There’s no business without marketing, but not every method of promotion is equally successful.
If you overly rely on paid advertising, you could find yourself with a dent in the budget and no means of generating traffic unless you’re constantly running ads. It’s not sustainable. Especially when you consider that you could be getting free traffic from a much better source:
Whenever your customers want something, they don’t turn to Facebook or Instagram. They turn to Google, which receives over 63,000 searches per second.
Your best option is appearing on that first page, by any means necessary. It may not be a fast process – getting there requires a lot of work – but once you’ve made it, all you need to do is make sure you stay there.
You’ll be getting free traffic and leads who are ready to become customers.
So how do you get on the first page of Google?
Let’s find out!
Related: Website Migration Checklist
1. Introduction to Search Engine Optimization
The best method of appearing on the first page of Google is search engine optimization (SEO).
While it can sound like highly technological, it’s not. It’s primarily a marketing method that increases the visibility of your site on search engines so you can get more qualified, free traffic.
Now, we’d love to promise you there are shortcuts to getting on the first page.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any.
You can just hack your way to the first page of your desired search results. People have tried and Google learned how to stop them.
What you can do instead is learn the rules and play by the book (with a few aces up your sleeve).
So when you reach page one, you’ll be there to stay.
Before you start optimizing your site, it’s important to know how Google serves search results.
There are three important ranking factors that we will cover for beginners:
- User experience
Other search engines’ ranking factors are very similar to Google’s so you’ll be optimizing for them at the same time.
When you’re wondering how to get on the first page of Google, user experience should be the first thing you improve.
For Google, good user experience means:
- Fast site (the majority of searchers won’t wait longer than three seconds for your site to load)
- Good site architecture and structure
- Visitors clicking through to your site from the results, and staying there for a long time
The second ranking factor you should pay attention to is content.
After all, it is what makes your customers click when they find your content on Google.
We’ll cover the specifics of creating optimized content in the following chapters, but know that it relies both on quality and quantity, as well as keyword research.
Google “sees” your site through links and as links.
If you have a lot of links from high-quality sites with high domain authority, Google will perceive you as valuable in your niche.
Consequently, if Google considers your site as valuable to searchers, your rankings will rise, getting you to the first page.
On-Page and Off-Page SEO
There are two avenues in search engine optimization: on-page SEO and off-page SEO.
On-page SEO deals with everything about your site that you can control:
- Site & Page speed
- Site architecture
- User experience
Off-page SEO, on the other hand, deals with factors that occur off your site:
- Domain authority
- Social media
Both of these categories are equally important.
You could have incredible content but if no one’s mentioning it or linking to it, you won’t get to the first page of Google.
Likewise, you could have the world’s fastest site but if visitors click ‘X’ as soon as they land on your site, you’re not going to rise in rankings.
Key SEO Terminology
We’re going to use some of the following terms in this guide.
- Backlink – Every link from a different website to your website. They vary in quality. For example, if the New York Times links to your website, your domain authority will rise. However, if a spammy site links to you, your domain authority could decrease.
- Domain authority – A score developed by Moz that evaluates the importance of a website in an industry or within a topic. It’s based on the number and quality of links. The higher your score, the better will your ability to rank be.
- Indexing – The process of adding websites to Google search. It’s performed by Google’s bots (i.e. Googlebots).
- Internal links – Links from your own pages to your own pages (for example, a link on the homepage directing your visitors to product listings).
- Ranking – The placement of your pages in search engine results pages.
- SERP – Search engine results page.
- Search query – The query people type into Google search (e.g. “The best TV 2019”).
2. How to Get on the First Page of Google by Optimizing Your Site
Before we dive into keyword research and content creation, there are a few things you should know about technical SEO.
First of all, Google no longer ranks sites based on their desktop versions. The version of your site you see on your laptop matters less today.
Instead, Google uses the mobile-first index.
This means that it evaluates the quality of your site based on the mobile version of it. This is why it’s important to have a responsive site (a site that seamlessly adapts to the device it’s being viewed on).
User experience should be as good on mobile as it is on desktop.
You can check if your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile Friendly Test tool.
With that in mind, there are two things you should pay particular attention to if you want to get on the first page of Google:
You can test the speed of your pages and your website with Google’s PageSpeed Insights. Any score above 85 means that you don’t have to worry about your page speed.
However, if you score below 85, you can do improve by doing some of the following things:
- Optimize your images – Resize your images before uploading them to your site. Try to stay in the 100-200kb range.
