You can hide a dead body on the 2nd page of Google, a marketing joke goes.
Because no one ever goes there!
Bad joke? 😉
Sadly, it’s almost true.
When was the last time you scrolled beyond the first 5 results for a search query you did?
Small, medium and big websites are falling all over themselves to improve their page rankings. And that is search engine positioning.
It is different from search engine optimization, as you will see later in this post.
So let’s dig in.
What is search engine positioning?
Search engine positioning is the process of optimizing individual pages of a website to make them rank in the highest positions possible in Search Engines Results Pages (SERP), ideally for multiple keywords.
Why is search engine positioning important?
If you have a website, you need to maximize your website visitors to increase your opportunities, leads, and sales. And to get more website traffic, you need to feature at the top of SERPs.
The top results on a search engine page get about 75% of clicks.
Image source: Backlinko
And results on the 2nd page hardly get any visits.
So to get more website visitors, you need to ensure that you rank at the top of the result pages, for a specific keyword.
However, one key thing to remember about search engine results:The top positions in a SERP include much more than a list of 10 blue page URLs. You can rank high with media as well. #seo Click To Tweet
Google provides multiple ways to answer a user’s query, and provides results in different formats:
- Featured snippets
- People also ask
Here is a SERP for the query ‘homemade shampoo’.
So if you own the site mamavation.com, and you have a blog post of 10 homemade shampoo recipes, it is not enough that you are on page 1 of Google for the keyword ‘homemade shampoo’. You still come after all the first sections.
So to get the user to see you first, you have to further improve your search engine positioning so you can be included in either the featured snippets, images, or People Also Ask.
What is the difference between search engine positioning & SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a much broader topic of optimizing an entire website for search engines.
It has 6 key elements, including:
- Keyword Research
- Technical SEO
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
- Content SEO
- Local SEO
Here’s how the elements work.
Search engine positioning is a subset of search engine optimization which focuses only on ranking specific pages for certain keywords.
It is similar to on-page and content SEO.
One way to understand the difference between search engine positioning and SEO is this:Your website as a whole may be optimized well for search engines, but you may still have pages that are underperforming. Then you can use search engine positioning tactics on those specific pages to help them rank higher. #seo Click To Tweet
Here is an infographic that explains the difference between search engine positioning and search engine optimization.
How does search engine positioning work?
In other words, how does a search engine like Google decide which page to rank high, for which keywords?
Search engines have hundreds of ranking factors, but overall Google, for example, has 4 broad ones:
- Relevance-> How accurately your webpage matches the search query
- Quality-> How good and helpful your page content is for the particular search query
- Authority-> How accurate and reliable Google thinks your page is
- User experience-> How much users engage with your page
The positioning of a certain page in SERPs is also heavily influenced by the SEO of a site, by which overall topics Google thinks your site is an authority in, and already ranks you high for.
What factors influence the search engine positioning of a page?
While search engine positioning is easier to improve than SEO as a whole, there are key factors that need to be done well to achieve the best results:
1. On-page optimization
These focus heavily on the use of keywords. For example:
- Target keyword
- Related keywords
- Keyword density and use of focus and related keywords within the content
- Use of keywords in heading tags
- Use of keywords in the URL, title tag, and meta description
2. Page-level user experience
These include factors that indicate how easy it is for visitors to consume the content. For example:
- Page loading speed
These include the links that point to the page. For example:
- Internal links, especially those from the top-performing pages of a website
- Internal links from pages on the same topic within a website
- External links (backlinks) pointing to the page
4. Domain rating
The site’s overall SEO performance also influences the search engine positioning of all pages within the site. That’s why sometimes you see some pages with thin content from high DR sites outranking really great content.
But despair not. While you should always aim to improve your DR for boosting your SEO, even without a high DR you can improve the search engine positioning of your webpages if you follow the key tips listed below.
Benefits of search engine positioning
Search engine positioning improves the rank of the different pages of your website, giving you consistently high ranks for specific keywords.
