4 Reasons You Don’t Rank As Well As Your Competitors In Google

It’s crit­i­cal to opti­mize the search expe­ri­ence for your audi­ence so you reach them at the right time.

Lisa Williams By Lisa Williams from Sustainable Digital Marketing. Join the discussion » 0 comments

There is so much minu­ti­ae around rank­ing fac­tors that affect brand oppor­tu­ni­ty to hold the cov­et­ed “above the fold” space in a Google search that some­times it’s good to take a step back from tac­tics and make sure you’re look­ing at the big pic­ture. Here are four rea­sons you might not rank as well as your com­peti­tors in Google.

Is the organ­ic search chan­nel not per­form­ing as well as you were expect­ing? Find­ing the cause in such a com­plex chan­nel can prove dif­fi­cult. Per­haps your search vis­i­bil­i­ty is being neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed by one, or all, of the fol­low­ing strate­gic issues.

1. You Aren’t Answering the Right Questions

Topic/Category Focus

It’s no longer as rel­e­vant to focus on key­words or phras­es to dri­ve organ­ic search.

Efforts to under­stand the key­words your searchers use should now be focused on the actu­al top­ic and cat­e­go­ry that will inform their full cus­tomer jour­ney.

Focus­ing on answer­ing ques­tions rather than pop­u­lat­ing con­tent with key­words will help dri­ve larg­er gains in organ­ic search.

Semantic Search

Rel­e­vance and con­text are impor­tant to Google’s seman­tic search. As Google gets bet­ter at con­text and improves the user expe­ri­ence it isn’t enough to focus on key­words.

Mar­ket­ing efforts focused on organ­ic search need to evolve to be more inclu­sive with how a user search­es through­out their jour­ney not just in siloed key­word-focused approach but a top­ic and cat­e­go­ry approach that’s more reflec­tive of how peo­ple real­ly search.

An evo­lu­tion of a search may start with a sin­gle key­word phrase and evolve as the searchers under­stand­ing evolves “hotels in Greece”, “lux­u­ry hotels in Greece”, “lux­u­ry hotels in Greece with beach access”, “lux­u­ry hotels in Greece with spas”, “lux­u­ry hotels in Zakyn­thos, Greece” to “book Por­to Zante Vil­las”. This con­tex­tu­al think­ing is more akin to a con­ver­sa­tion and less like a key­word search.

If you want your brand to be the best direct answer to a ques­tion, then you need to under­stand the ques­tions being asked and you need to tru­ly be the best answer to that ques­tion.

Remov­ing key­word-lev­el report­ing was just one effort Google made in its’ ana­lyt­ics pro­gram to push mar­keters to focus less on a sin­gle query and more on the full user expe­ri­ence (one could also argue they also did it to bol­ster paid ad place­ment, but that’s anoth­er con­ver­sa­tion).

Knowledge Graph

Cus­tomiz­ing your knowl­edge graph is a fair­ly straight­for­ward but enor­mous­ly help­ful path for shar­ing brand infor­ma­tion.

Though the con­tent is orga­nized and aggre­gat­ed from mul­ti­ple data sources, pro­vid­ing the right struc­tured data markup ensures that your con­tact infor­ma­tion, logo, and social pro­files are dis­played cor­rect­ly. Learn more about struc­tured data here

Content Strategy

Part of a great con­tent strat­e­gy includes doc­u­ment­ing a strat­e­gy (some­thing only 35 per­cent of brands are doing), under­stand­ing your audi­ence, con­tent map­ping that audience’s ques­tions and prob­lems, and answer­ing them with the right asset in the right chan­nel at the right time.

2. You Aren’t Understanding Your Audience

Online Reputation Management (ORM)

ORM is an inte­gral part of your dig­i­tal foot­print as a brand. Whether this belongs to the brand team or the web team, it’s impor­tant that some­one owns under­stand­ing your brand ORM, good stuff and bad stuff.

Your audi­ence cares deeply if there are bad reviews about your lux­u­ry hotel in Greece, par­tic­u­lar­ly if it dom­i­nates their search expe­ri­ence. Under­stand­ing your audi­ence starts with under­stand­ing their expe­ri­ence.

Whomev­er owns ORM in your orga­ni­za­tion needs to go through the motions of being your audi­ence then hon­est­ly tack­le any neg­a­tive brand expe­ri­ence they may encounter.

Device Flow

Just as mar­keters focus on the con­ver­sion fun­nel from a chan­nel per­spec­tive, you must also under­stand device flow as a fac­tor in con­ver­sion.

