Have you received a message saying, “Your web page ranks VERY LOW” with an offer to fix that for you? Or maybe someone in your networking group asked you how your website ranks. Maybe you’ve been hearing about PageRank. One way or another, you might be wondering — just how does your page rank?
The first thing to understand is that this is a meaningless question. PageRank is a real thing, but when people talk about your page’s rank, they’re talking about where it shows up, on average, when people search for something. Where it shows up will depend on the search.
Web pages rank for specific keywords. Imagine you have a gluten-free bakery. Your home page might rank well for “gluten free bakery” and not well at all for “wedding cake.” Without a specific keyword, your page doesn’t have a rank.
When we say that a web page ranks for a particular keyword, we mean that it shows up in the top 100 or so positions on Google search engine results page. If it ranks well, we usually mean that it shows up in the top 20 or so results — the first couple of pages.
The best way to determine your rankings on specific keywords is usually Google Search Console. The Performance report will show you your average position for up to 1,000 keywords. If you are at #4.3 for 1,000 keywords, your website ranks well for hundreds of keywords. If Google only shows you for three keywords, an average position of 4.3 is not that great.
Google will also sometimes show you your ranking for a specific keyword when you search for it. The data is the same information available at the Search Console.
You can use the SEO tracking tool at ManageWP to keep track of your average rankings for lots of keywords:
Spyfu gives you an idea of how many keywords you rank for, in comparison with your competitors. Their paid services give you much more information.
And you can Google the keyword. Since different people see different results on Google, this is the least accurate way to check rankings. However, it can give you some sense of whether and where you show up. Our automated tools tell us that we’re #1 on average for “HIPAA compliant blogging,” and sure enough, there we are.
Because this is not an accurate method, we don’t recommend it, unless you don’t have access to the other tools mentioned and don’t want to wait to get that access. If you do a series of quick searches for the keywords you think matter for your organization and you never show up on the first page, then you probably don’t rank very well.
If you don’t seem to show up for any keyword searches, you have serious SEO problems. You might be facing Google penalties for shady practices (especially if you have had “SEO” work done by shady people). You might have a brand-new website that hasn’t yet been indexed, or a poor-quality website that isn’t going to be indexed.
But even if you’re doing pretty well, there is always room for improvement.
- You can bring keywords for which you generally show up on page 2 to page 1.
- You can work on related keywords — terms that are like the ones you rank for now.
- You can work on new keywords you haven’t worked on before.
We like to have a nice collection of keywords to work on at all times for each of the websites we manage. This is ongoing work.
Assuming that you have a high quality website which ranks for some keywords, the most important way to improve your page’s rank for a keyword is to optimize the content for search. That’s basic on-page SEO.
Next is to build high quality links. That’s basic off-page SEO.
Remember the hypothetical gluten-free bakery? If there are three gluten-free bakeries in town and all of them have plenty of fresh, original content at their websites and lots of high quality editorial links, then the competition will come down to things like up-to-date code and local stature. These are “all things being equal” factors.
We’ll be happy to help! Contact us when you need SEO support.