Rank on the First Page of Google Without Paying a Cent? This Guide Reveals How
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Everyone’s looking for quick fixes and miracle hacks when it comes to SEO, but the bottom line is, there are very specific directions Google wants you to follow in order to rank high, especially on the first page. No amount of fancy tricks and half-baked content is going to change that. You’re not going to fool Google.
However, anyone can follow the directions to make Google happy and rank competitively, all without paying a cent. One of the problems I feel like people run into though, is that they simply don’t know what to believe, or get confused when they attempt to get a handle on how to manage their SEO.
Well I’m here to completely demystify the process. I want to break this down into bite-sized pieces anyone can understand. Better yet, I’m going to let you in on an industry secret: everyone who knows anything about SEO had to learn it from someone else.
Sounds logical enough, right? Really stop to think about it though. It’s not like some marketers and content creators have magical powers. They don’t wave a magic wand in order to turn on their traffic (regardless of products out there on the market that claim otherwise).
So that means, if other people learned how to do it, so can you.
The digital business world is built on mentorships and collaboration. You have to learn from those around you who are already making it. Sure, some people randomly strike gold and have no idea what they are doing, but guaranteed once they have any kind of traction they either pick stuff up as they go, or lose their seat at the table. Or pay someone else to do it, but that requires thousands of dollars.
I don’t want you selling a kidney to rank on page 1. Hell, I don’t even want you to sell your collection of old Pokemon cards.
So where do we begin?
Keyword Research Done Right
I know you’re probably rolling your eyes right about now. You’ve heard it a thousand times, but you’ve never really put it into practice. Keyword research is one of the most tedious, mysterious tasks to do while performing SEO, and yet, there are ways to make the process somewhat easier.
If you don’t already have a Google Adwords account, hop on over there and sign up, because there is a tool in there we need. I’m actually shocked how many people don’t know about this thing, and it’s an absolute secret weapon in the SEO battle.
Once you are inside of your Google Adwords account, find the Tools option in the top menu and select the Keyword Planner. This thing is going to become your best friend.
When you first enter the Keyword Planner, you’re going to want to select the first option, which helps you find keyword ideas based on parameters you set. Google allows you to input your landing page or page you would like ranked, and what the product, service, or topic the page centers on (in other words, your focus keyword). You can add additional information but often this is enough to get the ball more than rolling.
Once you set it in motion, Google will give you a slew of keywords and broader campaign ideas based on what information you gave it, and alongside each keyword is a treasure trove of valuable information. It will list the competition for that keyword, the average monthly searches, as well as a suggested bid price if you were to make a paid ad campaign for it. We’ll be ignoring that for now, since we’re not making paid ads at the moment, but it’s still valuable information to know what the “going rate” of your keywords are. Puts things into perspective.
The real knock out punch here is the fact that the Keyword Planner gives you the highly coveted longtail keywords for your topic or niche. In case you have never heard of them before, a longtail keyword is an advanced kind of keyword that digs down on a niche or subject, thereby lessening competition while also refining your target audience. Google takes longtail keywords into account when calculating its search engine results, because these fine-tuned keywords often deliver better results for users looking for a product or service. An example of a longtail keyword would be something like “holistic maternity yoga classes” as opposed to just “yoga” or “yoga classes.” Depending on the information you gave Google, it will spit out extremely powerful longtail keyword ideas for you.
So what do you do with them?
Let’s say you’re writing a blog article about your Joomla services, and you want to highlight how Joomla is the best CMS out there. (3 Reasons Why Joomla Will Transform How You View Web Design?) If Google spits out “Joomla Web Design Services”, make sure that phrase or something extremely close to it is in your first H1 tag, your first paragraph, and somewhere else, a bit further down the page. It’s that easy. The only catch?
You have to write authoritative content.
Years ago you could get away with writing pure fluff and it would rank on Google. Now you can literally write a scientific thesis and if it doesn’t have good keywords or isn’t better than what is already ranking high for those keywords, Google will snub its nose at the piece and it may never see the light of day. In this way there are no shortcuts, you have to write something people want to read. Not only should you write so people want to read it, you should write so people want to share it.
“But that’s not a secret hack, that’s hard work!!!”
Too bad, that’s the name of the game. But the light at the end of the tunnel is this: if you follow that method, you will almost certainly get ranked on the first page of Google for that particular keyword. When I finally realized this it was like a lightbulb went off inside my head. You’ll hear marketers and all kinds of web gurus tell you “there’s no guaranteed way to rank on Google,” and “it’s a big mystery,” as if SEO was some kind of Aztec code that only can ever be deciphered by Internet Swamis and craven Google employees. I mean, they literally tell you on Google’s own FAQ pages how to rank high.
- Pick a topic people want to hear about.
- Choose keywords that are likely to trigger that article.
- Write well-researched, easy to read, properly structured content.
Your Content Should Answer Questions or Provide Value
If that wasn’t enough of a shocker, you should sit down for this next bit. In order to rank decently in Google today, you actually have to provide value.
Gone are the days when you could just post some random stuff and get traffic. Besides the fact that you have to make sure your keywords are on point, these days Google wants legitimate reasons why people should see your content, otherwise it couldn’t care less about it. This is the harsh landscape of SEO in 2017. But you can’t really expect anything less in such an over-saturated media world, right?
So what options does that leave the newbie marketer or blogger that wants to get their website noticed?
First and foremost, change your perspective on what content creation really means, if you haven’t already. If you’re just throwing stuff out there, don’t be surprised if it falls flat. The golden rule you should start with before creating content, is, does this content answer a question or help anyone?
Better yet, your premise should be with a question. If your content doesn’t answer a question, why does it need to exist at all? The Internet world is too busy to just look at stuff for the sake of looking at it. That’s valuable time people could be spending watching fat pugs dancing on Youtube. Your content has to exist for a reason, otherwise most people won’t even glance at it, and Google is 100% backing this view in its algorithms.
This might sound like a tough hurdle, but in my opinion, content creation actually becomes easier when you write to provide value. Share your knowledge and experiences, that’s what Google wants and that’s what your viewers / clients / fans / customers / readers want. Once you get into that grove and star writing just to help people out and add value to the Internet, blog writing becomes a whole lot more fun.
But all of that stuff inside your head needs to come out structured, otherwise Google’s going ignore it. Again, gone are the days when you could write a blog post with a bunch of spam blocks of text, links, and a button or two. Remember your header tags, start with H1 and work your way down, you know the rest.
Oh, you don’t? My bad. Nobody actually pays attention to this stuff in SEO videos. They always nod slowly in a daze, wondering when the guy will tell them the magic formula.
Anyway, Google takes title tags seriously, and so should you. It helps browsers interpret your data and let’s Google know how to properly read what’s there as well. Your page title should always be in either H1 or H2, while subsequent sub-headers should be in the next lowest size. And please don’t use header tags to adjust the size and emphasis of a word in the middle of a paragraph. If your <p> tag has an <h1> word in the middle of it, Google is not going to be happy. Sure, your page may still rank and some people won’t notice, but you’re only hurting yourself. I’ve never seen a page in the last five years rank with those kinds of rookie mistakes, so my advice is, learn to embrace font size CSS and emphasis tags.
Keep in mind, as you are structuring your content, how best to feed information to your readers. Don’t try to cram a bunch of incoherent facts into one paragraph, don’t try to ask questions and answer them in one heading, don’t go too long in one section without providing value, etc. If your content is user focused and properly structured, ranking it will not be much of an issue.
Small Tips Worth Taking Note Of
The world of SEO is admittedly huge – so there is definitely a lot that gets passed over or pushed under the rug so to speak. If you are trying to rank your content, take some of these points into consideration:
- Bing is a thing, with its own Webmaster Console apart from Google. It is also a massively used Search Engine. I can see the eye rolls though. Bing? Who uses Bing? It’s 2017 not 1997. Everyone and their grandmother uses Google. WRONG. Bing is the native search engine built into Microsoft Edge, the new Windows browser, and gets used by “casual” PC users quite frequently. Bing also collates data from Yahoo’s search engine, which is another one that is still used quite a bit. Submit your sitemap to Bing and leverage its tools. Period.
