Ranking at the top of the first page in Google’s search results is the number one goal of many SEO efforts. After all, 91.5% of web traffic stays on the first page, with 4.8% of traffic on page 2, 1.1% on page 3, and 0.4% on page 4.

In a nutshell, ranking higher on Google requires:

• Understanding Google’s algorithms and their ever-changing nature

• Commitment to the process

• Patience and perseverance (improving rankings takes time)

• A fine balance of thinking outside the box while also sticking to the rules

That being said, it is no wonder website owners want to know how they can rank higher on Google.

But how do you get to the top of the SERPs?

Determine how well (and how poorly) your website is actually doing

When you decide to reign in your website and optimize it for good, the best place to start is with the big picture. Use online tools like Google Analytics or Domain Health Report to determine the overall health of your website. Find out:

• Whether your website experienced a sudden drop in organic traffic

• Whether Google deindexed your website

• What your bounce rate is

• And so much more

Find out which keywords aren’t working well

Keywords are crucial in any strategy to improve a website’s SEO value (and rank higher on Google). When your content focuses on keywords that are on the second, third, or twentieth page, you will find that you are not getting very much traffic. Or, you might be getting traffic, but it is the wrong kind – leading to higher bounce rates.

There are a few online tools you can use to find out which keywords aren’t working well. Ahrefs Site Explorer and Google’s Keyword Planner are great places to start.

Once you find your underperforming keywords, find out which keywords you rank for in positions 2-10. Refresh your content to include these optimally-performing keywords.

Determine why your site is being left in the dust

There are hundreds of factors that can cause pages on your website to be outranked. When it comes to your website as a whole, there are typically four factors that correlate with a website’s ranking on Google:

• Searcher intent

• Individual page authority

• Overall website authority

• Amount of referring domains 

Of the four factors, searcher intent is perhaps the biggest. The life of Google revolves around providing the most relevant result for every search. Therefore, understanding searcher intent is critical to their business model.

If searchers visit your website and the page doesn’t match up with their search intent, they will likely bounce. The more this happens, the more your rank will drop on the SERPs. 

Optimize your website’s SEO

Mastering your website’s SEO includes more than writing quality content with quality keywords. SEO factors such as a slow site speed, bad layout for mobile users, and confusing navigation can contribute to poor rankings on Google.

One of the best places to start when optimizing your content for SEO is keyword research. Find out which keywords your website is ranking for, especially the ones in the #1-9 position. These keywords have first-page rankings, and you want your webpage to follow! Incorporate these keywords into the content on your website (copy, title, and description) but be sure to use them in a way that reads naturally.

Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends, and Answer the Public are great places to start. Keyword Planner lets you know which keywords you already rank for, in addition to providing a quality keyword research tool. Google Trends and Answer the Public are excellent sites for finding winning keywords (for free).

Other webpage aspects that, when optimized, can increase your SEO value are:

Title tags

Title tags, along with descriptions, are your website’s receptionists: they are the first thing your visitors encounter. Unique, well-written, and keyword-optimized titles encourage visitors to enter your site. Dull and poorly written titles repel visitors.

Content that is driven by data

Incorporating research facts to back up your claims creates a sense of trust in the user. Because of its no-nonsense and factual nature, data-driven content also establishes you and your content as an authoritative source.

Use creative storytelling techniques

Users do not just want to find answers to their questions and solutions to their problems – they want to be entertained. Put your creative writing skills to work by generating content, titles, and descriptions that are as enjoyable to read as they are scannable and helpful.

Eliminate content that is hard to read

Whether your content is full of lengthy sentences, technical jargon, or large blocks of text, these aspects make for a negative user experience. Web-users enjoy content that is clear, concise, and easy to read. Simplifying your sentences, using language that anyone can understand, and breaking up blocks of text with blank spaces or headers can make a huge impact on your SEO value.

Add numbers to the beginning of your headers

Headlines with a number at their forefront are very popular these days. Examples include: 10 Ways to Impact Your SEO Value, 5 Benefits of Ranking Well on Google, and 8 Methods to Reinvent Your Website.

Incorporate calls to action

While having quality content is great, it is even better to also include calls to action. Sometimes on the web, users appreciate being told what to do. Give users their next right step, whether it’s signing up for a showing or signing up for your email newsletter.

Create a dynamic user experience 

There is so much more to websites than words. Create a dynamic experience with image slideshows, relevant gifs, professional photography, and even podcast episodes.

Pro tip: Be careful to avoid over-optimizing your website. Stuffing keywords unnaturally into your content and meta, overusing anchor text and keyword-rich anchor text, and incorporating spammy or irrelevant backlinks can repel users from your site, draw red flags from Google’s crawlers, and potentially get your website penalized. 

See if you are being penalized

If your website is being penalized by Google, you likely are not seeing much traffic to your site (if any at all). Spammy backlinks are a major culprit behind why websites are penalized.

Before 2012, websites with lots of spammy links found themselves ranking higher in the SERPs. In 2012, Google rolled out the Penguin algorithm (also known as the webspam algorithm update) that penalized websites with spammy backlinks.

Now, Google rewards websites with content that incorporate links thoughtfully and naturally. As Matt Cutts – previous head of Google’s webspam team – says: “links shouldn’t just look natural, they should be natural.”

If you determine that there are spammy links pointing back to one of your webpages, there is no need to delete that page. It is the links themselves that need to be removed.

How to Remove Spammy Links

1. Request for the spammy link(s) to be removed

2. Utilize Google’s disavow links tool in Search Console

You can request for a link to be removed by visiting the website from which the spammy link is coming. Reach out to the owner of the site and ask them to remove your link.

If the owner refuses or does not respond, simply add a nofollow tag to the link. This tells Google’s crawlers not to follow that particular link.

Conclusion

There are so many ways to improve your rankings on Google. Whether it is through refreshing your content, optimizing your website’s page speed, or getting rid of spammy links – you can maximize the value of your website to your audience and search engines. Put these suggestions to use and watch your traffic and rankings improve over time.