How to Rank (Really Well) on Google
- Embrace complex clusters.
- Write for featured snippets.
- Revamp out-of-date blog posts.
- Publish high-quality content.
- Pay attention to search intent.
- Conduct an SEO audit.
1. Embrace complex clusters.
Search algorithms are ever-evolving, and in 2020 they’re as smart as ever. Search engines are now capable of recognizing connections across search queries.
This has big implications for marketers. Gone are the days when the searcher typed in simple keywords. Searches today are complex, putting the heavy lifting back on Google and other search engines to connect the dots.
For example, if you type “movie about doctor clown” into Google the first result will be the movie Patch Adams, despite the fact that there is no overlap in the search terminology.
The takeaway: search engines are incredibly intuitive. Google recognizes exactly what the searcher wants without the searcher explicitly stating their question.
At HubSpot, our blogging team realized this shifting behavior, so they altered our blog strategy to focus on topic clusters, instead of specific keywords.
To do this, they first identified what topics to prioritize. Then, they aligned our existing blog posts into the aforementioned clusters and generated tons of new content under those clusters.
Finally, they built internal and external links at every available opportunity, creating connection points between content that share the same topic cluster.
In doing so, we signal to search engines exactly how the pieces fit together. While it can be time-consuming to reorganize your content, the payoff is huge.
2. Write for featured snippets.
Let’s use the example of Patch Adams once more. If you type “movie about doctor clown” into Google, you’ll see a small box with a short answer summarizing the premise of the film right below the search bar.
There’s no need to click into a link to see the answer; instead, Google makes it easy to get the information on first glance. This answer box is a featured snippet. And if you’re not using your blog to optimize for featured snippets, start now.
Here’s the incentive: Google pulls the featured snippet from one of the pages that ranks on page one of the search results, but the featured snippet does not necessarily need to exist in the #1 link.
This is a huge opportunity to get content that is not in the #1 spot to actually appear above the #1 spot.
To identify which content is good for featured snippets, Google frequently serves up answers for “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How” queries.
If you think your content is addressing one of the aforementioned questions, prioritize writing a golden-nugget answer, and you may just see your content sitting right below the search bar.
Another key reason to prioritize for the featured snippet is voice search. As voice search is on trend to become 50% of all mobile searches by 2020 — a prediction by both Google and Bing — featured snippets are now being tapped as the trigger response by virtual assistants. So, as search evolves, so should you.
3. Revamp out-of-date blog posts.
There are a number of benefits to creating new content like having additional pages to be indexed by search engines, providing education to your curious users, and it’s a good way to stay relevant in your industry.
However, as any tenured blogger knows, new posts can take a while to build up steam. In fact, it is often slightly older posts that generate a large portion of traffic because they have had time to develop authority.
One of the most effective strategies HubSpot’s blogging team implements to boost SEO is to historically optimize our old posts.
Historical optimization is the process of taking old posts and making them new again with higher-quality, refreshed content, keywords, and links. By leveraging your already existing search authority on these posts, search engines will reward your freshness, which will then lead to a surge of new visits to your content.
4. Publish high-quality content.
To rank really well on Google, your content needs to be high-quality. You’re probably thinking, “What does that even mean?”
High-quality content can be defined as content that people are searching for, want to share, or provides new information in an easy-to-digest format.
I usually relate this step to something I learned in screenwriting class: Everything you write should move the story forward or reveal new information.
This means that you’ll want to research what content your audience wants from you. While you should conduct keyword research, it’s also important to write about topics that people would find interesting — even if the keyword volume doesn’t back it up.
Not to be simplistic, but your posts should also contain visuals and be long-form.
5. Pay attention to search intent.
Ranking in the #1 position on Google should mean that you’ve completely answered a user’s question.
That’s a major factor for Google’s rankings.
That means that you need to pay attention to search intent. When someone types in “how to rank on Google,” what are they really looking for?
Are they looking for a list? Are they looking for actionable items?
Before you write any blog post, it’s important to know why a user is searching something so you can properly fulfill their request.
6. Conduct an SEO audit.
Yes, writing your content well is a major factor in ranking on Google. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention SEO.
To rank highly on Google, you need to pay attention to on-page and off-page SEO tactics.
That means that you’re conducting keyword research, optimizing your meta tags, and gathering backlinks.
To see how well you’re doing, you should conduct an SEO audit. The only way to move forward is to know where you’re at and where you want to be so you can create a plan.
We surveyed 295 individuals across the United States, asking the question “Do you know how search engines, like Google, rank the results you get after a search?”
An astounding 48% of people answered “no.” As a marketer, you do not want to be in that 48%. If you do not evolve with SEO, you risk losing key business opportunities to maximize your brand awareness and generate leads.
It is time to understand, strategize, and capitalize on invaluable SEO tactics — like blogging — that will propel your business into success.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jun 1, 2020 5:00:00 PM, updated June 02 2020