Improve Your Google Rank in 2022 – A Master SEO Guide In 25 Steps
You will get abundant online information about SEO every year. These details are very introductory and broad or they get directed towards the opposite end of the spectrum covering specific topics. In reality, none of this stuff can help you understand how to rank a webpage – from start to finish.
So what you need is – A guide or a blueprint that can help you understand a step-by-step checklist for ranking a page. Starting from an idea to all the way to traffic pouring into your Google Analytics account. Consider it as your ideal checklist that can work as a solid framework for new SEOs to develop their own work profile.
By following this basic process, 1000s of pages got higher rankings on search engines. Just think as if it is your intermediate SEO instruction manual. Heading over straight into the checklist.
The Key Steps To Rank on Google in 2022
Some Tips To Keep In Mind:
- There are hundreds of ways to rank a page in Google, from simply sharing an article on Twitter, to scoring a link from the popular media platform. This guide represents only one possible process.
- This checklist is meant as an SEO framework. It doesn’t cover every scenario in detail, but instead provides you with a basic outline of ranking a webpage from start to finish, so you can build your own process on top of it.
- Many other experienced SEOs have their own processes for ranking for desired keywords. Choose carefully who you listen to, and seek out their advice whenever you can.
Step#1 : Working Smarter, Not Harder
Take this top-secret of the SEO process: we don’t want to rank for a single keyword, we want to rank for hundreds or thousands of keywords at the same time. We can do this with the exact same amount of work.
Smarter, not harder.
The magic happens when starting with keyword research. Choosing the right (or wrong) keywords to target at this stage can predict our entire probability of success.
Starting out, you probably have a guess which keywords you want to rank for, but are they the right ones? The biggest mistakes people make at this stage of keyword research are:
- Choosing keywords that aren’t specific enough (too broad)
- Choosing keywords with too much competition
- Keywords without enough traffic
- Keywords not relevant to your business
- Trying to rank for a single keyword at a time
By far, the biggest mistake is trying to rank for a single keyword at a time. People search for the same things in very different ways. Or they search in very specific ways. This represents the long tail of keyword research, and it can represent up to 80% of all search traffic.
You want to capture as much of that long tail as possible while doing the same amount of work.
Step#2 : Start With A Mighty Seed
To start off, you want to discover your “Seed Keywords” to grow your keyword theme. Seed keywords are the basic, typically most obvious phrases.
Often, seed keywords are the phrases you “think” you want to rank for. If your shop sells motorcycle lifts, your first seed keyword may then likely be “buy motorcycle lifts.”
Finding good keyword seeds is often a mix of brainstorming with a bit of research. A good seed answers the following questions:
- What’s my website about and/or what do I offer?
- What keywords do I think I want to rank for?
- What ads would I buy?
Good seeds are typically broad, but not too broad. For example, if you run a cake shop, the phrase ” a cake ” might seem like a good seed, but it’s probably too broad. (a cake can mean many things in a broader sense.) A more specific phrase like “a cake shop” or “a cake shop, Connaught Place” might work better.
There are typically three good places to find keyword seed.
- What keywords do my website already rank for?
- What do my competitors rank for?
- What do SEO tools reveal about what people search for? (Tools to find seed keywords include Keyword Explorer and Google Keyword Planner)
You need at least 1 keyword seed at this stage, but it doesn’t hurt to have more, even dozens or hundreds of seeds if you’re planning a larger content strategy.
Step#3 : List It Out: Dream Your Keyword Theme
Further, we are wishing to grow our keyword seed into a keyword theme, comprised of many related keywords grouped together.
Using keyword themes presents us with much larger opportunities. Instead of ranking for a single Holy Grail keyword, a better goal is to rank for multiple keywords focused around a single idea. Done right, the results are amazing.
Simply put, the more long-tail keywords our webpage ranks for, the more qualified traffic search engines will send it.
Creating lists typically involves using a combination of Google and keyword tools (either free or paid) to find all the related keywords to your keyword seeds.
