Do Your Google Keyword Rankings Suck? Do This.

google keyword rankings

Every business wants to increase Google keywords rankings, but most struggle to do so.

Why is that?

Because most people trying to do SEO throw sh*t at the wall and hope for the best.

Those days are over.

Today, I’m going to show you how to increase your keyword rankings in Google step-by-step. Just follow my lead and you’ll start seeing improvements (as long as you put in the work).

Let’s start.

6 Ways to Increase Your Google Keyword Rankings

1. Qualify Your Target Keyword(s)

One of the biggest issues I find is that people try to rank for keywords that are way too competitive (use this keyword research guide if you don’t have any keywords yet). For example, new websites shouldn’t be targeting competitive keywords.

That’s why you must go through the process of first qualifying your keyword based all the available data you have. Then, you need to analyze the competition for your target keyword to make sure it’s worth the time, resources, and effort.

This brief analysis will save you a lot of headache down the road. Let me start with the first part of this process, qualification.

Keyword qualification simply means confirming that your target keyword actually has interest. The most obvious qualification metric is monthly search volume that you can find within the Google Keyword Planner.

Other tools like Keywords Everywhere, SEMRush, and Ahrefs will also give your rough search volume estimates.

The reason why you don’t want to solely rely on search volume estimates is because:

  1. They aren’t 100% accurate
  2. Most people base their entire keyword research strategy on it and..
  3. There are other ways to qualify ideas outside of search volume. Those include user signals, social engagement, trends (from Google Trends), and even backlinks.

These are “signals” that your topic is qualified.

Watch this video to see exactly how to qualify your keywords:

After you’ve established that your keyword is worth your effort, you have to analyze your competition. There are two types of competitor analysis. The first is what I like to call the 10-second competitor analysis.

There are two ways to perform this short analysis. You can simply enter your target keyword in the Ahrefs Keyword Explorer tool.

Ahrefs will then give you estimated of the “Keyword Difficulty”.

keyword difficulty ahrefs

I’ve actually found this to be pretty accurate.

The other method is scan the first page of Google results for your target keyword. You’ll either need to install the Moz or Ahrefs toolbar to do this.

I recommend reading my SEO content guide because I explain exactly what you need to look for.

If you keyword passes the qualification and competitor test, then you’re ready to move onto the next step.

2. Audit Your Site

Poor technical and UX performance can plague your site’s performance. That’s why it’s fundamental that you audit your site to make sure it’s on a strong foundation.

I recommend reading my SEO audit guide because it will show you every factor you need to look for.

The truth is most people don’t take technical SEO and User Experience (UX) seriously. This is a big mistake.

You have to remember that even if you do successfully improve your keyword rankings in Google, it’s not a guarantee that they will stick. The “stickiness” of your rankings will be determined by how users are interacting with your page and website as a whole.

Most tactics you’ll learn in this guide will increase your organic search traffic, but solid technical SEO and UX is what will keep users happy and keep them on your website.

After you’ve performed a site audit and cleaned all technical and UX issues, it’s time to dissect the page you’re trying to rank.

3. Analyze Your Target Page

You can get keyword research and technical SEO right, but if your target page sucks, you won’t rank well.

Nothing is more important than the actual page you’re trying to rank in Google.

If your target page doesn’t at least match the quality of what’s already ranking, then you have some work to do.

My philosophy for creating keyword-targeted pages is that the page must be substantially DIFFERENT and 10x more valuable than what currently exists.

Of course, users are who will decide what’s valuable, but you need to at least operate with these standards.

That means you need to be honest with yourself:

  • Did you put in as much effort as your competitors?
  • Does your page bring anything new to the table or is it just rehashed information that already exists?
  • Is your page 10x more valuable than theirs?

These questions are easy to answer when you’re analyzing blog-driven search results.

But what about when you’re a local business?

Let’s say you’re a plumber and you want to rank for “best St. Louis plumber.”

The first thing you would want to do is look the ranking results and determine what the search intent is. From a customer cycle perspective, it’s obvious that the search query “best St. Louis plumber” is in the investigative or possibility transactional phase. This means the searcher is likely looking to hire a plumber in the near future.

But one other element you need to analyze is HOW are your competitors ranking.

