Okay, so it is time to answer one of the most difficult and widely asked questions on the internet, “how can I rank first on Google?”
I would be lying if I told you that any single person (including Google employees) knows the true answer to this question.
BUT, that doesn’t mean we cannot use the clues that are left in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), personal experience, and notes from various resources like Google Webmaster Tools in order to piece together a working understanding of what it takes to rank number on in Google search in 2019.
In this guide, I will outline my findings from over 10+ years of combined experience helping clients to produce high quality content in order to generate more organic search traffic on Google and other search engines. But before we get started, it is important to mention one thing:
Any Agency that Promises #1 Rankings on Google is Lying to You
With over 200+ confirmed ranking factors in Google SERPs, it is impossible to put it all together into a perfect equation of what it takes to rank #1 for a specific keyword.
On top of that, you have to take into consideration things like:
Put simply, there is no way that any agency can promise you a top spot in search rankings outside of actually running a PPC ad campaign with an extremely high PPC set – a technique which may prove profitable, but not one that will help your content organically rank where you would like it.
Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of things and find out exactly what it takes to see your site in the top spots for a given keyword.
How Does Google Rank Web Pages?
So I don’t have the time to completely explain how Google ranks websites and web pages, but to outline it, it works in 3 basic steps:
The idea of user intent is the main thing that drives what shows up on just about every search results. Google and other search engines focus on this first and foremost.
So, if your page can help serve user intent better, it will begin to rank higher in the SERPs. This happens over time, as Google receives signals from users that your content is a good resource.
This is governed by a few main factors:
Basically, imagine your webpage as an entry in an Encyclopedia. After arriving on your page, do readers go back to the index to look more? Or, do they have everything they need on your page? Do they look at the page and immediately think it doesn’t have what they need? Or do they stay on it for a long time soaking up info.
From there, do they go back to the index and search for something similar? Do they continue to read through the related pages in your chapter (on your site), or do they consult another site for answers? These are all factors taken into account by Google when ranking your web content. The pages that satisfy user intent the best almost always end up on the top of the Google rankings in the end.
What We Do Know – The Rules to Ranking Higher on Google & Other Search Engines
Okay, so as I outlined earlier, there are rules when it comes to ranking your content on Google.
Perhaps the most prevalent and easy to observe rule to ranking on Google is creating high quality, original content. But don’t believe me, this comes straight from the horse’s mouth:
“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors.”
Google said this in 2017, in their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Prior to this, content marketing – a segment of digital marketing of creating high quality content to boost organic search traffic – had seen quite dramatic growth in previous years. But once this was announced, things really began to crank up.
But why is content so important to ranking on Google?
Well, one thing that is essential to remember about Google and other search engines in 2019 and beyond is that they have one main purpose that supercedes all their other goals – satisfying user intent.
What this means is that if a user is searching for “best pet shop near me”, search engines are likely to supply them with what they are looking for; a list of reputable pet stores within their given location.
The same can be said for informational needs. For instance, someone searching for a review, guide, tips, or strategies within a certain industries will be given results based on what they are searching for AND the type of search they are making. Some searches are more likely to convert than others, because they are closer to the bottom of the funnel, while others are less likely to convert because the user is still at the learning stage of the buyer’s cycle.
What does Google consider “comprehensive content”?
So, with user intent in mind, you can begin to see why the best resources rank near the top of the SERPs. They provide comprehensive answers to not only the initial search query, but also other similar questions that users have asked.
The exact definition G provides for comprehensive content is:
“Creating high quality content takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive. So, for example, if you describe your page as a recipe, provide a complete recipe that is easy to follow, rather than just a set of ingredients or a basic description of the dish.”
Chances are, you have typed in a query into your search engine and when you clicked on the first result, you noticed a massive guide, well over 3,000 words that seemingly answers literally every question you could imagine being asked by someone about that topic.
Sometimes they start with remedial things like “what is X”, “why is X important”, et cetera. While reading them, it may be a pain to you as a user if you have an intermediate knowledge of the subject matter. But to someone with less knowledge, this is the precise resource they are looking for. Chances are, the reason this piece of content ranks first on Google is because they have carefully planned and outlined their content to best serve user intent for this keyword.
Let’s use an example to solidify this idea of comprehensive content:
You run a website that specializes in helping people find the best subscription boxes for their specific needs. You want to rank number one for the term “best subscription boxes for men”. The SERPs display this result first:
Right off the bat, you can see how Google aims to satisfy user intent while still in the SERPs, by displaying the items in this list post so you can easily know what they are without even reading or clicking on the post – an SEOs worst nightmare. There are techniques you can use to optimize your content for these “featured snippet” or “0” spots on Google, but that is a lesson for another time.
But, let’s not digress. Let’s dissect what makes this #1 result stand out above the rest, specifically, what makes it a comprehensive resource in the eyes of Google. The post is structured like this:
As you can see, they include the title of each subscription box in an H2, which is proper on-page SEO. They also include:
Overall, they either include all of the information that a user might ask for, and link to any additional information they may be looking for. This makes for a particularly comprehensive resource in the eyes of Google.