- Remove and minify code you don’t need – This is something you may need your web developer for but once you’ve done it, your site will be a lot faster. Minify HTML, CSS and Java, and compress other code bigger than 150 bytes.
- Use a good hosting provider. Sometimes, a hosting provider can slow down your site. Especially if you’re hosting your site on a shared server. Make sure you understand what your hosting provider’s TTFB (time to first byte) is and choose the fastest option.
- Reduce redirects. Use direct links instead of redirects, especially if you redirect visitors from desktop versions to mobile pages.
Related: How to Setup NGINX 301 Redirects
Site Architecture and Structure
The golden rule is: don’t bury anything important more than two link-levels deep.
Visitors should be able to access important pages on your site from your homepage or your menu. They shouldn’t have to make more than two clicks to reach them.
In general, every page on your site should be four clicks away at most.
When you make your important pages easily accessible to visitors, you’re signaling to Google that these are your priority pages.
Consequently, it treats them with a higher priority when displaying search engine results.
Pay attention to internal links.
In menus, you should always follow the broader-to-narrower categorization principle.
For example, your menu could branch out into product categories. From there, product categories would branch out into subtypes.
Hyperlink words that correspond to the searcher intent and describe the linked page’s content.
3. How to Perform Keyword Research
There’s no way around it: keyword research is critical.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complicated. There are surefire ways of using keyword research to get on the first page of Google.
Search engines sort and rank results based on their relevance to search queries.
For example, you could have a post titled: “15 Best Email Marketing Tools of 2019.”
If you have appropriate domain authority, your result would appear among the first when someone types in the following search query: “Best email marketing tool 2019.”
Because it perfectly responds to the query, i.e. it satisfies a searcher’s intent.
Conversely, if someone searched for: “Email marketing tool automation,” your post would not show up unless you heavily featured tools with automation capabilities.
Make sure all the content you write is relevant to the topic.
When performing keyword research, pay attention to the following three factors:
- Search volume
How to Find Keywords
The best way to find keywords is by understanding your audience and your industry. You should come up with a list of terms used to describe your product or your service, and their synonyms.
Then, turn to Google Keyword Planner. Even though it’s made for Google Ads, it’ll still be very useful for SEO keyword research.
You should enter your seed keyword in the Keyword Planner. It’s the most basic form of your keyword.
For example, if you sell leather shoes, your seed keyword would be “leather shoes.”
From there, Google is going to suggest related keywords.
For example, this could be “high quality leather shoes” or “leather shoes made in the US.”
If you want more ideas on keywords, you can use AnswerThePublic, or browse social media and message boards (i.e. Reddit and Quora) to see what kind of questions and terms your potential customers are using.
Here’s an image from AnswerThePublic with the phrase “dog.”
After you’ve found your keywords, it’s time to validate them. There is no use writing content for keywords that no one looks for.
Fortunately, Google Keyword Planner will show you the search volume of keywords, i.e. how many people perform search queries with the keyword you want to use.
Now, the search volume can validate your keyword choice and show you how big the market is. If people search for that keyword often, you’ll have better chances of ranking highly for it – in theory.
In practice: the bigger the market, the bigger the competition.
Keyword difficulty is a term that describes how difficult it is to rank for a certain keyword.
However, don’t confuse keyword difficulty with keyword competition that you’ll see in Google Keyword Planner.
Keyword Planner’s competition will show you how many people are bidding on ads, and you want to get organic results.
The best way to understand the keyword difficulty of your target keywords is by analyzing the results that are already on the first page.
The difficulty largely depends on your competition:
- Their domain authority vs Your domain authority
- Their content quality vs Your content quality
- Their page authority (number of their backlinks for the pages appearing in SERPs) vs Your page authority
Most tools analyze these factors and search volume to define keyword difficulty of your target keywords.
In some cases, it’s best to assess keyword difficulty on your own, with a little help from common sense.
For example, the generic keywords are the hardest to rank for.
Try to rank for “pizza” and it’ll be nearly impossible. But try to rank for “best pizza place in Maine,” and it’ll be more achievable.
This isn’t just because of the competition.
It’s also because of searcher intent.
The Importance of Searcher Intent
Whenever someone types in a search query into Google, they come there with the intention of doing something.
Some people want more information, and others want to buy.
Whichever the case, both types of people are looking for certain results.
In order to serve the best possible search results, Google uses searcher intent signals. This way, it’s able to satisfy different searcher intents instead of displaying generic results.
And you should do the same.