This is how search engine positioning improves your overall brand and business:
1. Increases your website traffic: When you show up at the top of SERPs consistently for relevant keywords, you get more clicks on your pages and visits to your website.
2. Improves your SEO: The higher number of clicks for each page also improves your click-through rate (CTR), which tells Google that your page result is relevant for that keyword. This could boost your site’s SEO.
3. Boosts your brand image & business: When you rank high for certain keywords of a particular topic, your brand gets perceived as an expert on that topic. For example, entrepreneur.com for entrepreneurship or Brian Dean for SEO. It gains the trust of your target audience, and trust drives business growth.
How to calculate the search engine positioning of a page?
There are various ways to calculate which page is ranking in which position for which keyword.
First, identify the keywords or phrases that you want your page to rank for. Then follow any of the below methods.
1. Google search
Enter your target keywords in Google (or your preferred search engine) and note the position of your page in the results.
For example, if your page is the third result on the first page of results, then your page has a search engine positioning of 3. Remember that the position of your page can vary depending on the keyword or phrase that is being used.
But this is also dependent on location.
If you want to know the search engine positioning of your page in a different location than you are in, you can do that by typing your keywords in an incognito page of your browser, by using a VPN, or by any of the two below methods.
2. Google Search Console
It’s quite easy to check your search engine positioning in Google Search Console.
Simply go to Performance, and choose the relevant queries:
- Search type: Web/ Images/ Video/ News
- Date: Any period
- Query: The keyword you want to know the rank for
- Page: The page you want to know the position of
- Country: The country in which you want to rank
- Device: Desktop/ Mobile/ laptop
- Search Appearance: Videos/ Web light results
Here’s an example of my site for a page and a matching keyword (competitive positioning).
3. SEO tools
You could also use SEO software to get similar metrics. I use Semrush, for example.
You can just type your query in the Keyword Overview tool and see which position your site ranks for.
Alternatively, you can type your URL in Domain Overview, and see which keywords rank in which position.
I would still recommend the Google Search Console method as it’s the simplest and fastest way to calculate search engine positioning.
17 search engine positioning tips
1. Start with a content strategy
You can be featured at the top of SERPs with advertising, like PPC campaigns.
But if you want to feature high organically, then the most important aspect you have to focus on is content creation.
But not just random pieces of content created here and there.
Your content needs to follow a structured content strategy, with an organized content planner, so you can churn out targeted content consistently and track its results.One pro tip for creating an SEO-friendly content strategy that delivers returns is to try to rank for topics instead of keywords. Click To Tweet
2. Create quality content regularly
To win in search engine positioning, you must regularly write content on a certain topic. While not all of your pages on the topic may rank high, you can create pillar pages and content clusters that will rank your site high overall for a topic.
And some pages on that topic may get high SERPs for specific keywords.
You cannot expect to rank at the top with just creating one piece of content in 6 months. Google loves fresh content, so consistency and regularity are key.
3. Pay special attention to search intentGolden rule of content marketing: Create a buyer persona first, to help your create engaging and relevant content. #seo #contentmarketing #targetaudience Click To Tweet
That is why a key first to creating a content strategy involves understanding the search intent of your audience at various steps of their customer journey.
There are 4 kinds of search intent:
- Informative: Your audience is looking for solutions or knowledge.
- Commercial: They are considering buying a product/ service, but want to know more first.
- Transactional: Your audience wants to know purchase options like location, discounts, etc.
- Navigational: They just want to find a website
So to improve the search engine positioning of a page for a particular keyword, answer your questions with your content, which is the next step.
4. Answer questions with your content
Once you know how to find the search intent for keywords, i.e., what questions your audience is asking to find what kind of answers, create your content to answer the questions.
Many times people are just looking for quick pieces of information and don’t need to go through a 2000-word blog post to get the answer.
In fact, Google’s passage ranking update helps users find specific answers within the content of any page to deliver short answers.
See the example below.
