The big question that every business owner asks is how to get ranked number 1 in Google for their keywords. I could answer that question in a simple manner, but it would be vague and leave you frustrated. So, this explanation is going to be a bit long. Pay close attention and take notes, because this is accurate information that really works.
Here you go: In order to understand what you have to do to get to number one on Google, you really have to understand two different things.
First you need to understand what factors Google uses to determine which page should rank there. Then you have to understand the reason behind why the page that is ranking there right now is ranking that high. So it really boils down to understanding Google and understanding your competition.
Understanding Google Rankings
I am not going to claim that I know every last detail about Google’s ranking algorithm. I certainly do not. Neither does anyone else who doesn’t work very high in the Google algorithm engineering team. They are the only ones who know every factor. Besides that, the ranking factors change over time anyway. The methods that work today might not work as well tomorrow. You probably have already learned that the hard way.
What I can tell you is that I do understand the most important factors for getting a page to rank high right now. There are a handful of critical factors and then there are many other less critical ones. I will share a few of the more critical factors. I learned these factors after studying the academic papers published by the top people at Google and through years of trial, error and experience.
Before you consider the individual factors that you can change with your website, stop for a moment and think about what Google is trying to do by ranking the search results the way that they do. They are trying to show the searcher exactly what he or she is looking for. They are trying to show the searcher the most relevant pages Google can possibly find. Whenever possible, Google also wants to show the searcher the most popular pages on those topics. And, they want those pages to be at least reasonably high quality. All of the analysis that Google conducts is done in their effort to determine relevancy, popularity(authority) and quality.
If you want your page to rank high, then you want to convince Google that your page is highly relevant for that search phrase, your page & your website are popular and your page is high quality.
More relevant = higher rankings
More popular = higher rankings
Maintaining high quality usually = high rankings
Google claims to take over 200 factors into consideration when determining their rankings. This may very well be true. However, we know from experience that certain things matter more than others. There are a handful of things you can really focus on that will make huge differences in the way your page ranks. The other factors are less important in the grand scheme of things.
The Six Most Important Factors That Influence Your Rankings
1) Page Title
2) Words on the page
3) Keywords in the URL
4) (Domain Links) Links to your website as a whole (number and quality of links matter)
5) (Specific Page Links) Links pointing directly at that page (quality, number, anchor text and Google PageRank of links matter)
6) Avoiding Google’s quality filters that filter out low quality pages and low quality websites
More about those factors:
1) Page titles – The page title matters a lot because, in general, the title of a page is going to be a fairly accurate description of what the page is about. So if you are targeting a specific keyword phrase with a specific page, make sure you use that keyword phrase in the page title html. That makes a huge difference. Your page title should be at least three words long and should also have the words in the right order if you want maximum impact.
2) Text on the page – The second thing you have control over that makes a huge difference is the text on the page. Search engines can read words pretty easily. If you have a page with at least several hundred words on it, then it is pretty easy for a search engine to tell what that page is about. Google simply counts the number of times each important word or each important phrase appears. They drop all the generic words like “a, an, the, so, if, are, at, etc.” But, they count the other nouns, verbs and adjectives on the page. The more times a word or phrase appears, the more likely Google is to think that the page is about that word or phrase. For instance, if the phrase “search engine optimization” is mentioned several times in different spots on your page, then that page is more likely to be about search engine optimization. I wanted this page to rank high for a certain phrase which is why I included the phrase “how to get ranked number 1 on Google” and other phrases that are closely related to that inside the main body of content on this page. Just doing that one simple thing will help the page get ranked on page one in Google and probably pretty high up there for that specific phrase.
3) Keywords in the URL – The third thing that you have control over that makes a huge difference in ranking is whether or not your keywords appear in the URL structure for the page. If you are trying to get a page to rank for a specific phrase, then it helps to have that phrase (or even just the most important words) appear in the URL. For instance, in the last example that I gave for this page, it helps me to have the words “get ranked number 1 Google” appear in the URL – http://thewebsitepromoter.com/how-to-get-ranked-number-1-on-google/
I could have shortened that to be http://thewebsitepromoter.com/ranked-number-1-google/ instead of also including the words “how – to – get” and the word “on”. Sometimes it does help to keep the URL shorter. In this case there isn’t a big difference. If the phrase was much longer than this, then I should have shortened it to just have the most important words in the URL. You also want to make sure that you have those words in the right order as they would appear when the person is typing them. Having them in the right order is important because if the words are in a different order, it might suggest that the page is about something entirely different.
About links –
Google cares about links because it looks at them as if they were votes between websites and web pages. One webpage can vote for another one by linking to it. Links are not all created equally though. Certain links are far more influential. Some links can really move your ranking higher while other links don’t seem to move it at all. A link is considered high quality from an SEO standpoint if that link has more potential to influence your rankings.
