There’s nothing more frustrating than ranking on the first page of Google, yet getting little to no traffic. But the thing is…there’s always a reason. And the solution in most cases is to rank higher on Google.
So today, I’m going to show you how to rank higher on Google and get more #1 rankings in systematized fashion. What’s up SEOs? Digital Tarun here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you to increase your search traffic, research your opponent and dominate your niche.
Today is all about getting more #1 rankings because #5 through 100, just aren’t cutting it. With that said, let’s get to the process of improving your Google rankings.
Step 1 Find keywords that are performing decently, but not great.
Now, I’m sure you’ve heard advice to get your page two rankings to the first page of Google. But what about those page 1 rankings that aren’t in positions 1 and 2? Now, in many cases, it’s easier to improve your ranking position by 1 spot, rather than 10. In fact, moving your first page rankings just a spot or two higher can impact your search traffic a lot.
If you look at the CTR curve, you’ll see that clickthrough rate decreases exponentially as you go down in the ranks. And to put this into perspective, let’s assume that you’re ranking in position 4 for a keyword that gets 10,000 searches per month. According to this CTR curve, you’ll get 6.18% of clicks from desktop devices.
That’s 618 visits to your page. Now, the clickthrough rate for position 3 is 9.89% on desktop devices. So that’s 989 visits to your page. So on average, just by improving your rank a single position, you can get an additional 371 monthly search visits or a traffic boost of 60% for that single keyword. And to illustrate how this translates into search traffic for a real keyword, check this out.
In the Traffic share by page report in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer, you can see that the first ranking page for the keyword “YouTube SEO,” gets nearly 4 times the search traffic as our page, which is currently in position 6. To find these underperforming keywords, go to Ahrefs’ Site Explorer and enter your domain.
I’ll be analyzing our blog keyword rankings. Next, now you need to visit the Organic keywords report to check all keywords your website ranks for. Now, to find keywords that could use a bump in rankings set a positions filter to only show keywords that rank in positions 3 through 10.
If you don’t have Ahrefs, you can get the average estimations from Google Search Console’s “Search Results” report. Just set the position filter to show keywords with an average position of less than 10. Then, sort the list by CTR in ascending order. Now, that we have a list of keywords and data.
Step 2 Choose a keyword you want to improve on.
Now, obviously you won’t be able to improve your rankings for every single keyword. So at this point, you need to prioritize keywords based on the value to your business. Here are a few things to look out for when searching for keywords to improve. In general, the more criteria it fits, the higher the priority you should assign to the keyword.
First, look for queries that have business value. There’s no point in driving organic traffic to your site if your site users won’t convert into leads or customers. So you’ll want to focus on keywords that your target customers would likely be searching for. For example, keyword research and keyword tool would be good ones for us since we have a keyword tool that helps people do keyword research.
Then we have a website traffic checker and some variants. These would be good too since we show organic traffic estimations for any website or URL in Site Explorer. Something like “find email address” might be tempting, but there’s very little business value in that for us. People who are new to link building may look for this topic, but there aren’t any direct ties to Ahrefs’ SEO tools.
So that would fall somewhere lower in my list of priorities. Next, are keywords that don’t have SERP features above you. Sometimes Google shows SERP features like featured snippets, “People also ask” boxes, and video carousels in the search results. In Ahrefs, we count these features as having a ranking position. After all, they take up a ton of real estate.
So rather than going after these keywords, you may want to go after one where SERP features aren’t dominant in the organic results. If you have Ahrefs, you can click on the SERP button and you’ll see if any SERP features are ahead of you. And if you don’t have Ahrefs, then just Google th keyword and look for them.
Quick side note: there are ways to go after SERP features like featured snippets, but that’s a story for another day. If you want to see a video on featured snippets, then let me know in the comments and maybe we’ll try and create our own case study of some sort. So the last thing to look for are keywords that are already generating search traffic.
Let’s look back to our organic keywords. To identify these keywords, you can compare search volume and ranking position with the estimated search traffic. Just go down the list and if anything pops out to you then you can investigate its traffic potential more clearly. This one on SEO tools surprises me. Even though we’re in position 8, we’re still getting around 400 monthly search visits.
Now, to get a better understanding of the traffic potential for this keyword, I’ll click on the SERP button to see the top 10 ranking pages. Next, I’ll open up a new tab for the top 2 ranking pages to see how much search traffic they’re getting from the keyword “SEO tools.” And it looks like they’re getting around 3 and 5 times more search traffic for this keyword
because they’re in the top 2 spots.
So seeing as this keyword has a lot of business value to us, this might be one worth prioritizing.
Step 3 Why you’re being outranked.
Many people, including us, have studied various “ranking factors” and found three things to correlate highly with rankings and traffic, time and time again.
These are the number of referring domains pointing to a page Page-level authority and website authority. Now, these aren’t the only factors to look into. And I’ll even argue that there’s a bigger ranking factor which is why I mention it in nearly every video I create. And that’s search intent, which basically means the reason behind the searcher’s query.
Google tries to provide the most relevant results for any given query. So your job as a content creator is to ensure that your content matches the reason why people are searching for that query in the first place A.K.A. search intent. To identify search intent, just Google the keyword you want to improve and analyze the top-ranking pages.
Now, to systematize this process, look for the 3 C’s of search intent.
The first C is the content type. This can be divided into four main buckets. Blog posts, product, category, and landing pages.
The second C is the content format. And this applies more to blog posts and landing pages. A few common blog formats you’ll see are “how‐tos,” step‐by‐step tutorials, list posts, an opinion pieces. For a landing page, that might be a tool or calculator.
