Do you want to know how to get on the first page of Google?
Great, then this article is for you.
How are we going to do this?
With Brian Dean. Also known as Backlinko.
Brian knows how to rank articles fast.
I interviewed Brian on the podcast to learn his exact process for getting on the first page of Google.
The best part? You don’t need a ton of content to do this.
Backlinko has only 40 blog posts and receives more than 100,000 visits per month.
When I started following his advice, I more than doubled my organic search traffic within two months.
Here are Backlinko’s 10 steps to getting first page Google results with your content.
Step 0: A non-technical SEO audit
Let’s begin at the beginning. None of this works if your website is slow and has SEO issues.
How do you know if your website has SEO issues? Perform an SEO audit to find out before you focus on Google rankings.
If you’re starting with an older website, you can increase your traffic dramatically with a few quick fixes.
An SEO audit makes sure search engines understand what your site is about and that they can crawl it fast and efficiently.
The improvements you make now will help your website get found on Google more easily when you publish new articles.
Performing an SEO Audit is not as complicated as it sounds.
I use SEMrush for SEO audits and keyword research. You can get a 7-day FREE trial here.
Brian created a simple guide to performing an SEO audit – the same guide he used to get these results for Backlinko:
Once your website is optimized, you are ready to rank on the first page with your next article.
Step 1: Choose the right keyword
The most important factor to consider when choosing the right keyword has nothing to do with SEO. It’s knowing which topics you can cover better than your competition.
Regurgitated content will not get results.
Rewritten versions of existing articles do not stand out enough to get you onto page one.
Write about your direct experiences and expertise — things you can teach.
For example, Backlinko posts are not about technical SEO like site architecture or HTML. Those topics get a lot of traffic, but they aren’t where he spends his time.
Brian writes about what he does (creating content that ranks at the top of search engine results).
Deciding what to write about
Deciding what to write is more art than science. What ultimately matters is how amazing your content is.
This process is about how to get on the first page of Google by creating better content than your competitors.
How do search engines know your article is better than others?
- High CTR: People click on it more than other search results
- Be Useful: People find exactly what they are looking for in your article
- Social Signals: People share it and link to it from other websites
There are two approaches to deciding what to write.
- Start with a topic
- Start with a keyword
With either approach, you will end up with a focus keyword for your article.
Keywords are the exact words that people type into Google when they want information on your topic.
Start with a topic idea
The goal is to create an article that will blow the competition out of the water.
Start by thinking of areas within your main blog subject where you can shine.
For example, if you have a paleo diet blog, you might choose:
- Paleo breakfast ideas
- Paleo weight loss
- A specific recipe (paleo pancakes)
The art of choosing a keyword is having an idea for a piece of content that will outshine the competition on a particular topic.
The science of choosing a keyword is research — finding out how many people search for your topic, and which words they use.
This is easy with a keyword research tool. In this example, I used SEMrush.
I typed “paleo breakfast” into SEMrush’s keyword research tool, and came up with these results:
Volume is the number of monthly searches for your term.
The list of related keywords provides more terms people use when they search this topic.
With this information, you can narrow down your topic to one specific keyword or phrase that perfectly matches your idea.
There are many ways to find popular search terms, trending topics, and related keywords.
Check out Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to Keyword Research, and you will never run out of blog topic ideas.
Using a keyword research tool, generate a list of keywords in your subject area.
Here are a few keyword research tools to get you started:
Here are some numbers to look at that can help you narrow down your search and choose one.
Search volume: how many people search for your keyword?
In this example, 14,800 monthly searches are the number of people typing this into Google each month.
Competition: How hard will it be to move ahead of the existing articles ranking for your keyword?
SEMRush uses “difficulty” as a measure of how hard it will be to move ahead of competitors for your keyword.
If you’re just starting out, you will have more success targeting keyword variations with a lower difficulty.
This usually means lower volume keywords.
Brian advises that you choose only one keyword (or phrase) to focus on when you start writing.
Most keyword variations are just that — variations of the same searcher intent. Google is smart enough to rank your content for all of them.
For example, I chose a focus keyword “What is affiliate marketing” for a recent article on Hack the Entrepreneur.
This article ranks in search results for 472 keywords:
Don’t get too bogged down in the details of keyword research.
The numbers are helpful, but they don’t tell the whole story.
What matters most is matching a good keyword to a topic where you can really crush it.
