How to Rank on Google Part 1
27 Laws of On Page SEO
Before diving into how to rank on Google, let’s first dive into a bit of the history on search. Now, I know, I know, you are eager to learn how to rank #1 on Google, but we must look at the process holistically before diving into the factors that help you rank.
Great, now that you understand a bit more about the history and philosophy of search, we can dive right into the strategies.
You see, search marketing doesn’t have to be cumbersome or something that is out of reach for the normal person. There are plenty of things you can do to help increase your rank in search. In fact, you have a about 50% of this in your control at all times.
This is called On-Page SEO. On page SEO is a process in which you optimize your pages with the best resources that you have and completely understand what the search engines are looking for. Primarily, Google is looking for relevance. You’ve heard of this before. A relevant result is one that relates to what the user wants to see. Hence, something that is the closest thing they are looking for. Of course, this isn’t the case all the time. Think back on one of your many keystrokes on that colorful Google Page.Have you ever had a result that wasn’t quite what you were looking for? You have to try and try again with different word combinations until you find exactly what you’re looking for.
Sometimes, Google is forced to place results in front of a user just because it may not have anything better, or more relevant. Google’s doing it’s best, but there isn’t anything more relevant it can provide you with besides what it has already provided you.
What about the other times? Those times when you search for something on Google and it’s as if it just read your mind. Those times when you haven’t even completed typing in the search bar and the results appear before your eyes. Like magic. It’s like Google knows exactly what you are searching for right then and there. It’s like they have a crystal ball or something…Kinda creepy, but super effective and downright intelligent. Google knows all and it is only going to get more and more successful at knowing all.
So what’s on page SEO and how do you rank #1 in Google? As you may know there are dozens of factors that influence where you fall in the Google Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Google has set our guidelines for SEO and I like to call them the “Laws of SEO”. For On Page SEO, there are a total of 27 Laws that Google will expect you to abide by.
As you can see, there is a lot in your control here. Before we dive into the strategies and tactics, let’s first take a look at what Google is looking for in a website. According to Google:
There are many components to the search process and the results page, and we’re constantly updating our technologies and systems to deliver better results. Many of these changes involve exciting new innovations, such as the Knowledge Graph or Google Instant. There are other important systems that we constantly tune and refine. This list of projects provides a glimpse into the many different aspects of search.
There are over 200 factors that determine how relevant a page is versus another page. In fact, according to Google, PageRank or relative page authority, is still important. This is directly from the horses mouth. The document is a scientific description of how the search engines operate by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page.
You see, there are hundreds of sites that “test” and speculate what SEO really is, but I like to go directly to Google and literally get into the search crawler’s “mind”. They are constantly indexing more and more complex content and are always seeking to optimize the ever present world wide web. Just some of the things that Google considers in their search for the most relevant result per keyword:
Now that you understand a bit more about how search operates and what exactly Google is crawling, mainly everything, let’s dive right into the “meat” of this post. You all want to know what factors influence your Google rank? Well here goes. This is a long list so brace yourself and don’t get too overwhelmed.
It’s going to be a constant, constant climb against the ever changing web. To be frank, the best is to be yourself and be honest. Provide the best, most relevant content for your users and don’t try to manipulate the results. Just be normal and pure. Google rewards you for being a relevant content creator, and not trying to rip anyone else’s stuff.
Make sure it’s 100% unique to you and comes straight from your own heart. This is the most important factor. Of course, with a little bit of architecture and understanding of basic techniques, you’ll be on your way to ranking #1 in Google.
On that note, let’s talk about the first of 8 Laws of On Page SEO.
THE FIRST 8 LAWS – CONTENT
LAW 1: QUALITY
What the heck does quality even mean? What defines a quality web page or web site? Well first of all, like I said above, quality is defined as the pureness of your site. Basically, is it spammy or is it legitimate. Are you duplicating content from elsewhere or are you writing fresh, relevant, original and quality content? It’s the amount of love that is poured into your writing or content.
The quality is defined as original and well written, easily read content that can be interpreted by anybody who is trying to read it. This is very important, spun content that is read like gibberish produces that result: gibberish. The search engines can interpret readability and how the content flows. The way it is written can be a cohesive factor in determining whether or not the content is generated by a machine or by a human. As usual, this is a back and forth with Google and the Spammers. Much like in website security, it’s an ongoing battle.
