How to Rank in Google, According to an SEO Guru

Standing out from the crowd is as easy as S-E-O.

Jun 16

SEO is a fundamental part of any digital marketer’s world. The fast-moving world of search engine optimization goes through many changes each year. Those who understand it are tight lipped with their tips and tricks, and those who want to learn it better start taking notes.

As a marketer, you’ll want to listen when Rand Fishkin speaks. I had a chat with the founder and former CEO of Moz, co-founder of Inbound.org and the author of two SEO books to shed some light on this mysterious world.

How does one increase their SEO knowledge?

Fishkin: They need a willingness to try, fail, learn, iterate, and repeat many, many times. It also helps to have deep empathy for people so that you can craft the content they want, and get inside their heads with search query needs.

How can I identify opportunities and prioritize targeting to stand out?

Marketers are moving from targeting high volume keywords and shifting towards strategies and tactics that recognize SERP features, and how they change click-through-rate opportunity. For example, a Google search for ‘learn to code’ has four ads and a featured snippet atop any of the normal, organic results.

Our Keyword Explorer tool estimates that those organic results only get ~56 percent of the page’s clicks. Compare that to a search like “C++ Programs List” which has no ads, no other features, and just 10 blue links (which means organic results get 100 percent of the clicks). Even if that first query has double the search volume, it has half the opportunity.

Is there a direct impact from social to search?

If people don’t click your listing or click it and immediately click the back button because you didn’t provide what they want, it’s likely you’ll fall in the rankings pretty fast.

Social signals, we think, don’t figure into this much, though. Google has their partnership with Twitter, which enables tweets and a lot of Twitter accounts to show in Google’s results, but we don’t think beyond that there’s much direct impact from social to search. There is, however, a lot of indirect impact as what gets shared and linked to on social often earns other signals that Google uses (like links).

There are definitely methods that are outdated. Keyword once per 100 words no longer works. If you’re applying rules like that, you’ll definitely want to go back to 1997. Similarly, LSI keyword methodology was probably out the window 10 years ago or more.

But, using keywords that search engines perceive as relevant to the content can boost your rankings. We’ve had a few experiments proving that. My favorite methodology here is to use Google’s own intelligence to identify them.

For example, you can crawl the top 10 results from Google for any given query, identify terms and phrases on those pages that are uncommon in other types of web content, and then use that on your own page to get better results.

What are your thoughts on PBN’s?

A good handful of SEOs still use them, but they can get sites burnt and efforts wasted in a hurry, I know SEO practitioners who still swear by them, but the opportunity is ever-retreating as Google gets better and better and finding and devaluing or penalizing spam.

What do you recommend online marketers steer clear of?

Spamming open comment fields isn’t SEO, it’s just lazy and hurts everyone – the reputation of SEOs, the web’s ethos, and Google’s results. If you want to rank, earn it.

Ten years ago I used XRumer – a search engine optimization program created by BotmasterLabs that is able to register and post (or spam) to forums with the aim of boosting search engine rankings – but I couldn’t live with the damage it did to other sites. I felt too guilty and just deleted it.

What does Google not want its marketing customers to know?

They seem pretty dead set on refusing to admit that engagement, queries, and clicks are used in any way in their ranking systems. I can understand why, but I think the cat’s out of the bag at this point. I expect they’ll eventually make some admissions around this.

Who are the rising stars in the SEO world?

There’s a list of SEO experts to watch this year. I’m going to name exclusively women SEOs, since I think there are far too many amazing women in our field who don’t get nearly the amplification and attention they deserve.

These include Britney Muller, Dana DiTomaso, Elizabeth Marsten, Laura Lippay, Emily Grossman, Lexi Mills, Marie Haynes, Cindy Krum, Lisa Myers, Barbara Starr, Christy Correll and Jenny Halasz. There are thousands more, but hopefully that’s a good start.