Get Your Grit on with SEO

Page 1 of Google: the holy grail of SEO success.

The process behind SEO success, while doable, is not easy. You need to have grit and patience to achieve—and to maintain—a Page 1 ranking for competitive keywords.

With 81% of shoppers conducting online research before they make a purchase, SEO rankings are more important than ever. If you’re willing to put in the work and go the extra mile though, the long, grueling road to SEO success is not crowded.

Here are three grit-filled steps to achieve SEO success:

Study and know your keywords, rankings, and the current Google Page 1 results.

Do your homework. Step one of the SEO improvement process is to know the ins and outs of how things stand right now. It's not glamorous, but this initial phased-research approach is critical to not only determine where your organization stands now, but also what would be feasible short and long-term goals.

First, find out what keywords are currently driving traffic to your website. Google Analytics can provide this information. Compare those results with the keywords you want to be driving traffic to your website. Do they align? If not, decide which keywords would be best to go after from a return on investment stand point. Start small. Select 3-5 important keywords to kick-off your SEO improvement process. Generally, the longer the keyword phrase, the easier it will be to improve your rankings. Two or three word phrases will always be harder to get and keep high search engine rankings. HitTail is an affordable option for keyword discovery and prioritization. Subscription services, like Moz.com and Serps.com, provide a more detailed option for the best SEO strategy.

With a small set of keywords in hand, take a look at where you currently rank for those keywords. Capture your present rankings so you can monitor any changes or improvements over the next six to nine months. Don’t expect overnight results. SEO success is a marathon not a sprint. It takes a few months of hard work and lots of new content before you will see your keywords start to improve.

Next, take a look at what (and who) is on Page 1 of Google for those 3-5 keywords. What types of content are ranking on Page 1? Blogs? White Papers? Who is on Page 1? Are your competitors there? Is it authority sites that will be much harder to pass? Take a realistic assessment of the keywords that are very competitive and try to save those for when your site has improved in page ranking and domain authority.

Finally, you’ll want to look at the word count of the top ranking posts. The length of Page 1 posts is important. In order to move past the top rankings, you’ll need to develop new content that is longer and more in-depth. This is commonly referred to as the “Skyscraper Method” in the SEO world. Build it bigger and better right next door.

Write researched, grammatically correct, thought-provoking, and engaging content.

Good writing never goes out of style. The same rings true for SEO success.

Now that you’ve identified 3-5 keywords you want to target for your business, it’s time to research and develop excellent, thought-provoking, and engaging content. Think of Google as the world’s best editor. It can tell the good from the bad writing—and will adjust rankings based on its assessment.

A simple first step in this process is to find great content that touches on the same topic you want to write on. Keep a log of these articles in a file (I use Excel). Use those key data points or interesting quotes where appropriate in your future content. Remember the 80-20 rule. Your new content will need to be 80% original content and 20% or less of existing content (statistics, quotes, etc.). Be sure to hyperlink any existing content that you leverage in your new piece. You generally want to find authority websites to reference. Government sites, scholarly articles, scientific studies, and other high-ranking news sites will let Google know that you are using authority sources to back up your arguments.

Once written, find team members to review the new content for grammatical errors, improvements, and feedback. It’s amazing how many times another set of eyes will find simple mistakes you read over multiple times. Keep a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White handy at all times. You’ll need it. Now complete, put your new and exciting content on your website. Work closely with your website team to ensure the proper meta tags and URL formations are added. It is generally best to use a custom URL for each new article that includes the keyword you are targeting. 

You’re not done yet though. To gain more exposure for your new piece of content, you’ll need to develop a set of two to three new 500-700 word blogs to be placed on third-party websites. These “side blogs” should include a hyperlink back to the new piece of content you just wrote. Do not reuse any of part of the content you developed. All side blogs need to be original content. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but copy and pasted content will hurt your SEO results. Google absolutely marks you down for duplicate content.

Quality link building with original content, like the side blog strategy, can also be done by getting other high ranking sites to include quotes or links to your new articles. The basic idea is get as many inbound links from quality sites as possible. This can be done by reaching out to different sites for guest blogging opportunities or by simply purchasing quality links one by one. You want to avoid the temptation to outsource your link building to those companies that build spam links in bulk. Google has improved their ability to recognize links from spammy sites and will mark you down significantly for this practice. You can use services like Moz to track your inbound links and disavow those that come from spam or low-ranking sites.

Monitor results. Rinse and repeat.

Your new piece of writing is live now. Your side blogs are done and posted on third-party sites to build quality links into your new content. The work is all done, right?

Not at all! The fun is just beginning.

Rinse and repeat step two for all 3-5 keywords you selected. Depending on resource availability, determine the feasible number of keywords you can focus on every week. The ideal goal is at least one keyword per week. Build out an editorial roadmap for which keywords you are going to focus on for which weeks along with the specific types of content you want to develop.

Once you’ve completed the steps for all 3-5 keywords, build a new roadmap for another 3-5 keywords. The SEO process is ongoing and always evolving.

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A Page 1 ranking on Google is a marketer’s dream. It can mean a lifetime of organic web traffic and customers without any acquisition cost. Perseverance and passion for long-term success is an indispensable part of getting to those lucrative top rankings. It won’t be easy. It won’t be painless. However, when you search for a keyword, your business pops up on Page 1, and new customers and clients start finding you every day, it will absolutely be worth it.