According to Google, there are four main types of intents:
- Informational: The searcher wants to get more information (e.g. “Best email marketing tools”)
- Navigational: The searcher wants to find a website (e.g. “Facebook”)
- Local: The searcher wants to visit a location in-person (e.g. “Sushi restaurant near me”)
- Transactional: The searcher wants to do something (e.g. “Shoes for sale”)
Someone who wants to learn more about smartphone technology wouldn’t click on a smartphone buyer’s guide if Google showed them that content.
But they would click on a Wiki page.
Your goal is analyzing your keywords with searcher intent in mind. This way, you can satisfy their intent with your content.
So how do you stand out?
With a little help from…
There are three main factors that will decide whether you make it to the first page of Google:
- Searcher intent
- Search volume
- Keyword difficulty
Big, simple keywords have a lot of competition. SERPs for them display dozens of results from websites with high domain and page authority.
You’re going to have a hard time trying to rank for them.
Additionally, they don’t satisfy any particular searcher intent.
Instead, target long-tail keywords.
Long-tail keywords are keywords which contain more than three words. The best thing about long-tail keywords is that they can intercept the searcher intent more accurately.
Think about it:
Can you really personalize your content for people who just search for “leather shoes”?
What do you really know about them? They could be anyone. Male, female, young, old, hippies, CEOs…
But if you focus on a long-tail keyword such as: “handmade leather shoes for women,” you’ll have plenty to go on.
You can create content and rank for that keyword and you’ll be more successful. You’ll be able to personalize for that particular target audience and stand out among the results. Especially if you create great content.
Additionally, long-tail keywords don’t have as much competition. The sites and pages trying to rank for them don’t have extremely high domain authority.
You can still find long-tail keywords that have decent search volume.
In fact, they make up for the majority of searches on Google.
4. Creating a Link Building Strategy
If you choose the right keywords and optimize your site, you’ll have set up yourself for success.
But if you want your SEO results to be sustainable in the long run (i.e. if you want to stay on the first page of Google for as long as possible), you’re going to need to acquire backlinks
What are Backlinks?
Backlinks are the links from a different website to your website.
The higher domain authority, and traffic of the other website, the more their link will affect your ranking.
Of course, you will acquire links naturally. Other sites will link to you when they see your content in the search results.
But it’s not enough to just passively acquire them. In order to get on the first page of Google as soon as possible, you’re going to need to be proactive.
What is Domain and Page Authority?
Page authority is the importance of every page displayed in SERPs.
It’s defined by two things:
- Content quality (as demonstrated by searchers’ interaction with the page)
- Trust and value in the industry (as demonstrated by the number and quality of backlinks)
Page authority is an artificial metric created by Moz.
However, it compiles all the other ranking factors into one neat metric that can help you understand your chances of ranking for a particular keyword.
Now, page authority is per-page. Every piece of content you post has its own page authority.
Domain authority, on the other hand, defines the value of your entire website.
Just like page authority, this is an artificial metric based on actual metrics Google uses. Most notably, DA is calculated from linking root domains and number of total links.
If you have plenty of links for individual pages, they will be compiled to form your domain authority score.
But in addition to the number of links, Google also values the domain authority of the sites that are linking to you.
For example, a backlink from the New York Times would be more valuable than a backlink from a blogger whose site isn’t visited by more than five people every month.
And one link from NYT would increase your domain and page authority more than ten links from amateur bloggers.
Editorial links are the links that are going to bring you the best results in terms of SEO.
Now, you will acquire them naturally but it’s much better to speed up the process with outreach.
First, determine the most powerful domains which have already linked to content similar to yours. If you want to take a shortcut, use BuzzSumo.
Then, get in touch with those websites and ask them for either a guest-blogging opportunity, or ask them to include a link to your content in their articles.
This is a great option if they have outdated resources.
Content freshness is important for both SEO and searchers, so if you send a publication a new and updated resource, they’ll be more likely to include it.
Additionally, you should focus on reaching out to websites that have published round-ups.
For example, lists like “Best Automation Software 2019” would be a great fit if you want to promote your own automation software.
Not only will this improve your domain authority, but it’ll also drive more immediate traffic and sales.
A good internal linking structure is a great way for Googlebots to properly index and rank your pages. Additionally, it improves user experience and keeps searchers on your site longer.
And when searchers dwell on your site, their behavior sends a signal to Google that your site is valuable. If this happens often enough, Google will adjust your ranking.
The best way to optimize your internal links is to link to your other content.
For example, if you have an article on dog grooming, you may want to link to other articles on grooming different breeds from that original article.
Google will also use internal links to understand the relationship between different content on your site, and the depth with which you cover a topic.
5. Content Creation
When it comes to content, the old saying is true: “Content is king.”
