Why Your Amazing Content Still Has Terrible Google Rankings (and How to Fix It)

Sidra Condron
May 28, 2024
8 min read

There's nothing more frustrating than pouring your heart and soul into an amazing piece of content only to see it languish on page 10 of Google's search results. You know your content is good--it's well-researched, engaging, and provides real value to readers. So why isn't it ranking?

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone.

Even experienced content marketers and SEO professionals struggle with getting their high-quality content to rank well. But the good news is, there are concrete steps you can take to diagnose the issues holding your content back and optimize it to rise to the top of the SERPs.

In this post, I'll walk through the most common reasons why great content can still have terrible rankings, show you how to identify those issues, and provide a step-by-step process to fix them.

I'll also share a case study of how I optimized one of my own underperforming posts to 10x organic traffic.

Let's dive in.

Common Reasons Quality Content Can Rank Poorly

Before we talk about solutions, it's important to understand some of the most frequent SEO mistakes and issues I see even with high-caliber content:

Lack of keyword optimization

You could write the most brilliant post, but if you're not strategically incorporating the keywords your target audience is searching for, it will be hard for them to find it. Your primary keyword should appear in your URL, title tag, header tags, meta description, and naturally throughout the body content.

Although I said "naturally" last, it's certainly a key factor. Not only does Google push for human-first content, but readers have grown sophisticated enough to dump out of articles that are drowning in overly-repeated keywords. If it seems forced, it is. Write for people. Quality content will follow.

Poor site structure and internal linking

How your content is organized on your site and how well you link between related posts can have a big impact on rankings. Search engines use your site structure and internal links to understand the topical relevance and relationship between your pages.

Slow page load speeds

With Core Web Vitals rising as a ranking factor, content that loads slowly or provides a poor user experience is getting dinged. Large images, bloated code, and lack of caching can all contribute to subpar speeds. Use the Core Web Vitals section in Google Search Console to help you find the biggest culprits. 

We found that image size was slowing down our site by milliseconds. It seems insignificant, but in page load terms, it was dragging us down. Replacing our images with smaller files and adopting that as a best practice helped us gain ranks across multiple pages.

Not enough high-quality backlinks

While you can rank without a ton of backlinks, they still matter as a signal of content quality and authority. If more credible sites are linking to your competitors' content over yours, that can make it harder to rank.

Thin or duplicate content issues

Google wants to rank the most comprehensive resource on a topic. If your content is too thin and doesn't fully answer the searcher's query, or if you have a lot of pages with very similar content, that can hurt your ability to rank.

How to Identify Your Content's SEO Issues

Now that you know some of the most common culprits behind underperforming content, let's talk about how to sleuth out the specific issues plaguing your content.

The first step is to conduct a full content audit. This means taking inventory of all the content on your site and analyzing key SEO elements like:

  • Keyword targeting and optimization
  • Content length and depth
  • Page titles and meta descriptions
  • URL structure
  • Internal and external links
  • Page speed and experience

Manually evaluating each of these factors across all your content would be extremely time-consuming. That's why I recommend using an intelligent tool like RivalFlow AI that can instantly scan your content, compare it to your top ranking competitors, and surface actionable recommendations on how to optimize it.

RivalFlow AI uses machine learning to find key components of higher ranking pages, specifically to bring those into your page.

It compares the two pages to find:

  • Topics that the competitor page covered and yours did not
  • Topics that the competitor page covered better
  • Ways that you can incorporate those topics naturally into your existing page 
  • Suggested copy to expand on those topics

This tool has been a game-changer for me in terms of being able to quickly diagnose the most critical issues with my content and know precisely what levers to pull to see meaningful growth in my rankings. As with using any AI tool, I always recommend giving it a human touch. I like that the content additions I get from RivalFlow AI are expansions on a topic, so I can blend them in naturally.

In addition to an automated content audit, it's also a good idea to manually review your Google Search Console account to check for any manual actions, crawl errors, or other technical issues that could be thwarting your content's ability to rank.

Step-by-Step Process to Fix SEO Problems

Once you've uncovered the SEO obstacles in your content's way, it's time to tackle them head-on. Here's the step-by-step process I use and recommend:

Step 1: Optimize titles, meta descriptions, header tags for target keywords

Make sure your primary keyword is included in all the most important on-page elements. But avoid keyword stuffing - keep it natural. Use modifiers and long-tail variations in header tags and throughout the copy.

