So last night I set out to create an arguably helpful article on how to rank higher on Google. I am not a SEO expert, I have never written an article that received more than 50 organic hits per day and I decided to try to raise my bar on this one.
I did some Adwords keyword research on the phrase “How to Rank on Google” and found that it garners around 110 United States hits per month. Not really a great phrase to test my ideas for getting lots of traffic.
Near those results, I found the terms “SEO” and “Search Engine Optimization” had thousands of hits per month.
I decided to target all three terms for my experiment. From what I understand, it should be nearly impossible to break into the results for the latter two without authority and quality backlinks.
The goal of this article is to test the algorithms and see how high this article can rank by packing in as much content rich information that is feasible and by using best practices.
Google is Like Your Parents (if you had good ones)
In many SEO circles and black hat forums, it seems that Google is the enemy. The goal is to somehow beat the search engine at its own game. This is not, however, the case and it turns out that a black-hat SEO expert is a very bad idea.
I was one of those children of Google who years ago rebelled against my parents. I stuffed keywords into image alt tags and my best practices were keyword rich meta titles and descriptions and stuffing keywords into articles.
I never got into shady link building but my other rebellious siblings certainly did. If only we had listened to our parents from the beginning. They just wanted us to be healthy and useful webmasters, writers and publishers. Point is, Google has told us all along the best way to rank.
Use all of the Google Webmaster Resources
When you are just starting out as a webmaster, it is imperative that you have signed up for Google’s services. You need a Gmail account. You need to sign up for Google Webmaster Tools. Sign up for Google Adwords and Google Analytics. Last, but not least, you need a Google Adsense account.
On YouTube make sure to add Google Webmasters channel to your favorites. Stay on top of the latest Search Engine news from the official channels. Using all of these resources is one key to high page rank.
Website Design is Key with Your SEO Endeavors
Start with an uncluttered, clean web design. Keep it simple. Adding tons of fun plugins and gadgets will only slow your site down and open doors for malicious hackers. Your site must be responsive, meaning when a visitor is on a smartphone they see a mobile designed version of your site that doesn’t have to be zoomed in to read the text.
Aim for an easily readable text and contrast on your site. Avoid fonts that are too small and strain the eyes. In my opinion, feedthebot.com has a very “easy on the eyes” site. They also have some great articles on SEO.
- Visit PageSpeed Insights and check your site
- Make sure you have an SSL certificate if you are selling from your site
- Optimize your images
- Have social network buttons on your page
- Read 15 Tips to Speed Up Your Website
- Use clear, readable fonts and modern contrasts
- Mobile friendly sites will rank better
- Use a Content Delivery Network
- Check out Make the Web Faster!
- Use a good caching plugin. For WordPress, WP Fastest Cache is an easy-to-use, lightweight plugin
- If you hire a web designer make sure they are also an SEO expert
- Forget the annoying “Sign up for our newsletter” pop-ups. Nothing makes me not want to sign up more…
Content Creation is still king, right? (say that over and over)
Writer’s block is a bummer. It doesn’t have to be that way. I remember back in school how I always dreaded making an outline. For some reason, it was like asking me to make a business plan. I always had no idea where to start.
Try searching for something you are interested in.Check out the articles that are on top of the results. Read through them and see if you find anything missing that you would add. Start writing ideas down on paper or a whiteboard.
Don’t try to organize them yet, just get them down as they come up. Keep researching your subject and keep brainstorming every aspect of the subject all the while writing down ideas.
When you have had enough, now is the time for that outline. Take your ideas and group them together. Decide the order of the groups.
Now go and research the authorities on each idea. Start filling in the blanks and putting this information into your own words.
- Never pad your articles with fluff but aim to have 1000+ word count of quality information if possible
- Jump out of your niche if you are having writer’s block and just have fun researching something new
- Go and browse Pinterest for some article ideas
- Share your ideas/outline with your family and colleagues and see what ideas they have to add
- Use RebelMouse, Storify, and Feedly to help curate ideas
- Try and find a quiet place to work!
- Be honest
- Use spellcheck
- Ideally, don’t try to write while under a deadline or while other distractions are on your mind
- Never copy/paste content from other sites. If you quote someone, keep it short and always put a link underneath to the original source (don’t forget the quote marks)
- Make sure any images you use have a nice caption linking back to the owner or source
- Always follow Google’s best practices
- Re-visit your content and add more relevant information from time to time
- As an SEO expert, you will write for your readers and not the search engines
- Don’t look at your article as a big picture. Just take small bites.
- Forget the odds of your keyword competition. Just write a really great article and shoot for the stars.
Search Engine Optimization Tips (ah, that is what we are here for)
Ready to be a SEO expert? Let’s start with Meta Title and Meta Description. Very important for a high page rank. If you are not familiar with the Meta Title and Description here is a screenshot to show how Google uses them:
These descriptions help Google and searchers find the pages they are looking for. It is of utmost importance that these both have the keywords that your searcher is looking for.
Let’s have a look at a screenshot of what will be used for this article’s (the one you are now reading) Meta Title Tag and Meta Description:
As you can see I want searchers to find this article when they query “What is SEO” or “How to Rank on Google” or “What is Search Engine Optimization” Using these keyword research tools showed that for “SEO” there were 90,500 average U.S. searches per month. For “Search Engine Optimization” there were 22,200 average U.S. searches per month. And for the exact term “How to Rank on Google” there were 110 average monthly U.S. searches.
