Content Isn’t Ranking. But Why?
If you’re even marginally familiar with SEO, you’ve likely heard the maxim “content is king.”
While I won’t be discussing that exact topic today, the claim still has some relevance here.
Suppose you’ve done your market research, scoped out the high-traffic pages you’re looking to optimize, and written your killer, keyword-infused content.
Then you slap it on your site and sit back and wait.
Months go by, and those pages still aren’t ranking well.
In fact, there’s almost no change in positions at all, and sales are flat.
How many of you have been in this exact position?
You’ve done everything you knew you had to do, but for some reason, it just didn’t work.
Obviously, this will be a frustrating situation for you. But all is not necessarily lost, and that content you slaved over need not have been crafted in vain.
In this post, we’re going to review some probable reasons why search engines just aren’t picking up your content.
1. What Are You Writing About?
Search engine algorithms consider hundreds of ranking factors when “choosing” where to position your webpage.
These range from your link profile to your page speed.
But before addressing anything else, I’m recommending you look at the subjects of your content pieces, plain and simple.
- What are you writing about?
- Does it answer user questions that you’ve researched (e.g., in SEMrush’s topic research tool or deduced from Google Analytics data)?
- Will it be useful to a wide audience?
These are questions surrounding content relevance.
Your content needs to have several qualities for search engines to consider it relevant. It needs to be original, authoritative, and directly related to the webpage where it will be posted.
Search engines know that users have no interest in reading duplicated, plagiarized, or irrelevant content. As such, you’d have to dive deep into Google’s SERPs to find such content.
That isn’t where you want to be.
Do your research beforehand so you can write brilliant content that you yourself would want to read if you searched for a topic online.
Don’t be afraid to go long, either. The more you do to make your content appear smart, original, and reliable, the better off you will be.
This will all go a long way toward getting your pages to climbs those SERPs.
2. What Keywords Are You Using?
The issue of keywords in your content opens up a kind of web of subtopics.
You already know keywords have their place within all written SEO content, but where do you go from there?
Well, perhaps you need to audit the type of keyword research you’re doing.
You have to be attacking keywords with high search volumes, but, as you may have noticed, it can be quite challenging to try to rank for keywords such as “garden tools store” or “san antonio lawyers.”
Instead, I’d like to call your attention to the long-tail keyword.
Do you think your webpages will attract more potential buyers with “winter coats” or “men’s wool winter pea coats”?
The latter is a long-tail keyword that is more likely to convert for your business because it is highly specific and most likely represents a later stage of a customer buying cycle.
People using that search term are more likely to be ready to make a purchase.
Do your research on the right long-tail keywords for your business. You can do this just by seeing what search engines populate in their predictive text when you search one or two words.
Check out these keyword phrases in tools (e.g., SEMrush or Google’s Keyword Planner) to see how they are performing in the industry. Then leverage them to draw those users in with relevant content optimized for those keywords.
Further, just as content can get old and become in dire need of a refresh, so, too, can keywords. Never think of anything in SEO as being evergreen.
A top-performing keyword that got things done for you last year or even last month can do some funky things in the interim.
Stay on top of your keyword research so you can always keep your content freshly optimized and relevant.
3. Update, Update, Update
By now, you might be noticing a common theme in all these points: relevance rules your rankings.
We’ve talked about how relevant content, with fresh keywords, will go a long way toward ensuring users actually find your website.
And in the same way that content or keywords that were relevant some months ago can fall quickly out of favor with search engines, your website itself can also begin declining in rankings if you don’t regularly update your content.
While the age of your domain may also hold some weight in determining organic ranking, it doesn’t matter much if your content is stale.
Search engines care that you’re keeping up with everyone else in terms of producing relevant, authoritative, optimized content.
If you haven’t given your web content a significant audit in more than a few months, it’s time to commit yourself to doing exactly that.
Take a look at the keywords your content is using and update where needed.
Again, you can use SEMrush’s topic research tool to see how users’ search questions and other interests may have changed since you last checked in.
Just search your keywords yourself and investigate some of your competition.
- How many of them weren’t there when you created your website and did your initial keyword research?
- How might the presence of a strong new competitor affect your rankings, especially if your industry is focused on a niche product or service?
I pose these questions to help you think about how to update your on-site content on a regular basis.
If your website doesn’t already have one, it’s also a great idea to start a company blog and publish to it on a schedule.
As you can imagine, more or less keeping to that schedule’s deadlines by publishing new blog posts will tell search engines that your pages are up to date and relevant. After that, well, you know the rest.
4. Your Link Profile Is Weak
This point I truly cannot stress enough. Inbound links still matter. A lot.
In fact, don’t assume that great content will rank without an effortful link building strategy.
Try to think about your webpages from Google’s perspective.
If Google sees your content is strong, your keywords are fresh, you update regularly, but your site has no inbound links, why is it going to rank you highly?
For all Google knows, you’re up to something that’s keeping other sites from wanting to link to you. Google, consequently, wants to keep you out of its top rankings.
If it’s easier, simply think about links from a user’s perspective.
Finding your site via a link from a blog tells users that the blog trusts your site, that your site is relevant enough to be linked to from a third party with its own reputation to protect.
Our hypothetical users then click on that link and discover your site, with its fresh, relevant, optimized content ready to answer their questions and even direct them to other useful sites with its own links.
Links keep users flowing from site to site, but, more importantly, they make your own site look reliable.
I’ve written previously on Search Engine Journal about competitive link analysis, one of the most reliable ways to build links back to your website.
Competitive link analysis starts with evaluating who is linking to your competition.
Examine why the referring domains may have agreed to link to those competitors.
- What kinds of domains are they?
- What unites them?
- Who are their audiences?
- How do your competitors’ link profiles differ from yours?
- Furthermore, what are your competitors doing that you aren’t doing to earn those links?
When you discover the answers to these questions, you’ll know what you have to do, and who you have to target to build your own links.
Your job then becomes endeavoring for those referring domains to link to your website, either through an optimized piece of extant content or through new content that you craft specifically for this purpose.
You can also present pages on your site as ideal replacements for dead or broken links on those referring domains.
No, this isn’t easy, but think of the authority that comes with a robust backlink profile.
If all else fails, build those links!
To Sum Up
Now, in the midst of thinking about all that I’ve presented to you, don’t forget that a number of technical SEO issues may also be affecting your rankings.
Mobile speed, page-load time, and problems with your XML sitemap can all drive users away from your site.
However, assuming none of these things are giving you trouble, read through my four points again.
And remember: when your content, keywords, webpages, and backlink profile are up to date and addressing user concerns, your SEO will be miles ahead of your competitors who aren’t as aware as you are.