You’re in the Google results. But with what pages?

Working with some clients on SEO recently has identified an interesting issue. In both cases, the client’s websites had recently undergone a complete rebuild. Although the old sites had been redirected correctly, the problem was this: the pages appearing in the Google search results for important queries were often not the ones we’d have wanted.

Now, there’s an argument for letting sleeping dogs lie. If Google thinks the page for product B is the right one to show for searches on what product A does, then at least you’re in the fight. Obviously Google doesn’t rate the page for product A, so if you could get it to show that instead, it would be lower down in the results.

This isn’t the right approach to take. For one thing, if the wrong page is showing in the results, it’ll presumably get a low click-through rate, and we do know that’s one factor in ranking calculations. But more importantly, if visitors do click through and don’t see what they want, a high proportion will just return to Google instead of searching around your site.

So we need to do the following: ensure that the page we do want is being indexed by Google, then try to improve that page’s relevance to the search term. The first part is easy – just go to google.co.uk and enter the URL of the page as the search. For the second part, we need to start making the page relevant! I’d suggest doing as many of the following quick wins as you can:

  • Get the search term into the page’s title;
  • Get the search term into the page’s description meta tag;
  • Get the search term into the page’s headline;
  • Get the search term into the page’s body copy;
  • Get the search term into some links to the page elsewhere on the site (body copy, navigation, etc);
  • Get the page high up in the site page hierarchy by linking to it from the home page;
  • Give it a crawl priority in the XML sitemap;
  • Get one or two links to the page from external sites with the search term as the text of the link.

Other tactics include getting YouTube videos ranking for the search term and featuring them on the page.

Monitoring all this work is important. You might want to start a spreadsheet with important search terms, showing what page is showing in Google and at what position. You can check positions manually, just by making searches; bear in mind however that Google will probably be inflating your site’s ranking for you. Other people will see it lower down. This is not a major problem, as you’re only looking for relative changes, but it’s better to use a rank tracking service or app. You might also want to use Google Search Console to see where you’re ranking for that search on average and what the clickthrough rate is. Ensure your country and date range settings are consistent if you do this.