Now let’s explore what this page does better than the ones ranking beneath it in the SERPs:
The 2nd spot, Cratejoy, does not even have a list, rather an e-commerce looking page that displays each box, with brief information, but overall lacks the same in-depth review and external resources as the 1st spot:
Believe it or not, the 3rd spot belongs to the same post, as this is technically the 2 spot for this SERPs, because featured snippets are considered to be 0 spots by Google and SEOs.
The real 3rd spot belongs to Esquire, a very reputable and high domain authority site that has millions of monthly users – more than MySubscriptionAddiction (the #0 and #2 spot).
But, there are a few main things that I immediately notice holding it back from higher rankings:
Okay, so to break down why it is somewhat of a shocker that this does not rank first:
As you can see from the screenshot above, according to SEMRush, Esquire.com gets an average of 5.8 million monthly visitors, and has 12.5 million backlinks from 78 thousand domains.
In comparison, MySubscriptionAddiction has only 738 thousand monthly visitors, and 234 thousand backlinks from 4.4 thousand domains. I say only, because in comparison, these numbers are about ⅙ that of Esquire. And yet, they still rank higher. So what gives?
Well, based on the research I have done, and my own personal experiences with business owners and my own websites, there are a few main reasons (other than comprehensive content) that MSA is able to rank higher in SERPs for this term:
Let’s move on to what I would do to improve this page even further, or even attempt to outrank it with a similar post on another domain.
How Could You Outrank this Page?
If I were to attempt to outrank this page, the first thing I would focus on is providing at least 2 more paragraphs of text for each section. While this would make a longer post, it also would give Google more to work with for keywords, and people more information on the products themselves – better serving user intent. A few ideas for these paragraphs include:
Sure, this would make your content longer and less visually appealing. But an easy way to get around this would be to simply make a clickable table that could expand for each section. This stores the data, without compromising space between each entry, making the most of more information and a shorter post format.
This idea of serving user intent, and tracking user interactions on your site are a huge part of Google’s RankBrain algorithm, set to one day be their primary ranking algorithm.
But, that is not all that is needed in order to outrank the number one spot on Google. In fact, there are a lot of other site-specific factors that will work against you, but that can eventually be overcome. This leads us to the next section, SEO.
SEO – How to Rank Higher on Google
Despite what changing trends and many internet gurus may tell you on the internet, SEO is still alive and well in 2019, and will likely always be one of the most important things when it comes to implementing an effective online content strategy.
For you noobs out there, SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Basically, this is the practice of using working knowledge of Google’s ranking factors and improving your site, content, site structure, link structure, and other things in order to rank higher in search engines for specific, relevant keywords and search terms.
We are not an SEO company by any means, but both Cody and I got our start freelancing for various companies, helping them improve their SEO. We took that knowledge with us when starting Poofnewsales, and actively use these practices in order to improve our own site’s visibility, as well as clients.
Overall, there are literally hundreds of SEO tactics in use today, most of which have been around in some capacity for a long time, and some of which are fairly new, as Google and other search engines continue to evolve to serve user intent over time.
I don’t have the time to explain every single SEO factor that affects rankings on Google, but I think it is important to shed light on some of the more important and basic ones that you can improve on today in order to help your content rank higher.
SEO Basics – What Your Site Needs (Bare Minimum)
Here is a simple checklist of a few things you absolutely NEED to make happen for your site in general in order to give your content the best chance to reach that legendary #1 spot:
1. Website (Page Load) Speed
As of July 2018, site load speed is one of the primary ranking factors for websites, particularly for mobile pages.
Once you have found out your site speed, there are a lot of different techniques that can be applied to speed things up, such as:
More often than not, the main problems that websites face when it comes to site speed are related to WordPress plugins, which requires scripts to load and work. Sometimes, these scripts are called before other files, causing the load speed to increase. Each one of these resources addresses what is causing the slow load speed, and offers solutions.
2. Mobile Responsive Site
If your website is not mobile responsive, it is now negatively affected in terms of rankings, as of June 2018. You can learn more about Google’s Mobile First Indexing here.
The reason that Google now indexes based on mobile first results now is that a majority of internet users are now using their phones for most of their searches. In fact, in 2018, approximately 75% or more of all internet search traffic came from mobile devices.
Basically, this is another way Google is looking to serve user intent. If people are using heir phones to search, and your website doesn’t look good or function properly on mobile devices, then you can bet it will affect your rankings.
3. Optimized Titles and Meta Descriptions
Optimizing titles and meta descriptions has two main functions. Primarily, it gives Google more information about what your post or web page is about. Secondarily, it informs users what they will learn about when they visit a page.
When it comes to titles, usually the most flashy one wins. What I mean by this is that if you are scrolling through the SERPs, and see a title that sticks out more than the others, you are more likely to click on it. On top of that, if it is more informative and relevant to your search, you are also more likely to click on it.
Meta descriptions add on to title tags, giving more accurate summarizations of what a reader will find in your content. They can also be used in order to help search engines identify the main subject your content addresses.
A great way to learn more about both of these important ranking factors is to read up on them in our comprehensive guides, with video! We also have created some helpful content marketing tools which create ideal titles and metas for your topic.
4. Secure Site (SSL)
Having an SSL, or that tiny little security badge in the left corner of your search bar is more or less a requirement from Google now. While they have not expressly named it a “must have” for businesses (yet), they more or less have declared war on sites which are not secure, stating that it can hurt rankings.