Linking Out: Do_Follow, No_Follow and Target_Blank
Link out early and often. If you find content that someone worked hard to put together and you borrow from it, then support their hard work with a link. What comes around goes around on the web. Always use keyword anchor text to describe your internal and external links.
Bad example: “Find more good seo practices here.” Good example: “Here is a great website on SEO best practices.” It is a very important practice to interlink your own articles together. These are called internal links and should be treated just like good keyword anchor text external links.
The rel=target_blank attribute makes links your readers click on open in new tabs. Most readers are savvy enough to know how to open links in a new tab without your help. Readers that aren’t savvy are bombarded with new confusing windows and tabs.
Anymore, I just think it is rude to dictate how a link should open for your reader. Remember, if you love your audience, set them free… If they don’t know how to open tabs from links they will use their back button. If they don’t come back it was never meant to be.
Somewhat hotly debated is the choice to have follow or no_follow links. I would recommend that you let all of your links to sources you trust be left alone, defaulting to “do_follow”. No_follow means I need to link to this source but I’m not sure I trust the other site.
Here is a video of Matt Cutts of Google mentioning no_follow links. Albeit, the video is becoming somewhat dated, I believe this is still Google’s position:
Keep a Healthy Ratio of Ads and Relevant Content
Thin drive-by articles without any substance but full of ads just stink. I know, I am guilty of creating them but it is not within best practices.
Fortunately, they are eventually being kicked to page 20 on the search engine rankings or they never really do that well. It is a better use of your time to spend 8 hours (or days) writing a researched, content-rich article than to write 5 quick buy-this-on-Amazon articles.
Sure you might get long-tail traffic and sales from some but they will always be scraps for little dogs (don’t run with them).
If you want to write articles around selling items, follow the same content creation steps above and really pack your article with meat. Give your reader as much information as you can dig up. It’s the difference between a hobby and a job. Jobs usually pay more.
On the subject of ads. Try not to have many advertisements/affiliate links, i.e. Adsense, above the fold. This means that when the page first loads and before the visitor scrolls down, there is not a barrage of advertising showing on the page.
Social Buttons – Likes vs Links and Comment Systems
Gotta have these, right? Make sure that at the least you have social bookmarking buttons at the bottom of your page so a visitor can decide if your article is worthy of sharing.
Not long ago, Bing announced (and I figure Google feels the same way) that social sharing would affect search results. After all, if it is not worth sharing, it is possibly not worth putting too high on the search results.
With all the link drama that goes on, social sharing may become more important than static links, although likes and tweets are a version of links.
I have recently switched all of my sites over to the Disqus comment system. The reason is that from what I have read, Disqus is good at fighting spam. The main benefit I see from Disqus is that it can be easy for anyone to post.
If a visitor has to log in and create an account and wait for a verification email and blah, blah, they are not very likely to stick around and be a part of the discussion. Disqus is responsive for mobile devices and makes it easy to jump in and comment.
The Importance of Alt Tags on Images
When you are visually impaired you can have a “screen reader” browser that lets you “listen” to the description of an image.
The image Alt attribute, or alt tags, are what is read by the browser. Think of this from now on when you are filling out your image alt tags text fields. How can you describe this image to a visually impaired visitor? Here is an example:
The alt attribute text for this image could be something like “image of a jaguar cat at the Belize zoo the cat is walking towards you with a lush jungle behind”
A really bad idea for the alt text on this image would be to leave it blank or choose something like “best way to rank on google”.
More Thoughts on Search Engine Optimization
- Use H1, H2 and H3 effectively. If it is prudent, have your keywords in those headlines
- Write a thorough article with a healthy length
- Do quote and link to authorities on your subject
- Make your meta titles, descriptions and content reflect how users search (example: “What is SEO?” and not “This is SEO”)
- Definitely, use descriptive anchor text on your internal links and make sure you have a great menu. Make it very easy for search engine spiders to crawl your site. Make your site a web
- Don’t trap readers on a landing page with no navigation
- Don’t buy into SEO hype. If something doesn’t feel honest and right to you, then don’t do it
- Avoid these Top 10 shameful SEO mistakes
- Be patient. Sometimes it takes a while for a site or article to settle into the search results and rank higher on Google
How Small Businesses can Rank Higher on Google
- As a small, local business it is imperative that the business be listed with Google Places
- Establish some early links with sites like Yelp, Hot Frog, Merchant Circle and Angie’s List
- Set up a Facebook page for your business
- Have a blog for your business and keep it updated with at least one article per month
- Set up an Adwords campaign and make sure your local ad appears in first or second place
- Aim for the largest site possible. Avoid one or two-page local business sites
- Read The Beginners Guide to SEO
- Rank higher on Google by always following the best practices and avoiding an unproven SEO expert
(* Changes to this article as an on-going quest for rank…)
- Changed the title, url and description to focus on the keywords “Rank Higher on Google” and “SEO Expert”
- Added the focus keywords “best practices” to the article
- Made sure that these three focus keywords appeared at least five times throughout the article (not for stuffing but to make certain Google knows what this article is about).
- Ditched sidebars reduced ads broke paragraphs up into 3 line chunks deleted a bunch of junk pages.
- Make sure to check out these 50 awesome tools to improve your writing brought to you by The Freelance Effect!