“How to get my website to the top of Google?” is the first question of people who get the credentials to a new site from a design agency. Traffic is vital for any kind of business – from personal blogs to complex insurance companies, and Google is by far the leading search engine. If Google likes your site, chances are that your site drives serious revenue.
It seems simple – get the first position in the search results, and your business is profitable! The harsh reality is different – a “friendship” with Google is hard to achieve, and a plethora of competitors work hard to steal the first position. Google’s algorithm takes into account 200 ranking factors that we know about; Brian Dean did a fabulous job by featuring all of these ranking factors. It’s a discouraging post – it shows the hectic efforts to rank your site first on Google.
Under these circumstances, anyone claiming they are able to rank your site first for required keywords is a big LIAR! Nobody can guarantee you first position for a keyword; you never know when someone on a different continent targets the same keywords as yours and puts way more effort into this project.
We, the team behind Newt Labs, are also quite interested in ranking our sites in the top positions. Each site is unique and needs a personalised strategy, but a few tips work for the majority of the sites. So, here is our initial strategy of helping sites get to the top of Google.
How to Get your Website to the Top of Google
First of all – the only certitude in the SEO universe is change. Each day Google experts perform a slight change, and a major change is rolled out from time to time. Moz created a timeline showing some of these changes – it’s an intriguing project. The conclusion is that what was relevant a year ago, today might be totally irrelevant.
Second, ranking at the top of Google’s search results is a matter of time. It’s not only the opinion of a few WordPress users – check out this study by Ahrefs, which is backed up with a lot of data. It isn’t impossible to rank in the first position in just a few months, but it implies hard work and brilliant content. The fact is that only 5.7% of pages get on the first page within a year.
Third, we don’t believe in SEO gurus, but we respect hard-working SEO practitioners. Nowadays, the Internet is full of so-called SEO gurus or experts, but only a few are really good at ranking a site high for the desired keywords. Anyway, SEO isn’t an area for geniuses or prodigies – patient people who work hard are the best SEO practitioners.
Lastly, we strongly encourage you to follow the path of white-hat SEO. It refers to the strategies that are in accordance with Google’s best practices. Black-hat SEO is about the strategies to cheat Google and other search engines to get the top positions. Perhaps it’s profitable from a short-term perspective, but it’s only a matter of time until you get penalised for this malpractice.
If you are still reluctant to put a lot of thought into optimising your site, imagine yourself searching for something on Google. How many times have you dived down past the first page of results? I’m sure the answer is not often.
A wise person once said that if you want to hide something, put it on the second page of the search results; the sites found on the first page get the most traffic by far. Moz says that 71% of the organic traffic goes to sites on the first page. Other studies claim that the first page gets 91.5% of the organic traffic. It’s clear that you don’t have any choice but to get on the first page.
You have to know the current state of a website before working on ranking it on the first page. Here is our checklist to consult before starting to improve a site’s rank.
No matter how beautiful the design or how stellar the content is, your site might not be indexed. The first step is to check the site indexation, which takes only 30 seconds. Type site:yoursitename in Google’s search box and check out the results—these are the pages indexed by Google.
Search engines might not index your site for several reasons:
- The bots haven’t crawled your site because it’s new; consider waiting a few more days.
- You don’t have a sitemap.xml. Many SEO plugins can create and submit one automatically.
- You have duplicate content. Duplicate content troubles Google’s spiders, causing them to give up on indexing your site.
- You have Noindex in a meta tag. You may have accidentally asked Google to skip indexing your site by placing <META NAME=“ROBOTS” CONTENT=“NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW”> in a meta tag via WordPress.
- The site was deindexed. You might have done something horrible that affected Google or other search engines. Check out these recommendations, repair your issues, and request a reconsideration.
Google penalises sites that violate its recommendations. Verify that Google has not penalised your site. Go to your Google Webmaster Tools and check Manual Actions. The ideal status should be No manual web-spam actions found. Next, take a look at your Google Analytics account and check the organic traffic. Has there been a significant traffic drop? It might show that Google hit your traffic for various reasons. Neil Patel has compiled a list of potential reasons, so read it carefully.
Responsive design refers to the approach of building sites that fit and adapt to any type of screen size. The user has a similar experience no matter the device used. A responsive layout is no longer something that wows viewers, but there are still unresponsive websites. It’s needless to mention that Google prefers responsive designs.
Resize your browser when visiting your site on a desktop. Are you satisfied with the design regardless of the browser’s window size? The chances are that your site is responsive if you are happy with it. Use the responsive design checker tool to be assured that your site is fully responsive.