Quality can also mean adding relevant images to your articles. Images with the proper tagging will help you rank on google a lot more than an article without images. What do I mean by proper tagging?
The bottom line when we are discussing the quality of the on page content, just ensure that it is written with the purest intention without stuffing keywords. Keyword stuffing is introducing arbitrary keywords into your content for the purpose of getting the attention of web crawlers. Google knows what stuffing is and keyword stuffing will simply NOT help your rank. Period. It’s been phased out. The best way to rank #1 on Google is to be honest, truthful and let the content flow.
LAW 2: KEYWORD RESEARCH
Wait what? You just told me to let the content flow from the heart, and now you want me to research the keywords? Look, the only way Google knows what you are talking about is by indicating what keywords you are trying to rank on. Since this article is about “how to rank on Google”, let’s start our keyword research with that phrase and see what information we can get. To begin the research, it’s important to use what’s called the Google Adword Keyword Planner.
Now I know what you may be thinking, this is a keyword tool designed for paid advertisements. You are correct. We are going to use these results to extrapolate the data to organic results. I will also show you how we’re going to use this data to our advantage and pick the targeted keyword we desire to rank on. You will need an an Adwords account before proceeding.
To start, go ahead and drop tons of variations of the same phrase in the Google Adwords Keyword Planner.
The Google Adwords Keyword Planner tool will pull in the paid search results. What we are after is the column that says “avg monthly searches”. You can see that there are about 260 monthly searches on the Keyword “How to Rank on Google”. This is higher than any of the other seed keywords that I used and is more relevant than the rest of the results. I would much rather rank on something more relevant and less traffic, than something with more traffic and less relevant.
It’s sort of your call at this point, but the term “How to Rank on Google” is much better suited for this particular example and frankly this entire article.
The competition column relates to the paid content, so it’s more or less irrelevant. However, you do want to note it as it may also indicate the organic search competition for that keyword.
The most important part is that you’re not just throwing junk up at the wall and hoping that people will search for your keyword. Know what they are searching first, and then provide them the solution to the problem.
If you know people are searching a keyword, it’s easier to write a focused article about that keyword before even beginning to write anything. Research first, then write around your research. If there is a better keyword in the “Keyword Ideas” breakout, then go with that. Just make sure you check the organic competition on that keyword.
At the time of writing this article there are 60,300 results for the term “How to Rank on Google” from the organic side. Indeed, this is considered “low”er competition. I say lower, compared to other keywords. In general, for this to work well, you want to have less than one million results. The more organic results you have, the more difficult it will be to rank on a particular keyword. With 60,300 results, it’s not going to be too hard to get this ranked on Google over time.
LAW 3: WORDS
What the heck? What do you mean words, of course my page contains words. What I’m referring to here is not just words, but overall keyword density on the page. The question is, after establishing the target keyword of the audience: “How to Rank on Google”, does it appear in the context of the page.
Simply knowing the target of what you’re trying to rank for is not enough. Going back to the original point about quality, words and phrases, made up of those words and combinations of words relating to your target keyword, will ultimately let Google know what you’re talking about. Simply using the keyword once or twice is not enough. Simply including it in the image tags is not enough. What must be done here is you need to mix up the word or phrase and use it differently. You want it to be diversified, otherwise it would look like you are doing something called Keyword stuffing.
What’s keyword stuffing? This is when you are arbitrarily placing the keyword in the content of the page multiple times without much context. For example, repeating the keyword over and over and over and over and over and over again to simply get the search engines to recognize your page. This is considered a page for the search engine crawlers, and not for the humans. You want a page for the humans, not the search engine crawlers.
So how much is too much and how many times do you have to mention the keyword? Simply put, there is no real transparent number I can provide you. Just be natural and ensure you are constantly providing value. Ask yourself, can my readers gain anything from this content?
If the answer is no, then you’re likely keyword stuffing. If the answer is yes, then you’re most likely fine, assuming the content is long enough. Length of content goes back to value. So long as you have made your point with adequate content, then your length should be fine. In general, you want to be above 1,000 words. However, again, there is no definitive number for this.
As you can probably tell, ranking on Google shouldn’t be too difficult, so long as you’re providing true, honest value-driven content for your users.
