Is your website coming up #1 on Google? If not, your customers can’t find you and you are leaving a lot of money on the table in lost sales. Here’s how you can rank your website at the top of Google, explained step-by-step. Step #1: Find Your Keywords Fact: you don’t know what people are typing into Google to find a company like yours. What you’d search for is not what they search for. So, you need to find out what keywords they’re using so you can optimize your website for them. These are the four criteria you need to use to decide what keywords are good and which ones aren’t: Search Volume. Use the Google Keyword Tool to find out how many people a month search for a given keyword. Make sure to select “Exact” instead of “Broad” on the left side of the screen to get more accurate results. Relevancy. This is the likelihood that someone searching for a particular keyword will buy your product. For example, if you own a BMW dealership in Omaha, NE, the keyword “buy BMW Omaha” is very relevant and “buy Audi in Miami” isn’t. Difficulty. Don’t discard a keyword just because it’s difficult. But if it’s difficult and not relevant, or difficult and has a very low search volume, then it’s not worth it. Use the SEOmoz Keyword Difficulty Tool to find out how difficult a keyword is. Ranking. Go after the low-hanging fruit first. If you’re ranking #8 for a keyword, a little extra optimization will put you in the top 3. Step #2: Perform a Competitive Analysis It’s always a good idea to see how you measure up against your competitors. The best way to do a quick and effective competitive analysis is to use Open Site Explorer. These are the metrics you should pay the most attention to: Domain Strength. This shows you how much Google trusts your domain vs. your competitors’ domains. Page Strength. This is the same as domain strength but at a page-level. mozRank. This is partially based on the number of inbound links you have. If you have fewer links than your competitors, you need to get more links. mozTrust. This shows the quality of inbound links. If your competitors are beating you here, you need to get high-quality links (more on this later in this article). Number of Links. This is the total number of inbounds links that you and your competitors have. Number of Domains Linking. Number of domains linking is different from number of links, because a website could be linking to you twice (that would be two links coming from one domain). Number of Pages Indexed by Google. This shows you how many pages you have and how many pages your competitors have. If you have fewer pages than them, you’ll need to create more content (i.e. start blogging). All these metrics should give you a pretty good idea of how competitive your industry is and how much of a gap there is between you and your competitors. Step #3: Optimize Your Site This post will show you how to optimize your site to rank #1 on Google. Step #4: Create Great Content This post will show you how to create great content and this one will show you how to effectively include keywords in your content. Step #5: Build Links Google sees links as votes. The more links you have, the better you’ll rank. These are the 10 laws of link building: Rule #1: The More, the Merrier You want to have as many links as possible. Rule #2: Links from Authoritative Sites Are More Valuable A link from CNN.com is worth more than a link from your cousin’s blog. Look for sites that have a Domain Authority of 55 or more. You can use the SEOMoz Toolbar to see the DA of a site. Rule #3: Topical Relationship Matters If you own a dog training website, a link from another dog training website is more valuable than a link from a music e-store. Rule #4: The Page the Link Is Pointing to Matters Don’t forget that search engines rank pages, not domains. Try to get links that point to the pages you want to rank. That’s a lot better than getting links that point to your home page only. Rule #5: Link Text is Everything If I wanted to rank at the top of Google for “Internet Marketing Agency”, a link like this Internet Marketing Agency would be a lot more valuable than one like this one: click here. In fact, I’d rather get 10 links with my keyword in them than 100 links with irrelevant link text. When two or more links point to the same URL, it’s the first link in the HTML code that counts. Rule #6: Context Matters The text surrounding a link matters. So does the location of the link on a page. A text link in the first paragraph is worth a lot more than a tiny link buried in the footer of the page. Rule #7: Internal Links Count I’m always shocked at how many people use “click here” or “read more” to link to other pages within their sites. You have full control over your website, so why not make those links keyword-rich? Use this tool to check for broken internal links: http://home.snafu.de/tilman/xenulink.html Rule #8: Not All Links Last Forever You should use this tool to measure how long your links are lasting: http://www.virante.com/seo-tools/link-atrophy-diagnosis-tool.php Rule #9: Make It Look Natural Dozens of new links built overnight pointing to the same page using the perfect anchor text doesn’t look natural. Mix it up. Link to the home page sometimes, use anchor texts like “click here” or “www.site.com” and make sure you don’t build too many links too fast. Rule #10: Beware of NoFollow Links “NoFollow” links don’t count. Read more about these links and use the SEOMoz Toolbar to detect nofollow links. Now let’s talk about how you can get links. There are a few dozen different link building tactics. These are my favorite. From Sites that Link to Your Competitors Use the SEOMoz Link Intersect Tool to find out who’s linking to the 5 sites that are ranking first on Google for your keywords. Work on getting links from those sites too. If the site is a blog, offer a guest post. If the site is a forum, post an article. If the site has a Resources/Links section, try to get listed here. If the site is a directory or allows for websites to get listed