The guide is overall about raising underage kittens, but Google found the answer to how much kittens should eat within it, and ranked it on top.
So if you create your content to include such pieces of relevant information, your page can feature at the top of SERPs, even in featured snippets, even if your whole page does not rank for the specific user query.
This will help you optimize your content for voice search as well because voice search users tend to speak complete questions instead of a few words, as they do when typing a search query.
Here are some steps to answer questions with your content based on search intent:
- Understand the search intent for the keyword
- Evaluate if your content currently answers that question
- Check out the top 10 SERP results to understand how they understand that question and compare it to your page
- Improve your content to better answer the question
Don’t adjust your content exactly to match the top 10 in the SERPs. Keep your brand story and your overall SEO strategy in mind, and optimize your content accordingly.
5. Use relevant and long-tail keywords
Do thorough keyword research for the topic you want to rank for, and choose related long-tail keywords around that topic to create different pieces of content.
Long-tail keywords are keywords with at least 3 words.
If you do a Google search for a keyword with one or two words, you will see that the top positions in SERPs will be taken up by the top websites in the field, which have tons of content pages and thousands of backlinks.
It is thus very difficult to beat them and rank high in the SERPs.
But if you choose a longer keyword, which probably does not have a huge search volume, then it is easier to rank for them. See the example below for the search ‘wooden toys’.
That is 247 million results, with ads on top.
When the search term becomes ‘wooden toys for 1 year old’, the results are narrowed down by more than 50% and have a blog post at the top.
You can find long-tail keywords from Google itself, in the ‘People also ask’ section or in Google suggestions at the bottom.
6. Use unique focus keywords for every page
You may want to rank for many keywords, but you need to zero in on only one focus keyword per page.
And then use related/ semantic keywords to use within your content.
You should also have different focus keywords for each page of your website, otherwise, you run the risk of having keyword cannibalization.
If you target the same keywords across different pages, Google won’t know which is the best page to rank for a certain keyword. So when you create your product/ services pages or content pages, give every page its own unique focus keywords, even if some other pages are on related topics.Pro tip: Focus keywords should be unique for each page, but semantic keywords may be shared. The focus keyword of one page can be used as a semantic keyword for another page. #keywordresearch #semantickeywords Click To Tweet
Here are 2 blog posts in Hubspot that are similar, but have different focus keywords.
This brings us to the next point.
7. Use the focus keyword in the page URL
This is self-explanatory.
Make sure you have a single focus keyword per page and use it in the URL of the page. This tells Google very clearly what the page is about.
If you already have a page URL that is different from your focus keyword, simply update it using an SEO or a redirection tool. On WordPress, Yoast or RankMath are good tools to use.
8. Optimize the page’s meta tags
The title and meta description of your page is what users see in the result pages of their search queries.
See the example below.
These are also referred to as meta tags and tell the user (and Google) what the page is about. But that’s not just it.
These two sections are also the page’s selling point. They also are little sales tools, motivating the user to click on them to read more on the page. So write these carefully, making sure they are very relevant for the keyword you want to rank the page high for.Pro tip: Use your page's focus keyword in the meta tags of the page. i.e., the page title and the meta description. #onpageseo #searchengineoptimization Click To Tweet
In the example above, the title and meta description clearly say what the page is about, for a page with the focus keyword ‘best sourdough recipe’.
Hint: If your page has lots of impressions but not enough clicks, then you might need to rework the meta description to drive more visits.
9. Use the relevant header tags
Header tags (H1, H2, …H6, P) structure your content, and tell Google how to crawl your page. So create lots of subheadings in your content and use the appropriate tags in the right order. See an example below for my content on 200+ marketing tips.
Pro tip: Use your focus and semantic keywords in your header tags for Google to better understand your content. #contentwriting #onpageseo Click To Tweet
10. Use alt text for all images on the page
Search engine positioning is not limited to your page URLs. As you saw above, a Google page result includes lots of other elements as well.
And you could rank high with an image for example. Or a video.
