How To Build A High Ranking Website In 3 Steps

You’ve heard it before, SEO is a fantastic resource for driving traffic to your website. That’s because ranking on the first page of Google can be done for free, or very inexpensively. Doing so can drive thousands of monthly visits to your website if you rank for the right keywords.

This article will provide a step-by-step guide of how to build an SEO optimized website, so let’s get started.

(Tweet me your marketing and SEO questions @DavidofNY.)

Step 1: Target The Right Keywords

You’ll probably have a rough idea of some of the keywords you would like to rank for on search engines.

But rather than guessing which keywords are best, we’re going to take a data-driven approach. First, use either or (I like both tools, just use the one you prefer) to brainstorm a list of potential keyword phrases might want to target.

To do this, go to one of the two websites listed above and enter a search phrase you expect your customers to be searching. Then these tools will scrape Google’s (or another search engine if you choose) auto-suggest feature and will provide you with a number of different various on the search term you entered. provided me with 227 additional keyword combinations after entering “employee healthcare” in the search bar.

I click the “copy all” button in the top right corner of the page, and then paste it into Google’s Keyword Planner tool, picture below. (More on this in the next section).

To ensure that my keyword analysis is thorough, I try to think of another search term related to my first one of “employee healthcare.” This time, I try “payroll management” and repeat the same process of copying the keywords into the Google Adwords Keyword Planner.

Once I think I’ve brainstormed as many keyword various as I can, I’ll begin analyzing them all using Keyword Planner(see step 2).

Step 2: Select The Optimal Keyword Based On The Data

Now that I’ve brainstormed a number of different keyword various, it’s time to select one keyword to target for any given webpage.

(As a rule, I suggest only targeting one keyword per-page when you’re starting out to keep things simple. That means that each webpage should rank well for one keyword. So you may find yourself repeating steps 1 and two several times depending on the number of different webpages you have).

The screenshot below indicates that the most searched keyword of the nearly 500 different versions that were copied into Google Adwords Keyword Planner is “payroll management system” at 1,900 monthly searches.

The blue bar graph above indicates the monthly searches for all 500 or so keywords that were researched.

To see a bar graph for a specific keyword, simply mouse over the small graph icon to the right of the listed keyword.

In the screenshot above we see that the most popular keyword is payroll management system, and that the competition level for this keyword should we want to advertise on Google is a medium difficulty with a suggested bid of $3.06.

While we are not going to advertise on any of these keywords, the competition rating and suggested bid help us to better understand which keywords we have a realistic chance for ranking for.

If for example, the keyword competition rating was high, and the suggested bid was also high, I would recommend that a new HR startup target another keyword.

That’s because new websites have a harder time ranking well for keywords on Google search. Of course there are exceptions to this rule, and some stipulate that Google cares less and less about the age of a URL, but for the most part it still remains true that newer websites will have a harder time of ranking well for highly competitive keywords.

To get a better feel of how difficult each keyword is, you can download a CSV of the Keyword Tool results. On the spreadsheet, keyword difficulty is defined on a 0–1 scale, 1 being extremely difficult.

In the screenshot below we can see the importance of researching keyword variations.

The term “payroll management system” receives 1,900 monthly searches and is a .47 difficulty. While the keyword “payroll management software” receives only 480 monthly searches and is rated at a much more difficult .7 difficulty.

In this case, I would recommend the fictitious HR startup target “payroll management system” as the keyword of choice for their homepage. Now that it’s decided, I’ll show you how to go about creating content that will actually rank well for a specific keyword.

Step 3: How To Build A Strong SEO Webpage — the 5 Keys

There are 5 keys to building a webpage that will rank well in Google in 2015, those things are the webpage title, the header tags used on the webpage, the actual text of the page, the alt-text used to “describe” embedded images and finally the meta description, which technically doesn’t impact SEO though it has a big impact on click-through rate from the search engine to your webpage.

Key #1: Optimize Your Title Tag

This is the title of the link that shows up in Google search and also shows up at the top of your browser. In the screenshots below, we see that the title tag of the Zenefits homepage is “Zenefits: Free Online HR Software.”

Creating a title tag that includes the keyword phrase you are trying to rank for is critical, without it, you have little hope of showing up on the first page of Google.

In the screenshots above, we see that Zenefits is likely trying to rank for the term “Online HR Software” and “HR Software” If we Google either keyword we see that Zenefits shows up in the fourth and the third spot respectively for these two keywords.

