Is there any rhyme or reason to Google's rankings?

Last Update: Dec 5, 2016


This may be a bit of a vent. My website is 20 months old and some of my articles with a decent search volume and low competition (under 30) are nowhere to be found on google.

Out of curiosity I just did an incognito search for a particular article. The keyword gets 130 monthly searches and the QSR is 27 (the article was published about 6 months ago and has comments). I gave up looking for my article after page 3.

What is more shocking than not finding my article (it is 2550 words by the way) on the first 3 pages of google are the articles I did find. The first result was for amazon, but the next 2 were for beyond crappy articles. One was from an authority site (result #2) but they pretty much just had a slide show of pictures. The 3rd result was from a very spammy looking site. Plastered in adds. The article had a total of 218 words and 2 links to amazon.

The articles after that were a bit better, but did not contain anywhere close to the information mine does.

This is so frustrating because I put hours and hours of work into every article I write. And I am getting outranked by pieces of garbage.

My keyword is in all the right places (Title, first paragraph, last paragraph, sometimes 1-2 times throughout the article and in the alt image tags).

This is just an example for one article, but there are many others. This particular article is a page, not a post. Not sure if that could be the problem.

I am sure I am not the only one going through this as I have seen a few other members rant about this as well.

But does anyone have any tips on what is going on?

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You'd be much better off having five interlinked posts of c. 500 words each, than one of 2500.

I only put the keyword in the title and first para. and this has worked fine for me for many years. I'd be careful that you're not overdoing the repetition of your keyword, and being seen as a "stuffer"!

The only backlinks really worth having are from authority sites. You can sometimes get a boost by using private blogging networks or article hubs but periodically Google deranks sites that use them or even deindexes them entirely. In truth, backlinks these days are best avoided, which is why WA got rid of Street Articles a while back.

Thanks Richard.

I don't think I am keyword stuffing. At least not intentionally. With a long article such as the one I used in the example of not getting ranked, it's 2500 words long and the keyword is only in there in it's entirety 4 times. And I link to it from at least 4 or 5 other articles. Here is the article if you want to take a look.

As I said, and no matter the length, I've never used the keyword more than twice in any of my content and I've never had any trouble getting ranked. However, if you're comfortable with adding it in more often, and it's working for you, that's fine too. :)

Also, I don't recommend using keywords in Alt Tags if they're at the expense of a true description of the image. Google is currently extremely hot on accessibility, which is what the Alt Tags should be used for, so that those with impaired vision using screen readers can understand what your images represent.

OK. I had a quick glance and another issue you may be encountering is the number of affiliate links on a single page, I counted at least twenty.

So, again, you'd be better dividing posts like this up, and limiting the number of affiliate links to 3-4 for each one.

But I keep getting told affiliate links don't matter. Here is a great example And one of my best ranking pages (that brings in most of my sales) is 1700 words and has 25 affiliate links.

So I really don't see how that could be the issue.

Which again brings me back to my thought of how the heck does google really rank sites?

Affiliate links are actually one of the many pieces which are used to evaluate your overall ranking for a given keyword.

If you present one affiliate link that is helpful no problem. If you present three combined with descriptions that explain the differences, that's viewed as helpful as well.

However, if you offer 20+ affiliate links all of the same type, Google doesn't see that as adding value to visitors and it can and does make a page more difficult to rank.

It's also worth bearing in mind that Google isn't a public service, ranking is a privilege not a right, and how they choose to rank content is entirely up to them. I'm afraid all we can do is follow best practice.

That said, I've given you the things that I would change. It's entirely up to you whether you want to implement any or all of them or not to see whether they improve your rankings. :)

Thanks again for all your help. But I really can't see affiliate links being the issue. Like I mentioned the article that is in number 3 spot can't even be considered an article. It has barely 200 words and is filled with affiliate links.

And my top article (its #8 on Page 1) is full of affiliate links.

I have many many articles that are also quite lengthy with not one affiliate link and they are also not in the first 3 pages of google. And again, they have a decent search volume and very low QSR.

OK, as I said, you're not going to change Google, so you can only change what you're doing. It's entirely up to you whether you want to experiment and see if you can perhaps achieve better rankings by changing the way you're doing things... or not!! :)

Yes the same thing and when I mentioned it all I get back is give it time but your site is 20 months ???

Yup it will be 2 years at the beginning of April 2016. But based on the comments I have got its happening to others as well. Some who have been with WA the same amount of time as I have or longer.

Let me know the URL of the article. Have you run it through Grammarly? Any internal links pointing to it?

Yup I have lots of internal links going to it. The URL is

Just from a quick glance, I ran it through Grammarly. There are lots of errors. Will proof it and send you a PM, later on, tonight :)

Interesting. The article has been thoroughly proof read (English is my first language and in my profession I have been responsible for writing many professional reports). I am curious to see what the errors are.

I've targeted keywords that have some reasonable search traffic, but have a QSR of zero. I've come across quite a number of these and have written posts based on these great keywords. I'm thinking I'll be number one on Google within hours, yet these posts are nowhere to be seen in the rankings despite being indexed. So how does that make sense? If there's no competition, why am I in oblivion? Why don't I have the top spot?

I used to spend more time writing longer posts, but realised after a while that it didn't matter, as the posts ranking the best were often under 1000 words. My best ever ranking post, as far as consistency in the top spot, is only a touch over 300 words long.

These days most of my posts are less than 1000 words. Some end up longer. I aim to write at least 500 words. You can churn them out much quicker and people prefer to read stuff that's more to the point. Unless it's a tutorial or ultimate guide.

I know there are basic principles to follow to achieve good rankings, but it's very inconsistent.

I'm thinking just write whatever you like with whatever title you want, occasionally deliberately target a keyword phrase and don't worry about the word length. Just let it be whatever length the post wants to be.