Once you’ve arrived at a keyword, you are ready to move on.
Step 2: Choose a format for your article
Begin your article with the end in mind.
That means deciding what your article will look like before you begin writing.
For example, if your keyword is “paleo desserts,” here are some formats you could use:
- List-post: 101 Paleo Desserts
- Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Making Paleo Desserts
- How-to: How to Make Paleo Desserts
- Case Study: How I Lost 83 Pounds Eating Paleo Desserts
These formats are popular because they work well. Not only for conveying information but for getting Google front page results.
Find out which type of post is already working well for your competitors.
You don’t need any fancy SEO tools for this.
Google your keyword, and look at the top results.
In this example, the top five results are list posts:
These results tell us that people click on list posts when they search this topic. You have the best chance of getting to page one with this format. But it has to be bigger, longer, and better if you are going to stand out.
Remember, the number one rule is to create amazing content.
If you’re using the same format as the most popular articles for your keyword, you have to do something to stand out.
For example, to compete with other list posts, you can create either:
- a bigger and badder list
- go more in-depth with your list items
This is the exact thinking behind these recent articles we’ve published:
It sounds simple, but it’s deceptively effective.
Another way to outshine the competition is to refresh your existing content. Improve on it, add the latest information, and republish.
Brian calls this a content relaunch:
Step 3: Write an article outline
Creating an outline for your article before you start writing is incredibly helpful.
It’s easy to say, “I’m going to write out 200 recipes.”
It’s a lot harder to do.
Brian learned this important step early in his career when he worked with Neil Patel to write an online guide.
Brian went along with Neil’s request to submit an outline — something he had not done since high school English class.
He quickly realized the wisdom of outlining.
With an outline, there’s no blank page anxiety or writer’s block.
Writing is faster and easier when you don’t have to stop to research and plan each paragraph.
Here’s an outlining framework to get you started, so you never have to start with a blank page.
For a list post, outlining is straightforward:
- Short introduction
- List all the items
For more complex posts, like case studies and guides, outlining is a more creative process.
Step 4: Writing your article for SEO
Writing a short introduction
I asked Brian about his approach to introductions because I noticed something different about Backlinko articles — his intros are super short.
A more common style is to use several paragraphs of introduction.
Have you ever searched for a recipe and had to scroll through pages of backstory before finding what you wanted?
Here’s the thing: People already know they need the information – that’s why they typed it into Google.
All you need to do is introduce what your article is about.
Think of it as a preview.
Not only is this easier to write, but it’s very effective.
Bonus tip from Brian: Including an emotional hook in your intro can be good for SEO.
Try including a sentence or two that speaks to the person searching your keyword.
The purpose of this is to create an emotional connection. Show readers you understand what they are going through, and they are more likely to keep reading.
Writing the body of your article
Use examples and stories as much as possible.
As much as you can, use examples that focus on what you have personally done.
This is a powerful way to separate your article from more generic content.
Write how you speak.
Use simple language and short sentences to make your writing easy to read.
This may be difficult if you are used to a more formal style of writing.
Brian had to deprogram his writing style after years of academic writing in college and graduate school.
Once he simplified his writing, his online content performed much better, and he figured out how to get on the first page of google.
Use images to illustrate every concept.
Use images like screenshots, charts, photographs, and illustrations as much as you can.
You can almost never include too many images.
The goal is to publish an article that someone can skim through without reading, and still understand the story.
For example, I wanted to make pancakes so I looked up a recipe. I read the instructions but still wondered if I was doing it right.
How do I know when to flip them? How thick should the batter be?
These images from Kitchn answer all my questions:
Step 5: Search Engine Optimization
If you’ve followed the steps so far, you’ve already done the hardest part — creating amazing content.
But what about SEO?
It’s easy to overcomplicate this subject.
You don’t need to overthink SEO — there are no tricks to get ahead.
In fact, using shady tactics like keyword stuffing, buying backlinks, and cloning content can harm your rankings.
Google is so advanced, it’s best to think about what makes sense for a real person reading your site.
Essentially, all you need to do in this step is tell Google: My page is about [this keyword].
Here’s an example, using an article I published recently with the keyword side hustle ideas.
Include the exact keyword:
In the headline and title:
In the URL:
In the meta-description:
In the main body of the article where it makes sense:
Use it to set the focus keyword, title, and description:
More on-page SEO tips to help your content perform better
When you make a new page, the default permalink can contain a lot of extra nonsense.
Keep the permalink URL as simple as possible, so Google knows exactly what it’s about.
Besides making it easy for Google, which of these would you rather click on?
Before you publish, specify the permalink URL here:
The information attached to images in your post are also part of SEO.
Google can’t read images, but it does read the file name, description, and alt text.
This information is also critical for visually impaired readers. The software uses these descriptions to describe what’s on the page.
File names should be a simple description of what the image is.
Here’s an example of a screenshot image I included in this article:
Step 6: Article design
When Brian started hiring a professional designer for some Backlinko content, the increase in performance was night and day.
That’s because one of the biggest factors in Google rankings is backlinks (more on that in Step 9).
Here’s the thing, the better your design, the more people will link to your page.
There’s a perceived value when something looks really good. Attractive design helps your page stand out — there’s a wow factor.
If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.
— Ralf Speth
You can publish regular posts too, but once in a while hiring a designer is a good investment.
Step 7: Publish your article
You now have an article that’s good enough to get on the first page of Google.
Hit publish and pat yourself on the back.
But we aren’t done yet.
Your Google ranking won’t improve without the next steps.
Step 8: Submit your article to Google
This step is not necessary, but it will speed up your results.
Google is constantly crawling the internet to find new and updated pages.
But there is no way to know when your site will be crawled.
And occasionally, a technical problem can mysteriously keep your page from being indexed (this has happened to Backlinko).
Instead of waiting around, you can use a tool in Google Search Console to notify Google about your new post.
I created a process for my new articles. Here is a Google doc of the process you can use to get your new content indexed within minutes.
Step 9: Promotion (The Eyeball Phase)
The first phase of promoting your new article is “The Eyeball Phase.”
The goal is simply to get eyeballs on it and it is crucial to you getting on the first page of Google.
An initial burst of activity is a signal to Google’s “buzz-meter.”
You will get a temporary boost in rankings when lots of people visit your new page — even though they aren’t from organic search.
Your ranking will drop back down, but the initial boost will help your longterm SEO.
Send an email your list
If you don’t have an email list, stop reading this and start building your list.
It’s essential to building an online business.
Send a short and simple message to your email list.
Just let your subscribers know you have a new post just for them.
Your goal is to get as many people as possible clicking through to your article. Don’t include extra information, like a newsletter or a sales pitch — the simpler the better.
Here’s a good example from the smart content marketers at CoSchedule:
Post to your social media accounts
Promote the article on Twitter.
Share the article on Facebook.
The Eyeball Phase is all about getting a boost of traffic while your article is fresh. Investing in paid ads with Facebook Promoted Posts at this time can help your results.
LinkedIn is another platform you should be using to share and promote your new content.
Particularly for B2B or anything close, LinkedIn has better reach and engagement than other platforms.
Brian recently published a Backlinko article and got these results during his initial promotion:
150 – 200 people clicked through to his page from a Twitter post.
1600+ people clicked through from a LinkedIn post.
Twitter and Facebook are crowded with promoted content. It’s easy to get lost in the noise.
There is much less competition to get your post seen on LinkedIn.
More of the right people will see it, share it, post comments, and click through to your page.
You can get a free $100 ad credit at LinkedIn.com/HACK if you want to try promoting your next article on LinkedIn.
If you’ve done everything right so far, you may jump to the first page of Google within the first couple of days. I’ve seen it happen within hours.
But the last thing you want to do is immediately start writing a new article – that is not how to get on the first page of google.
Now it’s time for link building.
Backlinks are simply links to your site from other websites. And they are the biggest ranking factor in Google’s algorithms.
The number (and quality) of backlinks signal to Google the usefulness of your page.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts in link building.
This cold outreach strategy takes consistent effort, but it works:
- Find places online where your post would be useful and add value.
- Contact the owners of the page and ask them to link to your article.
Don’t get discouraged if most of your requests get no response.
2-5% is normal when doing this kind of outreach.
If you want to go deep on link building and learn more strategies, check out this guide.
And that’s it!
Your strategies for how to get on the first page of Google
Now that you’ve learned how Brian Dean gets on the first page of Google search, I’m excited to hear your process.
Do you have any other tactics or strategies that have been effective for you? If so, let me know in the comments.