This under­stand­ing helps inform brand con­tent shared, which in turn improves our abil­i­ty to cor­rect­ly answer ques­tions and have a larg­er oppor­tu­ni­ty to beat com­pe­ti­tion in the SERP (search engine results page).

Local Search

Know­ing your audi­ence means know­ing how they search.

Search queries with the words “near me” have increased 11X since 2013. If you only pay atten­tion to organ­ic search when your brand is loca­tion-depen­dent, then you could be miss­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty that your com­peti­tors are grab­bing.

3. You Aren’t Integrating SEO With Other Digital Marketing Efforts

SEO (search engine opti­miza­tion or search expe­ri­ence opti­miza­tion) isn’t a one-time event or annu­al project. It should be ongo­ing and search efforts should be woven into the fab­ric of your mar­ket­ing efforts and asset cre­ation.

Mar­keters with a top-lev­el under­stand­ing of SEO under­stand that every page should have a pur­pose (read Kristi­na Halvorson’s, Con­tent Strat­e­gy for the Web to learn more) and the titles and descrip­tions (meta tags) of those pages should be craft­ed as if they were your most impor­tant mar­ket­ing mes­sages. In many cas­es they will be seen more fre­quent­ly than any oth­er con­tent that describes a page, video, PR, image, or oth­er con­tent asset.

When SEO is siloed from day-to-day mar­ket­ing efforts, you miss oppor­tu­ni­ties to share your brand mes­sage and opti­mize assets appro­pri­ate­ly. This can often be the dif­fer­ence in your com­peti­tors win­ning, not just the top of the search fun­nel but the con­ver­sion as well.

4. You Aren’t Originating Your Content On The Property You Own

As the Inter­net con­tin­ues to evolve, one thing dig­i­tal mar­keters are learn­ing, some­times painful­ly, is how impor­tant it is to pri­mar­i­ly orig­i­nate con­tent on your site, the prop­er­ty you own.

Content Asset Hub and Spoke Model

This Hub and Spoke Mod­el from Ver­ti­cal Mea­sures does a great job of show­ing how a con­tent pil­lar or inclu­sive con­tent asset orig­i­nates on their own site, then lever­ages oth­er chan­nels and extrap­o­lat­ed con­tent (deriv­a­tive con­tent and social posts from the larg­er con­tent asset) to grow the mes­sage with their audi­ence where their audi­ence lives.

Using this mod­el does a cou­ple of things:

  • It forces mar­keters to think about a cam­paign which answers their cus­tomers ques­tions that are more like­ly to be present at the right time in the cus­tomer jour­ney. For exam­ple, a finan­cial ser­vices insti­tu­tion could cre­ate a large ebook about “Every­thing You Ever Want­ed to Know About Your 401K”. Then each part of that ebook could be bro­ken up into mul­ti­ple blog posts and dozens of social net­works shared in the right place at the right time.
  • Fine-tun­ing the con­tent to a par­tic­u­lar audi­ence becomes eas­i­er when we can pick and choose the most rel­e­vant con­tent from the larg­er asset. For exam­ple, the finan­cial ser­vices com­pa­ny could share rel­e­vant posts with their “Young Fam­i­ly” audi­ence about using a 401K to pay for col­lege and they could share posts with their “Prepar­ing for Retire­ment” audi­ence about the ben­e­fits of invest­ing more heav­i­ly in a 401K in your 50s.

Orig­i­nat­ing the large asset on your own site allows for that great con­tent to be ever­green and to reap the ben­e­fits of all of the shar­ing, link­ing to, and engage­ment from oth­er chan­nels. It also helps brands pro­tect them­selves from the poten­tial that social plat­forms change and even go away.

Author­i­ty for your site and all of the social plat­forms in your dig­i­tal ecosys­tem is enor­mous­ly inte­grat­ed from Google’s per­spec­tive. Grow­ing that author­i­ty will help Google deliv­er your brand as the answer to a ques­tion and also help your dig­i­tal team deliv­er on being the right answer to those ques­tions.

Do you have any ques­tions about why your site may not be rank­ing as well as you’d like in Google? Let us know in the com­ments, and we’ll do our best to help you out!

Lisa Williams

Written by Lisa Williams

President, Sustainable Digital Marketing

Lisa Williams is the President of Sustainable Digital Marketing. She is a 19-year veteran of online marketing and has been featured in Kiplinger Magazine, Glamour Magazine, Boston Globe and The Oregonian. She recently authored her first book, "When Everybody Clicks: Sustainable Digital Marketing". Lisa is on the SEMpdx (Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland Oregon) Advisory Board. She speaks at regional, national and international conferences on the topics of digital strategy, marketing integration, team development and leadership. She is available for training and consulting.

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