Yup, I have had that happen as well. I think I have struck the keyword goldmine and then my article is nowhere to be found. Which is crazy because as you said some of these have QSRs of 0 (or even 1 or 2).

I'm just writing a post for a keyword like that. 60 Monthly searches and a QSR of 1. Amazon and walmart are in the top 5, but after that I would be up against Pinterest (which many WA members including Jay, aka Magistudios have said is an easy one to beat) and then random blogs.

But I won't be surprised if my article doesn't show up in the first 3 pages. But I am writing it anyway because I think my readers will like it! And it's easy to write about.

I feel your frustrations because I can sometimes create a great article, only to be outranked by a piece of crap that is either really thin on content and/or is filled with spam affiliate links.

It happened to me Black Friday just gone....

So much effort was invested into creating the post in 2015, I had built up over 100 comments (totalling 6,000 words altogether), the QSR was only 5... But could I even find the article in the first 20 results pages of Google? NOPE!

But yet, short BF posts were being ranked?!

I really think Google needs a shake up and should roll out more updates to ditch the garbage.

But having said that, at times I can rank a new review on page 1 straight away, and others take time to move up the ranks.

Google's a massive pain in the butt!!


Sorry to hear that Neil, but it does make me feel better knowing others are going through the same thing. Wow 100 comments and 6000 total words is amazing. It makes no sense that your article wouldn't rank. Especially with a QSR of 5.

Don't be, lol. :P

But at least I've another 12 months for 100 more comments ☺ I don't know what was going on with the low comp but no rankings. It's just Google being Google.

Perhaps they should replace the staff with pro bloggers who actually have an eye for detail and can fix the algorithms.

I think Google is just broken, lol.

That sounds about right! Google is broken.

Are you sure your posts are getting indexed? Because at this point, something should be happening. Here's a post to check out:

I do a fetch as google and bingbot after every article I post. But I will check out your article as well.

I read your article. So much information. Great work Stephan! I didn't actually take the time to do all of these steps because I wanted to read what your solutions for non-indexed articles is.

But I am able to check both of your suggestions off.

Many of my non-ranking articles are 2000+ words, some don't even have affiliate links (but apparently that doesn't matter anymore -

And the other thing you mentioned is to link other articles to the non-indexed article. But I have done that as well.

Do you have any other suggestions for getting them indexed (assuming they are not)? If there are things I could do that I haven't done yet, then I will actually sit down and find out which articles aren't ranking.

Have to tried to check with SERP???

Thanks Paul. I haven't. I prefer not to use any tools as most aren't always accurate. So I use incognito searches.

OK give me the url of what you want to check and I will do it for you

Sure! Thanks. Here it is

Easy - You are position 29

Thanks Paul (and for your comment on my site). So does 29 mean spot 9 on page 3? But then it says Top Ten beneath that.

I was positive I searched to the end of the 3rd page and didn't see my site.

You are 29 from the top which would be page three at the top or page two at the bottom - depending how many pages are shown at a time

I will be very interested in the comments here. This is very much my finding on my website too... It is very frustrating and sometimes I wonder why I put all the effort into my research before I write my content to read some of the crappy content, that frequently is wrong in my niche.

Exactly Helen. I have years of education in my niche but the ones outranking me sometimes don't seem to know what they are talking about. And it's pretty obvious some of the content was just thrown together.

I have experienced the same thing. Some of my pages have been ranked well and others have not. I am not sure why. I just keep working on it.

That is exactly what I am doing. But I wonder if I should continue putting so much effort into the length of my articles.

I know what is recommended, but I am not convinced, based on my work experience, that people are prepared to read 1000 word online. The long articles are for ranking. If ranking is not happening, I think that concentration on keywords might be more appropriate than article length.

Thanks for your input, that makes a lot of sense. I think I am just going to write and aim for 750 words. If more than that naturally come out, then so be it. But I won't keep spending hours just to increase it by 500-1000 words.

My time might be better spent writing more 750-1000 word articles so I can publish more often than writing one big 2500-3500 word article and publishing infrequently (right now its once a week).

Some of the "gurus" like Neil patel and Brian Dean say to focus on writing an amazing article with up to 5000 words (that's pretty much a small e-book) and then spend the next month promoting it.

In a way that is the approach I do often take (although I don't promote nearly as much as them) but I also focus on keywords so I can aim for good google rankings.

I guess I will just keep experimenting. I also think that what works in one niche might not work in another.

My target audience is parents of young kids. Myself as a parent prefers to actually read short and to the point articles. So perhaps that is what others would prefer to.

So much to think about.

Backlinks. You don't have any. They do.

But the importance of those isn't taught on WA.

So why does Kyle say not to worry about backlinks and that they aren't needed? I haven't been focusing on trying to get backlinks at all.

So you are saying, even a spammy site will get ranked if it has backlinks?

How do you go about getting backlinks?

Just did a quick google search (what is a backlink) and some posts recommend it for higher ranking whereas others say the practice is outdated.

Here is what Kyle says on the subject

Thanks! Though after reading it, I am none the wiser. Especially since the latest comment underneath the article. So I´ll just wait and see.

Curious to know what you think after reading Kyle's post.

I added it to my previous reply. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Thanks for pointing out that comment. I left a reply.

Im starting to beleive that backlinks matter as well. Some of the garabage you find at the top of the SERPs has no other explantion until you run MOZ and see the number of backlinks.

It so hard to know what to do. And also very frustrating when I see the kinds of garbage outranking me. You can't even call some of them "articles"

Have to PMed Kyle to attempt to get his opinion?

Kyle has made it very clear that he believes backlinks do not play a role in ranking so no real point PM'g him about that.

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