How to Rank #1 in Google [Step by Step SEO Instructions]

SEO Part 1: Think Like Google

Your ability to rank in Google really depends on whether you can think like Google. If you can do this you’ll be light years ahead of almost everyone that you compete with.

Most important question

You need to constantly ask this one question, “What will make my site look legitimate in the eyes of Google?”

What does a spammy site look like?

The Internet is littered with garbage and spammy websites. And Google has gotten really good at detecting them. Your job is to think like Google and figure out what makes a spammy website appear spammy, and then avoid doing those things.

Examples

  • Websites that stuff keywords into their titles and meta tags many times, but have no legitimate content
  • Websites that have a high bounce rate i.e. visitors leave immediately after loading the page

Google has gotten really good at detecting these things and penalizes websites that appear to be garbage.

What does a legitimate site look like?

Legitimate websites have a bunch of characteristics including:

  • Low bounce rate i.e. people visit multiple pages on your site before leaving
  • Longer time on page i.e. people on average spend a while on this page before leaving
  • Target keywords are found in the website title, text, etc. In addition LSI keywords, or keywords related to your topic are also found on the page.

Remember, Google wants to provide the best search results to their visitors, so visitors keep clicking on ads. That’s how Google stays in business.

SEO Part 2: Pick your keyword phrases

Choose your keyword phrases carefully.

Avoid ambiguous keyword phrases

Most websites are selling a product and so it’s best to select keywords that indicate your reader has a problem to solve.

For example the keyword phrase how do I get more traffic indicates the reader has a need and is much more likely to buy a product or click on ad than the average Internet surfer.

Contrast that with the keyword phrase traffic which is a terrible choice because the person typing it into Google could be looking for info about traffic lights, traffic conditions, traffic tickets, etc. To make things worse the keyword phrase traffic has a lot of competition.

Select words that indicate your reader has a problem to solve

Keyword phrases that include the trigger words like: how, buy, fix, etc indicate the person searching is ready to spend money! These are excellent keywords.

Be mindful of competition

Make sure you don’t select keyword phrases with an over-abundance of competition. If you are targeting keyword phrases with trigger words like how, buy, etc. then you’re probably in good shape and not facing too much competition in most niches.

Product names and model numbers

Searches that include product names and model numbers also indicate that person is ready to spend money. These can be great keywords in the right niche.

Make sure your keyword phrase has enough searches

When you rank #1 in google you won’t get more than 40% of the search traffic. So if you’re keyword phrase gets 100 Google searches per month, you can expect a maximum of 40 visits per month. Is that enough traffic to make search engine optimization worth it?

SEO Part 3: Is your site crawlable?

Is every page findable through links from your home page?

SEO Part 4: Optimize Your Title

Put your keyword phrases in your title tag

For example my keyword phrases seo, traffic, and rank in google are in my title tag <title>How to Rank #1 in Google [Step by Step SEO Instructions] - FastTraffic.ninja</title>.

Optimize for CTR (click through rate)

Google stays in busines by giving people great search results. So they heavily penalize sites with low click through rates.

Assess your competition

Write down the top 10 search results for your keyword phrase and look at what their title and description lines are. Notice any specific words and phrases that you think will attract clicks and consider using them in your title tag. Just don’t mislead visitors with your titles - it will raise your bounce rate and Google will trash your rank.

Same story for the ads on that show up for your keyword phrase - they are great examples of what titles have a high click through rate.

Standout to readers

Include things that attract readers that are just scanning the search results:

  • Use numbers i.e. 17 Ways to...
  • Use brackets i.e. [Case Study] How to Stop...
  • Use parens i.e. How to ... (Proof inside!)

Trigger words

Include trigger words like: how, buy, fix, etc.

Here’s my title tag <title>How to Rank #1 in Google [Step by Step SEO Instructions] - FastTraffic.ninja</title>. Notice that I use brackets: [Step by Step SEO Instructions], a number: #1, and a trigger phrase: How to.

