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The SEO Matrix: Why isn’t this damn site ranking?

Backlinks, content, fine HTML formatting – everything works. But this damn site isn’t ranking satisfactorily for the desired keyword. What to do?

SEO-Analyse-1Stupidly, there are several thousand ranking factors according to Google, and up to 200 are used for each search request. Beside this, there are 1001 other reasons why you might not be able to perform some measures at all and others only a little. You somehow have to know everything to get the best out of it. So, a site isn’t ranking – where do I go from here?

By the way, I’m speaking here about large sites that you cannot push with blackhat methods and, for technical reasons, cannot quickly change completely. Such conditions do not make your life any easier. However, they do permit at least a couple of measures and a structured approach. To this end, I propose drawing a cross to identify the fields as if on a small matrix.

The partitions will be ‘internal’ and ‘external’ as well as ‘content’ and ‘links’. There are four clear areas to give us guidance in optimization. And then we’ll knock the site, that damnably still won’t rank:


1. Internal content

I always look first to sites that  have been optimized for a specific keyword. For this, each SEO probably has their own checklist.

  • Keyword in the title
  • …in the headline
  • …in the text
  • text body
  • HTML ok
  • images, Alt tags
  • meta-tags (incl. robots)
  • spam factors
  • and all the other stuff that we talk about a lot.

Now, perhaps we establish that the optimization of the site is not quite perfect, but it’s ok. This can’t be our problem then.

2. External links

Any SEO who thinks highly of themselves will now read through all the blogs again quickly according to the current link trends and examine their links according to:

  • a site’s domain popularity
  • if there are brand links or keyword links (ideally both),
  • how does the link variety look,
  • how links have developed over time,
  • that there are not too many spam links
  • and at least a few ‘nofollow’ links,
  • and, and, and…

This is not an easy test. However, if we want to deal with our job responsibly, then we have already taken care of most of these points. And yes, as comparisons with the competition show – all good! We have the treasured additional link that will push us ahead of the others. Still, the damn site won’t rank!

3. Internal links

It’s time to deal with internal links. We know of course that links are important for a site – but damn, now this includes the internal links. And here – especially with large sites – there is a lot that you can do wrong. So, you have to think about:

  • whether the navigation is readable to the robot,
  • the terms in the navigation,
  • the hierarchy (short-tail terms in the above categories, long-tails in the  post pages),
  • links to ‘related content’,
  • avoiding internal link games like ‘nofollow’ javascripts,
  • sitemaps,
  • etc…

In other words, if we are of the opinion that Google should position a site as well as possible for a certain keyword, we have to clarify the importance of this site for the robot, particularly with internal linking. But, back to the fictive situation: it can’t be due to this either. The site we’re working with is well linked and the links are excellently written. What now?

4. External content

Whoever hasn’t given up already will be wondering “what does he mean by ‘external content’?!” Now, there is probably some of this on the site – but it’s better if there isn’t. Then, when all other optimization ideas for a site and the links in it bring no results, it is probably due to this: that it’s possibly not worth ranking. Maybe on our site or elsewhere, there are pages that are truly comparable – but stronger. We should ask ourselves if the content is really unique and whether we can use the keyword clearly:

  • Are there duplicates of pages (or even  just text) on my site?
  • Is the URL truly clean and are there no parameters that could generate duplicate content?
  • Is the text unique and not found anywhere else (no matter whether it was stolen or sold)?
  • Am I using the keyword exclusively? Then, if I’m adding a new page for the keyword ‘XY’ to the index each day, don’t I need to wonder why I’m not ranking for it…

This is surely the most confusing area that we will address and I will come back to it in the next week. And yes, it has to do with ‘noindex, follow’ and the canonical tag. But, I can still say one thing: if don’t find any errors in this area, then we’re dealing with either one really bad penalty or we should start again from the beginning…

Too much work? A tool helps…

By the way, anyone moaning about the workload of this kind of analysis is right – this is a lot of work, like SEO is in general. And, you shouldn’t plan to follow through with all of this for every semi-important keyword. However, you know that it’s high time for this when the term ‘firefox download’ needs to be be optimized for an IT portal or if the keyword ‘munich real estate’ is nowhere to be seen for a real-estate portal’.

This is where the Searchmetrics’ ‘Keyword Page Optimizer’ makes its grand entrance. This tool from the Searchmetrics Suite can’t exactly be started at the drop of a hat, but it is incredibly useful. Using the KPO, let the Searchmetrics crawler loose on your own site. This analyzes not only the ‘regular’ factoring content and HTML in a subpage, but also the targeted internal linking, the use of keywords as linktexts, speaking URLs, external duplicate content, etc…

Even the Keyword Page Optimizer overview shows you the direction that optimization should take
Even the Keyword Page Optimizer overview shows you the direction that optimization should take

In any case, you will know more in the end!

P.S.: Who’s writing this stuff? My name is Eric Kubitz and I am one of the co-founders of CONTENTmanufaktur GmbH Anyone trying to reach me can do so via e-mail ( or on Twitter. ‘Til next time!

Marcus Tober

Marcus Tober

My name is Marcus Tober and I’m the founder of Searchmetrics. Because we really love to analyze all kinds of online data, we can give you more insights than any other company in SEO, SEM and Social Media. It’s not a job, it’s passion.

31 thoughts on “The SEO Matrix: Why isn’t this damn site ranking?

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