How to Really Rank in Google SERPs

by Jason Acidre on April 30, 2014 · 40 comments · Content, Search, Social


Ranking in Google’s search results has been a lot more challenging these days, compared to how SEO was typically done a decade ago.

Over the years, Google has gradually integrated several advanced factors/metrics – mainly to fight web spam – and also to make the web search experience more relevant and useful to people worldwide.

Brief backstory:

This study was almost 2 years in the making. Ever since I started this blog, I’ve always wanted to rank for the search term “SEO blog Philippines”.

I knew that it wasn’t that hard to rank for that keyword (back in 2011), knowing that no one will really search and optimize for that (and I would only expect low conversions for that term).

But I’ve thought of reserving a campaign specifically for that term (and a bunch of other closely related key phrases) that’d be a more fit for a more meaningful experiment.

That’s one reason why I didn’t build any link using the exact same term for the anchor texts (even one link to my blog’s homepage) in the past. Because I knew that something new will always come out that’d be worth testing.

anchors

Eventually, that time came, when I was first introduced to the concept of “co-occurrence and co-citation” – as cited by Rand Fishkin and Bill Slawski in late 2012.

I became obsessed with the idea and just had that feeling that I have to play with it no matter what.

I didn’t rank for that exact keyword for the past 4 years of blogging (even on the 2nd to the 5th page of the search results, you won’t see my blog there before). But now, it seems that Google already understands how my blog perfectly matches the keyword.

seo blog

So in this post, I’ll walk you through the methods I’ve implemented over the past several months to rank for a search term that I haven’t optimized using traditional on-site optimization and link building techniques.

Co-Occurrence

As described by Haris Bacic on SEJ:

Co-occurrence refers to the association of some particular phrases – or more specifically, important keywords – that come in close proximity to each other. This close proximity of important keywords develops an association and relation that are understandable by Google as an important search engine factor.

co-occurrence

As soon as I was introduced to this potential factor that Google might use in the future, I started to incorporate this concept to most of my content efforts (as well as on my artificial link building activities).

I first used it on my site’s thematic internal linking, and then on some of my guest blogging activities (like from this one on Moz):

gp2

Entity Optimization

If you want search engines to better understand what your brand is about, it’s imperative to let people know who you are as well.

The consistency in the usage of the strings of nouns that would reflect the identity of your brand from your writings is a crucial step in optimizing for relevance nowadays.

In my case, I heavily emphasized who am I on my writings and from the exposure I’m getting from other websites to let people know that:

  • I am from the Philippines.
  • I write about SEO, link building and marketing.
  • I run a company called Xight Interactive.
  • Jason Acidre is the blogger
  • Kaiserthesage is the blog

These made it easier for search engines to understand who I was (which is a very important factor that allows brands to rank for generic terms).

brand relevance

Authority Signals

Links used to be the primary indicator of being an authority over the web (or in Google’s eyes perhaps) back in the days.

But now that search has evolved in so many ways, there have been a lot more other signals that Google can use to determine how authoritative a site/brand/entity really is.  These signals may include:

  • What other people authentically say about the brand (through brand mentions, linked or unlinked, they all matter). Simon Penson wrote an extensive case study on how valuable brand mentions are in today’s SEO.
  • Traffic behavior and site’s usage data – which reflects how useful/relevant the site’s content to its visitors based on consumption.
  • The site’s domain authority, which relates to the high quality incoming links directing to the site and high quality pages it has (links are still very important in my opinion).
  • Social signals, though it isn’t directly being used by search algorithms, its byproducts can certainly impact the site’s performance in terms of demonstrating authority (such as getting more link opportunities, brand mentions, and better traffic acquisition that can improve the site’s usage data). AJ Kohn wrote a great piece on the mathematical reason why social matters in SEO, I highly suggest reading it.

As to how I’ve built authority signals for the past couple of years, I’ll be sharing them on the next part.