Tools

Checkout

Optimize Your Meta Description

Follow the same rules as you did for your title tags:

  • Put your keyword phrase in your meta description
  • Check out the top 10 results for your keyword phrase and pay attention to words & phrases that will attract clicks. Same story for ads.
  • Use numbers, brackets, and parens
  • Include trigger words

Also, have someone proofread your meta description. :)

SEO Part 5: Lower Your Bounce Rate

Google tracks what percent of people go to your page and leave without visiting any other pages. This is known as the Bounce Rate. High bounce rates are a strong signal to Google that visitors don’t like your content and your site’s rankings will plummet.

Usability testing

Site creators are frequently blind to problems with site. Have a few people interested in your niche look at your site. Ask them if they find it useful. Can they find they the information they need? Would they tweet a link to their followers?

Take their suggestions, make your site better, and lower your bounce rate.

Browser testing

How does your site look in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer? Each browser renders things a bit differently. If any of the popular browsers don’t display your site correctly, your bounce will increase and your ranking will suffer.

Mobile testing

How does your site look on a smart phone and a tablet? Does it display correctly? Do menus and navigation show up and work? Is the text an appropriate size? Seriously, you need to check these.

Having pages link to other pages on your site greatly increases the odds that visitors will visit multiple pages, decreasing your bounce rate.

A lot of blogs will have a Related Posts section at the bottom of each blog post. This is an easy way to get visitors to visit multiple pages and lower your bounce rate. Having a list like this is especially important when your content is short.

More awesome ways to lower your bounce rate

Checkout

SEO Part 6: Time on Page

Google tracks how long people stay on your site. If visitors leave after 2 seconds, Google will trash your rank.

Content Length, Longer is better

Seriously, longer is better. Long content gets more tweets on twitter, has a higher visitor time-on-page, and generally ranks higher in Google.

For example, the first draft of this post was about 3,500 words.

Sure you can churn out loads of quick pages and blog posts but none of them will rank in Google.

Produce unique content

Yes, create your own content. Don’t copy’n’paste from somewhere else - garbage websites do this and Google is really good at detecting it.

Be thorough and go deep

Do your visitors a favor and pick a topic and go deep. Cover every possible angle on that topic, like I did with this tutorial. It’ll take 10 hours or maybe 40 hours but it’s worth it, as long you can get enough traffic to make it worth it.

Aim for 10X Better

With your content you should aim to make something 10 times better than anything out there.

Embed Youtube videos

Embedded Youtube videos keep visitors on page much longer.

More ideas

Checkout

SEO Part 7: Site speed

Find how long it takes to load your site. What’s the size of your site when first downloaded?

Slow sites greatly increase bounce rates, which kill your rankings.

Google has a free tool that scores your site’s speed on mobile and desktop!

Quick Video: How to Speed Up Your Website And Increase Your Website’s Revenue.

Other ways to make your site faster:

  • Reduce the size and number of images
  • Reduce the css and javascript needed
  • WordPress/Drupal may have plugins that help speed up site load times
  • Pay for higher quality hosting
  • Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network)

SEO Part 8: Signup for Google Search Console

Google made a tool to help you rank higher in Google!

Google Search Console will help you identify which pages are getting shown for which keywords. You can get stats on:

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Click through rate

Get more traffic by looking through all the keywords your pages get impressions for, and add that sort of content to your site to decrease your pages’ bounce rate.

SEO Part 9: Your Domain

Put Your Keyword Phrase in your domain

Whenever possible you should put your keyword phrase in your domain. So ideally a page about search engine optimization would have the words search engine optimization in the domain.

Sometimes this is not practical because your website is about a bunch of related topics, and that’s OK. For example this page is about search engine optimization which fits under the umbrella topic of traffic. And my domain, fasttraffic.ninja, has the keyword phrase traffic in it.

I believe that since the words traffic and search engine optimization are closely related Google gives me a small boost in rankings because the word traffic is in my domain.

HTTPS is your friend

If you add a secure certificate to your site, Google will likely rank you just a bit higher because this is something that spammy sites seldom do (it costs a bit of money).

