Nothing important has changed since the major shift in 2017 with Google AI changes and RankBrain, so read on with confidence if ranking pages on Google is important to you.
A Quick Word About Keywords
Keywords used to be the most important consideration for ranking a page. Now they’re not. It’s all about content, context and the way phrases and words connect together to give meaning (in other words, semantics).
Having said that, it’s still an interesting exercise to use the Google keyword tool to discover estimated traffic – but trust me – those traffic figures can be extremely misleading – and worse, they say nothing about the most important thing of all – which is search intent.
Google’s single mission is to deliver the right content for the intent of the searcher, and boy do they know a lot about what you’re searching for. Enough said. Read on…
Top Metrics For Top Ranking Pages
Google has changed and for the better. Quality is, at last, starting to count in the race up the rankings, and you’ve found the right page to let you in on the secrets – the first one of which is simply to write great content, and the second one is to find a way to get Google’s attention – and there lies the problem. Read on…
Let’s start with the biggest secret of all: Google is the Gatekeeper.
People don’t understand this simplest of all secrets for ranking on page 1.
Google is the ONLY entity that decides who ranks where. So your top tool in understanding why some pages rank and most don’t is to go straight to Google and type in whatever it is you are trying to rank for.
That could be an article title, a search phrase used by your target audience, or (as in the old SEO days) a keyword.
The point is, keywords are no longer relevant – at least not in the way they used to be. It’s now about key phrases and the intent of those phrases.
If they don’t deliver top-quality results, then they will lose market share – and that could happen faster than you may realize with voice-activated search – dominated by Amazon – rapidly increasing.
So there’s no point in studying last year’s metrics about the number and quality of backlinks, a number of words, domain authority, page authority – or really, very much of what used to be considered rank analysis.
Instead, the new game in town is to analyze pages that are actually ranking for the words and phrases you want to rank for.
And there’s only one player in town when it comes to that analysis – and it’s Google.
How To Improve Your Ranking Without Being Penalised
Back in the day, everyone was worried about the Google “slap”. You wrote an article, stuffed it full of keywords, backlinked it like crazy using so-called silos for internal links and private blog networks (PBNs) for external incoming links.
Your pages rose to the top in one week, then a month later they disappeared forever as they were moved to the dustbin of search once Google’s algorithm spotted what you were doing.
And so today, if you’re still paying people on Fiverr for cheap links, you better cancel that fast – not because you’re site will go down quicker than the Titanic, but because you’re wasting every single penny you pay – you’re literally throwing money overboard.
So how do you write articles that rank on page 1 without any of these old black/grey/white hat shenanigans?
You write the best possible articles you can. Articles based on real facts and solutions that people are searching for right now.
Write it and they will come works except for one small problem – they won’t come unless your page is found by Google in the first place.
And that’s the secret. You need your page to be seen by Google for something that tags it as being related to whatever it is you want it to be found for.
In other words, every article must have relevancy, quality, and some attraction factor.
This is why you must always start with the article’s title.
Start With The Article Title
The article title is the first thing people see. It either hits the mark or it doesn’t. If you write it carefully, with a lot of thought about your target audience, then you may just get a few more eyeballs too.
But that’s not what really matters here. It’s the fact that a single article can and will rank for hundreds of keyphrases over time once Google has found its natural place in the rankings.
Link It To Other Relevant Articles
And as you’re writing your article, make sure you add internal and external links to other relevant articles.
It’s not just your readers that will appreciate this extra help, it’s Google too. The thing is, whilst backlinks still do count, they only count if they’re natural and they make complete sense for the phrase being searched for.
It’s really obvious when you think about it. A page that has a link to another page that continues a part of the story on another angle, or that goes a little deeper than the main article, or that explains some fact in more detail, is as natural a link as you can possibly get.
This passes all the algorithm tests of natural linking – you have a great article on a topic, and it links in exactly the right places to other relevant great articles on the same topic.
That’s natural linking.
Bad Linking And PBN Ideology
If you want to get your page penalized or banned. Add irrelevant links to other pages. Add lots of links. Create other sites on free platforms such as blogger.com and spam links from there back to your site.
Keep doing it. As you do this you will leave a trail of telltale hints that Google and other search engines will soon realize is all being created from the same source. And that’s when they’ll strike, and your page will disappear.
Private Blog Networks are private because the hope is that no one can ever find out if the blog is connected with you or not.
People who sell and condone this sort of thing insist that you will be fine, but you won’t be. The only people getting rich from this sort of thing are the people selling you schemes on how to do it, plus the people who sell you the domain names and the hosting.
Don’t get sucked in. Ever.
There’s only one type of link that’s acceptable, and that is natural linking as explained earlier.
You will know if you’re breaking any rules simply by asking the question of whether a particular link is breaking a rule. Either it’s there to legitimately help the reader or it’s not Any link that doesn’t pass this test is a bad link.
The Myth of SEO Friendly Content
It’s not really a myth. Search engine optimization is a manipulation. It always has been. Google tells us not to manipulate search, yet they do it all the time by placing ads where better content could have been placed.
They measure each ad’s response using a quality score, and if the quality goes down (i.e less clicks than other ads), then they keep charging more to the advertiser until the advertiser turns off the ad (or Google does).
So what is SEO Friendly Content? It’s any content that gets Google’s attention. And once it’s got that attention, and Google ranks it with some experimental traffic, then, and only then do you have any chance at all of it ranking for the words and phrases you want.
How Can You Get Google’s Attention?
Here’s the second big secret. Google is the gatekeeper as we know. But they’re also the judge and jury of where something ranks.