While having a SSL certificate does not improve your site’s rankings, it prevents them from being negatively affected by being crawled and indexed as a non-secure source.
There are tons of easy ways to implement an SSL, and you can even get one for free if you wish (though we do not recommend it). Dozens of WordPress plugins exist which help install and get an SSL, and it takes no more than 30 minutes and about $50 per year at most to implement.
5. Relevant, Secure, Reputable Backlinks
This is probably the hardest, yet one of the most important ranking factors that Google uses to determine a sites rankings, Domain Authority, and more.
Links are the web of the internet. They connect resources with organizations and individuals to everything they need or want to find. They are a gateway to user portals, websites, blogs, videos, apps, and more.
Building relevant backlinks to reputable and relevant sites is one of the best ways to improve the SEO of your entire site over time, allowing your content to rank higher easier thanks to the added Domain Authority inherited from other sites.
Usually, this is done through shared blog content, people linking out to your content, and through making mutually beneficial connections with people in your space who agree to allow guest blogging on their site from time to time. This is not something we will get into here, because it can be very complex and in depth, but if you are looking to learn more about guest blogging best practices and how to improve your backlink strategy using guest blogging, check out this guide.
6. Google My Business Information
Google My Business is a free account offered to business owners. In this portal, you are allowed to claim your business and website in order to verify that you are the owner. This allows you to then update your businesses information as it will be seen in SERPs.
This gives business owners a decent amount of control over their online image, their customer reviews, and local SEO.
Overall, if you are looking to improve your rankings, this is a great place to start in order to make sure that your company has all the relevant information needed in order to be considered reputable by your target audience and by Google.
To learn more about using Google My Business to your advantage, particularly to boost local SEO, check out this guide we created.
7. XML Sitemap
An XML sitemap is a file-based directory that is written in a language called XML, which can be easily translated into machine language for the purpose of giving information to web crawlers and bots used to index your content by search engines.
So what the heck does that actually mean? Basically, it is a barebones index of what is on your site, including HTML, text, and image files.
The better your sitemap structure is, and the more often it is updated, the better the chances are that the search engines have crawled the most recent version of your site and content and that is what they are displaying to users.
This is probably something you will never have to worry about, as most CMS platforms like WordPress have built in sitemaps that are automatically updated each day, or each time you make a change to your site. If you prefer to have more control over this process, I strongly suggest using a combination of Yoast SEO and Google Search Console for the most control and best results.
Learn More About SEO Basics
Want to learn more about how to improve the basic SEO of your website in order to give your content the best chance to rank high in Google search? We created this comprehensive resource which guides you through each step of the process in detail, and even has added bonuses which can help improve your site SEO even more.
SEO Friendly Content for Blogs & Web Copy
Okay, so now that we have covered the bare minimum SEO factors that contribute to ranking higher on Google and other search engines, it is time to go over the less obvious and mundane stuff that makes content rank high in the SERPs. This really comes down to 3 main things:
1. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is basically the same idea as optimizing titles and meta descriptions – which do actually fit into this category, but I think they qualify as a bare minimum for anyone who is serious about improving search rankings.
Outside of improving these two things, you also want to make sure that the content you are producing is optimized for SEO purposes. This includes focusing on things like:
Basically, you want to optimize your content in order to give Google the best chance to recognize what each section is about, how it helps the user, how it answers their questions, and why search engines should rank it for certain keywords.
I do not have time to go into this in depth here, but Cody and I have written about it in a few blog posts that will really help you get a feeling for improving your blog content:
2. Internal Links
Internal links are somewhat similar to backlinks, with the exception that they do not technically improve your search rankings or domain authority on the same level. They are still very important though.
Basically, internal links serve two main purposes:
There are a few things you should know about internal links to get started. First of all, never link to exact keyword matches. In other words, if the article is titled “Best Vacation Spots in Florida” try to avoid typing that into your piece of content and then linking it to that specific article.
Instead, try to do things like describing it in a sentence, and linking it to a word or phrase in close proximity to that phrase. For example:
If you are looking for reviews of some of the Best Vacation Spots in Florida, check out this guide we wrote.
This is commonly called a contextual link, and is preferred by both Google and users according to studies I have read. There are situations where contextual linking is difficult or even impossible, for instance, when you are listing other resources, or offering them as a call to action. In these cases, you should still try to avoid EXACT phrase matches, which can be as simple as paraphrasing.
3. Site Architecture
This is perhaps one of the most overlooked ranking factors of our era. At least from my perspective when working with clients who have small to medium sized sites that they plan on growing into large sites one day.
Overall, your site architecture is the way that your content is organized on your site. For example, from your home page, your main menu may have several options on it. From there, someone may follow one of those links to a page with even more internal links on it, which relate to the main topic.
This mapping, and user path is exactly what site architecture aims to plan for, in order to develop a consistent and predictable site structure which helps both users and crawl bots interact with and understand your site’s content.
Basically, by planning your site out in advance and focusing on finding a way to connect everything to one another in a way that makes sense, you can vastly improve the way Google understands your site.
