Google Ranking Issues: How Retailers Can Identify and Resolve Them
Securing a top spot on search engine result pages is crucial for driving traffic, boosting sales and, ultimately, achieving business success. But what happens when your website mysteriously drops in rankings or fails to rank at all? There are a handful of common reasons retailers struggle with Google ranking issues and they’re easy to fix when you know what to do — even if you’re not a search engine optimization expert.
Start with a good understanding of Google ranking factors and why they matter. Then, learn what can negatively affect your score in those factors and how to correct it the right way.
Understanding Google's Ranking Factors
Google uses over 200 factors to rank search results. They are constantly evolving which can make it difficult for retailers to keep up. However, if you’re aware of the top factors for ranking and which ones carry the most weight in scoring, you can focus on those and make a big difference in your rankings.
Currently, the No. 1 consideration going into Google ranking scores is people-centric content and providing the best user experiences. Everything on your retail website should be customer-focused to meet their needs and keep them engaged. Keep in mind that their search queries are what will drive whether they find you or not.
If you have content that’s difficult to read or your product pages are copy and pasted from the manufacturer's spec sheets, you’re going to lose points. The site's loading speed and mobile-friendly optimization are also critical factors.
Additionally, if your website is going against Google's spamming policies, you can be penalized. Penalties will severely affect your rankings or even remove your brand from search results.
Retailers face a few unique challenges when it comes to ranking. Google's Search Essentials page is a great place to begin because it provides detailed insights into the expectations. It’s a short page but it’s loaded with links that allow you to dig into the sections relevant to you.
Common Google Ranking Issues for Retailers
Here are some of the most important ranking issues that you might encounter as a retailer — and how to resolve them effectively:
- Content quality: The relevance and quality of your content are among the most important ranking factors for Google Search — particularly as artificial intelligence continues to gain traction. Google wants users to have search results full of relevant content, not content that’s difficult to read or overstuffed with unhelpful links or keywords.
- Backlinks: Backlinks are one of the strongest ranking earners. Sites appearing in the No. 1 spot have, on average, nearly 4x more backlinks than positions two through 10. The catch is that the links need to be coming from high-authority websites. Getting your pages linked to by major outlets and news reporting sites is powerful.
- Loading speed: If your pages are loading slowly, you’re not creating a great experience for visitors. As noted above, that’s what Google wants to provide in search results — the best user experience. This Core Web Vitals test will check to see if your website’s loading speed meets the standards.
- E-E-A-T: An acronym that stands for “experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness,” E-E-A-T is the guide by which your content is measured to determine if your page will be considered a high-quality option to include in search results.
- Keyword optimization: Excellent products won’t matter if the pages aren’t optimized with the right keywords so they can be found. Your keywords also need to be in the right placements throughout the content and hooked into the right anchor text.
- Mobile friendliness: Google prioritizes mobile-first indexing because most users are searching from their mobile devices even if they're at home. It’s a must.
- Content freshness: Google doesn’t want to provide users with outdated information, so newer content will gain more points. Even if your products haven’t changed and your blog content is still relevant, it’s important to add new content and update your existing pages every few months.
By being aware of these common ranking issues, you can take steps to resolve them and improve your position in Google search results.
Resolving Technical Google Ranking Issues
Whether you’ve recently suffered a drop or never ranked high and want to, you’ll need to first find the culprits that are dragging your rankings down and then resolve them correctly. It’s easy enough to find and understand the various aspects of fixing your content to be user-friendly and relevant; the technical side can be more complex.
If you’re going to DIY your analysis, start with the Google Search Console (GSC). It’s a free tool that will review your website and provide a report of your wins and misses to see how Google sees your site and where it is (and isn’t) giving you points. Then, you can determine what to do about each issue.
- Crawling and indexing errors: Many things like redirect errors, soft 404s, noindex tags, and canonical tag errors can affect Google’s ability to crawl your site. Your GSC report will include Page Indexing and Index Coverage stats that tell you how many pages aren't indexing. It will also tell you WHY (such as 404s, broken redirects, or blocking bots) so that you can easily resolve them.
- Exceeding the crawl budget: Google provides search results at lightning speed so it needs to be able to crawl your site even faster. If you sell multiple colors and/or sizes of a product, it can quickly become too many pages for the crawl budget. Instead, use canonical tags for the "vanilla" version of each product you sell. It helps to preserve your crawl budget and avoid duplicate content.
- Page speed slowdown: Google’s Page Speed Insights tool can uncover whether your website is having trouble with loading times. It will let you know if your website is running slow, and it will provide suggestions for speeding things up. Here are some quick remedies you might need:
- Compress all images and videos.
- Consider using a content distribution network (CDN).
- Cut back on plugins, especially if they’re outdated or unnecessary.
- Reduce the usage of redirects whenever possible.
- Losing backlinks: Just as you should regularly update the content on your site, others will too. Occasionally that means some of your high-authority backlinks may get lost and you’ll see a quick drop in ranking. The solution here is to consistently gain new backlinks as part of your overall strategy.
- Site security: HTTPS sites will always rank higher than HTTP sites because Google prioritizes safety for its users. Getting the SSL certificate is important for any site, but especially for retail so that user data will be properly encrypted.
As a retailer, maintaining a robust online presence is essential for success, and ranking issues can quickly become a major obstacle. By understanding how search engines view your website and the scoring of ranking factors, you can identify and resolve any issues that may be negatively affecting your rankings. Regularly analyze your website's performance, optimize technical aspects, and stay informed about algorithm updates. It will help you prevent Google ranking issues and ultimately increase sales for your retail business.
Max Gomez is the chief marketing officer of The HOTH, a white label SEO service.
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Max Gomez Montejo is the Chief Marketing Officer of Next Net Media, a leading global holding company owning businesses specializing in digital marketing, SEO, and AI, including The HOTH, a global leader in SEO services. Leveraging his expertise in data-driven decision making, Max consistently crafts innovative marketing strategies that connect SMBs, agencies, and enterprise clients, reshaping their marketing playbook.