Domain age

The age of your domain matters. Domains that have been registered longer typically will rank a little bit higher than those that are brand new. The reason older domains rank a little bit higher is that a lot of spam and garbage websites are created with brand new domains and so new websites are automatically penalized just a little bit by Google.

One strategy is to go register a domain that had been previously registered years ago but was not renewed.

But this may not be practical for you, and that’s OK. There’s a lot of other things you can do. In the scheme of things, I think this is one of the least important things to help you rank high in Google. I personally do not worry about this to be honest but I want you to know that it’s one of the ranking criteria.

Domain TLD i.e. .com, .org, .biz

Your domain’s TLD (top level domain) is also a tiny factor that could affect your search engine rankings.

Historically TLD’s like .biz have been penalized a little bit by google because they are inexpensive and therefore attractive to people making garbage websites.

Ideally you would get a .com but if that’s not practical for you, don’t worry about it. Just like with domain age, I think this is a tiny factor in your overall website ranking. It’s also something I don’t really worry about, to be completely honest, but I wanted you to know that this is part of their ranking criteria.

SEO Part 10: On Page Search Engine Optimization

Here’s where we talk about how to optimize an individual page to help that rank high in Google.

Put Your Keyword Phrase in your page name

It’s always a good idea to put your keyword phrase in the file name of your page.

For example the url of this page is http://fasttraffic.ninja/how-to-rank-1-in-google-with-seo-search-engine-optimization.

And the file name is the part after the last slash / i.e. how-to-rank-1-in-google-with-seo-search-engine-optimization

Some of the keyword phrases I’m targeting with this particular page are:

  • Search engine optimization
  • seo
  • How to rank in Google

Each of those keyword phrases are in my page’s file name.

Don’t smash the words together

This is bad: yourdomain/searchengineoptimization

This is good: yourdomain/search-engine-optimization

Adding dashes between words makes it easier for Google to find your target keywords.

Dashes vs Underscores

Use dashes instead of underscores in your file names.

This is good: yourdomain/search-engine-optimization

This is bad: yourdomain/search_engine_optimization

H1 & H2 tags

Include your keyword phrases in your H1 & H2 tags.

On this page I’ve included a couple target keyword phrases in my H1 tag: <h1>How to Rank #1 in Google [Step by Step SEO Instructions]</h1>.

Same with my H2 tags i.e. <h2>On Page Search Engine Optimization</h2>.

Image names

If you have images displayed on your page be sure to include your keyword phrase in your image name i.e. <img src="keyword-phrase.jpg" />.

Image alt text

Be sure to include your keyword phrase in your image’s alt text i.e. <img src="keyword-phrase.jpg" alt="keyword phrase" />.

LSI - Latent Semantic Indexing

If your site is about search engine optimization then Google expects to find other related keyword phrases on your site e.g. seo, ranking in google, title tags, etc.

It’s a huge red flag to Google if your site targets a keyword phrase but doesn’t include any related words.

One way to get an idea of what Google is expecting is to search on Google for your keyword phrase, then scroll to the bottom and look for the Searches related to section. There you’ll see a list of related searches and words that Google associates with your keyword phrase.

For example I searched Google for seo and the “Searches related to seo” lists:

  • what is seo and how it works
  • how to do seo
  • seo definition
  • what is seo marketing
  • seo wiki
  • seo google
  • seo tutorial
  • seo company

Getting links to your site is critical to ranking high in Google.

Links from other websites can also be a great source of traffic, regardless of your google rank.

Getting and giving links to garbage websites can get your on Google’s naughty list and your ranking will plummet.

DoFollow vs NoFollow

It’s a huge redflag to Google if all your site’s backlinks are DoFollow because this never happens naturally

Link to 2 or more related pages on your page

Legitmate sites usually have links going to authority sites. Make sure your pages link to a few authority sites which adds to their credibility in the eyes of Google.

With few exceptions, you have to give another site owner a reason to link to you. Asking for a link is grossly insufficient; you need to give something in return.

