Fix Content that Isn’t Ranking With 4 Changes
Content can be one of the hardest-working non-human parts of your team. In addition to the essential task of bringing in qualified leads, it can help establish your company’s credibility, establish your brand identity, educate potential customers about your products and services, answer questions that would otherwise be directed to limited people resources, and go viral—gaining a ridiculous amount of good exposure!
But (ugh… this is one of those ‘bad’ buts), content that doesn’t rank can seem useless. It’s costly to create and maintain, and almost difficult to promote. So, let’s make that content be everything it can be by addressing the reasons why your digital advertising agency fails to get that content the visibility it deserves.
Content Failure #1: Picking the Wrong Keywords
There are two sides to wrong keywords: on one side are the keywords that are so broad that they’re super competitive and you’re competing against companies that have been around for a long time and publish content with much higher volume and frequency. On the other side are keywords that nobody cares about, and they generate little to no search volume.
Back in the olden days of the Wild West of website ranking, you ranked higher the more often you used the right keywords. Keyword stuffing (filling your website with keywords) became akin to cattle rustlin’—it worked pretty good for a few people, but didn’t gain them any legitimacy or respectability as business owners, and soon the law (Google rankings) was chasing them down. Fortunately, we’ve moved on from those dusty days.
If your digital advertising agency is writing keyword-inclusive content would sound weird to some hearing it out loud, then you’re still stuffing. Google does not like that! Google is continually evolving the algorithm toward a semantic search bias – conversiotional natural writing that answers a question is what Google will rank.
Find out what keywords to use and use them intelligently and ethically. If you’re just beginning your SEO journey (Search Engine Optimization, where the right keywords help the right searchers to find you tools like Google Trends, SEMrush, and Ahrefs to learn which keywords are relevant to your industry and how popular they are.
You probably hear a lot about long-tail keywords. These are generally four and five-word combinations that are used for a specific search, and they are not super popular. That’s a good thing for ranking!
For example, instead of searching for ‘marketing’, someone might search for ‘marketing strategy for OTC pharmaceuticals’. Those words together tell Google a lot about what the user needs, and Google’s algorithm will look for the best fits in its results.
Take a look at this chart from Ahrefs that shows 29.1% of keywords with more than 10,000 monthly searches had three or more words:
After that compelling chart, we have to set a caution: it’s not just about the number of words, it’s the number of right words that improve ranking. A tool to identify keywords comes in very handy.
Start with a basic keyword you know is relevant for searches about your industry, and look for keywords with search volumes under 2,000 (unless you have a large SEO budget you, don’t want to use the popular keywords that everyone else is fighting over!). You can also look for higher word count phrases and use a ‘questions’ report to learn what types of information are relevant, and identify good keywords from these results.
Want some less technical ways to find out what keywords are good for ranking? Go to the source—your customers! What are they searching for? How do they explain your product or service in layman’s terms? What words, phrases, and language do they use? You can also look at online forums, Facebook groups, and social media threads to learn more about the words people use to discuss industry/product specific things.
One last warning. Be very skeptical of any digital marketing agency that promises to rank you for obscure keywords with zero traffic. Ranking for something nobody searches for is just as much of a waste of time and resources as going after overly broad terms.
Content Failure #2: You’re Not Giving Any Attention to Technical SEO
Anyone who loves the process of creating beautiful content but tries to ignore the technical components behind getting content to rank may be guilty of this content failure. Google’s algorithms have limited signals to know that your content is written by an expert when indexing your site.
How do you fix this? By giving it some clues that your content is quality. This includes the use of meta descriptions, title tags, alt text on images, author tags, schema markup, using links to reputable sources, publishing consistency, and mobile usability.
As this pie chart shows, trust/authority of the host domain is the most important component of Google’s ranking algorithm according to a survey of SEOs:
Alt text is a succinct, 100 characters or less, description of an image. It works for you in three ways: since bots can’t see pictures, the alt text tells them what’s in the picture, which helps with ranking. And alt text also makes your content accessible for anyone with visual or cognitive disabilities because it allows the screen reader to ‘read’ the content of the image.
