It’s a race! The goal of this article is to show you techniques, tools, and processes to help you rank a blog post or page from your website on the first page of Google’s search results with the ultimate goal of obtaining top of first-page placement.
Make no mistake, that’s a tall order.
I will cover the most important areas that affect the ranking of posts or pages that you can control – these are not necessarily in order of importance.
Table of Contents:
- What Does SEO Success Look Like?
- What You Don’t Need To Worry About
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Some industries, topics, and keywords are more competitive than others and will require more or less time and effort with this approach – your mileage will vary. But you must put in the work if you want to rank at the top of the first page of Google.
Ranking a page or blog post is relative to the competitive environment for a particular keyword phrase or topic. Your goal is to be better than the other ranking pages (or least imperfect among your peers in the eyes of Google).
This is an in-depth how-to post.
But to answer the question, how to get your website on Google’s first page, boils down to this:
- Take care of the customer first (the searcher) – create the most valuable, helpful and useful content on the topic relative to the other ranking pages (don’t write for search engines, write with the customer in mind)
- Produce quality work – free from most visible errors and make the content presentable and professional so the user has a good experience on your site
- Make it clear what your content is about and become an expert and trusted authority on the topic (E-A-T acronym from Google’s search quality rater guidelines which stands for Expertise-Authoritativeness-Trustworthiness)
What It Takes
The hard truth is that SEO is hard work that requires you toput in the time. And it involves different skill sets. But with the help ofthis post and consistent ongoing effort, you can succeed.
There are elements and factors with SEO that you cannot directly control, such as the age of your domain, your competitors’ efforts, changes in Google’s algorithm, and more. What I’m covering here are the tactics and processes that you can control which will get you far along the success curve.
Most importantly, be patient! SEO efforts are a marathon,not a sprint.
Small hinges open big doors
Estimates are that Google uses 300 or more variables as signals to rank a page or post organically, and while rankings cannot be guaranteed, if you follow the below search engine optimization (SEO) guidelines you are many steps closer to achieving the goal and well ahead of your competitors that are not reading this post.
A Word About Who This Post Is NOT For
If you were looking for “tricks” to shortcut the process, this post is not for you.
Growing evergreen organic traffic that Google delivers to your site day-after-day, year-after-year, there are no “tricks” or shortcuts other than developing the best quality content that people want to read and engage with. You must put in the effort. But I assure you that if you do, you will reap the rewards.
So if you’re serious and committed to developing organic traffic from top of page Google rankings, producing quality content ongoing consistently is your best strategy – not one page, but many pages.
Why listen to what I have to say?
I’ve been doing SEO and digital marketing for 20 years in some of the most competitive SEO spaces and have led a digital marketing agency for 10 of those 20 years.
The UltimateObjective Is To Rank More Than Just Your Page
The GOAL is to not ONLY rank your page or blog post at the top of the first page in Google but ALSO rank the content assets you have embedded in the page or post, too – images and videos (I cover this below).
You want to squeeze all the value possible from your contentwithin Google’s organic results.
Think beyond just the textual content and the page itself.
What Does SEO Success Look Like?
When a blog post or website page SEO is effective, this is anexample of what the results can look like:
- You rank for dozens if not hundreds of essential phrases
- You rank multiple pieces of content for the blog post or web page
- Images embedded in the blog post are ranking
- Videos that were embedded are ranking (more on video SEO below)
Below is a dental page that rankedfor 97 different terms around “dental implants” on the first page of Google(below was a partial list of keyword phrases around dental implants pulled fromGoogle Search Console).Example of Ranking On The First Page Google of Google For Dozens of Terms
The average position of those 97 phrases was 3.6!
The economic value from the click traffic of these organic non-paid terms was a staggering $30,000+ per month if you had to buy the traffic in Google Adwords!
SEO is very well worth the effort.
Here’s another example… Looking at SEM Rush (an SEO tool), a post on my site was showing for 1,336 organic keywords in Google in one month.1,336 Organic Search Terms Showing In Google Over A 1 Month Period
And the value of that traffic in one month for just that single blog post if I had to buy that traffic with Google Ads, would have cost $13,194!Example of The Value of Organic Traffic If You Had To Buy The Traffic
Ranking for More ThanJust The Page
Your ultimate objective is to show up high for other contentthat is embedded on your page.
For example, if you click on the “Videos” tab within the Google search results page, we have a video that is embedded in the blog post that ranks number one under Google’s Videos tab as well:Top of Page Google Rankings For Videos Embedded In Page or Blog Post
NOTICE that the video that is ranking number 1 is NOT a YouTube video page otherwise the domain would have said youtube.com – this is important video SEO because clicks from that video tab in a Google search are going to my page and NOT YouTube.
Notice also that we’ve ranked other videos from other pages on our domain in the top positions as well for this same query (both of those videos are embedded on other related posts. More about the strategy of building silos of related content to rank for even more terms and create more authority below).
**Sending video traffic from normal Google searches to your own site makes it far easier to monetize that traffic and capture leads versus YouTube. I’m not advocating not using YouTube, but you do have to think about your video strategy. And in this case, embedding video in the page that is not from YouTube allows us to rank the page higher and equally important rank the video. Another well-known company that does not use a YouTube strategy for its videos is MOZ – they also embed their videos from an independent video host and not YouTube.
