How to Get to the Top of Google in 2022

Feature image for How to Get to the Top of Google

Search engines and their algorithms can feel like a bit of a mystery.

Google uses over 200 ranking signals to decide which pages appear at the top of the Google search results for any given search term, including the quality of your page, how useful it’s been to past visitors and if it matches the searcher’s intent.

This guide will be focusing on Google as it’s the biggest search engine, but other search engines such as Bing, have similar algorithms. If you make good content for Google search and reach the first page there, you’re bound to rank high in other search engines too.

How to Get to the Top of Google with SEO

So, where do we start with ranking high in Google’s search results?

Search engine optimisation of course!

Improving your onsite SEO is crucial to helping your website rank on the first page. Once you’ve got this foundation in place, your other strategies will be more effective, increasing your search traffic and increasing your leads and sales!

The phrase “search engine optimisation” sounds scary and complex, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. It takes time to see results, but those results can be lucrative for your business.

Optimise Your Website

As mentioned above, Google uses over 200 ranking signals to decide where your website should appear in search results.

So where on earth do you start with optimisation?

Here are some of the easiest checks you can make to your site to ensure you’ve got the best chance of getting to the top of Google.

Is Your Site Mobile-Friendly?

We talk about this a lot at Exposure Ninja, but without a well optimised mobile site, you’re not only missing out on traffic but also jeopardising your position on Google.

If mobile visitors to your site are having a bad experience because your site isn’t mobile-friendly, they’ll head back to the search results and find a site that’s easier to navigate.

Google will see this as a “bounce” and take it as a signal that your site is unhelpful as people aren’t spending long there.

Alongside this, in 2020 53% of all website traffic was from mobile devices – do you really want to be missing out on this much mobile traffic?

On top of this, since 2016, Google has taken a “mobile-first indexing” approach meaning when they crawl your website, to help determine where you should rank, they look at the mobile version first. If your mobile site isn’t up to scratch you could be penalised.

This is what Google announced in 2016;

Today, most people are searching on Google using a mobile device. However, our ranking systems still typically look at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. This can cause issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page because our algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile searcher.

Page and Site Speed

Consumers are used to websites loading nearly instantly. Gone are the days of waiting for your dial-up to get into gear and taking 10 minutes to load a website.

If your site takes more than a couple of moments to load, your visitor has already gone back to Google to find a site that loads faster. Don’t miss out on a new customer because of a slow website.

You can check the speed of both your desktop and mobile sites using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.

That said – if your website is a little bit slower than others but converts well, then don’t feel like you need to remove a load of great content just to make your website faster!

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Is Your Website Secure?

This is one of those boring but important topics. Make sure your website has an SSL certificate, which is what makes your website more secure against online attacks, protecting the information of your business and your customers. It also allows for safe transactions, protects login details and keeps data transfers safe.

This video explains why SSL is important in more detail.

So why does Google care about this? They want their searchers to have the best experience possible, and that includes visiting safe sites where their information will be protected. Because of this, they will want to push safer sites higher in search results over websites without SSL certificates which may be putting customers’ data at risk.

Google Search Console

Google has its own free tool for analysing your site’s performance. It will show you where your content can be optimised, will give you alerts for site issues and will help you understand how Google Search sees your pages.

Select Your Keywords

Keyword research is a key (get it?) part of any SEO strategy. You need to know which keywords your potential customers and target audience will be searching for when they are looking for a product or service like yours.

This video will teach you everything you need to know about keyword research.

You will want to choose a mix of short keywords and long-tail keywords and phrases to help you get to the top of Google.

For example, if you are an estate agent in Nottingham, then you will want to rank for shorter keywords like “estate agent” and “estate agent Nottingham” but also long-tail keywords such as “how to buy a house” or “where are the best places to live in Nottingham“.

The possibilities are endless, so try to prioritise your keywords in terms of how much valuable traffic they will net you.

You can use tools such as Ubersuggest, or a paid tool like SE Ranking* to see the search volumes of your chosen keywords and even how difficult it may be to rank for those keywords and phrases.

Screenshot of SE Ranking

These tools give you the chance to look at specific keywords as well as related keywords. Not every single keyword in the list will be relevant to your business, but you can choose the ones you think fit best.