Create controversy or novelty

Everyone likes a little controversy now again. Consider taking different position than everyone else, or playing the devil’s advocate.

For example, in the SEO niche I could write some articles on the following topics:

  • Screw Google! Ways to get Traffic without ranking in Google
  • Top 7 Worst ways to get your site to rank
  • 10 Ways to skyrocket your Bounce rate and kill your google rank
  • The most expensive SEO product

Take a contrary position and see if you can get people to respond (and link to you!).

Read How to Experiment With Controversial Content (Without Alienating People)

Create a competition

Connect with 2 bloggers in your niche and propose that you have a face-off on your blog. On your site you have a link for Blogger A’s best article and link to Blogger B’s best article. The idea here is to get Blogger A and Blogger B to send traffic to your (via linking) and try to get the most votes.

You can do this with 2 people or 10 people.

Be newsworthy and go viral

Every day there’s tons of interesting things that viral. What could you do in your niche?

HARO (Help a reporter out)

Reporters need knowledgable sources about many many topics. You can help a reporter out by providing expert info and in return you may get a backlink to your site.

See HARO (Help a reporter out)

Create a “Ask the Experts” page

Build a relationship with 15 people in your niche, and then take a common question and ask each of the 15 people what their advice is. Then publish the results in blog post, with a link to each expert’s site. If you have a good relationship with them, they’ll link to the page where you listed their expert advice.

Just make sure you put the best advice first, which will help reduce your bounce rate.

Create a “Blog’s to Watch” page

This takes a chunk of time but can be a great way to build relationships with others and get people to link to you.

Here’s an example.

Create a “Geniuses” page

Create a page where you show a short bio of different experts in your niche.

The bio will usually include:

  • A small photo
  • Short bio of their talents/skills/expertise, usually 50 words max
  • A link to their site

And all of these things are supplied by them.

This method takes time and effort to reach out to people and establish a connection, but it can yield quality backlinks.

Create a “Genius Profile” page

Create a page where you show a long bio of an expert in your niche.

The bio will usually include:

  • A medium-sized photo
  • Long bio of their talents/skills/expertise, usually 300 words max
  • A list of 10 links to their best content and a link to their sales page (if they have one)

And all of these things are supplied by them.

Just like the “Geniuses” page, this method takes time and effort to reach out to people and establish a connection, but it can yield quality backlinks.

Run a contest

Using Google Analytics you can track which sites refer traffic to your site and how many visits per month you get from various sites.

If you have a bit of money to burn you can run a contest and give $100 Amazon gift card (or whatever prize you want) to whichever site refers the most unique visitors. Then you reach out to the 15 connections in your niche and ask them to link to your site and encourage people to click the link.

Note: This only works if you have a great piece of content for them to link to; they don’t want to link to garbage.

For a little as $5 a month you can pay a website in your niche to link to you. $5 will only get you a link in the footer of their site, more $$$ gets you a link with more visability.

Reaching out to website owners will take some time though.

Product Reviews

Get someone who loves your product/website to write about it on their website with a link to your site.

This only works some of the time, your mileage may vary.

Guest posting

Guest posting, where you write an original blog piece with a link to your site, has been a popular way to get backlinks from authority sites in your niche.

Figure out who is giving links to your major competitors, then get a link from those sources. Try using SimilarWeb

Find social influencers

Give social influencers in your niche a reason to link to your site and talk about it.

Checkout How to build .EDU Domains Backlinks for Free

Forum signatures

Warning: This method is used by makers of garbage websites to make a lot of links fast. If all of your links come from forums it will look very suspicious to Google and your rank will suffer.

Find forums in your niche and add a link to your site in your forum signature, which is included at the end of every forum post. Just make sure you read the forum’s rules before putting your link in your signature.

Blog Comments

Warning: This method is used by makers of garbage websites to make a lot of links fast. If all of your links come from blog comments it will look very suspicious to Google and your rank will suffer.

You can get a link from a blog when you leave a comment. This strategy was super popular a couple years ago but has fallen out favor because it has been abused by people with garbage websites.

