12 Steps to Complete Search Engine Domination – From Zero to Hero in Just 6 Months

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What does it take to rank #1 in Google for a set of competitive keywords? In this article, I’ll lay out the exact methodology you can use to dominate many niches in the search engine rankings. SEO is a billion dollar industry and many online businesses live and die by organic search. It’s time you claim your piece of the pie.

Some industries are going to be more difficult to rank for than others and you’re always going to have to think creatively to get an edge over the other players in your field. However, the steps I outline below will help put you on the right track and give you a general plan of action. Read through it and diligently execute. I guarantee that in 6 months you’ll already be ahead of 90% of your competition.

So without further adieu, here’s your game plan to complete search engine domination.

1. Choose a niche – what do you like?

Many marketers run to the money in lucrative (and extremely competitive) industries like insurance, education, and finance. If you think you have what it takes to come out on top then by all means go for it. Otherwise it might be a good idea to narrow your focus and concentrate on an under-served market. There is plenty of money to be made in every legitimate niche imaginable. Just put in the hard work, sweat, and tears necessary for success into your project and you’ll reap the benefits of your labor 6 months down the line. Delayed gratification my friends… It’s just a matter of having direction, drive, and a little patience.

So with that said, some of the questions I ask myself when choosing a topic or niche include:

  • Am I passionate about it?
  • Do I know enough about it?
  • Is it worth my time and effort? (monetary and personal satisfaction)
  • What can I do differently that will give me a competitive edge?

Example: In this article, we’ll use basket weaving as an example. I don’t care much for the topic but I think it’s a good industry to use to get my points across.

2. Keyword research – keywords are everything

In SEO, keyword research is probably the one thing you cannot afford to mess up. Your sites can rank #1 in Google for terms that you think are best, but if no one is actually using them in their search queries you’re out of luck.

Make sure you don’t skimp out on this crucial step. Invest in the best keyword research tools available and spend time to learn the language of your potential customers.

I recommend scoping out competitor sites, reading industry blogs and forums, and scanning trade magazines for additional keyword ideas. You can never do enough research especially if you plan on domination.

Some of the keyword tools I use for SEO include Wordtracker, Keyword Discovery, Wordze, and the MSN Keyword Intelligence plugin for Excel 2007. Search for your top keywords using your tool of choice to determine which have the highest search frequency – taking into consideration variations and plural/singular forms.

Example: For our basket weaving example, we first need to learn more about the field to understand what people are searching for in the engines. A quick look at the basket weaving Wikipedia page gives us a plethora of useful information to get us started. For example, we now know that basket weaving is also called “basket making”, “basketry”, and “basketmaking”. We also know the different types of basketry including coiled, plaiting, twining, wicker, and splint. There’s Native American basket weaving, Indian, yada yada yada. You get the point.

After all of this research, we now have the background information necessary to create a core keyword list:

  • basket weaving
  • basetweaving
  • basket weaver
  • basketweaver
  • basket weavers
  • basketweavers
  • basketry
  • basket making
  • basketmaking

Which of these do we use to optimize our site?

Pop all of the selected keywords into a tool like Keyword Discovery and determine the relative search frequencies for each.

  • basket weaving – 1474
  • basket making – 466
  • basketry – 452
  • basket weavers – 82
  • basketmaking – 67
  • basket weaver – 32
  • basketweavers – 25
  • basketweaver – 5
  • basetweaving – 0

Ok great. So from that simple analysis it’s clear that “basket weaving” is by far the best keyword to optimize for. There are other factors to take into consideration when selecting keywords including the level of competition, regional language preferences, current keyword referrals, and site focus/purpose. For the sake of space and time we won’t go into those here but just know that there’s more to keyword selection than relative search frequency.

So there you have it. We have our main keyword: “basket weaving”.

3. Buy a domain – do it right the first time

Buying a domain name is kind of like getting a tattoo. It’s permanent and you can’t change it later on without leaving scars and going through a painful process. A domain name is the foundation of your site and will greatly affect whether or not you will see success in the search engine rankings.

Below are some of the main guidelines I use when choosing a domain name.

  • Don’t use hypens in your domain name. They are horrible for branding and are often associated with spam.
  • If at all possible, register the .com version of your desired domain name. If you cannot, a keyword-rich .net or .org is still advantageous. Avoid other spammy TLD’s like .info, and .biz.
  • Make sure that your main keyword is included in your domain. This will not only give you a boost in rankings but many other sites will use your domain name in their link anchor text. This alone can get your site ranking pretty highly.

Example: Many of the good .com domains are taken these days so you either have to buy up a quality exact match domain (everything can be bought at a price) or think creatively to come up with a brandable name (like Google, Yahoo, Ebay, etc.).

The optimal domain name in our case is basketweaving.com. Since it is clearly not available, we look to the other TLD’s (.net and .org). These are taken as well. So what do we do?

Our solution in this case is to keep basketweaving in the domain and add a unique keyword to the end of the phrase to make it catchy and brandable. For example, basketweavingzone.com, basketweavingparty.com, and basketweaving411.com work well. I’m feeling pretty festive today so how about we pick basketweavingparty.com

4. Set up the site – build it to last

Now that we have chosen an appropriate domain name, the next step is to set up the site. This process will heavily depend on the type of site you plan on creating. Some of your options are a blog, an ecommerce site, a landing page, an article site, and a social networking forum. Regardless of what it is you plan on, it’s important to set the site up in a search engine friendly manner.

Below are some of the most important considerations to have in mind:

* Use text over images whenever possible (especially for navigaton)
* Always include a sitemap (both HTML and XML)
* Use Flash sparingly
* Use search engine friendly URLs (with keywords)
* Cookies over session ID’s
* Avoid duplicate content on your own site and around the web
* Always use 301 redirects when moving pages or changing URLs – this will preserve link equity.

There are many more considerations for optimal site architecture but that could be a whole new book on its own. If you’re serious about optimizing your site for search engines I recommend you study SEO best practices or consult with an expert.

Example: Ok, back to our basket weaving example. (Are you tired of it yet?) Let’s plan on using the free WordPress software to host a blog / resource site. WordPress is extremely versatile and I recommend it to anyone looking to publish content on the web. Most of the SEO limitations can be solved by downloading free plugins.

5. Create authority articles – prove that you’re worthy

At this point we have a fully functioning site that is structurally optimized for search engines. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the story. We still have to add unique content not only for search engines to index but for real human beings to read, enjoy, and find value in. This is probably the most difficult step that many webmasters will get hung up on. In order to stand out from the crowd, you must be remarkable (as Seth Godin puts it). Demonstrate your knowledge of the industry and strive to improve the lives of your target audience. This could come in the form of detailed how-to guides (like this one), a resource list linking out to the top content in your industry, a great tool that helps users find what they need, or anything else that tickles your readers’ fancies. Market research is key here and social media is a great way to obtain that information (we’ll discuss this later). You can always outsource this aspect to experienced copywriters but I suggest you at least make an effort especially if you plan on niche domination.

Example: BasketWeavingParty.com is good to go. Now we just need some quality content.

Here are some of the ideas that come to mind.

* a complete guide on how to basket weave for the newbie just starting out
* a history article on how basket weaving first started
* in depth reviews of the best basket weaving supplies
* interviews of the top basket weavers in the world
* a break down of the individual basket weaving techniques

6. Optimize your tags – feed the search engines what they want

Like I mentioned in the previous step, content is extremely important and without it no one would visit a site. However, a key component of maximizing search engine traffic is to optimize on-page tags and attributes. Continue your keyword research and create a list of the top relevant keywords people are searching for. Using this list, optimize the tags on your pages including: title tags, header tags, link anchor text, image alt text, page copy, and meta descriptions. If you’re descriptive while using the right keywords, search engines will love your site and searchers will be able to find what they need more easily. Don’t ignore this important component. Authority content is important but it’s not complete without proper optimization.

Example: Say we’ve created a great piece on basket weaving that is unrivaled anywhere on the Internet. You can maximize search engine traffic to the article by optimizing tags for the most important and relevant keywords. For example, an effective title tag (usually the most weighted attribute by search engines) might look like this: Basket Weaving & Basketry 101 – The Ultimate Guide on Making Baskets for Beginning Basket Weavers

As you can see, the most important keywords are towards the beginning of the title and and the tag incorporates all of the more significant variations. The page is more likely to rank for a variety of search keywords and therefore bring in much more relevant traffic to the site.

7. Foundational Links

Many times authority content will promote itself but that doesn’t mean we won’t give it a little push of our own. Links are the currency of the web and are a significant factor in the search engine ranking algorithms (especially Google). It’s important to build foundational links that will help to stabilize rankings. Foundational links come from directories – both general and niche-specific and related resource pages that are considered authority sites in the industry. You can usually pay to be included in the directories and ask/pay other webmasters to list a link to your site for you.

The general directories that I try to be included in for all of my sites are dmoz, Yahoo Directory, Business.com, Best of the Web, Joe Ant, GoGuides, and Web World Index. I also find niche directories and resource sites that I can obtain links from as well.

Example: We’ll submit basketweavingparty.com to all of the general directories listed above using slightly different descriptions and link anchor text whenever possible. We can also find many potential link partners by performing various searches on Google like “basket weaving directory” and “basket weaving”.

8. Social Media & Relationships – connect with the influencers

In the new Internet, social relationships are absolutely huge. A positive testimonial from a satisfied customer or reader is worth 10 times more than any self promotional marketing method that you do. Knowing this, it’s important to cultivate relationships with bloggers, webmasters, enthusiasts, and other influential people in your given industry. Stay active on social media sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit, del.cio.us, Twitter, and niche forums and communicate with interested parties portraying yourself as a leading authority. It takes a major effort but in the end, it’s definitely worth it for your business.

Example: To portray to others that we are a major authority in the basket weaving niche, we will actively participate in forums by answering questions, vote up related stories on social media sites offering up our own insights, and build relationships with basket weaving influencers who are followed by many people.

9. Multimedia – the wave of the future

The web is shifting away from textual content and more towards multimedia and video. You can stay on top of this trend by utilizing video sites like YouTube, Google Video, and Revver to upload interesting and valuable content for your niche. The good thing about videos is that they require 100% of your audience’s attention. People usually can’t multitask and do something else while watching. Videos by nature engage the senses and require the audience to drop everything and pay attention. A very powerful marketing tool if you ask me…

Example: How about we create some basket weaving videos, post them on YouTube and embed them on our own site? Not only is this cheap to do but I imagine that it would get the attention of some people who have never cared (or never will care) about basket weaving. Simply put, multimedia expands the potential of the site and that’s all a part of building authority – for people and for search engines.

10. Link Bait / Creative Marketing

Along the same lines as creating videos, link baiting is an effective method to gain attention and increase search engine rankings. The main goal of a link bait piece is to get key influencers to link to the site.

Some of my favorite link bait ideas are below:

  • Top X lists
  • Widgets that users can put on their sites
  • Appealing to the vanity of the top influencers
  • Relating your industry to what’s hot (e.g. How X is like Paris Hilton)
  • Stirring up controversy
  • A funny video that goes viral
  • Using social media to spread ideas fast and gain links
  • Hot girls always get attention

Example: Some link bait ideas for basket weaving include articles like Why Angelina Jolie Loves Basket Weaving and Top 5 Reasons Why Basket Weaving is the Hottest New Career of 2009. Taking a humorous position might help increase exposure to the general masses.

11. Buy, buy, buy

A effective way of solidifying an authoritative position is to buy links, reviews, and advertising. The more people that are exposed to your brand and message, the more likely they are to associate you as an authority.

Buy links under the radar on relevant sites, get reviews on the top blogs in your niche to get people talking about your site, and purchase advertising spots to get your name out there. If you have the budget, I also suggest you bid #1 on Adwords for your top keywords (even if you’re the #1 organic listing). Like I said, this will help establish your site as the leading authority.

12. Value Add – Long term

There’s always things you can do to market your site and the journey doesn’t end after you’ve hit the number 1 position on Google. Stay sharp and be competitive no matter where you’re at. Someone might read this article 2 years down the line and come after you…

This article is guest blogged by Gyutae Park of Winning the Web, an Internet marketing blog sharing tips on SEO, blogging, guerilla marketing, social media, and other creative methods to build exposure for your sites. Be sure to check it out.

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  • Gyutae Park

    Hey all,
    Hopefully this is helpful in outlining the entire SEO process for independent webmasters. Leave a comment here if you have any questions or clarification.

    • A. J. Dade

      Hello Gyutae Park:

      Thank you for the extremely well written, insightful and generous information article you have posted here. I have one suggestion and that is, why not provide for an email transfer from this site or PDF format that can be downloaded? You should be writing blockbusters or stomething with the style of writing you have. Thank you so much again, your style and the info you provided is really great. Have a wonderful New Year. AJD

  • Gyutae Park

    …oh and if you like the article, I’d appreciate votes on Spinn, StumbleUpon, and the other social media sites of your choice. πŸ˜‰

  • Web Site Design Orange County

    “Buy Links” – I’m not too sure I would suggest that since the recent Google crack down on this practice.

    “Hot Girls Always Get Attention” – It would behoove you to actually look at your clients business before trying cheap tactics.

    “Buy #1 Ad Word – Even if you are #1 Organic” – Isn’t the point of organic SERP so you DON’T have to PPC.

    It sounds like a number of these suggestions are out of a marketing 101 class, not real world practicality.

  • Gyutae Park

    Judging from your comment, I don’t think you really “get” it. Everything I mentioned is what works for me, regardless of Google’s fuzzy rules.

    As for your comments:

    “I’m not too sure I would suggest that since the recent Google crack down on this practice.”
    Google cracks down on obvious and blatant link buying to manipulate rankings. Do it under the radar with relevant sites and you should be fine.

    “It would behoove you to actually look at your clients business before trying cheap tactics.”
    Obviously, there are reputation issues to take into consideration, but I was merely suggesting what works. You can always incorporate effective methods without risking your credibility – you just have to think outside the box.

    “Isn’t the point of organic SERP so you DON’T have to PPC.”
    No, a top organic listing and a top paid listing have a 1+1=3 effect. The more users see you, the more perceived authority, and the more likely they will click through to you site.

    Yes, some of these concepts are basic marketing, but it seems you don’t even have a strong grasp on that.

  • Web Site Design Orange County

    Mmmmm let’s see, you said “…Do it under the radar”, so you know what the Google algorithm calls out for so you can fly under the radar. You must have an in-road with someone at Google who is sharing this proprietary information with you, and you alone.

    Putting a girl on your site is “thinking outside the box”? You must have a 1 pixel by 1 pixel box, so I guess this tactic is clearly thinking outside of it.

    Perhaps a quantitative statistical study of your click throughs comparing organic and PPC (on the same page) would hold more credence than your simple 1+1=3 notation.

    It seems you have taken these comments personally rather than the reciprocal tone in which they were intended. Telling someone they don’t have a “Grasp” on marketing simply for the fact they don’t agree with you is nothing short of you driving around in huge truck to make up for something else you are lacking in. Dangling participle intended!

  • Gyutae Park

    Ok, I’m sorry if I offended you, but I think you’re reading me wrong here.

    What does it matter whether or not I know a Google secret? By “under the radar” I meant buying links that Google, or anyone for that matter, cannot detect or identify as paid. If there was a relevant link inserted in context to a site’s content, how can anyone determine whether or not it was paid for? They can’t. No secrets necessary here…

    I did not say putting a girl on your site was thinking out of the box. I was referring to using creative and unconventional marketing techniques to promote a business – while avoiding credibility issues. THAT requires out of the box thinking to get ahead.

    Next, you say you want a “quantitative statistical study” but I was merely responding to your statement that you DON’T need PPC if you’re successful with organic search. This simply is not true. A significant percentage of users will click on paid listings vs natural listings. Having your site in both will increase traffic, spread exposure, and build authority. I would love to do a statistical study but can’t really release that information at this time.

    Again, sorry if it sounded like I was taking things personally. That is definitely not the case and I welcome all feedback and disagreement (although the truck thing was uncalled for).

  • WebSite Design Orange County

    The truck comment may have been uncalled for, but you have to admit the dangling participle line was funny!

  • Gyutae Park

    Haha, maybe I’m missing something but not too sure what that means… Care to elaborate?

  • wisdom

    Good well thought out tips. I especially like the comments on keyword research and buying the right domain.

  • Mike Levin

    Gyutae, I hardly pro actively reached out in months. But since your article caught my attention by opening with niche areas and keyword research, I feel compelled to ask whether you’ve checked out HitTail yet. It helps you refine and zero in on your niche, and the perfect as-of-yet undominated keyword topics in your space.

  • Thomas

    Thank you Gyutae for this informative post. Unfortunately, in lots of cases the various optimisations have to be adapted to an existing (and often ill-thought) website. Maybe the subject for a next post ? πŸ˜‰

  • Internet Marketing Joy

    Thanks a bunch Gyu Tae for sharing these wonderful tips..I will surely keep them handy and try each one and see if they will work for my site..^^

  • Asia Human Hair

    Thanks for the very informative post, will try to apply it for my own site πŸ™‚

  • Mac

    Very helpful tips. Have you try those tips? How the result?

  • Irish

    I found very great tips here…Above are your secret in developing winningtheweb, right? I am so sure this will give great result to other sites.

  • Planet Fat Loss

    I think your tips are excellent. I am a newbie, but learning quickly by studying other people’s models of success. Where there is a success, there is a story and a lesson. My early observation is that most people ignore the obvious or most simple of tasks while continuing to look for the ‘secret’. I’d be willing to bet that if the majority of people followed your advice above, step by step, not missing a step, they’d be shocked at the results. Just my two cents…

  • Dollar dude


    This is really a nice post for a blogger who is zero today to become as a Hero tomorrow. I am also do want to become as a Hero by following your strategies. Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Abhijeet

    Yuhu… one clear cut guide for newbies to get their things rolling – one of the best articles I read lately.

  • Betty

    Great post – lots of good tips! I didn’t know there was so much to learn for search engine optimization.


  • thatedeguy

    That’s an incredible post Gyutae! I think it would have been nice a little more detail in the link building phase, but I’m sure that space constraints are more the cause there.

  • Bernard Griffiths

    Really nice article Gyutae! I agree about seeing more detail in the link building page however overall a really great article.

  • phone card affiliate program

    winning the web knows his stuff. He’s a winner. so pick him to win NOW

  • bb

    Great article! I’m a noob, so thanks for the helpful tips πŸ™‚

  • My Business Forum

    Interesting article – it was a good read.

    I’d like to disagree with a point (at least to question it)….

    You say not to register a domain with a hyphen, I have several and they perform exceptionally well in the search engines and make good money (which is the point of having them)… so why not use basket-weaving.com in your example – if it were available.
    Sure it’s a bit more tricky if you want to tell someone your URL over the phone… but why would you want to if you are #1 on Google? and the traffic is rolling in. People click LINKS when they are on the web.. and generally they click what they see – they don’t care if there is a hyphen or not – do they??

    anyway… nice article – will bookmark it πŸ™‚

  • David Cheong

    Nice article, but i think i have to agree with James too on the hyphen part.

    David Cheong

  • Smitty’s Holdings

    This as well thought out article. Although, each website owner will decide which techniques will be in their best interest to use.

    I would like to add that each web based business should conduct a business plan prior to starting anything. The reason a business plan is useful, is because it becomes a blueprint and business outline. It also will provide the information about products and services for the keyword analysis including a cash flow forecast.

    You may find many additional products or services as well as additional markets from results of the keywords analysis.

    I must also add that this is a time consuming process. It takes time to perform an extensive keyword analysis. It takes time to fully optimize a web page. It takes time to hunt down links and submissions. Results do not happen overnight.

    A website is a living on line document that requires regular updates, additions and care. Adding content, images, video, animation, blogs or whatever the new web based products that come along demand time.

    So invest your time wisely when optimizing your website.

    Good job Gyutae

  • Kamal


    Can I suggest http://www.01webdirectory, to be listed at https://www.searchenginejournal.com/12-steps-to-complete-search-engine-domination-from-zero-to-hero-in-just-6-months/6745/?

    Though 01webdirectory.com is a general we directory, it has a few unique features such as –

    1. Category Information Page: A unique, original category summary page for each category – Ex: http://www.01webdirectory.com/communications_networking_info.htm

    2. Article on Demand: A webmaster along with listing the website, can also request a custom written article for his/her website. Ex: http://www.01webdirectory.com/language-school-boston.htm The articles thus requested are listed here – http://www.01webdirectory.com/articlelist.asp

    3. Unique relevant graphic on each category of the directory
    4. Apart from Google Adsense, no advertisements.
    5. No run-of-site links.
    6. Dmoz and Yahoo directory listed.
    7. Both Free Listing and Paid Listing options available.
    8. One time listing fee for paid listings.
    9. Online Since 2003

    I hope, the addition of our directory will help make your website more comprehensive along with making 01webdirectory.com more visible.

    Have a great Day

    Best Regards,

  • Joe

    Great Article man, it covers everything to be a successful blogger. I think it is batter to have marketing strategy ready before you start building your site or blog. One should know that what he is going to build, for whom he is building it and how he is going to connect with those people or how he is going to attract targeted audience.

  • T. Srirama


    Liked your blog for the passion shown. Considering your youth, you are sure to be a hero sooner than later, if not right now. But please revise your copy.

    For instance, “So without further adieu, here’s your game plan to complete search engine domination…,” must have been penned in a rush. Without much ado, let me wish you well before bidding adieu.
    Hailing a `hero,’
    Srirama (murthy@ecomzera.com)

  • T. Srirama


    Liked your blog for the passion shown. Considering your youth, you are sure to be a hero sooner than later, if not right now. But please revise your copy.

    For instance, “So without further adieu, here’s your game plan to complete search engine domination…,” must have been penned in a rush. Without much ado, let me wish you well before bidding adieu.
    Hailing a `hero,’
    Srirama (murthy@ecomzera.com)

  • webdesign

    This is a popular article! Very good information, love to read it!


  • Digital Clarity

    A long read but well worth it for anyone new to SEO. I found this article through SEMMYS and I can see why it won! well done, Gyutae!

  • James

    A nice article with a few new ideas I’ll be trying


  • Used Honda PA

    We have used some of these basic techniques and have received great traffic. I would also mention the free press release services as well

  • WebDoc

    “Create authority articles” is the way of the future. Google will love a bit of “infomercial” in every website, and I think corporate blogs will be the leading path for every website.

  • THEM China

    very detailed, thank you. And it points out that nothing is magic, it’s all about labour ;o)
    I probably chosed the wrong name for my domain… but i am working on the rest not to make other mistakes

  • Sikander

    A great & detailed approach by Gyutae Park. This would really help to new web players and will provide an idea about how search engine marketing works!

  • Azmat H Khan

    Tks 4 precious inforamtion on SEO

    Best rgds

  • Taufiq Hasan

    Maybe it’s too hard if i have to dominate Google in 6 months.. πŸ™
    .-= Taufiq Hasan´s last blog ..Doomi =-.

  • Ethan Bennett

    Thank you so much, I’m doing well with SEO and this is exactly the reason why money is coming in. I’m concentrating on new clickbank launches like Traffic Ultimatum and if you can dominate the search engine and get top positions, you’re really performing well- thanks so much and keep up the good work,

  • pravakar

    Really all steps are useful. But in current period buying link is not important. Google hat buying link.