With the data suggesting that there are more than 6 billion Google searches each day and that 91.5% of the total clicks go to websites listed on the first page of Google, it’s no surprise that the first page is a popular place to be. But how can you make sure your business appears there?
There are actually many ways to appear on the first page of Google – from paid listings through AdWords, to local listings on Google My Business, to news listings for certain queries. But when you are looking to appear on the first page, the primary place to start is with the organic listings. These listings appear on every single Google search results page, and show 7 to 10 webpages that are both relevant to the search query and well-structured for search engine optimization, or SEO. Since these listings make up the majority of first page results, we’ll focus on the process behind trying to get your webpages ranked in this very important space.
As with most things in life, good search engine optimization (SEO) and ranking on the first page of Google starts with research. Keyword research can be used to determine categorically those services and goods that your target audience is using the internet to search for or conduct research on. (And the data suggests that it’s over 80% of their major purchases)! More specifically, keyword research allows you to determine what keywords your audience is using when they search for specific products. You could have the best SEO in the world, and yet if you haven’t done the research to know that your consumers are searching for – such “gizmos” and not “gadgets”, Google won’t see your page as relevant enough to rank on the first page for all the users who are searching for “gizmos”.
Keyword research: The beginning of the SEO process
Keyword research is the process of using Google’s search tools to build out a list of commonly searched keywords with statistics such as their average monthly searches, competition rating, and average cost per click price from AdWords. It’s best to utilize keyword research to find low-hanging fruit: keywords that have high monthly searches and a low competition rating. And if those keywords also happen to have a high average cost per click, well, that’s even better – if people who are purchasing keywords for paid search commonly view that keyword as being valuable enough to spend a lot of money to purchase, then it’s probably a strong keyword!
After you’ve completed your research and identified which keywords are likely to be the best drivers of qualified traffic to your website, you’ll want to choose one keyword to represent the content of each page you are expecting to receive organic search traffic from. If you are designing your website as you begin this process, remember that each of these pages will be an entry page for new users who may not have heard of your brand before, or may be unfamiliar with your services.
You’ll want to choose a single keyword for each page, so that you can be sure that you are structuring the content on the page to specifically provide the information that users are looking for when they are searching. Remember that people search online to answer a specific need, and if you are not answering that need, they will look elsewhere. Webpages that have strong content that is built to answer a well-researched, common search query are the ones that do best in Google. This is as a result of Google’s SEO ranking algorithm, designed to find content that will answer Google searchers’ needs. The last thing Google wants is for users to click on multiple webpages listed on the first page of Google and not find the information they were searching for. If Google search results couldn’t consistently provide people with the information they are seeking, we would quickly learn to go elsewhere and Google’s central business model would be in serious trouble.
After you’ve crafted your content to reflect exactly what users are searching for – utilizing the specific keyword you’ve researched – there’s still some minor search engine optimization work to be done. What is left to be completed are the on-page factors that let Google know you have taken their algorithm’s needs and limitations into consideration, and optimized your webpage accordingly. This is oftentimes referred to as technical SEO, as it pertains to the HTML attributes of a page – the H1 heading, title tag, meta description, and any image or video ALT tags.
The H1 heading is general used by a content management system or CMS as the headline of any page, and Google views this as a succinct description of what a page contains. Depending on how much content you have on your page, you may also have H2 headings and H3 headings, which function as sub-headlines to break-up content. Since the H1 heading is a description of what your page content is about, Google looks to make sure that it is relevant to a given search query. You should also be sure to utilize the keyword you have chosen for your page in the H1 heading, and likely in the H2 and H3 headings, as well, if applicable.
The title tag (sometimes called the SEO title) and the meta description are the two aspects of your page that Google uses to showcase your webpage in the search results. The title tag will be shown underlined in large, blue font on the search results page, with the meta description included in a smaller grey font beneath it, and the URL. Not only does Google use these attributes to show your webpage to searchers, it also emboldens any words in your title tag and meta description that match a given search query. That means that including your chosen keyword in these attributes will increase the likelihood searchers will click your result because their attention will be drawn to the bolded words.
Image and video ALT tags are extremely important, because while Google is an expert at understanding written content, it is unable to fully understand images or videos in the same semantic way humans are able to do so. As such, it’s extremely important for SEO to include an ALT tag for every video and image on your page, describing what is happening in the picture or video. Since all of your content should relate back to your chosen keyword, it’s likely that this description will include your keyword, as well.
Once you’ve completed all of the technical on-page elements of SEO, it’s time to publish your content to the web! Be sure that once you’ve published your content successfully, you link to it from your website’s homepage, and use Google Webmaster Tools to let Google know that you have added content to your site. If you are publishing an entire website, you’ll want to use Google Webmaster Tools to request that Google crawl your site, and update an XML sitemap to make it easy for Google to understand your site’s architecture.
Don’t worry about building links to your content for SEO – if you’ve put in the work at the beginning, and researched what users are searching for, carefully crafting content that answers their needs, it will attract links naturally. But it’s a great idea to make sure that as many people are aware you’ve created great content as possible, so make sure that you share it with your social networks – and any other offline connections you have that would be interested.
In need of a digital marketing strategy to boost your brand’s Google placement? Contact our team of experts today to get started!