You can’t buy your way to the top of Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages), and even if you could, the big names in your industry — the ones who have the cash to buy Super Bowl commercial spots, for example — would likely price you out of the running. However, there are ways to gently nudge your website up the listings to the top of the page, and if you’re committing these three common but critical errors, you might have found the reason why your rankings aren’t budging.

1. You Don’t Know What Your Audience Needs

In his latest Whiteboard Friday post, Moz’s Rand Fishkin details several integral factors that Google uses to rank content. Google’s algorithms have become almost eerily accurate when it comes to interpreting a search query and directing users to the best possible results.

For instance, Fishkin points out that Google looks for content signals like related keywords, intent matching, and brand reputation to decide where a page should fall in the SERPs. For instance, if you’re writing about air conditioning repair issues, Google might evaluate your content to determine whether it addresses common words related to that topic, such as HVAC contractors, AC blowers, and air filters.

If you can deliver unique, trustworthy content on a regular basis and optimize each page for content and relevance, you’ll see better rankings in the SERPs. How do you accomplish this? Get to know your audience and how they think,  use keywords and terms that they would use when they are searching for things.

2. Your Content Doesn’t Deliver On Its Promise

Google has put its giant foot down when it comes to content quality. If you’re publishing thin, duplicated, or irrelevant articles on your blog,  Google knows. And they will penalize you in the SERPs if your content doesn’t directly benefit the user. Remember the guiding principle of inbound marketing; content should help your audience in some way, whether it’s answering questions or providing helpful information and tools. The content also should be tailored to their specific stage in the buyer’s journey.

Imagine that you have a product to sell. You reach out to retailers and ask them to sell that product to their customers, but after a couple months, the retailer starts to get complaints that your product is defective, inefficient, or unreliable. The retailer decides to pull your product.

Google operates the same way. It sells information to people all over the world, and if it believes that your information isn’t up to par, it’ll yank your site off its virtual shelves.

3. Your Information Contradicts Authoritative Sources

If your site’s analytics demonstrate a reduce page ranking, you might need to verify the information you publish. Google doesn’t want to display inaccurate information. In his Whiteboard Friday presentation, Fishkin mentions that Google tries to verify whether a source’s information is reliable. If your information goes against industry standards or accepted truths, your rank might drop. Make sure you are fact checking and only linking to reliable sources and thought leaders in your industry. 

While Google’s algorithms are notoriously ambiguous, you can use known variables to improve your search engine rankings. If your content falls into one of the three categories above, consider giving your content a facelift. Of course, it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start when it comes to SEO and Inbound Marketing, so request a consultation if you need help figuring out your next steps.