My Rankings Have Dropped Dramatically, Why?


Links are a very important factor for rankings as they can determine the popularity, authority and relevance of your business website. Although there are many aspects that influence rankings, a common issue is an influx of unnatural or spammy links.

Here we will answer a few niggling questions on how to determine if your link profile is holding you back.

How to identify if links are the cause of your ranking drop:

Identifying the bad links from the good can be time consuming and at times difficult if you’re not sure what to look for. A general rule of thumb is if it looks suspicious and you don’t recognise it then it’s most likely a bad link.

Ask yourself the following:

  • Is there an unnatural pattern of links to your website? Has your site received a sudden spike in the number of referring links?
  • Do these sites look poorly built?
  • What types of keywords are being used to link your website – Are they relevant? Do they look spammy?
  • Is the content irrelevant to what your website it offering?
  • Have they passed on a site wide link? (Links to every page of your website).

If yes, then you have just identified some problem links.

Why should I be concerned with bad links?

Bad inbound links (when other websites link to you) can negatively impact on your Google rankings. These toxic links that point to your site can be out of control and cause Google to penalise your website. See our article on Google penalties to learn more.

When should I not be concerned?

If your link profile looks pretty healthy, containing a speckling of bad links then there shouldn’t be too much cause for concern. Google is very smart in identifying very bad link profiles that attract attention.  Unless your link profile contains ONLY or Majority bad links, then you shouldn’t be too worried. Deciding whether you want to take action should be decided on a case by case basis and how severe the risky link profile actually is.

Where do these bad links come from?

  • Social Bookmarking sites
  • SEO/Link Directories
  • “Dead” website directories
  • Poor quality/spammy websites with:
    • Poor, duplicate or unrelated content
    • Hundreds of links on a page
    • Directory websites with no particular focus or criteria
    • Unrelated anchor text (keywords that link your website)

What should I do if I have identified bad links to my website?

Once, using the guidelines above you have identified some problem links make a note of them for your records.

This example indicates unnatural activity in a link profile.  A large amount of inbound links surfaced within the space of a few days, causing the graph to spike.


The spike can suggest a number of things such as an automatic link generation from spam bots.

What resources or tools can I use to evaluate my link profile?

Google Webmaster Tools

There’s no better place to start than Google Webmaster Tools. Download and review all recent incoming links to your website. To access this, you must have added and verified your website with Webmaster tools.  Keep in mind that this is just a list of all the links Google knows about, if the link hasn’t been indexed then it won’t show up here.



Ahrefs is a paid tool that offers invaluable information for both researching competitors and providing an overview of links to your site.

Login into AHREFs and input your websites domain address.  An overview of all backlinks to your site should become visual. You can then identify:

  • Number of Links
  • Types of Links
  • Number of Unique referring domains
  • Most extensively used anchor texts
  • Domains directing the biggest number of links
  • New links
  • Lost links

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To see a list of links to your site, go to the left sidebar and select Referring Domains. A list of domains will come up indicating the URL, when it was first seen and the backlinks count.


Majestic SEO

Like Google Webmaster Tools and Ahrefs, Majestic SEO is another resource used to check the health of your link profile.  With an account, you can review your backlinks and also competitor links from to see how their link profile is shaping up.


In summary:

  • Plan to review your links consistently and focus on the quality of links you are gaining and where they came from.
  • Look for links you don’t recognise and note them down. If you start to see more low quality links you need to address where they are coming from.
  • A few risky links are not something to be worried about if your profile is looking generally healthy.
  • Keep notes on when the low quality link has been indexed for future reference.  This will help later on when you need to remove the link.
  • ALWAYS practice to follow Google Guidelines.

Register for a free link audit of your website to identify any potential risks or opportunities your business should be aware of.


  1. Rank #1 on Google and Go Backwards
  2. ‘Follow’ or ‘Nofollow’ Links – The Great SEO Question of 2014
  3. The Truth about Links & Link Penalties 



  1. Quicksprout – Why Your Search Rankings Are Dropping (and 7 Ways to Fix It)
  2. Koozai – Why Have My Rankings Dropped? An SEO Troubleshooting Guide
  3. Rainbo Design – Why Did My Site’s Google Ranking Drop?


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