Youtube

You can get a link from the description section of Youtube videos. If you find a Youtube video that matches your content you can contact the creator and ask them to add a link to your brilliant content. They may say no, or they may say yes.

Social Media

You can get links from Twitter, Facebook, etc., but because these links are easy to generate, they’re not a valuable in the eyes of Google.

Directory Submissions

Directory submissions is a colossal waste of time. Furthermore, it could actually hurt your search engine optimization efforts.

Here’s why: thousands upon thousands of people with garbage websites have submitted their website to get a backlink from various directories. It’s super easy to do and it’s easy to automate and it’s easy to pay someone to do it for you. As a result of Google gives no credence to these backlinks. In fact, in the eyes of google you may be lumping yourself and with garbage websites if you try to get backlinks from directories.

Just don’t do it.

SEO Part 12: Miscellaneous Items

A few odds and ends

SEO Frequently Asked Questions

General SEO Questions

How do I get free traffic to my website?

There are loads of ways to get free traffic.

But it all begins with you thinking strategically about things. You don’t want just any traffic, you want traffic that converts into sales or clicks on your banners, or whatever.

The first thing you need to do is figure out how much traffic do you need to make $100. Seriously, you need to do this and the amount of traffic varies tremendously by niche. In some niches you need 10 visitors to make $100. In other niches you may need 10,000,000 visitors. So figure out how much traffic you need to make $100 and then evaluate if this is reasonable. The vast majority of niches require 1,000,000 or more visitors to make $100 and that’s just not worth the effort.

Next you need to go where the traffic is. In just about every niche there are a bunch of websites, and people with large email lists, that have the exact kind of traffic you want, and they have lots of it. Your job is to figure out how to build a relationship with those traffic owners and give them a reason to send some of the traffic to you. I know this is really hard but it’s absolutely the shortest path to getting traffic quickly and you don’t have to worry about search engine optimization or any of that crap.

One way to do this is to build an amazing piece of content, something that is 10 times better than anything out there, and then ask the people with the traffic to send a portion of their traffic to you with your amazing content. You can even offer to put their advertisement on your website, to be displayed when they send their traffic to your site.

That’s one way to build a relationship with other people that have the exact traffic you want. There are other ways as well. But typically you have to give them something they want in order for them to send you traffic that you want.

What’s the optimal keyword density?

Honestly, don’t worry about keyword density. In my opinion it just doesn’t matter. Produce good content that your visitors love and it will have the right keyword density.

Google has far more sophisticated ways of telling if your content is good. Two of them that you can check regularly are: bounce rate and time on page. If people leave your website after three seconds that’s a really bad sign. If people leave after visiting only one page of your website that’s also a bad sign. Work on these two things and keyword density will take care of itself.

I’m getting started and have $1,000 to spend on SEO. Where should I spend it?

Before you spend any money on a SEO I recommend that you do the following:

Figure out what keywords you’re trying to rank for. What’s the competition look like? And just as importantly, if ranked number one for a particular keyword phrase, how much traffic will you actually expect to get per month? Remember the number one spot in google only gets about 42 percent of the traffic. So if 1000 people are searching for a given keyword, on average the number one spot in google only received 420 visits.

Next, go sign up for Google Search Console. It’s a free tool that Google made to help you understand how your ranking for Gary various keyword phrases.

Next, check out how your site does for download speeds. Google has a free tool that scores your site’s speed on mobile and desktop!

Quick Video: How to Speed Up Your Website And Increase Your Website’s Revenue.

Next, Lower Your Bounce Rate. Google tracks what percent of people go to your page and leave without visiting any other pages. This is known as the Bounce Rate. High bounce rates are a strong signal to Google that visitors don’t like your content and your site’s rankings will plummet.

Also, increase how long visitors stay on your page.

Are you sure you want to build dofollow links?

There is a tremendous number of garbage websites on the Internet today. And nearly all of them have been trying to build large numbers of dofollow backlinks for years and years. Google is aware of this and they will penalize your website if a disproportionate number backlinks come from dofollow sources. For example, if 98 percent of your backlinks are dofollow, Google will penalize you because this is not normal. It looks suspicious.

