How to Rank #1 on Google
There are over 3.5 billion searches conducted via Google each day.
If your website ranks on Google’s first results page for relevant high volume keywords, it can drastically increase the number of leads to your business.
To be competitive in this space, businesses must be willing to invest in killer SEO strategies if they are to compete for the prime objective that is rank 1 of SERPs…and the payoff is huge!
Effective SEO means you capture relevant Google search traffic, increase your brand’s online visibility and subsequently make more money.
In this case study, I will share with you how I managed to rank #1 & #2 for several high volume keywords and grew one of my own websites organic search traffic by a whopping 1400%
1. Develop Keyword Search Universe
The first step is to identify, size and map all the popular Google search terms which are relevant to your business. This keyword “blueprint” will also be your point of reference for future content development and even Google Ad campaigns. It is crucial to find the same search terminology your potential customers are using to find all relevant areas of interest at different stages of their specific digital buyer’s journey.
At the end the process, you should have a detailed list of keywords, phrases and questions (sized by volume and mapped against user search intent) that will match the expected lingo of all relevant Google searches.
My keyword research tool of choice is Keyword Finder but if you have an existing Google Ads account you can conduct your keyword research via Keyword planner.
First you want to look at the commercial search intent funnel and use it as a guideline on:
– how to map keywords against the different search stages (buyers journey)
– the volume and conversion potential each of those keywords hold
Initially, I started by looking at the most generic high volume keywords such as “private jet charter” to understand the market’s search demand and competitiveness for those keywords.
Obviously it would be hard to rank for these:
So I moved down the search intent funnel and looked for destination search terms.
Clearly it would be much easier to rank for more targeted long tail keywords such as “private jet charter manila” so I decided to add them to my list.
I also tried to get a better understanding of my potential customers pain points and what problems they really try to solve when searching on Google.
So I asked some questions:
I realised quickly that most customer questions were related to pricing.
Another quick search confirmed my previous conclusion.
And one more on how to solve the problem.
Based on my initial keyword research I decided to focus on three main categories:
–Destination search terms such as “private jet charter kualalumpur”
–Pricing search terms such as “private jet price calculator”
–Question search terms such as “how much to rent a private jet”
Thus I built my keyword blueprint around all the relevant keywords from these three categories.
2. Competitive Ranking Analysis
Now I needed to understand who I was up against. What websites were ranking at the top of Google for my set of keywords.
Very quickly I realised there was one website ranking top 3 for almost every keyword from my list.
I decided to use the top ranking competitor as well as 2 other relevant websites as point of reference for further analysis.
3. Competitive Site Analysis
To get a deeper understanding on why my top ranking competitors are performing so well, I needed to consider all the decisive Google ranking factors in a competitive site analysis.
I broke my analysis down into the following 5 sections:
I reviewed my competitor sites one section at the time.
First I checked all technical aspects such as page loading time on mobile.
And if the website was mobile friendly.
Next I needed to understand how user were engaging on their sites.
The free version of Similarweb allowed me to get an overview of site traffic and other relevant engagement metrics.
Now it was time to review the content.
I started with a simple site: search to see what and how many pages are indexed by Google.
I scanned my top ranking competitor sites to identified the amount, details and level of optimisation for all pages.
To do this I used a scraping tool called Siteliner (the free version will allow you to run one scan for a respective site per month)
And another tool called Screamingfrog to review title tags, meta descriptions, headings and other relevant meta components (the free version allows you to run up to 500 pages at a time)
And finally I took a deep dive into my top ranking competitors link profile to understand the linking strength of their domains.
And also find relevant linking opportunities for my own website.
The in-depth competitive site analysis took me about 4 weeks and included the top 3 ranking competitors within my keyword category.
For each section and for every analysed competitor I wrote down key findings. I would use these learnings by applying them onto my own website.
4. Build and Execute SEO Roadmap
Finally after all my background research, I was fully equipped and ready to go.
My keyword blueprint and competitive site analysis provided me with all the insights I needed to build my very own SEO roadmap.
The roadmap looked something like this and included following core tasks:
All I needed to do was work my way through each area & task based on timelines.
To keep it short…
In the initial optimisation stage (year 1) I focused on improving all technical SEO aspects such as improving page loading speed (compressing images was probably one of the easiest and most effective actions) and adding of xml sitemaps, robot.txt files, 301 redirects as well as improving my sites usability for mobile.
At this stage I also created my site’s information architecture (IA), including:
What top level pages would be placed at the top navigation bar.
What top level pages would be placed in the footer section of the website.
5. Create Highly Engaging Content Experiences
Experiences are king (not content).
Developing great content used to be about building in-depth content around relevant keyword topics.
Even if this statement is still somewhat relevant, it requires a more consumer-centric approach when developing website content to achieve top Google organic search rankings for relevant high volume keywords.
Great content alone is simply not enough anymore.
But how do you create highly engaging content experiences?
I developed the following Search Experience Optimisation frameworkthat takes all the crucial performance components into consideration.