Google Image Search
Google Image search is the 2ndmost common search behind text searches, so don’t ignore it! (a good article here fromMoz on the distribution of search stats between Google search, images, video,etc).
And if you have done image optimization for search engines well, you can rank your images at the top as well within the images tab. In the below screenshot, we have ranked 3 images at the top in the first two rows for Google Images.Ranking Multiple Images At The Top Of Google Search Results
So summarizing what was illustrated, the goal is to not only rank your blog post or page but also rank the images and videos that you have embedded at the top of the first page of Google as well.
These types of results only occur when you have a well-developed effort and deliver valuable and engaging content that satisfies what the searcher is looking for, and you are an expert, authoritative, and trustworthy in the eyes of Google.
Google is implicitly endorsing your content by ranking yourpage at the top. Give Google every reason to place your page high in the searchresults– its customers are the searchers. Providing poor search quality bysending traffic to a site that delivers a poor user experience is not somethingGoogle wants to do.
If your site loads slowly, or doesn’t render well on mobiledevices, or you have broken images, broken links, poor grammar, typos, or anon-secure website, and otherwise looks like you paid someone from Fiverr tohelp you – don’t expect first page or top of page organic results.
And the hard truth is that not every page or post you produceis going to rank at the top of Google as well as you want. But consistentlyproducing quality content by following the below guidelines will grow yourorganic traffic over time for hundreds and thousands of terms.
Make no mistake – the economic value of ranking number one in Google or at the top of its search results pages is an important business strategy. Google is the dominant search engine by a large margin, most mobile devices run on Android, and the number one browser people use is Chrome.
Without OngoingContent Production, You Will Be Left Behind
Estimates are that fifteen to twenty percent (15% – 20% ormore) of the queries Google sees in a day it has never seen before. If you’renot producing long-form content (1,000 – 3,000+ words per page or post) regularly,you will miss out on those searchers.
So how do we execute on the points above?
Start Here: Keyword and Topic Research
The steps below for keyword research will help you withconcepts on how to select the right phrases and topics so you can choosekeywords that you have an opportunity to rank for along with terms that haveeconomic value to your company.
Identify the keywords or topics most relevant
Using the below process, youshould never ever have a shortage of topics and content to develop ongoing.
Keyword research involves:
- Qualitativeresearch – Talk to employees, review Q&A sites, competitive analysis, andunderstanding searcher intent
- Quantitativeresearch – using keyword tools to reveal what search volumes andcompetition look like and to uncover additional terms and phrases
Start first with broad qualitativeresearch to uncover important topical areas and then use these data to funnelinto quantitative keyword research tools (which we will cover shortly) todevelop data-driven prioritized keyword terms and phrases that have economicvalue.
Understand User Intent Before Starting – It’s Important
Take this term, for example: “Java”
Did that searcher intend to see results for coffee, or the island in Indonesia, or about Java code?
Not all terms have clear searcher intent. The keyword phrase might be clear to you, but when looking at keywords think about what it is the person is looking for?
Here’s some more examples…
We have a client in thehospitality industry that specializes in leasing furnished apartments,temporary housing, and corporate housing. Many of their clients are also vacationerscoming from out of town looking for a home away from home.
Two keyword terms our clientthought would be relevant included:
- Vacations Spots + geo term (i.e., Houston, The Woodlands, etc)
- Corporate Retreats
Right away, you may see the issue with these.
“Vacation spots” could mean places to have fun, places to eat, interesting things to see, top lists of vacation spots and on. The client rents furnished apartments and temporary housing so queries like “vacation spots” is poor alignment between searcher intent and what the client offers.
“Corporate retreats” was way off base too.
Because the client had corporate customersthat had leased from them in the past that needed to provide housing for theiremployees while they were attending a corporate retreat, our client thought “corporateretreats” was a good term to go after.
But the intent behind keywordterms around corporate retreats wasvery far afield of the services they provide.
Or take the example of…
“DSLR Cameras” – what is the intent of that search?
Is it pricing, or what are DSLR cameras, where to buy DSLR cameras, etc?
And often shorter phrases are not as clear on intent, and typically are more challenging to go after as well.
When in doubt about the intent of a keyword or phrase, look at the search results Google serves for the keyword phrase – are the Google search results what you were expecting and similar to your business? Do this search in your browser incognito, however.
Keyword Research – Qualitative and Quantitative
Talk To These People First: Sales Reps & Customer Service Staff Are Great Resources
For qualitative research, one ofthe best places to develop broad level topics to write about is by asking yourfront-line staff (i.e., customer service or sales reps) – the people in yourcompany that interact with your customers daily.
What are the top questions, comments, and issues they hear from customers? Common questions and topics could include:
- “How to” type questions
- For example, how to do SEO, how to set up targeting in Facebook, etc
- Cost or pricing related questions
- How much does it cost for…(cost questions are widespread and typically good keyword phrases to go after)
- Why questions
- Where questions
- Best of recommendations
Add these questions and topics in Excel or a Google Doc to keep track of.
Review Q&A Sites For Topics andTrends
Question and answer sites like Quora, Yahoo Answers, or even a forum site like Reddit can help uncover common questions or issues that your potential customers have.
Quora and Yahoo Answers both haveways to refine topic searches.
