Are you frustrated by your Google rankings so far? Looking for ideas that would help improve your rankings, especially for those pages that have been stuck on page 2 for ages?

Well, good news:

In this guide, you’ll learn exactly how to do so. You’ll discover 5 ways to improve your Google rankings by just tweaking the content. No link building required. Promise.

Why is Updating Content the Best Way to Improve Google Rankings?

I’m sure you’ve already heard about Google’s ranking factors. Most likely, you also know that there are over 200 of them. Literarily.

But…

Do you know that not all of them relate to content? Some focus on how well you’ve set up the site. Others look at your domain, the website and how you’ve optimized it, brand signals and more.

That said, not long ago, the search engine revealed the three most important factors that affect rankings:

  • Links.
  • RankBrain, Google’s AI-powered algorithm helping the search engine analyze the query and determine the intent behind it, and…
  • Content.

I admit – You have little influence over the RankBrain. Well, maybe apart from ensuring it can understand the topic of a page well (more on that in just a moment…)

But you could improve your Google ranking with either of the other two factors.

You could either build more links or update the content.

And here’s why the latter option is a much wiser investment:

You have the full control over your content.

You can change, amend or update it over and over whenever you please. Or add more content, if you please. Not to mention, edit it to target a different keyword phrase and do anything else you feel would improve its ranking.

It’s no surprise that content has become one of the three pillars of SEO for SaaS.

With links, however, you are at someone else’s mercy. You have to work with other webmasters, and rely on their goodwill to link to you. And because of that, you can hardly guarantee any results.

(But don’t get me wrong. Sometimes building more links is the only way to push a piece of content higher in SERPs. But until you’re at that stage, I’d recommend you start with updating the content.)

And here are some ideas on how to do that.

#1. Improve Keyword Relevancy

Did you know that one reason why a particular content remains stuck below the first page in Google is weak relevancy to the search query?

Let me explain…

I’m sure you have conducted complete keyword research and included both, the primary and secondary phrases on the page prominently. And your copy seems on the topic too.

But chances are that what you’ve published misses out on the search intent Google associated with the query.

What it means is that you’ve either failed to include phrases that make the content more relevant to a user’s need for this information. Or it lacks entire sections of information the search engine considers vital.

For now, let’s evaluate the first option – Lacking strategic phrases.

Keyword relevancy is a reason why many shorter pages outrank longer ones. It also helps a shorter page ranks for more keywords.

And that’s just because it contains more relevant and meaningful words and fewer stop words.

Here’s an example, a page I wrote a while ago. It fails to rank as high as I believe it could.

WordPress tells me that it contains over 1700 words. This is fantastic from the SEO point of view, right?

Example of content length report in a text editor.

However, the SEMrush’s On-Page SEO Checker, a tool that ignores stop words in its analysis, sees a shorter content…

Look:

A content length report showing the total word count without stopwords.

The above would explain why this page isn’t ranking higher…

And it’s shameful to admit but, most likely, it just lacks the substance of the top-ranking pages in SERPs.

Here’s how to change that.

First, find out what other phrases to include in your copy.

To do so, analyze the most common 1, 2, and 3-word phrases on top-ranking pages. To do that, I use a small SEO Chrome extension called Mangools. Among its features is the ability to see the top words on a page. Like this:

Mangools Chrome Extension showing on-page keywords report for a specific page.

Use it to review pages that achieved higher search ranking than you. And assess what other phrases could make your content more relevant to the search query.

I download those keywords as a CSV file, compare with what the extension reports on my content and select the best phrases to use.

Then, update the copy to incorporate those phrases into your copy.

And finally, review your content with the extension again to see how visible they are now.

A quick note: The Chrome extension reads the page’s HTML to identify and analyze its content. Because of that, at times, it picks up elements that aren’t part of the article – a cookie policy popup, for example. Keep that in mind if you spot some weird phrases in the list of keywords.

#2. Add More Semantic Keywords

Semantic keywords help Google understand your content’s topic better. And it’s incredibly important that you include them in your text.

Why? Because for one, the phrase you target may have different meanings.

I often explain this using the simple word, Apple, as an example.

Can you guess what information someone typing it in Google is looking for?

Something about the fruit? Maybe they want to find out about different types of apples? Or growing apple trees…

Or perhaps they’re more interested in Apple as a company? They may want to find out its current stock value or information about its corporate structure…

Or our searcher is a music fan. And they want to learn more about the Beatles’ record label? Or the band’s infamous boutique in London in the 60’s…

See the potential for confusion?

A visual showing how semantic search works.

Google’s task is to match that search query with the most relevant content. It does so in many ways. For one, it’d use the person’s search history, location or other information to determine their intent.  

But it’s what happens next that’s relevant to our discussion.

Because you see, Google also has to analyze your page. And then, understand which of the different interpretations of the query it relates to.

That’s where using LSI keywords helps.

A lot!

LSI (or semantic) keywords are phrases related to your primary search term that help define it better.

They help add context to words on a page. And in doing so, make its topic clearer to google bots.  

