SEO rankings dropped? Time to Sue Google?

Florida court agrees Google was wrong to apply a SEO penalty based on an anonymous tip.

Is there anything more frustrating, especially if you’re an SEO specialist, than waking up to find that your rankings have taken a substantial drop? It happens and for a multitude of reasons. You invest time and effort into building the perfect campaign to ensure the fundamentals are strong. You strategise and implement your plan with the intention of watching your search terms sky rocket to the top of Google. Following the rise to the top, you allow yourself a complimentary 10 minute pat on the back before returning to the task of ensuring your rankings remain steady and consistent.

Your website is your baby; you love it, care for it and watch it grow. You feel immensely proud when it achieves and disappointment when it fails, but you know it’s your responsibility to once again ensure it reaches its potential.

So, can you imagine what E-Ventures Worldwide LLC felt when they found out Google had penalised hundreds of their websites?

Dropped Rankings – Legal Action Against Google

E-Ventures Worldwide LLC took umbrage to Google de-listing hundreds of their websites and sought retribution through the courts. Google received an anonymous tip that the E-Venture websites broke Google’s guidelines and took immediate action by de-listing the sites.

Google argued that it was protected under the First Amendment and the Communications Decency Act  but the courts decided that the search engine had not taken reasonable steps to “act in good faith”. Essentially, Google had no evidence or proof that the E-venture websites had in fact broken any of their guidelines.

The courts agreed Google was protected under the First Amendment, but it was a landmark case, as they were held accountable for breaking the Communication Decency Act (CDA). First Amendment rights don’t cover the CDA, because the search engine was acting on the word of a “tipster” and reasonable steps had not been taken to ensure the validity of the claim.

What Does This Mean For Google?

Anybody can report a website to Google, even when it has not breached the technology giant’s guidelines. Google has the right to publish the websites it deems fit and has the right to exclude websites, however, before it does so it has a duty of care to ensure they are acting responsibly and taking action only when necessary.

This means Google will no longer be allowed to simply demote websites because people submit a complaint. Competitors are forever trying to outrank websites, so Google blindly following an anonymous tip could have serious ramifications for optimised websites which follow the rules. The search engine will now have to take appropriate steps to justify a de-ranking before the penalty is enforced.

Why Do SEO Rankings Drop?

Search engines want to rank the most relevant websites for the search term entered. So, you don’t want a list of plumbers when you’re searching for a new pair of shoes. We’ve listed a number of reasons why a website could be de-ranked:

  1. Competitors: Every website wants to be listed on page one of Google for their most searched for phrases. Competitors will be optimising their own websites too and could push you further down the rankings.
  2. Website amendments: Have you recently changed your website? Over the years this is often the most popular reason for significant declines in rankings. If you’ve changed your website you may find that web pages have been forgotten about (links dropped) or that there’s a block on Google crawling the site.
  3. Backlinks: Have you lost any powerful backlinks recently? This could have a negative impact on your search rankings.
  4. Google penalty: You could have been penalised by Google via a manual or algorithmic penalty drop.
  5. On-page issues: If you have made on-page errors (broken links, issues with internal linking or coding errors) then your site can be demoted.
  6. Short term problem: From time to time, Google can influence your rankings and drop your website for a short period – usually less than a week – and you can’t legislate for these issues.

Have Your Rankings Dropped Recently?

If you’re rankings have dropped recently the answers exist in your analytics and website history. Any recent changes on your website can influence search engines, or if there’s been an update to ranking algorithms you may be negatively impacted – penguin and panda are two of the most recent changes which have hurt many websites.

Should you need a SEO professional to take a look, please feel free to drop us an email and we’ll be glad to offer some support.

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