Responsive and mobile-friendly design have many similarities, but they are different. While responsive refers strictly to design, a mobile-friendly site is a broader term. A responsive site isn’t necessary mobile-friendly, while a mobile-friendly site is responsive (there are only a few exceptions to this rule).
Nowadays, a design fitting any type of screen size is not enough. The site should load quickly and provide a good user experience. Easier said than done!
Add your site’s address into the search bar of this Google app to test your mobile-friendliness. It gives you hints and suggestions to improve your site and make it more friendly to visitors on mobiles. You won’t get the top search result unless your site is mobile-friendly.
I have already mentioned loading speed. Google loves speed, but it’s all about your sites visitors. Google will lose its dominant position if the search results are no longer relevant. Mobile users aren’t patient—they will abandon your site if it loads slowly and doesn’t provide the information they need instantly, so Google won’t ever serve its users by proposing slow-loading sites.
Don’t blame Google for asking for fast-loading sites because it’s not their fault. We, the users, demand fast sites, and Google simply serves us.
Check your site’s speed by using PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, or Pingdom. These services give plenty of information and tips for speeding up your site. I also strongly recommend consulting our post featuring 19 tips to speed up your WordPress site, or check out this infographic if you prefer visuals.
It takes a lot of time to tweak your site and make it faster, but it’s a must if you want to stay on the first page.
Now you have to perform some site analysis, for which Google Analytics and Google Search Console are your best friends. Connect both of them to your site and collect data about your top-performing keywords.
I don’t have any solid data, but I believe that it’s almost impossible to rank your site on the first page if you aren’t a Google Analytics and Google Search Console connoisseur. Analytics Academy is an excellent start to get the most from Google Analytics, and this guide from Backlinko will teach you the ins and outs of Search Console.
You will get massive amounts of data from using these tools, but for the purposes of this post, I will focus on search analytics from Search Console. Clicks, impressions, click-through rate (CTR), and position are displayed for various queries. Analyse your best performing keywords in relation to the position and clicks. Export them (to CSV or Google Docs) for better analysis.
You should have a list of desired keywords. Compare it to the exported list. Are your desired keywords included in the exported list? Are they in the first ten positions? If so, you are already on the first page. If not, check the position and evaluate your chances of getting on the first page.
Determining which keywords deserve a second chance and trying to rank for the first page is a vast topic. There are no carved in stone rules, and it depends on your competition, potential revenue, content, budget, time, and many other factors.
How to get your website to the top of Google is not only a common question but also one of the most frustrating issues for SEO practitioners and marketers. Ranking a site well on Google for keywords such as “best girly pens for left-handed people” isn’t a complicated task (if anyone is interested in this keyword phrase). Ranking a site well on Google for keywords such as “best insurance” is an entirely different situation.
Keyword research refers to the process of identifying words and expressions that people search for, and you have to optimise your site to be on the first page of the results (or even in the first position). Keyword research is at least as necessary as on-page or off-page optimisation.
Ranking number one for a keyword may bring impressive streams of revenue, but the competition is fierce. Other keywords may be less difficult to rank for, but they don’t bring in revenue. Keyword research is about finding keywords that are searched by many users (a decent search volume) but that competitors don’t rank for. Finding the right keywords is partly a science and partly an art.
Long-Tail vs Short-Tail Keywords
Keywords fall into two categories: long-tail and short-tail.
Long-tail keywords are between three and five words. These keywords generate less traffic than short-tail keywords because fewer people search for them. But the chances are that the people who search for these keywords are genuinely interested in these topics.
Short-tail or head keywords are made up of one or two words and are usually more generic expressions with high search volumes. As a result, these keywords are more difficult to target because of the high number of competitors.
“WordPress themes” is a highly searched keyword, so many marketers and website owners try to rank on the first page of the search engines for it.
Many people type “WordPress themes” in the search bar, and the sites on the first page get a serious amount of visitors. But the keyword is broad, and you don’t have any clue about the user’s intent. Are they interested in buying a premium theme or are they searching for a free one? Do they want a multipurpose theme or a niche one?
Conversely, “premium WordPress themes for weddings” is a long-tail keyword, but considerably fewer people search for it. Still, the users searching for this keyword are quite interested in buying a WordPress theme for weddings.
There is no competition between long-tail and short-tail keywords; it all depends on each site’s purpose. Usually, ranking in the top positions for long-tail keywords takes less time and resources than short-tail, but they also produce less traffic.
Determine Your Topics and Seed Keywords
Let’s recap. To get a top position on Google, you have to do some strong keyword research, starting with a clear understanding of the distinction between short-tail and long-tail keywords. Next, you have to decide what your keywords are. Establish the site’s purpose and correlate it with the proper topics. For instance, if you run an online store selling toys, your topics might be baby care products, childhood education, developmental toys, and so on.