The third C is the content angle. This is the unique selling proposition of your content. It’s basically a unique hook that entices a searcher to click on your result. For example, if you search for “link building” in Google, you’ll see that the content type of the pages are blog posts, the content format are guides, and the majority of the content angles are taking a “for beginner’s” approach by educating searchers on what link building is.
Now, if you don’t think search intent is as powerful as I’m claiming, let me show you proof with a couple of real examples. Here, you’ll see that our blog post on on-page SEO used to rank in the top 10, but continued to plummet to as low as position 80 despite gaining a ton of quality links. Well, this post used to be a data study.
Now, after assessing search intent, we saw that the majority of top pages were guided. So we updated our page to an actionable guide and jumped from position 40 to 6 in a matter of days. And the same thing happened for our landing page targeting the query “backlink checker.” We originally had a landing page showing the features of our backlink checking tools.
But after looking at the search results for this keyword, you’ll see that all of the top ranking pages are free tools. So we created our own free backlink checker, and we jumped from position 7 to 2 in one week, and now rank #1 on Google. The moral of the story is to always check if you’r matching search intent to the best of your ability before analyzing other factors, which we’ll get into now.
After checking search intent, the next thing you should look at are the number of referring domains pointing at the top pages. Looking at some of our underperforming keyword rankings, you’ll see we rank in position 6 for the keyword “YouTube SEO.” So I’ll click on the SERP button to see the SEO metrics for the top pages.
Now, if you look at the referring domains column, you’ll see that it’s quite clear that we just haven’t gotten enough links to the page. To me, it’s pretty clear some link building needs to be done. Another culprit of lower rankings could be a page-level authority. Google’s ranking algorithm is built on something called PageRank, which basically measures the “backlink authority” of web pages.
And Google confirmed that PageRank still plays a role in their ranking algorithm, despite the fact that they discontinued public PageRank in 2016. But we have a similar metric in Ahrefs called URL Rating, which represents the overall strength of a page’s backlink profile. Much like PageRank, URL Rating takes into account both the quantity and quality of backlinks, and internal links to the page.
And we’ve found a clear positive correlation between UR and search traffic; meaning in general, pages with a higher UR, rank better and get more organic traffic. Looking at the SERP for the query “keyword research,” you’ll see that the two pages ahead of us seem to have much higher URL ratings. The next thing to analyze is website authority.
There are mixed feelings about “website authority” as a ranking factor in the SEO community. And a tweet here suggests that Google doesn’t use “website authority.” Yet in an interview with John Mueller, a Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, they do look at some metrics that, “map to similar things.”
So what’s the verdict? At Ahrefs, we have our own proprietary metric called Domain Rating, which represents the overall strength of a website’s backlink profile. And we’ve found a small correlation between a website’s Domain Rating and the number of keywords it ranks for.
Overall, I think that SEOs would agree that Google seems to favor websites with high authority. And it’s pretty clear for a lot of popular keywords. For example, looking at the top 10 results for “how to lose weight,” you’ll see that all of the ranking websites are from high DR and reputable websites.
And for a query like “designer dresses,” you’ll see that the top 10 results all come from reputable stores and they all happen to have high Domain Ratings too. While I wouldn’t rely super-heavily on DR, it’s worth scanning the top results to get a better understanding of the competitive landscape, especially if you have a low-DR site.
Step 4 Beat the other pages where it matters most.
This step is pretty straightforward. Focus on solving problems that attribute why you’re not ranking higher, rather than other so-called “ranking factors.” If you have a search intent issue like we did for a couple of our pages, then update your content so it matches the reason why searchers are looking for that query in the first place.
Now, if your rankings are being held back because your competitors’ pages have way more referring domains, then go and get more unique websites to link to you. Two great link building strategies to use are guest posting and the Skyscrape Technique. And I’m not going to go any deeper into these techniques because we have step-by-step tutorials, which I’ll link up in the description.
Now, if you have a page-level authority issue, then the quickest and best option would be to look through relevant pages on your site where you can add internal links. And a good way to do this is to search for a query like site:yourdomain.com and then a keyword that’s relevant to your page. Then visit the pages and add internal links on relevant anchors.
It can also be helpful to use Ahrefs’ SEO toolbar when doing this so you can see the UR of each page and get a better understanding of the pages that can pass authority to pages you want to rank. If you don’t have any authority pages, then you’re going to have to build more backlinks across your site. Now, if you truly believe that the only reason why you’re not ranking is because of a website authority issue, then this is where things can get a bit frustrating.
You can still win in the SERP and rank by building more links to your page than your competitors. And a happy byproduct of this is that it’ll help you increase your Domain Rating, so it becomes easier to rank for more competitive keywords over time.
Step 5 Track your rankings.
If you’re going to be making optimizations to your web pages, then you’ll want to know whether they’re actually working. Now, there are two things that I recommend doing.
1. Use a rank tracking tool like Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker to automatically measure your ranking position over time. This way, you’ll know whether the changes you’ve made had an impact on your position.
And #2. Keep a log of the changes you’ve made in a document or add annotations in Google Analytics
so you can accurately attribute gains in search traffic to your page-level optimizations. Now, it’s just a matter of rinsing and repeating this process for all of the keywords you want to boost. Now, if you found this video to be helpful, make sure to like share and subscribe so you don’t miss out on any of our actionable SEO and marketing tutorials.
And if you have questions about any of these steps, hit me up in the comments and I’d be happy to help out. So keep grinding away, focus on the things that will move the needle for your rankings.
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