To find strong semantic keywords, you need to use an LSI generator. It’s a tool that analyzes top-ranking content and taps into a proprietary database to identify the right phrases to use.

Here’s an example of a semantic keywords list for the phrase, “on-page SEO” from SEMrush.

A list of the most relevant semantic keywords for a phrase to use when trying to improve Google rankings.

#3. Expand Your Content

Fact: You may have extended the copy while working in relevant and semantic keywords.

But often, your page might also need other specific information to rank better. Alternatively, you might have to change the way you approach the topic slightly.

Here’s why…

At times, Google might promote only specific information on the first page. Unless your content matches it in full, it’ll remain on page two or lower.

Take the phrase “Small Business CRM.” Analyzing the first page of SERPs reveals that Google presents only informational content there. In fact, pretty much all top-ranking pages present a list of relevant CRM solutions.

An image of Google search results for a specific keyword.

BUT…

The situation is much different on the next page. Here Google includes other content types as well.

For one, it features at least four commercial pages. See?

The SERP result from page two, showing the variety of the information within the search listings.

Unfortunately, neither of them is close to reaching page one anytime soon.

Why, because they don’t match the search intent that Google associates with the keyword. (Which, in this case, seems to be informational.)

I know that this may seem like an extreme example. But if you review SERPs associated with your keywords, you may find many similar instances.  

So, what to do then?

First, review the SERPs. Look at pages ranking for your target keyword. See if there is a pattern in the way they approach the topic.

Here’s another example showing a clear pattern:

An image showing a pattern within the results on page one.

Also, evaluate the content types there. Are all ranking pages blog posts? Or does Google include other content – homepage, product pages, landing pages, etc. – there too?

Evaluate the content length too. Although, technically, longer content ranks better, in some instances Google displays shorter pages at the top of SERPs.

I imagine the reason for that is simple. Google cares about the user experience. And if the search engine establishes that shorter content is enough to answer a particular query, then that’s what it displays. 

Finally, check out how many SEO-friendly headlines Google features at the top of SERPs. Or does it prefer to publish more engagement-driven headlines there?

Knowing the above will help inform your strategy for updating the content and increasing your Google ranking.

#4. Improve Meta Tags

Look:

Tweaking your page titles and meta descriptions often offer the quickest way to give a web page a boost in rankings.

(Although I have to admit that doing so doesn’t always lead to a massive jump in SERPs.)

Particularly updating your meta title can push the content higher in search engine results.

And if you’re wondering how to do it, the answer once again lies in SERPs.

Once again, reviewing the top-ranking content might suggest the type of a meta title that ranks particularly well.

Perhaps there are words Google favors? Or a structure of the tag.

Consider the example below. It shows the SERPs for the phrase “personalized marketing.

SERP results for the aforementioned phrase.

Although those meta titles seem completely random at first, there are patterns among them.

First, many include the word “What.” There is only one listicle. And neither of those pages focuses on the “how to” approach.

But if you go to the next page, you’ll see more listicles, for example.

The SERP result with a pattern among the search listings marked.

Based on the above, you could amend the meta tag to match the pattern on page one, not two.

Similarly, amending meta description to feature the keyword more prominently might engage more people with your listing.

#5. Improve Your Content’s Readability

Let’s not beat around the bush:

I prefer difficult, hard-to-read and hard-to-understand content…

…said no Google user ever.

In fact, most tune out of difficult content, seeking information they could absorb easily, often on their mobile devices.

Google knows it too. And the search engine has confirmed that difficult or hard to read text won’t rank well.

A screenshot of a tweet from Gary Illyes regarding the quality of content as a ranking signal.

(image source)

What’s more, difficult content will receive poorer engagement and quality signals. And again, this will diminish its chances for strong search engine rankings further.

What makes content readable?

Many factors affect how easy or hard to read your content is. The biggest ones include:

  • Sentence length. As a rule, shorter sentences read better.
  • Language complexity. Difficult and long words make content harder to read. So does unnecessary jargon.
  • Voice. The active voice always reads nicer.
  • Adverbs. The fewer, the better.

How to check your pages readability score?

You have a couple of options.

If you use Word, go to Tools > Spelling and Grammar. Once the program proofreads your content, it will display stats about it, including the readability score.

Word processor showing the readability score report to evaluate the quality of the content.

You could also use the free Hemingway App. Just paste your copy into the editor. The app will grade it, and also, suggest what to fix.

Note: As a rule, aim for readability score of 60 or above.

And that’s it.

Hopefully, you’re walking away from this content with lots of ideas on how to update existing pages to improve their Google ranking.

Before I let you go through, let’s recap the main points:

Updating content is easier than building links. You can change it as you wish, and as often as you please. And because of that one thing alone, it’s the easiest way to boost your content’s rankings.

The secret to better rankings lies in analyzing top-ranking content. From power words they use, semantic keywords that define the topic better to content’s length or structure, it’s all there.

You can use top-ranking content to figure out what meta tags would work best too.

Improving readability will boost engagement and quality signals. And that should help affect Google rankings too.