By Mike Murray published March 19, 2020 Est Read Time: 10 min

Rise Up in Google SERPs With the Right SEO Website Content

Are Google search engine results holding your content down?

Google says its mission is to “deliver the most relevant and reliable information available,” but questions sometimes arise about where “relevant” and “reliable” fall with each search query.

Google compounds the issue by undermining that mission. Are the paid ads above everything else on the SERPs always the most “reliable”? Hardly. What about People Also Ask and other elements that suppress real website results? It’s almost as if Google is saying, “Odds are we didn’t provide relevant results so try another option. We hope we satisfy you at some point.”

Worse are Google’s zero-click results. Basically, the behemoth search engine repeatedly displays answers to queries so the searcher doesn’t need to click. Over half of searches are zero click, according to research reported by Rand Fishkin in his SparkToro report based on Jumpshot click data: Less than Half of Google Searches Now Result in a Click.

Over half of @Google searches are zero click, says @sparktoro via @cmicontent. #research Click To Tweet

How can you, the content marketer, rise up? Put on your SEO boxing gloves to pack a bigger influence on how your content appears among the SERPs:

Write more

I get it. When brands prioritize publishing higher-quality content but doing it less often, it can impress visitors and pay off in brand recognition, trust, and content sharing. But if you’re fading in the SERPs, you need an edge. Feed more content to Google. If the quality is decent and you follow SEO best practices, extra content will help you earn more rankings and get more natural search traffic.

If you’re fading in the #SERPs, feed more #content to @Google, says @mikeonlinecoach via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

Take Allstate’s lead. You could easily crank out an article like Auto Insurance for Teen Drivers. I know it’s filled with product references. But that information is supplemented with safety tips and quick access to state requirements for insurance.

Apparently, that was enough to meet at least a minimum sense of quality for Google. The teen driver content ranks No. 8 on Google for “insurance for teen drivers” with 1,000 monthly searches.

Couldn’t you expand your content with some relevant tips for B2B or B2C consumers? You could even do that with fewer product teases.

You can develop many types of content with the right keywords. Publish excerpts of your gated educational guides, e-books, and white papers. You can link to them from pages, mention them in thought leadership pieces, or list them in blog post or article sections of your website.  Other examples of new content could include lists of industry studies, evergreen content, and FAQ pages.

Write longer-form content

Sometimes it helps to write a little longer to appear more often among the results for the SERP features or traditional results. You don’t need to go full-throttle with long-form content that can easily exceed 3,000 words. (Marketers have different views on how to define long-form word counts.)

CMI has many long articles that rank well for multiple keyword phrases. For example, 9 Font Hacks for Instagram Stories You Should Know has about 1,200 words – not too long by any measure. But it has more than 100 top 10 rankings on Google. Here are a few examples:

Enjoy the featured snippets that come your way

Your content also can provide opportunities to obtain a featured snippet based on the questions you answer, your lists, data tables, etc. Get useful featured snippets tips from this article by Stephan Spencer: OK, Google: How Do I Optimize My Content for Featured Snippets?

The Instagram article mentioned earlier also earned a few featured snippets like this one that encourages searchers to look at “more items” or follow the link.

I wouldn’t change your content development strategies to avoid featured snippets that sometimes fail to produce clicks. Moz, which continually tracks how often they appear, reported that 13.3% of SERPs included a featured snippet when I checked in early March.

My advice holds true even though in January Google shut the door on a website’s ability to enjoy a featured snippet as well as a regular organic result on the first page of Google. Barry Schwartz sizes up the trend in his piece, Everything You Need To Know About The Google Featured Snippet Deduplication Change.

Determine what’s not ranking and fix it

Your website likely has many pages that don’t rank well for any keyword phrase. Revisit content that’s ranking close to the first page of Google or that you expected would do well. Determine what the issue could be:

Fix #content that’s ranking close to the first page of @Google, advises @mikeonlinecoach via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet
  • Is the content short? (Size up some competing websites for the same phrase.)
  • Is the content header too vague and not keyword rich?
  • Are your targeted keyword phrases too competitive? (Review your current rankings in light of monthly search volume on Google.)
  • Does your content attract quality backlinks?
  • Can you say the same thing with different keywords that may rank better?

You should have plenty of content to choose from because website pages usually don’t rank well enough to generate traffic. Ahrefs based a study of more than one billion pages in its index and found that 90.63% of website pages don’t generate traffic.