So if you want to know why one-page ranks and another doesn’t, you are going to have to analyze each competing page. There’s no other way to do this now.
Gone are the days of adding a ton of backlinks (which is a good thing). In are the days of adding quality content.
If you enter a phrase into Google and rip apart the top 10 results that appear, you are on the first step of the ladder to get Google’s attention.
And at this point, you are already miles ahead of every other content writer out there.
You’re in the unique position of seeing what Google is experimenting with and what matters to them in terms of quality.
Analyze it further by checking out all the backlinks on those competing pages (both internal and external).
You’re now going to see a completely different picture of the semantics of an article.
This is the ONLY insight you will ever get into Google’s algorithm. You can run test after test after test and come up with a bunch of probabilities and statistics, but that’s all they are.
And worse, they’re all based on historical values and not today’s values.
Whereas any search done right now tells you exactly what Google thinks is the right sort of thing to rank RIGHT NOW.
This insight is huge and worth a small fortune just to know. And that’s because it’s simple, obvious, and above all, logical. There’s no theory here. Something ranking on page 1 is ranking on page 1. Period.
The Great Long Tail Keyword Debate
We’ve all heard of the long tail ever since Chris Anderson wrote about it in 2006.
If we’d all taken that advice back then, we would all have top-ranking pages today – and sites so authoritative that the traffic and value of those domains would be astronomical.
When Peter Drucker said we overestimate what we can do in a year and underestimate what we can do in 5 or 10 years, he was not wrong.
We’re always after the shortcut. The quick buck. The silver bullet. When we should be looking for the Golden Long Service Award.
Ranking a site for just the article title is the first step to greatness and recognition on the web. Nothing much else happens until that happens.
That is how Google knows what your page is about. Google put it there because it saw something in it. So short article titles are useless (unless it’s interconnected with something Google is already engaged with).
And once you have your page ranking, then Google will start experimenting with other related keyphrases. Google wants to give the user the best experience (every user makes Google money and keeps their investors happy).
And Google will continue to experiment with phrases for as long as its getting good feedback from its experiments.
At some point or another, there will be nothing further for it to experiment with, and your article at that time and place will have found its natural ranking position.
And that’s when most people (who even know about this) stop. They think the article is done. Nothing more to do.
Is that useful to their customer? Yes, for a time it is. But at some point, things will move on – Google included. Others will join in and start to produce better, more up-to-date articles on something similar.
And Google will carry on experimenting, and that original article will start to slip down the rankings.
And if there’s any decent traffic to be had for that article and all its derivative keyphrases, then it’s going to slip down a lot faster as competitors start to understand the gap that’s slowly opening up.
Article Extension As a Way To Stay on Page 1
But those in the know, know this very well, and so they stay on top by ensuring their customers are always at the top of the agenda. Their articles are updated on a regular basis so it’s not just the customer who is kept informed, it’s Google too.
And they know it because the Google bot will come back to their pages time and time again to see what’s new simply because those pages are being updated and added regularly.
Article extension happens when you go and do the research again. it gives you a chance to add anything new. And that keeps you ahead of the competition. Because if you do this right, you will ensure that your page is not just unique, it incorporates anything useful that your competitor pages have too.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants is the tactic or even strategy that needs to be adopted from now on. There’s a very good reason professional authors do all their research first. They want to be known as the best.
What Is The Google Ranking Algorithm?
Google filed its original patent in 1998. They’ve filed numerous other patents since. No one except Google knows how their algorithm works.
It’s all guesswork, some of it well-educated guesswork, but most of it is simply made up or copied from other people who made it up.
And the best bit is we don’t care a jot. It’s of no consequence and a complete waste of time.
That’s because whatever test you carry out today, and conclusions you draw from it are always yesterday’s news – and Google knows it.
Some say it involves over 200 separate metrics. Great. Prove it.
Some say backlinks are still as important as ever. Great. Prove it.
Some say it’s the number of words that decide whether a page is page 1 material. That’s partially true in that every page on page 1 has a word count, and that word count tells us that when you put every possible metric together, that number of words is the number you need for an article with that title.
At least that’s getting somewhere towards some kind of truth. It’s fact-based at any rate.
But does any of it matter? No. Not any more. All that counts now is quality and natural backlinks.
And they’re all voted on by searchers every time they click and every time they click back to the search engine. And as I’ve said, none of that happens unless Google gives the thumbs up to an article in the first place and starts experimenting by sending traffic to it.
Does The Length of the URL Matter?
This is another pointless exercise easily figured out, but ultimately a waste of time.
What helps is the URL of a page to the reader or searcher? None. Except it may be easier to remember, and therefore type or pass on verbally. But that has nothing to do with search.
Search is just clicks or voice. The length of anything has no relevance to what the searcher wants with the exception of an article that does not give the answer they’re looking for as quickly as possible.
If you take this article, which is certainly long, the searcher gets the basic answer in the first paragraph (the answer to how to rank any article on page 1 of Google is to write great content and make sure you write it in a way that gets Google’s attention).
Keywords and Google Search
Google announced years ago and things like meta keywords in an article count for nothing tell you all you need to know.
Many tests have been done on the correlation between having a keyword in the title and not having one has been done – and just as many variable results have come up.
If you include a specific keyword in an article title in the hope that the article will rank for that keyword, you are wasting your time with the exception of one point: if a searcher sees your article in the rankings, and they are specifically after something to do with that particular keyword, then they are logically more likely to click on your article instead of someone else’s.
But that makes no difference to the search results because Google sees every article as a complete piece. It’s not about details, it’s about the overall semantic value of the article.
If you want to find out how to analyze pages and track your articles: An explanation is available in an article about it in our knowledge base