Brand Optimization through building Social Influence

Much of what we do, say and think is influenced by other people. As defined on Wikipedia:

Social influence occurs when one’s emotions, opinions, or behaviors are affected by others.

People often follow the crowd. But in order to influence and lead, you have to try new things on your own.

For instance, most people would rather choose to buy a product online with several reviews, than the other version of the product with no reviews.

reviews

But the thing is, if you go and choose the other product with no reviews, you get a different perspective that not many have tried yet, which most of the time allows people to get new ideas (or for example, being the first one to make a review of that product, right?).

Thought-leadership is what mostly separates a winner from the other brands that target the same market.

Apparently, the best way to lead, influence and communicate compelling ideas is through the content you produce and share to your target audience.

Personally, my content efforts for the past few years focused on offering unique value that people won’t see elsewhere. I believe that’s the one element that unexpectedly hooks and compels people to sharing them.

And in order to do that consistently:

content advice

When people take action after getting your advice, you are able to influence them in some way (which makes you even more remarkable for them).

Start producing better content ideas!

 

Another efficient way to grow your influence throughout the web is through the conversations you make.

Being able to communicate the ideals you believe in (or the unique value your brand can provide) can take you a long way (whether it’s through commenting on other people’s works or participating on various social networks).

Again, AJ Kohn explained it best on how vital blog commenting is in the web’s content ecosystem:

A small amount of creators are responsible for the vast majority of the content we consume. They have a limited amount of attention yet wield a lot of influence through their ability to reference sites, products, brands or content in the content they produce.

Creators hangout in (aka devote their attention to) the comments section of their content and that of others. Thus, memorable blog comments that provoke creator curiosity (and clicks) build your authority and improve your chances of gaining a mention or link in their content in the future.

Earning better links and brand mentions

When you stand out as a content publisher (or even as a service provider) in your space, it’s going to be a lot easier to get natural links and mentions that would really impact your site’s search visibility.

Given that I’ve focused on writing useful guides – with somehow unique ideas that I thought were really worth sharing – getting opportunities to market my brand turned out to be not that difficult as contrast to what I’ve expected. Such as:

Getting listed as a resource:

resources

Getting interview opportunities:

interview

Getting links/mentions through group interviews:

group interviews

Getting coverage:

coverage

Getting invited to become a content contributor:

gp2

Getting my posts used as a reference:

reference

AMA:

ama

I’m sure that there’s a lot more, but the key takeaway is that how people would normally describe you as a brand would most likely be the same as to how search engines will be able to identify you. And that’s why optimizing for humans (branding) is the way to go in this era of search.

If you liked this post, you can subscribe to my feed and follow me on Twitter @jasonacidre.

Jason Acidre

Jason Acidre is Co-Founder and CEO of Xight Interactive, marketing consultant for Affilorama and Traffic Travis, and also the sole author of this SEO blog. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonacidre and on Google+.

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy Rivera April 30, 2014 at 9:11 am

I think one of the big themes behind your examples cited here is “Be Useful”. This takes on different meaning in different niches and industries but it’s a universal concept that sometimes gets lost in the quest for rankings. You as an entity, as a person, as a blog, as a company have made great efforts to “be useful” without of thought of “this might help a competitor, GASP!”.

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Sean April 30, 2014 at 7:58 pm

Good one Jason.
The data you’ve gathered over the years to pull this research off is commendable.
The patent for co-citation has been analyzed by Bill Slawski recently. It makes it (somewhat) official. You might wanna check it out (it could improve this post if you could get some things from there): http://www.seobythesea.com/2014/04/the-panda-patent/

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Adam May 1, 2014 at 7:19 am

good post, but a bit of a re-hash for me.

My question is…How do you sell this to clients? How fast can Google associate a brand with a keyword by co-occurrence? Would you use this strategy for any business online or would size matter? What budget permits this, or, should it be applied regardless of budget?

Thanks!

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Ashley @ madlemmings May 2, 2014 at 4:18 am

Hey Jason
Thanks for sharing your experiences.
I am trying to get ranked for local services here in Switzerland, and there is aleady a lot of competition. So this gives me a few ideas on how to rank better.