90.63% of website pages don’t generate traffic according to an @ahrefs study of more than one billion web pages. @mikeonlinecoach via @cmicontent Click To Tweet

You can’t afford to embrace a one-and-done philosophy with SEO. If a page isn’t ranking well, do you just give up on it or do you make a point to rework it? Give a page at least a couple months to see how Google treats it and for backlinks to kick in (rankings can fluctuate). You won’t have time to address every page but choose some priorities and measure your Google ranking gains.

Review your internal links

You can likely get a ranking lift after auditing your content and inserting more internal links to pages on your site that deserve more attention. In general, it’s best to add internal links to more targeted pages rather than revise or remove existing links.

Based on your internal links, Google may choose your website to appear with sitelinks in the SERPs. Sitelinks are automated so you can’t directly ask Google to display them. But you improve your chance of being selected by focusing on your overall site architecture and making it easy for Google to index your website.

General Motors is just one of many websites that has a strong presence on SERPs because of sitelinks.

Leverage your images

Google displays sets of images in different ways that will vary by desktop and mobile views. If you want a shot at ranking, honor image SEO best practices like:

  • Using dashes to separate keywords in file names
  • Writing descriptive alt text
  • Supporting the page with backlinks
  • Adding captions with more relevant details

Best practices matter, but Google also seems to select images based on the context of surrounding content even if an image has an SEO shortcoming like a file name without a keyword phrase.

Target the video carousel

Are you producing and sharing videos related to the keywords you’re targeting? Here are some quick pointers to keep in mind to improve the likelihood they will appear in the video carousel:

  • Create videos under two minutes.
  • Add a video transcript to your website page.
  • Link the video to your website (i.e., the description).
  • Grow your number of subscribers, a sign that your brand is a credible source for videos.
  • Upload the video to multiple platforms. Diversify your descriptions and link to your website. (You don’t need to worry about duplication penalties here.)
  • Boost videos with social shares to generate more views and interest.
  • Use relevant titles.
  • Submit a video sitemap to Google through Google Search Console.

Look for content gaps. For example, create useful videos for niche topics that have relevance but no videos appearing in the SERPs.

Again, there are exceptions to best practices. For the SERPs, Google doesn’t always seem to mind extended lengths or poor video quality. Google includes this video presentation that Microsoft posted in 2016: We Will be Right With You: Managing Customers’ Expectations with Vague Promises and Cheap Talk.

For the SERPs, @Google doesn’t always seem to mind extended lengths or poor video quality, says @mikeonlinecoach via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

The video is 70 minutes long with only 79 views and one “like.” But the Microsoft channel has 139,000 subscribers – so the channel’s subscriber base seems to be the key in this case.

Google also likes CTE Skills, which has a short video (1:41) with a straightforward title: Control Valves. It has 589,000 views since 2012 and 1,300 “likes.” CTE Skills has 108,000 subscribers.

Gain SERP visibility with the tweet carousel

Look at a few search results and you will quickly see that Google displays tweets from all sizes of businesses and authors.

Here are some quick tips to enhance your Twitter visibility on SERPs:

  • Tweet daily.
  • Focus on content that matches queries you’re targeting.
  • Keep attracting links to your tweets as well as your Twitter profile.
  • Make sure people interact with your account; win them over with educational, not just sales-focused, content.
  • Be consistent – don’t go dark for awhile.
  • Engage with other Twitter accounts.
  • Use popular hashtags.
  • Include memes, videos, and GIFs for a visual impact.
Enhance your Twitter visibility on SERPs by engaging with other Twitter accounts and focusing on sharing #content that matches queries you’re targeting, says @mikeonelinecoach via @cmicontent. #SEO Click To Tweet

Google’s SERPs feature several content formats like Local Packs and Reviews. In some cases, you can’t influence how you might appear in SERP features. For example, Google directly compiles the data or relies on data partners to support features like the Knowledge Card:


All the SERP features are detailed at Moz and SEMrush, which routinely track how often each type appears on Google. Get the details at Google SERP Feature Graph from Moz and SEMrush Sensor.

What steps have you taken to appear more often among the SERPs – either within the regular results or any of the featured content?

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used). 

Enhance your SEO knowledge at Content Marketing World in Cleveland this October. There’s still time to save hundreds on the all-access pass, which includes post-event access to videos of every one of the 100-plus main conference presentations. Register today. 

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Mike Murray

Mike Murray has shaped online marketing strategies for hundreds of businesses since 1997, including Fortune 500 companies. A former journalist, he has led SEO studies and spoken at regional and national Internet conferences, including Content Marketing World. Founder of Online Marketing Coach, Mike is passionate about helping clients identify their best opportunities for online marketing success based on their strengths, his advice and industry trends. You can find him on Twitter @mikeonlinecoach.

Other posts by Mike Murray

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