How to Rank on the First Page of Google in 2023

It’s no secret that ranking on the first page of Google search results is crucial for driving significant traffic to your website. In fact, being relegated to page two or beyond can render your online presence practically invisible. The majority of traffic to our blog, for instance, originates from first-page Google rankings.

While it’s important to note that nobody can guarantee first-page Google rankings, there are strategic steps you can take to improve your chances of securing a coveted spot. Let’s walk through this logical process step by step.

However, if you operate a local business, we recommend checking out our comprehensive guide to local SEO. Local SEO involves specific strategies to rank effectively in local search results, as there are two primary methods for achieving first-page rankings.

By following our step-by-step process, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge and strategies to enhance your website’s visibility in search engine rankings. While guarantees may not exist, the careful implementation of effective SEO practices can significantly improve your chances of reaching the coveted first page of Google.

SEO Tips to Get on the First Page of Google

If you’re serious about getting your products, services, and business found these days, knowing the ins and outs of solid search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t just a good idea. 

After all, even local consumers who prefer to do their buying in person use the internet to research their purchasing decisions and evaluate their available options these days.

Having a robust web presence and a highly visible website is everything in such an internet-centric world, so a high Google search ranking is key. 

The vast majority of Google users don’t even bother clicking past page one of a search result, and an astonishing 25 percent of searchers click on the very first link on a SERP.

That said, the higher you can rank for your chosen key terms, the better your chances of getting found by exactly the people out there looking for you. 

The following first-page SEO tips can help you get where you need to be.

1. Develop a mastery of long-tail keywords

Soaring to the top of the most important Google search results is all about understanding how people actually use search engines to find what they’re looking for. 

Although they may occasionally enter just one word into a query, they’re a lot more likely to enter phrases.

These phrases are called long-tail keywords, and nearly 92 percent of all searches involve them, so they’re something every business owner and SEO expert should master.

Long-tail keywords tend to be longer and significantly more specific than standalone keywords. They also come attached to lower average search volumes. 

However, targeting them drastically raises your chances of attracting targeted, highly convertible traffic, so make them a part of your strategy.

2. Create next-level content

Not only is content still king when it comes to Google, but it’s more important than ever when it comes to achieving top SERP rankings. 

Google is in the business of providing the best possible experience for its users. That means the content on the other side of those search results needs to be top shelf all the way.

You can get Google’s attention by producing meaty long-form content that digs deeply into topics your audience cares about and thoroughly answers common questions they have. (Aim for between 1,500 and 2,000 words for best results.) 

Use headings and subheadings to improve readability and keep pieces organized. Sprinkle relevant keywords and useful links throughout in natural ways.

3. Explore different content formats

Mixing things up when it comes to the media types you use is a great first-page SEO tip to keep in mind. 

These days, a great content strategy goes well beyond written blog posts and standalone web pages. 

Online content is becoming increasingly diverse, so working various media types into your approach is super smart.

Google absolutely loves content that leverages the power of images, video, audio, and more, so look for ways to use them to enrich your posts. (Just make sure the options you include complement the content and add to it.) 

Multimedia options can be terrific ways to repurpose and refresh older content as well, giving it a new chance to rank.

4. Target Google SERP features

You’ve no doubt noticed that Google search results today are a lot richer, more varied, and more exciting than they used to be back in the day. 

In addition to the standard list of search result links you’d expect, you now have various SERP features to explore, including rich snippets, knowledge panels, and “people also ask” banks.

Features like these give your content multiple chances to rank well and catch an information seeker’s eye, so it’s worth learning how to target each one.

For example, you can target feature snippets by directly (and concisely) answering key questions searchers are likely to have. 

Adding a structured data markup to your site can help you snag a visually appealing rich snippet, while adding the right alt tags and captions to images can help land you a spot in a Google image pack.

5. Focus heavily on user experience

Getting users to click on your search result in the first place is only part of the battle when it comes to first-page SEO. 

Your website and content need to be able to deliver a top-tier experience once you’ve got people’s attention, so keeping your bounce rate low should be a major priority.

Make sure the title tag and meta description attached to your content accurately matches the content itself.

Searchers and Google alike expect search results to line up exactly with the user’s original intent. 

Enrich your content with helpful links, graphics, videos, and other features that add value and raise your average session duration.

6. Learn from your competition

This is one of the best first-page SEO strategies any marketer or website owner can adopt. 

When you perform a search on your targeted keywords, pay attention to the pages that rank ahead of yours. 

What are they doing that you’re not, and how can you improve your own content to better compete with theirs?

Perhaps they’re targeting a wider selection of secondary keywords than you are. Maybe they’ve got a better internal linking strategy going on or are creating longer content that addresses more key concerns searchers have. 

The point is to learn what you can and use it to help convince Google that your content deserves that top spot.

7. Make your site fast and responsive

Delivering a terrific user experience for those who land on your page via Google isn’t just about the content. 

The site itself needs to be user-friendly, accessible, and capable of meeting even the highest visitor expectations.

For one thing, it needs to be fast. A website that’s clunky or slow will have even the most patient visitors clicking away after just a few seconds, so aim for ideal load times of 0-4 seconds max. 

Ways to do this include implementing simple designs and getting rid of unnecessary clutter.

You’ll also want to make sure your site is adaptive and easy to view via any device your visitors might be using, especially mobile devices. 

Keep in mind that many of your visitors will be looking for information on the fly, and that means cell phones, tablets, and other portable options.

8. Earn quality backlinks

Google has undergone multiple algorithm changes over the years, but high-quality backlinks have remained a key ranking signal through it all, and it’s not hard to see why. 

A backlink is like a vote of confidence from another web user — proof that they find it valuable enough to recommend it to their own audiences — so earning more of them should be part of any first page Google SEO strategy.

Organic authoritative backlinks are the best, most valuable links to have, as they must be earned. 

Do this by producing fantastic content, posting it around to gain exposure, and maintaining good relationships with other peers in your industry. 

You can also consider building up your backlink catalog by guest-posting on authority sites.

You should also check your backlink catalog frequently for toxic backlinks that could be hurting your SEO strategy instead of helping it. 

Remove or disable them promptly, preferably before they have a chance to hinder your other efforts.

9. Stay on top of your key metrics

When it comes to staying on top of how your SEO strategies are going, Google Search Console is a website owner’s best friend. 

Use the search analytics function to keep track of the various search queries that are bringing users to your site, as well as the other metrics attached to your visits. 

Use what you learn to improve your content and future efforts.

For example, if you see a particular long-tail keyword getting lots of impressions, but not commanding an equally high clickthrough rate, that’s a sign your title tag and meta description may need work. 

Review your data frequently and address any issues you find promptly.

10. Build a powerful brand

Building a better brand image and boosting brand awareness is about more than simply helping your future customers choose you when they’re in the market for products or services like yours. 

It’s also about convincing them to choose you when they’re still hunting for initial information on Google.

People will nearly always pick a name they recognize over one they don’t. You can boost your current brand awareness efforts by:

  • Figuring out which social media platforms your audience uses and engaging with them there.
  • Solidifying your brand’s backstory, unique voice, visual assets, and personality.
  • Expanding your social media content well beyond info about your products, services, and business function.
  • Partnering with top brands, thought leaders, and social influencers to expand your reach and tap into new demographics.

The more recognizable you become, the more you can expect your organic traffic numbers to grow in response.

How to Rank on the First Page of Google: Step by Step Guide

1. Make sure your page aligns with search intent

Google wants to rank the type of pages that searchers are looking for. Unless your page aligns with the searcher’s intent, it’ll be near impossible to rank on the first page.

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to say for sure what searchers want. But as the point of Google is to rank the most relevant results, you can get a good idea by looking for the most common type, format, and angle of the pages ranking on page one.

Content type

The results you see ranking on the first page will usually be one of these: 

  • Blog posts
  • Interactive tools
  • Videos
  • Product pages
  • Category pages

For example, all first-page results for “days between dates” are interactive calculators:

A few of the interactive calculators ranking on the first page for "days between dates"

For “sweaters,” they’re all e-commerce category pages:

A few of the e-commerce category pages ranking on the first page for "sweaters"

Content format

This applies mainly to blog posts. If you’re mainly seeing this content type on the first page, check to see which of these formats appears the most: 

  • Step-by-step tutorials (i.e., how to do x)
  • Listicles
  • Opinion pieces
  • Reviews
  • Comparisons (e.g., x vs. y)

For example, you can tell that most results for “how to get on the first page of google” are step-by-step tutorials from the page titles:

Examples of "how to" guides ranking on the first page for "how to get on the first page of google"

For “best chrome extensions for seo,” on the other hand, they’re mostly listicles:

Examples of listicles ranking on the first page for "best chrome extensions for seo"

Content angle

This is harder to quantify than type and format, but it’s basically the most common unique selling proposition. 

For example, almost all first-page results for “best savings account” have 2023 in their titles:

Examples of fresh results on the first page for "best savings account"

This indicates that searchers are looking for fresh information.

On the other hand, most first-page results for “blogging tips and tricks” are aimed at beginners:

Examples of beginners' guides on the first page for "blogging tips and tricks"

Can’t align your page with search intent?

It’s best to switch gears and target a more relevant keyword. If you try to force an irrelevant page to rank, you’ll be fighting a losing battle.

2. Make sure your page covers the topic in full

Having content that broadly aligns with search intent isn’t enough. It also needs to cover everything searchers want to know or expect to see.

For example, every first-page result for “mens sneakers” has a size filter:

Every first-page result for "mens sneakers" has a size filter

This is because searchers will inevitably want to filter for shoes that actually fit. 

Similarly, all first-page results for “best mens sneakers” break down recommendations into categories like the best for walking, running, or cross training.

Every first-page result for "best mens sneakers" breaks recommendations into categories

This is because the “best” sneakers depend on the activity you need them for.

Here are a few ways to find what searchers may be expecting to see covered on your page:

Look for commonalities among first-page results

This is a manual process where you open and eyeball the pages that rank. 

For example, many first-page results for “best running shoes for flat feet” talk about the best budget option: 

Many first-page results for "best running shoes for flat feet" talk about the best budget option

Look for common keyword mentions on first-page results

Here’s how to do this with Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer:

  1. Enter your keyword
  2. Choose your target country
  3. Go to the Related terms report
  4. Toggle “Also talk about”
  5. Toggle “Top 10” 
Finding common keyword mentions on first-page results with Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

For example, many first-page results for “best running shoes for flat feet” mention “arch support” and “muscle weakness”: 

Common keyword mentions across pages ranking for "best running shoes for flat feet"

These are obviously problems that folks with flat feet care about, so your content should address them.

Look for common keyword rankings among first-page results

Here’s how to do this with Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer:

  1. Enter your keyword
  2. Choose your target country
  3. Go to the Related terms report
  4. Toggle “Also rank for”
  5. Toggle “Top 10” 

For example, the first-page results for “best running shoes for flat feet” frequently also rank for keywords related to support:

Common keyword rankings for pages ranking for "best running shoes for flat feet"

This is clearly an important quality that flat-footed searchers are looking for in a pair of running shoes.

If you’d prefer to see common keyword rankings for specific top-ranking pages, use the Content Gap tool in Ahrefs’ Site Explorer. The quickest way to do this is to enter your keyword in Keywords Explorer, scroll to the SERP overview, and then: 

  1. Select which first-page results to include in the gap analysis.
  2. Click “Open in” and choose “Content gap.”
How to send top-ranking pages for a content gap analysis from Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

For example, these three pages all rank on the first page for “best brooks for flat feet”:

Example of a common keyword ranking for three of the top results

This tells you that some searchers are looking for the best options from this brand (Brooks), so you should probably include them in your post.

3. Make sure your page is optimized for on-page SEO

Google looks at things on the page itself to help decide if it should rank. This is where on-page SEO comes in. 

Most on-page signals are only small ranking factors. However, as most of them are quick to change and fully within your control, they’re worth optimizing. 

Let’s look at a few easy things you can do to improve on-page SEO.

Mention your keyword in the URL

Google says to avoid lengthiness and use words that are relevant to your site’s content in your URLs. This doesn’t mean that you have to use your target keyword. But it makes sense, as it’s short and describes your page. 

For example, the target keyword for this post is “how to get on the first page of google,” so that’s what we used for the URL.

Example of a URL used with the target keyword in mind

Mention your keyword in the title tag

A title tag is a bit of HTML code that wraps around the page title. You’ll often see it displayed in search engine results, social networks like Twitter, and browser tabs.

The title tag shows up in browser tabs

Google’s John Mueller says it’s only a tiny ranking factor, but we think it’s still a good place to mention your keyword. Just make sure to do it naturally.

Wrap the visible page title in an H1 tag

H1 tags are HTML code used to mark up page titles.

How H1s look in the code vs. on the page

Google is a bit unclear on the importance of H1 tags. John is on record saying that they’re not critical for search ranking, but Google’s official documentation says to “place the title of your article in a prominent spot above the article body, such as in a <h1> tag.”

Our advice is to use one per page for the page title and to include your keyword where relevant.

Use subheadings to improve readability

Google uses subheadings to try to better understand the content on the page. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a ranking factor, but they improve your content by making it easier to digest and skim. That can have an indirect impact on SEO.

Our advice is to use subheadings for important subtopics.

Subheadings improve readability by creating visual hierarchy

Showcase the author’s expertise

Google wants to rank content written by experts, so it’s important to demonstrate that expertise on the page. 

Here are a few ways Google suggests to do that:

  • Provide clear sourcing
  • Provide background information about the author
  • Keep the content free of easily verified factual errors

Here’s a great example from Healthline:

Example of how to showcase the author's expertise on the page

4. Make sure your page is internally linked

Internal links are backlinks from one page on your website to another.

Generally speaking, the more of these a page has, the more PageRank (PR) it will receive. That’s good because Google still uses PR to help rank webpages.

Let’s look at a few ways to find relevant internal linking opportunities. 

Use the Internal Link Opportunities report in Site Audit

This report finds on-site mentions of words and phrases your page already ranks for. It’s free to use with an Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT) account. 

Here’s how to use it: 

  1. Go to Site Audit (and choose your project)
  2. Click the Internal link opportunities report
  3. Search for the URL of the page you want to rank on the first page, and choose “Target URL” from the dropdown
Using the Internal Link Opportunities tool in Site Audit to find internal links to add

For example, as our keyword research guide ranks for “keyword research,” the report finds unlinked mentions of that keyword on our site. We can then internally link those words and phrases to our guide. 

Use the Page Explorer tool in Site Audit

This tool shows all kinds of data about the pages on your website, but you can apply filters to find internal linking opportunities. It’s free to use with Ahrefs Webmaster Tools (AWT). 

How’s how to use it: 

  1. Go to Site Audit (and choose your project)
  2. Click the Page Explorer tool
  3. Click “Advanced filter”
  4. Set the first rule to URL Not contains [URL of the page you want to add internal links to]
  5. Set the second rule to Internal outlinks Not contains [URL of the page you want to add internal links to]
  6. Set the third rule to Page text Contains [keyword you want to rank for on the first page]
Using the Page Explorer in Ahrefs' Site Audit to find internal link opportunities

For example, the tool tells us that our pogo-sticking guide mentions the keyword “free keyword research tools” but doesn’t link to our list of free keyword tools

If we open the page and search for this keyword, we see a clear opportunity for a relevant internal link:

Example of an unlinked keyword mention on a page

Use Google

If you search Google for site:yourwebsite.com "keyword", you’ll see all pages on your website that mention the keyword. 

For example, it tells us that our keyword research guide mentions “free keyword research tools”:

Searching for internal link opportunities in Google

The problem with this tactic is that it doesn’t tell you whether there’s already an internal link. 

In fact, in this case, the internal link is already there:

Example of an opportunity that's already linked

This makes it time-consuming and inefficient compared to the previous methods.

5. Make sure you have enough backlinks

Backlinks are an important ranking factor. If you don’t rank on the first page of Google by now, it’s probably because you don’t have enough of them. 

But how many backlinks do you need, and how do you get them?

Given that some backlinks are more powerful than others, it’s impossible to say exactly how many you’ll need to rank on the first page. However, we do offer a rough estimate below the Keyword Difficulty score shown in Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer. 

Very rough estimation of how many backlinks you'll need to rank on the first page in Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

Just remember to take this number with a very large pinch of salt, as it’s far from an exact science.

For example, Ahrefs estimates that you’ll need backlinks from ~53 websites to rank on the first page for “cardigan sweater.” But if you plug one of the first-page results into Ahrefs’ Site Explorer (or our free backlink checker), you’ll see it only has links from two referring domains.

Number of websites linking to the top-ranking result for "cardigan sweater"

This happens for two reasons:

  1. Backlinks aren’t the only ranking factor – There are other ranking factors that matter. 
  2. Some backlinks are more powerful than others – You’ll need fewer of these to rank. 

If you think you need more backlinks to rank, check out the resources below or take our free link building course. Just know that building backlinks can be challenging, so it may take a while to build enough to rank for competitive keywords.

Why the first page of Google is important

Google’s search results are getting more robust— with Knowledge Panels, answer boxes, expandable related questions, local results, and more. With so many ways to stand out, working for top ranking is well worth the effort, especially considering that traffic and click-through rate both fall off precipitously as one works their way down the search results.

How to Get on The First Page of Google

Traffic and engagement falls off precipitously after the first few results.

Getting on the first page means significantly higher click-through rate

It’s a known fact that the first page of Google captures the majority of traffic, but did you know that there are significant differences in click-through rates for the top vs bottom results? One study shows the following click-through rates by Google position:

• First result: 36.4% clickthrough rate
• Second result: 12.5% clickthrough rate
• Third result: 9.5% clickthrough rate

How to Get on The First Page of Google

CTR continues to decline, down to 2.2% for the 10th result (there are usually 10 organic results max per page, even less now with local results, ads, answer boxes, and other new features. If you’re not at the top of Google search results, you are missing out on a lot of clicks.

Get immediate exposure

Top results for Google searches now also populate “Position Zero” answer boxes, otherwise known as featured snippets:

Google Featured Snippet

Earning a top spot on Google could lead to getting featured in a featured snippet, granting your business immediate exposure and increasing your credibility.

Top position traffic share

Another study found that the top result on Google captures 33% of search traffic. The closer to the top you can get your website to appear on Google, the better your search presence and brand authority.

How does first-page ranking benefit your business?

It’s important to understand the different goals that getting a top ranking on Google can help your business to achieve.

1. Improve your visibility

Let’s say you have a brick-and-mortar location. If you had the choice between putting your business on the main road that goes through town or a quiet side street, which one would you choose? The main road, of course.

With 167 billion searches per month, getting on the first page of Google is like planting your business on the busiest road in town. The more people that see your website, the greater your brand awareness. The more familiar consumers are with your brand, the more receptive they will be to conversion activities.

2. Generate more leads

Now what if you had to choose between the main street of a diverse town or a town of ideal customers?  There are as many Google first pages as search queries out there. Your goal is to get on the first page for queries that your ideal customers are performing. By doing so, you get discovered by consumers that are searching online with the intent to buy or engage. These people are the most likely to convert into leads and customers for your business.

3. Increase engagement

According to Adweek, 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying, and Google is the go-to for this. With answer boxes, the “People also ask” section, and local results showing contact information, maps, reviews, ratings, and descriptions, Google’s search engine results page alone enables consumers to learn about, compare, and engage with your business before even clicking on your result.

How to Get on The First Page of Google People Also Ask

A People Also Ask section.

4. Drive website traffic

Snippets and answer boxes can only provide so much information. While a search engine results page itself can sometimes supply all the information a person needs, there are still a number of queries for which people will inevitably click through to a website. Don’t forget that it often takes several engagements with a business before a person converts into a customer, so interactions with your website are important.

Not only does being on the first page of Google drastically increase traffic to your website; not being on the first page of Google has a huge disadvantage. In fact, the first page of Google captures at least 71% of web traffic (some sources say up to 92%), and the second page is far from a close second: It drops to 6% of website clicks. This steep decline in web traffic is an indicator of just how important the first page of Google is.

4. Increase your industry authority

Getting on the first page of Google requires regularly creating high-quality content that Google recognizes is satisfying the needs of its searchers. This takes time, but the increased traffic and trust that will result is well worth the investment.

In addition, writing regularly about your industry and business will require you to stay in tune with what your target audience wants to know as well as what the latest updates are in your industry. Appearing on the first page of Google is important because it facilitates the development and maintenance of a robust knowledge base upon which your business can firmly stand.

5. Earn trust

Google’s algorithm is designed to recognize spammy, suspicious, and low-quality content. If you’re consistently showing up on the first page of Google, it means that Google recognizes you as a trusted source of information, and consumers trust businesses that Google trusts.

How to Get on The First Page of Google

6. Build your audience

As mentioned above, getting on the first page of Google requires creating high-quality, evergreen content. This type of content is the gift that keeps on giving; it can be repurposed and redistributed across a variety of marketing channels including social media, email, and paid ads.

Your content-driven efforts to get on the first page of Google will provide you with more material and more opportunities to engage with your target audience, nurture leads, and stay top of mind.

7. Speed up your sales cycle

Consumers today have so many options to choose from, as well as access to all the information and tools they need to discover, vet, and make a decision about a business. Where do they go to kick off their research? Google! Getting on the first page of Google helps you to bring in those top-of-funnel leads and get your sales cycle in gear.

Conclusion

Following this process should help you rank on the first page of Google, but it still takes time.

How much time? It’s hard to say. But our poll of 4,300 SEOs revealed that 83.8% think SEO takes three months or more to show results.

It’s also true that unless you rank high on Google’s first page, you likely won’t get much traffic.

For example, we rank #8 for “what is affiliate marketing.” But despite having a monthly search volume of 30K, the keyword only sends us an estimated 885 monthly visits from the U.S.

So once you’re on the first page, your goal should be to rank #1. 

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