How to Rank a Keyword: The Guide That Actually Tells You How!

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How to Rank a Keyword: The Guide That Actually Tells You How!

If you do business online (who doesn’t?), then optimizing your site for search is crucial. Organic search results are an excellent place to advertise to potential buyers and reach new clients.

Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation exists about how to improve your website and build links to it. The following guide covers key points you should address on your website, and the link building methods you can use to drive your rankings higher, increasing the traffic you receive from organic search.

Sound on page SEO builds a solid foundation for your search marketing efforts. Failing to optimize the key areas we are going to cover below will greatly reduce the effectiveness of your link building efforts, costing you time and money.

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Key On Page SEO Factors

Unless you work in SEO, many of you will not have time to optimize every single factor of your website, so we are going to touch on the key areas that you must improve to gain higher rankings.

Site Speed

Recently Google received a patent on their site speed ranking algorithm but industry professionals have known it is an important factor for quite some time now. When you are developing a website, the speed of your pages should be a key consideration. Recent coding improvements allow you to have a visually appealing site that still loads quickly so there is no reason for a slow site. If you are hiring a web designer, make sure they take load time into consideration when building your site.The bottom line is a slow site is a low ranking site.

Site Navigation

The navigation of your website is very important for users and for search engines. A proper internal linking structure will allow users to easily reach pages and should lead them to take the desired action for you website. Aside from helping users, the internal links of your site will provide search engines with a hierarchy of your website. If you sell construction services you may have a services page that links to specific services, a very simple example of a hierarchy. Remember, the more important a page is, the fewer clicks it should be from the home page of your site.

Page Titles & Meta Descriptions

Every page on your website should be unique and should have a purpose. The purpose, message, or keyword of each page should be conveyed by the page title. The meta description is a short summary of what the page is about and should boost click-through rates. I like to search my target keyword and read the ad copy for the terms. This gives you several good ideas for page titles and meta descriptions, most of the time they have been tested and optimized. Send your competitors a thank you card for testing and sharing the best variations with you! (Just to clarify you should not copy their ads, just use them to point you in the right direction.)

Meta Keywords

For some reason people still add meta Keywords to pages. They never help you rank and are now used by Bing to look for spam pages. Don’t waste your time adding meta keywords.

Creating Content

The ability for your website to rank all starts with on page SEO. Before you begin building your website, you should decide on 1-2 keywords that will be targeted on each page of your website. While the old practice of mentioning specific variations of the keyword repeatedly are not necessary, you do need to include your primary keyword in the page title, at least one heading and URL if possible. The body content should have variations of your keywords (known as LSI keywords) and should make mention of terms associated with the context of your page.

Simply put, if your target keyword is “buy a helmet”, you want to have that term in the title, heading, and url. In the body you should talk about what type of helmets you have, what the helmets are for, and so on. This allows Google to understand your content based on context. If you have enough unique helmets, you could make a page for each specific type of helmet. Do not make a page unless you have enough content to warrant it, as thin pages won’t rank very often. Each page of your site should be the Wikipedia of your keyword.

Alt Text for Images

Most websites have several images, but people often forget to optimize them. Adding alt text to all the images on your site will help Google understand what the image and page is about. While keyword stuffing is a waste of time, including your keyword on at least one image on each page has been correlated with higher search rankings. This is a simple fix, just make sure you add alt text to your images.

If you already have a website or you want to judge just how optimized your pages are, here are some quick questions you should ask yourself about each page you’re working on.

  • Does my site load quickly?
  • Is my keyword in page title?
  • Is my keyword in the URL?
  • Does each page have a unique meta description?
  • Is my keyword in the h1, h2, and h3 headings?
  • Did I include the keyword in a least one image Alt Text?
  • Does my page have rich media or videos?
  • Are keyword variations in the body content?
  • Have I linked out to relevant and authoritative external sources?
  • Does the page have 500+ words of unique and valuable content?
  • Are there a ton of grammatical or spelling errors on the page?
  • Did I include name, address, and phone (NAP) for geo-targeted keyword pages?
  • Is my page easy to share socially?

Once you have your on page SEO dialed in, the real work begins. Regardless of what you may hear, link building is still one of the most important factors in determining how well a page performs in the SERPs so below I am going to share 5 techniques that will help your site rank higher.

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5 Effective Link Building Strategies

Before we get started I want to stress that using a combination on link building methods will always yield better results than a single strategy. Google likes to see a diverse link profile that appears natural so lets play their game.

Guest Posting

Guest posting has recently been in the limelight as another passing fad among link builders. If you create a bunch of low quality, useless articles and share them on low authority sites, you are wasting your time. Guest posting should only be done on sites that you would post to if SEO did not exist. Is it likely you will get referral traffic from the site you are guest posting on? If not, find another site. Posting on high quality sites provides a much greater booster in SEO value as well. Aside from getting a link from an authority site, you will also likely get links from people who pick up parts of the content and link back to you or the guest post. Either way, you get added SEO value without added work.

Outreach Link Building

There is nothing new or sexy about this method, but it works. Coming up with a list of sites to reach out to can be difficult, but this is how I do it.

  1. Run a back link analysis of your top 5 competitor sites.
  2. Eliminate links with a page authority below 20.
  3. Eliminate any no-follow links (unless they are likely to provide significant referral traffic).
  4. Export your list and sort from highest page authority to lowest and work your way down the list of sites looking for ways to get a link. Finding the link to your competitor and improving the content they used to get that link is the best way to get your own link. You can also look for broken links to competitor sites and offer a new piece of similar content for the site owner to link to.
  5. Send a quick email to the site owner and tell them what you have to offer.
  6. Repeat until you have gone through the entire list, then find sites ranking 5-10 for your keyword and repeat steps 1-4.

Social Link Building

This is a lot like traditional outreach link building, except you are going to find link opportunities from social media. I have mentioned this technique before, but it is worth repeating. Here is how to find people who will likely link to your site.

  1. Curate content closely related to your niche and share it via social networks.
  2. Monitor user engagement and identify content that was heavily shared, liked, re-tweeted, etc.
  3. Create a new piece of content closely related but better than what you shared.
  4. Contact everyone who engaged with the curated piece and let them know you have something they would love.
  5. Relax while your new piece of content is being shared, liked, and linked to.

Directory Submissions

Before you leave the page or a nasty comment, I am not talking about the old school method of blasting your site out to a billion and nine directories. There are a few directories that are still valuable to submit your site to but remember, quality over quantity is the key. Here are some worthwhile directories to get you started.

  1. Best of the Web
  2. Yahoo Directory
  3. DMOZ (they have seen a recent loss in listings)
  4. Business.com
  5. Exact Seek

When you are looking for directories worth submitting to you should look for sites that are human edited, have been around for a while, and are trusted. If you are looking for local directories, here is a list of the top 50 from HubSpot.

Blog Commenting

You are probably thinking that this method is straight from 08, and it kind of is. The difference is that you are going to comment only on sites closely related to your site. You should leave comments that add to the conversation and encourage interaction from the writer. Actively participating with writers will allow you to build a relationship with them and it can even set the stage for you to guest post or contribute to their site. The second benefit of blog commenting is no-follow links. Since the other methods we cover are do-follow links, the no followed links will help to round out a natural link profile. Forum participation can also be used instead of blog commenting, just make your posts quality and build relationships with active members.

There are literally hundreds of link building techniques that can be used effectively. The specifics of your niche will determine what is most effective for you. Regardless of your niche, high quality links from authority pages will drive your site higher in the SERPs. If you are completely new to link building and want to master the craft, I suggest setting up a few test sites and trying the methods above as well as others you run across. Testing is the best way to see what works so do it early and often.

See That Wasn’t So Bad Now Was It?

If you follow my advice you can rank your website and gain organic traffic. Since organic traffic converts as nearly 15% as compared to the industry average of just under 3% for outbound marketing, it is a strategy that everyone doing business online should implement. Remember if you don’t try anything, you are never going to rank – why not go for broke?

What are you waiting for? Touch up your site and go build some links!

I hope this guide has helped you and don’t forget to share it with your friends! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to share them below.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com and thelinkbuildingexpert.co.uk.

Travis Bliffen

Travis Bliffen

SEO Consultant at Stellar SEO
Travis Bliffen is the senior link builder and founder of Stellar SEO , a St Louis based search marketing agency specializing in local search optimization.... Read Full Bio
Travis Bliffen
Travis Bliffen

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