Here’s how you can refine your searches in Quora (by Type, Topics, and Time):How To Refine Quora Search Results To Uncover SEO Topics
And Yahoo Answers also provides tools to filter your topics:How to Refine Yahoo Answers Search Results To Uncover SEO Topics
Tools and Techniques To UncoverKeywords and Topics
Google Advanced URL Operator
You can also use a Google advanced search operator to uncover authoritative topics within a particular site – here’s how you can do that:
In the Google search field type, site:[website.com] keyword phrase – so for Quora you could type, site:quora.com facebook ads and Google will return the search results it finds most authoritative on the topic with Quora.How To Use Advance URL Operators in Google To Uncover SEO Topics, Keywords
Google returns many results for that phrase in Quora. Filter Google’s results down by publication date to get the most up-to-date and timely results. Click through these results and read the comments and the threads. Pull the topics that are most active and relevant to your business and add these to your list in Excel.Refine Your Advanced URL Operator Results Based On Time
Check Competitor Websites
Use the advanced URL operator toquickly check your competitors’ sites for specific phrases as well – Googlewill list the pages with that term in order of most authoritative and relevantpages at the top.
Find topics they have writtenabout that you can improve upon – add these topics and keywords to yourspreadsheet.
Also, think about related topicsand issues to your competitors’ content that they haven’t written about – thisalone can go a long way to helping you develop a content roadmap.
A Helpful Tool
Another helpful tool forqualitative keyword research is the website Answer The Public(answerthepublic.com). Type in a keyword or phrase to uncover questionspeople have organized by type of questions:
Here’s what it returns when you type in “Facebook Ads.”
Answer The Public uncovered topicsrelated to How, When, Where, What, Why, Which…and more. Identify the questionsthat are most relevant and add them to your growing Excel sheet of keywords.
Google’s Related Searches
Another good clue to uncoverkeyword phrases and topics people are searching for is using Google’s Related Searches.
When you search Google, if you scroll down to the bottom of the search result page, you will uncover other search phrases related to your query. Use the relevant ones to add to your spreadsheet. Click through on some of these related searches as well to see additional terms at the bottom of those other pages as well.Google Related Searches
Google Keyword Planner
From within the Google Keyword Planner, click on Find new keywords and type in your keyword(s)Using The Google Keyword Planner Tool To Uncover Terms For SEO
For example, I typed in “ac blowing hot air” into the tool – “find new keywords” and it gave me the following results:Example Results, Google Keyword Planning Tool
As you can see, it gave me monthlysearch volumes for the year and a top of page bid estimate. However, it alsoreturned other keyword ideas for you to consider –read through these to seewhat different keywords might be of value.
A couple of other comments aboutusing this tool:
- The estimated cost per click can be oneindicator of economic value. If people are willing to pay higher amounts perclick, then we can assume those search terms are more valuable
- Google won’t show you all the words around yourinitial seed term(s) – if some keyword phrases have low economic value thenGoogle might not show you those terms at all (since they don’t want you towaste ad spend on keywords that do not drive value – this does not necessarilymean they are not worth going after though)
Narrow Your Keywords Down
Put all your terms into the GoogleKeyword Planner and check for volumes and economic values to prioritize whichkeywords and phrases to go after first.
A simple formula to prioritize keywords.
you can use to help you evaluate which priority each term should have for content development for SEO.
Divide the multiplication of (volume x CPC) by thecompetition numbers you get from the Google Keyword Planner – comparing theseresults among all your terms will tell you the relative value of each keywordphrase to each other.
As the competition rises the result of the math is a smaller number and thus less valuable. But as CPC increases and volume increases, and competition decreases the more valuable a keyword is for SEO purposes.A Simple Formula For Identifying Most Valuable SEO Keywords
Think beyond just keywords. Rank Your Images and Embedded Graphics
Remember you can rank more than your blog post or page, youcan also rank your images and videos in the post too which will drive even moretraffic.
Google Image Search
Here’s an example of a post that ranks images – the first screenshot shows a page from our website ranking #1 (related posts: mortgage broker SEO post):Example Of A Page On Our Website Ranking #1
If you click the images tab (highlighted in yellow above) you will see the number 1, 2 and number 4 images are from our post (the results will vary based on Google’s algorithm updates).Example Of Images Ranking #1, #2, and #4 in Google Image Search
Do Not Discount ImageSearch For Ranking
A study published at Moz showsimage search in Google is the number two search channel behind typical textsearches in google.com followed by searches in YouTube.com (another Googleproperty).
Optimizing Images To Rank High In Google Searches
The below recommendations not only help to rank images butalso help visually impaired searchers understand what that image is (part ofADD compliance).
- Alt tags – make sure you have an SEO friendly Alt tag. Taking the example above, looking at the source code for the alt tag we can see, “local SEO strategies for mortgage brokers” as the alt tag.
- Captions – Unlike alt tags which are only visible in the source code of your page, captions show below the image and are visible to people reading the text. Not all photos need a caption. But for essential images where you’re displaying data, how to do something (versus aesthetic images), or a picture of something (like the Facebook lead ad example below) you should add an SEO friendly caption.
- Image Size – size matters in this case (but not in the way you might be thinking): Make sure the images are the right dimensions before loading them into your website or you will slow page load times (page load times are another SEO factor for ranking your blog post or page high in Google).
