Most people who think they have an SEO problem actually have a brand problem, a page titling problem, or a quality problem. If you have a good brand, good page titles, and good content then Google will usually rank your site in the place it deserves.
Rather than thinking about why Google doesn’t like your site, it’s better to think about why humans don’t like your site. One way to find out why humans don’t like your site is to pick a query you would like to rank for, look at the current results, and then try the following exercises with a user study participant:
- Show them just the brand name – Ask them to rank the names of the sites that currently rank for the query, based on how much they would trust that site for that query. If they don’t rank your site name highly then you don’t have an SEO problem – you have a brand awareness or brand reputation problem.
- Show them just the page title – Ask them to rank the titles by how much they would expect the page with that title to give them a really high quality answer for their query. If they don’t rank your title highly then you don’t have an SEO problem – you have a titling problem.
- Show them the landing pages – Ask them to rank the pages by how high quality they are, how trustworthy they are, and how well they address the need expressed by the query. If they don’t rank your page highly then you don’t have an SEO problem – you have a page quality problem.
- Otherwise, maybe you do have an SEO problem – If users do think that your brand is good, your page titles are good, and your content is good then it’s possible that there is something broken in your site that is preventing Google from realizing this. In which case, follow Google’s Webmaster guidelines to learn how to help Google understand your site.
Note that I haven’t revealed any “secret insights” about Google. This is all just common sense and applies equally well to all search engines – however common sense often seems lacking in the SEO industry.