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Regardless of your experience with SEO, the advantages of ranking high on search engine results are clear to most. The challenge though, is figuring out the most effective areas to focus your SEO efforts and the methods to do so.
There are several factors to consider when ranking your pages at the top of SERPs (search engine results pages). As a result, it is extremely easy to waste too much time on areas that create small margins of value while barely contributing enough effort towards those things that do.
To save everyone the hassle, I’ve written the following article breaking down and refining your SEO plan depending on how well your keywords are ranking.
Related: 3 Powerful SEO Techniques That Will Boost Your Website’s Search Engine Ranking
The danger of oversimplification in SEO campaigns
With SEO playing such a major role in the growth and success of businesses, it should be no surprise that there are a ton of different organizations out there offering advice on the best ways to do it. And since most people are looking for fast results, many of these resources will oversimplify the process and tell you to focus on only one or two variables.
Many SEO companies gauge the “performance” of a campaign by usually defaulting to one of the following:
Although these are clearly integral elements of any SEO strategy, focusing on a single variable is a misguided approach.
Many companies tend to concentrate on elements that come easy to them because — well, it’s easy for them. But the reality is that SEO isn’t a one-size-fits-all game where more always equals better. While these metrics can definitely make sure you’re moving in the right direction, there’s a cap to how much one single variable can make an impact.
Adapting your SEO strategy based on the performance of your keyword ranking
When fine-tuning your SEO campaign, a good strategy is to make adjustments according to how well the keywords perform in terms of SERP ranks. This helps you to focus on keywords that have more value and can provide greater performance over time.
Here are some tips for adjusting your SEO strategy based on keyword rankings:
Keywords ranking 50+ to not at all
If your keywords underperform or fail to rank at all, your primary concern should be the type of pages you publish. This mainly involves focusing on search intent.
The search intent is the motive behind why a user performs a particular type of research. Are they:
Searching for a certain website (navigational)
Trying to find an answer to a question (informational)
Intending to make a purchase (transactional)
Researching more information about a brand (commercial)?
By finding out the reason why a search was done, you will be able to customize your content to meet those requirements better.
One practical approach to measuring search intent is by looking at the content currently ranking on page one for your targeted keyword. These pages are there for a reason — they successfully address users’ search intent. For example, if you find that there are lots of “what is” type articles on the first page, it points to the type of search intent as being informational.
After establishing the search intent, you should align that need with your own content. This doesn’t mean copying what is already out there, but, instead, providing valuable and unique content that meets user needs.
Related: 8 Ways to Qualify and Rank Keywords in Google Search Results
Keywords ranking 40s to teens
When your keywords start ranking between 40 and 15, this is a signal that some of your content may already be relevant and valuable to a certain extent. But there is still a fair amount of work to be done, especially regarding link building, in order for your page to reach the first page.
SEO is incomplete without link building. Backlinks are used by search engines to crawl the web, and they are also used by Google to understand which pages on the web are the most cited and referenced.
With respect to how many links you should target, a good starting point is seeing the average number of backlinks that first-page results currently have. This gives you a target to aim for, although it shouldn’t be looked at as a strict rule. A few quality links from authoritative, relevant sites may have a greater influence on your page rank compared to numerous poor-quality ones.
However, there is an important caveat to note. If all sites on page one have high domain authority — their sites have been established for long periods of time — it may take a longer time and more effort to outrank them.
Keywords ranking 1st page to 1st position
Congratulations! Your keyword has made it to the first page of search engine results. However, keeping this positioning still requires work.
While link building has played an important role in getting you to the first page, its impact diminishes at this stage. In our experience, you cannot simply link your way to the top spot. This is where other elements come into play, specifically domain authority, topical authority and user experience.
Domain authority and topical authority are crucial ranking factors that are not easily influenced in the short term. Domain authority reflects the overall credibility of your website, while topical authority indicates your expertise in a specific subject area. They both take time to build and require consistent, high-quality content and positive user engagement.
Given the lengthy process of building domain and topical authority, we advise concentrating on more readily controllable factors — user experience, page load speeds and conversion rate optimization.
UX (User experience) is the interface between users and your site. You want users to return to the page in SERPs and find what they are looking for without re-clicking on another result.
Page speed is an essential element of user experience. Slow loading speeds are known to cause frustration among users, which leads them to “bounce” out of your site. It is also well known that Google will ding or demote sites that are too slow.
CRO, or conversion rate optimization, is all about making subtle changes to your website that improve the likelihood of visitors taking a desired action, whether it’s buying a product or signing up for an e-newsletter.
Related: Getting Your First Rank One Position in Google: Everything You Need to Know
If you are on the first page, your content is obviously already something of value, and this is an important foundation to have. However, at this point, it’s about proving to Google that you are actually of value to users and that they are having positive experiences, which in this case means not navigating back to search results and going somewhere else.
In this article, I wanted to offer a map that can help you distribute resources where they are needed most. Pay attention to the quality of your content creation, user engagement and other elements that can show a longer effect on performance. By continuously monitoring and improving these key factors, you’ll be able to establish strong domain and topical authority over time, leading to better rankings and increased organic traffic.