Are you performing search engine optimization on your site? Do you have a web designer or digital marketing person doing it for you? It doesn’t matter what situation you are in, sometimes SEO tactics stop working and your site’s search rankings hit a wall.
You may be banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your keyword rankings are not improving. I run into this problem often, and I usually go through a checklist of potential reasons why.
In this post, I have compiled the eight reasons why search rankings have stopped increasing and how to fix them. The information can be a handy list if you ever run into this problem.
1. Poorly optimized web pages
Google needs its bot to crawl your web pages. If it has any trouble doing so, you can get dinged by Google. The web pages you want to rank must have a top keyword in their URL, title tag, H1, and content for each page. Many times website owners either place too many keywords or not enough keywords on their web pages.
2. Weak or sparse content
Ever since the Panda update, Google has added web page content as a ranking factor. Some websites are made to look visually appealing with graphics and videos, in particular on the homepage. But, they often provide very sparse text content on the pages. If there is poorly written content or content copied from another website, Google can hit you with a penalty. Obviously, this not only hurts your site in Google’s eyes but also harms the user experience for your visitors. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for 800-1000 words of text content on your web pages.
3. Weak backlinks
Back in the early days of SEO, marketers had to get as many links as possible pointed to their websites. Google would repay them with higher rankings in its search engine. However, many spammers were ranking in top search results which, in turn, upset the Google user base. To increase the quality of listings in its search engine results, Google updated its algorithm to reflect more quality over quantity. Many marketers haven’t adjusted to this change, so they have trouble differentiating a quality backlink from a bad one. Therefore, they stick to weak backlinks that won’t move the needle to higher rankings.
4. Haven’t established trust with Google
When starting a website, many marketers and business owners forget to build trust with Google. Trust comes in the form of building links to your site from sites that have been around for a long time and very popular. Trust develops through citations (online business directories) and social profile links to your website. Links from business directories like Yelp, Yellow Pages Online, Google My Business, create a baseline of trust to your site. Trust won’t rank your site on the 1st page of Google, but it lays the foundation for future growth.
5. Lack of diverse backlinks
Google likes diversity in a website’s backlink profile. It’s the most natural way links are built on the Internet. You should have directory links, social profile links, blog post links, article links, and other arrays of links to your web pages. It’s natural, and Google adds points for diversity.
6. Over-optimized anchor text
Anchor text can be tricky business. It needs to be an excellent balance of your top keywords, your business name, URL and other text. I have seen anchor text imbalance in a lot of clients’ backlink profiles. If you have a majority of links with your top keywords in the anchor, rankings almost always stall at the second or third page of search results. On the other hand, if you have mostly brand or business name anchors, Google will not be able to pick up on what keywords you are trying to rank. There has to be a delicate balance. Typically, I shoot for 10% target keywords and then spread out URLs (40%), business names or brands (40%) and the natural anchors, such as “click here,” 10%.
7. Site Has a Google Penalty
Sites get penalized, and two things happen. 1) They significantly drop in ranking positions or 2) Google entirely removes the site from its index. Both are not good. Having your website analyzed by a professional with experience in detecting penalties would be your best bet. They can identify the penalty and take the necessary steps to get your site back on track with Google.
8. Hasn’t stayed up to date on what’s working
The Google algorithm changes on a daily basis, usually with no impact on your site’s rankings. However, Google plays around with which ranking factors it places above others on a routine basis. The best SEO experts in the World identify the trend and then make a pivot to the new direction Google is going. Sometimes Google likes exact match anchor text more than any others or Google gets a ratings & reviews kick-started. Just like in any business, being able to recognize the changes and making the necessary pivot is crucial in search engine optimization.
Search engine rankings stalling is a pervasive issue in search engine optimization. After going through the eight areas described above and making the necessary modifications, your website should get back to moving up the ranks.
Jason Healey is the founder of J2H Digital, an SEO agency located in Boston and Avon, CT. He’s the author of two books, From Ranking to Revenue: A business owner’s guide to successful search engine optimization and A Lawyer’s Guide to Generating Free Leads from Google both available on Amazon.