LAW 4: FRESHNESS
Do you smell that? Do you smell the fresh squeezed smell of SEO? I’m sure you do by now. What does it mean to have fresh content. Well, I interpret this in two ways. Freshness is how much is your site updated? What’s the schedule like, if at all? It also means is your topic trending. How do we know what’s trending?
The answer has gotten so much easier over the years. You can use Twitter’s trends provided by the Trends Map. This is especially great if you are targeting ultra local results. It’s always wise to check Google’s actual search results as well to determine the popularity. Below is an actual LIVE SEARCH FEED provided by Google. This shows the Google Trends and represents live searches performed as you are watching them.
[iframe src=”http://www.google.com/trends/hottrends/visualize?pn=p1″ width=”100%” height=”100″] /[/iframe]
See, I told you, Google knows all. It must have some sort of crystal ball…
This is a great tool to check what’s actually hot on Google and what’s actually being searched for right now, this second in your country! If you want a less visual representation you can check out Google’s official trends page. The hotter the topic, the faster you can get ranked and the faster Google will pick you up. This happened with one of my sites not too long ago. Check out the traffic for the brief period while this topic was trending.
You can clearly see, in one month I got over 100K visitors in various spikes. Each spike represents a new social media site picking me up.
Take a look at how much traffic Google dished out to me just for being apart of this trend. This site was released in October 2014, and trended through the month and a little bit through November of 2014. Though Google represented only 30,436 unique visits, it shows you that I was ranking on Google very heavily during this trend. It’s important to note any trending topic or website will eventually become deprecated and produce limited results.
I am only showing you this so you have an understanding of the power of all your channels combined with the adequate trend. Combine all those practices in one place and you have a very valuable ability. Oh and by the way, this website had no On Page SEO markup. It was a single page site with virtually no content. The only reason it survived was because it was part of the trending topic.
LAW 5: CHANNEL SEARCH SYNDICATION
Let’s first define a channel search. Each one of Google search types is considered another “channel”. Take a look at the image and it’ll be apparent what is considered a channel search. Everything about search can be categorized as a type of search, or in this case, a “channel”. Having content published on as many channels increases your likelihood of developing sound content marketing strategies.
For example, you may have a blog post or a “web” channel with text. The next, you may have this associated with a local business that is featured in “maps”. Then you may also have a YouTube video associated with that blog post. And, I’m sure you have images associated with your content, that will also be indexed and crawled.
Be creative here. Having multiple channels that your content can be found in increases the probability of someone finding you and also diversifies your portfolio. One of the channels that may bring you tons of volume is Google News. News needs to be regular, unique and relevant. Google news feed syndication requires you to abide by some guidelines and understanding of what Google is looking for in their news outlets.
Here are the Google News Guidelines:
News general guidelines
News content. Sites included in Google News should offer timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience. We generally do not include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings, or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data.
Journalistic standards. Original reporting and honest attribution are longstanding journalistic values. If your site publishes aggregated content, you will need to separate it from your original work, or restrict our access to those aggregated articles via your robots.txt file.
Authority. Write what you know! The best news sites exhibit clear authority and expertise.
Accountability. Users tell us they value news sites with author biographies and clearly accessible contact information, such as email and physical addresses, and phone numbers.
Readability. Clearly written articles with correct spelling and grammar make for a much better user experience. Limiting your use of distracting ads and auto-load videos also allows users to more easily focus on your article content.
Finally, you may want to review the many different types of content we include in Google News.
If you feel that your site abides by the Google news guidelines, then go ahead and apply to get your content syndicated on another vertical.
LAW 6: DIRECT ANSWERS
What question does your content answer for the user? Go to Google and type in the weather in your city. Undoubtably, Google will fetch a direct answer from the top website, in this case Weather.com.
Google now has the ability to pull direct answers from your website and feature it in the search results. Wait a minute…if the answer is provided directly on the SERP, then what’s the point of clicking on the link? Wouldn’t you get less traffic as a result.
Now this is debatable, but you’ll likely see less direct traffic to your site. However, what this does is promote trust with both the search engine and the users. If Google sees your information as reliable enough to feature the content directly on the SERP, then they obviously trust your site and will be more likely to dish out more traffic to trusted sites.
This can then be extrapolated to other search queries that you may not even consider. Additionally, users may want more information and you essentially take up a significant amount of screen real-estate for your site. The more visibility you and your site have, the more likely the users are to interact with your site.
