In today’s post I’m gonna explain how to rank on the first page of Google, step by step. In fact, I used this exact formula to rank on the first page of Google for competitive keywords, like link-building tools, backlinks, and SEO checklists. If you want to rank number one in Google, you’ll love the actionable steps in this post so let me explain.
I have a confession to make. I used to hate SEO. That’s mostly because my first website wouldn’t rank no matter what I did. It was super frustrating and to make matters worse, I was following all the advice that I read from so-called SEO experts: “Create great content.” “Add keywords to your page.” “Make sure that your site loads fast.”
Yeah, that stuff can help a little, but it’s not gonna rocket your site to the top of Google’s first page. When I realized that I decided to run lots of SEO experiments. I tested title tags, backlinks, anchor test, internal links, and more, then over the years, I started to put the pieces together. Flash forward to today and we can help rank number one in Google for tons of competitive keywords.
Now it’s time for me to reveal to you the process that you can use to rank on the first page of Google, step by step. So let’s kick things off with step number one, Find Three Keywords!
So your first step is to find three keywords. They are keywords that you’ll create content around in the next step. Here’s exactly how to find great, low-competition keywords….
First, head over to AnswerThePublic.
This free tool finds questions that people ask on forums, blogs, and on social media and it turns those questions into awesome keywords. The best part? The keywords that you get from AnswerThePublic are usually long-tail keywords.
In case you haven’t heard of them before, long tail keywords are just keywords that are long and very specific. For example, a keyword like the keto diet, is a short tail keyword, but keto diet breakfast recipes are a long tail keyword. Even though not a lot of people tend to search for long tail keywords, they’re also not super competitive, which makes them perfect keywords to go after if you’re just starting out.
Another great way to find keywords is Reddit, believe it or not. Just head over to a subreddit where your target audience hangs out and take a look at the topics that people are talking about. You can even pop these topics into AnswerThePublic to find long tail versions of these topics.
Finally, head over to explodingtopics.com.
This is another free tool that finds trending topics in industries like tech, health, fashion, marketing, and more. Because these topics are relatively new, the keywords that people use to find information on them aren’t usually that competitive. So once you have at least three keywords ready to go, it’s time for step number two……..Create Epic Content!
A recent study completed by BuzzSumo, analyzed 912 million articles.One of the more surprising findings was that most content on the web doesn’t get shared or linked to. In fact, it was found that 94% of all articles online have zero links. Zero. And there’s a simple reason for that. Most of the content that people publish isn’t that great.
If it’s not great, it’s going to get lost among the millions of Blog Posts, Tweets, YouTube videos, and Twitch streams that come out every day. So for your content to stand out, it can’t just be good, or even great. For your content to be something that someone else would wanna actually link to, it needs to be epic. Now there’s no formula for creating epic content, or else everyone would do it. But there are a few things you can do to increase the odds that people will share and more importantly, link to your content.
First, you want to publish content that’s long and in-depth. The BuzzSumo study that I mentioned earlier uncovered a little interesting nugget. That nugget was that longer content gets more links than short content.
Specifically, long-form content gets an average of 77% more backlinks than short content. Does this mean that publishing longer content will automatically bring in thousands of links?
Of course not, but publishing in-depth content that does cover an entire topic in-depth can increase the odds that people link to you.
Next, you want to add a hook to your content. A hook is something that would make a blogger or journalist want to link to your content. Your hook can be a stat, a case study example, a unique strategy, a rare interview, a tool or widget, or even a visualization. Basically, anything that makes someone else say wow, I need to link to this can work. For example, a few years ago I published this case study of how I increased my blog’s conversion rate. The hook in this case was a specific case study that people could reference. We also wrote about a unique strategy in that case study, called the content upgrade, which was another hook. And because my page wasn’t just high quality content but included several hooks, lots of people have linked to that post.
Now that your epic content is ready to go, it’s time for step number three, keyword-optimize your content. On-page SEO has changed a lot over the last few years. Back in the day, keyword optimization was all about stuffing your page with keywords, but that doesn’t really work anymore.