Finally, if an image doesn’t load (either because there are loading problems or the user has chosen to not view images), the alt text will show in place of the image.
The meta description is the short description of a site that shows up on search pages. Again, it helps the Google algorithm know what your page is about, but when it’s done well, it’s also an important tool in getting searchers to click on your page. Below is a screenshot of our agency’s title tag (The Digital Agency for the Tough Stuff) and below that, the meta description.
Content Failure #3: Focusing on a Single Page Instead of the Whole Site
You may have one fantastic page on your site that you love sending clients to. But one great page isn’t going to rank if the rest of your site is broken, badly written, and not optimized. Your entire site needs to be user friendly and follow SEO best practices.
By increasing your site’s overall domain authority (DA) through regular website SEO audits, internal and external linking, and getting inbound links from other high-authority ranking websites, you can ensure that ALL of your inner pages will have a chance at ranking higher on SERPs.
Links are useful tools that add value to your readers, lend credibility to your site, and generate reach when other companies link back to your site. Make sure that any links you use are to credible, high-ranking sites that are going to stick around. Nobody likes clicking on a link that doesn’t work (including Google).
Just like keywords, don’t flood your pages with links. Just use them where they’ll provide more detail about your content, give readers a chance to explore interests, and demonstrate the credibility of your statements. If you’d like to deep dive into how different links to your site can impact Google’s rankings, take a look at this article on Google’s Valuation of Links by Cyrus Shepard for Moz.
Try to always include an explanation to the link in the content, and link to a phrase in the explanation, rather than using things like ‘click here’.
Internal links (links to other pages on your own site) don’t contribute as highly to ranking, but they’re still helpful. From a reader’s point of view, they give the chance to easily learn more about a topic or about your business, which helps to build interest and trust. They also keep visitors on your site longer (session duration), which is another metric Google tracks.
One of the most common problems with search engine optimization scopes is not including a budget for link building, it is the #1 most common error. Make sure your online marketing agency has a budget for link building. It is the single biggest factor in search engine rankings!
One more word about your whole site: you absolutely must be optimized for mobile! If you’re not, you’re definitely missing out on rankings.
Content Failure #4: You’re not Utilizing Other Channels
If you’re only focusing on on-page SEO, you’re missing out on big opportunities. Things like social signaling (social media posts and shares) matter, and it’s another one of the things that makes website content rank higher. Create content that people want to engage with and share—and then journey to your site.
Businesses need to leverage every opportunity to gain quality traffic to their sites through press, social media, other qualified websites, and other media channels. Fortunately, you don’t need to be on all the platforms to help with ranking! But the ones you are on, you need to be regular and active.
Make sure all your social media sites are on-brand, and the bios contain clear information about how to connect with your company and visit your website. Every single post on your website needs to be sharable on the main social media sites.
This isn’t something to only relegate to your social media manager. Get your employees engaged with sharing their professional accomplishments and business-relevant news on their LinkedIn page.
Here are just a few social signals that help with ranking:
- Tweets and retweets (with extra points if people with more followers retweet)
- Total shares
- Mentions on discussion boards
- Social Sharing velocity
Keep engaged on the platforms you choose to be on. Respond to positive and negative posts and keep your branding consistent in every post; relying on your voice and tone to project a consistent message across all platforms and your website.
Fixing content that isn’t ranking is a long game. Even though these interventions should begin to show positive results quickly, the constant moving target that is Google rankings will continue to force us to be alert, flexible, and responsive. And like any venture in life that is worth doing, only hard work and consistency will earn the results you are looking for.
However, no matter what metrics change when it comes to rankings, excellent, engaging content posted regularly and shared across platforms will always be a key part of getting your website in front of the people who are looking for what you have.