The most perfect example I can think of (mainly because I am obsessed with their website, their content, and everything they do) is PolicyGenius. These guys get how to make high ranking content from start to finish. Their site architecture is damn near flawless in terms of how they organize their resources for both people and robots. You can learn a lot about how a site should be structured by clicking through 10-30 pages of their site from the home page.
Other SEO Factors that Affect How Content Ranks on Google
Now it’s time to get to the specific factors that influence how a piece of content ranks on Google, and ranks well.
1. Optimized URL Slugs
URL slugs are the URLs that you actually see in your browser, following the backslash on a given domain. Optimizing these involves focusing them on the main keyword you are targeting, and reducing words that are not necessary.
Typically, most experts recommend using 3-4 words for a URL slug and no more (if possible). For example, this article is about how to rank in the top spot on Google. A few simple URLs I could use would be:
Ideally, you want to try and reduce the use of non-necessary words like of, the, in, and, is, etc… One other thing you want to make sure is that your URL slug is not too long, and that it also relates to the main keyword you are trying to rank for.
Lastly, when it comes to making great URL slugs, you should know that if you have one that is not optimized, it will not hurt your chances to rank your content on Google. However, going back and changing old URLs is a surefire way to significantly damage your traffic to those pieces of content. Whatever you do, regardless of what some SEO “expert” tells you to do, DO NOT change your old URL slugs to “optimize your content”.
This is perhaps one of the hardest ranking factors to quantify when it comes to Google. It is also one of the more questionable ones in terms of finding experts who agree on it.
However, I can tell you that from my personal experiences with both my own sites and client sites, the businesses that are consistent with their content marketing efforts almost always see better results than those who are not in the short term, and always see better results in the long term.
This goes hand in hand with content freshness. Basically, it sends good signals to Google and establishes your site in their eyes.
When it comes to ranking better on Google, short but sweet seems to be becoming a thing of the past. I can’t tell you how many times I talk to potential clients who are dead set on producing 500-word articles on a consistent basis because their shady SEO agency told them it was part of the recipe for good rankings.
And sure, don’t get me wrong, producing some content on a consistent basis is better than nothing. But when it comes to producing content that is under 1,000 words, you almost might as well not bother in 2019.
Overall, this is just a waste of your time and money. With the exception of very specific circumstances, I never recommend content under 1,200 words for clients, and almost entirely shy away from producing anything shorter than that, even if the business owner understands how quality works – simply because I don’t want my name or my businesses name on something of this caliber.
But hey, don’t listen to me (I know those potential clients dead set on that super effective 500 word count articles won’t!), listen to the numbers. Brian Dean did a study on over 900 million blog posts and found that on average, the #1 spot on Google contained almost 1,800 words. Meanwhile, the #2, 3, and 4 spots saw significant drop offs in word count, and beyond that, the numbers were usually even worse.
Believe it or not, the author of the content actually has a direct impact on the overall ranking of an article. While it is very slim, and seemingly off the radar as far as Google’s official documentation is concerned, this is something I was sure was dead, but a few clients told me of their experiences with it a while back and I did some digging around.
Turns out that in 2009, Google released an update called Authorship, which actually allowed content to be directly attributed to authors, displaying a photo of them and their name in the SERPs. This seemed to be briefly updated in order to reduce effects on rankings through 2011, and downright “abandoned” as of 2014, but evidence still pervades that this ranking factor (while small) is still alive and well.
According to Google’s Search Quality Raters Guideline (SQRG), which are established for the actual people who score web pages at Google. In July of 2018, an update was made to these guidelines, which now tasks them with finding the “named content creators” of each piece of content on a website, and then looking them up online, to test their EAT score, or Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness.
While this is not even close to a main factor included in ranking content, it seems Google will be putting a focus on it moving forward for the immediate future, and it is something that should be understood and focused on by business owners who have multiple CMS Admins publishing content on their site.
5. Upgrades Over Time (Content Freshness)
How many times have you searched for something on Google and opened the first result to find outdated information from 5+ years ago? I know I have. Usually, this only happens for very specific searches nowadays, and there’s a good reason for it; content freshness.
Basically, the more you update your content over time, the fresher it is in the eyes of Google, and the more likely it is to keep its ranking, or even move up in rankings over some less fresh, more outdated content.
This is nothing new on Google, with freshness being a ranking factor since June of 2011, and having small updates from time to time since. Making an effort to update your content every 6-12 months can make a massive impact in your rankings over time.
In fact, both Niel Patel and Eric Siu swear by this tactic, with Eric reporting that over the course of 5 years, he tailored one of his web pages into becoming one of the best-performing pages on his site by updating it periodically, until it grew to 10,000+ monthly traffic.
You do want to be careful when upgrading old content, as you can negatively affect rankings as well, something that Cody and I are all too familiar with from first-hand experience with one of our sites. You live and you learn, and sometimes SEO and content marketing are more experimental than scientific.
6. Keywords & Content – the #1 Factor
I went into depth about this earlier in this with my analysis of the subscription box content, but I want to extrapolate on it a bit further.
When it comes to finding the right keywords to rank for in order to improve your Google rankings, you really want to make sure you focus on a few main things:
Basically, before ever writing an article, you want to find out exactly what keywords you are targeting by finding out:
Once you have this information, you can assess whether it is possible to rank your content higher on Google, and whether it is worth it to put in the time and effort in the long run.
