This is a sponsored post written by SE Ranking. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.
We track rankings every day to stay up-to-date on their dynamics.
Doing so helps us assess the results of our work and lets us provide proof of progress to clients. But most importantly, it enables us to react immediately to sudden position decreases.
Fortunately, abrupt ranking drops are an extreme situation that doesn’t happen that often.
Most of the time, we get information on our rankings but there’s not much we can do about it. That is, we fail to move past analyzing the data on to driving actual results.
This post will show you how to get real value from your SEO routine and turn mundane ranking checks into actionable insights.
1. Group Keywords by URL to See the Actual Ranking Distribution
As a rule of thumb, we sort keyword positions by the particular landing pages we’re promoting.
That way, it’s visible which keywords got top rankings for the page, which resulted in the 10-20th positions, as well as those that failed to rank.
This method works well as it allows you to assess the results of your own work and define where extra efforts should be directed.
However, if you group queries by the actual URLs they’re ranking for, you’ll see the flip side of the ranking/page relations.
For each URL, you’ll see what keywords it ranks for, its position, and what keywords require special attention.
Let’s see what actionable insights you can get out of this information.
Find Pages That Rank Without Your Efforts
The pages you’re promoting aren’t the only ones that can come up in search.
To spot such pages, group keywords via your rank tracker tool by URL and pay attention to the pages that rank for one or two queries. Most of the time, these are pages you didn’t expect to see in search.
In order to decide what to do with these pages, analyze whether you need them to rank for the given keyword in the first place. Sometimes aiming to rank a page for an extra keyword can be harmful.
In fact, it can be just a simple mistake like an irrelevant keyword on a page.
Let’s say you have an ecommerce website, but the query that should lead searchers to the category page (with lots of items for sale) brings them to a particular item page instead.
Consequently, the users don’t get the expected information from the page and leave the site.
Another example: a non-target URL can compete with a target page that’s ranking for the same query (we’ll discuss the pitfalls of this scenario a bit later).
So, if the page got ranked in search for the wrong query, de-optimize it by deleting the keyword from the content and meta tags.
If the query is appropriate, then it makes sense to continue optimizing it further to get higher positions.
Find Keywords That You Don’t Rank For
With your queries filtered by URL, pay attention to those in the “Not found” folder. These are queries that none of your pages are ranked for and you need to decide what to do with them.
What are your options?
Either delete them (you don’t need them but you’re still paying for their position checks) or figure out why you don’t rank for them (they’re irrelevant to the website, you don’t have a matching page for them, etc).
Also, you may have had pages that ranked for some of these queries before. In fact, you can check this by clicking the gray link icon – you’ll see the URL that’s ranked for the given keyword as well as the last date when it ranked.
The date may even tell you why you lost the position. How?
You can check the page in the Web Archive for this day to see whether there have been content changes on that page on that specific date.
Find Keywords That Several of Your Pages Simultaneously Rank For
In some cases, we can have several pages ranking for the same query at the same time.
According to our research, for about 15% of the queries we see in Google’s top 30, there are two or more pages belonging to the same domain.
The thing is that we usually optimize a particular page for a keyword. This target URL works as a landing page that converts users with a specific intent that fits the query.
And if more pages are ranking for the same keyword, the “target” page can rank lower than the “wrong” one.
Plus, Google ranks non-target pages higher for more than half of the queries (based on our analysis of 500,000 queries with a set target URL).
What are the risks in such situations?
If the keyword brings users to the wrong page, it won’t convert as well as the correct one, and all your optimization efforts will be nullified.
How can you discover an extra page that’s ranking for a query?
To do this, always point out the target URL for each keyword you want to rank high for.
There’s an option that allows you to do this in SE Ranking’s Keyword Rank Tracker. It will show you if several of your pages outrun each other in a search for a given keyword:
You’ll see a red figure indicating the number of times the target URL was outranked by a non-target page. You’ll also find the URLs of non-target pages and the dates when they ranked higher than the target URL.
