As someone who works with search engine optimization every day I hear this question quite often, “my website isn’t ranking when I search for (insert keyword here) what do I do?” I understand why I’m being asked this question. It’s because businesses are relying on traffic from search engines to drive their business. But every time I hear this question I am reminded how fast SEO changes and how much help our clients need.
Search Has Changed
Search Is Personal
The first thing that we need to understand is that search engines have changed. The biggest change is that search is personalized. What you see in search results is tailored specifically to you. This isn’t new, Google started doing this in 2009. So the first flaw to asking me the question, “my website isn’t ranking when I search for (insert keyword here) what do I do?” is that you actually don’t really know where your site ranks for that keyword because that rank is different depending on who is doing the searching. Personalized search raises a lot of exciting possibilities and serious questions about privacy. Personalized search results isn’t the only change, but it’s probably the biggest one to understand when having a conversation about where your site ranks.
So What Can We Do?
Now that we know that rank is a metric that can’t be trusted for measuring your SEO success what do you do?
Find a New Metric for Success
Understand that your goal in SEO is not simply to rank #1 for a specific keyword. Your goal is to drive the best traffic possible. It may be better to take a look at acquisition reporting in Google Analytics. This will help you understand where traffic is coming from and help you understand the quality of the traffic.
Get to Know Webmaster Tools
Both Google and Bing offer a free Webmaster Tools platform. Both of these tools will give you a good idea of where your content ranks and what keywords searchers are using to find your site. The more you understand Webmaster Tools the more you will understand how search engines view your site.
But My Website Still Doesn’t Rank for (Insert Keyword Here)!
If you are still 100% convinced that rank matters and you absolutely need to earn a high ranking for your keywords take a step back and reconsider your strategy. Search engines are so smart that they provide personalized results. Do you really think you can fool them by cramming a bunch of keywords onto a page and find success over night? If your site is not “ranking” for your keywords there are hundreds of ranking signals that we will have to review. Including…
- Your social media strategy
- The length of your content
- The competitive landscape (including paid search)
- Links pointing to your site
- How your URLs are structured
- The internal linking of your site
- Search volume
- And so much more…
It’s Hard to Hit a Moving Target
The fact of the matter is that SEO today is a moving target that has the ability to shake off direct hits. SEO is not a set and forget it tactic. SEO is your online marketing strategy. If your site isn’t ranking for your keywords my answer is, what’s your strategy? If you don’t have one, we need to start there.