I added a real page example below:
I wanted to develop a destination landing page for Manila that would target all relevant private jet charter destination keywords.
I analysed top 3 competitor pages by using the above framework.
Based on my findings I developed a 10x content destination landing page.
(10x content is content that is 10 times better than the best result that can currently be found in Googles search results for a given keyword)
I developed a page which would include all the content components of my top ranking competitors plus I added additional features which no other page had.
I repurposed the design and layout of the page to develop other relevant destination landing pages.
6. Increase Site User Engagement
Most online marketers should know by now how important user engagement is to their sites ranking success.
Googles main objective is to give users the best answer and experience to what they are looking for.
To make sure that visitors take action on my site as opposed to browsing passively or exiting immediately to find a better source of information.
I developed different landing pages, played around with call to action buttons (messaging, positioning and design), page layouts and content structure.
I ran several A/B tests to understand optimal page makeup for maximum performance.
But even with the best conversion rate optimisation tactics the content on my pages was missing a crucial information element:
The majority of calls and emails I received from potential clients were all related to pricing, and I am sure many business owners will agree that o sourcing pricing information (if not automated or standardised) can be a tedious and time consuming task.
I realised by adding instant pricing information I would not only be potential clients with a better understanding of charter fees (which would naturally filter out real leads), but also keep visitors longer on my site as they were now able to play around and compare rates based on routing and aircraft type.
…Plus I would save myself hours of research and to source pricing information manually!
I found a very talented web developer via freelancer.com who developed a basic air charter price calculator tool in less than a month.
I added the tool onto the homepage (above the fold), created a dedicated pricing page and added it to the sidebar on all my destination/airport pages.
Immediately after the tool was implemented I saw a massive increase in site engagement (time on site, pages per visit and most importantly a huge increase in number of conversions) and a significant decrease in bounce rate.
My pages were finally able answer different type of search intents at different stages of the consumer journey and deliver highly engaging content experiences.
7. Effective Link Building
If you didn’t know link popularity is still one of Google’s core organic ranking factors.
Even the best pages won’t rank without a decent amount of relevant back links.
But link building is anything but easy.
That’s why I developed some smart and resourceful link building tactics that would provide me with tangible results.
But first I had to get social.
I downloaded the free Social AddThis plugin which allowed me to add social sharing buttons to any of my pages.
Plus, the floating social sidebar would encourage visitors to share and like my pages.
Now it was time to define the keywords and connected ranking pages I wanted to push.
Based on the small budget I had available, I needed to be super targeted.
I revisited my initial keyword research (first section of this article) and decided to focus on a targeted set of keywords and connected pages from these categories.
– 5 most promising destination pages (the once which provided the highest sales & conversion potential)
– The price calculator page (to answer the core consumer search intent “pricing”)
– Homepage (to increase overall site authority)
I used the following 3 link building tactics to create links.
First, guest blogging to create deep links to destination pages.
In my initial competitive audit I realized my competitors didn’t had any or very few deep links to their destination pages.
So even with simple guest blogging tactics (example above article) I would get ahead of my competition.
Second, online PR to skyrocket number of links from relevant and credible resources.
Third,I developed useful web assets such as videos, infographics and white papers which I shared with relevant resources for distribution. (example below)
The goal of my link building campaign was to increase the total number of relevant and credible root domain links to targeted landing pages (deep links) and the homepage itself.
8. Measure Success of SEO Efforts
SEO is all about constant improvement and the ability to demonstrate results.
But to demonstrate results requires patience and a clear understanding on how long ranking, traffic and engagement improvements actually take.
To measure the success of your SEO efforts is about being able to do a search for a targeted keyword example “private jet charter jakarta” and say: “Wow my site was ranking on page 5 now I am ranking number 1.”
At the same time, the keyword needs to drive more qualified traffic to the site and the respective landing page needs to keep the user engaged ideally resulting in a goal conversion (a purchase).
So the 3 main KPIs I focused on to measure the success of my SEO efforts were:
-Organic Search Rankings
-User Site Engagement
-Organic Search Traffic
Let’s have a look at organic search rankings first.
Via Google Search Console you can view the keyword ranking progression of your website over time.
I used SEMrush to get a more targeted view on my tracked keywords and competitors.
To understand if my SEO efforts were working it was crucial to get a view on my top performing keywords (rankings & clicks).
And my top performing landing pages.
From the 7 landing pages (5 destination pages, pricing page and homepage) which I focused most of my SEO efforts, 6 made it to the top 12 performing pages.
Now it was time to check my traffic distribution by channel and key site engagement metrics to understand user behaviour.
I like to focus on bounce rate, avg. time on site and pages per session as my main engagement KPIs which can all be viewed via Google Analytics.
And finally how much organic search traffic my website received over time.
Over the period of 4 years I grew my website traffic by 1400%.
SEO is a craft and understanding to rank well involves a significant amount of research, hard work, the ability to test different tactics and patience.
It’s a long-term game and anyone who is willing to invest the time, effort and resources will get a compounding return out of SEO.
In simple terms, great things take time.