How to Rank on Google: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’re looking for a quick fix when it comes to ranking on the first page of Google search results, this article is not for you. After all, appearing within the top 10 search engine results takes time and patience, and the harsh truth is there’s no exact formula for making your way to the top.
That said, investing the time and effort into increasing your organic search rankings is crucial to growing your consumer base and fostering new leads. After all, how will people know about you if they can’t even find you? And with 93% of online experiences beginning with search engines and 70% of users clicking on organic links, there’s no denying that growing your organic search is paramount to the success of your brand. Here’s how to get started.
- Focus on long-tail keywords.
The truth of search engine optimization is that a vast majority of sites will never rank for big, broad terms like “marketing,” for the simple fact that a vast majority of sites are not big, broad sites like Mashable, TED or Bloomberg. But before you get too bummed, consider this: Do you even want to attract the type of people who are seriously just typing “marketing” into a search bar? Probably not.
The reality is we can find a lot more success targeting lengthier, more specific keywords known as long-tail keywords. So while your agency homepage may not rank when someone types “marketing” into Google, your agency’s blog post may have a chance to slide into the top 5 results when someone searches “2017 digital marketing trends.” Sure, nearly 100,000 people each month search “marketing” alone. But about 260 people each month, according to Google, search “2017 digital marketing trends,” and those people are probably a lot closer to the audience you want to attract to your site.
- Create quality content.
Once you’ve identified the long-tail keyword(s) that connects your target audience and your brand goals, you’ll need to focus your efforts on generating some really great content. The key is creating quality content that is hyper-tailored to the questions, interests and concerns of your audience.
Why am I talking about content in this otherwise SEO-focused post? More and more, Google’s algorithm for ranking webpages evolves to prioritize quality content and positive user experience. In other words, the old days of taking crappy content and stuffing a few choice keywords into meta tags are gone. Rather than chasing algorithm updates, marketers should focus on going where Google is going — and there’s no doubt Google is on the path to prioritizing reputable, quality content above all else.
Which brings us back to the long-tail keyword(s) you identified in step one. Ideally, the long-tail keyword you’ve chosen to target should be included in the title of the post or page (more on this later). Your content should also be comprehensive enough to include a variety of language aimed to help both users and Google bots better understand meaning. While old school SEO tactics would have you repeat your chosen keyword over and over, Google now understands synonyms through Latent Semantic Indexing, or LSI (read more about that here). Using words or phrases similar but not identical to your long-tail keyword will not only help the search engine better understand what your content is about, but also improves user experience. After all, no one wants to read the same word or phrase 20 times in a 400-word post.
Long story short? Google rewards good content. Once you know what users are searching for, decide on the best way to approach the topic and start creating.
- Optimize your content for users and search engines.
If you couldn’t tell from step two, quality content is kind of a big deal. But if you don’t take the proper steps to optimize your content once it’s on your site, your keyword research and content creation efforts could still go to waste.
This is where traditional SEO elements like title tags and meta descriptions come back into play. These tags are your only opportunity to entice users to click through to your site from search engine results pages. If your website is a book, the meta tags are the book cover and the Google search results page is the bookstore. If your cover is confusing, boring or irrelevant, no one is going to pick up the book to read it. So it’s key to include the primary long-tail keyword in the title tag so those searching for information immediately know your content is what they’re looking for.
It can be easy to get so focused on cranking out blogs or infographics or videos that you forget to actually promote the content you spent so much time creating and optimizing. But if your goal is to rank on the first page of Google search results, failing to disseminate your content both internally and externally could be the kiss of death. After all, backlinks are still one of Google’s top ways of understanding a site’s worth and credibility, and if Google doesn’t see you as credible, you’re pretty much done for.
Promotion can come in many forms, but the primary way to proactively pursue backlinks for SEO purposes is through various link-building techniques. But before you start reaching out to every questionable directory you can find, think about how to approach your link building in a strategic, non-spammy way. Sometimes you have to get creative. The truth is, link building looks different for different industries, meaning there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for gaining backlinks. No matter though, it’s important to prioritize gaining a few high-quality links over lots of low-quality links, so focus on page and domain authority when identifying potential pages for backlinks.
In the end, climbing your way to the top of the search results isn’t easy. Each of these steps takes time, and truly impactful SEO is never a one-and-done kind of deal. Even when you’ve finally made your way through successful link building, it’s important to continue optimizing based on changing search trends, promoting your site and creating new content to maintain relevance in the eyes of Google and users. Commitment is key. And when you do commit, you’ll find there’s almost no better way to get in front of consumers than topping the search results.
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