In the case of “best St. Louis plumber”, you’ll notice that the majority of the local pack results are using homepages.

This is an indication that you should do the same.

But then the question is:

How do you create a homepage that is different and more valuable than what’s ranking?

It all starts with your service.

What makes your plumbing service different and better than your competitors?

Then after that, you need to think how you can be more helpful than your competitors.

  • What information can you give your customers to help them make a better decision?
  • What expertise can you give them in advance to prove that you’re the authority and plumber they should pick?

Lastly, focus on the design and UX for your homepage. The better the experience, the more likely a prospect will favor your company.

My favorite way to spice up a homepage is to add video content. Video is a powerful sales tool, but it can also help your SEO performance because it increases user dwell time on your page.

I recommend reading and taking action on my SEO content guide to understand the concepts I’ve mentioned on a deeper level.

Now I want to show you one of the quickest ways to improve your rankings (after you’ve taken the previous steps).

4. Leverage Existing Authority

As soon as I publish a new keyword-targeted page, I immediately look for opportunities to inject internal links to it. This is the fastest way to send authority to a page, which will often give it an immediate boost in rankings (once Google recognizes the changes). My order of operations is usually to add internal links on my most authoritative pages.

Here’s how you can do it:

Go to Ahrefs, click on Site Explorer, enter your URL and start the analysis.

Then click on “Best by Links” under the pages section.

Ahrefs Best by Links

Ahrefs will then show you what pages on your website have the most backlinks.

These are the pages you want to add internal links to if it makes sense. This strategy will give you nice boost in most scenarios, but usually won’t be enough to give you a dramatic push in rankings.

That’s why you need to then go through the process of acquiring more backlinks.

5. Acquire More Backlinks

Backlinks are one of the most important factors for increasing your Google keyword rankings. I recommend reading my guide on backlinks because it will give you the foundation you need for understanding how to do effective white hat link building.

I also recommending watching this video:

I’m someone who prefers content-centric link building strategies.

My strategy is simple:

Create incredibly valuable content assets that people will WANT to link to.

The SEO content guide I mentioned above is a good place to start.

There are some link building tactics that I leverage that do not have content dependencies.

Some of those include:

  • Guest posting
  • Link lists/resource pages
  • Expert roundups
  • HARO submissions
  • blogroll placements

It’s important to note that each of these link types requires different anchor text distributions to avoid getting penalized. For example, you should only use branded anchor text for blogroll link placements. That’s because most blogrolls are site-wide and you don’t want a keyword-rich anchor being distributed across thousands of pages.

Acquiring backlinks is a big topic and that’s why I’ve dedicated an entire page to it. Make sure you check out the guide above to learn more.

The last piece of the puzzle for improving your keyword rankings in Google is simple:

6. Be Patient

Most SEOs don’t talk about this because they usually have clients breathing down their throat. No client wants to hear “you just need to be patient” when they’re spending money on your SEO services. But it’s the truth.

In my experience, most SEO campaigns pick up steam around the 4-6 month mark, but this isn’t a rule. Every campaign is different and therefore unfolds in its own unique way.

Just stay the course. Keep creating value, acquiring quality backlinks, and caring about user experience. Do these things continually and your rankings will improve without risk of getting penalized.

It’s funny because I believe that impatience is the root of all SEO evil. People get sick of waiting for results, so they decide to jump into the grey or black hat world. I used to live in that world and I used to get results fast. But it doesn’t matter how quickly you get results, when they’re erased overnight.

I would rather take the slow and steady approach and build a long-term business. Don’t look for shortcuts because there aren’t any. Businesses that succeed with SEO in the long-term are those that add the most value to the Internet (with their target niche).

Last Word on Google Keyword Rankings

People still obsess about Google keyword rankings, but they aren’t the most important Key Performance Indictor (KPI). The most important KPI for an SEO campaign is ORGANIC SEARCH TRAFFIC.

Traffic is the goal of SEO. Not keyword rankings. Don’t forget that!

Now of course, you need to rank for keywords to get organic search traffic. But just to remember to prioritize traffic growth over individual keywords rankings as your primary KPI.

