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Ranking on Google, the hardest work

There are many ways to attract traffic to your site, but for most startups the potential traffic from search engines (read: Google) is most significant. Getting traffic from Google means you need to rank high on search results that are relevant to your content. But how does that work?


Ranking high on Google, what does that mean?

Google uses a highly complex and ever changing algorithm that decides which results rank high, and which ones not. Simply creating quality content on your site will not ensure you attract traffic from Google. Let's take a look at what most experts think are important factors of Google's algorithm, factors that you need to start taking very serious!



Ranking on Google; factors involved



Factors influencing rankings on Google

  • Incoming links
    By far the most important factor is the number of incoming links to your site, and to its subpages. Google sees these links as signs of trust; if other websites link to you, you must be doing something right. Simple as that? Well, the science behind using links as ranking factor is incredibly complex and Google is doing very well at understanding which links mean more than others. I will discuss this point in detail below.

  • Anchor text
    The anchor text has something to do with the links pointing to your site. If I have a page on how to make Pizza, most links from other websites to my site (this is called external links) will probably say something like "click here to learn how to make pizza" or "pizza recipe". These two examples are the anchor texts, and Google uses these to understand and check the content of my website. The anchor texts are important pieces of information to Google.

  • Social media
    This factor has been gaining importance for some time now and we can all understand why. If a website is shared and liked on social media, that must mean that it is interesting. Google gives its own social network (Google+) most weight, but Facebook likes and shares are also very important. We focus on this in the next step; using your social media to gain traffic.

  • Keyword usage
    This is the first ranking factor that you can manage directly. If you understand what people are looking for (by analyzing your keywords), you can write your content with SEO (search engine optimization) in mind. Say, you write about "Salami pizza", in this case it is important to use important keywords (like "salami pizza", "best salami sausages for pizza" or "ingredients that match well with salami") in your article's titles and text. It has a lot to do with what we learned in the previous article (writing articles for the internet).

  • Loading time
    An important factor to keep in mind is your site's loading time. The higher your loading time, the worse your ranking. Google penalizes slow websites. So make sure your website is fast enough by choosing a good template (it is nice to have hundreds of pictures, but think about what that does to your loading times) and by choosing a good webhosting company.



Conclusion; how to rank well?

Put very simple, if you want to rank your website's content high on Google you need to create quality content that is optimized for SEO, and you need to get others to link to your work. We discussed creating SEO optimized content in the previous article (writing articles for the internet), so let's learn more about how to get quality links to your website.


Ranking your site is simple, but hard work. Optimize your website's content, grow your social media and exchange quality links.




Link building to start ranking well

You need incoming links to your content, from external websites. Preferably with good anchor texts. How?

First we need to have a look at what links are valuable and which ones aren't. I am walking you through the basics, if you want more, I highly recommend Moz' SEO guide. Let's get started, the following is mostly common sense, but here goes.



Linkbuilding for SEO



Linkbuilding, what kind of links do you need?

  • Authority / Quality
    If an authoritative/famous website links to your site, that means a lot more than when a little known (or even spammy) website links to you. Links from spam websites can even result in a penalty, so you need to be picky in choosing your link partners. The authority of a website can be established by looking up its Google Page Rank (here) or by looking at the Page Authority using the Moz Open Site Explorer (here).

  • Relatedness
    Very similar to the authority of a website is the concept of relatedness. If a website links to you that is unrelated to your topic, this link is much less valuable than when a highly related website links to you.

  • Quantity
    The quantity of external links to your site is obviously of great importance. Assuming you manage to prevent spam-links, we can safely say that more is better.

  • Anchor text
    We talked about this above. The text that external website use in their link to you is of great importance to Google.

  • Locality
    It depends a bit on the type of website, but in many cases, it matters where your links come from. Websites have IP addresses so Google always knows where they are hosted/located. Having many links from just a few IP addresses is worth less than having links from different IP addresses. If you run a local store, local links (from that state or country) will matter more.

  • Social links
    We talked about this as well; social media likes and shares matter increasingly.



Linkbuilding strategies



Strategies for linkbuilding

We have two main strategies for building links, and anyone taking this step serious will have to follow both:


Strategy 1. Creating great content

By now, you understand why you need good content to beat the competition. The internet is crowded with millions of websites and to win, you need to be better, smarter and more dedicated. When your content is great, people will link to it without any effort from your side.

