Google has been dominating the search industry for a long time and websites owners realize they have to play by Google’s rule to get their website listed on Google first page.
One of the most common questions I get on social media is “How to get my website on Google first page?”
To answer the question, I decide to write a complete guide for beginner site owners who want to improve their website ranking on Google. So let’s get to it.
Learning Google Ranking Factors
Before we talk about ranking a website on Google first page, we must understand the factors that Google considers when it comes to their search results placement.
Let’s face it, there are only 10 spots available for the organic results. In addition, Google also show paid ads and local 3-pack maps, so people might have to scroll down even further to get to the organic results.
Having said that, your goal as a website owner should be: to get as many pages as possible listed on Google’s top organic results. This is the holy grail of SEO that every website owners want.
Google is not releasing their actual ranking factors that they use for an obvious reason: they don’t want website owners to manipulate Google search pages by doing black-hat or illegal SEO.
Think about it, if Google released their actual algorithm on how to rank any website on the first page, some website owners would cheat their way to the top. Consequently, this would pollute search engine results and create bad user experience.
Even though Google doesn’t tell us exactly what their ranking factors are, fortunately, smart people in the SEO community have figured out most of the things you have to do to get your site rank high on Google.
10 Steps to Get Your Website on Google First Page
Step 1. Improve Your On page SEO
You website’s overall SEO score contains 2 important aspects: your on page SEO score and your off page SEO score.
On page SEO or also known as on site SEO is basically the practice of optimizing search engine factors on a page. In other words, these are SEO work that you do on your website.
Even though on page SEO is important, however, Google considers on page SEO to be less important than off page SEO. One of the reasons is because on page SEO is usually a one-time work.
Google wants you to keep maintaining and updating your website, therefore, off page SEO is more important.
In this article, I’m going to talk about both on-site and off-site SEO factors that improve your search ranking.
Let’s start with on-site SEO first.
Here are the most important on page SEO factors for your website:
Step 1A: Improve Your Meta Title
Your meta title is the first thing that search engine sees when their robots crawl your website. Coincidentally, this is also the first thing people see after they enter a keyword in search engines.
The text that are highlighted are the meta titles of these pages. As you can see, the title on result number 2 is cut off and doesn’t look very good.
You can use the tool below to see and optimize how your title will look like before you publish a page or an article on your site:
Action to take: Using the snippet tool from the link above, do the best you can to put your keyword in your title, and make sure it fits nicely on Google search results.
Step 1B: Improve Your Meta Description
Meta description is also an important factor that you must pay attention to. It is the sentence that appears below your meta title on search engines.
Pay attention to the screenshot above. This is the organic results when you search for “Dental office near me”
See how some words are in bold format?
Google is smart enough to tell that the word “dental” is related to “dentist,” they even recognize the word “dental office” is related to “dentist clinic.”
This is what is called: Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)
It is important for you to sprinkle LSI keywords on your content to strengthen your position on Google first page.
Action to take: Use the Google Snippet Optimization Tool and craft a compelling description that makes people want to click your page. Don’t forget to include your keywords and their related keywords.
Step 1C: SEO-Friendly URL
Google prefers short URLs to long URLs, therefore it is better for you to have short URLs (between 3-5 words).
All good URLs are short and optimized with keywords. Avoid ugly looking URLs like:
domain.com/blog/index.jsp?categoryId=4442233723 OR www.example.com/index.php?key1=val12&key21=val21&key33=val33
Instead, use URLs like:
domain.com/blog/top-fishing-boats OR www.example.com/mens-jewelry/diamond-bracelet
Action to take: Make sure all of your URLs are short and optimized with keywords. You can consider redirecting your old long and ugly URLs to shorter ones using 301 redirects.
Step 1D: Use Header Tags
Header tags are important to have on your web pages because they classify your content in a way that is useful for for the readers and search engines.
Header tags usually consist of H1 to H6 in order of importance, in other words, search engines see H1 as more important than H2, and so on.