Once you’ve found all the queries with such issues, take a look at the pages that are ranking for them.
Your basic options are to promote all of the pages, de-optimize some of them, or delete the wrong page and redirect to the right one.
2. Use Competitor Data to Uncover Keyword Potential
In addition to tracking your own rankings, you can monitor positions of your competitors.
For example, in SE Ranking you can add up to five competitors and track their rankings for the same queries as yours.
Meaning, you’ll see the full information on your competitors’ search visibility for the queries you’re interested in. You can compare the dynamics and identify the keywords requiring extra efforts.
What Insights Can You Get From Such Analysis?
Remember when we learned how to find keywords none of your pages rank for? You should check your competitors’ positions to assess the potential of these keywords and what pages are already getting ranked for it.
Thus, you’ll be able to decide whether you need to compete for the given keyword.
Because you have access to the full history of your rivals’ rankings, you can check if they saw any position jumps recently.
If there were such, go to the Web Archive to see if they resulted from page redesign. Or check their backlinks because they could have obtained a valuable link right before the increase.
By doing so, you’ll know what strategy can bring you the same positive result.
3. Capture the Difference Between Desktop & Mobile Results
Desktop and mobile search results can be significantly different. This difference depends on the niche, but to see if it impacts your business, you need to know your rankings for each channel separately.
After Google announced “mobile-first” indexing, the mobile versions of websites became a determining factor in the overall search success.
If you have a responsive design, you need to track your mobile SERP rankings separately because they define your total search performance.
And, in case your mobile positions are much lower than that of desktop, you should focus on boosting them.
Using Keyword Rank Tracker, you can compare your desktop and mobile positions side-by-side. The queries for which you have a big difference in positions are the ones needing your special attention.
Also, the gap in rankings can result from different user search intents. Meaning, Google can think mobile and desktop users need different things as they’re searching for the same query.
To check whether that’s your case, use SE Ranking SERP Tracking tool (SERP competitors in your account). This tool tracks the top 100 search results for each of your queries.
Analyze the top 100 for both mobile and desktop search: which URLs recur in both SERPs, and which don’t?
What’s special about the content of mobile results? Perhaps the mobile SERP displays only videos or some other form of mobile content for a specific target query.
Knowing what you missed by comparing your site to others, you can enhance your mobile positions.
4. Track & Tag Good Domains for Link Building
In the SERP Tracking tool, you can see all the websites ranking for your queries. This data can be used in your link building strategy.
With the entire map of the SERP for your queries in front of you, you can define the websites you want to link out to you.
These are business catalogs, blogs, directories, media outlets – all informational resources in the search results for your product queries.
Informational resources ranking for your keywords are your top-target websites to get a backlink. Such links serve not only link-building values but also earn you extra presence in the top SERP results.
Within the SERP Tracking tool, you can tag the websites you are interested in to see their dynamics and stay on top of everything.
When acquiring links, tag websites depending on their response:
The ones that agreed to publish your link or, at least, mention you.
Those that refused publication.
Those you haven’t reached out to yet.
And don’t forget to check the SERP regularly to spot any new potential link publishers.
5. Monitor SERP Features for Your Queries
Google’s first result page often features lots of elements that complement the usual suspects – the top 10.
The featured snippet, images, maps, news, videos, ads – all of these elements can attract traffic that would otherwise go to the organic results.
This, in turn, effectively distorts the allocation of traffic. So if you managed to get ranked at the top for important queries – check if there are any SERP features.
For example, a featured snippet is ranked at position zero and its CTR is higher than any other links on the page.
This means that you’ll have less traffic from queries that have the featured snippet among its results than from queries with no instant answers in SERP.
So you need to track the appearance of SERP features for the keywords that matter the most to your SEO efforts.
If a local pack for your target query appears in search – register your company in Google My Business. Add optimized media content to your target pages to push them into Google Images and Videos.