What kinds of things are likely to influence a link’s quality?
- How much Google PageRank the page has that the link originates from matters. Higher Google PageRank means the page is considered more important and more influential by Google. You can read more about Google PageRank here if you don’t know what it is.
- How many other links are there on the page and where do they link out to. Are they good sources of relevant information or are they low quality or even spam?
- Where is the link positioned on the page it comes from? Is it in the main body of text on the page? Is it in the sidebar? Is it in the footer? Where is the link positioned within that content block it is located in? Is the link the top most link? Is it lower on the page below other links?
- What words (anchor text) are used to create the hyperlink that points to your page? If it is a normal hyperlink without the rel=”nofollow” attribute, then Google will pay attention to what that anchor text is. That anchor text can influence the relevancy of that other page it links out to. You want your links to use relevant anchor text where possible without overdoing it.
- Is this page that the link comes from an authoritative source on the subject? Suppose you had a website about horses. Ideally you would want links from other websites and web pages that are somehow related to horses. If you had a page on your site that talked about some common illness that horses experience, then an ideal link would be from a page on a veterinarian’s website that links out to other pages about that illness. That veterinarian would likely be considered a trusted authority figure on that topic by both humans and by search engines.
Now let’s talk about the major ranking factors that have to do with links:
4) Domain Links – The number and quality of links pointing to your website as a whole matters to Google. They consider a website to be more link popular if it has more links pointing to its pages. Your website earns a reputation by earning links. You want links from other reputable sources because that improves your own reputation. The more reputable the websites are that link to your website makes a huge difference in how well the pages on your website tend to rank. Generally you are better off getting at least one link from as many different trustworthy websites as possible.
5) Page Specific Links – The number and quality of links that point directly at your page also matter for determining its ranking. That includes links from within your own website as well as links from other websites. If you have one particular page on your website that you want to rank really well, you can sometimes boost its ranking simply by pointing some extra links at that page from other pages within your own website. Your homepage generally has a lot of this kind of rank boosting power. You should link from your homepage to your most important pages on your website without overdoing it. Generally you don’t link to more than a handful of them from your homepage.
6) Google Quality Filters – You may have heard of the Google Panda update or the Google Penguin update. These algorithm updates are ultimately designed with the intent to improve the quality of pages in the search results. In some cases, they actually made the search results worse than they had been. According to Google though, the updates were successful at increasing overall quality.
The primary purpose of the Panda series of updates by Google was to identify websites that weren’t putting enough focus on the user experience on their website. You can read all about the Panda update on Google’s blog. Do your best to avoid tripping the Panda filter or else your website will be severely demoted in the search results.
The primary purpose of the Penguin update by Google was to stop rewarding people who were trying to force their rankings higher in the search results by just building lots and lots of links from low quality sites using the same anchor text over and over. If you did too much of it as a percentage of page links or site links, then your website ended up losing the high ranking it had prior to Penguin. Lots of people who were relying on links for that extra ranking power got hit very badly by this update.
You want lots of links to your website. Google wants you to earn lots of links for your website. They do not want you to go build them all yourself though. They want you to convince other people to link to your site because your site is so great. If you get caught building lots of links because you are stamping them out like a cookie cutter, then your website can be demoted. You have to be careful when choosing your link sources and the style of links you are getting. You have to be very careful and selective when hiring someone to help you get links. Don’t just outsource your link building to a spammer or you will likely end up getting your website penalized.
In order to get your pages ranking higher, you want to do as good of a job with the first five ranking factors listed here as you possibly can while avoiding tripping any quality filters or over-optimization filters like Panda and Penguin.
What About Social Media Links? I Thought Social Media Links Were The Key To High Rankings?
EEEEEEEEEEEEEEENT! (Sound of a buzzer going off)
Just about anywhere you go to read about how to get ranked higher on Google, someone is telling you that you need to get links from social media like Facebook, Twitter and the rest. This is misguided advice and I will explain why.
Links from social media can help you rank higher IF the person searching for your keywords also happens to be connected with (friends with) the person who “liked” your page. Otherwise, that “like” or “share” from their social media account is no different than a regular link from any other website. It isn’t any better than any other link and usually it isn’t as good as a link from some other website. There are many situations where Google can’t even see the spot where a person “liked” your page or linked to it from their social media account. They can only see that link if it comes from a public page. If you have to log into your account to see the link, then Google can’t see it because the Googlebot can’t log into that site.