So what content is share-worthy? What content has the potential to go viral? The most linked pieces of content I have come across are great quality tutorials, infographics and other graphical works of wonder. People like graphics, they really do. Content going viral often has to do with something being genuinely interesting to many people, newsworthy or simply something funny.

To persuade visitors to link to your content you need to make it easy for them. Give them a code-snippet so they can add your infographic directly to their site, with a link to the original (your website). Explain how your YouTube movie can be easily embedded on other websites and add social sharing buttons to your content.


Strategy 2. Outreach

You thought creating quality content was hard work? Reaching out to other websites to suggest link exchanges is potentially much more work. But as always, efforts pay off, especially on the long run. If you do your outreach campaign (contacting webmasters to ask for a links exchange) smart, you maximize your return on effort.

Before you start reaching out to potential linkpartners, you need to decide which content you want to promote. I try to promote my homepage as well as a few of the important subpages, but this 'mix' depends on your situation. If you are in a specialized niche, ranking your homepage on your most important keyword is possible. But if you target a mass market with a lot of competition, it makes sense to try to rank a few of your subpages on very specific keywords first. You won't be able to compete on a general keyword in a mass market, but you can compete on specific keywords or keyphrases.


Who should I target as link partner?

Most likely, you know what websites are important in your industry or niche. But you will need more, many more in fact, because only 10-20% of the people you request to exchange links with will actually do this. Open an excel/numbers sheet on your computer and create three columns: url, email, name. Now let's get started:


  • Competitors
    Which websites are important in your industry / niche? Write the url, email and preferably the name of a contact person in your excel, using one row per website.

  • Investigate their links
    There are smart ways to analyze the websites of your competitors and find out who link to them. I always use Open Site Explorer for this (with a free account). Surf to their website and fill in the url of your first competitor. You now see a list of their incoming links, ranked by importance. This data is super! Surf to the first, say, 20 websites linking to your competitors and again, gather all the data to your excel sheet. Repeat this step for all your competitors.

  • Google for more
    Probably you have a pretty big list by now, but we want more. Another way to find potential link partners is to simply use Google and search for the most important keywords you want to rank on. Open the first, say, 20 websites per keyword and collect their data to your excel.



How should I ask them?

Now that you have created an excel sheet with the url, email and names of a lot of potential link partners we can start your linkbuilding campaign. But you need to be creative to maximize the return on effort; the email you send to potential link partners needs to be well thought through. Perhaps before you 'pop the question' try to be in touch with the most important potential linkpartners through social media, at events, etc. If people know you, or even like you, exchanging links is much easier.

So what should I keep in mind when sending link request emails?


  • Make it personal
    The style of your email should, in most cases, be personal and, in all cases, honest. For the most important potential link partners, adept your emails by adding a question about something you read on their site, about something he/she said on a presentation, etc. Or turn it around, first ask these questions, create a conversation, and then 'pop the question'. Always make it personal!

  • Email subject
    The email subject is something you need to think about carefully. What subject will interest the reader, a general subject like "Exchanging links" or something else?

  • Address your email
    You collected the names of your potential link partners, which was a lot of extra work, but sending an email to an actual person works much better.

  • What's in it for them
    Yes, you are asking for a favor when you propose to exchange links, but try to keep in mind "what's in it for them". You will of course add a reciprocal link, but can you do anything else that is valuable to them?



Keeping track of your ranking

Now that you know how ranking on Google works, and started your linkbuilding efforts, it is time to track your rankings.

I track the ranking of my 25 most important keywords on Google with a very convenient and free tool named SERP checker. Register on their site and add your website and its most important keywords. Also select the Google version that is important to you ( for example, or With these settings you can conveniently track your rankings once per month. If some of your rankings do well, while others drop, you know what to focus on.



Alright, what's next?

You now know how to rank on Google and you understand that linkbuilding

is hard work but crucial to the success of your site. Next: Social media.

Proceed with the next step


Step 1: Build websiteStep 2: Create contentStep 3: Attract visitorsStep 4: Make moneyStep 5: Grow your businessStep 6: Earn more