For getting into a featured snippet, shape and optimize your content accordingly.
But you should bear a couple of things in mind here.
Your chances of appearing in Google’s instant answer snippets are much higher for pages ranking in the top 10.
Over-optimizing a page for a particular SERP feature could harm your rankings. Be mindful about adjusting your content and meta tags when attempting to get into any of these boxes.
Rank tracking data is a rich source of insights that, if used wisely, can help you with lots of things:
Find pages that rank without your knowledge and can harm the conversion rate of your target pages for the same keyword.
Discover and delete keywords that you track (spend money on) but don’t rank for them.
Find queries that several of your pages are competing for at the same time.
Use your competitors’ rankings data to check if a certain keyword is worth fighting for and what works.
Track both mobile and desktop rankings to comply with mobile-first indexing requirements.
Find, select, and tag websites for building links via the SERP Tracking tool.
Monitor SERP features for your most important queries.
SE Ranking’s Keyword Rank Tracker helps to solve all these tasks and more. Give it a try for free.
Featured Image: Image by SE Ranking. Used with permission. In-Post Photos: Images by SE Ranking. Used with permission.
LinkedIn pages will soon feature an ‘Ads’ tab showing all sponsored content an advertiser has run in the past six months.
The company says this change is being made in an effort to bring even greater transparency to ads on LinkedIn.
“At LinkedIn, we are committed to providing a safe, trusted, and professional environment where members can connect with each other, engage with relevant content, and grow their careers. Increased transparency to both our customers and members is critical to creating this trusted environment.”
While viewing ads in the new tab, users can click on the ads but the advertiser will not be charged.
Ad clicks from within the ‘Ads’ tab will not impact campaign reporting either.
From a marketing perspective, I see this as being an opportunity for competitor research.
Do you know a company who is killing it with LinkedIn advertising? View their ads tab to see if you can learn from what they’re doing.
Of course, the Ads tab will only show you what their ads look like.
It won’t reveal anything about how those ads are targeted or what the company’s daily budget is. But hey, it’s something.
LinkedIn says this is the first of many updates to come as the company furthers its effort to provide users with useful information about the ads they see.
The new Ads tab is rolling out globally over the next few weeks
SEMrush is a popular competitive intelligence platform used by search marketers. The company, recently infused with $40 million in funding to expand beyond Google, Bing and Yahoo insights, has launched a new product called Sellerly specifically for Amazon sellers.
What is Sellerly? Announced Monday, Sellerly designed to give Amazon sellers the ability to split test product detail pages.
“By introducing Sellerly as a seller’s buddy in Amazon marketing, we hope to improve hundreds of existing Amazon sellers’ strategies,” said SEMrush Chief Strategy Officer Eugene Levin in a statement. “Sellerly split testing is only the first step here. We’ve already started to build a community around the new product, which is very important to us. We believe that by combining feedback from users with our leading technology and 10 years of SEO software experience, we will be able to build something truly exceptional for Amazon sellers.”
How does it work? Sellerly is currently free to use. Amazon sellers connect their Amazon accounts to the tool in order to manage their product pages. Sellers can make changes to product detail pages to test against the controls. Sellerly collects data in real time and sellers can then choose winners based on views and conversions.
Sellers can run an unlimited number of tests.
Why we should care. Optimized product detail pages on Amazon is a critical aspect of success on the platform. As Amazon continues to generate an increasing share of e-commerce sales for merchants big and small, and competition only increases, product page optimization becomes even more critical. Amazon does not support AB testing natively. Sellerly is not the first split test product for Amazon product pages to market. Splitly (paid), Listing Dojo (free) are two others that offer similar split testing services.
About The Author
Ginny Marvin is Third Door Media’s Editor-in-Chief, managing day-to-day editorial operations across all of our publications. Ginny writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting for Search Engine Land, Marketing Land and MarTech Today. With more than 15 years of marketing experience, she has held both in-house and agency management positions. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.