For example, if the slot for the image in the page is meantto hold a 300-pixel x 300-pixel image, make sure your image matches thesedimensions – don’t load a 700-pixel x 700-pixel image otherwise the browser hasto resize the image before loading the page which slows page loading.
Limit Usage of StockPhotos: When possible, avoid images that look too much like stockphotography – people can sniff a cheesy stock photo immediately. You want yourblog post or page to look like you put effort into it – make it look good. Orif you have to use stock images, use Canva or Photoshop to enhance the image ifyou have the rights to do so.
Add Infographics,Charts, Screenshots
Break up your content with helpful infographics, charts, and graphs, or even screenshots. Most people that read online are scanning and graphics embedded in the page help break up dense pages. Here are some helpful infographic tools:
- Fiverr – or hire someone at Fiverr or Upwork to design a custom infographic for you
Image placementwithin the page matters – Google will look at the surrounding text to betterunderstand what the image is about.
- Jpeg to maintain quality in complex images ofpeople or places
- PNG if the image is a graphic, for example, withlimited colors, gradients, etc
Pro Tip: consider installing a plugin on your site that allows your readers to pin yourimages from your posts in Pinterest. People love saving ideas they gather into Pinterest boards, which willthen send traffic to your page or post. Another reason why quality content interms of images, charts, and infographics can help drive more quality trafficto your website from other channels like Pinterest.
Image name – giveyour image an SEO relevant file name. Don’t just load a picture with a randomname created from your DSLR camera like CRW_1456.jpg. Name your image withrelevant SEO terms, such as handcrafted-kitchen-cabinets.jpg, orfacebook-targeting-for-realtors.png.
Don’t go overboard with keyword terms either or it will looklike you’re keyword stuffing – make sure the words you use are accurate andreflective of the image itself. And you can always check the alt tags of thoseimages that are ranking well in Google to get more insight as well.
Image tools thathelp:
- Photoshop for optimizing your images
- Photoshop is great for testing different filetypes (e.g., jpg or png) to see if you can reduce file sizes and still maintainimage quality
- Fiverr or Upwork: get someone to make beautifulgraphics or images for you for $5
- WordPress plugins: there are a number of themout there – Ewww Image Optimizer, WP Smush. Here’s a more thorough article onimage optimization for WordPress, https://www.proteusthemes.com/blog/ultimate-guide-image-optimization-wordpress/
Optimize Embedded Video, Helps Rank Your Page Higher In Google
Create a video and embed it on your page about the same topic.
Video is an engagement signal and your time on page with website visitors will increase with video content that is engaging…this sends a strong positive signal to Google that the page is worthy of showing more often since people are staying. From my own site, the pages that have a video on them have almost double the average time on site versus those pages that do not.Time On Page With Video and Without Video
Video SEO: where you host your video
- Consider whether you put your video on YouTubeor 3rd party independent hosts
- The benefits of using a 3rd partylike WISTIA or Vimeo to embed videos into your page is that when your videoranks in Google search, because it’s embedded in your page, clicks from it goto your web page NOT YouTube so you can monetize that traffic far better
- Moz is an example of a company that puts itsvideos in Wistia and has made a conscious choice to not put those in YouTube
- YouTube videos are harder to monetize and getthe traffic to your website versus videos that are embedded in your page via 3rdparties. YouTube traffic is NOT yours!! You’re giving your good content toYouTube to make money from. Of course, there are other benefits to usingYouTube, but that’s for another post –I’m focused on helping you rank your pageand website at the top of Google so you can acquire more organic traffic froman SEO optimized page.
- The benefits of using a 3rd partylike WISTIA or Vimeo to embed videos into your page is that when your videoranks in Google search, because it’s embedded in your page, clicks from it goto your web page NOT YouTube so you can monetize that traffic far better
- Audio – convert the post into an audio filepeople can download.
What Google wants – Insight from Its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Google has manual page reviewers, and the company provides a pdf guide that page evaluators use to rate pages on quality. This is a very lengthy document (you can find it here), but if you skip to page 24 of the pdf you will see the guidelines Google has laid out for high-quality pages:
- Expertise, highly authoritative, and highlytrustworthy (EAT)
- Plenty of high-quality content
- Very positive website reputation
If your site is not involved inyour industry and has rarely published content and is not found on otherreputable industry-related sites, then EAT (expertise, authoritative, andtrustworthy) is harder to assess. What kind of reputation do you have and whyshould anyone listen to you?
A recent update was given toGoogle raters as well, which stressed that the reputation of the website as awhole be taken into consideration along with the authors that are writing thecontent. Thus, a well written and in-depth AboutUs page and bios of the authors or team that is producing the content isessential – if you’re an expert, you need to highlight your expertise here,your education, etc. (more on this update here)
This is why you have to be carefulwith any guest posts you accept – what is the reputation of those authors?
Site structure: Create silos of related content
Site architecture is a critical component to rankingsuccess.
The general concept is this: Think of your website like the chapters of a book. If you only have one pageabout a topic, it’s hard to be considered an expert or authority that candeliver exceptional value to a searcher compared to other sites that do providemore content. You need to write many pages – or enough to cover the topicthoroughly and link them together.
