The goal of ranking is to try to achieve the maximum level of visibility in SERPs—right?
Yes, but this is only the surface, what gets people to click to a page.
Once someone is on your page, then what? Does the content, format, and goal of your page (now in essence a landing page) match the UI behind the ranking search term that just got a user to click? If not, that user will bounce, meaning that high ranking was a complete waste. Eventually, this high bounce will add up and you’ll lose that ranking you worked so hard to achieve.
Essentially, high-volume or not, we want terms to rank on pages where they make sense. Otherwise, high volume will not mean high converting.
Luckily, Google Search Console and other tools allow us to see what terms pages are ranking and getting traffic for. And one red flag that tells us if this traffic is converting or not is if a page has high impressions and clicks in GSC yet isn’t converting. Or, if a top landing page ranks for several high-volume terms but isn’t converting. Other tip-offs are if the page is also a high exit percentage page.
Sometimes it can be more subtle, though. For example:
You can rank well for a category of related terms on, say, your homepage. Is this bad? Maybe not that bad, but it may be an area for improvement. For instance, let’s say that the category of terms you’re ranking for on your homepage are directly related to specific products you carry. Wouldn’t it be better to rank for that category of terms on the relevant product page?
Direct product terms are pretty specific, so we can assume they’re being searched by a user ready to buy or at least doing research. It benefits us to place that user as far along the buying funnel as fast as we can. This way we eliminate the number of clicks needed to get to the ideal UI-match page. This is especially the case for mobile where users have such a short attention span and are so fast to click back off-site if they don’t see the product they want.
If the wrong page is appearing in SERPs for your target category of terms, look at how that incorrect page appears in SERPs compared to the desired page’s SERP result.
Stacking them one atop the other—which would more likely get you to click and eventually convert as a user if you saw it in SERPs after typing your target category of terms in search engines? If you’re more likely to click the SERP for the wrong page (the one that’s ranking and you don’t want to have rank) that’s a red flag.
There are several steps. An initial point is to adjust the meta content for each page to better reflect the terms you want that page to rank for, as well as match the user intent. Another is to evaluate the on-page content.
In this case, we know the more ideal page isn’t ranking and needs content optimized for the related terms. But part of a strategy like this also often involves de-optimizing the page we don’t want to rank for the terms.
Look at all “content” — anything front-end and user-facing. Are there several images on the wrong page grabbing the undesired term? Rewrite the alt tags or swap your images as needed.
In addition to images, re-evaluate all ranking factors (content) on both pages (page you want to rank for the target terms and page that currently ranks which you don’t want to rank) — what is the keyword focus for:
In addition to adjusting content for the desired page to be more inclusive of the target term, you should consider adjusting content for the undesired page to exclude the target term. This may lose ranking on that term for a little while, but it’s better to rank a little lower for a high-volume term on the right page (where you get conversions) than it is to rank a little higher on the wrong page where you don’t see conversions for that term.
More than just on-page content can make up the context of a page. The backlink profile (and the content within the pages making up those backlinks) also contribute to the context. So it’s important to ensure the pages making up the backlink profile also target the relevant and desired terms for that page and should be monitored accordingly.
Addressing all of the above should be part of optimizing the content for the page you want to rank for a term — and getting the terms off the page you don’t want to rank.
This is an example of some of the deeper analysis that should go into SEO content strategy and execution in order to best match your content and pages to UI and maximize conversions for rankings.