Consequently, your keywords should revolve around these topics.
Most likely, you have created a list of a few keywords that are relevant to your business. These keywords are the foundation of your SEO and are called seed keywords. However, you will need more keyword suggestions in the long run. Luckily for marketers, plenty of tools are available to provide you with countless keyword suggestions. Here is a brief list of tools that can significantly help you in this respect.
1. Google Autocomplete
Did you know that Google Autocomplete reduces typing by about 25% and cumulatively saves 200 years of typing per day! Not only does it save time, but Google autocomplete is a primary tool for keyword research. It’s free and made by Google, so don’t ignore it even if its features are limited.
Sign out of your Google account or use the incognito mode so that your personal search preferences don’t interfere, and type your seed keyword.
Google will provide a list of suggestions—usually long-tail keywords. These suggestions are based on user searches, so you get a list of keywords that people really search for. Create content to answer the users’ searches, and they will visit your site. Another bunch of keywords is shown at the bottom of the search page — this is where Google displays search terms related to the keyword typed.
Google is experimenting with ‘People also ask’, a cool tool that suggests what other users have searched for. Check these suggestions because they show users’ pain points. Resolve their issues, and they will visit your site more frequently!
2. Google Search Console
There are many posts featuring keyword research tools, but only a few of them include Google Search Console. The truth is that this tool confirms if your site ranks highly on Google. It won’t help you identify profitable keywords, but it shows your position for the keywords you have already targeted. Go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics and tick all the options (Clicks, Impressions, CTA, and Position).
It depends on your competitors’ content quality, but for keywords that you are already on the first page for, you can optimise the site and perhaps get the first position. Also, you have a good chance of getting on the first page for keywords for which you rank in the 11–20 range position.
Consider Google Search Console the best tool for identifying the keywords you rank the best for. Clearly, it’s an irreplaceable tool!
Moz is a well-known brand for marketers, and Moz Keyword Explorer is a tool aimed at doing keyword research. All you have to do is to type your keyword into the search bar and chose the geographical area to target. Once you hit the search button, the tool displays a keyword overview: monthly volume, difficulty to rank, organic CTR, and priority. Next, you get a list of keyword suggestions and a search engine results page (SERP) analysis.
Unfortunately, free accounts can perform only ten queries a month. However, Moz genuinely helps marketers on a tight budget. Link Explorer is a useful tool for analysing and building new links, and Moz Bar is a Chrome extension displaying essential metrics such as page authority and domain authority.
Semrush Keyword Research is one of the most powerful keyword research tools. A free account is enough to test the potential of this tool. While a monthly subscription isn’t affordable for tight budgets—it starts at $99.95 per month—a paid Semrush account is a bargain considering the information you get.
Semrush generates a full report for each keyword and provides you with a complete list of suggestions. Don’t limit yourself to keyword research when using Semrush; it’s a great tool for any SEO practitioner.
This keyword research tool is free and provides tons of suggestions. These suggestions are grouped into questions, prepositions, comparisons, alphabetical and related. Just type the keyword, and you will get plenty of solutions. You can download these suggestions as a CSV document.
6. KW Finder
KW Finder is another useful tool for keyword research. It displays keyword suggestions and shows valuable data for each one, such as the trend, search volume, and difficulty. Also, Interest Over Time is a useful feature because it reveals how your keyword has performed over the last few years.
KW Finder offers limited queries for free accounts, so you will need to sign up for a premium account for more queries and information.
7. Spy Fu
Spy Fu is an inspired name because this tool’s main purpose is spying on competitors. Register, and Spy Fu will help you perform a lot of tasks, such as site optimisation, PPC research, and tracking and researching keywords.
This tool fully deserves to be featured here because it provides insightful information about your desired keywords. In addition to monthly volume, click-through rate, and ranking difficulty, Spy Fu informs you of the cost per click, the advertisers that targeted your keyword in the last 12 months, current ads, and a list of related profitable keywords.
8. Keyword Planner
Keyword Planner is a Google product, so it needs no introduction. It’s simple to use and provides complete solutions. Keyword Planner is the proper tool for people on a tight budget.
At this stage, you have chosen a list of topics and relevant seed keywords. You have generated a list of short- and long-tail keywords by using any of the above tools. Practically, you have a robust framework to get your site ranked well on Google. But unfortunately, it’s not enough. You need to optimise your website to rank on the first page for the desired keywords.
