As per a study done by Infront Webworks, websites ranked on the first page of Google for any keywords receive 95% of all web traffic while the subsequent pages share the remaining 5 percent.
Ranking on the first page of Google requires optimizing your pages for both search engine bots and humans, which involves both on-page and off-page SEO.
If you want to Improve Google Rankings, there are several steps you can undertake.
Today, I will cover the basic steps that many people ignore, that have a great impact on the ranking of a site.
Step 1- Understand Your Google Ranking Algorithm:
I could have opted to jump into more advanced SEO strategies but I want to start from the most basic step because I want to set you up for long-term success.
Google changes its algorithm now and then but these changes are not publicly announced.
However, irrespective of these change, the key algorithms do not change.
Most of the information online on SEO ranking factors are just speculation from professionals.
After all, if the algorithms were clear and everyone knew how to rank on the first page of search result pages, Google would not succeed in its quest to rank the best sites on the first page. Anyone would find their way to rank highest.
This would greatly compromise Google’s mission to rank best sites to their customers.
To understand Google’s algorithm, you need to understand the following algorithm updates;
- An update on sites with mobile-friendly designs being favored and penalizing sites that didn’t comply with this update (2015)
- In July 2014, an update was made to integrate local search resultssuch as Google Maps
- Hummingbird (2013)- this was meant to understand the intent of a user instead of matching literal words they just typed
- Penguin (April 2012)- this was targeting sites that use unnatural links to boost their rankings
So, how can you keep up with all these changes and updates?
Moz’s Google Algorithm Change History is one of the best databases you can use. You will find updates in chronological order.
The Webmaster and Google Webmaster Central are other resources too.
Step 2- Assessing Your Current Ranking:
The first step to improving your Google ranking is to know where you currently stand.
This also applies to a newer site.
To do this, you can use various resources and tools.
SERPs.com is one of the sites you can use to check your site ranking.
You can use this tool to see how the specific keywords you have targeted ranks both in Google and Yahoo and desktop or mobile.
This tool will show you;
- Where your site ranks for a specific keyword
- Websites on the first page of Google ranking for the same specific keywords as yours
- Average monthly searches of the keywords you have targeted
- Average cost-per-click for the keywords
After you check your site’s ranking, check its speed as this is another major ranking factor Google uses.
Slow sites have lower chances of ranking high as Google see your inability to convert new customers.
Even if you were ranking high and something happened that slowed down your site, you will be punished no matter the Meta description, on-Page SEO, or title tags that you have integrated.
That’s why I advise you to run your site’s speed test.
Some of the tools you can use to test your site’s speed include;
- WebPage Test
- Google PageSpeed Insights
- Pingdom Website Speed Test
- YSlow browser extension
Check page load time as well.
The optimal load time is under 2 seconds for mobile devices.
Anything above 4 seconds is detrimental to your site and could cause you to lose significant traffic.
Check your site’s health.
Diagnosing your site doesn’t stop at site’s speed and page load time; you need to assess the health of your site before you begin optimizing it for search engines.
If you are wondering whether Google has banned or de-indexed your site, you can confirm this through multiple tools.
One such tool is MxToolBox Domain Health Report Tool.
It can help you check up to 5 different issues including blacklist, mail server, DNS, web server, and general site problems.
For penalties, check Website Penalty Indicator toolby FE International.
You also need to check domain age to know the age of the sites you are competing with. Sites with older domains are hard to beat than newer sites.
Step 3- Track vital metrics of your site:
Here are other parameters you need to assess;
=> Organic Traffic:
- Knowing how many visitors come to your site via Google will help you gauge if your efforts are to rank your sites higher on search engines are bearing fruits.
- To find out the number of visitors coming to your site via Google, you need to log in to Google Analytics account and check the acquisition channel report.
=> Organic Traffic Conversion:
- Besides analyzing organic traffic to your site, it is worth noting the keywords generating the most traffic to your site.
- SERP scan will help you find these easily and quickly.
