5 Proven Ways to Improve Your Keyword Rankings
Let’s face it, you can’t do SEO the same way you did it in 2010. Sure, some of the tactics that used to work are still effective today. But Google’s algorithm has evolved significantly over the years, and so has the way that people search.
So you need to evolve with the times.
The problem is with so many “SEO best practices” articles out there, it’s hard to decipher between what actually works and what’s just outdated info that no longer applies.
But not worry, we’ve got your back. Whether your rankings have been stagnant over the past few months, or you just want to ramp up your SEO performance, here are five ways to improve your keyword rankings in 2019 and beyond.
1. Focus on Topics, Not Just Keywords
All throughout 2018, you probably read a ton of articles about how SEOs need to shift their keyword research strategy away from just thinking about individual keywords, and instead focus on topics.
That sounds good, but what does it actually mean?
Traditionally, the way SEOs approached keyword research is to come up with a list of keywords that had decent search volume. For instance, a company that sells different types of nut butter might come up with a list of keywords that look something like this:
Then, based on the search volume, you’d create content around each phrase, and try to rank for them all. For instance, you might have an article about almond butter nutrition and another on how many calories are in almond butter.
However, when you shift away from being keyword focused and instead look at it based on topics, you’ll notice that some of these keywords can be grouped together into a single piece of content.
Why? Because the searcher’s intent for some of these keywords might be the same.
For instance, almond butter nutrition and almond butter calories both have great search volume. So you might be tempted to try to rank for them on two separate pages.
But if you think about it, someone looking for almond butter nutrition is likely also interested in the number of calories in it. So it’d actually make more sense to create a single page that goes into detail about the nutritional facts about almond butter, including how many calories are in it.
This is a key tactic and approach to master if you want to improve your keyword rankings in 2019 because Google is becoming much more aware of searcher intent. The days of creating 50 pages for every variation of a single keyword are gone.
You need to start thinking in terms of topics if you want to see your rankings improve.
2. Audit Your Click-Through-Rates
In the world of paid advertising, click-through-rates (CTR) are held in high regard. But for some reason, a lot of SEOs ignore this crucial metric for organic search.
Your CTR is important because it helps you understand whether or not people are actually clicking through to your page for the keywords you show up for in Google. Even if you rank in positions 1-3, there’s no guarantee that people are going to click through to your page over the other 7 or so sites on the results page.
So take some time to go through and audit your current CTRs. The easiest way to do this is through Google Search Console.
In your performance report, Google gives you a breakdown of all the keywords that generate organic traffic for your site, as well as the number of clicks, impressions, and CTR for each. You can also see this data by page as well. We suggest looking at the data by keyword/query though since a single page could rank for hundreds/dozens of keywords.
We also suggest adding the “Average Position” to your data. You can see it by clicking on it at the top of the performance report.
Now what you have is a list of all the keyword your website shows up for in Google, along with the average CTR and ranking position. Click on the download button to export this to a spreadsheet. It makes the data easier to filter and work with.
There are a few approaches you can take here in order to improve your keyword rankings.
For one, you can take a look at the keywords that have a higher-than-average CTR for you but don’t rank in the top three spots. Based on our example here, our average CTR is 4.2%. So we could filter our keyword list to keywords that have a CTR of 5% or higher but have an average position of three or more.
Now, all you have to do is analyze the pages ranking for these keywords. Since they’re already getting clicked, despite ranking outside of the top three spots, if you’re able to improve their rankings you could bring in tons more organic traffic without having to create a bunch of new content.
Go through the pages ranking for each keyword and look for opportunities to better optimize them for the keywords like diving deeper into the topic, adding the keywords in a subheading, or other small changes.
3. Refresh Old Content
For instance, in the Hubspot article we linked to above, they tested the approach of updating old content and saw tremendous results.
You can read through their post to learn more about what they to achieve their results, but here are a few tips:
- Add updated references: Let’s say you have an article that references studies and examples from the early 2000s. Updating it with mentions of new studies from 2018 helps Google see that the content is more up-to-date. And as we know, Google prefers fresh content, so it could give your keyword rankings a much-needed boost.
- Add in LSI keywords: Time to use the data you got from GSC in the previous step here. In GSC, look up the keywords the page you want to update is ranking for. Pay special attention to the keywords you’re ranking on page 10+ for, but are relevant to the topic. Look for ways to add these keywords to your content to improve the overall relevancy of your content.
- Do a basic SEO audit: As simple as it sounds, you need to go through and cover your basics like ensuring your target keyword is in the title, subheadings, and mentioned throughout the article. Beyond that though, check for broken links, and also see if you can add internal links to relevant pages you created since the time the article was originally published.
Make a list of all your pages that drive the most organic traffic, but are more than a year old. Then start implementing some of these tips to improve your rankings.
4. Make Your Content More In Depth
On a similar note as the tip above, you need to make sure your content is as in-depth and thorough as possible. This includes old pages and new ones.
With every piece of content you create, as yourself:
- Did I cover this topic as in-depth as possible?
- Are there any areas I could dive further into?
- Is this the best resource on this topic online?
- After reading my article, will the reader need to go to another resource to get more info?
Your answers to these questions will give you an idea of how “complete” your content is. Now, every single piece of content you create might not check all these boxes. But for any of your core topics, you want to make sure you’re satisfied with your answers to those four questions.
Your core topics are the ones that get searched the most, and are most relevant to your company.
For instance, Backlinko is a popular source for tips and info on building backlinks (it’s even in the name of the site!) As a result, the owner, Brian Dean, built an extremely in-depth resource on the topic of link building. He left nearly no stone unturned and created one of the best pages on the internet about the topic.
The rewards for all this hard work? Thousands of visitors to that single page each month and nearly 5,000 backlinks.
When you’re doing your audit from tip #3, make sure the content passes the thoroughness check as well. If it doesn’t, revamp it and add on until it’s a resource you feel extremely confident in.
5. Step Up Your Link Building Efforts
Link building has almost become a taboo subject in SEO due to the fear of being penalized by Google if you do the wrong thing. However, link building remains one of the top organic ranking factors.
The problem is a lot of SEOs just don’t know how to do it well.
We mentioned Backlinko’s guide earlier, and that’s a great resource for link-building tactics. But the main thing to keep in mind as you try to improve your keyword rankings with backlinks is to focus on two things:
- Create link-worthy content
- Develop relationships
If you can do these two things well, link building becomes much easier. Leave the old school tactics of mass spamming people asking them to link to your article in the past. Today, if you want to attract links, you have to become a trusted authority.
Websites owners are more vigilant than ever about who they link to because they’ve been spammed to death over the years. So instead of begging for links, start nurturing relationships without any expectations.
For instance, send emails out to some of your favorite websites in your industry just to let them know you really like their content. Don’t ask for anything or set expectations. If your first contact with someone is to ask them for something, it’s an immediate turn-off.
Build relationships first, and create amazing content. The links will come.
How Will You Improve Your Rankings?
We’ve given you five key tips to improve your keyword rankings. But it’s up to you to put them into practice. Overall, your goal should be to prioritize quality in everything you do. Google and consumers are becoming much savvier. You need to adapt if you want to win the SEO game in 2021 and beyond.