An emotive question?
Maybe, but sometimes rose-tinted glasses need to come off when you’re looking at your content and wondering why it isn’t ranking as well as you had hoped.
So why don’t I make first page in Google?
That’s one of the most common questions clients ask me.
It’s much harder to rank in organic search these days, for these main reasons:
- Exponential growth in the number of websites – according to internetlivestats.com, There were 1.6 billion websites washing around the internet last year. This is 60% more than just 2 years earlier, and means that there are 600 million more websites competing with yours;
- More businesses starting up than ever before. In the UK alone, there are 30% more businesses than there were 10 years ago;
- Great website-building platforms make it so easy for the smaller guys to punch above their weight. Business owners no longer need to pay agencies large sums of money to create content and update their websites for them. Many are creating great-looking, hard-hitting, informative content themselves, or outsourcing the work to dedicated content writers;
- Content publishing is easy. Aside from the pages and posts that you can easily add to your website, think about the ease with which you can create, edit and publish professional-looking videos. Add those to the search pot alongside social media posts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, and this swells the searchable content massively;
So we have a mountain of new content getting spidered and indexed every day… with no sign of it abating…
…and yet, there is still the same number of organic search results  delivered on the first page of Google.
So how do you make sure you outrank your competition?
Is it actually possible?
What terms are you hoping to rank for?
Hands up how many of you write your page or post content without giving any consideration to what search term(s) your ideal visitor might use to find your article?
Is it an informational piece? Are you answering a question? Are you offering a product or service comparison? Is it a sales page?
In short: What does your content offer? Who will it be useful to? What would their intent be (buy; learn; compare; research; etc.)?
It’s always a good idea to have some search terms in mind before you start putting finger to keyboard. If you don’t, and unless you are very lucky, your content is only likely to be found by visitors who are specifically directed to it. So, for example, via newsletters, social media posts, etc.
This might be ok!
You might not be looking any further than your current email list. There is such a lot of content competing for the top spots that this might be your best hope. If you’re ok with that, then you may not need to read on.
Still here? Then…
You want your content to rank in organic search results
We wrote a long-form blog post some time ago with lots of tips on what to do every time you write a blog post. This checklist, along with our post on how to choose the right blog post topic, goes a long way to helping you create highly rankable content, and we’re not going to duplicate that here (as content duplication is not good for SEO!).
What I want to do right now, though, is to ask you to run through this process with one of your existing pieces of content – either a blog post or one of your pages.
Pick your ideal search term for your page
If there was one search term that would be gold dust for you to rank for, what would it be? If there was one question people might have, that would be answered by your article, what is it?
Now search for that term in Google
You want to avoid Google influencing your search results by picking up any of your account information, so open up an incognito (or private) browsing window and search for your term there.
What do the 10 returned organic search results show you?
Forget the sponsored results (the first 3 or 4 results you see, with ‘Ad’ next to them). Ignore [for now] what’s called ‘the local pack’, if they exist. These are the 3 or 4 results listed with a Google Map with some review stars and are generally shown for local results between the sponsored ads and the organic results.
Look at the 10 organic results that are returned.
What do those results look like?
Do they look more compelling, and more relevant, than your offering?
Do they seem to satisfy the intent of the search term better than yours?
If your search term is asking a question, do the search results look like they are going to answer it?
Remember that search engines want you to keep using them, so their main aim is to deliver search results on that first page that they think are going to satisfy your need.
Here is the result of one such search. We searched for ‘WordPress Care Packages’, and this is what shows up…
Hopefully, That exercise should have given you some clues.
Here’s what I think about each search result, from position 1 to position 7.
The first big clue to note is that ALL OF THE SEARCH RESULTS mention the term ‘wordpress care package’ (or very close variations of this).
Position 1 – this search result is highlighting some reviews, which make them stand out from the rest (even though they only score 3.7 out of 5!). They are the only result in the list with reviews! [Clue number 2] My task having seen this is to try to get my search result to show reviews like this.
Positions 2,3,4, 6, and 7 – these search results mention ‘wordpress care package’ several times in their SEO title and meta description. The meta description looks like it is not set up fully, though. Either that or Google has decided not to use the one the website owners nominated [which apparently happens in around 45% of cases]. Looking at these search results, it’s clear that the real value lies in the target pages themselves. So we will need to look at those for further clues as to why they have ranked as high as they have.
Position 5 – This is our favourite! The SEO title and meta descriptions are complete and offer a good reason for searchers to click to find out more. We would expect this to have one of the highest click-through rates. The one thing that might be improved here is the URL itself. The slug is /wordpress-care-packages/ and probably should be /wordpress-care-packages/. This might help rank this a place or two higher.
Now click on each of the organic search results to visit the websites.
Take a good look at each of these pages, and compare them with your one. Try to figure out what Google would see in them that it doesn’t see in yours.
Do the pages load faster than yours?
Do the pages load over https? Look for the padlock in the browser address bar. If your site doesn’t have this, it really should do.
Do the pages contain lots more content than yours? Generally, although not always, more text means more information. The challenge is going to be writing enough for search engines to believe it to be credible, and not so much that it deters real visitors.
Are your competitor pages informative? Do they answer questions? Do they give information away without hiding it behind paywalls and contact form submissions?
Are they written in a way that would engage more than yours – e.g. videos, images, dynamic elements?
Do they offer a range of ideas, suggestions, comparisons, and possibilities?
Does the content appear authoritative? Do they contain quotes, references, and testimonials?
Does it have a lot of social proof (likes, shares, comments, etc.)?
Is the website itself highly reputable, with lots of authority? Try out the Moz Toolbar to find out what page and domain authority it gives to your site (and others).
Is your search phrase, and closely related phrases, mentioned in the content (and especially in page title, headings, and sub-headings)?
Not looking good?
If your content falls short in these areas, then you either need to:
- improve it (to be more like [better than] the successful ones);
- go after a less challenging search term;
- give up;
- decide to play the long game;
The Long Game
If you can be both patient AND prolific, you may be in with a chance of building some great future value with your content. Your content will need to be able to stand the test of time for this (or you need to edit it from time to time to make sure it is current).
The idea here is that over time you build enough great content for your website as a whole to be seen as authoritative for your particular topic. This would mean finding your niche, writing loads of top content, linking your articles together, getting it shared, and getting people to leave comments.
Over time (think possibly years), if you do this you will start to see increased organic search traffic. It might not be for the specific search terms you were targeting, but it should still be traffic that is relevant to you.
You might think you have missed the boat.
You’ve no doubt seen the Chinese(?) proverb…
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago….
…the second best time is TODAY!
If you can play the long game with your content, you may well be smiling a few years from now.
I hope I’ve stimulated some thought processes. There are no answers here. There can’t be, as every piece of content will be different with variable keyword opportunities, and a different competitive landscape. Hopefully, it’s given you something to think about when writing your content if you really do want to compete for one of those precious top 10 Google organic search positions.
What is working for you? Leave us a comment below to let us know, and do like and share our content if you have found it useful.