How Do I Use SEO to Get on the First Page of Google?
Now that you know what SEO is, it’s time to identify the specific actions it entails to help you rank higher in search results and ultimately show up on the first page.
1. Understand How Google Works
The first step in getting your business to the first page of Google is to have your website designed and structured with search engines in mind. Google (and other search engines) works by crawling the web, taking inventory of the millions of pages that exist, and storing them in an index. When a user performs a search query (types a word or phrase into the search box), Google searches through its more organized index (rather than the whole web) to quickly come up with relevant results.
When you optimize your website for Google, you are making it easier to read by Google’s web crawlers, so they can more quickly scan, index, and retrieve your site. So how do you do this? Read on.
2. Put Keywords in the Right Places
To make your web pages easier to read by Google, you must first determine what information you want it to obtain when it reads your page. In other words, for which search queries do you want Google to serve up your page in results? As mentioned above, you want each page to target a different query (also known as a keyword). This way your pages aren’t competing with one another. Also, keywords don’t have to be just one word—they refer to the words or phrases users type into the search box in Google.
Examples of keywords include:
- “salon near me”
- “brunch Boston”
- “air conditioner repair Brighton”
- “how to get on the first page of Google”
Where to put keywords
Once you identify the keywords your page is targeting (which you’ll learn how to do below), you need to place them in specific locations on that page, including the:
Title: Every blog post and page of your website has a title. This title appears at the top of your page but also as the title of that page’s listing in search results. If you’re using a CMS, there will most likely be an easy-to-identify title box. In terms of HTML, this is the H1 tag in your code. For more help, visit How to Create and Optimize Title Tags for Your Website.
Meta Description: The meta description is the one- or two-line blurb that shows up underneath your page listing’s title in Google search results. These descriptions provide a quick snapshot of what each listing on the results page is about, allowing users to quickly skim and decide where to click. You can (and should) use an SEO tool to create meta descriptions for each page on your website. Otherwise, one will automatically be created for you (oftentimes the first sentence of the page, which isn’t always relevant). Google does a pretty good job at creating meta descriptions based on the page’s content, but you should not rely on it. Use an SEO tool to create a meta description for each page that includes the keywords you’re targeting and quickly tells a searcher what they can expect to find on that page.
URL: Google also reads the URL of a page when considering it for rank. A URL is basically a fancy name for “link”. It consists of your domain name (such as thrivehive.com), followed by a “/”, followed by text that is unique to each page (for example, thrivehive.com/why-is-the-first-page-of-google-so-important/.
Including keywords in your URL will help Google more quickly identify what your page is about. Also, the URL appears in between the title and meta description in search results. A clean URL that matches the title of the page is more appealing and trustworthy to users.
Alt Tags: Google cannot see images, but they are still a key aspect of using SEO to show up on the first page of Google (not to mention showing up first for Google Image searches!). This is because they can “read” images via their text alternative—hence the term alt tag. When adding a photo or graphic to a web page, make sure that you fill out the alt text box when uploading the photo. If you’re adding the image via HTML code, the alt tag is displayed as:
alt=”your alt text here”
For more help with keywords and SEO:
The most powerful and affordable small business SEO method for boosting traffic and getting on the first page of Google is effectively placing keywords in the above locations.
3. Choose the Right Keywords
As mentioned above, keywords are the biggest players in a search engine’s formula for determining website ranking. It’s critical that your website pages contain the keywords for which it is trying to rank—in a natural and useful way.
The keywords that you should use are ones that your customers are going to be most likely to look for. To find this, it’s best to put yourself in the shoes of your customer and figure out what they would search for based on their priorities and experiences.
For help choosing keywords for your business, check out these blog posts:
3. Do Not Keyword Stuff!
In the past, people could take advantage of Google’s system by excessively using keywords in their content. Don’t do this! It has a name (keyword stuffing), is not a good SEO practice, and Google will penalize you for it.
In addition to scanning the words on a page, Google also uses user behavior to see how strongly a page associates with the keyword for which it is trying to rank. Say, for example, that you are trying to get your page to rank for “How to make homemade applesauce” so you simply copy and paste “how to make homemade applesauce” hundreds of times onto the body of the page and in the meta tags.
