Google Ranking Dropped For Most/All Content On A Website (Causes & Fixes For Site-wide Traffic Drops)

This is a common thing for some sites especially following core Google algorithm updates. If one or a few individual articles drop in rankings, we just figure that maybe we just got outranked for that particular query/topic by a better article.

But what about when ranking drops are widespread across many articles across our entire website? What if rankings have dropped pretty much site-wide, with most or ALL of our articles suddenly dropping in the search results all at once?

This can be a real panic and anxiety provoking time for website owners – we want to know what is causing this site-wide or at least widespread drop in content ranking all at once, and how to fix it.

That’s what we’re going to cover in this guide, with a special emphasis on diagnosing and recovering site-wide ranking loss following the recent 2022 and 2023 “Helpful Content” and “Spam Content” updates, which have hit a lot of sites hard that thought they were doing everything right.

There are ways to identify and fix these problems, and in 2023 and beyond it often involves having an efficiently structured and built site rather than a massive, over-bloated site, and making sure most or all of the content on it is “useful” in Google’s eyes and not just sitting there for the sake of it.

Let’s cover some key causes and fixes for site-wide traffic drops following recent Google updates.

Main Cause #1 – Too Much “Unhelpful” Content On Your Website

This is a huge factor that was there in the 2022 Google core updates, and has been taken up several notches in their September 2023 core update.

Google has for a long time emphasised the importance of creating “helpful” and “user first” content. But it’s now also becoming clear that having lots of content on a site that Google doesn’t consider “helpful”, it can actually harm the ranking of ALL content on your site, even the good stuff.

Yes, that’s right, if you’ve got too much mediocre/bad content on your site, it can pull the good content down now after these latest updates. This has been confirmed by SEO experts in the field who test this stuff out all the time:

“What people need to understand is that there is now a helpful content threshold. So if you have 1000 articles on your website, and let’s say 5 or 10 of them are just old articles that you’ve not updated that aren’t actually helpful, those articles probably won’t pull your website down.

However, if you had 250 articles that were pretty average or not up to date, that can pull your website down. Site-wide – not just for those 250 pages. The entire site can go down.

So just because you might have one article that’s really helpful, that’s the best article on that subject….If you have 300, 400 – even 20 sometimes – pages that are bad, that can get pulled down”.

Kasra Dash – SEO Expert – see here.

For more clarity, here are some pointers as to what kind of content Google considers “helpful” (you can assume anything that’s the opposite of this is “unhelpful”):

  • Content that is adding original, unique value (information gain) and not just summarizing what’s already on the web or copying other articles.
  • Content that’s engaging, relatable and has real human input, not mass produced AI/auto generated content.
  • Content that provides the reader with a satisfying experience, giving them what they came for and preferably more as well
  • Content that demonstrates expertise, personal experience and credibility on the topic.
  • Content that is written primarily for humans, and not just for search engines (ie. not over-optimized, but written more conversationally/naturally).

You can get more of an idea of what Google is looking for by checking out their Helpful Content Guidelines:

If you’ve got large amounts of content on your website that DOESN’T match these criteria, you need to improve or get rid of it to stop it pulling all the other content on your site down.

Key fixes for this issue:

  • Content “pruning” – Go over your Analytics and Search Console and find any articles that are old, average/poor quality, not driving any traffic/engagement (even after having time to rank) and get rid of them. Either improve, 301 redirect to homepage, 301 to another relevant page or delete. Get rid of “deadweight” content that’s not doing anything on your site
  • For content without organic traffic that you still want to keep, use the RankMath plugin to add a “no index” tag to it, so Google doesn’t index it.
  • Remember that topical coverage (just having a load of articles on your site covering one specific topic) ISN’T the same as topical authority (see our post on this). The content needs to be driving traffic and engagement to be consider “authoritative” or “relevant”. We cover this further below.
  • Going forward, produce content with a quality over quantity mindset, genuinely adding value and not just churning out content to drive more traffic from search engines.

Pruning Your Website – Video Demo


Main Cause #2 – Too Much “Spam” Content On Your Website

A related but slightly different criteria Google is also using to evaluate websites is the concept of “Spam” content. This mainly refers to mass produced and automated style content. Again, if there’s too much of this on your website, it can pull ALL the content down on your site, even the human generated, high quality content.

Google specifically state in their Spam Content guidelines that sites that violate their policies will be hit site-wide in search results:

Here are some summary criteria of what Google considers “Spam” content:

  • Content cloaking (showing a page on search results that’s actually directing to something else entirely when the users clicks and engages)
  • Doorway pages that direct users to intermediate, less helpful/relevant pages than the final page.
  • Hacked content with malicious code/malware etc.
  • Hidden content, text and links designed to manipulate search engines.
  • Keywords stuffing in content
  • Link spam (buying links solely for SEO, excessive link exchanging, and other “black hat” link building practices
  • Machine generated traffic
  • Scraped content from other sites with no original value
  • Sneaky redirects
  • Spammy auto-generated content (this one’s important so let’s briefly expand):
      • Keyword stuffed content that otherwise makes no sense
      • Text auto-translated by AI tools with no curation/editing before publishing
      • Other auto-generated content that hasn’t been properly edited or sculpted for quality
      • Combining content from other pages without adding value
  • Thin affiliate pages without any added value (eg. copying product details from Amazon without adding any value)
  • User generated spam comments/posts etc.
  • Any content that is otherwise scammy, deceptive or fraudulent.

See Google’s Spam Content Guidelines for more details on each of these criteria.

Fixes for this issue:

If you’re doing any of these things, or have lots of content on your website that meets any of these criteria, it’s advised to get rid of it as it’s likely contributed to a site-wide drop in rankings for all your content. Auto-translated or otherwise auto-generated without curation content are two more common things to watch out for, along with keyword stuffing and thin affiliate content.