Typically, your list contains keywords with greater specificity. Your goal at this stage is to find keywords that are not only specific but also relevant to your business and have enough search volume to justify targeting.
For example, if our seed keyword was “motorcycle jacket” we might find the following related keywords.
Each of these new keywords supports our seed keyword, and gives us a ton of new content ideas. If the related keywords seem like they can support enough traffic, they may even become new seed keywords themselves.
The reason why this trick works is: by targeting a slightly broader keyword theme comprised of multiple, closely related keywords, our chances of ranking for these keywords actually increases dramatically.
Step#4 : Leverage The Competition
This is a step many people miss: ranking for the hidden keywords your competition already ranks for.
No matter how smart you are, your competitors have already figured out—either by accident or design—which keywords are the most lucrative.
Instead of finding these lucrative keywords yourself through the long process of trial and error, it’s 1000 times easier simply to steal your competitor’s intelligence. (Most of the time, stealing is wrong, but we’ll let it slide in the case of competitive SEO.)
The basics work like this:
- Find the URLs of your competitors that already rank for your target keyword
- Find all the other related keywords that URL also ranks for in Google
These other related keywords are gold.
Unfortunately, Google won’t directly tell you what your competitors rank for, but a handful of 3rd party SEO tools do exactly that, making the work much easier. Here’s what this data looks like in Keyword Explorer.
Step#5 : Finding Diamonds in the Google Rough
At this particular time, we likely will have dozens or perhaps hundreds or thousands of potential keywords to work with.
The magic is choosing exactly the right keywords to target and build content around.
Sorting and filtering keywords is an art in and of itself, but the basic requirements we want to meet are roughly:
- Does the keyword have sufficient search volume?
- Is this keyword relevant to my business?
- Can I create compelling content around this keyword that’s better than anything else out there?
- Can I actually rank for this keyword?
The last question may be the most difficult to answer, but it’s also one of the most important. Certain topics, such as medical and financial queries, can be especially challenging to rank for in Google.
Step#6 : Creating Value
Find out the absolute worst phrase in marketing. It’s “SEO content.”
Far too many people think of content as a commodity: something predictably produced completely separated from the potential value it creates for end users.
Content without value is spam.
If you want to rank—if you really want to rank—you need to understand this question:
How is your content better than the content that currently ranks for your keyword?
Because if your content doesn’t satisfy the user in a superior way to content that already exists, why would Google rank you higher?
Starting with your keyword theme, ask first how you can create value.
Value takes many forms. While Google provides clues and guidelines about how they evaluate the content, it typically includes a mix of utility, trust, authority, and user experience. In short, you want your website to be the one that most completely satisfies the user for their given keyword.
Making your content the absolute best not only helps satisfy your users, but it also helps build links, improves user engagement, and protects against future algorithmic changes.
How do we create value? We begin by figuring out intent.
Step#7 : Detect Intent: Form & Function
You take your keyword and create content around it—maybe you create a blog post, maybe a shopping page—before you really understand what people are looking for with that keyword.
This is known as intent.
Guessing at intent is like gambling. You may think you know what people want, but unless you verify, it’s like throwing darts blindfolded.
Google’s job is to give people web results that satisfy their questions, so if you don’t satisfy intent, you’ll likely not rank very well for very long.
Fortunately, there’s a dead-simple way of determining keyword intent: search Google for your keyword phrase, and determine:
- What kind of pages are already ranking
- The common elements of each page, e.g. images, videos, shopping, etc
- What Google lists as “related searches”
Google has already tested your keyword across thousands or millions of searches, so they have a pretty good idea of what people are looking for.
For example, if our keyword phrase was “easter hats”, we could write another blog post about easter hats, or we could examine what Google currently ranks:
From this, we see that Google determines the search intent of “easter hats” to be:
- Images of Easter hats
- Shopping for Easter hats
- Related searches about Easter bonnets
If we wanted to rank for this keyword, we would be wise to create content that delivered on these elements. We would learn even more from diving into the individual pages themselves.
Step#8 : Be The Last Click
This can work wonders and create a real difference to your SEO process.
Be the absolute best result for your keyword query.
Sounds simple in theory, but literally all of your competition is trying to be the best as well, and there can be only one.
What does it mean to be the absolute best result? We’ll cover a few techniques, but the ultimate goal is this:
Be the last click.
In other words, make sure when people search for your keyword—and they eventually find you—you are the last result they need to click. You provide such good information, they have no need to go back and click any other result. You may not be the first result they click (although that helps too) but you’ll definitely be the last. Let’s repeat that.
Be the last click.
Which begs the question, how do you become the last click? The answer varies from query to query, and mixes a little bit of art and science, but to be the last click there are a number of check boxes you want to tick:
- Match user intent, in form and style
- Provide more complete information
- Be authoritative
- Offer a better and/or unique experience, e.g. design, UX, speed
Step#9 : Why Completeness Beats Length
The idea of content length arises in SEO quite often. “How long should your content be?”
Part of the reason is that multiple studies over the years consistently show that, on average, longer content tends to perform better in Google than shorter content. But smart SEOs believe that the reason this content performs better is not that it’s longer, but because it actually offers more completeness.
What is “complete” content? This is content that:
- Completely satisfies a user’s search query (again, “be the last click”)
- Offers supporting evidence
- Answers additional related questions to the user’s search query
- Is authoritative (in other words, gives the user a reason to trust the information)
- Provides quality supplemental content to support the main content
From Google’s perspective, there are several reasons why more complete content may perform better. We won’t dive into all the science and details here, but a simplification may be that:
- Google constantly works to figure out what your content is “about.” More complete content makes this job easier.
- More complete content tends to satisfy users.
Step#10 : Smart Topic Modeling (Without A Computer)
You don’t need a bank of computers to optimize your content around a particular subject. (Though if you have the budget, there are plenty of good software companies that can deliver this service for you.)
If your aim is to make your content more complete, a basic process to implement might resemble:
1. Focus on you primary topic (keyword) in your:
- Title tag
- Page Title
- Main Content of the page
- Images and/or video
2. Use the list of your most important secondary topics/keywords from your keyword research and use them to support your main topic. If warranted, these can be used in subheads and/or become their own section.
3. Similarly, incorporate your most important “related questions” (from your keyword research) into their own content sections.
4. Be sure to satisfy user intent by incorporating elements and formats of top ranking results, including images and video formats.
5. Enhance your Main Content with useful Supplemental Content, including additional helpful information in the sidebar and navigation of the page.
6. If you can’t address a deserving topic in the content itself, link out to a resource that does
It’s typically ideal to link internally to one of your own pages if you can, but don’t be afraid to link to other websites. Remember, you want to be the last click so users don’t have to go back to Google. When users get the answer from you (even when it’s a link) you become more of an authority.
When done correctly, your research up to this point should help you create a page that thoroughly satisfies a user’s query through complete content.
Step#12 : CTR Starts Here: Be The First Click
Just remind yourself about step 8 when we said you want to be the last click (that a user needs)? Here, we offer complimentary advice which works hand-in-hand with that tip:
Be the first click, too.
When presented with a page of search results, users make decisions about what to click in milliseconds. You might rank #1, #4, or #7, but you still want to attract as many clicks as possible. This is known as improving your click-through rate (CTR.)
While there’s contradictory evidence as to whether or not Google uses clicks in its search results as a ranking factor, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that they do, including a Google patent that explains exactly how they might do it.
But honestly, it doesn’t matter if clicks are an actual ranking signal or not, because more clicks means more qualified traffic, one way or another. This is the goal, right?
Google gives you 4-5 primary levers to influence CTR:
- Meta Description
- Rich Snippets
- URLs / Breadcrumbs
- In some cases, image and video results
For most sites, titles are typically the most influential factor you can leverage to influence CTR, followed by rich snippets (if you can get them.) Google displays a title for every page, and nearly every searcher at least glances at them before clicking.
Step#13 : On-Page: Master the Basics
In truth—and this may seem counterintuitive—most of the time, you don’t need to sweat the details. Don’t get us wrong, on-page SEO is very, very important. But if you’ve followed the steps up to this point you’ve already covered most of the basics!
If you’re new to SEO, you should absolutely make sure your website is friendly to search robots such as Googlebot. You can do this easily with online tools such as Hubspot’s Website Grader
And if you use WordPress, plugins such as Rankmath will do a lot of the heavy SEO lifting for you.
Step#14 : Schema All The Things
We want to take a moment to give schema markup its own callout. If content is king (or preferably, queen) then schema is certainly the crown prince of on-page SEO.
Schema, while it doesn’t appear on page for the user, is important for two very significant reasons:
- As additional content, it can help Google understand your page, thereby giving you a potential ranking boost in some circumstances.
- Schema can help you win a variety of rich snippets, further boosting your CTR
To be clear, schema itself isn’t a Google ranking factor. This means that you shouldn’t expect a rankings boost simply because you added schema to your page.
That said, schema can help you to rank. Multiple studies have demonstrated this. Think of it as additional content that search engines can read, that also help it understand what your content is about.
At a minimum you should include standard schemas like Article and Local Business (if appropriate), but even more so you should consider schema to help earn your site rich snippets. Chief among these are:
- … and more. Check out Google’s list.
Step#15 : Make it Fast, Make it Sing
Aside from content itself, how the user experiences your page can hugely influence rankings as well. Google calls these official ranking factors page experience signals, and include:
- Core Web Vitals (i.e. page speed)
- Mobile Friendliness
- Safe Browsing
- Intrusive Interstitial (i.e. avoid aggressive popups)
Understand that having these qualities won’t give you a big boost (for the most part.) Instead, these days they are simply table stakes, or the cost of admission. Having a mobile-friendly website is almost a requirement, and aggressive pop-ups are certain to put your rankings at risk.
The one exception to this is speed. While website speed is admittedly only a minor ranking factor for most sites, it can exert outsized influence on several other factors, and the user experience itself. For example, page speed can significantly impact both bounce rate and conversion rates (even when rankings remain stable.)
So, When in doubt, make it fast.
Step#19 : Content Hubs & Category Pages
Category and/or hub pages can be incredibly effective tools for ranking all your related pages higher. While it’s important to link your topically relevant pages together, it may be even more important to link relevant pages together under the umbrella of a master category (hub) page. There are several reasons for this:
- Category pages often have more link equity. They often sit closer to the homepage (or other high authority pages) and often attract external link equity as well.
- Category pages often sit higher in a site’s architecture hierarchy, meaning they are usually better placed in a site’s navigation and breadcrumbs, for example.
- These pages often can rank for high-volume head terms (as opposed to lower-volume long tail terms)
- Category pages can target broader user intent than individual topic pages, and can serve as a jumping off point into deeper dives for each subject.
The best category pages typically have their own unique content, relevant answers to questions, and links to sub-topics and related pages.
Step#21 : Don’t Create Content Until You Do This First
Many link-building campaigns fail or at least fall short of their goals.
Link building can fail for many reasons: content that doesn’t resonate, poor design/layout, not enough outreach, and many other reasons.
That said, one reason for link building failure stands head and tails above the rest: you created content before you knew exactly who was likely to link to it.
Link building needn’t be a guessing game. Too often, folks create content and only then go looking for link targets, only to find that very few opportunity actually exist. Wasted effort!
Instead, you want to guarantee your success. Or at least improve your chances.
Fortunately, SEO tools contain a ton of actionable link data. You can find out ahead of time:
- What type of content earns the most links
- What topics are trending
- Exactly the kind of content that journalists/publishers/bloggers are looking for
When you understand these data points ahead of time, you can create content that exactly fills an existing need. You also know who to reach out to—or who your audience is—before investing a ton of work.
So once you finish the ranking process, you need to keep working on it regularly. It’s not about giving fresh content every time, rather, the entire SEO experience gets continued only when you deliver the most relevant result to the user.
So, keep it relevant and keep it fresh. And this is how you rank.