Most of the links from social sites aren’t all that trusted anyway because it is incredibly easy for a person to build fake likes and links from them. If those links meaningfully boosted rankings, it would be a very easy system to manipulate. It would be even easier for spammers to manipulate than the current system of trust based inbound links. It is possible that a certain link from a social media site is helping boost the rankings of a certain page by a meaningful amount. But, it isn’t boosting the ranking because it is a social media site. It is boosting the ranking because that page is authoritative. It has absolutely zero to do with the fact that a page is on a social media website. – Zero
Social media links from influential people are a great way to help a page get publicity and possibly earn a few natural links from other websites that result from that publicity. That is all they are good for in terms of SEO benefit. There have been no conclusive, scientifically conducted studies that prove otherwise.
Will social media links be a larger ranking factor in the future? Maybe. I don’t think that is going to happen as soon as other SEO people seem to think it is going to happen though. Natural links from other trustworthy websites are far more important and a much more reliable way to judge quality in my opinion.
Understanding Why Your Competition Is Ranked High
The other thing that you are going to have to learn how to do in order to achieve a number one ranking is learn how to analyze your competition. If some other page is outranking you, it will be easier to outrank them if you understand why they are ranking as high as they are. They are ranking number one for a reason.
Suppose your page is ranking in position six in the search results for whatever keyword phrase you are targeting. Those other five pages ahead of yours are outranking you for a reason. Chances are that each one is outranking you for a slightly different reason.
Every page in the top ten search results on Google has already passed all the quality filters like Panda and Penguin so far. So the reason that one page outranks another is probably because of one of those other really important factors. Remember, the five most important are page title, words on the page, words in the URL, links pointing to the website as a whole and links pointing directly to that specific page.
All of those factors carry a lot of weight. An easy way to think about it is if you imagine that each one of those first five categories has a score attached to it. If you add up all five scores you have your total score. The page with the highest total score ranks in first place. The second highest score in second place and so on.
So you want to analyze your competition to see if they are weak in any category. Then exploit that weakness by being better than them in that category. Of course you will also need to make sure you are at least on an even level with them in the other categories too. If you are strong enough in one category you can make up for weakness in other ones.
You will notice that in competitive situations, the top ranking websites all have the keywords in the page title already. So they are already on a level playing field there. They probably have the most important one or two keywords in the URL already. You will also notice that they have the words on the page several times. Having them on the page four times compared to three times helps a little bit. It gets less and less meaningful with each additional mention of the keywords though. So, you can’t just overpower another page by having your keywords on there more times. In lightly competitive situations you might be able to. In highly competitive situations, that isn’t going to work though.
In competitive situations, top rankings are usually determined by links. The site with the most powerful links ends up winning. This is why you hear about how important links are when you are browsing around SEO blogs and SEO forums. Everyone wants powerful, high quality links.
So How Do You Outrank Your Competitors
1) Start by getting your page title right. If you are targeting a four word long or longer phrase, then make that phrase your page title exactly. That is the easiest way to convey maximum relevancy.
2) Fix the URL for the page so that the keywords appear in it in the right order.
3) Reshape your content on the page and make sure your primary keywords are scattered at least a few times throughout the page. It will be a lot easier to do that if you have lots of content on the page. If you only have a couple hundred words on the page then you are going to have a tougher time getting your keywords in there without making it look like you are stuffing them in there. Google does not like keyword stuffing. Add your keywords or synonyms for your keywords into the sub-headings on your page if you can. That helps too.
4) Get more links pointing to any page that you can on your website. Remember that the link quality matters. If you get higher quality links then you won’t need as many of them. Get as many as you can though as good links are the hardest thing to get.
5) Get more links pointing directly to the page you want to rank well. Your homepage probably has the most link juice on your website. So, point a link from your homepage to an inner page you want to get ranked high. The anchor text of the link should be the exact phrase you want that page to get ranked for. Then, also try to get other websites to link to that page too.
Don’t become overly obsessed about getting relevant anchor text with every link. Just take the link however you can get it. Remember that links are worth much more than just for the anchor text relevancy boost. If you can get a link from a trustworthy source, then by all means get it no matter what anchor text it uses.
You can only get your ranking score so high by improving your on-page score such as improving the title, fixing the URL and adding good content to the page. Beyond that you are going to have to try to get other sites to link to you. High quality links are the big difference maker.
Study each of those factors about the pages that are currently ranking higher than you are. Figure out how to be one step better than your competition wherever you can be and you will have figured out how to get your web page ranked number one in Google.
The Google symbol is a registered trademark of Google Inc. If you need professional help getting your website to rank higher, there is a link over in the right sidebar where you can contact me for help. Up in the sidebar you will also find some other in-depth articles that will teach you more about how to promote your website, how to get traffic and how to convert visitors into sales.