- It will show you keywords that sent traffic to your site in the last 1 year.
- The tool also shows you SEO keyword performance chart.
=> Ranking For Commercial Keywords:
- One major mistake you can make is failing to give enough time on your commercial keywords.
- This is because they are the ones that make money.
- To benefit from your efforts, you need to understand the difference between informational and commercial keywords.
- If all the keywords you have are informational, you will generate organic traffic but you will find it hard to convert visitors to buyers.
- The reason being that your visitors are only looking for answers to their questions.
Examples of informational keywords include;
- How to keywords
- Free eBook download
- Top 10 free eBooks
Visitors using these keywords are not in buying mood.
However, visitors using keywords like; Top 10 SEO plugins, Best WordPress software application, or SEO experts in NY are probably searching for things they can buy.
Commercial keywords tend to have a better conversion, and for them to do well, you can add the following words either as prefix or suffix to the rest of your keyword phrases; review, buy, discount, deal, coupon, purchase, order, or shipping.
Step 4- Ensure Your Site Is Mobile Friendly:
The number of visitors on search engines stands up at 60% and this figure continues to grow.
While most algorithms keeps changing, Google has maintained that of mobile-friendliness of website.
If your site is not mobile friendly, then you could be in for a penalty.
Just type your site’s URL on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and click “Run Test.”
You will get a clear answer together with pages that have loading issues.
This will also reveal the pages where robots.txt or redirection errors were found.
Another tool you can use is Google’s Search Console that has a Mobile Usability Report that will show you your site’s mobile usability issues.
Here are a couple of tips you can use to make your site more user-friendly;
- Getting a quick fix through Duda Mobile, Mobify, or bMobilized
- Using plugins such as WPtouch for WordPress, Responsivizer for Joomla, or ThemeKey for Drupal.
- Ensure your site has a responsive web design and is following RWD best practices. Add the Meta viewport tag to page’s heads to tell browsers that pages will work well on different devices
- Ensure your Google My Business Profile is comprehensive and up to date as Google is continuing to cater to hyper-local search. This is the connection of local and mobile search. The aim being to ensure brands and consumers connect as quickly and smoothly as possible. This also applies for other local listing sites such as Facebook, Yelp, and more.
Step 5- Diagnose and Fix Issues That Have Led To Penalties:
Since you now understand where your site ranks and have tracked important metrics, it’s time to examine your site thoroughly for any penalties.
This is crucial because it doesn’t make sense to build links or promote an unhealthy site.
In the past (until 2012), spam links propelled sites to higher rankings on search results.
However, after recent Google updates, spam links don’t work anymore. In fact, it will hurt your ranking.
If you use them, you will be penalized instead of improving your Google rankings.
That’s why you need to employ realistic strategies when generating links to your site.
Links should be natural and should look natural.
To analyze inbound links to your site, here are several link analysis tools one can use;
With these tools, you will get to know the following important elements;
- Unique active backlinks- these are links that have an indirect or direct effect on your Google ranking. If marked “unique”, you know that they come from different IP address and are therefore natural.
- Nofollow links- these were introduced to stop spam blog comments that artificially manipulated rankings. You need to mix nofollow links (links with no ranking value) and dofollow links (links that add and pass value to search engines)
- Link influence score- this shows the influence links from a website has on search engine rankings. The higher the score of a link, the better.
- Anchor text- this is the text that becomes your points and links to your page. You need to diversify your anchor text to stay safe from penalties.
Here are low-quality links that Google Penguin 2.0 highlighted;
- Most site-wide links
- Links coming from Pro or PR-n/a websites
- Links from sites using the same IP class address
- Links from web pages that has a lot of external links
- Links from referring domain names with very little traffic
Two of the best tools that can help you identify unhealthy links include Linkquidator and Backlinks
Remember that you need to export the list of unhealthy links so that you can refer to them later.
Also, when you discover spam links to your site, don’t rush to remove the page; it is the link that you remove to avoid penalties.
