What Is Search Engine Positioning and Why Does It Matter?

Christy Walters


March 3, 2022 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

wooden scrabble tiles that spell SEO standing upright on a wooden table

Like most companies, you may create websites and content to get as many people to view it online as possible. With that goal, it’s in your best interest to try to get your website onto page one of the search engine results. But does your spot on that results page make a difference? Are you going to get more traffic from being in spot two versus spot six? How much does search engine positioning actually matter? And what about those extra features like video results and featured snippets? In this article, we’re covering:

What Is Search Engine Positioning?

Search engine positioning is the continuous cycle of optimizing web pages to appear higher in search result rankings for specific keywords. It’s also about optimizing these pages to get more available results on search engines for more queries. It focuses on individual pages rather than perfecting your website as a whole as you do with search engine optimization (SEO). How you rank in search engine positioning depends on the keywords and key phrases for which you try to rank. The legitimacy and structure of your website are also influences.

How Does Search Engine Positioning Work?

Each search engine uses its own algorithm to analyze a website’s structure, content, and relationship to other sites. You might be most familiar with Google’s algorithm because that search engine is one of the most popular and there’s a lot of information available about it. Google isn’t the only one, but if you’re trying to optimize your search engine positioning, following rules to rank well on Google can likely help you on other search engines too, because the principles are similar.

To choose the positioning of sites for each search query, the engines first start with a web crawl to find out what information exists. They index all the web pages they find and the sites to which those link. When someone puts a query into a search engine, they’re actually looking through this index of pages. The search engine results pages (SERPs) users see generate from what the program thinks is relevant for the question asked or keyword entered. Factors that may affect which pages the search engine pulls include:

  • Keyword or phrase usage and density
  • Keyword synonyms and related topics on a page
  • Backlinks to a page from other sites
  • Keyword locations in URLs, meta descriptions, and title tags
  • Loading speeds, mobile-friendliness, and technical SEO
  • Trustworthiness of a site
  • Search histories
  • Locations of the searcher

The search engine uses these factors and more to give a numerical score to each item in the index and decide which pages to display the highest in the results. It is possible to stay prominent in search engine positioning if your page gets a steady stream of traffic and keeps all its working parts functional.

Why Does Search Engine Positioning Matter?

Backlinko study found that the top three results on a SERP get the most organic clicks out of all results for a keyword. But SERPs no longer just contain links. It’s not just about moving up higher on the page like you would on a sports leaderboard. You’re connecting with the featured snippets, top stories, predictive search, and video results. With these extra pieces of SERP real estate, you may be trying to rank multiple times on the first page in different areas, not just from your regular link listing.

Doing this can be a reliable way to increase the chances of raising your click-through rate (CTR). The more people who visit your site, the better chances you have of selling your products and services, or creating new partnerships. You can do this by having a high CTR, meaning people are seeing your listing, clicking it, and finding your site. This may be even more important if you target a younger demographic that’s more web-savvy. They may have higher expectations of how they expect content to appear online.

Is Search Engine Positioning Different From SEO?

wooden scrabble tiles that spell SEO standing upright on a wooden table

Image via Unsplash by @nisoncorpreso

All search engine positioning is SEO, but not all SEO is search engine positioning. Yes, that sentence is a bit confusing and sounds more like a Geometry proof than plain English, but it is true. Search engine positioning is a subprocess of SEO. It focuses specifically on higher rankings for specific pages. SEO has broader best practices, like creating sitemaps to make your URLs more discoverable and conducting in-depth keyword research. Search engine positioning is usually something you do after you’ve already created and implemented a good SEO plan.

How Can You Find a Page’s Search Engine Positioning?

Google Search Console is a helpful tool if you’re looking to find a page’s search engine positioning within the program and index. The performance section of the tool ranks the common queries for your website and tells you where pages or pieces of content rank in SERPs on Google for that query. You can view the actual pages by clicking on the keyword and then clicking the pages tab.

Knowing that this tool exists and discovering how to use it is helpful and important because it not only tells you the keywords for which you’re ranking, but it tells you the exact pages so you can work on optimizing them to get better positioning. The rankings can change over time as the search engines index new pages, so having a tool that lets you monitor those changes can help with your optimization efforts.

Related: How To Use Google Search Console

How To Increase Your Search Engine Positioning

Use these steps to help you increase your search engine positioning for specific pages on your website:

1. Re-Optimize Your Content

Make sure that you’ve optimized the content that already exists on your sites and platforms for SEO and the latest updates and rules. It’s even more important to make sure your highest ranked pages are as near perfect as possible. This is because if Google already thinks your site is relevant for a target keyword, optimizing and making improvements to the page can push it even higher. It’s important to re-optimize content on a frequent and rolling basis to make sure you’re always ranking as high as you can with algorithm updates and other changes.

The type of optimization you do may depend on the page, content, and keywords. If you think the page itself isn’t performing as well as it could, you can conduct on-page optimization to make it more functional or visually appealing. If the content is outdated, you could update it. When re-optimizing an individual page, consider these ways to adjust your content:

  • Update statistics older than two years with new information if available
  • Shorten introduction and conclusion paragraphs where possible
  • Answer questions asked in headings and subheadings in the first sentence following the heading
  • Check that the length of the piece doesn’t compromise clarity, and adjust accordingly
  • Add additional headings and subheadings where applicable

2. Link Internally

Add internal links on your website’s highest authority pages. Make those links point to pages where you’re trying to increase the search engine positioning. If you don’t already know which pages on your site have the most link authority, using an SEO tool like Ahrefs can help. Be sure that you’re using keyword-rich anchor text for your links. This helps Google understand what your page is about and gives hints about your target keywords.