Search Engine Optimisation
An SEO expert works on two fronts to optimise a site: on the site (on-site optimisation) and in other environments such as other sites, and competitors’ sites (off-site optimisation). Both are vital—you can’t rank well on Google if you do on-site optimisation perfectly but neglect off-site optimisation or vice-versa.
You don’t have any excuse if you don’t do on-site optimisation because it all depends on you. Google and other search engines change their algorithms periodically, so what’s recommended in 2018 might be disapproved of in 2019. However, there are a few timeless pillars of good on-page optimisation.
1. Title and URL
People judge the value of your blog post based on its title. Yeah, it’s not fair, but it’s the harsh reality. You can’t change people’s behaviour, so you must adapt to this situation.
A good title is concise, clear, intriguing, and descriptive. Use the Coschedule Headline Analyzer to test your blog post titles. It will give a grade and a few priceless suggestions.
There are mixed opinions on this point, but I think it’s best to insert your keyword into the title and in the first 100 words of the introduction.
The URL of the posts should be short and sweet (as Brian Dean says in his insightful post).
2. XML Map
An XML map helps the search spiders crawl and index your site, so don’t ignore creating one. A plethora of WordPress plugins automatically generate and submit XML maps; go to the WordPress repository, and you will find many solutions.
3. Internal and External Linking
Internal linking is often overlooked, which is a terrible mistake. It doesn’t have the same importance as external linking, but it’s so simple to do—simply link to your previous articles when they are relevant.
Internal linking helps you show the most important articles, and it could even reduce the bounce rate (aka, readers visiting more pages than the page they landed on) which is another ranking factor.
External linking gives Google a hint about a site’s purpose. Don’t be afraid of outbound linking, but pay attention to the reputation of the site you link.
4. Image Optimisation
The file name of your images should include your main keyword at least once, and don’t forget the Alt tag — include your main keyword here too, if it can be inserted naturally as part of the alternate text you will be providing to visually impaired people.
5. LSI Keywords
Latent semantic indexing (LSI) refers to keywords semantically related to your keyword. Lots of SEO practitioners make the mistake of thinking that LSI terms are synonyms for your keyword. While LSI keywords don’t exclude synonyms, they do cover a broader area. Let’s suppose that you have written a 1500-word post that sparingly mentions the term ‘content’.
Google doesn’t have enough hints to classify your article as related to content marketing. By sprinkling in keywords such as ‘content marketing’, ‘content creation’, ‘writing’, ‘SEO’, ‘B2B content marketing’, or ‘LSI keywords’, you give valuable tips to search spiders that the article is related to content marketing.
6. Loading Speed
Countless research studies prove that each millisecond of delay affects a site’s revenue. Some say that loading speed is the new SEO. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but your site certainly must load quickly.
7. Quality Content
All of the above tips are useless if your content isn’t attractive, useful, and digestible. Google and other search engines are smart enough to understand the value of your content. You won’t ever be on the first page if your content is poor, period.
Off-site optimisation usually takes more resources and time than on-site optimisation. The success of off-site work doesn’t exclusively rely on you. Rather, it depends on many other external factors. The final purpose is to convince bloggers and webmasters to link to your site. You can simply ask other bloggers to link to your articles, but I doubt that you will achieve something worthy with this approach.
Bloggers have created many off-site optimisation tactics to reach the first page on Google. Here are a few suggestions for effective off-site optimisation.
1. Guest Posting
No, guest posting isn’t dead! Writing guest posts is an effective method of acquiring links, and it comes with many reciprocal benefits. The guest writers chose the site to write for, so they have full control over the new links obtained. On top of that, they earn a reputation, traffic, and possibly new leads. Bloggers who accept guest posts benefit from fresh content and a different perspective.
2. Influencer Outreach
Don’t be shy of reaching out to influencers in your field of activity if you have written a top-notch piece of content. Influencers will share your content if you genuinely provide value, and many other people will read your content. The chances are that some of the readers will link back to your great piece of content.
3. Social Media
Engagement on social media networks is a factor that search engines seemingly take into account when ranking sites. Share your content on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, and try to engage with users.
Not only does off-site optimisation done incorrectly not help your site, but you might get penalised by Google. Unnatural links and other black-hat SEO methods might work in the short term, but Google will penalise your site sooner or later. Look for sites that are relevant and trustworthy even though acquiring a link from these sources is tough work.
Ranking your site in the top positions on Google isn’t simple, and this guide only scratches the surface. It takes time, and even if you invest in many resources, no one can guarantee that will you reach the first page for competitive keywords. Sadly, once you reach the first page or within the very top positions, the journey isn’t over! Most likely, competitors will target your keywords, and some of them will create more accurate and relevant content than yours.
Getting your site to the top of Google—and staying there—is a never-ending fight!
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