Creating silos of related content (i.e. many pages about atopic), not only attracts more search volume because you have more indexablecontent covering more keywords and topics, but it increases engagement on yourwebsite as people click from one related page to the other. As people click toother related pages, this improves the time spent on your website all of whichsends even more positive ranking signals to Google that your content isdelivering value to the searcher. If people don’t like your content, they “pogostick” back to the search results to click on the next result – this userbehavior sends a negative signal to Google.
Here’s an example of what a silo might look like for a dentist that offers dental implants:Example of Silos Of Content
At the top of the content silo is the general dental implantpage. Below the top of the silo are related sub-topic pages. All the pages herelink to each other to create the silo.
How do you create silos and convey this to Google’s bot?
There are a couple of ways to create silos on your website:
- Internally linking related pages and blog posts together
- URL structure
Here’s an example of URL structure for restaurant marketing:
The last bullet, /restaurant-marketing/ would be the top of the silo (here’s a related post on restaurant SEO).
Using the dental implant example above, that would look likethis:
Internal Link Building
Part of what makes siloing related content a valuable sitestrategy to ranking your pages are the internal links you create betweenassociated pages – this passes page equity between linked pages. Most of thediscussions of link building revolve around external link building (from otherwebsites to yours), but internal link building is effective and a necessarystrategy.
Internal Link Building Case Study: 950% Increase inGoogle Organic Traffic
Below is a 3-year project that focused primarily on creating silos of content through internal link building. This lasted several years and the site was thousands of pages deep. Organic traffic grew 950% over 3 years.950% Google Organic Growth Over 3 Years of Content Silos
How Do Internal Links Help Rank Pages?
Internal links help Google understand what the linked page is about. I wrote a timeless post on internal link building a while back which will help you understand the value and importance of this.
Two Factors That Affect Internal Link Value – Anchor Text & SurroundingContent
The anchor text is the text that is hyperlinked – like theabove link to the post I wrote on internal link building. In the above case,the anchor text is, “internal link building” – that anchor text tells Googlewhat the linked-to page is about. So use relevant anchor text – terms you wantthe linked-to page to rank for.
An additional factor that also affects a link’s value andhelps Google understand the linked-to page is the surrounding written content –more relevant content written before and after the link increases its relevancefor a particular keyword or topic.
Links pass equity to other pages too. Pages on your sitethat have a higher number of quality external and internal links have moreequity than those that do not. Thus, linking from a highly linked page toanother page on your site passes some of this link equity to the pages you’relinking to.
If you already have content on your site, go back and search through all the relevant pages and link all related pages together. Always think of the user experience though – would a link here be helpful for the reader?
Here’s an example on our site of linking related content together. In this case, we linked content together in the right sidebar. If you click through to those other pages you will see that we link from those pages back to this one as well – this is another example of a silo of content.Creating Silos of Content Using Internal Links Between Related Blog Posts/Web Pages
Using Your Keywords
Writing Your Body Content and UsingYour Keywords
As you write your content, keep your core keywords (1 – 3core terms) top of mind. You will need to develop your writing and editingprocess, but I typically create an outline and write the content withoutworrying about how I’m using the keywords or phrases. This is beneficial forseveral reasons:
- Keeps you focused on writing for the user andNOT for search engines
- Your writing remains more natural versus havingto worry about how you’re utilizing keywords
There’s no magicformula to how often or at what density your keywords should representthroughout the document – but your focus should be on writing the most usefuland helpful content about the topic that you can in the most natural way.
In the earlier days of SEO optimization, there was more talkabout keyword densities and what exactly was the optimal keyword density andother color-by-number approaches. Google’s algorithms are far moresophisticated now.
Guidelines about how your keywords should be used in the content:
Make sure the keywords are used early in the text andthroughout in a natural way. In other words, don’t force extra keywords in thebody content in hopes of it helping rank you.
In the post below, I wrote my main keyword phrase right in the H1 header at the top of the article.Using Your Primary Keyword In The H1 Tag
Don’t be too concerned about repeating the exact phrase multiple times as long as it’s natural – for the post above, I used that exact phrase shown in the header only once in the entire article though. But I used variations around that keyword phrase throughout the post – example below of a variation of the target keyword that I used further down in the post:A Variation Of My Target Keyword
The article ranks for dozens of variations of my targetkeyword phrase.
Google is smart enough to figure out concepts and topicsaround a specific term and how other similar terms are related.
Takeaways on writing your content:
- Write for people first, NOT search engines
- Write for clarity
- Make the content easy to read
- There’s no set rule to how long your content should be, but longer content generally performs better (1,000 – 2000+ word) and ranks for far more long-tail keyword phrases
- Do you satisfy what the searcher is looking for with your content?
- How does your content compare to your ranking competitors’?
- Keep the reader engaged with mixing up different types of content, lists, quotes, videos, images, audio, etc
- Optins and offers – offer a way for people to download the post to save it for later – sites like Leadpages allow you to embed right into the post an optin. Create offers people can interact – here’s an example. If someone clicks the green button below, they are prompted to enter their email and from there we email them a pdf copy of the post.
- Use call-to-actions – give people a task on yourpage – such as, call now, click the button to get the post, hit play on thevideo, etc.
- Write at a lower grade level – some of the best copywritersin the world aim for 3rd grade – nobody ever said, wow, that was tooeasy to read – so make your content easy to read in bite-sized pieces.