One question. Do you have experience with how a Google+ business page with a local address can also influence ranking for a site? I was also checking this for a client recently and read it helps. But wondering if you had any personal experience given you are trying to rank for SEO in the Phillipines

thanks
ashley

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Suraj Rai May 2, 2014 at 5:06 am

You really shared some critical points about Google SERPs that were difficult to find. It will helpful to increases deep knowledge about how to work Google search engine.

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BrettASnyder May 2, 2014 at 5:50 am

Interesting comments re: co-occurrence, something that was actually introduced a while back w/ Google’s phrase-based indexing patent (Bill Slawski, as he always does, did a great analysis of the patent: http://www.seobythesea.com/2011/12/10-most-important-seo-patents-part-5-phrase-based-indexing/). There has been speculation about how much this actually affects search results in light of Panda though…I personally believe it actually got MORE important because it indicates a more intimate expertise in the field assuming you write content in a natural way. The biggest issue I see here is a “chicken and the egg” conundrum where Google needs to look at experts to determine which co-occurring phrases are complementary but those experts also may create this content as part of SEO strategies.

Either way, definitely an interesting concept…has roots in local citations as well (ie. – non-link attribution) that indicates quality. In a world where people are questioning the lasting impact of links, these types of nuanced signals are important to stay on top of.

Cheers!

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Judas Kimmy May 2, 2014 at 5:55 am

Hi Jason! Your tips are always helpful. I liked the whole post especially the proximity scenario you explained in a very easy and simple manner. I’ll definitely apply these strategies as the old school link building techniques don’t work as they used to.
Thanks for sharing!

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Adesh Saxena May 3, 2014 at 12:48 am

Thanks for your blogpost but when it comes to optimize Ecommerce site what would you recommend because Now a days everyone is shouting HQ content. How we can optimize a eCommerce site.

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Ranjan Jena May 3, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Thanks Jason for this wonderful article on “How to Rank in Google?” Very interesting, and pretty useful stuff. Starting to end, I found it very useful, and also thanks for getting linked with “Why Social Matters in SEO!”

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Florian May 4, 2014 at 12:51 am

I like this article ! By the way just for information how long did you need to make it ? It’s full of insights and more ! But it’s really interesting to come and test the co occurence !

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Enrique Vega May 6, 2014 at 12:01 am

Great information Jason! So key to occur in search engine’s serp is co-occurs that particular keyword to get into your landing page to get maximum boost. Looks like Google giving importance to long tail keywords into search query within your targeted text itself.

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Anna Vo May 6, 2014 at 2:24 am

This is a wonderful post, Jason. I really like it and very helpful for me. I am a new seoer and I have more experience from you. Thanks.

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Fervil Von May 6, 2014 at 3:09 am

Earning branded links is really a tough challenge. It’s only a matter of interest and determination to create a juicy content piece. Thanks for these advice Jason. I also read the Q and A in Reddit AMA. Awesome. awesome. :)

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Rakesh Desai May 7, 2014 at 2:05 am

Thanks for sharing such a thought-provoking content. You provided a great insight for some really hard to achieve targets. Ranking high is not an easy task as it might take a few months, if not a year, before it actually pops up with amazing results on SERP. I would definitely consider these points further with my activity as it can be really helpful.

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Sudipto May 8, 2014 at 3:28 am

Hey Jason,
nice post and Thanks for sharing this tips on “how to rank in google”. Domain authority and link building is very crucial factor. Loading time also plays an important role these days. Social media really very important as it helps in promoting our blog and also drive traffic. These tips really gonna help many bloggers.

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Ansh May 17, 2014 at 7:58 am

Hi Jason,

A well researched post on how to rank on google easily. I am sure these tips are really going to help every new blogger who find it difficult to rank their new posts on Google.

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Brain May 27, 2014 at 4:05 am

Hi Jason,
Thanks for sharing this amazing idea and tip to rank in google. Your article is very informative useful for newbies as well as SEO Gurus. I am internet marketer since 3 years but i had not read anything like “co-occurrence and co-citation” .

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Daniel Cuttridge May 29, 2014 at 10:44 am

Hi Jason!

First time I’ve ever commented on your blog, I’m a SEO from the UK who has just started an agency. I’m slowly starting to gain ideas for blogging, mostly case-studies and useful tips and hints for SEO’s who also want to read the blog.

I’ve got to say I hope at some point that I can achieve the same degree of success you have here on kaiserthesage! I know it’s going to take some real hard work, hustle and time. I’ve got to say I’ve been using co-occurrence for quite a while as well for clients. This has shown me just how powerful it really can be though, so I’m definitely going to be making more use of it from here on out for all my own projects as well.

Thanks :)

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Hannah Whittaker-George June 1, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Very interesting site. I am trying to understand the SEO side of my business and all the help and advice is great.

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Callum (London) June 2, 2014 at 2:46 am

This is one of the most valuable intros to SEO I’ve ever stumbled upon. Really appreciated! Thanks.

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Swayam Das June 6, 2014 at 12:51 am

Wondering if Blog Commenting with just the Domain Name in the name field (without any backlink) will ultimately lead to Co-Citation ;) What say Buddy?

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Simon June 11, 2014 at 9:46 am

Great read and congrats…This blog is very worthy of a bookmark. Do you think link building is becoming less important as the algo updates roll out?

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Aaron Diaz June 13, 2014 at 5:11 am

Thanks Jason for sharing with us useful information and really I enjoyed your post. Here some useful information for me and once again thanks for this.

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Prabhat Mittal June 17, 2014 at 8:02 am

Hi Jason,

That was a lengthy post but at the end, it was worth reading it. Thanks

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Vivek Shukla June 27, 2014 at 5:23 am

hey jason thanks for this great post. i is very helpful for me to get rank website in google search engine. your thought is straight forward and i understood what you want to say. thanks and keep it up.

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Darragh McCurragh June 27, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Unfortunately SEO gets ever more complex and to isolate any ranking variables and test it all out is a tedious process. (I must say, you put an impressive amount of time and effort into that study.) So I’m always glad to be able to rely on someone who has not only documented to have been truly “there” but also shares without holding the “secret sauce” back. This one I have archived in my backlink building and ranking factor archive, thanks!

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Daniel Law July 7, 2014 at 11:13 pm

Great write up Jason and cheers for the study.

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Alex Taylor July 8, 2014 at 2:21 am

Choosing the right keywords AND providing good backlinks are definitely the most important factors, but as in all things, they should be moderate.

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Syntax July 17, 2014 at 10:20 am

Jason Acidre is a cool SEO dude and I will take his advice into consideration as I go forward with my SEO endeavors on my technology related blog.

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Prateek July 23, 2014 at 4:43 am

thanks jason….
i am also trying to well rank my web sites on google . i am sure ur tips and shared experiences will help me alot in this field.

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swaty August 2, 2014 at 6:37 am

Really great post for me because recently i am making first time website and this guide will be helpful for getting rank in google

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Alexander Rus August 28, 2014 at 6:27 pm

I am always wondering how clever Google is at the moment. It makes sense that this is the way we are going but I am still not convinced Google is this smart. There are just too many exceptions in my opinion.

But anyways: This blog post proves it again. You are fantastic at explaining complicated SEO stuff and even able to package it in a good read. Thanks and keep it up.

Greetings from Innsbruck,

Alex

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Blaine August 31, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I seen Rand Fishkin talking about this co-occurence in a white board Friday but beyond acknowledging that google was seeing it there wasn’t a lot of information. This was back when it was new.

I’m curious, and rescanned the whole post and maybe I missed it somewhere but your stated “I first used it on my site’s thematic internal linking” then I couldn’t find where you had followed up on any examples of how you were doing this.

If you explain it more in depth would be great.

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