So in your page content, try to use lots of images, and add alt text. Alt text essentially tells Google what the image is about.
For your featured image, use your focus keyword as the alt text, and for other images on your page, use semantic keywords as your alt text.
11. Conduct a content audit
You may want to improve the search engine positioning of all your pages, but the truth is, not all your pages will rank on the first page of Google, or at the top. So prioritize and choose the pages you want to work on the positioning for. Here are some tips:
Leave the pages ranking in positions 1-5 alone.
The pages ranking beyond position 11 require a lot of work to reach page 1.
Start with the pages ranking in positions 6-11, and see how you can optimize them further for the first 5, if not the first 3 positions.
You can do a conduct audit of your site from Google Search Console.
Log in and go to Performance. You will see which pages are ranking the highest, and for which keywords.
12. Use internal linking
Internal linking is not just helpful to tell Google what your page is about, it is also an excellent way to pass SEO juice from your high-ranking pages to the ones you want to rank higher.
So from your content audit when you know which page ranks the best and for which keywords, add links in them to the pages you are trying to improve the search engine positioning for. Preferably, use the focus keyword as the anchor text to include the links in.
A fantastic tool for this that changed my life is Link Whisper. Before I used to manually choose the relevant anchor texts, create Google spreadsheets, and insert links. Now I do my internal linking, in less than 5 minutes, for all new and even old posts.
Read my full Link Whisper review to see how the tool helps and if it can benefit you.
13. Update your content
When you create a piece of content, search engines need time to crawl it, index it, and then rank it. So give it a few weeks at least, if not months.
Then go back to your content and see how you can refresh/update it to make it more relevant and improve the search engine positioning.
A few ways to refresh the content could be:
- Use more semantic keywords
- Include the most up-to-date information
- Add more images/videos
One tip I follow from Adam Enfroy is to publish the content first without making it perfect, give it a few weeks to see how Google is ranking it, and use that information to update and optimize the content further.
14. Improve your page speed
Google has hundreds of ranking factors for pages, and we don’t know all of them, but Google has clearly said that page loading speed is important for high SERP positions.
The first 5 seconds of page load time have the highest impact on conversion rates.
Website conversion rates drop by an average of 4.42% with each additional second of load time (between seconds 0-5).
So improve the speed of each page you want to improve the search engine positioning for.
15. Ensure your page is still indexed.
Once you publish a page, Google will usually automatically index it. But if you’ve been doing some updates on your page or website or if there have been some Google updates recently, then just make sure that the page you’re trying to rank higher is still indexed.
Simply go to Google Search Console -> URL inspection -> enter the URL of your page, and check for indexation.
If it is not indexed, just Request Indexation.
16. Get backlinks to your page
Backlinks and high ranks in Google have a direct correlation. Backlinks improve the overall authority of a site, and they can also boost the search engine positioning of a specific page.
Develop a link-building strategy and campaign to maximize backlinks to the specific page you want to improve the rankings of.
17. Improve your Core Web Vitals score
Your site’s Core Web Vitals tell you the user experience that your website visitors are having. And user experience is one of the biggest factors for Google regarding which page to rank high.
You can see your existing Core Web Vitals score on your Google Search Console dashboard.
This is an optional tactic for now because so far the correlation between CWB and page performance is not exactly clear. Working on this aspect will not harm your site, of course.
But if you only have limited resources like time, focus on the above 16 tips for now.
If you have the technical expertise you can work on them yourself, or hire an expert to do so. If you have limited budgets and can’t hire an agency or a technical expert, a good place to start could be Fiverr as well.
So there you go! These tips will get you rocking your search engine positioning work and getting higher ranks for your web pages.
Search engine positioning is not a one-time project. You have to consistently keep working on it. Be aware of the latest Google updates, research your keywords often on Google and with an SEO tool and see what is changing in the SERPs.
Then adapt to those changes by optimizing your content.
Have you worked on your search engine positioning? What did you achieve/ learn? Do you have any other tips to share? Would love to have your comments.