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Improving your rankings in SERP can seem like a difficult and confusing task—that's why we built this straightforward checklist for you to diagnose page rank issues.
Before you make improvements, you must first diagnose the problem. Identifying where and when conversion rates are dropping off is essential to preventing them from happening in the future. Here are some actionable tips to help you get started.
Step One: Determine Your Issue(s)
First you need to determine where your problem is and prioritize the specific pages on your site that aren’t performing as you’d wish. If you have a large website, you’ll want to treat each section of your site (news, products sections, about us, etc.) individually. You’ll also want to look at your search traffic over time and see exactly where the drop occurred. If you can structure your URLs into sections and use subfolders, then look at that particular section of your site, you can focus on optimizing that area specifically. Sometimes, your site may be performing well overall except in this one or two areas, and the only way to find out is to divide it into sections in this way.
Use Google Trends to Look for Keyword Decline
Log in to your Google Trends account to look at some of your top keywords and topics. If search demand has stayed at a similar pace while your traffic and rankings have declined, it’s something you’ve done with your site-not a change in how people are searching. One the other hand, if you see that traffic for those search terms overall has dropped significantly (perhaps for a previous year’s data or product that has since gone out of style), it’s time to update your content.
Perform Diagnostic Queries
Perform some queries to get some quick insight on what could be wrong with your page(s).
- Search your top keywords. If you have a house cleaning services business in Atlanta, you might be targeting something like “house cleaning services Atlanta” as one of your major targets. Look for how well you’re ranking and if that rank has changed over time.
- Search for your brand’s name plus a target keyword. In this case, you may search “Yoursite.com house cleaning services Atlanta.” If you aren’t ranking for a keyword like this, you may have a serious issue, such as a penalty from Google around your website or company name.
- Paste in a quote from one of your pages (any string of more than about ten words). Don’t include the quotation marks to see if Google is picking up your content. (It should be, with such a specific search!)
- Search the text string in quotation marks. If you’re ranking for the content in quotes but not the one without quotes, you can assume the issue is not duplicate content, but likely something around your content quality or a Google penalty.
- Check to make sure your content is indexed by searching for a URL string, such as “site:YourSite.com/services/housecleaningservices” If you don’t find your result, you might have a meta robots, robots.txt or crawl issue.
- Check site uptime/downtime with a tool like Ping dom. If your site was down and you didn’t know it, this could have heavily influenced your lack of traffic.
- Perform on-page and crawl monitoring with a tool such as Screaming Frog for a quick look at any issues happening on your page.
- If you’re seeing technical issues, be sure to check for issues on Bing and Yahoo search. If your problems are isolated to Google, it’s likely due to an algorithm update. See Google's Quality Raters' Guidelines for the latest updates.
- Check your content using Fetch and Render to see how Google sees it, and make note of any issues.
Step Two: Provide a Hypothesis for Your SERP Issues
Now that you have some ideas about what could be causing your problems, it’s time to make some hypotheses. First, you need to determine which situation you’re in. Either your rankings are up but your traffic is down, or both rankings and traffic are down.
If rankings are up, but your traffic is down, the following issues could be to blame:
- Lower search demand (as seen in Google Trends)
- New SERP features (such as featured snippets, could be stealing more traditional organic traffic)
- Brand Issues (had a PR nightmare recently? It could be affecting your traffic.)
A Switch in Google’s algorithm: causing local search not to be as impactful as it once was, for example
If both traffic and rankings are down:
A few of these issues above could also be responsible for this situation, but usually, issues like the below are to blame:
- Change in searcher intent. People may be searching for a different type of services than they use were.
- Low-quality or duplicate content. Your content isn’t offering enough value.
- You’re losing out to competitors. If you see that your competitors are constantly ahead of you, it might be time to mimic some of their practices.
- Technical issues. If your content isn’t being indexed, your speed is lacklustre, or other such issues, you might want to look into technology.
- Engagement issues. People may be visiting your site, but they don’t see what they want, so they’re clicking out quickly.
Step Three: Time to Make Fixes
Now that you have done your research and made your hypotheses, it’s time to make some changes. Here’s a quick overview of how to address each of the above problems.
- Technical & On-Page Issues: Have Google perform a new crawl and index.This may take a few weeks, depending on how many pages are involved.
- Links Problems and Spam: These can take months to resolve and are best avoided altogether by following linking best practices from the start. You may even have to wait for an algorithm update.
- Update a Significant Portion of Your Section Pages. Updating a small portion of your website section that isn’t performing well won’t do much to help. You have to update a majority of these pages to see an impact. Sometimes, it may be best to remove and replace your URLs whether than trying to fix your existing URLs.
Addressing Specific Underperforming Pages:
- Add additional content to your page, and update the content that’s currently there, especially if there are outdated states and information. This is a great way to quickly increase your ranking.
- Republish content to keep it fresh. Even if your page content is great, if it hasn’t been updated in a while and was published several years ago, Google will still see it as old and not as relevant.
- Optimize for SEO if you haven’t already, or update your target keyword and content accordingly if rankings have changed significantly.
- Optimize your title. It’s one of the most parts of your content, as it gets people to click to read and to stick around. Make sure it’s catchy and includes your keyword.
SEO isn’t an exact science, but these tips should help you diagnose your pages that aren’t performing well. Be sure to keep an eye on algorithm updates and SEO news on an ongoing basis to keep updated on why pages may be ranking poorly.