So you want to get your website on page 1 of Google, but you're not sure how? Well, you've come to the right place! Let's start with a quick summary on how Google and other search engines work.
How Google (And Other Search Engines) Work
The way Google and other search engines display websites is this: Google has this fancy algorithm that works around the clock that randomly visit websites all over the Internet, take snapshots of each page, and file them away in a massive database in Google land.
As part of taking a snapshot of each web page, Google's system reads every word and other content on a web page (like photos, videos, audio files, etc) in order to determine the specific subject of the page. Google uses this collected data to determine which web pages to show, and in what order, for a particular keyword search.
In other words, Google's computer algorithms dynamically determine which web page on the Internet is the most relevant for a specific key word or key phrase and displays it first. It then displays the second most relevant page, and so on. The resulting list of web pages is known as a Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
A SERP can be made up of several sections:
The top section usually consists of 3 or 4 paid text ads that relate to the keyword used to conduct the search
If Google thinks the user is looking for a local business nearby, it will add a section below the paid ads called the Local Map Pack
The main section in the middle consists of "organic" (non-paid) listing of web pages that are relevant to the keyword used to conduct the search
So How Do I Get My Site On Google?
First step and this is an important one, you need to make sure your website has been indexed by Google. To find out if it is, just type site:yourdomain.com into the Google search box, replacing yourdomain.com with your actual domain name.
If you see a listing of your website's pages, then Google has already indexed your site and will continue to visit it occasionally to check for updates. If your website is not listed, submit it here: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools. It can take anywhere from 3 days to 6 months to Google to index your site.
Secondly, remember, Google will only display pages that are relevant to the keyword being searched. The first step is to make sure your web page's text is related to the keyword in question. If it's not, chances are Google won't show it.
Third, just because your website does not show up on the first page, doesn't mean it is not showing up at all. Go to the bottom of the results page and click "Next" for page 2 and so on. Your website may be on page 2, page 88 or somewhere in between.
Okay, My Website Is On Google, But It's On Page 106! How Do I Get It To Show On Page 1?
Ah! Now you've asked the million dollar question. The good news is there are two main ways to get your website to show up on the first page of Google:
You can pay to be on the first page of Google and it doesn't have to be a lot of money. This can done via Google Ads.
You can get your website to rank "organically" without having to pay for ads.
I'll explain below…
Getting on Google Organically (for free)
The other way to get on page 1 of Google and other search engines is the organic, or natural, method. These are the main results that show up below the ads or local map section on search engine results pages (see graphic above).
These results cannot be achieved by paying money to Google - they are achieved with careful and long-term optimization of many factors that Google uses when ranking relevancy. The practice of optimizing your web presence so that it shows up organically on Google is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Some of the most important factors that influence your Google page 1 ranking are:
Quality and Length of Your Page Content - Your website's pages should be full of unique and useful information that will benefit your ideal customer or client. The longer the better, as long as it is high quality. Strive to help your target audience by creating quality content that they will want to consume.
Quality and Number of Inbound Links - If other sites are linking to yours, especially big important sites that have content relating to yours, then Google will rank your site higher. Third party links to your website provide a "thumbs up" and give you valuable credibility that signals to Google that your content might be worth pushing higher up the Search Engine results page. So long page 106!
Mobile Friendly Website - The majority of people are now using mobile phones to search for information on the web. Is your website mobile-friendly? Your site should be optimized for mobile devices and easy to navigate so users on any device can find what they need quickly and easily.
Page Speed - Your web pages should load fast on all devices. Slow loading web pages could negatively affect your ranking on Google. Nobody likes a slow website and will not wait more than 3 seconds to load. You can conduct a free page speed test here or use a tool like to test your website page speed.
Keywords in Page Content - Obviously, if the keywords you are targeting actually appear on your site in the text and titles of the pages, you will rank better for those keywords. Don't "keyword stuff". That practice is outdated and will only hurt you now. Write your content for humans, but do keep Google in mind. Don't use too many keywords. When in doubt, keep it natural sounding. Capitalize on using long tail keywords which are 3-5 words long.
Domain Authority - The longer you've owned the domain, the better. The more pages of quality content you have on your domain name, the better. Also, include keywords in your domain name if you can (although Google says this does not directly impact your rankings, it could help influence a user to click on your website vs a competitor's).
Secure Pages - Your web pages should load via https so they are secure. Google, and regular humans, like to see secure pages, even if you're not processing credit cards or obtaining personal information. In their Chrome browser, Google is now labeling all pages that load without an SSL certificate as Not Secure. Don't be one of these sites...get an SSL installed by your web hosting company so that all your pages load securely. Check your website in chrome to see if it shows secure.
URL Structure - "Pretty" URL's are better . If your page URL's are human readable, that's a good thing.
Other Things You Should Do to Rank on Google Page 1
Google My Business Listing
Claim and optimize your Google My Business listing, especially if you are a business that serves only your local community (like a bakery or plumber). Then, get as many positive reviews as you can. This will greatly increase your chances of showing up in the Local Map pack section above the first organic listing. This can be huge if you do it correctly!
One of the single best things you can do to rank highly on Google is to start a blog and post articles regularly. If you're not sure what to write about, think about the top 5 questions your customers ask you. Then write a thorough answer to each question - one blog post per question.
Get a Few Quality Links
Offer to write a guest blog post for a blog or magazine. How about being a guest on a podcast? They will often include a link to your website in your bio at the end of the article.
What is a citation you ask? A citation is a listing of your business on a local directory site. Think Name, Address, Phone Number. Go to sites like Yelp, Foursquare, YP.com, Angie's List, etc and make sure your business listing shows up there and that the information is accurate. This helps create a robust link profile for your domain name and will send signals to Google that the information they find on your site can be trusted because it is found on other sites around the web.
SEO is a Work in Progress
Additionally, just because you rank well for one keyword or key phrase, does not mean you will rank well for a similar keyword/keyphrase. And remember that Google is constantly updating their ranking algorithms so today's rankings may not equal tomorrow's rankings.
Expect to see your site move up and down in the rankings on a daily or weekly basis - it may even drop from the rankings altogether. This is why SEO should always be ongoing.
Remember, your competitors are likely following the same protocols you are. They are likely optimizing their web presence using the same methods you are using. Keep blogging and getting links. Improve the content you already have on your website. A lot of diligence and patience will prove to be worth it when you get that coveted spot at the top of Google page 1!
Want to grab your guide on how to land your site on the first page of Google? More info here.