You’ll also notice that Zenefits included their brand name at the front of the title tag, it’s considered a best practice to use your company name at the front or better yet, at the end of each title tag.

A good title tag won’t have unnecessary words such as “a” “an” and “the.” Instead every word must be strategically used for maximum SEO benefit. Moz (an SEO software company) has a free title tag creation tool that is a must-use if you’re trying to craft a winning title tag. Click here to use it.

Key #2: Use The H1 Header Tag

Think of your webpage as if it were made up of data consisting in a hierarchy. The title of the page is most important, it tells search engines and users what your page is about. The next most important piece is using an H1 tag that also references your keyword. H1 tags are pieces of text with an “H1 code” attached to them.

This can easily be done in most CMS’s like Wordpress, or Hubspot.

In the screenshot below, we see that Zenefits includes the keyword “HR Software” in the Header of their page titled “Beautiful, Modern HR Software.”

A quick word search reveals that Zenefits uses the phrase “hr software” 8 times on this webpage. It’s not by chance that this webpage ranks 3rd on Google search for the keyword “hr software.”

Using the keyword you are trying to rank for throughout your webpage is critical, that means that you must write text with the H1 tag that includes the keyword you are targeting, as Zenefits has on their HR Software page.

Key #3: Use The Keyword In The Body Of The Webpage

As has already been alluded to above, Zenefits uses the keyword “HR Software” 8 times on the webpage pictured above. They work in their target keyword so that it doesn’t feel stuffed, but use it enough times so that search engine bots get the idea that this page really has to do with HR Software.

It’s important to find a balance of not overusing a keyword, and using it enough times so that it ranks well on Google search. Over using a keyword is known as “keyword stuffing” and it is considered a “black hat” practice by Google.

Websites found to be keyword stuffing are regularly penalized. A good rule of thumb is to avoid using your target keyword more than 10 times on a page. The less amount of text on a given page, the less amount of times the keyword should be referenced.

For a page that’s about 500 words long, use the keyword about 6 times on the page.

Key #4: Make Use Of Alt-Text

Alt-text is what Google uses to understand the content of images, videos and GIFs embedded in a webpage. Since Google can’t actually see your page, it relies on alt-text to understand the content of various media files.

By adding your target keyword to the beginning of the alt-text of an image, video or GIF you’re better optimizing your webpage. The best ranking pages typically make use of alt-text as yet another place to embed the target keyword.

If we take Zenefits as an example once more, we see that the text of each photo on their HR Software webpage contains the keyword “HR Software.”

While I wouldn’t recommend adding your target keyword to every image on your webpage, adding it to one or two is a good idea.

Most CMS platforms typically have a way of easily editing the alt text of a photo. If your CMS platform doesn’t allow for alt-text to be edited that easily, it can still be modified in the HTML code of your page.

Key #5: Craft A Compelling Meta Description

The meta description is the 155 character description shown on search engines underneath the title tag. The meta description for the Zenefits homepage reads, “Zenefits free online HR Software gives your team a single place to manage all your human resource needs — payroll, benefits, compliance and more.”

See the screenshot below to get a better feel for how meta descriptions on displayed in Google search (see text highlighted in blue).

Technically speaking the meta description does not impact the ranking of a webpage on a search engine. However, creating a compelling meta description is key to actually capitalizing on a webpage that ranks well on a search engine.

Just because a page is in the number one spot on Google, doesn’t mean that the maximum number of people possible are clicking on it. To improve the conversion rate of your listing, create a 155 character long (no longer or it well get cut off by Google) meta description.

Make sure to make it compelling while also using the keywords you expect visitors to be searching for. That’s because Google bolds words matching your search query, and searchers are more likely to click on a meta description that has bolded words than one that does not. Read this KissMetrics blog post for more information.


Creating a website that ranks well for various competitive keywords has gotten increasingly easy with the rise of fantastic CMS platforms, and free tools like and But if it seems like taking on an SEO project like this isn’t feasible, fear not. There are a seemingly infinite pool of qualified candidates available for hire on sites like Upwork and Elance for $10-$75 an hour depending on the scope of the project.

Alternatively, readers should feel free to email me (David Epstein) or follow me on Twitter @DavidofNY for answers to specific SEO or startup marketing questions.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.