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Are you completely new to the world of search engine optimization (SEO)? Or, are you an old pro launching a new campaign? If so, you’re going to be excited about the prospects of ranking first in Google for a given keyword or phrase. It’s an important foundational achievement to set the stage for the rest of your strategic development. And, it has the potential to send significant organic traffic your way.
Unfortunately, getting to rank number one isn’t easy. And if you don’t have much experience, it’s going to be even more challenging. In this guide, I’ll help you understand the context of earning a rank number one position and the best way to get there.
Why rank number one?
Getting to rank number one for a particular keyword is an excellent early goal to set in your SEO strategy. Simply having your business listed in search engine results pages (SERPs) may be exciting, but it’s not going to earn you any traffic.
You probably know from your own experience that most people don’t look beyond page one for any query. In fact, most people don’t look beyond the first few results. Entries at the highest position tend to generate the most traffic, by a large margin. Though the exact numbers vary by industry and search query, you can expect almost 40 percent of all traffic to go to the first result. The second result only generates 18.4 percent. Clickthrough rates get even lower from there.
Because of this, it’s often better to have a single rank number one position then mediocre positions for a wide variety of terms.
So how do we get there?
Choosing the best target keyword or phrase
Everything starts with choosing the best possible target keyword or phrase. Search queries have a dramatic impact on how difficult it is to achieve a ranking and how valuable that ranking is. When searching for potential targets, you’ll need to consider the following:
- Relevance: One of the most important factors is relevance. So it’s the one you should always consider first. You should only accept a keyword or phrase that is applicable to your business and to your customers. Otherwise, you may end up generating traffic that has a low probability of converting.
- Search volume: Next, you’ll need to consider the search volume. This will tell you how many people are actively searching for this phrase on a monthly basis. The higher the search volume, the more traffic you’re likely to generate. But, the more difficult it will be to earn a high ranking.
- Competition: Popular keywords tend to be more competitive, which can make it downright impossible for a new business to break into the upper echelons. That’s why, during your research, you’ll also need to look at the competition involved. If you’re just trying to retain one for any query as quickly as possible, choose a keyword with almost no competition.
Your website: the foundation
After you have your target, you can start practicing search engine optimization on your website itself.
- Clean backend coding: For starters, you’ll need to make sure the coding of your website is completely clean and up to modern standards. If you’re using a traditional website builder, you probably don’t have to worry about this; it’s all taken care of for you.
- Discoverability and indexing: Next, you’ll need to conduct some tests to make sure Google can see and index your website. You can upload a sitemap to Google directly and conduct some tests to make sure you’re showing up in search engines.
- Site speed and performance: After that, you’ll want to optimize your website for speed and performance. Ensure that it’s mobile-optimized and that it loads as quickly as possible. The better your user experiences, the more authority it’s going to carry.
- Onsite content: Start optimizing your onset content with dense, meaningful description and the inclusion of your most relevant keyword phrases.
- Ongoing content development: In line with this, you’ll want to spend time creating new content regularly. Especially content with headlines that include your target keyword phrase.
Boosting your authority
Even with a great website and plenty of optimized content, you’ll need to make efforts to boost your authority with the help of external links.
- Publicize your best content: Promote your best work on social media.
- Focus on link opportunities: Build and exchange links organically.
- Write offsite content: Use guest posting opportunities to build new links to your main site.
Monitoring and maintenance
These strategies should be enough to help you build some initial momentum. Depending on your industry and your keyword terms of choice, you may even be able to reach rank number one in a matter of weeks. More likely, though, you’ll need to monitor and measure your performance carefully. Observe ranking changes as they occur, and gradually tweak your strategy until you get the results you want.
Originally appeared in Entrepreneur