For your readers, header tags are great to segment your content. For example, in this blog post, I use multiple header tags to segment my content.
This is how I use header tags to segment this article:
(H1) How to Get Your Website on Google First Page
(H2) 10 Steps to Get Your Website on Google First Page
(H3) Step 1: Improve Your On-Site SEO
(H4) Step 1A,B,C,D,…
(H3) Step 2:
(H3) Step 3:
(H3) Step 4-10
It is also important to, once again, sprinkle your LSI keywords on these header tags so Google really knows what your page content is about.
Action to take: Make sure you segment your pages with header tags. Use multiple header tags (H1-H6) to tell search engines which topic is more important.
Step 1E: Use Alt Tags
Blogs and websites look better when using the right images. Alt tags are useful for letting search engines know what your images are about.
Since search engine robots cannot read images, you must add alt tags to attach a keyword to an image. Additionally, image alt tags are also useful when your readers are browsing on a screen that cannot process images.
Adding alt tags to your images could improve your search engine ranking, especially when people are searching your keyword on Google images:
In many niches, image search could lead to potential backlink partners, subscribers, or even customers.
If you are not using a Content Management System (CMS) like WordPress, Joomla, and others, you must manually add the alt-tag HTML code to every image just like this:
<img src=“image.jpg” alt=“image keyword here” title=“image title here”>
img src in green is your image source URL, image keyword in red is your alt tag, and image title in brown is your title image.
Note: Please make sure you include the quotation marks surrounding each value.
Action to take: Add alt text or tags to your images so search engines know what your images are about. Use LSI keywords and call to action for example: “Buy Product Z now while supplies last.”
Step 1F: Use Schema Markup
Schema markup is a code that helps search engine gather more information about your website. Schema is the latest improvement in SEO and it is very powerful to improve Click-Through Rate (CTR).
Having said that, since schema markup is very new, not a lot of websites are utilizing this code. Schema markup can really improve your search engine rankings when you use it correctly.
You might have a great looking website that is easy for people to navigate, but search engine robots have limited capabilities to read your pages.
With Schema markup, you can have very informative snippets on search engine listings that make people want to click to your site. Here are several examples of websites with schema markup:
…and much more. As you can see, your search engine snippets look much more informative and attractive when compared to your competitors who are not using Schema markup.
If you’re a local company, you MUST add a Schema markup for your address to optimize your local rankings, especially when very few of your competitions have it.
Action to take: Add as many Schema markup as possible to your website, especially your business address.
Step 1G: Create and Submit Your Sitemap
Search engine robots must crawl your website before your pages can show up on their search results. A sitemap is literally a road map for search engine robots to crawl your website.
Think about a sitemap as table of content for search engine to read your website.
You must create a sitemap file and submit it to Google Webmasters Tool so they can crawl your pages quickly and efficiently.
Most websites use XML sitemap because it’s easier to create. If your website is using WordPress, there are several great plugins you can use to create a sitemap with a few clicks.
I use Yoast SEO to create my sitemap in XML format.
Action to take: Create your XML sitemap if you haven’t done so and submit to Google Webmasters Tool.
Step 1H: Create a Robots.txt File
If your sitemap is a road map for search engine robots, the robots.txt file is the instruction on how to read that map. It tells search engine robots where they can or can’t go.
Obviously, there are several areas of your website that you don’t want search engine to crawl like your download pages or member area. Robots.txt controls how search engine robots crawl your website.
Action to take: Check if your website has robots.txt file by simply adding /robots.txt after your domain. For example: https://www.facebook.com/robots.txt
Step 1I: Add Internal Links on Your Best Pages
Internal links are hyperlinks that go to different pages on the same domain. However, internal links that I want to talk about are not just your navigation links on top or bottom of your site.
Webmasters use internal links to provide site structure and spread “link juice” more evenly throughout your website.
Here’s an explanation: every page on your website has a score. The higher the score, the higher your page will rank on search engines. Internal links are useful to spread those scores more evenly throughout your website.