Google’s John Mueller was presented with a peculiar situation of a website with zero notifications of a manual action that cannot rank for it’s own brand name. Mueller analyzed the situation, thought it through, then appeared to reach the conclusion that maybe Google was keeping it from ranking.
This is a problem that has existed for a long time, from before Mueller worked at Google. It’s a penalty that’s associated with a domain that remains even if the domain is registered by a new buyer years later.
Description of the Problem
The site with a penalty has not received notices of a manual penalty.
That’s what makes it weird because, how can a site be penalized if it’s not penalized, right?
The site had an influx of natural links due to word of mouth popularity. Yet even with those links, the site cannot rank for it’s own name or a snippet of content from it’s home page.
Had those natural links or the content been a problem then Google would have notified the site owner. So the problem is not with the links or the content.
Nevertheless, the site owner disavowed old inbound links from before he purchased the site but the site still did not rank.
Here is how the site owner described the problem:
“We bought the domain three years ago to have a brand called Girlfriend Collective, it’s a clothing company on the Shopify platform.
We haven’t had any… warnings from our webmaster tools that says we have any penalizations… So I was just wondering if there was any other underlying issues that you would know outside of that…
The domain is girlfriend.com and the query would be Girlfriend Collective.
It’s been as high as the second page of the SERPs, but… we get quite a few search queries for our own branded terms… it will not show up.
My assumption was that before we bought it, it was a pretty spammy dating directory.”
John Mueller’s response was:
“I can double check to see from our side if there’s anything kind of sticking around there that you’d need to take care of…”
It appears as if Mueller is being circumspect in his answer and doesn’t wish to say that it might be a problem at Google. At this point, he’s still holding on to the possibility that there’s something wrong with the site. You can’t blame him because he probably gets this all the time, where someone thinks it’s Google but it’s really something wrong with the site.
Is There Something Wrong with the Domain Name?
I checked Archive.org to see what it’s history was. It was linking to adult sites prior to 2004 and sometime in mid 2004 the domain switched it’s monetization strategy away from linking to adult sites to displaying Google ads as a parked domain.
A parked domain is a domain that does not have a website on it. It just has ads. People used to type domain names into the address field and sites like Girlfriend.com would monetize the “type-in” traffic with Google AdSense, usually with a service that shows ads on the site owner’s behalf in exchange for a percentage of the earnings.
The fact that it was linking to adult sites could be a factor that has caused Google to more or less blacklist Girlfriend.com and keep it from ranking.
Domain Related Penalties Have Existed for a Long Time
This has happened many times over the years. It used to be standard to check the background of a domain before purchasing it.
I remember the case of a newbie SEO who couldn’t rank for his own brand name. Another SEO who was more competent contacted Google on his behalf and Google lifted the legacy domain penalty.
The Search Query
Mueller referred to the search queries the site owner wanted to rank for as being “generic” and commented that ranking for those kinds of “generic” terms is tricky.
This is what John Mueller said:
“In general, when it comes to kind of generic terms like that, that’s always a bit tricky. But it sounds like you’re not trying to rank for like just… girlfriend. “
However the phrase under discussion was the company name, Girlfriend Collective, which is not a generic phrase.
It could be argued that the domain name is not relevant for the brand name. So perhaps Mueller was referencing the generic nature of the domain name when he commented on ranking for “generic” phrases?
I don’t understand why “generic” phrases entered into this discussion. The site owner answered Mueller to reinforce that he’s not trying to rank for generic phrases, that he just wants to rank for his brand name.
The search phrase the site owner is failing to rank for is Girlfriend Collective. Girlfriend Collective is not a generic keyword phrase.
Is the Site Poorly Optimized?
When you visit the website itself, the word Collective does not exist in the visible content.
The word “collective” is nowhere on the page, not even in the footer copyright. The word is there, but it’s in an image, it has to be in text for Google to recognize it for the regular search results.
