Wrong Page Ranking for a Keyword? Here’s How to Overcome It

by Pawel Grabowski - SEO Consultant for Startups

It happens. Sometimes, Google chooses to rank the wrong page for your preferred keyword.

It’s not always a symptom of a larger problem, but it’s always frustrating to see.

But the good news is that you can overcome it.

Here’s how.

Why Sometimes the Wrong Page Is Ranking for the Keyword?

First, let me show you what the issue looks like. I recently noticed it in my ranking report, too; actually, see…

An example of wrong page ranking for a keyword.

My keyword targets a well-defined phrase. I’m sure you’ll agree that there can’t be any confusion regarding what the relevant page should be about.

And yet, look at the ranking URL (the rightmost column) - See how Google shows an irrelevant page in rankings, the second page of my blog’s archive?

It really makes no sense for that page to rank, doesn’t it?

And yet, for some reason, that’s what Google decided to rank…

Now, to be fully transparent, the issue was, most likely, just an error on Google’s side this time. The wrong page ranked only for a day; after that, everything went back to normal. One factor that immediately revealed that the issue mightn’t be because of something I did was the sudden massive ranking drop [68 spots.] The next day, the page went back to its usual page-one ranking. Nonetheless, the screenshot illustrates the problem quite well.

Yet the fact remains that sometimes Google chooses to rank the wrong page, which can cause serious issues for your business.

For one, as a result, your content achieves lower rankings

The wrong page, most likely, will never rank anywhere near page one. It’s not relevant enough to warrant ranking high in SERPs, after all.

Your organic click-through rate suffers too

Even if the page manages to attract some impressions, it most likely doesn’t entice users to click it. Once again, it’s not relevant to their search intent.

That page’s meta-title and meta-description tags don’t relate to the topic and the query either.

The result? Nobody clicks on your SERP listing, and nobody visits that page from search.

Your SEO performance is low as a result

I suppose this downside of having a wrong page ranking for your target keyword goes without saying. With low rankings and CTR comes hardly any benefit of showing up in SERPs. You get no search traffic. And that page generates no signups, leads, or sales.

So, How Do You Identify the Issue?

First, there are three symptoms that can suggest a wrong page is ranking for your target keywords:

1 – Pages that mention your brand name rank higher than the home page

Homepage plays an incredibly powerful role in your SEO. It attracts the most visitors and serves as the entry point for all branded searches.

Why, because, providing that you’ve optimized it well, it will rank for your business name or brand.

Seeing other assets, often loosely related to your brand or business name, appearing in SERPs for branded searches will suggest that your site experiences the wrong page ranking issue.

2 – An older page ranks for a relevant keyword

Another scenario – A page you created a long time ago is still in the SERPs. Yet that new, fresh, and more in-depth content you’ve published on the topic recently is nowhere to be found though.

Both pages might be targeting the same keyword, which might suggest another problem – keyword cannibalization. But if you’ve done everything well, it’s the newer page that should be ranking.

3 – You see system pages or blog articles instead of the current content in the index

You can see this particular issue in the screenshot I included above. In spite of having a proper page dedicated to the topic and targeting the keyword, Google decided to rank a blog archive, a page with hardly anyvalue at all, suddenly.

Another example of Google ranking wrong page for a keyword.

A simple method to spot the issue

For the purpose of this guide, I’m going to assume that you know what your most valuable Google queries are.

(If not, you can identify them in the Google Search Console easily. Log in to your GSC account. In the left sidebar, click on Performance. GSC should display the Queries report by default. If not, select it from the main column in the top navigation.)

How to discover what queries a page ranks for in GSC.

With the list of queries at hand, check what pages rank for those in Google.

1 – Check your ranking report.

Most rank tracking tools show the landing page, the first search result on your domain they’ve encountered in SERPs. Note, they can refer to it differently, though. My rank tracker calls it URL.

Example of a ranking report.

Another software I have access to calls it an Indexed URL, which requires you to click on the keyword to see it.

Another example of a ranking report.

Nonetheless, the ranking URL is there somewhere in the ranking report. All you have to do with this information is to assess whether that’s the page you wanted to rank for the keyword.

2 – You can also check it in the GSC directly

When reviewing queries, click on the specific search term in the Google Search Console, and then change the targeting to Page (in the top nav menu again.) GSC will show you which pages show up in SERPs for that phrase.

