What to do when a search engine ranks the wrong page on your website
So you’ve spent hours crafting a page on your website to make sure it’s full of useful content…
It does a great job of targeting a particular keyword and will really help solve a problem for the visitor.
However, despite your efforts, Google has frustratingly picked out a different page on your website to rank for this keyword. It’s a fairly common problem that can be easily rectified with a structured, methodological approach.
This is usually due to ‘cannibalisation’ – don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds. If you’re seeing a significant degree of fluctuation in daily rankings for a given keyword, it is worth investigating which URLs the search engines have been ranking each day. For example, ‘Page A’ and ‘Page B’ both contain engaging and highly relevant content on the same topic, and so Google can’t decide which should rank over the other. It chooses to serve ‘Page A’ one day, and then ‘Page B’ the next. Ultimately, neither page will rank as highly as it should.
More complex issues
Things get a little more difficult when you start experiencing more than just daily changes. This is actually something we found on our own site recently. We’ve always ranked well for a particular keyword, ‘SEO Manchester’, but at the beginning of April it suddenly dropped 65 positions and remained there.
We immediately saw that Google had started ranking a different page to the one it had previously ranked for this keyword. After a few days, it was clear that this wasn’t just cannibalisation between two pages. Instead, Google had decided that the new page was the best one to return in its results. The previous page was no longer deemed relevant.
The problem we had was that the keyword had commercial intent (i.e. a searcher was looking for a particular service) and the newly ranked page was part of an informational blog series. So, although the blog was very useful, it wasn’t what a searcher was looking for. Meanwhile our commercially-driven service page, which had previously ranked, was the most relevant page to serve the searcher’s intent.
Finding the solution
Once an issue has been identified, we can start putting steps in place to solve it. As SEOs, when we find a problem the root cause is rarely clear. We need to hypothesise a number of reasons why the issue has arisen. In doing so, we create an action list to work through to determine which of the reasons identified is the most likely root cause.
This allows us to address each item, monitor its impact and follow a simple ‘did it fix it’ process. If ‘no’, we move to the next item in the list and follow the same systematic approach. If ‘yes’, we’ve solved it. Due to the complex nature of SEO and the fact that the rules change every day, the ‘did it fix it?’ process tends to be the best solution in identifying most SEO issues.
In the end, we managed to get our service page ranking again, in fact, it now ranks even higher than before!