That’s a considerable oversight to omit your own brand name from the website’s home page.
The brand name exists in the title tag and other meta data.
It does not exist in the visible content where it really matters.
The word collective is not a part of the domain name.
A reasonable case could be made that girlfriend.com does not merit ranking for the brand name of Girlfriend Collective because the word collective only exists in the title tag of the home page, not on the page itself.
Google Does Not Even Rank it for Page Snippets
However that reasonable case falls apart upon closer scrutiny. If you take any content from the page and search with that snippet of content in Google, you’ll see that the domain name does not even rank for the content that is on it’s own page.
The site is fully indexed, but the content is not allowed to rank.
I searched for the following phrases but only found other pages and social media posts ranking in Google, not Girlfriend.com:
“Five classic colors made from recycled water bottles.”
“A bunch of old water bottles have never looked so good.”
That first phrase, “Five classic colors…” doesn’t rank anywhere on Google for the first several pages.
But as you can see below, Girlfriend.com ranks #6 in Bing:
Bing has no trouble ranking Girlfriend Collective for a snippet of text taken from the home page. Google does not show it at all. This points to this issue being something to do with Google and not with the site itself.
Even though Girlfriend.com appears to fall short in its search optimization, that is not the problem. The problem is that Google is preventing any content from that domain from ranking.
The reason Google is preventing that content from ranking is because the domain was problematic in the past. At some point in its history it was filtered from ranking. It’s a Legacy Google Penalty.
Checking the snapshot of girlfriend.com via Archive.org shows that it was being used to promote adult websites prior to 2004.
This is what it looked like sometime in 2004 and onward. It appears to be a parked domain that is showing Google AdSense ads.
This is a snapshot of Girlfriend.com circa 2004. It wasn’t a directory as the site owner believed. Checking the HTML source code reveals that the page is displaying Google AdSense ads. That’s what a parked domain looked like.
Parked domains used to be able to rank. But at some point after 2004 Google stopped ranking those pages.
There’s no way to speculate if the domain received it’s penalty before 2004 or after.
Site Can’t Rank for it’s Own Brand Name
There are many reasons why a site can’t rank for it’s own domain name or words from it’s own pages. If you suspect that your site may be suffering from a legacy Google penalty, you can verify the previous content by checking Archive.org.
Archive.org is a non-profit that stores snapshots of what web pages look like. Archive.org allows you to verify if your domain was previously used by someone else to host low quality content.
Unfortunately, Google does not provide a way to contact them to resolve this matter.
Bing Ranks Girlfriend.com for Girlfriend Collective
If there was a big problem with links or content on Girlfriend.com that was keeping it from ranking on Google, then it would very likely be apparent on Bing.
Bing and Google use different algorithms. But if there was something so massively wrong with Girlfriend Collective, whether site quality or a technical issue, there would be a high probability that the massive problem would keep it from ranking at Bing.
Bing has no problem ranking Girlfriend.com for it’s brand name:
Bing ranks Girlfriend.com in a normal manner. This may be proof that there is no major issue with the Girlfriend.com site itself. The problem may be at Google.
Google’s John Mueller Admits it Might be Google
After listening to how the site owner has spent three years waiting for the legacy domain penalty to drop off, three years of uploading disavows, three years of bidding on AdWords for it’s own brand name, John Mueller seemed to realize that the issue was not on the site owner’s side but on Google’s side.
This is what John Mueller offered:
“I need to take a look to see if there’s anything sticking around there because it does seem like the old domain was pretty problematic. So that… always makes it a little bit harder to turn it around into something reasonable.
But it feels like after a couple of years that should be possible. “
In the end, Mueller admitted that it might be something on Google’s side. However an issue that remains is that there is no solution for other publishers. This is not something a publisher can do on their own like a disavow. It’s something a Googler must be made aware of in order to fix.