I’ve Optimized My Website, But I’m Still Not Ranking in Google

We often talk to clients who have either tried to do DIY SEO and optimized their website themselves, or hired an SEO firm to do it for them, yet they are still not ranking in Google.

You must not confuse optimizing a website to score well on all the website tools, with one that provides real value to your users. The SEO audit tools are great for uncovering foundational or crawl issues, but when it comes to adding value for your users, they can’t give you answers. Bill Ross, Linchpin CEO

With that said, Google is also looking at different data points than they once did, and these data points can be the ones that are causing your website to miss the mark.

So what do you do when you’ve optimized your website and it’s still not ranking well in Google?  Start with the traditional elements, and then diver deeper into these advanced metrics that may be impacting your ranking potential.

Google Update

There may have been a Google update that negated many of the questionable SEO strategies that you or your agency just implemented.

We are not saying that Google is always adding major updates to its algorithm, or that SEO is always changing (“SEO is always changing” is a misnomer), but they do consistently perform slight tweak to their core algorithm and add data layers to help their search results become more relevant.

Which is why at it’s core (which has not changed in the last 15 years), SEO is about creating great content, wrapping that content is a great website design and experience, and then marketing that experience for links and value metrics.

Blocking Google

The first thing to check is if you’ve blocked Google from crawling your website. This is not an uncommon issue. There are a few ways you can unknowingly block your website.

  • Releasing a website update from staging to production
  • When redesigning your website

In both cases the the developer or designer either forgets to remove the noindex/nofollow code from the templates, forgot to remove the disallow directive from your robots.txt file, or if designing in WordPress, forgetting to uncheck the box in Settings > Reading > section that says “Discourage search engines from indexing this site.”.

Experience

Your website’s experience is a key element that Google’s algorithm is becoming more sensitive to. The experience of your website includes the design, functionality, information architecture, content, and overall website usability.

When any or all of these elements that make up the website experience fall short of user expectation it can cause negative impacts on rankings, traffic, and conversions.

Wrong Keyword Targets

Targeting the correct keywords is key for increasing not only traffic but also conversions. The biggest mistakes business owners, marketers or SEO professionals make when searching for keywords to target includes:

  • Targeting Highly Competitive Head Terms
  • Targeting Based Solely Keyword Search Volume
  • Forgetting The User’s Intent

When doing keyword research it is important to make sure the keywords you are targeting are closely related to your primary product or service’s value, align with user intent, and target the problems that your users are experiencing.

Rememeber, just because a keyword has a high search volume, it does not mean its the correct keyword to target.

Content Value

Google’s quest to define and show high value content within it’s search results has been almost a decade long project. With updates to their algorithm such as Hummingbird, Panda, and the many tweaks they have implemented to surface local content, without content that provides value to your users you will have a hard time ranking.

When creating content for your website – product pages, service pages, or blog pages there are many things to consider.

A few of these include:

Topic Target – start with the topic and narrow down to the supporting keywords.

Keyword – the keyword targets should include the secondary topics that support your primary topic.

Content Depth – stop creating short 500 word articles. With the numerous studies and data that show long form content has higher engagement, earns more links and social shares, and ranks better in Google, creating generic short form content is a waste of time and money.

Content Type –  users consume content in different ways. Make sure you are including images, videos, and lists within your content to help align with content consumption trends.

Content Hierarchy – Stop creating content with no structure. As we have mentioned in many of our resources, users don’t read they skim. This fact makes it vitally important to have a hierarchy to your content, and not just have paragraph after paragraph.

Content Target – make sure you are aligning the content you are creating with what your primary personas and users expect. Missing this step can have major negative impacts from conversions down to rankings.

Inbound Links

Inbound links are still a core signal in Google’s ranking algorithm for the majority of search terms.

A misconception is that you can write generic content, do a ton of link building to that piece of content, and thus strong-arm Google into ranking the generic content – it won’t work.

We have tested this premise and the even with a ton of high quality links pointing to a generic short form piece of content, the majority of the time it does not rank – which means Google knows and can understand value independent of links.

Competition

When trying to understand why your website isn’t ranking, even though you have done everything correct – according to website audit tools – take a look at your competition.

You’re not competing against an algorithm, you’re competing against the value your competitors are creating. – Bill Ross, CEO LinchpinSEO

When analyzing your competitive to better understand what tactics they are using to create value there are a few primary data points to examine.

  • Their Website Design and Experience
  • Their Content
  • Their Link Graph
  • Social Integration and Utilization

Remember, it’s ok to study a competitor’s tactics, but be weary of copying strategy, as you never know if it’s actually working for them.

Transition Plan

The last thing that could be impacting rankings, even if you feel you have optimized your website perfectly, is the impact of a brand refresh or redesign.

Every few years it is recommended that you do a brand and website refresh to align with current trends and user expectations. Where most websites fall short and impact traffic numbers is the lack of implementing a transition plan.

A transition plan helps in two key areas:

  • Transitioning Users – this helps minimize user confusion.
  • Transitioning Google – this helps retain traffic numbers.

In Conclusion

If you feel you have optimized your website for Google and you’re still not getting the rankings you feel you deserve, you or your agency have probably missed the mark on one of the above items.

If ranking in Google was easy, then anyone would be able to do it, but the truth is, it’s not easy and it takes time, resources, and an SEO professional that is at the forefront of digital strategy to get you there.

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