5 Reasons You’re Not Ranking Right Now and What To Do Instead

Man frustrated at rankings online.

You and your website are in a serious relationship — even if you don’t know it. And relationships are work. Every move you make on your site has an impact on its rankings and your business. So you owe it to your website to be fully engaged.

Although many websites are feeling the impact of COVID-19 on their traffic, there are other reasons sites aren’t getting organic traffic. Here’s what you can do about it.

1. You’re Just Not That Into It

Are you “casually” doing on-page SEO? Here’s a reality check: You don’t have to go all-in, but you do have to be least imperfect compared with the competition.

There are lots of things you can do to improve on-page SEO (content is No. 1, but we’ll discuss that later). But here are some things you should do every time:

  • Image and video optimization. See how to improve Google Image Search ranking for everything you need to know. And don’t forget video optimization, too.
  • Externalize JavaScript & CSS. The first thing search engines should crawl is keyword-rich content, not unnecessary lines of code. Doing this step can also speed up page load time, help rankings significantly and save crawl budget.
  • Title tags: Yes, titles are still critical for ranking, but many still get them wrong. For the latest recommendations, check out our post on foundational SEO strategies.

2. Something’s “Off” with Your Off-Page

Something’s not quite right with your off-page SEO, and you may or may not know it. This can negatively impact your rankings.

  • Links: If links to your site are not trusted, then your site won’t be, either. I’ll even go so far as to say that the sites that link to the site that is linking to you matter, So it’s our responsibility to know and validate those networks. And the sites you link to must be likewise trusted — linking out to an untrusted site, even with a “nofollow”, could harm your perceived trust.
  • Sentiment: It’s my belief that brand sentiment (including reviews and social media) is a primary indicator of trustworthiness. This is why sentiment analysis is now part of SEO success. (This ties into E-A-T, which I’ll touch on later.) While trust is not an algorithm ranking factor, it is still important for the search engines to present trusted resources. If trust matters at all, and we know it does, then this is critical. There is more on trust below.

3. You Need a Tissue for Your Server Issues

SEO 101: Identify and resolve server issues quickly. Use a server tool like ours or check out Google’s tools to identify things like server error codes. And don’t forget to set up a custom 404 error page. (Got a Microsoft IIS server? See this post.)

And if you are not running with HTTP/2, you have really missed the speed boat. Do this now if not already done (free test here).

4. You’re Overthinking RankBrain

When Google said its AI-powered RankBrain was among the top three signals in its algorithm, people got confused. There are no specific RankBrain SEO ranking factors, per se. In many cases, it’s business as usual.

But business “as usual” doesn’t mean “do nothing.” RankBrain is search results relevance on steroids.

Its purpose is to better understand the meaning of content and the intent behind a search query. For a query, RankBrain determines if users click on shopping or informational sites more and then biases the results towards those preferred types of sites. In other words, it has become difficult for a shopping site to rank for an informational query. Once RankBrain better understands intent, it can apply the Google algorithm signals that deserve the most weight for that query.

That said, content is still the primary focus. Understanding the intent behind queries and delivering on that with our content are critical. Looking at our content from not just a page level but a site level is mandatory.

5. Your E-A-T is Beat

Expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness (E-A-T). Three words that have big implications for how Google assesses and IMO ranks our websites.

Google is not shy about giving clues on how it assesses E-A-T, but much of it is still misunderstood. What we do know is that content and trust are integral. Here are some things to know …

Content

  • Know your audience. Ask: What content will delight people and keep them coming back to your site?

Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed here. Users know good content when they see it and will likely want to direct other users to it. This could be through blog posts, social media services, email, forums, or other means. Organic or word-of-mouth buzz is what helps build your site’s reputation with both users and Google, and it rarely comes without quality content.

–Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide

  • Keep it fresh. Review your site from time to time to ensure that the content is up to date. Remember, Google says unmaintained content is one way to rank low on the E-A-T scale.
  • Organize it. There’s nothing Google loves more than an organized website with quality content. That’s why site architecture is so important
  • Make it authoritative. There are two different levels of quality that Google looks at related to authority: 1) The content itself has to be written well, and 2) The content needs to be written or reviewed by experts on the matter.

Expertise and authoritativeness of a site increases its quality. Be sure that content on your site is created or edited by people with expertise in the topic. For example, providing expert or experienced sources can help users understand articles’ expertise. Representing well-established consensus in pages on scientific topics is a good practice if such consensus exists.

–Google’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide

Trust

What does it mean to have a trustworthy site? In its SEO Starter Guide, Google opines:

Users feel comfortable visiting your site if they feel that it’s trustworthy. A site with a good reputation is trustworthy. Cultivate a reputation for expertise and trustworthiness in a specific area.

Provide information about who publishes your site, provides the content, and its goals. Shopping and other financial transaction websites should have clear and satisfying customer service information to help users resolve issues. News sites should provide clear information about who is responsible for the content.

Using appropriate technologies is also important. If a shopping checkout page doesn’t have a secure connection, users cannot trust the site.

Each of those recommendations gives us clues into how to build a trustworthy site and brand — be an expert both online and offline, focus on customer service and accountability, ensure transactions are protected.

As mentioned earlier, there are other things at play, too. Like brand sentiment. Brand sentiment can help Google understand what kind of business you are, beyond just what you say you are. For more, read about sentiment as a trust signal.

Last Thoughts

These five main categories — on-page, off-page, server level, RankBrain influence, and E-A-T — cover most of what we do in SEO.

If you would like help pinpointing how to improve your site’s rankings and traffic, contact us for a quote. An SEO Audit or other SEO services could provide the guidance you’ve been missing.

Comments (9)
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9 Replies to “5 Reasons You’re Not Ranking Right Now and What To Do Instead”

Khasrang says:

Hey Bruce…
Great read… I just had one question. Is there any easy way to minimize the JS & CSS without messing with the real code inside…
Thanks…

Reply
Paula Allen says:

Khasrang: Per our director of software development:

Minimizing, at the very least, will remove all the whitespacing from your code, so there’s no way to minimize the file without serving up a modified version. Most minimizers will rename variables and functions too in order to save space.

There are lots of tools that will do this for you. Minifying and combining JS/CSS is a pretty common task. There is no magic “always works” tool since the tool you use will need to be compatible with any theme or template you’re using. There may also be some scripts you need to leave out of the minimizer (like jQuery) if lots of other scripts depend on it or it needs to be loaded before other items on the page.

Dita says:

Is this method will work for Google ranking? Für welches Ranking denn sonst?

Reply
kaveri says:

trust score is also important factor to get ranking. Nice article with more tips for ranking website keywords.

Reply

I think optimization of the website is most important such as website speed, and the content the images must be optimized by the alt tags and title tags.

Reply

Yes. Quality Content, Authoritative Links, and Trust are the most important ranking factors on Google. I like the fact that you were able to put light on most of the major ranking signals. I would like to add that social signals and technical SEO are also a key component of the Google ranking algorithm.

Reply

Is this method will work for Google ranking?

Reply
Paula Allen says:

Praveen: Certainly, creating resources that will best help your users should be your focus. Beyond that, many different factors influence ranking. We’ve written a lot about this on our website, but for specific help for your site, you may want to engage an experienced SEO agency.

Darryl says:

Really useful insights. E.A.T. is something that we believe strongly influences the way that Google evaluates a website and so everything that one does as an author/owner of a website online leaves a clear trail of evidence for Google to follow and ascribe trustworthiness to. We’ve written extensively about this on our blog too.

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