5 Strategies to Maintain and Improve Your #1 Rankings in Google – After You’ve Reached the Top
March 11, 2010 - Written by Gyutae Park
Most SEO articles and blog posts I come across talk about how to achieve top rankings in Google for targeted keywords and what it takes to get there. While ranking is of course the crucial first step, what’s missing from the sea of information out there is the answer to the question, “what next?” What do you do when you finally reach your goal of #1 rankings? Do you simply enjoy the ride and pray Google keeps you at the top spot? Or is there a way you can be more proactive with your approach so you can maintain and even add to your success?
In this article, I want to answer all of those questions and outline the various strategies and steps you can take after you achieve your #1 rankings.
Like it or not, obtaining #1 rankings for a bunch of competitive keywords is not the end of the road for your SEO campaign. If you’re lucky enough to even be in a situation like this, there are still quite a few things you can do to solidify your position for the long term and further increase traffic and conversions.
1. Increase the page’s “linkability” – reinforce your position
As you know, SEO at its core is all about good content and inbound links. If you have both, you’re more likely to rank favorably in the engines. That being said, the competition (ranked 2-10) is out to get you and you can’t afford to sit on your hands.
At the bare minimum, you need to increase the “linkability” of your ranking page. If you’re on top for a popular search keyword, you’re probably getting a lot of targeted traffic. The good news is that high SEO rankings are essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re ranking #1, more people will see your content and potentially link to it, thus reinforcing your position at the top spot.
What you need to do is encourage these natural links that come about from a top listing. A lot of people trust Google’s rankings so they search to find resources to link to (e.g. bloggers). Your job is to improve “linkability” by proving to everyone that Google isn’t making a mistake by ranking you first.
Here are a few ways you accomplish this:
- Improve your site’s design. When it comes to attracting links, looks do matter.
- Expand your content and make it head and shoulders above the rest (i.e. something that can’t be found anywhere else)
- Temporarily remove advertising. I’m sure you’d want to monetize your rankings, but too many ads can be a turn off for links, especially if you overdo it. It might be a good idea to limit the ads for a while until you try to get some more links. This will help you to make even more money later on.
2. Aggressively seek out links
Once you have a top ranking for a competitive keyword, you can leverage your position to gain even more links. For example, a link you add to a relevant Wikipedia page is more likely to stick. You can also contact bloggers and ask them to link, especially if they have the related content on their sites already.
Look for opportunities to gain links whether it be through guest posting, article marketing, or just plain begging. Not only will the added links make it more difficult for others to overtake you in the rankings, but you can also mix up the link anchor text to try and get the same page to rank for other related terms (more on this in point 4).
3. Optimize click through rates and conversions
Are you maximizing the benefit of your #1 ranking? Chances are, you’re not. There’s always room for improvement, especially with click through and conversion rates. Below are some tips for each.
Click through rates
Just because you have a #1 ranking doesn’t mean you’ll get X number of visits per day. While positioning is definitely important, you can still greatly increase the chances of your listing being clicked by tweaking the following items.
- Title tags. This is the bolded link text that you see in the search engine results pages. Try adding a symbol like “*” or “->” to the beginning of the title to attract attention. Alternatively you can play around with the actual title text to see how it affects CTR. For example, you can shorten the title to make it an exact match of the search query or you can make it a little longer by adding catchy phrases like “Read This First!” The title tag is by far the most important on-page SEO factor so make sure your targeted keyword has the most prominence. Also keep in mind that the search engines need at least a few days or weeks to adapt to your changes. You don’t want to change things too much or too frequently or else you risk dropping in the rankings.
- Meta descriptions. This is the blurb that shows up with your search listing. While Google will oftentimes change this up depending on what’s being searched, you can specify your preference by inserting the meta description tag in the head section of your page. Add in a descriptive sentence with your targeted keywords and a call to action to pique users’ attention/curiosity.
So you have a #1 ranking and the searcher clicked through to your site. Now what? You want them to convert! In other words, you want them to do whatever it is you want them to do on your site, whether it be signing up for your newsletter, clicking on ads, or buying your product/service.
Take advantage of the steady stream of traffic by constantly testing what works and what doesn’t on your site. For example, does having an orange button convert better than a green button? Now’s the time to test, test, test. Besides performing A/B split testing, use a service like Crazy Egg to see where users are clicking most.
4. Expand on ranking opportunities
#1 rankings in Google are nice, but there’s opportunity for even more visibility. What can you do? Well first, you can expand the keyword scope of the ranking page to target even more keywords. For example, if your title is “Blue Widgets” you can expand it to something like “Blue Widgets for Sale in New York”. That should allow you to get even more rankings for various more-specific keywords. Sure you may be diluting the keyword density of the title tag for your main keyword, but if you’ve been adding links as I suggested in points 1 and 2, your ranking should be able to hold. Remember that the majority of searches are long-tail so don’t be stuck narrowly focusing on just 1 keyword.
Additionally, you can add a second indented listing to your search result. If you have 2 rankings on any search engine result page, Google will bump up the second one to show up right under the first. For example, if you have a #1 ranking and a #10 ranking for a keyword using the same domain name, Google will automatically bump up the #10 ranking to #2. So essentially you only need to get to #10 for a #2 ranking. This is definitely worth the effort. Create a related page and go for it. In case you haven’t seen it before, here’s how it looks.
Targeting misspellings of your keyword might also be a good way to get additional exposure. Just make sure there is significant search frequency so you’re not wasting your time.
Finally, if your #1 organic listing is driving a lot of traffic and conversions, the logical next step is to bid on that keyword in paid search. Since you know the value of each visitor (from your analytics), you’ll know exactly how much to bid while remaining profitable. It’s a no brainer. Furthermore, supplementing your #1 organic listing with a paid search ad has the potential to have a 1+1=3 effect, meaning the presence of one can improve the effects of the other.
5. Future-proof your SEO rankings
SEO as an industry is extremely volatile and your rankings could easily change or even be wiped out as a result of algorithmic shifts based on new technology and trends. So what can you do to prevent this? The key is to future proof your SEO by building your campaign around long term signals of quality. Exploiting loopholes or using tricks to rank might work now, but probably won’t stand the test of time. Solidify your position now so that you can continue to reap the rewards later.
In addition to the good content and quality links, below are some of the types of things search engines will look for in the near future to determine the authority of a site.
- Traffic / user engagement. Google has a lot of information on user behavior and it’s only a matter of time before they start using it to influence the search rankings. Work on building a popular site that fulfills user demand and the search traffic will come naturally.
- Branding. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said that “brands will clean up the Internet cesspool of misinformation”. Do you want to build a brand or be part of the cesspool? Don’t just build a generic site that’s replacable in the SERPs. For example, if you’re getting the majority of your traffic from search, that just looks unnatural and could set off some red flags. Build a strong brand and business. That way, if Google doesn’t rank you highly, it looks bad on them.
- Social media. Social media is all the rage these days – and for good reason. Networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have a ton of user data and all of this can be leveraged to figure out popular news stories, blogs, and websites. Be sure to be active in these areas promoting your site if you’re not already.
That pretty much sums it up – the 5 steps you should take after achieving a top ranking in Google. Can you add anything to the list? What have your experiences been in maintaining and improving your #1 rankings?If you like this post, subscribe to the RSS feed. Get the latest updates delivered straight to your email or news reader.