new URLs. Hence I just advised client to 301 redirect old URLs to new ones.
But What About Home Page’s Ranking
But this still doesn’t explain why home page rankings were lost…..
So, I thought of looking at their indexing status and when I did I found that home page was not showing up in Google’s index.
The Real Issue
So, it was clear Google somehow lost indexing or de-indexed the home page. Now the question was why would Google do that? So like any wise-SEO (just kidding) I went ahead and tested their robots.txt page and to my wonder there were no issues at all.
Then it occurred to me and I proceeded to check their home page’s URL status using httpstatus.io (an amazing tool) and wallah there it was – code 403, which basically means URL was forbidden. Hence Google or any other bot must have been unable to access the home page and Google had to remove the home page from indexing.
Here’s How We Fixed It
A simple to and fro with client’s developer revealed that it was header/ footer wordpress plugin (a great plugin to be honest, I use it with almost all WordPress websites that I am working on), which somehow cracked while updating and caused all the issue. They simply re-installed it and now URL was showing code 200 (a code which basically brings smile to a SEO’s face).
Next I submitted the home page for re-indexing and a few hours later the result was that home page was showing up again in Google’s index.
And here’s the rankings at the time of writing the post:
Conclusion: Being a SEO, you have to work on a lot of different aspects, especially keep an eye on technical stuff related to the website. And if something goes wrong, don’t panic it may not be your fault. Just relax and do a lot of research you’ll definitely find a way to get the desired results.