SEO is a winner-takes-all game.
If your content doesn’t show up on the first page of search results, then it might as well not exist at all as far as Google users are concerned.
Moreover, Backlinko’s research has shown that the top three organic search results on Google get 75% of all clicks.
That’s why you should not only aim to rank on page one on Google, but also do your best to get to the top of it.
Here’s a three-step process for doing that:
Step #1: Pick the Right Keyword
You need to choose a target keyword that is:
- Relevant. Is this something that your potential customers are searching for?
- Popular. Is the search volume high enough to justify investing time, energy, and money in trying to rank for this keyword?
- Realistic. Can you outrank at least one of the pieces of content that are currently ranking on page one of Google?
You need to take into account the domain authority of competing websites, the number of backlinks to competing content, and whether or not that content meets the search intent of your target keyword.
The lower the domain authority, the fewer the backlinks, and the greater the misalignment between the content and the search intent, the better your chances of outranking that page.
There are plenty of free keyword research tools out there that can help you figure all this out, but we recommend going with Ahrefs if you can afford it.
Step #2: Create Top-Quality Content
Once you have picked a target keyword, it’s time to create a piece of content designed to rank for it on page one of Google.
Make sure that your content is:
Google’s search algorithm optimizes for delivering search results that best meet the search intent for that keyword.
This means that the more your content matches the search intent, the easier it will be for you to rank on page one of Google.
This should be your guiding principle when it comes to search engine optimization.
Your content should be as long as it needs to be to meet the search intent.
Say, if you want to rank for “history of French cuisine”, then you might be looking at 5,000+ words.
But if you want to rank for “how to boil an egg”, then you can probably cover the whole process + share tips and tricks in 500 words.
That being said, the average word count of a page one search result is 1,447 words, so it does seem that longer content tends to outperform shorter content.
You might also need to reach a certain word count to get to page one of Google.
Consider using software like Clearscope to get a target word count estimate based on the word counts of the pieces that are currently ranking for that keyword.
Why should Google give you a spot on the first page of search results if your content is just a rewrite of what’s already ranking?
You need to bring something unique to the table if you want to stand a chance of getting to page one.
You can do that by discussing personal experiences, providing real-life examples, sharing relevant data and screenshots, etc.
Typically, people don’t read online content in its totality, they quickly skim it and then read the parts that they feel are the most relevant to them.
You should cater to this pattern by formatting your content in a way that makes it easy to skim:
- Create a clear content structure with subheadlines (H2) and sub-subheadlines (H3).
- Keep your paragraphs short. They should be 1-3 lines each. Avoid paragraphs longer than that.
- Keep your sentences short. Avoid compound sentences.
- Use numbered lists, bulleted lists, and checklists to break up the text.
- Use images to break up the text. Have at least one image for every 500 words.
Keep in mind that the easier it is to skim your content, the more likely people will be to actually read it.
Better Than What’s Currently Ranking on Page One of Google!
Your content should be better than anything that is currently ranking on the first page of search results.
So read everything on page one, figure out how you can improve on that, and make sure that your content blows the competition out of the water in terms of quality.
Consider Using Content Optimization Software
Content optimization software can help you make sure that your content measures up to what’s already ranking.
Here are some options that you might want to consider:
Step #3: Build Backlinks
The days when you could rank on page one of Google by simply creating outstanding content are long gone.
Nowadays, the number of backlinks your content has is just as important as its quality, if not more.
That’s why you need to be proactive when it comes to link building.
Here are the three most popular ways to get backlinks:
Guest posting is the practice of writing articles for other websites in exchange for a backlink to your own website.
Here’s a quick overview of the process:
- Pick a popular website in your niche or one of the related niches.
- Figure out who is the decision maker that you should reach out to. This information might be available on the website itself. Alternatively, use LinkedIn to find that company’s employee list, then look for someone with a title that includes the words “editor”, “content”, or “marketing”.
- Find the contact details for that person. Again, this information might be available on the website itself. Alternatively, either use LinkedIn to reach out to them or use io to find their email address.
- Do your research and come up with a guest post idea. It should be a topic that is relevant to the audience of that website. You want to either target a promising keyword or share your personal experiences.
- Pitch your guest post idea to the decision maker. Only start writing the post once your idea has been accepted.
- Submit your guest post. Do your best to create top-quality content. Make sure that it includes 1-3 links to relevant articles on your website. Also, expect to go through several rounds of revisions.
- Get published!
Ideally, you want to build relationships with the editors so that you’d have regular guest posting slots as opposed to only writing one-off guest posts.
Broken Link Building
Broken link building is the practice of building backlinks by replacing broken links on popular websites in your niche or related niches with links to your website.
Here’s a quick overview of the process:
- Pick a target website.
- Use the Check My Links Chrome extension to identify broken links.
- Figure out which links could be replaced with links to your content.
- Reach out to the person who runs the website and notify them about broken links.
- Offer your content as a replacement for those broken links.
Here’s a sample email that Brian Dean from Backlinko used in his broken link building outreach:
Finally, you can get backlinks by creating content that naturally attracts them, known as link-magnet or link-bait content.
Here are the three most popular types of link-magnet content:
- Original research. Conducting your own research, then publishing the results on your website can be a great way to attract backlinks. Say, in this very article, we shared two data points from Backlinko’s research.
- Case studies. You can also attract backlinks by publishing case studies.
Share what you did + the results that you got + the lessons that you’ve learned.
Content like that is unique and therefore more likely to get attention than run-off-the-mill rewrites.
- Custom images. Finally, if you can produce custom images that illustrate concepts that are often discussed in your niche, that can help you attract backlinks as well.
Alternatively, if you have screenshots that might be of benefit to other people, that can also generate some backlinks (e.g. Brian Dean’s email screenshot above).
We don’t recommend this link building strategy for new websites because the effectiveness of link-magnet content is heavily dependent on the popularity of your website.
Say, whenever Ahrefs or Backlinko publish original research, it inevitably gets a bunch of backlinks because these websites already have massive audiences.
Meanwhile, if a brand new SEO blog were to publish the exact same research, it would likely only get a few backlinks, if any.
That’s why it’s best to wait until your website starts gaining traction before you begin investing in link-magnet content.
Ranking on the first page of Google is simple.
Pick the right keyword, create top-quality content, and build backlinks to it. It’s not rocket science!
That being said, just because something is simple, doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
That’s why most people fail to reach the first page of Google’s search results – they simply aren’t willing to put in the effort required to get there.
But, as we discussed in the introduction, SEO is a winner-takes-all game. So if you want to succeed in it, you need to give it your best.
Anything less than that is a waste of time.