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Competing against so much content on the web makes it hard to outrank others in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) battle, even when you’re putting out stellar content. Without the right keywords, search engines may not find your content.
But coming up with great keywords that will help your content rank well isn’t always easy. Content producers often look for high-search volume keywords when doing keyword research. But those can be hard to rank well for because they’re usually high-competition keywords.
To find better keywords, you need to dig a little deeper when doing keyword research. Here are eight factors to consider when qualifying a keyword:
1. The search engine results aren’t matching the search intent
Google ranks content based on its relevance to the search intent. The more closely your keyword matches search intent, the greater the chance of Google finding it, provided it is not a high-competition keyword. Remember, low search volume keywords can be just as effective if it aligns with search intent.
When you run a Google search using your keyword, do page one results match the keyword? The fewer results that match a user’s search intent, the greater the chance your article (which does match the intent) has of gaining a higher SERP ranking.
Long-tail keywords tend to work best as they’re more specific. Let’s say your keyword is “what is a chatbot and how does it work,” and the search results yield articles on “best chatbot software,” then you may have struck keyword gold.
Why? Because it means Google isn’t finding many articles that are an exact match with the keyword. Instead, it’s bringing up pieces that are similar to what users are searching for.
2. The domain authority of the websites on page one is lower than yours
Google tends to reference websites with more clout and popularity first (i.e., sites with a higher number of backlinks and authority). It is harder to compete against high-authority sites if your site has a low domain authority (DA) score.
That’s why I suggest checking your site’s DA score as well as all the sites on the first page of Google. Domain authority is a key factor to consider when you’re looking for the right keywords to target. If other websites on the first page of Google have a lower DA than yours, that’s excellent news — it means you stand a good chance of outranking those sites because your website is more popular.
You can see what a site’s DA is by adding a website audit tool to your browser. I use a combination of Moz and Ahrefs extension bars for my browser.
3. Forum sites are coming up on Google’s first page
Google tends to reference articles first. Suppose your keyword search shows forum sites like Quora, Reddit, Twitter and Facebook Groups on the first page. In this case, Google could be struggling to find relevant, good-quality articles on the topic. This is a golden opportunity for you to produce an article on the topic that can potentially land a prime spot on page one.
4. Ecommerce sites are showing up in search results
If you’re writing an informational piece of content, but your keyword is bringing up ecommerce sites, there are two possible reasons for this — one of which you could leverage to score a better ranking.
The first reason is that your keyword may be missing the mark on search intent. Try tweaking your keyword to see if it brings up different results. Second, it’s another indication that Google can’t find relevant articles on the topic. If you know your keyword isn’t related to commercial intent, then Google will likely rank your informative article above any commercial content.
5. Short articles are featured on page one
If your keyword search brings up shorter articles of 800 words or less on the first page of Google, you could beat them with a longer piece. Here’s why:
More text makes it easier for Google to understand the content and index it accordingly. That increases your chances of Google’s crawlers finding your piece and correctly matching it to a search query.
A recent study analyzed 11.8 million search results and found that an average article ranking high in the top 10 positions contained 1477 words on average.
Google rewards content that offers value. Longer, more in-depth articles that are data-rich and cite research are considered more valuable to the reader.
You can target more keywords in a longer article, increasing the chances of search engines finding it.
Well-researched articles attract more backlinks, and more backlinks increase your domain authority.
6. The content showing up is outdated
If your Google search brings up a lot of old content on the first page, your new content could outrank the older content if it provides new information or a fresh perspective.
But what qualifies as “old” content? There’s no set answer, as there are many variables to consider. News articles may be old within a week, but other types of content may have a shelf life of 6-12 months.
On the other hand, evergreen content can continue to yield results for years if it remains relevant and is appropriately optimized. You can also update your old content with new information or keywords to keep it fresh and attractive to Google.
7. Poor content quality is appearing in search results
Google algorithms have become smarter. Poor quality content that tries to attract search engines with keyword stuffing does a website more harm than good. Google is a master detector of rank manipulation tactics and typically ignores websites that resort to black-hat SEO tactics. On the flip side, Google loves good quality, well-structured content that includes the following:
A strong heading that includes your primary keyword
Plenty of white space. Text broken up by subheadings and numbered lists make it easier for Google to understand what the piece is about.
However, should you find many poor-quality articles appearing in your search results, you could easily beat these by producing a well-constructed article.
8. Websites with a slow page speed are among page one results
Another ranking factor Google takes into account is page speed. The longer it takes for a page to load, the more likely visitors are to bounce after a few seconds. And if visitors are not spending much time on a website, it starts to drop in rankings.
If you’re analyzing competitor sites and find they are slow at loading, your faster web page can give you an advantage in the rankings race. You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool to test your page’s speed.
Why the right keywords matter
In a survey by Search Engine Land, more than 90% of respondents said they are likely to only look at page one of a search result. If they don’t find what they’re looking for on page one, many people prefer to start a new search rather than move to page two.
That’s why picking the best keywords matters. The right keyword can score you a coveted page one ranking. The wrong one can drop you on page two — a small difference with big consequences for your website’s visibility. These eight keyword strategies can help improve your search engine rankings and help you win the SERP battle.