This is actually quite a common thing bloggers and website owners want to know, especially after the dreaded Google Algorithm updates that are usually rolled out a couple of times a year. Some bloggers win out of these updates, but a lot lose as well, seeing traffic on their sites dropping significantly.
But amid all the panic this can cause, it can be sometimes hard to cut through the fog and clearly see what content has been hit the worst, causing the biggest drop in traffic to your blog.
Of course the first metric bloggers will see in their Google Analytics will be sudden drops in traffic, but assuming most of the your traffic comes from organic search, then what usually precedes this is a drop in ranking for certain blog posts, which means they then get less visibility and less clicks from search.
These are the people we especially want to help out in this blog post, detailing how to quickly use Google Search Console to find which of your blog posts have dropped the most in the terms of average ranking position. But it can be used either way – if traffic has gone up on your website, you can also use Search Console to see which posts have risen in average ranking position.
Let’s get started on how to track changes in ranking position in your blog content over time.
Step #1 – Open Up Search Console
Assuming you’ve already got your blog connected to Google Search Console (you won’t be able to do this if you haven’t), then open it up. Open up the email that you used to connect to GSC for that blog, and then open up Search Console here.
Or, you can check your email for the account, and look for “Your Performance Report for…” emails, which have a link in them that will take you straight to your GSC Performance Report for your blog, which is what you need.
Step #2 – Open Up Performance Reports
Once you’ve got Search Console open, select the correct Property or website if you’ve got multiple ones connected, and go straight to Performance Reports on the menu on the top left:
Step #3 – Select Average Position
Once you’ve done this, a graph with a couple of blue and purple squiggly lines should appear, with a pair of boxes checked for Total clicks and Total impressions.
Uncheck both these boxes, and check the Average Position box next to it instead:
These de-clutters the data that’s shown to you, so you just get what you’re looking for underneath – changes in average ranking position of blog posts.
Step #4 – Select Date Range
You can actually do this before Step 3, or after – it doesn’t matter. Select the Date option above the Total impressions box, and then go down to Custom and select the date range you want to analyze changes in ranking position of your blog posts over, and click Apply at the bottom.
You can select a single date range if you like (eg. last 28 days, last 7 days, last 3 months etc), but for this type of analysis, I’ve found it’s usually better to define two specific periods of time, and compare the ranking changes between those two periods of time.
For example, if you suspect traffic and ranking drops have been down to Google algorithm updates, then it’s best to set your first time period to before the change rolled out, and then the second to after the changes rolled out, so you can see more clearly what effect it’s had on ranking positions.
If your looking into this matter isn’t related to a Google update, and you’re just curious, then set any two time periods that suit (eg. the last 30 days for the first two dates, and then the 30 days before that for the next two).
Step #4 – Analyze Changes in Ranking Position For Key Blog Posts
Selecting two date ranges, you get an actual comparison given to your from Google Search Console, where they give you a specific ranking position change over time for your blog posts:
This way, you can see exactly how the ranking position of your key blog posts has changed between the two time periods.
Far right column (Position Difference) – A negative (minus) value indicates a drop in ranking, and positive value indicates a rise in rankings between the two predefined time periods.
Be aware though as a caveat, Google Search Console is only displaying the average ranking position of certain articles for certain keywords, since it will rank for a whole bunch of different keywords. Therefore sometimes the rankings for certain keywords will look lower than you might expect, but that’s because it’s taking into account all the different phrases it ranks for, not just the primary one.
However, with this data, you can see which of your blog posts have had the biggest falls (or rises) in average ranking position, so you can go back over this content and re-evaluate and modify it if necessary. Your top blog posts should be listed at the top as well, so you can see the potentially most costly drops in rankings (in terms of traffic and revenue) first.
Interpreting This Data
The average ranking stat is a bit of drawback, and not very precise, but it should still be pretty obvious if one of your blog posts has suffered a large drop (or rise) in average ranking, plus a large drop (or rise) in traffic, it’s pretty clear that this article has been hit (or boosted) in the search rankings by Google.
Sometimes, the blog post may have changed position in the rankings for the exact, direct keyword (eg. Best X for Y), which is more obvious. Other times however, it may have been altered for more tangential searches, either gaining or losing ranking for related search queries instead of the direct one. Or perhaps losing or gaining featured snippets for certain search queries, which can really impact traffic and rankings either way.
It’s best to try doing the searches while not logged in to your website’s Gmail account or Analytics, to see what’s going on in terms of where your blog posts are appearing in search results. If rankings for major keywords seem to be unchanged, then it’s more tangential or snippet related changes that have altered rankings and traffic. Search rankings are constantly evolving as Google continues to roll out updates which change the way content is evaluated.
Most importantly, if your ranking and traffic have been hit badly, and seems to be due to Google algorithm updates, the most common level headed advice that’s often given is to not panic. Stay calm, keep publishing high quality content, and let things settle down for a few weeks.
After Google updates, bloggers often find that they lose lots of ranking and traffic initially, but things slowly settle down after that and their rankings slowly recoup to roughly where they were before. These updates do sometimes shake things up a lot, and Google definitely doesn’t get it right all the time. There is also evidence that these updates are sometimes at least partially reversed or wound back a little, once it becomes known that the changes the search results haven’t always been positive.
If after a few weeks, your rankings and traffic haven’t recovered, then it might be a good idea to revisit your content that’s been hit the most, compare it to the current competition in the (new) rankings, and see if anything can be improved or updated to keep it up to date, relevant and as useful and thorough as possible.
As bloggers, we can take traffic drops due to algorithm updates personally. But a lot of the time, Google hasn’t got anything against our site specifically. Their core update may have just allowed them to find and index more content for certain keywords that they weren’t even ranking before, and this pushed everyone else down in the results a bit.
And if the search results are worse than before, now full of thin, non-relevant content, these updates are usually rolled back once it becomes clear the user experience isn’t as good with the new rankings, so your content should recover as long as it’s good quality stuff that’s helping people out. Keep calm and keep publishing!