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About the Author

Author
Nathan Gotch

Nathan Gotch is the founder and SEO director at Gotch SEO. Listen in to our new podcast, The SEO Life or watch some of our actionable SEO training videos on YouTube!

Comments

  1. Nathan…Great article once again, I’m always excited to read your material when I get the chance. I’ve learnt so much from you. THANK YOU!

  2. Hi Nathan,I have a great honor to be the first to comment on this great article,In fact I had started to lose hopes in ranking my site on the top spot,but after I started implementing some of your techniques like the web2.0 with tier link building,I started to have some hope,and I know it will take some serious work to achieve the top spot.Concerning the factors why most people don’t rank in google ,you have been right in everypoint,and I have one question please .If I’m so lazy on social networks to get more social signals,can I just buy those tweets and facebook likes to do the job,or it will affect my campaign negatively?Thanks so much for clarifying more.
    Cheers

  3. Yo Gotch,

    Nice article. You touched on something I have been wondering about. Would love your opinion. In #9, you mention that Local brick and mortars should receive links from other local sites. This question is two fold..

    a.) most local links are not going to have a relevant topical trust flow. I recall a post you recently wrote that places a lot of clout on that metric. Just curious how you feel about injecting your site with loads of locally relevant links that do not match up with our site’s topical trust flow.

    b.) with that in mind, commonsense says that links from other local businesses are relevant. But how is the local relevance of a linking domain determined in terms of the algo? Is it IP? Both sites have the same city in their meta tags?

    When I think of relevance, I think of 3 things. A.) topical relevance — B.) they rank for same keyword — C.) local relevance. I can see the first two being easy for Google to determine. But how do they measure local relevance? Thanks in advance.

    1. YO Casey,

      Thanks for the comment.

      a) The topical Trust Flow “rule” is a rule that you should TRY to abide by, but it’s challenging to follow it in many scenarios (especially local). You have to use your best judgement when determining relevancy. If your client is a Chicago lawyer and you find a directory dedicated to Chicago businesses only, then that’s going to be of extreme value for that client (regardless of Trust Flow). If you can find a Chicago directory for lawyers with a “Society / Law” topical Trust Flow, then that’s absolute gold. But realistically, it’s hard to find that type of relevancy on the local level.

      b) It’s based primarily only keyword saturation and keyword relevancy of sites within the directory. Mainly because most websites aren’t hosted in their home city or even state. With the same example, a Chicago business directory is only going to have Chicago businesses in it. Google can see that relevancy because it will crawl every site listed and see that “Chicago” relevancy because of META information and NAP-W information listed on the sites.

      1. Hey Gotch,

        This brings up a question. If “local” relevance is determined by keyword relevance & saturation, does the same concept apply to “niche” sites. Here’s what I mean specifically. This site >> getdentist.net doesn’t necessarily have a topical trust flow of “health/dentistry”. But it does have a heavy focus on dentistry. (keyword saturation, all listings are dental related, etc..) Does that make up for the lack of topical trust flow?

        1. Hi Casey,

          Relevancy is relevancy, but if the dentistry site has a Topical Trust Flow for “Health” or something related, it’s going to be much more powerful. If it doesn’t, it will still be a good link, but not as powerful. That’s because Majestic is determining the Topical Trust Flow rating based on the relevancy of the links going to that site.

          Relevant site based on keyword relevancy/saturation + relevant links/Topical Trust Flow = most powerful link
          Relevant site based on keyword relevancy/saturation + irrelevant Topical Trust Flow = decent link

          Hope that makes sense!

  4. good article Gotch but nothing innovative for me, since 2015 I struggle with same things:
    1. Im unable to to rank home pages, only inner pages, sometimes those inner pages shows in serps for competitive keywords. Thing is those inner pages arent even optimized for any keyword.
    2. In some cases I cant rank anywhere for some keywords, no matter how many power links I use, over 6 months and still nothing :/

    Im following basic rule: poke+pillow then giving it a time, sometimes I buy social signals from fiverr (rarely)

    Any idea Gotch? advice ?

    1. Thanks for the comment! Sorry it wasn’t innovate. It’s challenging to diagnose a website’s problem without actually seeing the website. There are over 200 different ranking factors, but based on what you’ve shared, you’re too link focused.

