Since I went full-time running my own blogs, I've published over 250 pieces of content.
Most of them I wrote myself, though a few were hired out to freelancers.
I do all my own keyword research and I usually have a pretty good idea of what I can rank for with my sites. Though sometimes, of course, I'm wrong!
But every once in a while I write an article that just refuses to rank even though I strongly believe it deserves to.
I'm not talking about articles that land at the bottom of page 1, or page 2, when I think they should be higher.
I'm talking about articles that don't even enter what I call "the stratosphere." You can't find them in the top 10-15 pages of Google several months after they've been published, and they rank below hilariously off-topic and irrelevant results.
I call these "stuck articles." Somehow, some way, Google has decided it hates these posts and won't show them in the search results, even though they are technically indexed.
(A good test to see if there's something actually wrong with how Google is evaluating your article vs whether the article just sucks is to see if it's ranking on Yahoo and Bing. If it's ranking well on Yahoo and Bing but not Google, there's something funky going on.)
It can be almost impossible to figure out why Google hates your article and won't rank it anywhere near what it deserves, but there are a ton of different things you can try to get it moving up the SERPs.
Here are my best tips for dealing with stuck articles that won't rank in Google.
1. Force Google to crawl and index the page
This is probably the simplest solution and the quickest one to implement.
Sometimes Google just needs a nudge:
"Hey, remember this page? Can you please add it to your index?"
To do this, just go to your Search Console (https://search.google.com/search-console/about) and add the URL to the Inspect field at the top of the page.
If you're lucky, the page won't be indexed yet and you can do it manually here.
Chances are, though, that Google will say everything looks good.
"URL is on Google," the page will say. "It can appear in Google search results."
But we know that's not true!
Hit the "Request Indexing" link to force Google to take a second look at it.
Give this a day or so and if the article still doesn't show up for relevant search queries, move on to the next steps.
2. Remove some of the affiliate links from the post
Google doesn't love affiliate links. This is old news.
They're not against the rules or anything, and you can definitely have a successful post that gets a ton of traffic even if it's loaded up with affiliate links.
But often you'll have better results in the rankings if you tone down the number of affiliate links you use.
Use a light touch. Just 2-4 links in a standard 1500-ish words post is plenty.
If you find your stuck post is linking out to Amazon or other affiliate offers every other paragraph, try removing about half of these links and resubmitting the article through the Search Console.
I've had good luck with this method before, and not only for stuck articles.
If you have a money post that's ranking near the bottom of page 1, for example, removing some affiliate links might help it climb toward the top.
3. Add content and beef up the word count
There's a chance Google just thinks your content is too thin.
Adding content to your posts is ALMOST ALWAYS a good idea, and will usually increase the traffic that post gets.
Usually, longer content means a better chance to snag people searching for longtail keywords.
If your post is stuck and won't rank, consider adding about 250-500 words of new content.
You can simply expand on what you have if you want, but a better strategy is to add a Frequently Asked Questions or Related Questions section at the bottom of the post, or simply a new subheading or two.
Here, use a few keywords from the "Related Searches" or "People Also Ask" features in the SERP when you Google your target keyword to get ideas for what to add.
This extra relevancy and content depth could help your post redeem itself in Google's eyes.
These two articles weren't "stuck," but they were underperforming when I initiated something I called "Project 500." In P500 I added about 500 words of content to my best and worst performing posts and waited to see what happened.
The results were positive in every single case. Here are two specific examples:
Again, you'll probably want to resubmit the article through the Search Console when you're done.
4. Increase the number of internal links pointing to the page
Google might not like your post because it's isolated on an island by itself.
It's a best practice to have at least two internal links from other relevant pages coming in to each new post you write.
Yes, this is kind of a hassle to go back and find places to interlink after every new post you add to your site, but it's crucial in helping Google discover the post and figure out what it's about.
If you have an article that's "stuck" and won't rank even 6-8 months after you published it, try adding some more internal links from other posts pointing to that page.
Bonus tip: Instead of just hyperlinking some stray text, try "selling" the stuck post inside of a related post that peforms well. Encourage readers to head over and check out the stuck post with a compelling call-to-action.