Directory submissions is a colossal waste of time. Furthermore, it could actually hurt your search engine optimization efforts.

Here’s why: thousands upon thousands of people with garbage websites have submitted their website to get a backlink from various directories. It’s super easy to do and it’s easy to automate and it’s easy to pay someone to do it for you. As a result of Google gives no credence to these backlinks. In fact, in the eyes of google you may be lumping yourself in with garbage websites if you try to get backlinks from directories.

Just don’t do it.

SEO Geniuses

Danny Goodwin

Danny Goodwin is Executive Editor of Search Engine Journal. In addition to overseeing SEJ’s editorial strategy and managing contributions from a team of 60+ industry experts, he also writes news and articles about SEO, PPC, social media marketing, content marketing. Danny has been a professional editor, writer, and ghostwriter in the marketing industry for 10 years, creating content for SMBs to global brands, spanning all things search and digital. He formerly was managing editor of Momentology and editor of Search Engine Watch.

Follow MrDannyGoodwin on Twitter

Brad Smith

Brad Smith the founder of Codeless, a B2B content creation company. Frequent contributor to Kissmetrics, Unbounce, WordStream, AdEspresso, Search Engine Journal, Autopilot, and more.

Follow bsmarketer on Twitter

Julie Joyce

Julie Joyce owns the link development firm Link Fish Media and is one of the founding members of the SEO Chicks blog. Julie began working in search marketing in 2002 and soon became head of search for a small IT firm. Eventually, she started Link Fish Media, where she now serves as Director Of Operations, focusing on working with clients in ultra-competitive niches all over the world.

Follow JulieJoyce on Twitter

Paul Shapiro

Paul Shapiro is Director of Strategy and Innovation for Catalyst in Boston. Paul loves to get down and dirty with innovative SEO strategies. He also enjoys watching old horror movies, programming, collecting ancient artifacts, and writing about SEO on his blog, Search Wilderness.

Follow fighto on Twitter

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Taylor Tomita

Taylor is a technical SEO specialist and link builder at Page One Power in Boise, Idaho. When not auditing sites and building links, Taylor is usually collecting and writing about guitar pedals on their personal site, Pedal Haven or having fun making SEO Graphs

Follow TVYLORTOMITV on Twitter

Kevin Rowe

Kevin Rowe is the founder of Rowe Digital, a link building firm leveraging blogger outreach and influencer marketing to build white-hat links. Kevin has worked with some of the hottest Silicon Valley startups, as well as fortune 100 companies, to create enterprise-class innovative and sophisticated programs in search marketing that out perform industry standards.

Follow _kevinrowe on Twitter

Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry can be followed on social media at @rustybrick, +BarrySchwartz and Facebook.

Follow rustybrick on Twitter

Greg Sterling

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

Follow gsterling on Twitter

Dave Davies

Dave Davies founded Beanstalk Internet Marketing, Inc. in 2004 after working in the industry for 3 years and is its active CEO. He is a well-published author and has spoken on the subject of organic SEO at a number of conferences, including a favorite, SMX Advanced. Dave writes regularly on Beanstalk’s blog and is a monthly contributor on Search Engine Land.

Follow beanstalkim on Twitter

Ryan Shelley

Ryan’s pretty much your average guy, except for the average part. He is the owner and founder of Shelley Media Arts LLC. He is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. Ryan is active in influencing and promoting human driven SEO, personalized marketing and empathic leadership. When he’s not working in the “shedquarters” you can find him hanging at the beach with his family or jamming out in the playroom with his 2 young sons.

Follow ryan_shelley on Twitter

Amy Gesenhues

Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media’s General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs.com, SoftwareCEO.com, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine.

Follow amygesenhues on Twitter

Greg Gifford

Greg Gifford is the Director of Search and Social at DealerOn, a software company that provides websites and online marketing to new car dealers all over the country. Check out their awesome blog for more of Greg’s local search posts and videos.

Follow GregGifford on Twitter

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