Screenshot of SE ranking keyword research

On top of this, try to get into the shoes of your target audience and think about what they will be searching for in relation to your business.
If your target audience is property investors, what they search for will be very different to a student looking for a term-time flat.

For long-tail keywords and questions, Answer The Public is a great place to start. It gives you the most common questions people are searching for related to a keyword.

Here are the results for “estate agent“. We’ll cover exactly how to make the most of long-tail keywords further down this article. (Hint – blogs, blogs and more blogs!)

Screenshot of Answer the Public

Also Asked is another great tool you can use to see the questions that people are likely to ask when they are searching for a product or service. Here are the results for “rent a house“.

Screenshot of Also Asked

Optimise Your Website for Your Keywords

Now you’ve chosen your keywords, it’s important to add them to your website. Each web page should be optimised for a specific keyword or phrase. This will help Google identify which pages of your site are related to those keywords, so they can present the right pages to those searching online for terms related to your business.

Going back to the estate agent example, if you offer services for both house buyers and house renters, you will want to include pages on your site that are focused on those individual keywords. If you try and put all the information on one page, and don’t have separate pages dedicated to your most important keywords, your page may not rank as high.

This is down to several factors, the main ones being: search intent and user experience.

If someone searches for “rental property Nottingham” and ends up on a page that is also about buying houses, they may come to the conclusion that the page is not for them, and then leave.

Google will see that they didn’t spend long on your site and make the assumption that their user experience was bad. If they had been served a page that was clearly related to their specific search query, they would have been more likely to stay longer.

Search intent ties into this, and is crucial for hitting potential customers at different parts of their customer journey.

Optimise for Search Intent

What searchers type into Google influences the search results. If someone is asking a question, Google will present them with results that answer that question.

A great way to check a keyword’s intent is to simply search it yourself. If the results are similar to what your website offers, then great! If not, then it’s possible the keyword isn’t quite right for you.

Back to the estate agent example.

Let’s say that while you were doing your keyword research, you ended up seeing that “interior design” was a high volume keyword, related to homeownership.

Screenshot of a google search for Interior Design

If you put that into Google, you’ll see that the top results are all DIY articles or interior design services. There’s even a Wikipedia article in there, and the People Also Ask section is more about doing interior design as a career.

Screenshot of questions people google about interior design

Not a result about estate agents anywhere. So even though a keyword may get a high volume of searches and be related to your business, it might not be quite the right fit when it comes to what your target customers are actually searching for.

Improve Your Metadata

Metadata has a couple of different impacts on web traffic – one algorithm based and one more human-based.

Screenshot of meta titles and meta descriptions

Your meta title, aka the title that appears on Google in blue and in the tab when someone has your page open, should be frontloaded with your chosen keywords for that page. You don’t want to overdo it or make it unnatural, but remember to keep them at the front, or as close to the front as possible.

Your page’s meta description, which is the grey text underneath the title in search results, isn’t used by Google for identifying keywords but is instead a chance to appeal to the searcher. You should use your meta description to essentially sell to the searcher why they should click your result over the others.

Getting metadata right is a fine art, and we’ve covered it in blog form as well as video.

Create a Content Strategy

Digital marketing is all about strategy, and that applies to reaching the first page of Google too.

Now you’ve got a list of relevant searches, now’s the time to decide what content you’re going to make for these keywords and phrases.

Product or service pages will need to be optimised for keywords, and if you found that a lot of your search terms are long-tail keywords or questions blogging or knowledge base content is the way to go.

The best place to start is with your most important pages, such as your homepage and key product or service pages. Ensure they are optimised for the correct keywords, they have a good load speed, and they’re helpful to the visitor.

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Start Blogging

We always rave about blogging at Exposure Ninja, but that’s because it’s so good for businesses.

We’ve worked with multiple clients who have seen huge traffic increases from adding quality blogs to their sites.

If you’re trying to get to the top of Google, blogging has got to be a priority.

By blogging, we don’t mean news about the company or the same thing you’d write in a press release – think about what is exciting to your customers.

Is the expansion of your office really exciting to your customers, or is it just exciting to you and the company?

What blogs are really for is answering common questions your target customer has about your product or service, and using this advice to guide them towards converting.

You probably would have identified some common questions your target audience has while doing your keyword research.

