In 2021 I completed my 27th year as an online consultant. After all these years, what has been a consistent topic to be explained is how the SERPS (Search Engine Results Pages) work. By squashing myths and inserting reality. Much to the chagrin of many.
Today I'll focus on what you need to consider if you are serious about gaining ranking over time. I'll also include links to other resources and articles for more reading.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
SEO is one of the primary topics that those with websites struggle with most. I don't see that changing in the year ahead. First, they ask how they can rank, which requires that I explain what is necessary to attain their desired rankings. I then become their “Debbie Downer.”
How Do I Get “Top 10” Search Engine Rankings?
Chances are, for most, that will never happen. Yeah, it can happen, but the work, cost, and time required to accomplish a top 10 ranking is something only a rare few can make happen.
After launching a new WordPress Website, one of the most common follow-up issues clients want to know is when they will be in that “top 10.” The most common SEO questions I get asked that I've already posted about are:
By the end of this conversation, the person I am speaking with is usually demoralized now that they know the reality of what is required. And in most cases, they do not follow through with the advice provided.
The time and effort needed and the challenge to be embraced for any hope of getting top rankings is nothing less than overwhelming. I get it.
You've heard that phrase, “there's no such thing as a free lunch?” But, boy, does that apply to search rankings.
While “free” listings don't cost you anything like PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising does, “Top 10” are almost impossible to attain. That's right; I said it — almost impossible.
If you are serious about being ranked on the top page ahead of the hundreds, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of other sites fighting for the same spots — time to become good friends with reality.
Search Engine Reality vs. Hype…
Have you noticed that there is even less available real estate “above the fold” for organic rankings? This is due to more ad blocks than ever. That's how Google makes its money.
Being in the top 2 is where you want to be to be seen without scrolling — that's called “above the fold.” The rest are below the fold.
If hundreds or thousands of sites all want to pull on the top page for the same terms you do, how can you rise above them all? You have to be the best. You have to do what is necessary to be perceived as the cream of the crop.
That means being better than the sites already owning those positions. That's a tough hill to climb because many big brands own those slots. This leaves us, little guys, at a considerable disadvantage.
Your competitors probably desire those positions as much as you do. So, if we put desire aside, what actually will make the difference? Think long-game.
Making the Right Choices and Taking Action
SEO isn't just about inserting keywords. It includes your site performing well with content that contributes to your Expertise, Authority, and Trust factors. There are many great resources online that guide site owners on the reality of what is required to succeed — here is the list I rely on.
Unfortunately, many ignore this reality, and I can understand why. At that same time, you cannot assume that you can tweak this, do a little of that or throw some keywords here or there and get those results. Many prefer not to spend the necessary time or money and believe that rankings will eventually happen anyway.
That. Won't. Happen.
The Truth About Top Page Search Engine Rankings
You have to take a sober look at your market and consider:
“What makes my site so much better than the multitude of competitors already in those slots, for my target phrase(s), that I warrant being above all the rest?“
Do you have an answer to that question? Be honest.
If you do not have a rock-solid realistic answer, you probably do not yet know what to do to achieve that result. Time to get to work and do some due diligence.
Each search site, such as DuckDuckGo, Google, Yahoo, and Bing, has its proprietary algorithm that considers hundreds of factors (algorithm) when determining how to rank a site. Albeit none are perfect, these algorithms are constantly evolving and changing to offer the searcher (so they say) the most relevant results based on the search criteria used.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to be the most relevant, trusted, highest quality site for the terms you want to rank for.
5 SEO Truths?
Remember, websites and search engines are just computers talking to computers. Search engine algorithms rely on your site's content, structure, inbound links, and performance metrics. These variables are what search engines use to determine your credibility and status throughout the network.
As complicated as these algorithms are, your best chance to attain rankings over the long haul is pretty black and white. That is if you keep these five truths in mind.
SEO TRUTH #1: CONTENT
You must continually grow your site with relevant, helpful information of value to your site visitors that is worth linking to. More importantly, content that caters to site visitor intent. Search engines know that anyone can exchange links, and therefore links in themselves do not indicate quality or value.
You want to attain one-way links to your site by crafting link-worthy content. One-way inbound links are a vote of confidence that you have a good website and information. It is hard to come by but worth their weight in gold when they are acquired.
In 2021, inbound links will be more difficult than ever to attain. The fact is that websites do not link off-site as often as they did back in the day. Regardless, it doesn't hurt to keep this goal in mind.
SEO TRUTH #2: RELEVANCY
There is no way to cover all your keyword phrases on your home page, on any one page, or post within your site and expect to pull on the top page of search engines. So the keyword-stuffing days are over.
In addition, the more you are about, the less you are about any one thing. This is where doing keyword research and focusing on the terms you know your customers use is vital.
Search engines will rank the most relevant and authoritative site/page/article related to the term searched for. It will help if you have detailed, concentrated pages about particular topics to accomplish this.
Work towards creating an extensive library of ûber-niche articles that use your established collection of target phrases. Here's a PDF to help you out.
SEO TRUTH #3: LONGEVITY
Sites that have been online longer and updated consistently tend to rank higher than those just launched or rarely updated. Not because of age alone, but because the longer a site is around, they tend to have more info, authority, followers, and links if appropriately managed.
Use the test of time to create a consistently grown site with new features and an updated look when necessary. Technology will push ahead with or without you. Make a concentrated effort to keep up so that you are not left behind.
SEO TRUTH #4: DEPENDENCE
You don't want to depend on organic search rankings as your sole venue for new visitor acquisition. While search engines should be part of your plan, they should not be more than content, features, branding, and social networking efforts.
You don't want to put all your eggs in the search engine basket. That is not a solid or pragmatic marketing methodology.
Unless you purchase search engine advertising (PPC), you can't “buy” your way into the top positions in the free/organic SERPs. So what is a website owner to do?
Work hard to make your site the best it can be within its competitive market for your target customer. If you take away anything from this article, it is those last four words.
SEO TRUTH #5: TECHNICALITIES
Technical SEO is just as important as content and keywords. I won't get into the weeds in this article; however, technical SEO matters.
Things like the choice of web host, site structure/coding, HTTPS, mobile responsiveness, website performance, and speed all contribute to your website rankings. For example, did you know that Google expects your site to display in less than 2 seconds?
Ongoing Consistent Efforts Rule the Day
Add articles, PDF downloads, have a Blog, a directory, or even forums if these services will benefit your market. Then, share them on all your socials and engage.
Cater to your customers by determining what they want and giving it to them. Then, strive to be the one-stop-shop for your target market and take the time to get out there and network and participate.
By having this approach and doing your best to accommodate your market, you make your site visitors happy and give the search engines what they look at to rank you accordingly.
Even if you don't attain those top 2, or even top page rankings, you'll have something much more valuable—dedicated and loyal customers who will talk you up. Game on!
At your service,