Developing a detailed content strategy and creating quality content can be hard work. Understandably, you’ll want to see the fruits of your labor sooner rather than later.
Unfortunately, search engines often have other ideas. As you’re probably already aware, it can take a long time to rank in Google. In fact, according to Ahrefs, almost 95% of pages don’t reach the heady heights of the top 10 within a year of being published.
For your content to be part of the “lucky” 5%, you’ll need to put in some work. Google Search Console (GSC) - formerly known as Webmaster Tools - is the best way to identify what that work should be.
1. Drive clicks to high-impression pages
Arguably GSC’s greatest strength from a content optimization perspective is its ability to track down content that’s getting lots of attention on search engine results pages (SERPs), but isn’t generating a lot of traffic.
In GSC’s “Queries” tab found under "Search results", click the “Impressions” button to see all the search queries for which you rank, listed in descending order. This will easily allow you to find pages receiving lots of impressions (in other words, the number of times the link URL appears in a search result) but that also have a low click-through rate (CTR).
For starters, pick a single page with high impressions and low CTR (click on "Pages" next to "Queries" to identify those pages that are performing well). Now, find out how that page shows up in SERPs. Generally, you’ll only be shown three pieces of information:
- Title tag: the title of the page should be 70 characters or fewer
- URL: As it sounds, this is the address of the page in question
- Meta description: Effectively your page’s elevator pitch. Within a limit of approximately 156 characters, it gives you the opportunity to convince searchers to click
Generally, low-CTR pages will have an issue with one or both of the title tag and meta description. The most common issues are as follows:
- Generic copy: The tag or description aren’t tailored to the page
- Too many characters: The tag or description are being truncated in SERPs
- Too dull: Lacking in emotive or descriptive language
- No call to action: The tag/description don’t compel the searcher to click
Once you’ve identified the problem, fix it. Write a more persuasive meta description, or a meta title that better conveys the page content. Review your efforts a month later and - hopefully - you’ll see a marked improvement in CTR, with a corresponding upturn in traffic to the page.
2. Root out pages with poor click-through rates
CTR isn’t just about converting impressions into traffic. Google uses CTR as a measure of how well searchers are responding to your content. Its RankBrain algorithm prioritizes pages with high CTRs and bumps poor performers further down SERPs.
As a result, once you’ve tackled your worst-offending pages, it’s time to shift focus to the rest of your site. As a general rule, any page with a sub-3% CTR is ripe for improvement, using the steps detailed in the previous section.
3. Find pages that have the most incoming links
Another reliable way to improve a page’s ranking performance is to make it more authoritative in Google’s eyes.
To do this, you simply need to locate the page on your site with the highest number of backlinks pointing at it. Within GSC, click “Links” and select the “Top linked pages” report - you should focus on the number of 'external links' to refine your search.
Once you’ve found your most linked-to page, add a link from that page to the low-performing content that you’re aiming to improve. This will pour metaphorical bucketfuls of so-called “link juice” (in other words, authority gleaned from valuable links) toward the page that’s in need of some TLC.
4. View HTML improvements to fix simple SEO issues
While there are countless components to a winning SEO strategy, it’s easy to weed out simple - but potentially harmful - errors using GSC.
By running an “HTML Improvements” report, you’ll be presented with all the issues that Google discovers while crawling or indexing your site. These can include:
- Meta description errors: flags up duplicated, long and short meta descriptions
- Title tag errors: shows you missing, duplicated, long or short title tags
- Indexing errors: identifies any content that can’t be indexed by Google (e.g. pages that are blocked by robots.txt or htaccess files)
Once you know what the issues are, fix them! While rewriting hundreds of meta descriptions and title tags can be time consuming, the rewards - higher CTRs, better rankings and more traffic - are definitely worth the effort.