If you didn’t come across any questions during your research, possibly because you’re part of a small or emerging niche, have a think about the types of questions your customers have asked in the past.

If you still can’t come up with anything, hold some focus groups. Listen to the questions the focus group, made up of your target demographic, ask about your product or service.

Try and think outside the box with your content too – how can you be helpful while also encouraging the reader to make a purchase with you?

Being helpful is great for reaching the top of Google, as visitors will be spending a while on your site reading the article and Google’s algorithm will take that as a good sign, but your ultimate goal is making sales too. It’s all about finding that balance.

Let’s say you sell water bottles with an anti-bacterial coating. One of the questions you may have come across during your keyword research could be “how to clean my water bottle”.

Now here, you can either create a piece of content based on how to properly clean any water bottle, or you could create a piece of content about how much bacteria is on the average water bottle, with interesting facts and stats, while promoting your bottle as an easy to clean anti-bacterial alternative.

Another great way you can add value to your audience is by incorporating your product or service into guides, or even recipes, depending on your product.

Soya product brand Alpro has a recipe section on its website, and every recipe includes one of the company’s products as an ingredient. Yes, you can buy an own-brand alternative, but you might not get the exact same results as the recipes if you use an alternative.

Screenshot of the Alpro blog

Go After Quality Links

If you’ve been anywhere near the digital marketing or SEO world, you would have heard about backlinking. If you haven’t, don’t worry, we’ll outline it for you here.

Backlinking is when a website links back to a page on your site. This could be because they want to share your product or service, or because you have created a great blog that they want to link back to.

There are a couple of reasons this helps your ranking on Google.

Firstly, you have the traffic that you’ll hopefully receive from visitors to the site clicking through to your site. If you have a steady flow of traffic to the page, Google will see this as a positive sign and recommend your page more often in search results.

Another reason it helps your ranking is that Google sees high-quality websites linking back to your website, and concludes that your site must also be of high quality and provide value if others are linking back there.

Backlinking is quite a complex topic but it’s crucial when it comes to ranking highly in Google searches.

We could write 1000’s of words about backlinking strategies…and actually, we have!

If you would like more backlinking tips, you can get 17 different ways to get backlinks from this blog or the video below.

 

How to Get the Most from Local SEO

Local businesses need to optimise for local SEO.

If you’re a local business, rather than a nationwide or worldwide company, you want to connect with customers in your local area. Local SEO is great for any business where part of the customer journey involves a customer coming to you, or you going to them.

There’s a lot more to it than just appearing on Google Maps.

There are multiple ways you can improve your local SEO, such as listing your business on local directories like Google My Business and Yelp.

You should also optimise for keywords related to your local area. So if you’re a hair salon in Nottingham, you should be optimising for terms like “hair salon Nottingham“, “haircut Nottingham“. You can also optimise for search terms with local intent like “hair salon near me” or “local hairdresser“.

Three Basic Local SEO Tactics

Claim Your Google My Business Listing

Start by setting up or claiming your Google My Business listing. Fill out your listing as much as possible, adding your business hours, logo, photos of your business and so on. Fill in as much as you can! Google will walk you through the process step by step. It may seem like a lot to do, but it’s well worth the reward.

Screenshot of the Google my business website

Earn Online Reviews

We’ve mentioned before how Google ranks sites based on the experience they believe visitors are having on a site, and online reviews are another way Google judges this.

Having lots of good reviews shows potential customers and search engines that your site and company are trustworthy and high quality.

The more reviews the better, so don’t be afraid to ask your customers to leave a review! You could send them a follow-up email a couple of days after the service asking if they’d be happy to leave you one. Most people simply forget that leaving a review is something they can do until they have a complaint.

Screenshot of reviews on Google

Get Listed in Online Directories

Having your business listed on Google my Business is one directory, but it’s worth getting in as many as you can, as long as they are relevant to your local area and business.

National and international directories such as Yelp and Citysearch are great, but also consider local and trade-specific directories which will help you rank better in your local area specifically.

Local newspapers often have directories linked on their websites, or you can simply search for “[your city] directory” or “[your business category] directory”.

Screenshot of the Nottingham Post local directory

The Nottingham Post’s Local Directory

For more tips on optimising for local SEO, check out our Ultimate Guide to Local SEO or listen to the podcast below.