      1. Thanks for reply Gotch ! Im very caution now about building backlinks (many money and PBN sites got deindexed in the past :/ ) And I do lot of onpage SEO experiments, I followed all your onpage guidance months ago and still no effects. Got 2 main problems;

        1. Im unable to poke site to show in serps anywhere in top 100
        2. When I rank it always happens for inner pages and less competitive keywords.

        Questions for you:

        Id like to hear your thoughts on google sandbox effect, whats your experience on that for more competitive KWs ?

        I have also noticed that all top 5-10 sites in my market are old (1+ year) and all of them are registered for more then one year in advance (I always register for 12 months my domains) They expire in 2017,18 and even more. Do you think that could be a factor for Google ? So Google maybe treat those domain more “serious” ?

        Have you ever consider article about SEO for Bing and Yahoo ?

        Ive been following you from months now, always great readings. Since start of the year things changed so much and I struggle to rank anywhere but gonna keep up fighting ! 🙂

          1. Would you consider manual web 2.0s (brand – http://www.xxxx.com etc. anchors) and social signals bought (fiverr etc.) as a good idea for sandbox phase branding ? Most of my sites are PMD. rather impossible for regular “branding” in achors.
            Lastly, by your experience, is it normal that some subpages show ups in SERPs ? not homepage…
            thanks

  5. Nice article. I’ve been preaching social media to my clients for years, knowing that eventually it would be a big influence upon SEO and Google ranking. Now, a lot of people are trying to catch up on some of the techniques you mention that they should have been doing years ago.

  6. While we all agree that it’s kind of naive to think that links don’t matter anymore, this large-scale experiment is a great reminder that things are the same as of mid-2015. So thanks!

    I remember that statement by John Mueller, but we all know why he said that. Google keeps the links factor because it’s the best possible indicator for authority. And they want us to avoid it, because it makes their lives much harder.

    The thing is, even marketers/SEOs who didn’t have anything to worry about before, now need to constantly check their sites’ link profiles, at least at some level, simply because the risk is now too big.

  7. mr, gotch ..i see lot of people using images from google images on their blogs/sites.But what i studied on web is quite opposite.Actually one should not use any image without prior permissions of the copyrighted owner.And i see adsense ads on their site without any problem.How that possible? Is there any editing trick behind that?And please don’t say that old saying “use advanced search filters to find copyright free images”.Those images are not interesting and irrelevant.So pls tell us how to use images from google without getting sued.

  8. Hi Nathan ,
    First of all thanks for such a wonderful post.
    I was trying to rank my website (removed) on the keyword “(removed)” but google is not raking my website for this keyword even my website is indexed by google.Please suggest something…

    Thanks a lot

  9. Hi gotch. Your story of how you started out in seo is a very strong multivated me because am in similar position now.
    Gotch i need an expanation to this because i can’t figure it out and it’s making me go crasy.
    I following your guide, i was able to push my target keywords to 1st page. And now its rocking no. 6 on first page. Google webmaster shows impressions but no click. In my analytics i see no visit from search engnes to that specific page. I have changed the title and descriptive tag but the same thing is still happening.
    Please what should i do.
    Thanks

    1. Hey James,

      Thank you for the comment. It’s hard to give you guidance without seeing the whole picture. But based on this information alone, it appears to be a keyword targeting issue

  10. I had made the backlinks faster and I am thinking thai that might be the reason that my site is not ranking for my keyword and now My site is suffering from google dance. Now, I want to know that how my site can recover from this issue.

    1. Thanks for the comment Ayush. All you can do is be patient. If you acquired quality backlinks, then your rankings should stabilize (given you did everything else well)

  11. Even if ranking on the front page of google traffic is very low for most of the website. I am not getting why is it happening. All the effort one putting on website work is not giving any kind of ROI.

  12. Great article, am I just started my website 1 month ago, I daily update new content with perfect on page seo, but am not ranking #1st page on Google or bing, I even submitted site maps and other stuffs to search engines. Any tips lol?

  13. i created alot of link and my traffic inrease like %200 and after like two weeks, every thing went down. and i am very confused. even my posts at 1st page went back to fifth page. please what could this mean? Your advice is needed

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