What to Do When the Wrong Page Ranks for Your Keyword(s) – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Picture this: You discover that your site is ranking for a keyword you’ve been targeting. Cause for celebration, right? But what if that ranking page is irrelevant, wrong, or simply not the best choice? This situation is more common than you might think, and results in a good deal of frustration for SEOs. Rand shows you how to cope when you find that your valuable queries are sending traffic to the wrong URLs in today’s Whiteboard Friday.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about what to do when the wrong page is ranking for the keywords that you care about. This happens to pretty much every site I have ever dealt with. People have this big frustration that, “Hey, searchers are performing a query. I’m trying to come up with this URL, and instead Google is ranking this other URL for my website.” It’s not universal on every query, but it happens to nearly every site on at least a few of their queries. There are ways that you can deal with it.

First off, I’d urge you to prioritize when you’re going through this process, prioritize only the ones that matter the most to you. So take good care to look through your Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console now, and look at the keywords that are sending you the most traffic, look at the URLs that are receiving the most traffic from Google search, which you could see in your Web Analytics or your Moz Analytics account. If you notice that there are particular high-value queries that are sending traffic to URLs that you would prefer would go to other URLs, because you believe those are more relevant or would perform better, then you should prioritize this particular process.

So let’s start here. It’s an example that I just discovered recently. If you do a search for “metal frame eyeglasses,” you will find a couple of websites that are ranking brilliantly, coastal.com with their “buy metal glasses frames online and save money,” 39dollarglasses.com with their metal frame glasses. These are both super relevant to metal frame eyeglasses. Clearly, I have expressed the query intent that I want metal frames. These two results are giving them to me.

But look at the third result. This is LensCrafters, which obviously is a big brand, at least here in the United States, and the page that’s ranking for them in the third position is “Women’s Eyeglasses & Designer Glasses.” Now LensCrafters is a much bigger brand than either of these. They have dramatically more domain authority, and the vast majority, overwhelming majority of their pages, at least at this top level of category, have far more links pointing to them than either of these do.

I would guess that if LensCrafters had a good page, the correct page here, they could at least outrank potentially 39dollarglasses and maybe even rank number one above coastal.com, although I do like the Coastal guys quite a bit.

So LensCrafters, why is their women’s eyeglasses and designer glasses page ranking for this? Look, “Browse glasses for women online or stop into a LensCrafters. Find the perfect pair. Filter by metal.” Filter by metal? That suggests to me that if I were to go to this page and filter by metal, I would then get to a page that might be relevant for metal frames, but this is not that page. I’m guessing, and I bet the data would back me up here, that the click-through rate on this third one is worse than it probably is for number four, maybe even number five, or number six, because this does not look like a relevant page for that query.

It is not saying these are LensCrafters metal frames. I don’t even know if LensCrafters has metal frames that I could potentially get to. In fact, one of the frustrating things you’ll see is that they’ve got this “filter by titanium.” If you go to the page and then you try and filter by titanium, the filter is grayed out. You can’t actually click it.

So okay, maybe LensCrafters has some other issues. But certainly if I’m doing SEO for them, I don’t want this page ranking. I want my metal frames pages ranking. So we can go through a process like this, because, in this case, it’s probably killing not only their click-through rate, which hurts not just this page but could hurt the lenscrafters.com website overall in how Google considers them as click-through rate could be potentially a signal that’s applied across a domain, as is pogo-sticking, people are clicking it and then bouncing back to the search result because they’re not happy with the result. It probably is killing their conversion rates too, which potentially sucks even worse.

Step 1: Diagnose the underlying issue

You want to diagnose what the underlying issue here is, and to do this one of the things that I do is I do a search that looks like this. I did a search for “metal frame eyeglasses site:lenscrafters.com.” I want to see, does LensCrafters even have a page on the site with those keywords that is well targeted? Then I searched through the first couple of pages with results and found nothing.

So in LensCrafters case, the problem is (A) a relevant page doesn’t even exist on the website. So step one for their SEO person, talk to the team. Get someone to create a metal frames page. In fact, that’s probably true of many of their other filters too. If it’s true for metal frames, it’s undoubtedly true for other things.

They also will have to do some work, because remember that LensCrafters’ site right now is bifurcated into women’s and men’s glasses, and they probably need a landing page that is specifically metal frames for either women or men and then you choose based on this. When you have those bifurcated or multifaceted search elements that you need to serve, you often need to create very different kinds of landing pages.

(B) The case could be — this isn’t the case for LensCrafters — but it could be that the relevant page is having indexing or crawling or content or link issues. Indexing and crawling, crawling could mean that you’ve blocked it by robots.txt, and that could be the case, by the way, with LensCrafters. I didn’t try and look on their own site. It could be that the indexing is having a problem because there’s a meta robots tag. It could be that the content itself is not crawlable and parsable by Google. Maybe it’s all image content, or it’s all behind some complicated JavaScript framework, or it’s all post-loaded through Ajax or something like that that Google can’t access it.