Follow the same criteria as in the section above to either improve, redirect or delete this content as needed..

Main Cause #3 – Not Enough EEAT Signals On Your Website (Some Niches)

This is another huge factor in Google rankings that’s been around for several years now, but again has been taken up another level with the 2023 core updates. It applies to certain niches more than others for sure – those niches considered “YMYL” or Your Money, Your Life niches, such as Finance, Health, Fitness. But it seems to be applying to even more niches now as well.

Sites that aren’t displaying enough of these “EEAT(Expertise, Experience, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness), signals to Google seem to be getting hit with site-wide ranking drops for their content.

Sites in niches considered more “sensitive” or “mission critical” in terms of the information they give have to demonstrate more of these signals to Google to be “trusted” in search results.

Let’s give some examples of basic and then advanced EEAT

Basic EEAT (all sites should do this):

  • Have an About/Author(s) page(s) giving info about the site owner and publisher(s), including expertise, experience, credibility, skills and so on
  • Demonstrate this experience/expertise/authority in the way you write content (display in depth, advanced, correct knowledge, passion.
  • Engage on social media when possible.
  • Having a proper business address, phone number and other contact details on your site when possible.

And then more advanced EEAT that’s strongly recommended as well now (especially if your content has been hit across the board with ranking drops):

  • Displaying algorithmically measurable and verifiable credentials and expertise in the field
  • Having references to these credentials and expertise that exist outside your website (not just you saying so on your own website). This seems to be what’s hitting some sites with ranking drops.
  • Having content properly referenced, fact checked and in some niches proof-read by a professional in the field.
  • Having full author profiles and bios for every writer on a site, listing and displaying credentials/qualifications etc in a way that’s also verifiable outside that website.
  • Having an appropriate and organically built backlink profile by guest posting, going on other people’s podcasts in your niche when possible, getting cited for studies/stats etc.

Not all of these EEAT “markers” are needed in all niches, and it’s hard to even do this in some niches as well. But if your site has been hit with site-wide ranking/traffic drops and you’re missing some of these factors, do what you can to improve them.

Main Cause #4 – Lack Of Topical Authority

This is another huge mistake some bloggers have made in the past few years that’s caused their rankings and traffic to tank site-wide.

There’s been a big emphasis on topical authority in blogging, especially since the 2022 core Google updates. This refers to covering topics and sub-topics within your niche pretty thoroughly and comprehensively on your website in your content. And it’s very important for ranking on Google now.

But a lot of people have mis-understood what topical authority really is, and mistaken topical coverage for genuine topical authority or topical relevance (see our article where we fully distinguish the two).

Just writing about certain topics in detail on your site, and having a load of articles sitting there that cover certain aspects of a niche, isn’t necessarily topical authority. It’s what driving user engagement that actually defines what a site’s “topical authority” is.

For more clarity on this, let’s differentiate topical coverage from topical authority:

What IS topical authority:

  • Having strong topical coverage of certain topic and sub-topics related to your niche on your website, but with high quality content that is actually being engaged with by readers in some way.
  • Planning, writing and publishing the content on your blog in an order and structure that makes sense, covering in depth 3-4 sub-topics in detail in the early stages (you can branch out later).
  • Articles in certain topical “clusters” or “silos” are strongly but intelligently interlinked, and even content between silos should be interlinked when it makes sense contextually in the content.
  • When building clusters of topically related content, there is a focus on quality over quantity, with all pieces of content designed to be as helpful and readable as possible.

What is NOT topical authority:

  • Having a bunch of random articles scattered across your website that are related to your niche, but haven’t been published with any kind of strategy regarding topical authority (eg. having 10 articles about topic A, but then only 2 on topic B, 1 on topic C, 2 on topic D etc).
  • Throwing up hundreds or thousands of mass produced, mediocre quality, or AI articles on a website, many of which never even drive traffic, just to try and “game” the algorithm into thinking you have “topical authority”.
  • Fixating on the idea that silos needs to be “self contained”, and never interlinking between content in different silos, even if it would make sense contextually.

Hopefully, readers can see how approaching topical authority the wrong way can actually hurt a site’s rankings if you’ve got a load of “deadweight” content sitting on your site just for “topical coverage”, that’s actually not driving any traffic.

It goes back to the same point made in the section on “Helpful Content” above. Average/poor or “useless” pages from an SEO standpoint are now pulling entire sites down in the rankings if there’s too many of them on websites.

Fixes for this issue:

  • Go back over deadweight pages and prune them.
  • Going forward, focus on quality over quantity when producing clusters of content for topical authority.
  • Any content published must be actually being engaged with to be considered topically “relevant” and “authoritative” on a site.

Main Cause #5 – Toxic Backlinks (Larger Sites)

This is mainly for larger sites that naturally build or attract a lot of backlinks (but can be for smaller sites that have over-done link building).

All larger websites will attract links, some of them toxic, but if you’ve got too many of them out of line with what’s normal in your niche, the entire site can get hit with ranking and traffic drops.

I’m not an expert on this as I build smaller websites and don’t engage in active link building. But if you check out this interview from the 19:20 mark, there’s some excellent discussion of how to check the backlink profile for a larger site and if necessary, disavow any toxic links.

Also, if you have a smaller site and have been engaging in more “black hat” SEO link building strategies, consider reassessing your strategy, since buying links solely for SEO purposes is against Google’s terms of service and has been for years. Google themselves refer to this as Link Spam and will punish sites that they catch engaging in this.


I like to draw on my own experience to help new bloggers and other digital marketers solve common problems encountered when working and making your money online

Recent Posts