Overall, when it comes to making content more comprehensive than the other resources there are a few tips you want to use:
Each one of these links above points to a comprehensive guide we have created, which can give you more insight into each step of producing the best content, and ranking your site higher on Google search.
What is an E.A.T. Score on Google and How Does it Affect Rankings?
Much like when reading a book, or watching a news report, you want to find information that is trustworthy, from a source that you can count on. Similarly, Google seeks to provide users with reputable information in the search rankings. As a result, E.A.T. was born:
According to Google in 2017:
“The amount of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT) that a webpage/website has is very important. MC quality and amount, website information, and website reputation all inform the EAT of a website. Think about the topic of the page. What kind of expertise is required for the page to achieve its purpose well? The standard for expertise depends on the topic of the page.”
Basically, Google wants to take the main content of your page, and break it down in a way that adds up to a “high-quality post”. The expertise, authority, and trustworthiness of a source directly affect rankings in a very profound way.
This is why you can type in just about anything to do with SEO, Content Marketing and Search Engine Marketing, and results from Moz, Neil Patel, Search Engine Journal, and Backlinko dominate the SERPs. This is true almost indefinitely, even if content in the lower spots on Google is of higher quality in terms of serving user intent.
This isn’t to say that this is the only relevant ranking factor, or even that it is the most important by any means. However, for established brands and content creators, this EAT score certainly helps give them a boost in SERPs on a regular basis.
This is also not to say that simply because someone has a high EAT score that they are bullet proof and can simply publish anything that will rank, or that their score is immutable and cannot be lowered from poor quality posts.
While no one can tell the exact way that EAT affects Google search rankings, there are a few things we can be certain of:
Building Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness is not quick or easy, but it is well worth it in the long run.
What Can I Do to Outrank Larger Sites in the SERPs?
I am not going to sit here and tell you that you can always outrank large sites in the SERPs, in order to claw your way to a number one spot in search engines. Sometimes, it is next to impossible, or just not worth it in terms of what you will need to spend to do it vs. what it will return.
In these next two sections, I will outline everything you need to know about identifying whether outranking large (and reputable) sites is worth it, and how you can go about doing it over time.
Assessing the ROI of Ranking in the #1 Spot – Is it Even Worth it?
Okay, so before spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on getting your content to the #1 spot on Google, it is essential that you evaluate whether this is money well spent. This can easily be done in just a few steps:
Essentially, by quickly calculating these figures using these 6 steps, you can easily assess whether content marketing is right for your industry, or for a given keyword that you want to rank for.
Either way, it is likely important that you produce some high quality content around that search term, even if there is a chance you will never even rank in the top 10, as this establishes trust in potential clients, and helps loyal audience members learn more about what they are looking for.
But overall, you can still do this without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars trying to produce a piece of content that may never rank in the top spot, and even if it did, may never have a positive ROI.
Sure, you could take in other more complex factors, like the way that holding a #1 spot in search may give your domain more authority over time, or serve as a great backbone for backlink generation, but for most business owners, the thinking stops at ROI based numbers in terms of dollars spent vs. dollars gained over time.
How to Outrank the Competition with Your Organic Content
So you’ve taken some time to assess whether ranking in the top spot in search is even worth it to your business in terms of ROI for a given keyword, and you have found that it in fact is worth it.
Now it’s time to learn exactly how to outrank the competition. I would love to talk more about this here, but it is honestly a subject matter all its own. However, I have created these additional resources which are very helpful for ranking your content higher in Google than the competition:
To summarize this section in a few quick points, in order to rank higher in search engines with your content, you should:
If you consistently follow these steps, combined with the SEO tips we gave you, using our guides and resources, there is almost no reason why you should not be able to achieve success with your website content over time.
If you feel like you need a little help getting off the ground, we totally understand, this can all be a bit overwhelming. Give us a bit of information about yourself, your business, and your current situation, and we will get back to you with personalized tips, and a content marketing strategy call with myself (Kyle) and my Co-Founder, Cody Marchant.
We have helped dozens of business owners improve their organic search traffic, to generate and close more qualified leads, and would love to share what we have learned with you in order to improve your website rankings.
Why is Ranking #1 on Google So Important in 2019 and Beyond?
Whether while watching Talladega Nights or playing for your overly enthusiastic and competitive little league coach, you’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “If you’re not first, you’re last.” Well, on Google, while this isn’t exactly true, there is certainly a huge benefit to ranking number one.
To show you the difference in search traffic that just one spot on Google really makes, reference this chart based on 2013 data from Search Engine Watch:
Thankfully, we found some friends who were equally as unsatisfied with data from 2013, and who recently, in 2017, did a similar experiment to reassess the percentage of clicks the number one spot on Google generates. Believe it or not, the average first position on Google is believed to generate even more than previously thought.
In fact, they found that some first page rankings on Google generate an average of 44.64% of search traffic.
Think about Google search as prime real estate. There is a finite amount of it, it increases in value continuously, and once you have it, you reap the monthly benefits of people paying rent on it. The rent, in this case, is the value your business derives from people visiting your site and converting.
Can We Trust this Data?