Instead, the goal of on-page SEO today is to give Google context about what your page is all about. Yes, you still want to use keywords on your page but you also need to help Google understand your page’s overall topic. Here’s how to do it.
Your first step is to include your target keyword in a few important places on your page. That way Google can understand that your page is about that specific term. Specifically, you want to add your keyword to these areas of your page. Next, it’s time to give Google more context about your page. And the best way to do that? LSI keywords.
LSI keywords are words and phrases that are closely related to your target keyword. Put another way, they are terms that tend to show up next to your keyword around the web.
When Google sees these LSI keywords on your page, it makes them say we’re confident that this page is actually about that topic. You can find these LSI keywords by searching for your keyword and then scrolling to the bottom of the search results. The bold suggested keywords here usually make great LSI keywords. Then sprinkle in a few of these LSI keywords on your page and you’re good to go. With that, let’s dive right into step number four, Optimize Your Content For Users!
Back in the day, Google would rank pages based almost 100% on who had the most backlinks.
Yes, backlinks are still important, and I’ll show you exactly how to build backlinks in the next step, but to rank in Google today, backlinks aren’t enough. Your content also needs to be optimized for users. That’s because Google pays very close attention to how people interact with your site in the search results and if they notice that people are clicking on your site and then quickly heading back to Google, they’ll down rank you, but if they see users sticking on your page, that’s a sign that you’re giving Google searchers what they want. This is awesome! And you’ll usually get a rankings boost. With that in mind, here’s exactly how to optimize your content for users so they stay on your page.
First, structure your content so people start getting actionable info ASAP. In other words, you don’t want to start your post off with a long explanation about why the topic is important, that’s only going to make people bounce. Instead, use a short intro, then get right into the steps, tips, recipes, workout plans, or whatever you’re going to cover in your post.
Next, make sure that your content’s design is on point. Studies show that people largely judge your site based on design first and content second. So if your site looks really sloppy and jam packed, you can expect a really high bounce rate. Now that doesn’t mean that your site needs to win any design awards or look fancy, in-fact a simple design tends to work best, just give it a clean design that makes it easy to read and skim. This leads us to our last step, step number five: Build backlinks!
Are backlinks still important for SEO? Yes, in fact, Perficient Digital has been tracking the importance of backlinks over the last three years and they found that links are basically just as important today as they were since they first started tracking them. If you follow the steps so far by creating epic content, optimizing it for users, and adding hooks, you already have a strong foundation for building backlinks , it’s just a matter of getting your content out there to actually build those links, and the best way to do that? Broken link building.
Here’s how it works – first, find a broken link on a page that you want to get a link from. I personally use the helpful Check My Links extension for Google Chrome, which is free.
It automatically crawls all of the links on a page and IDs broken links. Next, you want to find a post on your site that will make a good replacement for the dead link. Finally, reach out to the person that runs that site and ask them to swap out the dead link for a link to your content.
Now for this process, you can definitely work with an email script as you send these out but I definitely don’t recommend sending out the same generic email to 100 different people. In fact an outreach study that Pitchbox did found that personalized emails got 32% more replies than emails that used the same exact pitch for everybody.
Now before we close out this SEO tutorial, I want to show you a quick bonus step, use unique images. Can using stock photos on your site hurt your Google rankings? As it turns out, they might.
The folks at Reboot Online recently ran an interesting experiment. They created 10 brand new websites, all optimized around a keyword that they made up. For the experiments, on five of the sites they used five stock photos that were already used on a bunch of other websites, and for the other five, they actually took their own images, that way they were 100% unique.
So what did they find? They discovered that the five websites that had unique images, which are the green lines in this chart you see here, outrank the sites that didn’t use unique images, which are the red lines from the chart.
So, what’s the bottom line? Whenever you can, try to use unique images in your content. These can be pictures that you take with your phone or illustrations that you make in Photoshop, or screenshots that you take yourself .As this study showed, unique images seem to have a direct impact on rankings.