For example, you write a great content about “How To Get a Job in 30 days” and people are talking about it on the Internet. As a result, this particular page has a higher score than your other pages.
Ideally, you want to place a link somewhere in the article to other related pages on your website, maybe a link to another resource: “How To Write a Resume That Will Land Your Dream Job”
Wikipedia pages are the best examples of solid internal linking practice in the real-world.
You see they have several internal links going to other Wikipedia pages that relate to a specific topic.
Action to take: Find out what your top pages are and add 2 or 3 internal links to spread out your website’s SEO score more evenly.
Step 1J: Add External Links
External links are hyperlinks that go to other domains. Search engine robots view external links a little bit differently than they view internal links.
Search engines view external links as third-party votes for your website. Many SEO experts believe external links are the most important factors in determining search results.
In other words, the more high-quality external links you have pointing to your website, the higher your website is going to show up on search engines.
You must consider several things when giving an external link from your page to a different website:
- Make sure the site is not spammy. Only give external links to high-quality websites with high-quality content. You don’t want your website to be associated with bad websites and spammy content.
- You want to be very selective when giving an external link to a different website. Experts agree the more external links you have on your page, the more diluted those links are going to be, and the more your page look like a spam.
Having said that, having a few high-quality external links on your pages will help your search engine rankings.
Ideally, you only want to give external links to websites with clean reputation and very high-quality content. A great way to add external links is to use them as additional resource for your readers.
Action to take: Search very high-quality pages outside your domain that you can add on your pages as additional resources for your readers.
Step 2. Improve Your Off-site SEO
Off-site SEO plays a huge role in your website’s ability to rank high on Google and other search engines. While we do not know Google’s exact algorithm to rank websites, however, data from Moz Search Engine Ranking Factors show off-site SEO carries more than 50% of the ranking factor weight.
Off-site SEO is definitely the one you should focus on, although you cannot ignore on-site SEO completely. We know from the name, off-site SEO is the practice of optimizing search engine factors outside your website. In other words, these are SEO work that you do off your website.
Your goal when doing an off-site SEO campaign is to improve your website’s external link profile (often called “backlinks.”)
We learn that Google and other search engines view external links as a vote to rank our pages higher. This means, every time a site owner puts your link on her site, it counts as a vote for your site.
However, not all external links are the same.
An external link from a related website is much better than an external link from other random places.
For example: if you had a website about sports, it’s better to get a backlink from a basketball site as opposed to a food site.
Websites with better link profile will always outrank websites with worse link profile, therefore off-site SEO is an ongoing work. If you stop improving your backlink profile and your competitions keep improving theirs, your website will go down further in search engines.
So how do you improve your off-site SEO? There are too many techniques to write about, however, my favorite technique is to look at your competitors’ backlinks.
With this technique all the backlinks I get is going to be high-quality. In short, this is how the technique works:
First, you enter your keyword into Google search bar.
Second, you write down all of your competitions that rank higher than you.
Third, you examine their backlink profiles. In this step, you separate the unrelated backlinks and only go for the related ones.
Fourth, you do what you can to get your backlinks from the same places as your competitions.
Think about it, your competitions are ranking higher than your website because they have better backlink profiles than you do. Now, you see their accumulative backlinks and cherry-pick the backlinks that are related to your website.
I use a tool called Ahrefs and this is how they explain this technique:
Action to take: Improve your backlink profile by getting new backlinks from high-quality relevant websites or contact us if you have any questions.
Step 3. Improve Your Website Speed
Improving your website speed can do wonder to your search engine rankings. As we all know, search engines, especially Google, love high-quality content and fast-loading websites.
These are the types of websites that they would rank high on their first page results. Why? Because it is great for their users.
Google wants to be the best search engines in the world. In order to do that, they have to show the most relevant pages that load fast when users search for a keyword.
Improving your website speed will reduce your “bounce rate,” which is the number of people who exit your website after only seeing one page. If your pages are slow, most likely users go away even before the page finish loading.