- Avoid industry jargon and acronyms that may notmake sense to everyone. Don’t assume people know your industry language. Youwant to maintain a rhythm in your writing and if you use terms, acronyms, orlanguage that people do not understand you will break that flow and more peoplewill bounce from your page (negative SEO signal)
- Well written technically
- Avoid grammatical mistakes
- Use grammar tools
- After writing it, take a break and come backlater
- Have someone else read it
- Make it valuable to the reader
Copywriting – the soft stuff that’s hard!
Provide valuable information first and foremost.
The goal is to keep people engaged and reading…do not beboring.
Treat your blog post like a slippery slide that you wantpeople to get on at the top and slide all the way to the bottom. Here are someideas on how to do that:
- Headlines are important. Earlier I discussedheader tags. The goal of the H1 tag/headline is to get the reader to read thenext line of content and so on.
- I wrote a piece on proven headline formulashere, https://www.39celsius.com/66-proven-headline-formulas-highly-shared-articles/
- Here’s a tool that will analyze your headline aswell, https://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer
- Structuring your writing – there are manycopywriting formulas for this, but the below always works well:
- PAS – problem, agitate, solution
- Articulate the problem, then agitate the problem– tell the reader what the consequences are by ignoring the problem, and thenfinally provide your solution.
- PAS – problem, agitate, solution
- Use action verbs
- Drop nuggets likely to keep people focused,“Stay with me here…”
- Write at a 3rd-grade level – nobodyever said, wow, that was too easy to read! Make your content easy to read.
Update Existing Old Content
Updating your old, existing content that has dropped in rankings, clicks, and impressions can also be one of the quickest, most efficient ways to get easy wins with first page Google results.
You already created the content and it’s far easier to edit the content to update it than create entirely new content.
Here’s an in-depth post and how-to guide on how updating your old content helps your SEO.
Is your site mobile friendly? Google uses a mobile-only index. If your site is not mobile-friendly you need to hire a developer to get it there. There are several tools you can use to check this, but you can start with Google Search Console [https://search.google.com/search-console/about] in the Mobile Usability section and Google’s mobile usability tools [https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly].
Fast page load times
How long it takes for your page to load in a browser is a ranking factor. Google wants a fast internet. If Google must choose between two equivalent pages to rank and yours is slower, it will likely rank the faster one ahead of you. However, in addition to that, page load times affect the user experience and will determine how many customers will stick around for the page to load and whether customers bounce away before it even loads.
Use Google’s PageSpeed Insights [https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/]to understand how your page load times are performing. The tool also gives yourecommendations to improve your website. So if you run on WordPress, there are severalplugins to help improve page load times but likely you might want to talk toyour host about their recommendations first. Website hosts can provide valuableinsight and actionable steps that will help you improve your site’s pageloading times.
Gtmetrix.com is another useful site to test site speed andhelp prioritize which issues you should tackle first.
Secure Site – https
HTTPS – your site should be secure (https not http). There’s no excuse for not having your site secure at this point. Most website hosts will provide you a free SSL certificate and help you install it, so there’s no excuse to not having your website load https on all pages. There is a small ranking advantage to secure versus insecure websites.
Title Tag & Meta Description
If you look at how a search engine crawls your page, it typically starts at the top of the source code and reads down. One of the first elements it reads (after the robots.txt file) to understand what your page content is about is the Title tag and the meta description.Title Tag and Meta Description In The Source Code
The Title Tag and Meta Description show in the Google search results pages as shown below.Title Tag and Meta Description Showing in Google Organic Search Result
Include your most important keyword(s) in the Title tag andmeta description. These tags will not directly affect your ability to rank forthose terms by merely putting them there, but it helps Google understand whatthe page is about.
Notice I use, “Local SEO Strategies for Mortgage Brokers” in both the title and meta description (above screenshot). Then further down, I use that phrase in the H1 header at the top of the visible document as well.Keyword Used in Blog Post As The H1 Tag
As you can see, Google has seen that search term 3 times nowand it’s pretty clear as to what this article is about.
Google will also bold the terms in its search results page which aligns to the searcher query which can help click-through-rate (CTR).Google Bolds Keywords In Its Search Results
CTR(click-through-rate) – this is not an on-page SEO element you can directlyaffect other than making sure you write effective Title tags and metadescriptions that help to get the click, but improving CTR does send a signalto Google and can help rank your page indirectly as well.
Remember these tags are free advertising space that showsright in the search results page so use them to your advantage and appeal toyour customers’ needs and desires.
Be aware, though, that depending on the exact query, Googlewill re-write the Title tag and meta description that it shows in itssearch results to what it thinks is a better match to the precise query.
CTR (click-through-rate) from Google’s SERPs to your pagewill affect your rankings. CTR is not an on-page SEO element you can directlyaffect per se. But what does affect CTRis your Title tag and Meta Description which show in the SERPs as below.
The Title Tag and Meta Description are what show in theSERPs (search engine results page) and if you write benefit-packed, exciting,tantalizing Title tags and Meta Descriptions with CTAs (call-to-actions) thatalign to what the searcher is looking for you can improve the CTR of your pagefrom a Google search results page. Remember this is an area that perhaps yourcompetitors have overlooked so write these tags to get the click. Make sure toinclude your target keywords in both the Title tag and Meta Description asGoogle will bold those in the search results page.
