Achieving Top Search Rankings: An SEO guide to help you climb the rankings in Google

Achieving Top Search Rankings: An SEO guide to help you climb the rankings in Google

By Monty Beaumont


Search Engine Optimisation specialist and founder of Monty’s Guide, Monty Beaumont uncovers the steps you can take to help climb the rankings in Google.

Search engine optimization (SEO) encompasses both technical website optimisations as well as strategic content creation to boost rankings and traffic from search engines like Google. With over 63,000 searches per second on Google alone, appearing at the top of search results can be a very powerful factor to increase sales and visibility.

This comprehensive SEO guide draws upon the latest research to provide technical recommendations, strategic best practices, and real-world examples to help you improve your SEO success. It focuses on Google, as just over 92% of all search queries globally are made using this ubiquitous search engine.

Understanding Google's ranking factors

Google uses a complex, ever-evolving algorithm with over 200 ranking factors that determine where web pages appear in search results. optimisations should provide value for users first, not just search bots. However, while quality content is essential for SEO, technical site optimisations enable search bots to efficiently crawl, index, and understand website content.

Over the years, Google has adjusted its ranking criteria to assess the credibility and usefulness of webpages to ensure that users have the best chance of finding relevant information when conducting a search.

Use E-E-A-T

In December 2022, Google updated its algorithms to help it determine the quality of online content based on the following parameters:

Experience:  Quality content which demonstrates the creator’s first-hand experience with the subject matter. This helps prove that suggestions are tried and tested, and that insights are authentic.  Showing lived experience is especially important in our fast moving digital landscape and is a core differentiator between human and AI-written content.  This doesn't mean everything has to be written in the first person just that it's important to highlight the knowledge across your team or guest contributors. Consider a detailed About Us page to highlight your team's knowledge and experience.

Expertise:  Google's quality raters must determine whether authors have topical expertise. Do they have the knowledge, qualifications and credentials required to give reliable information? A top tip is to include details about the author which helps give further context.

Authoritativeness:  Authoritativeness refers to the overall reputation in an industry, especially among experts and influencers in a niche.  Some of the ‘ranking juice’ will be determined by the quality of the links that refer to your website.

Trustworthiness: Trustworthiness is the most important part of Google E-E-A-T SEO. Google’s quality raters will take the creator, content and website into account when determining a ranking score.

Search Quality Rater Guidelines: An overview (links to PDF)

Be clear about who wrote your content, edit for factual accuracy, cite trustworthy sources, and avoid hiding content behind a wall of ads.

So always start with original, quality content. Then, while the exact formula is secret, Google has revealed that optimising the following three critical areas will make it easier for algorithms to rank pages higher:

  • Technical SEO factors
  • On-page factors
  • Off-page factors

Focusing your efforts in these three key areas will give you the best chance possible of shooting up the Google ranking ladder.

Technical SEO factors

A site needs the proper technical foundations to be indexed and ranked well by Google.  Most technical optimisation is carried out by a professional developer, and really good developers will have focused on the following areas from the outset:

Site Speed - Faster page load speeds improve user experience and search rankings. Pages that load in under 2 seconds benefit most. Reduce server response times, enable compression, optimise images, and fix faulty code to accelerate speeds. Google prioritises mobile site speed even more in rankings.

Mobile Optimisation - Mobile’s share of organic search engine visits has remained over 60% across the last five years peaking in 2020 at 64%. (Statista) So with mobile searches more prevalent than ever, sites must provide good mobile user experiences. Use a responsive design and minimise pinching/zooming.

Indexability - Search crawlers follow links to discover new pages. Sitemaps and internal linking help search bots navigate.  Try to limit any roadblocks as Google's automated crawlers download and parse your site's robots.txt file to extract information about which parts of the site may be crawled. Things like excessive pagination and deep hierarchy levels can also cause issues.

Site Security - An SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate and HTTPS protect users and improve rank potential by demonstrating that you take security seriously.

Structured Data Markup – This is the way you need to organise information on your website so that search engines like Google can understand it better. Think of it like adding extra tags and labels to your website code, almost like adding metadata. These extra tags and labels use schema markup - a standardized formatting system. This will help your site be more visible and get enhanced display in search results.

Accessibility - Make sure the site is usable for those with disabilities.  This can include actions such as making text easier to read and adding alt tags to images to assist screen readers.

Page Performance Metrics - Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom Website Speed Test, and Google Search Console to diagnose technical issues, then optimise accordingly. Monitor page experience as part of an ongoing SEO program.

Many technical factors can be evaluated by Google's Lighthouse tool and Google Search Console.  Lighthouse is an open-source, automated tool for improving the quality of web pages. You can run it against any web page, public or requiring authentication. It has audits for performance, accessibility, progressive web apps, SEO, and more. Google Search Console is a free service offered by Google that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site's presence in Google Search results. Fixing major issues highlighted in both will help provide an SEO boost.

On-Page optimisation factors

Optimising individual web pages for target keywords will improve relevance and rankings for searches. Optimisation includes elements like page titles, headings, content, links and media.

Content - Useful, original content that answers search criteria is critical for on-page optimisation. Use keywords naturally in page content and include them throughout. Overall content should be useful, original and you should avoid keyword stuffing as it comes across as spammy.

Page Titles - Place high-priority target keywords close to the start of title tags, within the recommended 50-60 characters. Titles should be unique and descriptive.

Headings -  Work the most important keyword phrases into heading tags, focusing on higher priority H1 and H2 tags, but don’t overdo it.  For example, each page of a website should only have 1 x H1 tag (which is usually the title). Structuring your page will help both SEO and accessibility.

Alt Text - Descriptive alt text improves image SEO and accessibility. Keep under 125 characters and include keywords where relevant. Avoid over-optimisation.

URL Structure - Keyword-optimized slugs and file names improve click-through rates. Avoid excessive length or keyword stuffing.

Outbound Links - Links to high-quality external resources demonstrate authority while enhancing page depth.

Internal Links - Link to related content using anchor text with keywords to build relevancy and help search engines better understand your site.

Off-Page Optimisation Factors

While on-page optimisation is crucial, off-page factors that demonstrate authority, relevance and trust are critical ranking factors.

Quality Backlinks

Google considers backlinks "votes" of confidence that help determine authority and rank. Links from authoritative, relevant websites indicate endorsement and authority. Prioritise related sites with high domain authority.

So not all backlinks carry the same weight. High-quality backlinks from reputable sites closely related to the content are ideal. Tactics you can use to build beneficial backlinks include:

  • Expert authorship: Encourage your team to publish guest posts on reputable sector websites with backlinks where possible.  Always ask that the referring links do not contain the ‘nofollow’ tag.
  • PR outreach: Pitch relevant media sites to earn backlinks from placements.  If you need help reaching out to relevant media outlets, sites such as Prowly may be able to help.
  • Sponsorships: Sponsor industry events, non-profit causes etc. in exchange for links.
  • Resource pages: Create lists, guides and other resources with natural link opportunities.
  • Earned media: Pursue press mentions and features to build brand visibility, backlinks and boost domain authority. Pursue relevant press opportunities through PR outreach and content distribution.
  • Local citations: Create and optimise your Google Business Profile and other directories related to your physical location.
  • Sector and local listings and  directories: Consider listings in relevant & trustworthy online directories (such as Monty’s Guide ) that both further enhance your relevance and give you greater exposure to visitors. Get listed in Google My Business, Apple Maps, Bing Places, Yelp and other listings for local SEO. Keep information consistent across directories

Remember the focus should be on building connections that feel natural and add value for users. Random, paid or low-quality links can actually damage credibility and result in you appearing lower down in search results… and it can take a long time to recover from. You can disavow toxic backlinks using Google Search Console or consider hiring a professional SEO expert to help.

The ongoing SEO process

SEO is not a one-time effort, but rather an ongoing strategy, so don’t expect result overnight. To help you keep up the momentum, here are my top recommendations:

  • Track keyword rankings and website traffic to gauge effectiveness. Sites like SEMrush, Moz and Ahrefs can help you achieve this but they do require a paid subscription, so it can often be more affordable to work with an agency or freelancer who specialises in SEO to get the most out of the software.
  • Regularly conduct in-depth keyword research. Identify low competition, high-value keywords aligned with business goals. Map keywords to relevant pages using topic clusters. This includes identifying new keyword opportunities to target. You can use sites like Answer The Public to help you find new keywords.
  • Stay on top of Google algorithm updates and adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Develop new, high-quality content to grow domain authority over time.
  • Always track your search performance. Monitor rankings in Search Console along with conversion metrics in Google Analytics. Review monthly to assess impact.
  • Remove or update outdated content.
  • Evaluate new optimisation opportunities as the site evolves.
  • Work with specialists who live and breathe SEO; their experience will pay dividends over the long run.

With continual effort across technical, on-page and off-page factors, you can improve a site’s search visibility and rankings for the most vital keywords. But remember, optimising the user experience remains the core focus.  If your site is not liked by users, then they will not hang around long and you’ll lose traffic to competitors.

Head and shoulders Monty Beaumont

Monty Beaumont, Search Engine Optimisation specialist and founder of Monty’s Guide


Resource type: Guide/tools | Published: 2023