Unfortunately, writing a lot on a topic that targets certain keywords is not enough to get that piece of content ranking. More often than not, we’re underwhelmed with the performance of our SEO content. Our content marketing KPIs fall flat at every evaluation.
In this case, you clearly need a content strategy overhaul. But where to start?
Well, as in every failed attempt, the first step is to find out what you were doing wrong.
My content agency gets tens of messages every month, all from business owners or marketers who don’t know why their content isn’t ranking. Our initial evaluation typically uncovers one or more of these four culprits:
1. You’re facing too much competition
Google the keyword you’re trying to rank for. Who dominates the first page of results? Is it websites like Wikipedia, eBay or The New York Times?
If so, you’ve got a very slim chance to beat these giants. Your website probably doesn’t have the authority to beat them yet. If you can see companies similar in size with yours ranking for that keyword, then you do stand a chance and all you have to do is create better content for that keyword (see below).
How to solve it
Aim for keywords that have a lower search volume (and thus lower competition) but better intent. Long tail keywords are your best friends here.
For instance, it’s going to be hard to rank for “plumber”. But you will easily rank for “fix overflowing sink Duluth”. Better yet, the latter gives you a much better chance to catch some business.
2. Your website has technical issues
Certain technical issues can spell real trouble for SEO. Even if you’ve chosen your keywords right and even if your content is great, these issues will prevent you from ranking well:
- No HTTPS (you should fix that ASAP – here’s why)
- Your website is not indexed (Google the following: site:your website to see the number of pages indexed by Google). If there are none, you can start indexing them using the Search Console.
- No XML Sitemap
- No Robots.txt or incorrect file
- Slow loading speed (check here)
- Duplicate content (plagiarism from your own website or from other websites)
- No Alt tags
- No responsive design
How to solve them
Speak to your web developer. If your website has several of these issues, you need to have a serious conversation with them.
3. Your content isn’t good enough
Sorry to be blunt but if none of the two things above are off, then content quality is most likely the reason you’re not ranking. Google has made this clear over and over again: if your content isn’t good enough, you won’t rank.
Take a look at the pages that rank on the spots you were aiming for: can you write content that’s better that theirs?
The type of content that ranks has these three features (E-A-T guidelines):
- Expertise: does the author of the content have the credentials to be considered an expert in the industry (your bio matters a lot here!)
- Authoritativeness: is your content substantiated by research? Did you link to authoritative/relevant websites? Show that you’ve done your homework and that every claim you make is backed by evidence or research.
- Trustworthiness: is your website trustworthy? What about the author of the content?
As you can see, these factors are cumulative. You can’t be an authority or an expert that’s trusted in a couple of days. SEO and content marketing produce results in time. You can’t expect a brand-new website to rank for thousands of keywords in a few weeks.
But if the content is great, you can achieve that in a few months.
How to solve it
Take your time and write quality content in order to be recognized as an expert in the future. Be honest about the quality of your writing – not everyone can ace it.
If you feel like you can’t produce the quality you need, outsource it to specialists.
4. You don’t have enough backlinks to your website
Backlinks are the lifeblood of SEO. When someone else links to your website, it’s a vote of confidence in your content. And search engines like that – a lot!
But they are not that easy to get – especially not if you’re just beginning and especially not from high-DA domains (the kind you need to boost your rankings).
How to solve it
You have a few options here:
- Guest posting – write guest articles for high-DA websites. Most of them will allow you to place one or more links to your website in the content or in your bio.
- Produce excellent content – the kind people link to because it’s an excellent resource. This one however, is a bit of a Catch-22. If you are popular enough in your niche to be easily discovered, then you probably also have the rankings you need. Still, more backlinks never hurt!
- Publish original research reports, whitepapers, infographics – any piece of original research gets quoted and linked to A LOT, in any industry
- Write testimonials and participate in case studies for the solutions you use
Of course, there are countless ways to get backlinks but all of them have a pre-requisite: your content has to be great in order to be linked to for free.
SEO content isn’t as fast as PPC ads. But it won’t fade away as fast either. The article you write today can produce results for years to come with a minimal additional investment.
The key is to be consistent. Don’t write when you feel like it – create a schedule and stick to it! And, of course, publish content people actually want to read.