Action to take: Read these tips to speed up your WordPress site
Step 4. Improve On-site Time
This tip is similar to the last one. On the last tip, I talk about improving your website speed to reduce bounce rate.
This time, you want to improve the amount of time that users spend on your website. You can achieve this goal by doing several things:
Make sure your website is easy to use and free of clutter. I suggest putting the most important part of your content on top so people don’t have to scroll down to see it.
Write great content. Search engines want to help people. They love showing great content at the top of their search results. Usually, great, high-quality content tends to be longer than lower-quality content because it’s quite difficult to explain a topic in short articles.
Have solid internal links to your other content within the same site. Not only it is good for SEO, but it is also good to keep users on your site.
Add engaging multimedia on your pages. Pictures and videos are great to have on your pages because they are effective, interactive, and engaging. Adding useful multimedia could increase user engagement and convince them to stay longer on your site.
Install a heat map software to analyze user activity on your site. With a heat map software, you can see what users are doing on your site, how far they scroll down, what pages they visit, what links they click, and so on.
After analyzing your users’ activity, you should be able to see ways to improve your visitors’ time on your site.
My favorite heat map software is Hotjar. They are free and very easy to use.
Action to take: Answer the question “Is your website easy to use?” Write great content, add internal links to your own pages, add videos or images, and install Hotjar to analyze user activity.
Step 5. Be Active on Social Media
Being active on social media is going to help your search engine rankings. Google understands social media is a big part of the Internet and they decide to “listen” to social media websites to determine the quality of a content.
Naturally, if a piece of content goes viral and gets a lot of shares on social media, it is probably deserving to be on top results.
In addition, site level social signals can improve a site’s authority level, which will increase visibility for all of its pages.
Action to take: Pick one or two social media sites and share valuable content regularly. Make sure all your pages are easily shareable.
Related Article: The Best Marketing Accounts to Follow on Twitter
Step 6. Improve Repeat Traffic
Google considers your repeat traffic as one of their factors to rank high. In other words, Google wants to see if users are going back to the same page or site again after their first visit. The sites with good repeat traffic may get a ranking boost.
You can bring back users that have visited your site by email, social media, or retargeting ads.
Action to take: Create high-quality, downloadable materials that people can access by entering their email. Set up your newsletter to update your readers, share your content on social media, and run retargeting ads.
Additional Reading: A Guide to Retargeting Ads
Step 7. Move Your Site to https
In one of the more recent updates, Google has announced that it considers SSL certificates to be one of their new ranking factors. Since too many websites are being hacked nowadays, Google wants to make sure the pages on their top results are safe for browsing.
Action to take: Call your hosting and ask how to move your site to https.
Step 8. Make Sure Your Site is Mobile Friendly
More and more users are using search engines on mobile phones. This is the reason why Google wants your website to be mobile-friendly and ready to provide great experience for mobile users.
Since 2015, Google has been known to penalize websites that are not mobile-friendly.
Action to take: Click here to get a mobile-friendly site or contact us for more info.
Step 9. Avoid Duplicate Content at All Cost
Having duplicate content can really hurt your search engine rankings. Google sees a deliberate attempt to duplicate content across multiple domain names to get more traffic is a deceptive practice.
It makes sense because Google doesn’t want users to see the same content across the Internet for the same keywords.
Here are several free tools you can use to check if you have duplicate content on your site:
Action to take: Enter your website URL to a duplicate content checker to see if you have duplicate content. Make sure you change or edit any duplicate content you have.
Step 10. Create Important Pages
Supposedly, they even consider if the contact info on your website matches your domain whois contact info.
There are 2 parts of SEO that you must work on to get your website on Google first page. They are on-site SEO and off-site SEO.
On-site SEO is the optimization you do on your site, while off-site SEO is the optimization you do off your site.
Getting ranked high on Google is all about having high-quality content, great user experience, and impressive backlink profile. Also remember: on-site SEO is important, however, Google gives more weight to your off-site SEO effort.