Most website owners we talk to all want the same thing: "I want to be number one in Google!" Well, that’s great, but how do we go about getting there? Let’s assume that we’ve done our research and found that the keyword in question is a good target for your business. A good first step would be to look at what separates the website holding the #1 spot in Google for your desired keyword from another site several pages down the list, which should give you a solid baseline for getting your site climbing upward in the SERPS.

To illustrate, let’s look at a highly searched generic term like "home loan". According to Google’s External Keyword Tool, the term "home loan" has an average monthly search volume of 1,830,000. Whoever is in the first position for this term is most likely pulling in some serious organic traffic!

Next, we’ll take the site in the #1 position for the term "home loan" on Google, and compare some of it’s on-page and off-page SEO factors with the site in position #100. From the results, we should be able to determine some of the factors that contribute to a site’s higher ranking.

"Home Loan" Position #1- Countrywide Financial (

On-Page SEO:

  • Titles/ H1 Tags: Includes the term "home loans" in the title tag and in one of the headings. This could be made even better by converting the headings into H1 tags. Also includes related search terms in like, "Equity", "Mortgage", and "Refinance" in the title.
  • Content: Good amount of homepage content. Text is broken down into specialized sections with linked headings, making it easier for users to read and navigate. The term "home loan" (or close variation) is found 14 times on the homepage, helping to reinforce the theme of this page with the SERPS.
  • Accessibility: Internal linking structure is extensive. All internal pages are linked on the bottom of the home page, and the site map is well-organized, making it a breeze for search engine crawlers to access all of the site’s pages.

Off-Page SEO:

  • Links: Best Rank’s Backlink Check Tool shows 16,700 incoming link to this site, with the home page being examined having 8,808 incoming links. Each incoming link can be looked at as a "vote" toward the credibility and usefulness of a website, with having a high number of votes. These votes show search engines that the site is popular, and thus help give it a high ranking. Their outbound link profile shows relatively low volume, with a majority of the links going to Countrywide subdomains or other home loan related sites- another thumbs up in the SERPS.
  • Advertising: Countrywide Financial is included in some of the largest business directories online, including Yahoo Directory, Best of the Web, and DMOZ. The company also has it’s own Wikipedia page, and appears in several articles and press releases throughout the web. Having this web presence helps to reinforce the brand and creates trust with search engines like Google.
  • PageRank, Alexa, Age, etc.: has a PR of 6, and a pretty low Alexa Rank (5,716). These are most likely a result of the above-mentioned positives, and also contribute to the site’s Google ranking. The site is about 6 years old, which also adds to Google’s trust in the site.

Home Loan" Position #100- Payless Home Loans (

On-Page SEO:

  • Titles/ H1 Tags: Although the title tag does include the terms "homes" and "loans", they are not in the same order as the search query. The title tag also appears to be difficult to read and a bit out of order, which could be frowned upon by search engines and humans. Remember that a title tags is the first thing a person sees before they click through to your website – if you saw a title that didn’t make sense, would you want to click on it? The homepage does utilize H1 tags, but without proper inclusion of keywords, they aren’t doing the site much good.
  • Content: Pretty good content here, but could use a little work. Our keyword, "Home Loan", appears only twice on the entire page (only once in the body of the content). Lack of keyword density could be a contributing factor to this site’s low ranking for our chosen keyword.
  • Accessibility: Internal linking is scarce, especially within the content. The lack of internal links with targeted anchor text is a missed opportunity when it comes to the search engines. It also doesn’t help that the majority of the internal links point to the home page itself.

Off-Page SEO:

  • Links: only has 82 inbound links, far less than our #1 site. They also lack any sort of useful outbound links, so their not seen as an information hub or a resource. No links = No popularity = No Google Organic love.
  • Advertising: No Yahoo Directory, and no Best of the Web. What’s worse, there aren’t many people talking about Payless Home Loans on the web either. If people can’t find you, neither can the search engines.
  • PageRank, Alexa, Age, etc.: Despite being two years older than the #1 site, has a measly PR of 1. Combine that with no Alexa data (not good), and you end up with a low Google ranking.

So next time your website is on page 20 and the competition is on page 1 or 2 for your most important search term, at least you’ll know why. Of course, these are only a subset of the many on-page and off-page factors that can affect a site’s ranking in the SERPS. Remember that SEO and internet marketing in general is a constantly changing field, and the key to having a successful website will often times be to stay abreast of these changes.


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martinlock • 10 years ago

Alexa rankings can't be the sole determinants of measuring a sites importance and popularity as the rankings do not take into account all the browser types like Windows Vista etc.

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