The extra clickthroughs will give that internal link more clout and might help Google change the way it views your stuck article.
5. Build external links to the page
This is, admittedly, not a quick fix.
Building quality external links to a page is probably the hardest technique on this list to implement, but likely the most powerful.
Backlinks are still a major authority signal for Google, so if you're able to get a good link or two coming in to your stuck article, there's a good chance the value of that page will increase dramatically in Google's eyes.
This isn't something I usually pursue because of how I build my sites. I tend to go after large quantities of low or mid-volume keywords, so one particular post isn't worth that much to me.
It's not really worth launching a link-building campaign just to get an article raking if it's targeting a low-volume keyword, but if you have a seriously high-value page on your site that won't rank, I'd highly encourage you to try to build a few links to it via whitehat guest posting.
Bonus tip: They're not do-follow links, but there's still value to be had from links gained by sharing a post on social media. Pin the stuck post on Pinterest, share it with your Facebook or Twitter followers. Anything that may get some clickthrough and jumpstart Google's evaluation of the page.
6. Add more outbound links to the post
Imagine you're Google for a second.
You can't really understand exactly what a huge block of text, or a blog post, means, but you can examine multiple different aspects of it.
You're trying to compare a handful of blog posts to each other that seem to be on the same topic. They're all about the same length, have a similar amount of media, use proper spelling, grammar, and formatting.
But one post links out to high-authority sources like medical journals, news publications, and reference sites. The others don't.
Which one do you think is the more trustworthy article?
Having good quality outbound links in your posts is an important authority signal! If your stuck post isn't referencing other sites, go back in and cite your sources.
This may or may not be the thing that's holding your post back, but it will definitely be an improvement and it could be the thing that tips the Google scales in your favor.
(And don't be stingy with your link juice. Just use normal do-follow links, you bozos.)
Bonus tip: I don't have any hard data to share on this, but anecdotally I've seen positive results when I go back to a post that doesn't have any outgoing internal links in it and add a few in. Just something you might want to try!
7. Update the post & change the publish date
You can use this one in conjunction with adding word count or making other significant updates to the content in your stuck post.
At first, I'd make the updates and leave everything else alone. Just resubmit to the Search Console.
If that doesn't work, update the post again (add more content or make significant revisions), and change the publish date so it looks like a brand new post.
It's not usually the best idea to go around changing all of your publish dates, but it's fair game when you make significant updates or revisions to a post.
This could trigger Google to evaluate the post with fresh eyes.
8. Publish more relevant supporting content
It could be that Google isn't feeling your post because it seems out of character with the rest of your site.
(Even if it doesn't seem like it to you.)
For example, if you have a recipe blog and you publish your first kitchen gear review, Google might not trust it because it's out of your main wheelhouse.
One high-effort technique you could try would be to publish a few more posts about the topic (kitchen gear, in this case) to build up more of a backlog of similar content. Interlink between these posts generously.
This is especially likely to happen when your site is new and has very little trust in Google's eyes, in general. If they're JUST beginning to trust you on Topic A, they might not be ready to trust you on Topic B.
9. Delete the post and republish it with a new URL slug, new headline, and significant revisions
If nothing on the list above works (and yes, I've been there), you might just have to either throw in the towel or start from scratch.
You could just leave the post alone and continue to wait. Who knows. Maybe one day when your site has more authority, Google will come around on it.
Or you could delete the post entirely, wait a few weeks, and republish it with:
- A new URL slug
- A modified headline
- Significant updates or revisions to the content
At this point, it becomes a completely fresh post and Google will have to evaluate it objectively.
One of the tough things about Google is that they never tell us exactly what they're thinking, why something won't rank, or how to fix it.
I've had a few posts over the years that I swore were good, helpful, and worthy of ranking just COMPLETELY flop.
Again, I'm not so much talking about posts that underperform or underank so much as posts that completely fail to enter the stratosphere of ranking.
The list above, however, can work for both kinds of posts. It's really more of a general guide to improving your content to help it rank better, and chances are if you try everything on this list, you SHOULD be able to get your stuck article out of its rut.
Though, nothing is guaranteed!
Hope this helps, everyone.