It is common for Google to rank a page for keywords other than the ones for which we would like the particular page to rank. How can you guide Google to improve the ranking of a page for the keywords you want? Explore variations Type your target keyword in the Google keyword tool. Unless my website can compete with the Content Marketing Institute, Wikipedia, Copyblogger, Quick Sprout, and the other high-authority websites, nothing I do will get me to the first positions. You don’t want to spend your efforts pursuing rankings you cannot achieve but rather focus on identifying keywords that can realistically improve your page’s results.Don’t forget that high rankings for long-tail keywords build trust that gradually can result in better rankings for more competitive keywords. On-page SEO is your starting point, particularly: Page titles: Include your target keyword (or variations) but don’t do keyword stuffing. Google is not using Google AdSense prominently in the page title but the page is optimized for the long-tail keyword phrase, “make money online.” Notice how the keyword optimization comes first in the title and then the brand name: Page descriptions: Google may choose not to show your description on the SERPs, but it is still important to provide a custom description for each and every page of your website, especially the pages you want to rank higher. Think internal When you’re trying to improve the ranking position of a page, the rest of your site can help a lot: Use variations of your target keyword as anchor text on your other pages and link them to your targeted page. Take a look at the internal links section in a search engine optimization starter guide released by Google a few years ago: Among other things, it mentions: “In either of these cases, the better your anchor text is, the easier it is for Google to understand what the page you’re linking to is about.” I know this is outdated information when it comes to external links, but it is still valid for internal links. In a short two-paragraph blog, the writer uses more than five internal links, some of which are highly optimized: Relevance of the rest of the pages Besides internal links, another measure is to make sure that related content is published on your website.
Editor’s note: You may have missed this article when CMI published it last year. We’re sharing it now because improving your keyword efforts is always top of mind for content marketers.
SEO does not always work the way we want. It is common for Google to rank a page for keywords other than the ones for which we would like the particular page to rank.
What can you do? How can you guide Google to improve the ranking of a page for the keywords you want?
The simple answer is that you need to make sure that Google “receives” the right signals from your page to optimize it, but this is not always easy.
A thin line separates optimization and over-optimization. Optimization is good, as it will increase the page’s rankings, while over-optimization is bad, as it can generate exactly the opposite results.
Let’s see how you can optimize a page for a keyword and improve its rankings in an efficient way by avoiding over-optimization mistakes.
Find baseline ranking
Before doing anything else, find out where your page ranks today for the keywords you want to improve. Without a baseline, you will not be able to measure progress.
You can do it manually (i.e., search for your keyword in Google and take note of your position) or use a rank-tracking tool that can do this daily automatically.
Caveat: Don’t expect to magically go from position 40 to position 10. Improvement comes gradually, but you need to know your starting point.
Type your target keyword in the Google keyword tool. You are looking for two things. First, find variations of your target keyword, especially long-tail keywords. Second, look at the competition for each of those keywords. You will use this data later.
Doing quick keyword research gives you a better idea of how difficult your keyword is and what other options you have. Next, go to the Google search engine and type your keyword. Look at these three things:
- Pages that appear on the first search engine results page
- Suggestions for “related searches” at the bottom of the page
Revise and confirm expectations
The initial research – before you make any changes to the page – ensures that your expectations are correct. By expectations, I mean the end result you want to achieve. Some pointers to consider:
- Are your expectations realistic? If your target keyword has high traffic, it also has a lot of competition. Can you compete with those websites?Take a closer look at the first 10 results. Are all results from high-authority websites? Is Google ranking a domain (i.e., the home page of a website) or a single page for the particular keyword?Click the links and open the first five pages. Is that content better than yours in both quantity and quality? Examine each website more carefully. Are they “big” websites with lots of pages? Are they blogs? Are they corporate websites? Try to gather as much information as possible.
- Why go to all this trouble? For one simple reason: Although in life nothing is impossible, in SEO not all things are possible.I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes we don’t rank for what we want but instead for what is realistic.The good news is that there is a way out, and let me explain. I would love to optimize my website to rank for “content marketing” but this is impossible. Take a look at the Google results for this keyword.
Unless my website can compete with the Content Marketing Institute, Wikipedia, Copyblogger, Quick Sprout, and the other high-authority websites, nothing I do will get me to the first positions. I can get a place on the second or third pages but that’s as far as I can go.
- Should I give up and quit? Of course not. This is where the long-tail keywords and proper page optimization come to the rescue. Go through the list of long-tail keywords you gathered and find keywords with significant volume but not such strong competitors.In my example, “content marketing tips” is a good long-tail candidate and a better one is “content marketing tips for small businesses.”Some may argue that the traffic gained from the long-tail keywords does not compare to that of the main keywords. This is true, but it’s a more realistic approach for keyword success. You don’t want to spend your efforts pursuing rankings you cannot achieve but rather focus on identifying keywords that can realistically improve your page’s results.Don’t forget that high rankings for long-tail keywords build trust that gradually can result in better rankings for more competitive keywords.
Review on-page SEO
Now that you have set realistic expectations, you can start doing some real work.
On-page SEO is your starting point, particularly:
- Page titles: Include your target keyword (or variations) but don’t do keyword stuffing. Mentioning your keyword in a natural way in the title is enough. Google’s RankBrain machine-learning technology is clever enough to associate different keywords and…