With Google’s advancements, taking your pages to the next level requires you to work on more than keywords. Earning page one rankings demands a multi-tiered SEO approach that pairs content quality with site authority.
Here are five common reasons pages don’t rank higher – and what you can do to change that.
1. Pages with poor content quality
When someone says they want to rank in search results, I ask, “Do you really think that your content is worthy of page 1?” Most of the time, the answer is no. That’s one contributing factor explaining why 90.6% of pages get zero organic traffic from Google.
In the early days of SEO, the inclusion of the right keywords was all that was needed to rank. Now, Google understands how comprehensive, original, researched, and optimally organized your content is.
Poor quality content with all the right keywords doesn’t make the cut anymore.
How can you create – and signal – quality content? Incorporate these three ideas:
- Semantic richness: Google doesn’t just look for single keywords. They look for synonyms, related terms, and subtopics with a semantic relationship to the primary keyword. Expand your content, including meta tags, to optimize for keyword clusters.
- Topical depth: Google understands the comprehensiveness of content. Longer content tends to rank higher in SERPs. Plus, Google now digs deeper into web content to deliver search results. Its new Passage Ranking feature finds sections of text – and highlights them in the results – that answers the searcher’s questions. More in-depth content can mean more chances to rank
2. No advanced HTML tags
Google is getting better at understanding human language, but their crawlers are still robots. HTML tags are still essential to communicate the topical relevance of your pages to users’ search queries.
On most pages, meta tags aren’t optimized the most effectively. They:
- Do not include the keyword or page content in the page title.
- Do not tailor meta descriptions sufficiently to engage the user.
- Fail to use heading tags strategically, using semantically related terms.
But that’s not the big problem. Google is less reliant on those standard HTML tags to understand what the page is about.
Google does have a harder time understanding which pages on your site are most valuable or important. And you aren’t using the advanced HTML tags that can help them.
Here’s how to fix that:
- Rel canonical: This tag means Google won’t spend its limited crawl time indexing redundant pages.
- Noindex and nofollow: The tags tell Google to move along – so it doesn’t spend its time indexing pages you deem as less valuable. Their inclusion points Google to your important pages – those with strong ranking or conversion potential. Those are the pages you want Google’s crawlers indexing.
- Schema.org markup: Schema.org is a shared structuring vocabulary. Using it helps Google easily extract data from your pages and display them more prominently in the SERPs.
3. Sub-par page experience
Google has provided many free tools to help you assess the page experience as it relates to their standards:
- PageSpeed Insights lets you input a URL and see your score along with recommendations about improving site speed and load times. (Strive for a score of 80 or higher.)
- Core Web Vitals Report in your Google Search Console account identifies errors picked up by their crawlers. These problems relate to interactivity, visual stability, load times, and performance.
To achieve a better score or report from Google, these easy, quick fixes can help:
- Optimize images: Save site images in the smallest possible file size without reducing image quality on the user’s end.
- Reduce redirects: Never require more than one redirect to get to any of your resources and never link to a page that redirects the visitor to another page.
- Use browser caching: Pages are loaded more quickly for returning visitors with this trick.
4. Low domain authority
Although high-quality content is essential to ranking, off-site signals communicate how well your site is trusted – one of the top factors for Google. To assess this, Google looks at backlinks – other sites linking to your page.
You can forego the volume backlink strategy – get as many links as possible on as many sites regardless of relevancy or quality. Google doesn’t like that. Do it the right way, even though it probably requires more resources:
- Identify sites with high domain authority where links to your content would be relevant.
- Create an outreach program to secure those links. (Guest blogging can be a good way to do this.)
- Think about the anchor text when linking to your pages.
5. Internal competition
A strong on-page and off-site strategy may not be enough. Your pages may not rank as well because they’re competing with other pages on your site. This is called “keyword cannibalization.” Faced with similar pages, Google’s crawler can’t identify the most important or relevant page.
To resolve keyword cannibalization:
- Use long-tail keyword targets.
- Look to the subtopics, related keyword phrases, or autocompletes that distinguish one page from another.
- Do your website housekeeping: Update outdated content and prune underperforming content.
In the end, none of these fixes will work if your pages don’t contain quality content. But if you publish the best, most relevant content to searchers – and follow these fixes – you most likely will see your pages’ rankings improve.
All tools included in this article are suggested by the author. If you have a tool to share, please include it in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute