So my best friend Ketino asked me an interesting question about search results for her website, and it got me thinking.
She was told there are ways to pay for your website to show up first when people search for stuff on Google without using Google AdWords.
This is actually a very common scenario I find myself hearing from people, so I'll try to explain how search results are generated.
The first thing to understand is how Google orders the search results in the first place. It's in Google's best interest to give exactly and only the most appropriate links to the people searching for them.
For example, if someone is searching for pizza on a smartphone, they're much more likely to get search results optimized for small screens (and it's always a good idea to optimize for any screen size). And if that person is physically located in San Francisco, California, they're probably not going to get search results for a pizza parlor in New York City.
I'll give you a secret: there is no way to always appear on page one, because there is no page one.
Search results change with and are tailored to every individual person, because of an extremely complex algorithm that uses artificial intelligence, the user's unique dataset (such as user's physical location, device and browser specifications, and demographics like age, gender, interests, etc), as well as the exact search query that person is using.
Does this mean there's nothing you can do to improve your ranking?
What to Do
You can absolutely improve your ranking by making a blog and posting content regularly, by getting other website owners to link to your website (ideally with visitors from your target audience), by writing targeted and audience-appropriate content so when your prospects search for the things you offer, you just might appear in their search results.
Even if you have a search ranking of 9 out of 9, there's a chance you won't appear at the top of page one. Maybe a competitor has the same ranking and slightly more query-relevant keywords in their page.
If you're determined to get better search results anyway, then you should look into a legitimate SEO expert. You'll most likely have to give them access to your website and content so they can optimize it for you.
Good SEO services aren't cheap either, because it takes time to change the content and test it over many weeks, then change the content again and repeat.
Unfortunately, some of these companies try to boost your ranking by using what we call black hat techniques, like adding a bunch of links to different random web directories (and a quick influx of new links to a website actually damages your ranking rather than improving it).
Others flat out scam you and disappear with your money, never doing anything at all, because results often take weeks or months to come in. By that time, they're long gone.
Slow and Steady
The best way to improve your ranking (for free) is to do it slow and steady, over the long run. Manually add links to audience-appropriate web directories yourself.
Do a few (but not all) now, do a few next week, find a few new ones the week afterwards, and the week after that. And then keep going.
Network in real life (aka "meatspace") and ask other website owners to link to your website. Give people a good reason to link to your website.
Sometimes, it's as simple as asking. Other times, they expect a reciprocal link or to do business with you first. Communicate!
I'll give you another secret that most people don't talk about because it doesn't align with the hype of SEO.
Getting visitors to your website is awesome for your ego, but if they aren't actual prospects for your business, they're wasting your time, money, and resources just by being there.
It's about quality, not quantity.
So, here's what you do instead of focusing so much on getting your search ranking higher. Focus on improving the conversion rate of your existing visitors and turn them into paying customers.
You could have 5 visitors to your site and if 100% of them pay you for your services, that's infinitely better than having a million visitors who pay you nothing.