- Image names and alt tags matter. Please for the love of everything holy, don’t name your high resolution blog banner or graphic “blogpic3” or “16.jpg” or “final_crop.png.” You are going to make Google (and me) very sad. Your blog images should have long tail keyword naming conventions, such as “expert-marketing-solutions-for-bloggers,” or something similar. Your alt tags should also describe the image accurately and somewhat match the name of the file.
- Speed is important to Google. If you want to rank, your site has to be as fast as you can make it.
- Get active in your niche. If you want to accrue domain authority, you need backlinks. So interact with other blogs and start dropping links and offering advice by sending people to your articles. You want to be an authority in your niche, someone who is able to help. If your content just sits there and you aren’t actually providing value to people, Google knows. It’s like SEO Santa Claus.
- The 80 / 20 ratio. This is a kind of “unspoken golden rule” I picked up on a few years ago that is basically a guideline for how to create content. Try to get your ratio of value to offers in the 80 / 20 range. By this I mean, 80% of the time you should be providing straight up value. Give great info to people, make videos with no ads, entertain them, run contests and quizzes, share outdated memes, all that good stuff. Then only 20% of the time should you be pitching offers, dropping affiliate links, and sending people to your products. This is somewhat of a good rule to follow with Google as well. Your blog content should reflect this ratio. Most of your articles should be about helping your readers accomplish goals and answer questions, with nary a sales pitch to be seen. The rest of the time, direct them to high quality sales pages or places you think they would benefit if they bought your product or the product of someone in your niche.
Your Blog is Only One Arm of Your SEO Beast
Think of your blog as the heart or the head of a giant SEO monster. I don’t know what an SEO monster would look like, but it would probably be a jumbled mess. Be that as it may, you’re going to want to start looking at your SEO strategy as more than just your blog and possibly your email list. If you’re serious about ranking content, you need traffic sources and authority. We’re talking Facebook shares, Tweets, Google+ posts, Linkedin posts, news release sites, Youtube videos, you name it. This shouldn’t be uncoordinated either. All of your social media accounts should connect and assist each other, and all of your content should filter through all of your social channels. Think of it almost like an assembly line. The blog post isn’t truly “complete” until it runs through your assembly line of SEO-generating social profiles.
If you place your content on social media, it also is much more likely to be indexed by Google faster. And if you are helping people with the information you are giving out, it will get passed around on social media, bolstering your traffic, which in the eyes of Google is a green light that your content is worth giving consideration to.
Remember, good content is defined by how much value it provides other people. Google picks up on social signals and attributes authority to your domain when it sees that people are coming to your content to answer their questions. If your content stands out, your website will eventually rise in the rankings.
It’s important to note that even though we are past the age of “SEO hacks” (keyword stuffing, meta tag spamming, etc.), there are still some tricks we can employ that lessen the burden of having to manage the “SEO Beast” manually, which can be a job in and of itself.
If you’re really into content creation and you have a ton of social media profiles, you will soon find that time is your enemy. There is only so much time you can spend per day on Facebook and Titter before you realize it’s dinnertime and you haven’t even had your morning coffee yet. In this regard, automation is your friend. Now, there are tons of ways to “automate” your digital business and content creation, which I will not get into here, but it is enough to say that it is one of, if not the most powerful technique you can use to gain leverage with your content.
Automation can mean any number of things: email autoresponders and campaigns, auto-webinars that play while you are away, delayed posting to Twitter or Facebook, automated content collation, plugins and widgets that mimic “real time” help desk chat on your blog, blog syndication plugins, you name it. There are ways to automate just about every part of digital marketing, but you have to pick and choose where it best suits you, and it is no replacement for quality content. I do recommend, however, investing in some kind of automated content posting software for Facebook or the other major social media platforms. This is not to say that you shouldn’t be on your social media genuinely engaging with your clients, customers, and fans – quite the contrary. But when you have deadlines to meet, blogs to write, and possibly a full time job to address, the last thing you need to be doing at 7 AM on a Monday is cranking out posts on Facebook. This is the kind of thing you should casually write up on a Saturday night and set to post when you are away. Take advantage of the tools that are out there – not everything has to be a manual slog.