There are two ways to remove links;
 Request for manual link removal- this is where you contact the site owner where the links are coming from and ask them to either remove them or add a nofollow tag to them.
You can also contact the person who may have placed the links to your site and ask them to remove them.
This applies when you had hired someone to build the links for you.
 Use Google disavow links tool- this should be your last resort after you have failed to get the unhealthy links manually removed. Google, just like you, cannot remove the links but they will stop passing value from such links
Another option is to diversify anchor text distribution as this will play a key role in how your site ranks.
Diversifying anchor text will enable you to have a natural link profile.
When distributing anchor text, which in essence looks at how keywords are spread when building links, consider the following types:
- Exact match- does your anchor text match your target keywords?
- Phrase- does your anchor text contain keyword phrase in it?
- Brand name-does your anchor text has your brand name in it?
- URL- this is link building with your whole URL
- Keyword branded-this involves combining your anchor text with target keyword for your site
To be on the safe side avoid over usage of keywords in your anchor text and also irrelevant links.
Step 6- Improving Your Google Rankings with Keyword Research:
After getting rid of unnatural links, you can now concentrate on on-page SEO.
To have an effective marketing strategy, you need to conduct an in-depth keyword research.
Your efforts will not bear optimal fruits if you fail to understand how it works.
The most important thing to understand is that you need to learn how your audience finds what you are offering.
Know the keywords your target audience is using to find your site.
A good tool to identify keywords is to use Google Keyword Planner.
By doing keyword research, you will have information about what your target audience want to know.
This can guide in content creation and writing headlines.
You will know their intent and how they want their answers presented.
Keyword research will also help you identify both commercial and informational keywords.
When doing keyword research, remember to look for long-tail keywords as well as spy on your competitors to know the keywords they are ranking for.
Google Keyword Planner will give you a lot of information about the keywords your competitors have targeted.
This will help you come up with a strategy to overtake them such as boosting the keywords they have not ranked correctly.
After identifying the keywords to target, come up with an in-depth post integrating all of them.
Step 7- On-Page SEO:
On-page SEO involves a couple of things. Here a few considerations;
- Optimize your title tags- title tags help your site perform exemplary well. Make sure they are unique and descriptive. Avoid using similar keywords on your title tags to avoid penalties and diversifying opportunities. Also, avoid all-caps titles
- Create a search engine sitemap- this tells Google bots about how you have organized your site
There are many on-page SEO factors you need to put into considerations. These are just a few ones.
Step 8- Use Your Target Keywords to Create Unique, Engaging Content:
I have discussed about keyword research and touched slightly on keyword placement, and now it’s time to put that into practice.
The aim of doing keyword research and learning about placement is to create content that incorporates these keywords and answer questions your audience has.
By optimizing for informational or commercial keywords, you will be improving your ranking as a resourceful site.
This will attract audience and gets your content shared widely because it is resourceful.
When creating content around your keywords, make sure it is data-driven and has factual data for you to appear authoritative.
Also, use story-telling strategy and write shareable headlines.
Your headlines should have some numbers for them to capture your audience attention.
Step 9- Build natural links:
Here are some of the ways you can use to build links and types of links that you need:
- Anchor text linking- these are simple links appearing within your content. You use this strategy when you want to rank for specific keywords. To be on the safe side, mix your target keywords with generic keywords in your anchor text.
- Image links- use your target keywords in the image’s alt-text box and when they will be indexed, you will get a link to your site.
- Editorial links- create shareable content and you will earn links that will greatly improve your ranking.
- Scale link building-diversify your links for them to appear natural to avoid being penalized by Google.
To wind up this section, write great, in-depth content that will gain links from other sites in your niche.
I hope the key strategies we have discussed here will improve your Google rankings and help your site perform well.
You will need time to truly understand the desires and needs of your target audience and do your research to know the long-tail keywords to target.
With this information, you can create great content that will dominate search engine.