Yes and no. While this data comes from reputable sources in the SEO world, it also does not take into account the factors that influence user behavior in SERPs such as:
Overall though, there are numerous studies on the internet done by some of the best and most respected firms in SEO, and all of them seem to conclude that the average top organic result on Google captures roughly between 33-50% of all clicks on average.
There are easy ways you can check for (fairly accurate) CTRs for SERPs results:
Essentially, all you need to do is figure out how much a search volume a keyword gets, then calculate how much traffic a given page gets. From there, you need to then calculate what percentage of that page’s total traffic comes from that specific keyword. And there you have it, CTR.
The Real Value of Improving Your Search Engine Rankings
What’s more important than getting caught up in these detail oriented arguments is understanding the real value of getting your website and web content to the first page of Google.
According to multiple studies, around 89% of all searches end on the first page of Google. That means that if your site doesn’t rank on the front page, about 9/10 of every potential client looking for your services and expertise will never find it.
The top 3 spots on Google alone are estimated to suck up anywhere from 50 to 55% of all search traffic for a given keyword, according to Advanced Web Ranking. This chart from their study gives you a visual understanding of just how powerful ranking higher in Google really is:
As you can see, the #1 spot on Google sucks up about 2 to 3 times more traffic than the second spot. After you get beyond the first page of Google, hardly any search traffic is directed to results at all, because users rarely go beyond the first page.
Calculating the Impact of Ranking Higher in Search Engines
This data is great to have an all, but how can I be sure that ranking in the top spot (if I can manage to do it) is worth it to my company? More specifically, what is it worth to my company?
This is actually extremely easy to calculate. Follow these simple steps:
All said and done, your equation should look something like this:
As you can imagine, industries with high LTV customers are able to benefit much more from high rankings than those with low average returns from their customers. To go along with this, you can also expect higher competition. For instance, we work with a client who is a plastic surgeon, with a very reputable website and practice. Even with their domain authority and rankings, it can still be very difficult to rank in the top spot for a given keyword. BUT the average LTV of a client in that industry is well over $8,000, making it well worth it to develop high quality content for their site in the long run (if done well).
On top of that, it is important to consider factors like:
By accounting or each of these factors in your calculations will really allow you to figure out whether attempting to rank higher in search engines for a specific piece of content will be worth it to your business, and how long it will take for this content to ROI.
The Code – Resources You Absolutely Need to Read & Understand if You Want to Rank First on Google
Aside from the unbelievable amount of information covered in this superguide, there are even more things that you need to know about how Google and other search engines work in order to truly understand how to get on top of Google search. I will not go into them in-depth, as this guide is already long enough, and each of these resources is directly provided by Google or other search engines:
|High Quality Website Guide||Learn more|
|Webmaster Guidelines (Main)||Learn more|
|Adding Websites to Google||Learn more|
|Sitemap Basics||Learn more|
|Understanding Duplicate Content||Learn more|
|Intro to Structured Data||Learn more|
|Mobile Website Guidelines||Learn more|
|Creating a Google Friendly Site||Learn more|
|Google Rankings 101||Learn more|
|Webmaster FAQ||Learn more|
There are dozens of others that could have easily made this list, but these are the top 10 that you NEED to understand in order to get started, and get things going in the right direction.
When Can I Not Rank #1 on Google with My Content?
Okay, I am not here to tell you it is IMPOSSIBLE to rank in the top spot on Google for any given keyword. With enough time, money, or both, I am sure you could find a way to do it no matter what. However, most of us have a very limited number of dollars and seconds on this Earth, and simply cannot afford what it costs to get to the #1 spot in certain situations.
So, when are you better off cutting your losses, or focusing your budget on other online marketing efforts rather than trying to get your content to rank first in search engines?
I recently spoke to a potential client who I sadly had to turn down working with. Overall, he understood the idea of content marketing, how effective it is, what timescale to expect results in, how it works, and even had a realistic budget. So what gives Kyle, how the heck could you turn down this seemingly ideal client?
Well, when we first made contact, he told me that his site had been suffering some serious losses in organic traffic for the last 5-7 years, mainly as a result of not focusing as much on content creation as they used to. Or so it seemed.
However, after doing some content and competitive research in his industry, the real root of his problem was revealed. The SERPs were being dominated by Amazon, Walmart, Target, Kohl’s and other extremely old, high domain authority sites that are far more comprehensive than his – even though his site’s niche is home goods.
Realistically, this wouldn’t normally be a problem, because while his company is an e-commerce home goods items provider, their content needs would revolve around creating guides and list posts similar to the examples we used in the section above.
THE PROBLEM: Even if I were to help his company rank #1 for these key terms after months and potentially years of hard work, content upgrades, and diligent reporting of Search Console and Analytics Data, each one of them would suck up about 50-60% of their 100 or so monthly searches. Put simply, there was almost no way I could get our content marketing services to ROI for him in any reasonable amount of time for almost all of his keywords, if at all.
On top of that, any searches that were not dominated by these e-commerce behemoths were dominated by consumer-based social media sites such as Tumblr and Pinterest. This means that there was virtually no way for us to write him blog content that could actually ROI in a reasonable amount of time. As a businessman, I had to be honest with him in my assessment of his site, and tell him this. While he was appreciative of my honesty, I wish there was more I could have done to help his struggling site besides making recommendations and help connect him to some experts I know in other related digital marketing fields.
