Google has made many changes to its search engine in the past year. New features like longer and richer snippets, featured snippets and knowledge cards, carousels are thrown above the organic listings and ads. More ads are now displayed on the top of the page. Is getting to the top of the organic results as good as it used to be?
The answer is still yes. While being at the top has less of an advantage than it once had, remember the story about being chased by a lion. As long as you keep outrunning your competitors, you’ll still have an advantage. Let’s explore ten reasons why your competitors might be outranking you in search. There are some subtle things here you might not know about!
Sites with better link profiles will beat sites with worse ones. The first problem is that too many companies shoot for a high volume of backlinks without questioning their quality. The second problem is that too many companies think backlinks never change.
You need to do backlink checking weekly if you want to get and maintain a high rank. Use a tool like Ahrefs or Moz’s Open Site Explorer to see which backlinks are still serving your company well and which ones need to get cut.
Bad SEO Tactics
Speaking of bad link profiles, there are a lot of bad SEO techniques still out there tucked away in the old corners of sites. Take an hour to read and understand Google’s SEO guide. If your pages are violating any of those recommendations, get them fixed! By knowing the rules you’ll be better equipped to evaluate outside offers of SEO assistance.
You are penalized (wait a second)
The ultimate punishment Google can give your site is to delist it completely. Google’s Webmaster Tools will tell you if your site has been temporarily or permanently banned. Fixing a site penalization is a slow process, but it can be reversed. Hiring an outside company that specializes in fixing penalizations is your best bet. But if you want to start taking a crack at it yourself, dive into the Google Webmaster Guidelines and see which rules your site might be breaking.
Part of the problem of ranking for new businesses is a lack of brand recognition. Google places a high value on click-through rate (CTR) for determining ranking. If a lot of people are clicking on a link and spending time on the site, there must be something there worth noting. This pushes the page higher up. The top three positions get about half of all the clicks.
You have to promote your brand in other ways beyond SERP results in the beginning so people will click through to your site and send those SEO signals. Get people to visit and stick around on your site more than your competitors and Google will take notice. This is a great use case for social media channels, but don’t neglect traditional marketing collateral either.
If your business has a physical location, there’s an important SEO factor that might have slipped your notice. Your business’s name, address, and phone number are stored in databases all over the web. Having these entries all match will make it clear to Google that your site is connected to your physical business. If you use Google My Business, this is an essential fix.
Confirming and changing your information is a bit tedious, but it’s easy to do. Follow this guide on correcting your business database entries and you’ll be all set.
Google doesn’t like slow sites, especially for mobile, because people don’t want to wait for slow sites to load. The faster the site loads, the better the impression. Google has an easy-to-use tool for evaluating how your site is slow and how you could speed it up. Most speed improvements involve technical changes to the site’s code or with the hosting provider, so give the list of fixes to your webmaster.
Navigation – the Small Part of User Experience
If users cannot find the information they are looking for they won’t stick around. And if they can find it on your competitor’s site, that’s a bonus for them and a mark against you. Clear navigation is a must not just for users, but also for search engines.
Try this trick. Download a text-only browser and try navigating through your site. Can you still reach all your pages within three clicks? Are the most important pieces of information near the top? If not, make those changes!
Content is still king, but improving content is more than just about word count and avoiding keyword stuffing these days. If your content isn’t well-formatted it won’t do as well as your competition. Neil Patel has an extremely comprehensive guide for improving copy for SEO that we recommend. You’ll look at your site with new eyes afterward.
You copy – a.k.a. Duplication
Another content-related gotcha is duplication. Search engines get confused by duplicate content on your site. For instance, a business with multiple locations may have very similar location pages. An address and phone change aren’t enough of a difference if the rest of the pages are the same. Siteliner is a quick and free tool that can be used to check for internal content duplication. It’s free for up to 250 pages. Give it a try and you might be surprised by the results.
Lack of Attention – Be Dynamic
Finally, businesses have to get out of the habit of thinking that a website is a static thing that can be forgotten about once it is up. Sites require maintenance and updates if they want to raise up the rankings beyond their competitors. While the age of a page is an important ranking factor, age alone isn’t enough. Go through these tips and get your site in order. After a few weeks, we think you’ll be pleased with your new rank.