Ranking #1 on Google is Overrated
Get 300 checks per monthabsolutely FREE!
No credit card needed. No strings attached.
We studied the top-ranking pages for 100,000 keywords and found that the top-ranking page gets the most search traffic only 49% of the time.
We studied the top-ranking pages for 100,000 keywords and found that the top-ranking page gets the most search traffic only 49% of the time. So is ranking #1 on Google just a vanity metric? I mean, isn’t your job as an SEO, blogger, or content marketer to generate top ranking results so you can get organic traffic? More importantly, what are you going to say to your clients when all they seem to care about is ranking #1 for their desired keyword? Well today, I’m going to break down the data and give you actionable tips on what you should start focusing on right now. More importantly, you’ll learn how to increase organic traffic even when you’re not ranking #1. Stay tuned. [music] What’s up SEOs? Sam Oh here with Ahrefs, the SEO tool that helps you grow your search traffic, research your competitors, and dominate your niche. First and foremost, I don’t want you to think that I’m not saying to go for position 1. That’s obviously a great achievement. But I want to argue that it’s not the most important KPI you should use to measure your SEO success. A better indication of a successful SEO campaign is total search traffic a page gets. Now, before we dig into the data and some actionable takeaways, I want you to leave a comment and let me know which KPI you use to measure "success" in SEO. So is your main metric ranking position, traffic, or something else, anything goes. Now let’s dig into the results of our study and some actionable tips to drive more search traffic to your pages. So in our study, we took over 100,000 non‐branded search queries with at least 1,000 monthly searches in the US. We then pulled the top ranking pages for each query and the total monthly US search traffic each page gets. Finally, we calculated how often the top ranking page gets the most search traffic. And according to our data, over half of the #1 ranking pages did not generate the most search traffic out of the top 10 results. And the simple reason is because of the depth and breadth of a topic. For example, if we search for "keyword research" in Keywords Explorer, you’ll see that it gets around 12,000 monthly searches in the US.
Now, if we scroll down to the top 10 ranking pages, you’ll see a couple of interesting things.
Now, if we scroll down to the top 10 ranking pages, you’ll see a couple of interesting things. First, you’ll see that even though Ahrefs blog is ranking in the third position, we get significantly more traffic than the top 2 ranking results. And if you look further down, you’ll see a result from Google that’s getting significantly more traffic than any of the top ranking pages. So what gives? Well, there are a couple basic things to consider. First: the top ranking page won’t necessarily rank for the most keywords. If you look at result #8, you’ll see that they rank for more keywords than any other page in the top 10. Second is the position of all keywords a page ranks for. For example, you could rank for a million keywords, but if all of them are ranking in position 100, you probably won’t get any clicks, meaning traffic. Bottomline: if you want to generate more search traffic without necessarily ranking #1 for your target query, you should aim to cover the topic in as much depth as possible. But rather than leaving you with some vague advice like "cover the topic" or something arbitrary like "write at least 2000 words," let’s dive into some actionable techniques you can use to actually put this in action. The first thing you can do is use keyword modifiers that do not change search intent. Now, there are two parts to this statement that you might not be familiar with. First are keyword modifiers, which are add-ons to a base keyword. This might be "best," the current year, "how to," or anything else you would add on to a "main" keyword. The second part is search intent. And this basically means the reason behind a searcher’s query. And Google is good at determining that for you. For example, if you look at the top ranking pages for the keyword, "lose weight," you’ll see that the search results are dominated by "how to" guides. So Google is showing you that in order to rank, you’ll need to create informational content rather than a landing page, tool, product page, or something else. A way to quickly and accurately tackle both of these is in Keywords Explorer. So I’ll search for my base keyword, "lose weight." Then I’ll go to the Phrase match report, which lists all keywords that contain our target keywords in the same order.
At this point.