Step 2: Improve page load speed and Core Web Vitals

Compress images, minify code, leverage browser caching, and consider using a CDN. Aim for a sub 3-second fully loaded time. Use Google's PageSpeed Insights tool to identify other UX improvements.

Step 3: Restructure content to be more in-depth and comprehensive

Look for opportunities to expand your content to more fully answer the searcher's question and sub-questions. Aim to be the most thorough resource on the topic. Incorporate images, videos, and other multimedia elements to enrich the content.

Step 4: Fix thin/duplicate content problems

For thin pages with little chance of ranking, consider beefing them up substantially, no-indexing them, or consolidating them with other relevant content. For duplicate content, set a canonical URL to the version you want to rank, or rewrite the content to make it more unique.

Step 5: Build relevant, high-quality backlinks

Reach out to sites linking to your competitors and make a compelling case for why they should link to your content instead or as well. Look for broken link building opportunities. Publish guest posts on high-authority sites in your niche. Promote your content to influencers who are likely to share and link to it.

Good SEO vs Bad SEO Examples

Here are a few examples of good vs bad SEO optimization to illustrate these concepts in practice:

Good title tag:

<title>10 Proven Strategies to Improve Your Content's SEO Rankings</title>

Bad title tag:

<title>SEO Content</title>

The good title tag includes the primary keyword ("SEO rankings") and uses a number to capture the reader's attention. The bad title tag is too vague and doesn't incorporate any keywords.

Good content structure:

  • H1: 10 Proven Strategies to Improve Your Content's SEO Rankings
    • H2: Optimize for target keywords
    • H2: Improve page load speed
    • H2: Make content more comprehensive
      • H3: Add multimedia elements
      • H3: Incorporate long-tail keyword variations
    • H2: Build relevant backlinks

Bad content structure:

  • H1: SEO Content
    • H2: Optimizing content
    • H2: Content and SEO
    • H2: Improving SEO

The good structure breaks the content into clear sections with descriptive headings that incorporate keywords. The bad structure is disorganized and repetitive.

Case Study: Before & After Optimization Results

To show you what's possible when you put these SEO strategies into practice, I want to share a quick case study from my own experience.

A few months ago, I had a blog post on email marketing tips that was stuck on the bottom of page 2 for my target keyword. It was a solid post, but it wasn't getting much organic traction. So I decided to put my SEO knowledge to the test and optimize it.

Here are the specific changes I made:

  • Rewrote the title tag and meta description to include my primary and secondary keywords
  • Restructured the content with keyword-optimized headers
  • Expanded thin sections to be more in-depth on relevant topics
  • Ran the content through RivalFlow AI and made tweaks based on its recommendations
  • Compressed images and improved page load time from 5 seconds to 2 seconds
  • Built 5 new high-quality backlinks from relevant websites

The results speak for themselves. Within a month after optimizing the post, it shot up to the top of page 1 for my target keyword. Organic traffic increased by 1,135% and it's now one of the top lead generators for us.

Wrapping Up

I hope this post has shown you that you don't have to settle for subpar rankings, even if you feel like you're doing everything right with your content.

Understanding the key factors that influence SEO are the start. Do the work that follows, and you'll see measurable improvement: Identify issues with your content and follow a proven process to optimize it. You will turn "amazing content, terrible rankings" into "amazing content, amazing rankings."

The key takeaways from this post are:

  • Even great content can rank poorly due to SEO issues like lack of keyword optimization, poor site structure, slow load times, lack of quality backlinks, and thin or duplicate content
  • You can identify these issues by conducting a thorough content audit (manually or with a tool like RivalFlow AI) and checking Google Search Console
  • Once identified, you can fix content and boost rankings by optimizing titles/meta data, improving page speed, making content more in-depth, and building relevant links
  • Small changes can make a huge difference in rankings and organic traffic (as shown in the case study!)

If you're serious about improving your content's search performance, I highly recommend trying RivalFlow AI. It's like having a virtual SEO consultant to guide your content optimization.

You can try it risk-free for 14 days and see the difference it makes.

Now it's your turn—go forth and optimize! Your content deserves to be on page 1.

If you have any other questions about SEO or content optimization, feel free to reach out. I'm always happy to help.