It could be a content issue, where essentially you have a page about metal frames, but there’s not enough content or not enough unique content or not enough unique value provided by that content for Google to feel like it deserves to be indexed and ranked.

Or it could be a link issue, meaning that there are not enough internal or external links or not important enough ones pointing to that page to make it separately valuable and to show Google that it deserves to rank.

Or (C), it could be that it has all these things going on, but unfortunately, and this does definitely happen, is that the ranking ability is overwhelmed by another page, meaning that — this again isn’t LensCrafters’ deal — but imagine if their women’s eyeglasses page heavily focused on metal frames and talked about a bunch of the nice metal frames that they have for women, mentioned words like “titanium” and “aluminum” and the flexibility that metal provides and all these kinds of benefits that you would expect to find on the metal frames page, but that Google is seeing on this other page, and this page is also getting a lot of links for it. Maybe external websites have linked to it for some reason. Internal links are pointing to it incorrectly or just in large quantity, and so then you need to fix that ranking ability issue.

Step 2: Create/Bolster the relevant page

You want to create and/or bolster the relevant page for it. So in this case, LensCrafters has to create that page. But in your case, you may already have a page that you know should be ranking, and so you want to promote that page. You want to bolster that page’s potential ranking signals. That’s things like…

  • Content: We’re talking about keywords here. We’re also talking about related terms and phrases. We are talking about uniqueness of value that is provided through the content. Then we’re talking about…
  • Internal link signals: So looking at the pages on your website that link to that page and link to other pages on your site and making sure, that in the grand scheme of things, you’re pointing the right links from the right pages to this page internally.
  • User and usage data: We know that Google is looking at some forms of user and usage data, and I think many of us speculate that they are including those elements in their ranking algorithms, and certainly we’ve seen lots of cases where when one of these pages gets much more use, you can see that it tends to rank better, and correlation/causation. But user and usage data is something you should look at. For example, if you see that your metal frames page was doing much more poorly, was converting visitors much worse, was having a much higher bounce rate than the women’s eyeglasses page, well, now I’ve got a theory that this page is ranking because Google saw that people were performing much better there than they were on the metal frames page. I need to go fix up that metal frames page. I need to get that user and usage data back up.
  • External link signals: So looking through Open Site Explorer or Majestic or Ahrefs and seeing: What are the external links that point to this page versus my other page? Could it be the case that external link signals are overwhelming everything else, and maybe I need to go talk to those external linkers and get them to point to the correct pages?

Step 3: Degrade the non-relevant page

I want to do something that is very unusual in the SEO world. I want to actually degrade the ranking signals of the non-relevant page. So I would do things like (A) take away keywords and related terms or make them harder for the engines to parse.

For example, if I saw, hey, you know this has this “filter by metal” on here. Maybe I’m going to make that filter an image, or maybe I’m going to make it behind a tab, or maybe I’m going to make it a post-loaded JavaScript, or that kind of thing. Or maybe I’m going to just make sure that mention of metal is the only mention of metal on the page. I’m going to remove the other ones on there.

I also want to re-point internal links. So I’m going to basically look at those internal links that probably should have been pointing to the metal page, take them away from the women’s eyeglasses page, point them to the right version. Then I want to make sure that there’s an obvious, at least one, obvious anchor text-rich link from this page as well as any other pages that I saw ranking for that “metal frame eyeglass site:lenscrafters.com.” I want to see that I’ve got that great anchor text link, internal anchor text link pointing from all those pages to the target page that I want ranking.

Finally, if I need to, I might request some external link changes. So I might go to someone from the press, or a blogger, or a forum, or whatever external website, a partner of mine that’s linking. I might say, “Hey, you’re linking to the wrong page of mine. Can you re-point that?” Or, “Hey, you’re linking with this anchor text. I’d really prefer you link with this other anchor text.”

Step 4: If all else fails…

Last but potentially not least, if everything else is failing and you have a page that it’s only ranking for this particular keyword phrase, in this case, LensCrafters, they probably don’t want to kill their women’s eyeglasses page because that’s probably ranking for lots of other things. But let’s say it was a particular page that was deeper in the site. What you might do is you might consider taking that page, which we’re going to call X and 301 redirecting it to the page you do want ranking, page Y.

Then you take the content that was at X and you recreate that content at an entirely new URL, which you are then going to modify and relink up in your site’s architecture, but you’re going to continue 301’ing this one over here. That way, any external links that are pointing here, and many of the internal links that might have been pointing here, are now redirected so that they go over to Y, the page that you want ranking.

When you recreate this page, X2, make sure that you’re thinking about modifying the content. What you don’t want to do is confuse Google by taking exactly the content that was on X and recreating it precisely on X2, because Google could interpret that as, “Oh, oh, oh, they just moved the page over here. We see the 301 here, but we’re pretty sure they didn’t mean that 301, and what they really meant was this page is now here, and so we’re going to continue ranking this one.” That’s bad, bad news for you and for your rankings and for your search traffic.

All right everyone, look forward to your comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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