Can You Rank For What Doesn't Exist?

 5/6/2022 12:00:00 AM
Views: 3,894
7 Minutes, 9 Second
 Written By John Marx

Can You Rank For What Doesn't Exist?

Recently I had to go back to organic search engine optimization or organic SEO learning and school/research. I always find it good to go back to your fundamentals to re-evaluate if you're missing something. I was told to rank a site for three keyword phrases. Out of the nine words (three words in each keyword phrase), only one of those words existed on the site. That word existed once out of around one million words on the site. Was I wrong in my logic? Had I become "complacent" in the daily SEO tasks that I missed this capability? Was I truly not as knowledgeable as I thought? This is the journey of my research.

To start out, I went straight to Google and typed in "Does a word have to exist on a website to rank on Google?" to see what results might come up. I figured it was better not to beat around the bush, spend countless hours down the wrong rabbit hole, and go straight to the meat and potatoes of the question. I looked at all ten results that came and cover the first three as after the first three they started repeating themselves and that would just make this a repetitive and boring lesson in SEO for myself, and those that are reading it.

The First Result for Ranking with Keywords

My first result, from the Hoth, was in the form of a knowledge graph. A knowledge graph is a way for Google to give you the results quickly and efficiently without having to even click on anything. The Hoth result returned: "Keywords can be a single word like 'SEO' or a short phrase like 'what is search engine optimization.' Google's algorithm will crawl through all of your web pages. It will determine your ranking based on your keywords and several other factors like content quality, authoritativeness, backlinks, and more." The results came from this source:,factors%20like%20content%20quality%2C%20authoritativeness%2C%20backlinks%2C%20and%20more.

In that same article, it says, "One of the first steps you should take when trying to improve your SEO is to find out what keywords your potential customers are using and incorporate them onto your web pages. This free tool can help you identify the right keywords for your site."

This means that the words have to exist on the site for it to show within the search results. I was feeling good but not yet 100% confident as I was told I was missing something. I wanted to know if I was being an ID10T and that I still understood the fundamentals of indexing within the Google results. I couldn't stop there. I continued down the search results to see what else I could find.

The Second Result for Ranking with Keywords

In my second attempt, the very next article in my results, was from Speccy Media ( This article is called "Why doesn't my website rank on Google?" which fits what I was looking for. They broke it down into:

  • Welcome message: Google will look at your entire page and determine what you're trying to convey based on the information below. Google is smart enough to know what synonyms of certain words are. The synonyms they use are not necessarily your industry or "created words" but words the majority of users know.
  • Headings: Your heading should contain the keyword phrase you're trying to be found for on that page.
  • Meta Tags: The meta information is information associated to the page, images, and even links within your page.
  • URL Structure: Including your keyword phrase here can great help in establishing a page as related to that keyword phrase. As such, you need to have a page for each of the major keyword phrases you want to be found for. A really long page will not garner you the results you want.
  • Copy: You should use your keyword phrases on no more than 4% of the words on the page. I'm not sure about the 4%, but I do agree it does have to exist.
  • Regular Content: Update the content on your site often. The best way to achieve this result is to blog often (like this one!).
  • Speed Test: If your page loads slow, with slow being a relative term, users will leave, and it won't matter if you have the right content or not. You should always strive to show content to your users within 3 seconds and load items in the background if you have a lot of information to display. It's all about the perception to your website visitors.
  • Backlinks: Getting other credible sources to link to you. The pages that link should also contain the keywords that you are trying to be found for and "not just a link."

The Third Result for Ranking with Keywords

The third result came from AHREFs ( and covered finding keywords and how to rank for them to garner business. Their answers were:

  • Find underperforming keywords that others aren't using. AHREFs breaks this information down between desktop and mobile as well as there are differences in the types of searches people do between those device types.
  • Pick a keyword to rank higher and put that word/phrase on your website. Make certain the words you use are non-branded and non-industry specific. Use the terms that people would type in without having a doctorate degree.
  • Look at your competition and see what keyword phrases they are marketing for. Are they using the specific keyword phrase or a phase that falls into a synonym of that phrase?
  • Track your rankings: Once you've added that keyword phrase tracks that phrase on the page and see if it's ranking for that phrase.
  • Repeat this for every keyword phrase you want. Again, putting each unique phrase subject on separate pages. If they are the same putting on the same page is perfectly fine.


I concluded for the remaining seven links (total of ten returned). They all came to the same conclusion. This is:

  • To rank for a keyword or keyword phrase it must exist, or you will never rank for it.
  • Use synonyms of words people would type in.
  • Do not use words that no one understands. Incorporate those words but they should be minimal in what you do.
  • Look at what your competition is doing.
  • Are they using the same words as you?
  • Are they using terms the regular person would type in?
  • Are they using synonyms to reach out farther?
  • Are you using "your words" that only those that know you are?
  • Are you wanting to rank for words no one is searching for?
    • Hint: If you are the only person searching for a keyword phrase, you will never get the results you want.
  • If the search volume is low, wanting to rank for that word will not produce results for you.
  • If you are adamant that you want to rank for a word that doesn't exist, you must go to paid ads but expect poor results.
    • Suppose you are a Mexican restaurant and don't sell Pizza but want to rank for it. Expect people to click your ad but leave as you don't have what they want. Put that Mexican Pizza back (thank you, Taco Bell, for putting it back!!!), and then you will be giving your website visitor what you want.

I always state one of the most important rules when marketing in every talk I give: "You are not the customer." Stop trying to change up the words to be so unique that you put yourself in a class that creates no business. When your customers cannot understand what you're saying without hours of research and understanding you will lose every sale. Your time is valuable just as your customers time is valuable. Respect your customers time and talk to what they know.

  • Put the words you want to be found for on all your main pages.
  • Sprinkle in your own "uniqueness" into your blog articles, social media, etc. but make certain to mention the words they know.
  • Create a FAQ that says "this" is "that" when it comes to terminology so that not only your users can start to understand your thought process but so can the search engines.

The world is hard enough. We don't need to make it any harder than it needs to be.