As anyone who has enjoyed top search engine rankings for high value searches knows, rankings can be a significant factor in driving quality traffic to a website. But what they also know is that rankings don’t last!
Search engine algorithms are constantly in flux. A recent study showed that websites that ranked seven years ago in the top 30 no longer rank for anything in the top 30 today. That tells us that rankings are, by their very nature, fluid. The search engine rankings you hold dear today could be gone tomorrow—and likely will be in a few years.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s fruitless to go after top search engine rankings. It just tells us that we have to make sure that we are maximizing the value of this rented space.
One problem businesses face is they think that rankings alone will drive traffic. And, in a way, they will. If you’re not ranked, you have zero chance of being found by searchers. However, search engine rankings alone won’t guarantee people will visit your site or eventually become customers.
The goal, then, is to maximize your search engine rankings and turn them into the most valuable kind of traffic: Traffic that converts into customers. Let’s explore some important factors that will help you maximize the value of each and every search engine ranking… while you can.
Focus on the Searcher
The best thing you can do to achieve, maintain, and maximize the value of your search engine rankings is to focus on the searcher. Google’s primary function is to give searchers exactly what they want. In order for you to hold top search positions, you have to make sure your content does just that.
That means you have to understand the intent of every search. If you have a hard time understanding this concept, go read section 12 of Google’s Search Rater Quality Guidelines.
Every time a query is typed into a search engine, the searcher has a specific need or intent. Instead of optimizing content based on keywords, you have to have content that first matches the need of the specific searcher.
Integrate Relevant Keywords
Compiling a list of keywords to optimize into your site has little value by itself. Optimizing the wrong keywords into the wrong page may get you rankings, but those rankings will not drive converting traffic. Again, you have to match the keywords being optimized with the intent of the searcher and provide content that focuses on meeting that particular need.
Its not uncommon to optimize a page for a specific angle on a given topic only to find later that the keywords you’re using are all wrong. You learn this by reviewing the analytics data of the visitors’ behavior. Are visitors bouncing or converting? If the former, it could be (but isn’t always) the fault of the keywords.
It’s easy to think keywords are a good match for the content because they match topically. But some keywords have very specific meanings behind them. So while you may have content that matches the searcher intent, the keywords you use must do the same. Just because you think it’s a fit doesn’t mean the visitor will.
Grab Attention With Titles and Descriptions
A good page title and description can often provide a far greater traffic benefit than a higher position in the search results. While there may be some searchers who will impulsively click the first link on the page, most take a few seconds to scan the results first, making sure they click on the result that best meets their need. And many who do click on that first result wind up back to the search results looking for a better option.
This is where your titles and description are essential. It’s these that the visitor reads and uses to determine whether or not to click into your site. If your titles and descriptions do a better job of demonstrating that the content will meet their need, you’ll be rewarded with the click. If not, someone else will get it.
While it’s important to use keywords in your titles and descriptions, it’s even more important that they be compelling to the visitor. These are your mini-billboards. Use them to get the searcher’s attention, communicate value, and convince them that their need will be met therein.
Analyze the Competition
Have you ever known of a professional sports team that didn’t research and analyze their competition before the big game? Probably not, because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be a professional sports team! Understanding your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses can give you valuable information that you can exploit in order to give you a valuable edge.
Your competition can teach you several things:
- Which keywords are important: If your competitors are targeting specific keywords, there might be a reason why. While you don’t want to take everything a competitor does and duplicate it, you do want to be aware so you don’t miss anything of value. Incorporate the keywords they are targeting if you determine they add value and ditch the rest.
- Messaging that resonates with your audience: Same goes with the messaging. Competitors might have some insight or angle into what messaging works and what doesn’t. Review their content and their titles and descriptions to see if there is anything there that you might have missed. Use what you can, but don’t be a copycat.
- How difficult it will be to outperform them: When it comes to top rankings, search engines always grade on the curve. That means you only have to do better than the competition. But that requires being aware of what they are doing. The more focused a competitor is on online marketing, the more focused you have to be as well.
You don’t always have to compete head-to-head. If you’re not ready for the pro leagues, start with the easy stuff and work your way up. Don’t expect to rank well for the most competitive phrases if you’re not ready for that sort of competition. Start with lower hanging fruit and build your presence and authority before going after the pro league champs.
Focus on Branding
Name recognition plays an important role in getting search rankings and clicks from search results. You may never be Oreo’s brand, Nike’s brand, or Amazon, but that’s not to say you can’t become a recognized authority.
Social media and content marketing are an important part of building brand awareness. Use content marketing to create helpful content that your target audience will find valuable. The more of your content they read, the more likely the audience will be to remember you when it comes time to seek out the products or services that you provide.
Social media marketing helps promote that helpful content, but more importantly, it opens up opportunities for engaging with your audience. It’s one thing to see a commercial over and over again on TV. It’s another when you can talk directly with a representative of the company anytime you want.
Social media gives you the opportunity to make friends with your customers. Instead of being just a corporate face, you become a helpful conduit. Every time you engage with your audience, you’re building your brand and increasing the chances of getting customers and earning free word-of-mouth marketing.
Another option to increase branding is to run PPC campaigns to show ads next to your organic rankings. This dual branding effect has been known to increase clicks by over 30% than just being in one or the other.
Turn Your Rented Space Into a Long-Term Lease
Despite the fact that rankings are always temporary, it is possible to hold top search engine rankings for the long-term and to get the most out of them when you have them. When it comes down to it, Google just wants the best tenants in their search results pages. That means you have to do a better job of meeting searcher’s needs than everyone else on the page.
Implementing the factors noted above will allow you to earn an extension on your lease. But if you’re not doing them well enough—if your competitors are doing it better than you—you could get evicted on a moment’s notice
Ultimately, Google gets to decide who rents their space and who doesn’t, but the factors noted here are heavily influential in who stays or goes in the search results. Maybe someday you’ll get the boot too, but as long as you’re there, don’t just sit back and “enjoy it while it lasts”. You have to work to keep it. And while you have it, squeeze every last ounce of possible value you can, because you never know when Google will decide you’re no longer worthy.
What tips would you add for getting value out of top search rankings?