This section is mainly just the SEO basics for those of you who may not be as familiar with the world of SEO. Make sure you check off these boxes if you’re looking to rank.
1. Target reasonable keywords
First and foremost, you need to know what you want to rank for. And of course, you want to rank for terms that your ideal customers are plugging into the search box. These are keywords, and you’ll need keyword research tools to identify what’s reasonable for you to rank for.
Here are the factors involved in identifying the best keywords to target for ranking on Google:
Volume: How many times a month the term is searched.
Competition: How difficult it is to rank for that keyword.
Your domain authority: Domain authority impacts how easy it will be for you to rank for keywords. If your site has been around for a while and you’ve been publishing quality content for that time, it will be easier.
Relevance: No point in ranking for a keyword that isn’t going to bring qualified traffic to your site.
2. Check the keyword intent
In general, there are four main types of keyword intent: informational, commercial, transactional, and navigational. Now for SEO, you’re primarily looking at informational intent keywords. But even within your informational intent keywords, you need to drill down into exactly what kind of information the person is seeking when they search that keyword.
For example, I have some screenshots I’ve accumulated of cool websites and features and was looking for a keyword to target with it. I found the keyword website ideas, saw that it had a search volume of 2900, and thought perfect. But when I Googled it, I could see that results were not for businesses looking for ideas for their websites, but rather for side hustlers seeking their next idea or beginner developers looking for their next project.
If I target that keyword with my website screenshots, it’s not going to rank. But if I target it for “website design ideas,” now that’s another story.
3. Write long-form content about it
The key to ranking high on Google? In-depth, long-form content on the keyword you’re targeting. Now this is most apparent with blog posts, but you can do this for landing pages as well.
4. Do your on-page SEO
This is the bread and butter of ranking high on Google. Get all the deetz in my complete on-page SEO guide, but here is your short checklist:
Keyword placement: Make sure your keyword is in your meta title, meta description, at least two H2s, in image file names, image alt text, the URL, and naturally in the body of your page.
Internal linking: Add links to the page from at least three other pages on your site.
External linking: Include 1-3 links on your page to relevant, trusted pages.
Optimize meta description: Keep it 155-165 characters and tell the reader the value they’ll get by clicking on your page.
5. Target long-tail, question keywords
For the most part, keywords that hit the sweet spot in terms of volume and competition are going to be long-tail keywords, but long-tail question keywords are an added bonus because they provide opportunities to show up higher than the top results for broader, super-high-volume keywords—through the People Also Ask section.
6. Borify your meta titles
Yes, you read that right. Your SEO title, or meta title, is the title that appears on the actual SERP. And similar to headings, Google doesn’t give you a whole lot of room for creativity. More often than not, a title similar to what’s already ranking on page one is the way to go.
So while you might go with something more colorful in your H1 title (the title that appears on the page itself), stick with 60 characters or less for your SEO title, front-load the keyword, and pay attention to modifiers that seem to be popular, like with the year in the title.
7. Get backlinks
A backlink is a link to your page from another website, and these are a heavily weighted ranking factor.
Now if you’re creating quality content and promoting it on social media, you may already be getting backlinks. But you can also be proactive with getting backlinks for specific pages.
8. Mine your search queries
Search Console will tell you what queries are leading people to see your page in search results and which ones are leading them to click. This can help you find additional headings to add to a page as well as additional keywords to target with their own pages. If you’re already ranking accidentally for it, then you’re sure to rank when you intentionally target that keyword.
9. Target pages already ranking
It can sometimes be easier to get a post to move from position nine to position four than from, say, page nine to page four. Not only that, but the former will drive a much bigger increase in traffic than the latter. If you have a large website, use an SEO tool like Ahrefs or Semrush to filter your organic keywords by position and see if you have any pages that fit this bill, then see if you can reoptimize it.
10. Check your technical SEO
A lot of technical SEO is done at the site level, but there are plenty of page-level optimizations you can do in an effort to improve your ranking, like making sure your images are compressed and sized properly and that there are no indexation issues. You can check a page’s Core Web Vitals, mobile usability, and more right in Search Console. In addition, make sure to do a manual mobile usability test—as in, don’t just use Google’s mobile-friendliness checker but actually visit the page from a mobile device to make sure the elements are rendering properly. There are some things that a code-crawler just won’t pick up on.