Think about it, Google just transformed your flat link on their SERP to a dynamic response directed towards the user. Most of the time, when I search for a direct answer, I click on the article so I can read it directly off the site. I do click on these direct answers and they help expedite my searching.
LAW 7: DEPTH OF CONTENT
This article has focused in on many strategies that drive SEO from the content side of things. From a different perspective, there is also the depth of content. Even if you follow all the rules and appropriate rules, you may be missing something very important that has to do with content depth and breadth.
This is essentially mentioning how valuable the content is to the user. Is this helping anybody or is this just spam designed to generate traffic? I’m sure you’ve seen useless sites that not only provide gibberish, but are just completely useless to you. You quickly leave and never come back.
Google ranks them highly because they either did not have anything else to put there, or the admins decided to violate one of Google’s policies about valuable content. One of the largest Google Updates, called Panda, de-ranked sites that are of “low quality” or are “thin”. So what are these factors?
This is debatable, but the ideal range for content word depth is between 1000-5000 words. Certainly above 500 and above 1000 would be best. Effectively, the more content the better. The more you can rank. The more ammunition you will have on your page to rank more effectively.
Again, when I mentioned earlier to write from the heart, I meant it. Writing a lot just for the sake of filling in the word count gap isn’t enough. It’s important to have relevant, deep content that will help you outrank your competitors.
So how many pages does my site have to be? Usually content farms will have more rank and more authority than other sites, but in general, have your site above 10 pages. Make sure it’s relevant to the users and make sure it has a decent amount of quality pages built on it. Panda’s goal was to eliminate micro-sniper sites that are designed for a very small audience to market a singular product, or something of that matter. Basically, it eradicated sniper sites in the affiliate realm. This helped increase quality and decrease spam overall. Don’t just create a one page site designed to drive traffic. Create something valuable for your users.
Obvious Overuse of Advertisements
Having too many advertisements is distracting and lowers the quality of the site significantly. Google can see the advertisement’s code in your site and it’s best to keep it at a minimum. Sites that are purely advertisements, such as those that you land on and there is very little content and a ton of advertisements, can be very harmful for the users as well as for your site. Use advertisements tactfully and sparingly.
We’ve heard this one before. Duplicate content can significantly derail a good site. Google will know if you have duplicated content from elsewhere on the web and it will not give you more rank or authority if you use duplicate content. Even so much as one single article can damage your duplicate content score.
LAW 8: BLACKHAT SEO
Finally we have arrived at the blackhat portion of the Content On Page SEO tutorial.
Google defines Blackhat SEO as
Bad practices: Blackhat SEO
Illicit techniques that manipulate search engines to try to rank a site higher are considered blackhat techniques that violate our Webmaster Guidelines. Do not pay for links pointing to your site to be placed on the internet with the intent of passing PageRank and manipulating Google Search. These links may be called sponsored links or paid advertising, hidden in HTML, or inserted as optimized anchors in articles, comments, and footers. Learn to avoid such practices on our link schemes page.
Clearly Blackhat SEO is harmful and doesn’t help anybody, especially you and your site. This can destroy a good site and completely derail an otherwise high-ranking site. Anything that involves manipulating the search results from Google is considered blackhat techniques. This could include keyword stuffing, backlink stuffing, or content spinning. Even the best content spinner is subject to Google’s wrath as they can discover that it was indeed spun content. Not a good idea.
If you plan on placing a bunch of keywords that are not relevant on the site at the bottom or footer, this can be very problematic and is keyword stuffing. Don’t do it.
If you plan on purchasing backlinks from someone, even on Fiverr, this can be very problematic and is considered backlink stuffing. Don’t do it.
If you plan on spinning content to help bolster your site’s apparent authority, this can be very problematic and can be considered duplicate content. Don’t do it.
There you have it. This is the content portion of How to Rank on Google. There is still much to cover for On Page SEO. I know it’s a lot of information and a ton of things to consider, but it really isn’t that hard. Remember, there is no shortcut in ranking. The best practice is to write high-quality content with a focal point. This must be relevant to your target audience and must help them somehow. Quality content is hard to come by these days, especially when there are no advertisements on the site.
The next Part of this 3 part series on On Page SEO will be discussing site architecture with live examples on what it means to have the right SEO site Architecture.