For example, if you’re linking to a page that discusses how to pay off your student loans, that may be a keyword for which you want to rank in search. You can use a combination of those words in the internal link anchor text to give Google or other search engines a clue about the topic of the page.

Related: The 20 Best SEO Tools

3. Focus on the Organic Click-Through Rate

Google uses an organic CTR to determine which results are most relevant to show searchers. The average CTR you register for your site on Google appears within Search Console. For most pages and sites, the average position is likely somewhere between 2% and 4%. A ranking between 5% and 7% tells Google that your site is extremely popular. This could help you go up a few spots for search engine positioning.

One quick and easy way to try to increase your organic CTR for old pieces and new ones is to search for Google Ads on the same topic as your page and read those snippets and pieces of content. Companies spend a lot of money on those ads to be the ones that get clicked. You can follow what they’re doing to get those clicks organically without paying the money.

4. Watch Your Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals is another Search Console report that tells you more about your page performance using “real world” or Google Chrome data to see how people interact with your website. This isn’t a direct ranking signal for search engine positioning or optimization, but anything you can do to make Google happy makes your life easier when it comes to trying to rank high in search.

Core Web Vitals can tell you information about the user experience on your websites, such as page speed or the logical layout of your content. The easier it is for people to navigate and find what they’re looking for on your site, and how quickly they can do it, may encourage them to keep coming back for more information from you. If they see your links in search, they may be more likely to click. This is helpful in general, but because of its ties to the organic CTR, it can also help your search engine positioning.

5. Rank More Than Once for One Keyword

Depending on your industry or niche, you may create a lot of content or have multiple pages on your website that actually deal with very similar topics. While it’s usually ideal to try to rank for just one keyword per piece or page, you may notice you have the chance to optimize multiple pages for the same keyword. Doing this may help get more of your content on page one in SERPs.

One way to do this may be through internal linking. Place related links from one page on a similar topic to another and back again. This isn’t a guarantee that it works, but it’s helpful to try, and another tool for your strategy.

6. Choose Your Keyword Length

For both new content and re-optimization of existing pages, consider the length and the type of keywords you’re using. You have a better chance of ranking higher for specific key phrases than with shorter keywords with a high search volume. For example, you may try to rank for the long-tail keyword phrase “why does SEO matter” than for the short keyword “SEO.” More specific keywords may also have fewer extra sections on the SERP page, like the video results.

If you’re looking to get even more specific about finding keyword gaps and ways you can elevate your keyword research game, try the CopyPress content analysis tool. We can look at keyword positioning for you and your competitors to find gaps in your strategy and help you find just the right keywords for new content and re-optimization. Our specialty is then creating the content you need to get noticed on SERPs and increasing your search engine positioning for specific pages and topics.

“CopyPress gives us the ability to work with more dealership groups. We are able to provide unique and fresh content for an ever growing customer base. We know that when we need an influx of content to keep our clients ahead of the game in the automotive landscape, CopyPress can handle these requests with ease.”

Kevin Doory

Director of SEO at Auto Revo

7. Update Broken Links

If you’re looking to keep your high organic positioning for a long time, it’s important to check your on-page links periodically to make sure they’re still functional. This might be easier for your internal links, especially if you know you haven’t changed a page’s URL. It’s important to check external links too, to make sure they haven’t broken. Your SEO tools can help you locate broken links more effectively. While this may not affect the pathways on your own site, it can diminish user experience, which may cause people to leave and avoid clicking your links in SERPs.

8. Update Meta Tags

Meta tags don’t appear on the pages themselves but in the source code. That is the information the search engines crawl to learn more about your pages and content. It’s helpful to include the most popular key terms and an enticing summary in your title tag and meta description. Over time, the popular terms or even the acceptable length for meta tags may change. Updating them can help keep your content relevant for both searchers and crawler bots.

9. Pick a Featured Image

The featured image is one of the first things a searcher sees for a page or article on the SERP. Your featured image must have something to do with the topic you’re discussing. Make sure you’ve intentionally set a featured image for each page rather than letting your web builder or publishing program choose it for you.

Depending on the content on the page, it may pick an image that looks irrelevant or out of context. This can lower your credibility with your audience and cause searchers not to click your content. This lowers the organic CTR and decreases your chances of higher search engine positioning.

10. Consider New Content Strategies

If you’ve done everything you can to increase your search engine positioning with existing content and even had success, you can still look forward to performing better with each new page or piece of content. Sometimes it may be easier to claim good SERP spots by starting from scratch rather than trying to clean up what you’ve already done. Consider trying some new content strategies popular on SERPs, such as:

  • Different length articles
  • Social media strategy collaborations
  • Posts that lead to popular gated content
  • Guest blogging with backlinks to internal pages

Increasing your organic CTR can help with your search engine positioning. By claiming spots higher on SERPs, you may receive more traffic and brand recognition. Conducting search engine positioning is also a way to help your overall SEO strategy to make sure your website is the best it can be for your business, your target audience, and search engines alike.

Author Image - Christy Walters
Christy Walters

CopyPress writer

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