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by Stephen Logan on 29th January 2010
The polka dot adorned King of the Mountains jersey in Le Tour de France might be one of the toughest sporting challenges that nature and mankind have conjured, but online it is the summit of the SERPs that is the beguiling and often impossible goal faces a peloton of websites.
For every keyword there can be only one website at the top of the search engine rankings. Invariably there tend to be a fair number of sites jostling for position, attempting to break away from the pack and take first place for themselves. Just as with our analogical cycling counterparts, it takes a great deal of effort, strategy and knowledge to achieve the ultimate prize.
Getting to number one in Google is the ultimate goal of any SEO; but due to the diversity of SERPs, there are other ways to get noticed. Sometimes getting a spread of good performances within search engine rankings, video marketing, social media, PPC and local search results can gain you the fullest exposure, without even necessarily topping the rankings. Consistently exceptional performances will earn you the Search Engine Marketers yellow jersey, opening the floodgates to highly targeted traffic.
Whilst being the overall leader, an SEM equivalent of Alberto Contadorif you will, is what any self-respecting website should be aiming for [to find out more see: What is the Most Effective Search Engine Marketing Strategy?]; in terms of focus and continued exposure in your keyword areas of choice, it is the Franco Pellizotti’s we’re looking to emulate, the King of the Mountain, the one that gets to the summit quickest – the polka dot jersey of SEO.
Breaking Away from the Peloton
Achieving this for any site will take time, in fact some may never achieve it. As with cycling, some routes are easier than others and tactics will be key to ensuring that you don’t fall short of your ultimate goal. There are always a cluster of sites vying for any keyword, just as with the peloton snaking up Mont Ventoux, but you have to do something extraordinary to get ahead of the rest.
First of all you need a strong website. Strength can only be gained over time, through rigorous link building and gaining authority amongst your peers. Older sites will see additional benefits due to the age of their domain, as well as the links they will have naturally accrued over time (just ask 38 year old Lance Armstrong). New sites therefore need to work doubly hard to gain authority and strong links in the shortest possible time.
Strategising Your Ascent
You need a game plan too. This means thoroughly researching your competitors and setting up your own keywords in such a way that you won’t collide with those that are markedly stronger than you. The perfect keywords should offer the most traffic with the least possible opponents in your way, this will make it all the easier to get to the top. This might mean abandoning some of the more challenging phrases, at least until you have mastered a few of the easier climbs.
The longer the phrase you use, the better your chances of eliminating the competition. Searchers may be fewer, but in all likelihood they will also be far more targeted.
Building Up Your Strength
Content too is important when going for the king of the SERPs title. Just as cyclists need to be made of the right stuff, so too do websites. You need to have plenty of copy on all of your pages to give the search engines a clear indication of what it is that you do. The better you are able to communicate this, the better your chances of getting in contention at the top.
This will be essential for visitors as well, giving them the vital information about your company, what you offer and informing their decision on whether to use your services. The higher the standards of your content, the more benefits your website will gain.
But this isn’t just about getting one page to the top. A website is made up of numerous pages, just like the stages of Le Tour De France, all of which need to be optimised in order to gain the very best possible overall result. Getting your Home page up to the top first is great, but it is a team effort and you need the other members of your site to be just as competitive (in other search terms of course) for the best overall result.
So there you have it, the Le Tour De France rider’s guide to getting your site to the top of the SERPs. It isn’t easy, but the recognition and success that you get from being the SEO equivalent of the King of the Mountains will prove hugely beneficial for your site. Tenuous yes, wrong time of year certainly, but SEO is a tricky, tactical battle and you need to be at your best to really succeed.