At this point, we just want to perform a quick scan of these 3 columns: Keyword, Search volume, and Parent topic. The first two are self-explanatory, but the Parent topic is a pretty unique feature we have in Keywords Explorer. To identify Parent topic we take the #1 ranking page for the keyword and look for the best keyword that this page ranks for. So in this case, we can see that targeting the phrase, "how to lose weight," can also result in rankings for all of these other keywords too. And for good measure, you can click on the SERP dropdown to analyze the total traffic for the top 10 results for each of these queries as well as search intent. On the other hand, you’ll see this keyword, "how many calories to lose weight," which has a different Parent topic. So to me, it shows that this is a different topic and would require a separate page. So use keyword modifiers in your title, URL, and throughout your content where relevant. The second thing is to do a content gap analysis at the page level. The most common way SEOs do a content gap analysis is to find keywords that your competitors websites rank for, where yours doesn’t. But when you do a page level content gap analysis, you can find subtopics that you might have missed. To get started, search for your target keyword in Keywords Explorer. Then scroll to the bottom of the page to see the top 10 ranking results. And since the results all appear to have the same search intent, we know that we should probably create a guide on this topic. So I’ll copy the top 3 results in my text editor. Now, since I don’t actually have a post on this topic, let’s pretend that our web page is this one that doesn’t get a ton of search traffic or rank for a whole lot of keywords comparatively speaking. Next, I’ll take this URL and put it into Site Explorer. From here, we want to go to the Content Gap tool. Finally, I’ll paste in the top 3 ranking pages in the top section. Now what this is saying is, show us keywords that any of these pages are ranking for, where at least one of the pages ranks in the top 10, but our URL doesn’t rank at all in the top 100. Before I run the search, I’m going to make sure the last option is set to "Prefix" so we’re going to do an apples to apples comparison at the page level rather than domain.
And if we run the search, you’ll see a huge list of keywords worth investigating.
And if we run the search, you’ll see a huge list of keywords worth investigating. Now we can just skim through the keywords and look for subtopics to add to our content. This one is a perfect example where we could add a section on 40-liter backpacks which seems to be a popular query. The next thing you can do to get more organic traffic is match search intent for your target keyword better than your competitors. It’s best I lead with proof of concept. Last year, we were analyzing our pages and found that we weren’t ranking in the top 3 for our target keyword, "backlink checker." We added internal links, did outreach, and optimized the page to be lightning fast. But for whatever reason, our rankings and traffic stayed stagnant. Since you are now a master of analyzing search intent, check out the top 5 ranking pages and tell me what you notice. They are all free tools. So we updated the page and added a free version of our backlink checker tool. And the result? A significant increase in search traffic. A significant increase in organic keyword rankings. And the number one ranking spot for our target keyword. But hey. I get it. We’re a software company and you might not be. So a tool may not work for you. Here’s one more example. A few years ago, we created an epic study around on-page SEO ranking factors. And we even earned links from over 400 unique websites. Now, despite having a ton of quality links, our rankings were declining over time and we got stuck around position 40 for our target keyword, "on page SEO." And again, search intent was the culprit. Google clearly shows that people want how-to guides when searching for this keyword. So we turned that data study into a guide and almost instantaneously jumped from position 40 to the top 5. And can you guess what else happened? Both our organic traffic and number of organic keyword rankings skyrocketed. Now two important takeaways. #1. If you want to get traffic from Google, then you need to match search intent. Otherwise your pages will likely be nowhere to be found. And #2. Search intent can change. I’ve seen cases where the majority of search results show informational content. But then all of a sudden, the results change to product and category pages.
So if you see ranking drops all of a sudden at the page level.
So if you see ranking drops all of a sudden at the page level, then it’s worth checking to ensure your page matches search intent. Alright! If you have search intent down and you’ve covered the topic in depth, the last thing you’ll want to consider is building more quality links to the page. In another video, I covered how to rank for thousands of keywords in Google. Long story short, after studying 3 million searches, we found that backlinks do help a page rank for more keywords. Rather than getting into various link building strategies, I’ll leave links for you in the description to show you how to scale your link building and create these so-called ‘authority’ pages. Now I’d love to hear your take on this topic. Do you think that ranking #1 in Google should still be your main goal for SEO? Leave a comment below and if you enjoyed this video, make sure to like, share and subscribe for more actionable SEO and marketing tutorials. So keep grinding away, and I’ll see you in the next tutorial.
Watch more SEO relevant videos from YouTube
Get 300 checks per month absolutely FREE!
No credit card needed. No strings attached. 👍