on it, do that. If you contact a webmaster, find a broken link on their site and use this as a conversation opener. When they reply, offer them content. If they don’t have broken links, make a suggestion or give them a compliment on their site. Use the telephone, email and social networks to contact these webmasters. Use a CRM tool to follow up with them because starting a conversation by asking for a link isn’t very effective. You need to use common sense and relationship skills to understand what the webmaster wants and what his visitors want. Once you know what they want, you can give it to them. From Top Ranking Sites Find the top ranking sites for a given keywords and get links from them following the same principles explained in the previous tactic. Advanced Article Marketing Submit articles to EzineArticles.com Track a unique snippet of each article using Google Alerts. When you get an alert indicating that someone posted one of your articles on their site, take a look at their site and if it looks good (relevant or high PageRank or high traffic volume or high Alexa Rank or plenty of comments/retweets), offer them more content (maybe exclusive).The goal is always to control the anchor text on the links in the articles. Directories Get links from these directories: Premium directories Yahoo DMOZ Business.com BOTW BOTW blogs Gimpsy Skaffe WOW Aviva GoGuides StartingPoint WebBeacon JoeAnt Local directories Google Local Yahoo! Local Bing Local InfoUSA Yellow Pages Localeze Yelp UniversalBusinessListing.org Niche directories Search for [keyword] directory. For example, “car dealership directory” or “Omaha business directory”. Blog directories BOTW blogs BlogCatalog http://www.blog-search.com/ http://www.blogarama.com/ http://www.blogbunch.com/ http://www.blogcatalog.com/ http://www.blogcode.com/ http://www.blogexplosion.com/ http://www.blogflux.com/ http://www.bloggernity.com/ http://www.bloghop.com/ http://www.bloghub.com/ http://www.bloglisting.net/ http://www.blogrankings.com/ http://www.blogtoplist.com/ http://www.britblog.com/ http://findingblog.com/ http://www.geekyspeaky.com/links/ http://www.getblogs.com/ http://www.globeofblogs.com/ http://www.iblogbusiness.com/ http://www.lsblogs.com/ http://myblog2u.com/ http://www.quickblogdirectory.com/ http://sportsblogs.org/ http://www.theweblogreview.com/index.php http://www.weblogalot.com/ Guest Blogging Go to MyGuestBlog.com, the #1 guest blogging marketplace, and look for bloggers who need content. You’ll write content for them and in exchange they’ll link back to your site. OpenSiteExplorer Tool Use OpenSiteExplorer to see who’s linking to your competitors. Go after the same links. If someone is linking to one of your competitors, they’re very likely to link to you. SEOmoz Link Finder This tool will give you a list of sites that are likely to link to you. Business Partners Ask your vendors, business partners, friends and people you know to link to you. Events and Charities (PR Coverage) Organize several events and make sure bloggers know about it and write about it. Testimonials Offer testimonials every time you buy something online as long as they allow you to put a link to your site in the testimonial. Donations and Sponsorships Make a donation and ask them to put your site on the Supporters page. Become a sponsor and have them link to your site. Get More Links from Previous Linkers Keep a list of all the sites that linked to you in the past and send them more content so they keep linking to you. Content Distribution Every time you have a new article, post it to Ping.fm, OnlyWire, EzineArticles, forums, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Include a call to action inviting people to re-post those articles to their sites and link back to you. Blog Commenting Post relevant comments to blogs in your industry. Create the Updated Version of an Old Resource Search for something like “10 places to visit in 2006”, write the 2010 version, see who’s linking to the 2006 version and tell them you have a more updated version of the article they can link to. Look for Broken Links and Replace Them with Your Resources If you have a travel site, search for Travel Resources. You’ll find a lot of sites that list their favorite travel resources. Use this Firefox add-on http://www.kevinfreitas.net/extensions/linkchecker/ to highlight broken links on these resource pages. Contact the webmasters, let them know about the broken links and suggest that they put your site there to replace the broken link. Find other sites linking to that same resource and get those people to link to you instead (because your resource works and it’s not a broken link). How to find some of these resources: Your subject + [Calculator/Lifehack/Tip/Resource/List] Search on Delicious and run the broken link tool here! DMOZ/Yahoo/Niche directories Get a list of the sites on pages 5-20 of Google. Run them by OpenSiteExplorer.org. Click on Top Pages and look for 404 errors. Find sites linking to these pages and get them to link to you instead of to a broken link. Tools Create plenty of tools and quizzes. People will link to these tools. Also, give people badges to put on their sites. Some Very Important Link Building Tips: Webmasters get tons of emails every day. Be different: use the phone! It works great! This book will help you with your sales skills (after all, asking someone to link to you is selling.) When link requests come from a woman, they work a lot better. Use this piece of information to your advantage. Don’t put the title of “SEO Specialist” in your email signature. PR works a lot better. Make sure you send emails from the same domain you’re asking links for. If you’re an agency, ask your client to create an email account for you. Don’t use a Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo address. Approaching people effectively can be a big challenge. Read this blog post on how to approach people. Do You Have Any Questions? Post Them in the Comments Section Below and I’ll Make Sure to Answer Them.