Note that at times, you may see more than one page in the report. That’s why I prefer to look at the ranking report, as it includes the topmost page.

3 – Search for those phrases in Google

Finally, you can simply use your key phrases in the search engine to evaluate which of your pages will show up.

I admit that it’s a good process as any. Well, maybe, except for the manual labor it requires. It could also provide irrelevant data if your location and target market don’t match.

But all things considered, it’s as good method as any other.


Each of the methods I listed above reveals which page is ranking for your target keywords now. However, as you’ve seen from my example above, the ranking URL could be a blip. So, I always recommend you also review theranking history per keyword if you have access to it.

Here’s another example from my site. Notice how an irrelevant page jumped into SERPs, then disappeared again.

Example of a wrong page ranking for a keyword only temporarily so it's not a problem.

I honestly can’t explain why Google switched from one page to another temporarily. However, reviewing the ranking history tells me that this was nothing but a blip.

That said, if the other, irrelevant page had remained the main ranking URL, I’d know I had a problem.

So, How Do You Fix and Ensure that a Correct Page is Ranking?

You have three options:

Option 1. Assess The Correct Page to Identify Why It Doesn’t Rank

The first thing to do is to check whether you actually have a relevant (or better if you will) page to rank for the keyword.

If so, can Google crawl it at all? Could the Robots.txt file be blocking its access to the page? Run the page by a web crawler to find out.

For example, when evaluating a client’s site recently, I discovered that its main content resulted in an error code.

Site crawler showing a 404 status code.

Clearly, a page that doesn’t exist (or cannot be crawled) won’t rank, right?

Unfortunately, the solution isn’t always as simple as getting Google to crawl and index the content.

Often, you have to dig deeper into the issue. Here’s how.

Evaluate how you interlink to the page. Can the Googlebot access it when crawling the site at all? Even if so, how many “clicks” would it have to make to get there?

I’ve found that, sometimes, linking to the page from a higher-level asset (a page closer to the homepage in the site’s architecture) does the trick too.

Review (honestly) if the page is good enough to rank.

Now, I admit that this is a bit controversial method but at times, you have to honestly assess whether the content you’d like to rank is, in fact, authoritative enough for Google to pick it.

The above has nothing to do with how you’ve optimized the content. I’m talking about the information you’veincluded. Does it match the user intent for that keyword? Does it provide the information people would want to find there?

You can assess it by comparing your content with top-ranking pages for the keyword.

Visit top-ranking pages. Make a note of what type of information they provide (hint: I typically list all their sections and look for commonalities), and check their format, too.

Within minutes, you’ll know how close or far off from them is your page.

Updating or rewriting the page is often enough to convince Google that this is the asset that should rank for the keyword.

Option 2. Boost the Relevant Page’s Authority

Let’s assume that you do have a better page for the keyword. Google can rank it too and you have ensured that it matches the user intent. What’s next?

First of all, you need to boost its authority. I recommend you try three things:

  1. Add more internal links to the page, just like we discussed above. Ideally, link to it from either the homepage or any page that’s close to it in the site’s architecture (level 2 or 3, no further) to pass the most link juice to the page.
  2. Improve its content adding more semantic (LSI) keywords. These phrases will help Google understand the page’s topic more precisely. In turn, the search engine should see the actual keywords for which the page should rank.
  3. Build more external links to the page. Backlinks will confirm the page’s authority, after all. Sure, itmight require launching a link-building campaign, so do it if the page is really worth it.

Option 3. Degrade the Other, Less Relevant Page

But what if that doesn’t work either? What if, in spite of doing all of the above, a wrong page still ranks for your target keyword? Then, the last option is to get rid of that less relevant page.

However, I wouldn’t advocate deleting it. The page is ranking already. Google considers it a valuable resource (although for a wrong keyword.) It suggests that you can use this page to drive traffic, nonetheless.

You’ll have to try two things with it, though.

  1. Change its target keyword and reposition it for a different phrase. This might solve the issue right away, in fact. To do so, change its meta tags, the headline, and add quality content to match the new phrase. Also, pay attention to the keyword density and make sure that the new keyword is represented enough in the copy.
  2. Remove internal links pointing to that page. In a way, you’ll help Google “forget” about it (or startseeing it as less authoritative when compared to the page you want to rank.)

And that’s it

Now you know how to overcome the issue of a wrong page ranking for the keyword.

Copyright: Smashing Copy Limited  2024