Use Google Ads to Get to the Top of Google Search

If you’re trying to rank on the first page for a high volume search term, and you have a PPC budget, then paid search may be a good direction for you.

It gives you a better chance to be at the top of more competitive searches and often gets you results faster than organic search, but at a literal price. It can be an important lead generation tool for small and new businesses who haven’t been able to rank highly for search queries organically just yet.

There’s a variety of different ways ads can appear on Google Search, the most common being text ads and shopping ads. These can be identified by the bolded “Ad” text next to the search results that have been paid for.

Screenshot of google text ads

Google Text Ads

Screenshot of Google shopping ads

Google Shopping Ads

 

So how much does it cost to be at the top of a Google search? This depends on the searches you are targeting and who else is already paying for ads there.

The more people that search for a keyword or phrase, the higher the cost will be. This is also true if lots of different brands are trying to appear for ads for a certain search term.

If you’re not sure where to get started with PPC, we have a comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know. We’ve run many successful PPC campaigns for our clients, so we certainly know a thing or two about the topic.

Looking for an even more in-depth guide? Download our free eBook – How to Get to the Top of Google, updated for 2022.

Front cover of How To Get To The Top of Google

Get to the top of Google for free

Download a free copy of our bestselling book,
"How To Get To The Top of Google"

Ever seen one of those little boxes at the top of Google search results? These are called featured snippets, and they’re one of the best ways to get lots of search traffic to your website…if you can win one.

“Win one?! That sounds hard.”

It is and it isn’t, but it’s worth it to get that “position 0” slot

It’s simple enough to optimise your content for featured snippets, but if your content is lacklustre or low quality, you’re less likely to get a featured snippet.

Here are some examples of the types of featured snippets that can appear for search terms. It’s important to note that they won’t appear for all search results.

The most common are paragraphs, lists, videos and tables.

If you want to rank for a featured snippet then it’s important to see what type of featured snippet is already ranking for that search term. If it’s a list, make sure to include a list in your content. If it’s a table, include a table, and so on.

Screenshot of lists in the featured snippet

Lists

Screenshot of a paragraph in the featured snippet

Paragraph

Screenshot of a table in the featured snippet

Table

Screenshot of a video in the featured snippet

Video

Now there you have it – lots of tips to help you get to the top of Google!

But that was a lot of info, right?

Here’s a handy little recap of what you just read through – you can use this as a checklist to make sure your website has the best shot at reaching Google’s front page.

Step 1: Optimise Your Site for SEO

  • Is your site mobile-friendly?
  • Is your website fast?
  • Is your website safe and secure?
  • Have you used Google Search Console?
  • Conduct keyword research
  • Optimise your website for your keywords
  • Optimise for search intent
  • Improve your metadata
  • Create a content strategy
  • Start blogging
  • Go after quality links

Step 2: Optimise for Local SEO

  • Claimed your “Google My Business” listing?
  • Earn online reviews
  • Get listed in online directories

Step 3: Use Google Ads

  • Target specific keywords and phrases
  • Test, test, test!

Step 4: Win the Featured Snippet

  • Research the type of featured snippet appearing for the search
  • Optimise your content to include that type (list, paragraph, table…)

If you want even more tips and tricks to help you reach the top of Google, we’ve curated this YouTube playlist just for you. It covers all aspects of SEO for a variety of industries, so we can guarantee you’ll learn something new and useful. It includes;

  • Getting Started with Digital PR
  • Link Building
  • eCommerce SEO
  • How to Write Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
  • Local SEO
  • How to Nail Keyword Research

…and even more SEO topics

Or, if you’re more of a reader, you can get a free copy of our eBook below! It’s the marvellous new 2022 edition, with bonus checklists! What’s not to love?

*Some links within this article are affiliate links which Exposure Ninja receives a fee for promoting (these links are not sponsored). Exposure Ninja only promotes services we already use within our marketing stack.

Front cover of How To Get To The Top of Google

Get to the top of Google for free

Download a free copy of our bestselling book,
"How To Get To The Top of Google"
About the Author
Jess Percival
Jess is a Digital Marketer here at Exposure Ninja. She splits her time between social, video and blogging with some live streaming and gaming on...

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