However, the sheer quantity of it isn’t enough to rank highly in the SERPs.
Likewise, just one great article won’t do much.
The trick is in finding balance between quality and quantity.
According to HubSpot’s content frequency research, companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got almost 3.5X more traffic than companies that published between 0 – 4 monthly posts.
Why is this the case?
It’s not because of Google, per se.
Google won’t take your frequent updates as a signal that you’re producing great content. It won’t adjust its ranking and boost you to the first page.
Instead, you’ll be able to target more long-tail keywords.
You can’t squeeze all of them into a single blog post. You’d get an illegible content piece full of keywords. Visitors wouldn’t read it, and Google would penalize you.
But you can create a topic cluster and cover a topic in depth without making a mess out of your content.
You can’t produce short, uninteresting posts and expect to rank highly. You almost certainly won’t.
Instead, you should create content that is:
The best way to do it is by taking a look at your competition. Especially those that rank on the first page.
Take a look at the search results for your long-tail keywords. Analyze those posts and identify gaps in the content:
- Is there something that those posts didn’t cover?
- Did readers mention something they’d like to know about in the comments?
- Have there been any new developments?
Make a list of what you could do better, and then do it.
This is called the skyscraper technique. It’s incredibly effective at creating in-depth resources that both Google and your leads value.
Additionally, it’s much easier to get backlinks for in-depth resources than a smattering of 500-word blog posts.
Finally, don’t forget about headlines and meta descriptions.
They’re what makes searchers click on your results in the first place, so use headlines to catch their attention and meta descriptions to reinforce their intent.
6. Marketing Your Content
Getting on the first page of Google is a long game. You can’t expect results overnight.
Instead, you need to start generating the buzz around your content with other forms of promotion. Consider this a short-term strategy that will keep you up and running before SEO kicks in.
And because you’ll be promoting your content, you’ll have much better chances of attracting backlinks and consequently, improving your authority and rankings.
When you can’t reach them organically, reach them with paid advertising.
Set up a Google Ads campaign.
You don’t have to target major keywords where bids can be incredibly high. Major keywords are still the worst way to get conversions. They satisfy no one’s search intent in particular.
Instead, use your long-tail keyword knowledge to intercept searcher intent and offer better ads to everyone looking for that particular query.
Which ad do you think people will click on when they look up handmade leather shoes: an ad talking about shoes in general, or an ad which tells them where to find actual handmade leather shoes?
A lot of companies use long-tail keywords to promote their products, but they don’t satisfy searcher intent.
A searcher looks for a comparison of best leather shoe companies and they see ads saying: “Our shoes are the best! Come buy them!”
They’re not going to click on that.
They want comparison. That’s their intent.
And since your competitors aren’t satisfying the searcher intent, you can.
If we take our previous leather shoe example, you could create a buyer’s guide and promote it with Google Ads.
You’ll get a much higher click-through rate because you’ll be giving people what they need.
Don’t underestimate the power of social signals when it comes to SEO.
The main reason for this is that, when you promote your content on social networks, you’ll generate buzz about it.
Buzz means people, some of which will certainly link to your articles.
The second reason is: Google has started tracking linkless brand mentions.
Even if you don’t have backlinks yet, Google is monitoring your reputation online.
If the bots “notice” you’re interacting with your customers and they’re mentioning your brand, they’ll take it as a signal that you’re important.
So re-share your content frequently, even if you’re already experiencing SEO results.
Word of Mouth
We’re seeing an important shift in how Google handles search results.
They’re no longer uniformed.
Instead, they vary based on the searcher’s intent and location.
Quality is becoming more and more important.
Google even uses human content raters for that. They place more value on expertise, authority, and trust.
And its AI is learning.
Linkless brand mentions, among other recent changes in Google algorithms, have proven that word of mouth isn’t just a powerful marketing tactic.
It’s a powerful SEO tactic, as well.
So if you want to get on the first page of Google, don’t forget about your existing customers. Encourage them to talk about you online and refer your friends.
The best way to do it is with email marketing.
Not to mention that you can promote your content with it, as well.
While getting on the first page of Google can seem like an art – it’s not.
Yes, you can fine-tune some details. If you have access to original research or any other competitive advantage, use it.
(Your competitors certainly are.)
But you can also succeed by following the formula that’s proven itself to be effective every single time:
- Use long-tail keywords
- Understand what your leads are searching for
- Create useful content
- Promote your content
Your page authority will rise with every single share. And as your page authority rises, so will your domain authority.
In time, people will come to you asking:
“How can I get on the first page of Google?”