TL;DR – Too Long, Didn’t Read (Summary)
If you have a site that is in a highly competitive industry, with no choice but to try and rank for extremely long tail keywords (low volume keywords), that may still be highly difficult to rank for, and only return a handful of monthly visitors even if you manage to rank #1 on Google, then you might want to consider pursuing other means of organic search traffic generation.
So What Can I Do in this Position?
I still recommend that you get a content marketing consultation from an agency in order to determine your opportunities, options, and room for improvement in the future. A reputable agency will tell you whether working together makes sense or not, and present a comprehensive plan of action and professional recommendations for your site.
How Hard is it to Rank Top on Google in My Industry?
Before I answer this question, I want to first explore a few ways you can estimate ranking difficulty for various keywords and topics on Google:
Search Console can really only be used with content you have already published, but is the most helpful of all these resources. You can see impressions, rank, CTR, dwell time, keywords, and much more. This tool is best used for improving your own content based on the data you are given.
SEMRush is helpful when it comes to assessing the overall strength of a website and its various web pages. Using this tool, you can easily find keyword rankings, traffic, traffic sources, and more. Most importantly, you can use it to determine how many referring domains, backlinks, and keywords a web page has, which overall determines its strength and difficulty to dethrone. It also helps you to get a better understanding of the traffic breakdown of a piece of content and if it is worth it to try and outrank.
Keywords Everywhere is one of my favorite SEO tools that is offered in the Google Chrome Store. This tool shows CPC, Difficulty and traffic numbers for all results in SERPs, allowing you to easily get an understanding of how difficult it is to rank for a given keyword. Another similar tool I enjoy is SEOQuake.
Now that I have gotten that out of the way, let’s explore how hard it is to rank for various types of industries on Google search. I organized these different ranking opportunities into 5 main categories:
For product pages, you can expect it to almost always be the highest difficulty in order to rank. The reason? Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Pinterest, and Etsy. You try outranking any of these guys, go ahead. It’s not impossible, but you need to find creative ways to do so, or develop strategies that focus on how to rank the highest on each of their platforms individually for your product.
One sneaky way to get around this that serves the dual purpose of building your domain authority, EAT score, and organic traffic is to write comprehensive product reviews, then converting that traffic in various ways such as:
Of course, before doing this, you will want to make sure that the keyword you are trying to rank for is worth it in terms of search volume, and possible to rank number one on Google for with a decent competition rating.
This is the model Cody and I have followed for our experimental e-commerce site, which has seen amazing results in the first 6 months. Read more about it in this case study I wrote.
Services are a bit easier to rank for, but depending on the industry, they can still be very difficult in some cases, like in our industry (:.
This includes searches like:
Strategies for ranking for service pages are a bit more complex than just creating comprehensive content, though that is a large part of it. This involves employing a local SEO strategy, backlink strategy, strong site architecture, a content marketing strategy, customer review strategy, social media strategy and a solid balance of paid campaigns.
Overall, you can expect to rank for these types of terms to take years, and should not rely on them as your primary sources of traffic, but rather a consistent mission you are always working on in the background. With consistency and execution, it is possible to one day reach the top of the search rankings for these types of terms. Without content, it is nearly impossible, as this is a large portion of what forms your EAT score, and therefore domain authority.
This is arguably the easiest type of web content to rank for and includes more general searches such as questions asked in search by your audience. Some examples include:
Strategies for ranking for these type of queries range widely, but mostly involve creating the best resource on the internet for your specific keyword or search query.
Overall, describing these various strategies would take a long time, but you can learn more about them by visiting our blog and our content marketing school pages, where we have created dozens of resources in order to help business owners and marketers alike improve their content strategies.
Local search is a bit more difficult to rank in but can be simple in some less competitive industries. Overall, this involves a lot of location based content and service page development, strong optimization of your Google Search Console, and implementing a local SEO strategy.
Beyond this, you also want to pay strong attention to indexing your business and website on important review and index sites such as Yelp.
Lastly, it is also important to focus on developing a review strategy, as reviews are one of the main local ranking factors based on my research and experience with past clients.
To learn more about how to improve your local search rankings on Google, feel free to read this comprehensive guide we have created.
Industry specific search terms are probably the hardest to rank for, even more so in some cases than products believe it or not. These are things like:
The reason they are so hard to rank for is that they have such high amounts of traffic that all of the largest sites are going to show up in the results. On top of that, they are so broad that only the most comprehensive resources will show up in the first page of Google.
As a result, these are dream projects. Things that you would love to rank for, and are overarching site ideas that are imbued into all of your content, campaigns, etc… as broad ideas, but are built up over extremely long periods of time.
This is where you really begin to see EAT begin to make a difference in rankings. Another thing that has a huge effect on rankings for these looser terms is backlink profiles and referring domains.
Lastly, some other factors is the age of your domain, the amount of content you have, monthly visitors, site architecture and paid traffic over time.
Things to Keep in Mind About Ranking Higher on Google Beyond 2019
There are a few things you need to always keep in mind when attempting to improve your search engine rankings in 2019 and beyond:
Keeping up with the latest SEO and content marketing trends is one of the most important parts of succeeding and ranking higher on search engines.
