A Guide To Wrong Page Ranking: Causes & How To Tell (Part 1)
Updated on: 13 January 2023
It’s a cause for celebration for any SEO service provider or business to see your site ranking for a keyword you’ve been targeting, especially after all the effort that has been put into optimisation. But after a moment of realisation – it comes to light that it isn’t your targeted page.
In cases like these, the conclusion is: Google isn’t perceiving your intended page as the ideal destination for traffic. When this happens, it affects our ability to effectively boost lead generation, increase conversions, and earn clicks from qualified traffic. In other words, necessary steps like deoptimisation may be necessary to re-target your intended page successfully.
But before we dive into the actions we can take – we must first identify the reasons for this occurrence and how exactly we can tell it’s not the ranking page of our choice.
Wrong page ranking: Different scenarios that may occur
- During a Google search for a targeted keyword, a written article from years ago shows up ranking higher than a recently written one with updated and more detailed information.
- During a Google search for the name of your brand, a written article that mentions the name many times ranks first, followed by an FAQ page. Your homepage, which is the page you were targeting, ranked third.
- During a Google search for your homepage, the highest ranked result is a previous, outdated version, whereas the current, updated version is not ranked at all.
These are situations where Google might not be indexing your website or web pages correctly. When they occur, it can often be exasperating trying to find out the exact cause of nature and the reflected solution. There are tons of supporting reasons why Google might have ranked the wrong page, such as issues with its algorithm, your site structure, or the technical issues with the affected pages.
If you have ever experienced wrong page ranking, then this 3-part series will help you understand where you went wrong and the necessary steps you can take to eradicate the issue.
How to tell if there is a wrong page ranking?
A wrong page ranking is not uncommon or unusual. You can recognise when the wrong page is being ranked by looking out for certain tell-tale signs, such as:
- Pages that have high traffic, but no conversions
- Pages that were created to target specific searches but are not doing up to expectations
- Users’ queries that do not make sense for what your brand offers
- Targeted keywords that were intended for money-making pages, such as landing page, product category, or product page, but ranked well for other pages
When the wrong web page is ranked well on SERPs, it can be a conflicting issue. On the one hand, it is outstanding to generate high traffic and rank well. On the other hand, it is undesirable to deliver a less-than-optimal user experience to searchers who click on your page but leave unsatisfied and unfulfilled with the information provided.
Listed below are some common causes we have come across for Google to rank a more relevant page lower than a less relevant one.
Cause #1: Internal Anchor Text
The biggest and most common cause of wrong page ranking is usually because of internal anchor text being optimised improperly. Many web pages will consist of the targeted keyword on the affected page linking to another page, which results in misleading Google’s algorithm. For example, if you want your targeted page, “yoursite.com/healthysupplements”, to rank first for the keyword “supplements”, then make sure that your internal anchor text that mentions “supplements” points searchers to the targeted page.
What might be happening in the above-mentioned situation is called keywords cannibalisation. It is when the website has too many similar or identical keywords used throughout its pages. Hence, Google is not able to properly discern which page to rank better, resulting in it pushing a page you did not mean to prioritise. Additionally, it may also lead to a lower ranking for any pages that use the targeted keywords.
Cause #2: Content Relevancy Or Topic Modelling Issues
Google algorithms assess a number of factors when ranking a page. One of which is the degree of relevancy of the page to the targetted keyword. We have seen in Google Search algorithm updates where there is the shift in direction towards a more user-centric one. For example, their recent December helpful content update in which beneficial, relevant content would rank well on SERPs. In some cases, Google may perceive the page that you are trying to rank as not particularly “relevant” with the target keyword, while another page that might appear less “targeted” from an SEO point-of-view is deemed more relevant to searchers.
This is one of the reasons why it is hard for smaller brand sites to out-rank larger ones. However, it is also a double-edged sword that, when used correctly, can favour the smaller sites too! Google, at the end of the day, prioritises relevancy first, followed by site value. Hence, smaller sites with significantly relevant content can out-rank a more significant site with barely any relevant content. However, that does not guarantee immediate success, as a more significant site with high site value has enough inertia to keep the competition hard. With their high SEO weightage, if they were to generate relevant content, they could quickly regain the lead on SERPs.
Cause #3: Unintentional Spider Blocks
If the page you are targeting is not appearing on SERPs or ranking well, and other “relevant” pages are appearing on SERPs or ranking in its place, it is possible that the targeted page is not being appropriately indexed or going through unintentional crawling issues or accidental blocks. Improper redirects and canonicalisation can result in such an issue.
- Improper redirects happen when a page that significantly targeted a keyword is pointed to the wrong URL.
- Improper canonicalisation happens when there is duplicate content or two separate pages – outdated and updated content, and the metadata used in the contents are not properly optimised in such a way that Google is able to identify the “actual version” or the page you actually are targeting.
However, there are other potential reasons for unintentional spider blocks. For example, some web designers like to post their designs live without going through indexing. While there is no harm in testing your content live, if it does not go through indexing, Google will never be aware of your content’s online presence, thus not appearing on SERPs.
Another reason for not ranking well is the type of content that you might have on your targeted page. You could have really visual-based informational content for a complex task that is highly relevant to searches related to it but still rank poorly. If your content is majority infographics or video-based, your content holds no weight. Google still has difficulty indexing image and video content accurately. Hence, why written content still fares better than non-written ones.
Once you have discovered the root cause of your wrong page ranking, you will need to take proper and effective action to address it. If it is an issue with your content or on-page optimisation, then it is relatively simple to rectify. However, if you face imbalances in your external links, then a more advanced solution might be necessary to achieve the correct page ranking, which we will mention in the second article in this 3-part series.
Stay tuned to find out more about how you can improve your page’s rankings. Till then, keep on creating user-centric content that is relevant and beneficial to your searchers.