This kind of keyword stuffing is futile—anyone visiting your page will quickly find it useless and exit without visiting any other pages on your site (this is called a bounce). Google will detect this behavior, see that your page is not helping users, and will rank you lower in its results. Not to mention you will lose trust from a large audience.
This can’t be emphasized enough: The key to getting on the first page of Google is providing high-quality content for the keywords you are trying to rank for. Your page needs to provide the information users are trying to obtain when they type those keywords into Google.
4. Emphasize Location
Another SEO strategy to get on the first page of Google is to make sure your website clearly indicates your city and/or geographic area. You will want to do this in your contact page, and potentially also through blog posts and services pages. That way, when people search: “your industry” + ”your city”, Google will pick up that information and show your business as “near me” search result. Google also uses IP addresses to identify the location of its users, and can therefore serve up local results even for queries without location modifiers.
Check out this local SEO guide for more information on other ways to rank higher in Google. With the amount of online researching and local searching consumers do today to find the best services for them, it is crucial that your website includes your location.
5. Optimize Your Website for Mobile
The more mobile-friendly your website is, the closer it will get to Google’s first page. Consumers now use phones and tablets more than computers and laptops. As a result, Google favors mobile-friendly/responsive websites. Responsive is ideal, as your website will adapt to any size screen and maintain functionality. However, if you don’t have a responsive website, there are adjustments you can make to your site to ensure the most seamless experience for a mobile user.
For help with mobilizing your website, check out this blog post:
How to Make Your Website More Mobile-Friendly
6. Optimize Your Website for Users
Being mobile-friendly isn’t enough for a website—it must also be appealing, user-friendly, and make sense navigationally. A website with intuitive navigation, clear calls to action, and that answers visitors’ questions keeps them on your site longer and coming back—which Google will notice and, in turn, rank you higher. The higher you rank, the more traffic you will get to your site, and the more likely you are to show up on the first page.
For more help with optimizing the experience of your small business website, check out these blog posts:
7. Set up a Google My Business Page
Google My Business is turning out to be one of the most powerful SEO tools for local business owners. Both Google Maps and Search pulls from Google My Business listings to show local results. The more optimized your Google My Business listing is, the more likely you are to show up on the first page of relevant searches. An optimized Google My Business listing is:
- Complete, accurate, and up to date
- Populated with customer reviews
- Full of pictures that represent the look, feel, products, and services of your business
If you haven’t already, create and claim your Google My Business listing asap. If you do have a GMB listing, click below to get an idea of how effective it is.
8. List Your Business on Other Directories
Google My Business is powerful, but you should still create and optimize listings on other popular directories like Yelp. First, because Yelp has high traffic and is widely trusted by Google,so there’s a good chance your business’s Yelp page shows up on the first page of Google for relevant searches. Second, because a solid listing with positive reviews improves your online presence in general. Online review and links from other trusted sites send signals to Google that figure into its ranking algorithm.
One of the best things you can do to take advantage of Yelp is to get more positive, quality reviews. Don’t fall into temptation for paying for reviews (which is heavily monitored by Yelp anyway). Instead, find a way to encourage happy customers to leave feedback on Yelp. It’s also a good idea to make sure that your Yelp page is fully filled out and is filled with high-quality, alluring photos.
9. Run a Google Ads Campaign
Developing consistent organic search traffic is perhaps the best way to consistently get new visitors coming to your website. However this process takes time, so you may want to consider running some paid search ads to get exposure in the meantime.
Google Ads is a program where you pay for pages of your website to show up at the top of Google search results. However, it’s not set up such that the more you pay, the higher you rank. Google still has an algorithm for its paid results. When someone searches for the query you are paying to show up for, Google compares all of the bidders for that keyword and, depending on your ad relevancy, budget, and other factors, you may or may not show up first in results. For this reason, you only pay when someone clicks on your ad and lands on your website (pay per click model, or PPC) While it is possible to run a Google Ad campaign yourself, your best bet is to let an expert do it for you so they can make the most of your budget.
Showing up on the first page of Google takes some work but it is doable. By knowing where and how to make adjustments, you can get your business the visibility it deserves!
For more help with ranking higher on Google, visit our Google My Business Knowledge Center.