3 Things to Avoid Like the Plague in Your Efforts to Rank Higher in Search Engines
While the clamor to boost your search engine rankings is probably building up by now, before you get started, there are a few things you should avoid at all costs in your efforts:
1. Foreign Based SEO Agencies
Look, I have nothing against people from other countries, or their work ethics. Honestly, I work with dozens of virtual assistants and web developers from overseas who are a pleasure to work with.
But, when it comes to working with an SEO or content marketing agency in order to improve your search rankings, you really want to pick a firm based in the United States.
If this is what their outreach emails look like…
…then how well do you think they pay attention to detail when it comes to your SEO?
Due to the structure of a lot of foreign based digital marketing agencies, they have to work fast and recklessly in order to keep minor profit margins in the black.
This creates a hectic, haphazard workflow that involves getting things done to move on to the next task quickly, rather than getting the job done right.
I am not saying that ALL foreign based SEO companies are not reputable, but I am simply saying, why take the chance at all? Sure, you may save $20-40 per hour on labor, but you could also completely tarnish your site’s reputation and traffic, derailing years of hard work, that can take years to build back up.
Trust me, I’ve seen this too many times. A business owner hires an SEO company to save a tiny amount of money, and winds up cutting their site traffic in half or worse. Was it worth it? Never.
2. Agencies that Do it All
Look, I am a firm believer in the fact that you can’t be an expert at more than one thing. Maybe two tops. Unless you are Elon Musk or some other elite human that has a superhuman ability to focus and work non-stop, it just isn’t possible.
Sure, you can hire experts, build teams, and build a great company around you that gets results. But even then, it is extremely rare that you can find a company that provides an all-in-one service for SEO, digital marketing, etc… that really excels at the whole package.
The point here is: any agency that promises they can do it all is full of it. Or, they can do it all, just not well. Don’t believe me? Go ahead and roll those dice with your marketing budget.
I have worked with dozens of clients who are told by an agency that they can handle their web dev, SEO, content, social media, sales copy, and more. You know what happens? They get 2 low-quality backlinks that are hardly relevant per month, some basic local SEO packages that they could have done themselves in a few hours, some keyword research copied and pasted from SEMRush, and one 500 word count, keyword stuffed piece of content per month, then some paid ad campaigns to run in the background which provides nearly all of the traffic increases they see.
Then, as soon as the agency goes away, so does the paid traffic that they report as organic. Sure, these guys handle a lot for your business, and it is convenient, but everything they do is middle grade at best. They do everything and excel at nothing.
Businesses that are serious about their online marketing have a team that handles their paid ads, a team for SEO, a team for their content, and a team for their social. Sure, it is a bit more of a headache to manage and integrate, and a bit more expensive, but the results more than pay for themselves.
3. Blackhat SEO Practices
Believe it or not, in 2019, people are still trying to find ways to fool Google’s algorithm with what are called black hat SEO practices. Basically, these are practices that violate Google’s terms and conditions. Things such as:
More or less, if it sounds too good to be true in the world of SEO, it probably is. Promises like, “we can get you 300 backlinks in a month” should not be trusted. Heck, I could get you 30,000 backlinks by tonight if you want. The thing is they are all from Russian hacker sites and blog networks that Google labels as malicious, and their connection to your site will automatically raise flags and actually hurt your rankings in the long run.
I kid you not, I have actually met people who believe THIS is the way to do things in 2019. People who have paid thousands of dollars for Black Hat SEO packages that supposedly boost local search rankings. Of course, all their clients mysteriously disappear a few months later, but that’s just coincidence I suppose.
Any firm that makes any promises related to rankings, rather than describing a real plan of action, why they are working on it, problems they expect, and solutions to current problems should not be trusted, no matter how high tech they are.
Even if you can find a way to fool Google’s ranking algorithm, chances are they will find it in a few months and patch it, at which point your site will be dealt penalties. Chances are, you will also have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a real algorithm fooling solution developed by less than trustworthy hackers, which is more expensive than a solid content marketing campaign and SEO services for a year or more in some cases.
Wrapping it Up – Using Content Marketing & SEO to Rank Higher on Google in 2019
You now have the knowledge and resources to get started on your quest to making your website rank higher in Google search.
It may seem a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, that is a natural feeling. There is a lot more going on behind the scenes of the modern web browser than many people give credit for or understand.
It is important that if you are making a commitment to improving your search engine rankings for your site that you stay up to date on all the latest updates and changes to Google’s ranking algorithm. While they do not disclose distinct details about the algorithm, they do inform users about changes in their rankings, and provide information on the basics of what the changes entail, and how they might affect your rankings. You can always find this information on the Google Webmasters Blog.
If you are looking to work with an expert team of content marketing specialists in order to improve your organic search traffic, generate more leads, and take your online marketing strategy to the next level – we are your guys. Fill out a contact form to give us a bit more information about your business, goals, and current content strategy, and we would love to schedule a personalized discovery call with you.
To learn more about what working with the Poofnewsales team is like, check out these videos and blogs we have created:
Kyle Broussard is the Co-Founder of PoofNewSales, a content marketing agency that helps business owners build brands and generate more organic search traffic. Kyle has helped dozens of business owners grow their online businesses.