The Importance of Realistic Keyword Ranking Expectations
One of the biggest challenges as an SEO agency is setting ranking expectations for your clients. Sure, we would all love to rank for the best short-tail keywords in our space. But odds are these are the most valuable and therefore have the most competition. Ranking for these search terms might take dozens of backlinks and thousands of words of content that takes years to create. This doesn’t mean we shy away from competitive keywords, but setting expectations is critical if you want to not get burnt out reaching for that end goal.
Analyzing Similar Websites
The easiest way to uncover if you have legitimate potential to rank for a term is to simply Google that term yourself. From there you can take note of the websites that Google is currently rewarding for this keyword.
If the pages that rank are along the lines of Amazon, Walmart, Target, etc. Google is clearly stating that they believe a large website with many options and locations will be the best result for the person typing in this term. There is nothing saying you can’t rank for this over time but odds are it will take years to get there and this is something that few businesses have the endurance to attempt.
This also does not mean you should give up on this topic entirely. There can be a wealth of search traffic in longer, more specific searches. Take that same keyword and turn it into a question…all of a sudden you will notice websites that are much smaller and easy to compete with traditionally showing up here. Figure out which questions are asked by the individuals you want to turn into customers and create a resource that answers those questions. If you do this well enough you will eventually start to rank for that short tail keyword you first set out for because you are giving authoritative information on all things surrounding this topic.
Decoding Search Engine Result Pages
The most effective way to decode a SERP and decide if a keyword is worth going after is by utilizing tools like SEMRush and Ahrefs. Using tools like this can give you all of the pertinent information you need in a matter of seconds. A few metrics you should keep an eye out for are:
Other aspects of the rankings pages you should be looking at that can’t be decoded by tools like SEMRush or Ahrefs are:
Gauging the Gap
So how big of a metric gap is too big to overcome? What happens if a SERP shows mostly high domain ratings but then there is one page that ranks with a very low rating?
Odds are you will run into situations like these so it's important we outline some things to look for when gauging how realistic it can be to rank.
When doing this exercise, ideally we are looking for every result in the SERP to have similar metrics to your site. This indicates that Google is already rewarding others that are like us so with a little focus we should be able to rank too.
But what happens if it's a mixed bag? This is often the case.
In this situation, we need to take a look at where the sites similar to ours rank. Are they at the top? Bottom? If they are at the bottom it may be in your best interest to watch this SERP for a month or 2. This site that looks similar to yours may fall off and be replaced by a stronger site.
If the site stays ranking, the next thing you will want to look at is the backlink profile of the ranking page. There may be some very credible links pointing to this page that are making up for the website’s DR as a whole. If you think you can earn similar links, it may be worth attempting.
If the backlink profile comes back dry, we will want to next look at the content itself. How in-depth is it? How long has it been up for? We will need equivalent or better information to rank in most situations here but there would be an opening to take this ranking.
Standing Out from the Competition
Once you have identified a keyword you think you have a reasonable chance to rank for you should again, look closely at what Google is currently rewarding before creating your content.
If all of the results on page 1 are listicles, you should consider this form of content.
If the results on page 1 are a mixture of blogs, videos, or other forms of content, you should consider combining them all on one landing page to create maximum value for the searcher and in turn earn a higher ranking from Google.
It is also worth mentioning that if this keyword has legitimate value, creating this piece of content may take an extended period of time. At Mad Mango, we find it best to update this content on a 6 month cycle for at least 2 years. For version 1, you should focus on getting the information from your head to the page in as nice of a format as possible. 6 months later, put this URL into Ahrefs and see what keywords it is ranking for. If there are any of particular value, consider adding content around this topic to increase the chances of you improving this ranking and ranking for other keywords like it. And rinse and repeat for the next 18 months.
Other major content additions you can work on in these 6 month intervals:
Cultivating Patience and Consistency:
Patience and consistency are the only 2 ways to guarantee success in SEO. The job of search engines is to recommend the best answers to its customer (the searcher). Imagine you are Google, are you going to recommend a resource that demands fast results and lacks consistency? Probably not and neither will Google.
As you are creating content to prove your authority and consistency, keep the visitors at the forefront of your decision making.
Does your content answer the questions the visitor has? What other resources can you provide the visitor to help them choose your business? If you focus on these questions, choose keywords with sites similar to yours ranking on page 1, and consistently create content, you will rank in time.
Reach out to Mad Mango Marketing for an honest assessment of your ranking potential.