Remember – this is free advertising – write good copy that is optimized for your readers, and that has your core keywords. Google can also choose to re-write the Title tag and Meta Description and often does in its SERPs.
Canonical tags tell Google what your preferred version ofthe page URL is. For example, for my company’s Home page this is the canonicaltag: <link rel=”canonical” href=”https://www.39celsius.com/“/>. This is telling Google that the secure version and the www version of mywebsite are the preferred versions of this page. So, if other websites arelinking to your site using the non-www version, it tells Google to ignore thatand use the www version. If you use WordPress, likely, this tag is alreadyloaded with the correct URLs for each page so you don’t have to worry about it.
If you have photos on your website, Alt Tags are one of theways Google and other search engines can understand what the images are about.Image search in Google is one of the most popular search features so do notoverlook the importance of this. This tag is important because it can help yourank in image searches…remember from the beginning of this post, we want torank more than just the page…we want to rank images and videos too from withina page or post.
Alt Tags are not visible to your site visitors but are readby the search engines. Alt Tags also help vision-impaired people with websitereaders understand the page as well which means the is part of ADA compliance.
Make sure you write descriptive words for the alt tag thatdescribe the photo. Google will also look at the surrounding text of an imageas well to understand what it’s about.
Captions: Write descriptive captions for images – captions are visible to your readers. this will not only help your readers but help Google further understand the image.
Headers (i.e., H1, H2, H3 tags)
Headers help structure your page, and further help Googleand your readers understand the importance of different areas of the page. YourH1 tag is typically for the headline at the top of the page – this shouldinclude at least one instance of your primary keyword phrase.
Below is an example from my website of an H1 tag that starts off a blog post.
Schema is technical markup of the content on your site – like your address, the type of business you are, restaurants can use it to markup their menu, and more information about your business. Schema markup helps Google understand your content in a more structured way and show that content in search results.
Schemais not a ranking factor but perhaps if you didn’t have it and Google didn’tunderstand the information on your site, by adding schema, it’s possible thatyou could rank as a result of Google understanding your site content. Moz has agood article on Schema markup [https://moz.com/learn/seo/schema-structured-data].
If you’re a local business, you need to markup your NAP (name, address, phone) at a minimum.
Use Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool to understand if you have any schema right now and what if any errors you might have. You can find Google’s tool here, https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/
Schema Markup – Zero Rank
What is zero rank? Zero rank is a featured snippet that can appear above the organic listings at the top of Google’s search engine results page (SERP).
Here’s an example from our site ranking for the query, “are facebook boost posts worth it.”Ranking in Zero Position With Features Snippet
Google chooses which queries to show featured snippets for. Not all searches will have them.
How Can You Rank in Zero Search?
One of the biggest factors has to do with already having your page rank on the first page for that particular query or a related search. If you are on the second page or lower it’s not likely you will show in zero rank.
The other factor that increases your ability to show in the zero position is whether you are using schema markup. Google has FAQ schema that you can use to markup the most common questions and answers around a topic. Below is the markup for the boost post question from above:JSON-LD Markup for FAQ
If you’re using JSON-LD to markup your FAQ, you place this code into the <head> section of your page.
Take Up More Space On Google’s Search Results Page With Schema
Even if you don’t rank in the zero position after adding FAQ schema, sometimes you can take up even more space in the normal organic rankings with the FAQ schema you have added to your page. In the below screenshot we have two FAQs showing below our normal organic listing…that’s invaluable space and helps improve CTR.
Other <head> tags
These can also help establish trust and reputation withGoogle. As a side note, when you re-build a website, if these tags are NOTcarried over to the new site your rankings will take a hit because Google won’thave all those associations of who you are. Additional tags for the<head> section of your pages could include:
- Facebook Open Graph
- Twitter card tags
URL structure with keywords inURL
Here’s an example of keywords in the URL:Web Page URl or Blog Post With Keywords In The URL
Just having keywords isn’t goingto directly rank the page higher, but indirectly it can help click-through-ratefrom a Google search result page since users will see the keywords in the URLand it can give users more information about the content of the page.
Think about evergreen terms in the URL. In the above example, I used facebook-ads-for-real-estate-agents-3-tips – I have since updated that post many times and it now has 10 tips but changing the URL to have 10 in it is a bad option and would cause the page to lose much of its SEO equity (avoid changing the URL of pages that rank well at all costs if you can – a post here details a website redesign SEO checklist and has helpful tips if you do have to change the URL).
Try to avoid putting the date oryear in the URL as well unless highly relevant and necessary to the content. Ifthe post or page has the year in it and it’s three years old, it’s likely tonot receive as many clicks in spite of you updating it.
Add links to websites and blogs that support your post and that add value for your readers. Be careful that what you’re linking to is a valuable and quality site – linking to bad neighborhoods is never good.
