How Do You Really Get To The Top of Google?

There is a lot of hype on the Internet, from scammy money-making schemes, ridiculous in-your-face advertising, cloaked websites (you may not know it), and over the top sounding search engine strategies polluting your email in box daily. They all seem quite convincing at first. But, the adage "if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is" comes to mind quickly. However, I'll attempt to set the record straight, clean up the clutter - at least when it comes to first page, top rankings in Google, the market leader. (Note: Don't forget website traffic - rankings for keywords not searched for often is only partially interesting). So, then - what can you do to get top positions in the search engines? All search engines, use well-kept secrets for their ranking formulas. However, they all share in one truth: "provide the most relevant, quality, accurate and timely results to the original search query", no matter where you are on the planet, and from any device that they support. Not only is that their core objective, but they must also try to by-pass and filter the massive spam they are subject to on a daily (hourly) basis. Engines must change and adjust often to validate results and continue their quest for the mission of relevancy. The alleged several hundred PhD's across the top search engine companies have their work cut out, and so do you. Within the hype categories mentioned above, you'll often see references to tactics that are pure Black-Hat SEO. They promise to beat the search engines and create instant traffic. Stay away from this - even though the authors may have found it to work, their advice will become unjustified and merely spam for you, risking so much more, and potentially getting your website banned. If you have a solid exit strategy for your business, you'll know that handing down a spammy web-business to your kids, family or any serious investors will not work with this mindset and approach. Plan for the long term, and apply well-known and White-Hat SEO tactics. I must also mention that while there are many so-called truths out there as far as search engines go - too much (crap) conversation and complexity has been built over time. Stay close to the basics, and keep track of your own tests. Before I list my top 5 Google ranking tips, here's what Google says about improving your site's ranking: "In general, webmasters can improve the rank of their sites by increasing the number of high-quality sites that link to their pages. For more information about improving your site's visibility in the Google search results, we recommend reviewing our webmaster guidelines." They outline core concepts and much detail for maintaining a Google-friendly website. (You'll find design and content guidelines, technical guidelines and overall quality guidelines. Tip: Locate the webmaster guidelines for Yahoo and MSN/Live while you are at it). Here are a limited few, but powerful tactics to top search engine (Google) placement. I have found these to work every time: 1) Content and Keywords. Unique and quality content that is populated with the search terms you are targeting. Depending on your niche, your own website and competition, you can target 1 to 5 keywords to a page. Keyword density (%) is not your biggest concern, just make sure to include keywords on the page, and write naturally - for users. What's good for users is typically good for search engines. But, you might think about about prominence and proximity. "Early & Often" is a great rule -- place your key terms early in the copy and include related terms. Make sure to include them in META tags, and especially the TITLE tag. Read my previous website performance post and the SEO Guide for more details around H1 tags, Bolding of keywords, ALT attributes and more. By "content" I mean original text, not scraped or "spun" from places on the Internet, where stuff is just regurgitated to support Made For Adsense sites, for example. Thin sites with light content and no internal link structure is a no-go. If you need help to write content, you might consider elance.com, odesk.com, guru.com to start. 2) IBL - Inbound Links / Link Love As mentioned in the previous post, quantity and quality links - we'll take'em both - but with the highest focus on quality where you can. Some indication of that quality and trust can be viewed via Google Page Rank, but don't use this only. You can also look at data from Compete.com, Alexa.com and Quantcast.com too - keep in mind that they are *only* guides. If you install the SEO Firefox plugin, it will give you tons of (competitive) information on the pages in question. Warning: Don't go for any cheap $100 programs for generating backlinks, or any software that claims to "auto-generate" these. You'll be hurting yourself down the line. Look back to Tip #1 and keep applying it. If you want control and links from blogs, try commenthunt.com and socialspark.com. 3) Authority/Trust Having an older domain is potentially a real goldmine. For this reason alone, you see webmasters buying up older and/or expiring domains, to get some of that "love" that has been built up by Google. This is an important factor. All else being equal, the time factor should have built not only incoming links, but outbound as well. Other factors like overall search patterns and expected growth of content and links will likely be included naturally. Google loves it. (This may also help answer questions like these: "How come that old, stupid looking website is ranking 'all over the place'"?) 4) Reputation / Anchor Text This is a big deal. If you can show the search engines what your page(s) is about (internally/externally), they'll love your for it. In fact, did you know that you can 'self-rank' by tuning anchor text (hyperlinks) on your own domain and pages? Try it. Change your internal link structure with keyword rich anchor text. Use a breadcrumbs-oriented navigational system where you can. Precise anchor text is so often overlooked, and under-used. I consider it a key priority in this list - for top Google rankings. 5) OBL - Outbound Links/Linking Linking out to other sites, and specifically highly authoritative and trusted sites should not be overlooked. Consider this a must-do strategy. Some webmasters may use the the "rel=nofollow" tag on an outbound link, but you should give link love too, not just receive it. IN SUMMARY: The steady, measured hands win this game. Don't check rankings every day (traffic is more important anyway), continue to provide quality content on a daily or at least weekly basis and make sure your niche/community knows about it. You may be surprised to see that back links will naturally be acquired. Quality content is the real link-bait, a very cool links attractor. Adding all the new content with varied internal anchor text links that builds up, will give you a boost as they rise in importance as well. Enjoy the ride, and here's to winning in your business and search!

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