Don’t underestimate the power of video as another important tool in your SEO arsenal. I think by now every good content creator should know that Google is extremely favorable toward YouTube videos in their search rankings. Yet, the competition for keywords is much less dense on YouTube compared to the whole of the indexed Internet that Google serves to you in its basic searches, so take advantage of that. Even without the SEO benefits of video, it’s been proven time and time again that video converts better than written text. Note though, that if you are trying to get traffic with YouTube, the same content creation rules apply. Provide as much value as you can, and you’ll get noticed. People share videos around by the millions. If you create good content and get it started on social media, it’s bound to generate traffic. Research your keywords, use solid naming and tagging conventions, and you’re all set. Just please don’t bother uploading something if it looks like it was taken with a 15 year old webcam in the middle of the night. Your best bet is to invest in marginally decent equipment (even a mid-range Logitech webcam with a mic will get you where you need to be until you can afford something better).
Last Word on Ranking
Even though we’ve kind of set up SEO in our minds as this race to the top, it most certainly is not a race, and it cannot be stressed that in 2017 there are very few corners you can cut. These tactics will get you ranked if you choose the right keywords and follow the strategies outlined here, but not in 1 week or possibly even in 1 month. You have to climb the SEO ladder, providing rich content that Google approves of. The sooner you realize this, the better. I’ve had so many marketers come to me with harebrained ideas as to how they intend to rank quickly, as if they have the magic solution. “I’ve got this plugin that spins content from 6 different marketing websites and turns it into a video with a piece of software I got from this download pack and if I can just create a viral one I’ll rank for my affiliate product!!!1!!”
The public’s idea of ranking and the reality of ranking I find are two very different things. The sooner you just hunker down and write out a strategy for providing good content and generating organic SEO, the better. There are a bunch of little things that can assist in this process along the way (many of which I will be featuring in posts to come!), but nothing can replace solid SEO groundwork. It’s why agencies can easily charge $75-$100 an hour for SEO consultation and management. It’s not easy work, even for uber-pros. Believe me, if there was some kind of secret sauce out there, they’d be using it.
The best part of this revelation is that you never have to pay a cent to Google in order to rank. Don’t fall into the trap of so many other marketers. If you are patient, you can rank your content. Once you get in the habit of paying with Google Adwords, you’re going down a dark road. You’re going to be paying more and more money every month just to keep your position (Google Adwords becomes more saturated with each passing day), and none of the traffic is organic. If you turned off your Adwords account, your traffic would fall flat on its face.
I see a lot of businesses making this mistake: pumping hundreds into Adwords to get clients while their social presence is a barren wasteland. Sure, there might be some relatively decent ROI in the short term if they know their stuff, but what kind of brand are you building? Are people finding your blog articles? Are they backlinked? Does Google (and other search engines) think it is authoritative? Are people talking about you on social media? Sharing your content?
If raw traffic is your goal, with no real connection to your clients, customers, and fans, then by all means, jump in the shark tank. But you’ll be paying out the nose for artificial, transient results. It’s far better to invest in your brand and create SEO from the ground up. Google Adwords has its place, but it’s not for getting raw meaningless traffic.
I also think there are misconceptions out there about what SEO is ultimately for. Your SERP is based on how much Google thinks you can provide helpful content to users putting in search queries. It’s not designed for your affiliate links. It’s not designed for your sales page. It’s not designed to funnel traffic to your master class. It wasn’t designed for that. If you want to do any of those things, there’s a place called Facebook. You can make cheap as hell ads there and get highly targeted traffic sent directly to your sales pages, offers, and opt-ins. SEO is an entirely different beast. It’s for lasting, powerful content that people will want to come to time and time again. It’s a means of connecting questions with answers. Most importantly, it’s a way of ensuring Google stays popular and relevant by providing the absolute most high quality material to its user base. Google has no intention of letting its valuable users and customers stumble into some shady dark-net affiliate offer if it can help it. Knowing this will separate you from the hundreds of lost marketers out there who think Google is supposed to cater to them. That’s the wrong mindset to have.
Have any questions for me? Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to share this around. Help out your fellow entrepreneurs!