What To Do After You Publish Your Website Page or Blog Post
- Promotional strategies to get your content out there:
- Facebook Ads
- Retarget any past website visitors with a Facebook ad promoting the latest content
- Google Ads
- Do the same with Google Ads as you did with Facebook ads – retarget past website visitors with your latest blog post or page
- StumbleUpon ads – these are very inexpensive and while it’s a lesser-known channel for promotion, Stumbleupon can give you feedback as well about how your content is resonating with others
- Send an email out to your existing email subscribers
- Search Q&A sites (i.e., Quora, Yahoo Answers, etc) where you can answer questions with the post
- Email outreach to influencers to promote the post
- Facebook Ads
- Ongoing: Update your blog post – A blog post can live for years
- Update your blog post as information changes. I have blog posts and pages that have been ranking in top spots for ten years. As the information becomes outdated, or competitors start writing more comprehensive posts, update your content to become even more competitive and comprehensive to maintain those top Google organic rankings
- If you’re on WordPress, don’t forget to update the date your post was published if you have the date showing on the post and in Google search results – if that date is old you will lose clicks in the SERPs to more recent competitor posts
- Do not change the URL of a blog post or page EVER!
- Submit your post to Google for indexing using Google Search Console
- From within Google Search Console, you will use the URL Inspection Tool (formerly this process was done using Fetch as Google)
- Submitting your page or blog post here will get your post indexed sooner
- Monitoring Results
- GSC – Google Search Console
- Google Analytics
A Word About Website Security
Keep your site free from hackers and malware. If your site has been hacked and infected with malware, Google will not rank your pages. And if you’re on WordPress that means keeping the theme updated along with the plugins. And backup your site regularly – it’s not if, but when your site gets hacked.
Set up Google Search Console (GSC) for your site and monitor the security issues. Also, when you set up GSC, Google will email alerts to you with issues they find on your site so you can take action (although I find they are slow to catch some things and usually I find issues before they do).Google Search Console (GSC) Security Section
A Few Words of Caution
- Don’t keyword stuff
- Don’t do shady link building
- Don’t buy up domains and have the domains links to your post
- Don’t pay for links
- Don’t use blog networks to link to your content
- And if you ever redesign your website, follow this website redesign SEO checklist to avoid losing your SEO
Remember Google has more data than the God of your choice and a ridiculous amount of smart people so the chance you can game Google’s ranking algorithm for long if at all is not likely.
Make sure your site is on the best web hosting you can afford – preferably a dedicated server, not shared hosting, and a web hosting provider that is locked down from hacking and malware (building your home in a bad neighborhood that is shared with many other websites that Google has identified as spreading malware can lead to problems). Shared hosting makes you more susceptible to hacks and other negative SEO issues that could bleed over to you from the other sites on the same web server.
Shared hosting is inexpensive, and I often find that when given a chance, clients will skimp on hosting and go the cheap shared hosting route to save a few bucks.
Shared hosting is also not optimal for site speed and performance since you’re sharing a server with a dozen or so other websites that are sucking up resources (related post: How hosting and site speed affects SEO).
However, when you consider the consequences of hacking and malware, combined with poor performance in site speed – spring for a dedicated host for your website if you can.
What you don’t need to worry about
Domain authority (DA)
Domain Authority is one of those SEO metrics you may runacross. DA is a reflection of the total links pointing to a website – thosewith many links have higher DA.
DA is not a good predictor of how a page or website willrank. I see blog posts rank ahead of very authoritative sites with high DAfrequently. Writing helpful content that satisfies the searcher’s query is the mostcrucial element.
If you’re on a new domain with all new content, don’t expectyour content to rank well initially. You are going to have build up yourauthority over time. Domain age increases trust over time. Trust, and thehistory behind a domain is another factor that affects ranking. If you can buya domain that has been live for some time and never been blacklisted or hostedsketchy sites, then it might be worth it depending on how expensive the domainname is.
Links: you MAY not need to worry about links
Contrary to what you may have read, you do not necessarily need inbound links from other websites for your content to rank. Yes, links are one of the most influential factors to ranking a page and a website, but ranking at the top of a Google SERP is far more complicated than just inbound links. Of course, if you’re going after a very competitive topic you will need links, but often if you’re writing a lot of content covering an array of terms and topics, if that content is written well and provides a good user experience, there’s a good chance it will rank well without links.
Write good content and it will naturally attract links overtime. Matt Cutts the former web spam lead at Google even went as far as to saythat you don’t need to do link building.
I have ranked many sites in some of the most competitive spaces in SEO with no active link building. Your mileage will vary.
If you do decide to do link building, here are some approaches that work if you want to further research these:
- Broken link building
- Identify the links your competitors have and see if you can capture those as well
- Influencer outreach to promote your content
- Citations, vertical industry/directory listings [a related post here on local SEO tips
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How long does it take to get to the first page of Google? When will my post or page rank?
- It depends on many factors, nobody can tell you precisely – if you have an established website, a new post or page can sometimes rank right away. Other times, if the site is new and not authoritative, it can take weeks or months if at all
- Blog posts or pages can build and increase rankings over time often as links and social exposure increases
- Other factors that will affect this include:
- Competitiveness of your keywords and topics
- How well your post satisfies what the searcher is looking for
- How trustworthy and authoritative Google perceives your site and the author of the content
Does Poor Content Affect SEO Rankings?
Yes, poor content hurts your rankings and your chances of ever ranking a page or your website. Whether the content does not cover the topic or keyword thoroughly, or it is poorly written, poor content will negatively affect your page’s ability to rank well.
How Does Blogging Help in SEO?
Blogging helps in SEO as it allows you to create more content about related topics. With more related content and pages about a specific topic, you can build more relevant internal links and increase user engagement on your site – all signals that are positive to ranking
Additional Related SEO posts: