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Ranking in the Top Google Results, Part 1: On-Site Optimization

By Bethany Bloise

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Making it into the top Google search results isn’t as easy as it was in the past, when businesses could get high rankings by stuffing their sites with top-priority keywords. Even though strategy for optimization isn’t the same today, it’s still equally important – if you don’t optimize, you won’t rank on the first page of Google.
So what does it take to get your website into Google’s top results? This post focuses on what you can do directly on your website to rank higher. We’ll go on to examine off-site strategy in Part 2.

1. Site & Page Optimization

User-Friendly Layout

  • First and foremost, no one will want to read a site if it’s not visually attractive.
  • After the initial attraction, users need to be able to navigate your site. Imagebox has a thorough site-mapping process we go through with clients to make sure we make site navigation as convenient as possible for anyone browsing your website.
  • Don’t make your content impossible to read. It actually hurts your rankings if you take a keyword stuffing approach, and bounce rates increase if visitors leave your site too quickly. Just prove you’re human and write for your audience instead of for search engines, then lay it out in a way that isn’t confusing.

Landing Pages

  • When we talk about off-site optimization in Part 2, we will talk about ways to bring people to your website – to pages where visitors “land” upon clicking a link to your site. Landing pages need to provide further instruction for what action you want a site visitor to take, in order to make them convert into a lead or customer.
  • This brings us to the call-to-action. Do you want visitors to call you? Fill out a form? Make a purchase? You have to tell them what the next step is, very clearly.
  • Give them some incentive along with your call-to-action. For example, if you need them to fill out a form, provide them with useful information they need in return, or offer a discount on your product/services – and experiment with what generates leads for you and what approaches don’t work as well. I could write a whole blog post just about landing page optimization! (And I just might.)

Plugins & Markups

  • SEO Plugins for WordPress are great tools for optimization. We use the Yoast plugin for our Imagebox clients. This allows us to identify keywords and customize what the search result for each page will look for by editing the SEO headline and meta description (the text that shows up under each search result headline in Google).
  • Google recommends using markup to identify areas of your site and pages, making it much easier for the search engine to crawl for keywords and topics. While we are talking about identifying your site for search engines, make sure you submit your sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools so they know you exist!


  • Too many backlinks from low-quality or fraudulent sites will disqualify you from ranking. BUT the right backlinks from reputable sources will make your business climb the search results.
  • You can add your own internal backlinks by identifying one page’s primary keyword and then linking to that page from somewhere else on the site using that keyword. That will boost your site’s usability. We will talk about earning links from outside sources in Part 2 of this blog.



2. Creating On-Site Content


  • Crank out regular, weekly or bi-weekly blog posts for optimum effect and to keep your content fresh.
  • Integrate keywords and write blog posts about something that interests your clients/customers, or about industry trends.

White Papers

  • Use these to provide incentive for completing actions on your site. Want someone to fill out a form so you can get their email? Offer them some super cool information they can only get by downloading your white paper!
  • You can also use these in email marketing, which we will talk about in the second part of the blog.
  • Make sure to integrate keywords, make it visually appealing and work to create high-quality, relevant content that people will want.


  • People are drawn to interact with pictures more than words. Good visuals, whether it be a photograph, illustration or infographic to accompany your text, will draw people into your content and encourage them to look at your site longer.
  • Make sure to include “alt text” for each image in your page markup. This is the text that will show up if for some reason your image can’t load, and the keywords will define the context of the image for search engines.



3. Google Bonus


  • Ever see a Google result come up with someone’s picture next to it? They’ve added Google Authorship to their Google+ profile. Authorship attributes your company’s blog posts to the people who write them and helps to boost search rankings. Read our blog post about Google Authorship to learn more.
  • Even if you have the Authorship markup nowadays, the spots in search results are limited to sites that have high-quality content and a lot of authority on the Internet, so you may have to take time to develop your content before your face will show up next to your published articles.

“In-Depth” Articles

  • In-depth articles are a new category in search, designated to articles that are published by a reputable source, or by sites determined highly relevant. Google provides a helpful article on how to optimize your site for the “in-depth articles” feature. Though 60% of these results is content from a list of 10 top online sources, your business can still qualify using some of the helpful tips Google provides.

How long does this stuff take to be effective? Unfortunately, there is no exact science that can give us that answer. It could take weeks or even months for your content to move you up in Google results, but if you keep cranking out quality content you can build trust and authority much faster. How often do you think a business should create and distribute new content to be effective?