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The “SEO is dead” parade marches on. Even some search professionals are now writing obits for their old friend.

But search continues to thrive. It continues to drive traffic more than, well, anything. So what gives? For any given search, ten web pages are going to command page one rankings and earn waaaaaay more clicks than the gazillions of pages that follow.

If you’re a content marketer, you’d love to see your next blog post on the first page of Google. How important is it to understand SEO? It’s crucial.

I’ll be straight with you. If you want to play last decade’s lightweight Google games, you’ve come to the wrong place. A pro like Andy Crestodina won’t indulge you.

However, if you want to talk about creating immensely useful content while executing a strategy to rank atop Google SERPs (search engine results pages), you’d want to listen to Andy, if you could. And you can.

Right now. Right here. I present my friend, the content chemist himself, with a full set of answers on how he gets his blog posts on the first page of Google and how you can do the same.

Listen to Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media explain:

•  How he puts in the effort—in advance—to create blog posts with a very high chance of landing on the first page of Google.

•  Why it’s always more important to appeal to readers than searchbots.

•  His formula: traffic x conversions = success.

•  The three questions that must be asked and answered:

  1. Is anyone searching for this phrase?
  2. Do I have a chance of ranking for the keywords?
  3. Can I make the best page on the internet for the chosen topic?

•  The number one factor for ranking in Google.

•  What to do after you publish.

•  A better name for “SEO.”

•  A more effective approach than keyword density.

•  The case of the ambidextrous armadillo.

Highlights from this interview include:

Click-through rates
90 plus percent of clicks in Google are happening on the first page. Something like 18-plus percent of those are on the first position.

The best way to get your content discovered
I put in extra time and effort and energy into finding key phrases and underlining pages with key phrases and indicating relevance for those phrases. Knowing that it’s really my best, and only chance, of having content that gets discovered and read and shared and attracting an audience weeks and months and years after it goes live.

Email marketing and social media have very short half-lives so those are great sources of traffic, but in the long run I know if I write something and it’s going to get read next month or next year that’s just not going to happen unless I successfully ranked it by targeting a key phrase and indicating relevance.

The formula for success
Traffic times conversions equal success. You have to have visitors and then the visitors have to take an action. Or else it was worthless, so anything times zero is zero. So we want visitors to come to the site. That’s the first number and then a percentage of those visitors to act; that’s the second number. So all the ranking and all the traffic in the world, will do nothing for your business at all unless you also have a conversion rate.

Three important questions to rank on page one of Google
We’re going to ask ourselves three questions in this process…

The first one is really, is anyone searching for this phrase? We need to find a phrase that people are actually looking for. Because there’s no point in ranking for a phrase if no one’s looking for it.

Question two is, do I have a chance of ranking for it?

And then, question three is, can I make the best page on the internet for the topic?

If you answer yes to all three of those, it’s a worthy cause. With two out of three, don’t bother.

The rise of semantic search
Google is now paying a lot of attention to semantics and synonyms and grammatical forms and it’s really a search engine of topics more than phrases these days. But the tool only lets us search for phrases, so there’s lots of little ways in which that number is not super accurate. It’s the exact matched number. It does not show synonyms or any semantical linking. So just for that reason I’m just kind of validating yes or no people are looking for it or not?

It’s not really about key phrases anymore. It’s more about topics. So when you enter a key phrase it tells you, yes or no, people are looking for that exact specific exact matched phrase. That’s good enough for me.

I target things, sometimes they may look very low, but that’s fine. I just want to check to see, is there some volume on it? Is there some interest in the topic? Is that truly a phrase that people use? Or a top of mind phrase? Is there demand for the general subject?

Long tail keywords

So I target lots of very long specific phrases, but surprisingly there is demand for them. I rank right now I think for, “How Does Social Media affect SEO?” That’s a long phrase. It’s a full sentence. But something like 60 people a month are searching for it. That’s quite a few people. So it’s often surprising.

Here’s a trick, go to I used to Ubersuggest, now I use It will scrape Google Suggest for you and give you all kinds of suggested key phrases. Some of them are very, very long. Those are phrases that yes, someone’s’ looking for or else it wouldn’t appear in Google Suggest. And so try targeting one of those phrases. They’re going to be eight and ten-word phrases sometimes. Great. Pick that phrase. There’s some demand for it. It might be fewer than ten searches per month but you’ll start ranking.

Page authority and domain authority
The number one factor in Google for ranking has, is, and will always be, the authority of the page. In other words the link popularity of the page and the domain in general. Are other sites linking to it? Is it credible among other sites?

If your site has credibility among other websites as in backlinks or incoming links from other sites then you have more authority and you have a better chance of ranking in general.

Knowing what your domain authority is—domain authority, for the record, is just a proxy for Google’s own metric, which is called PageRank—which Google doesn’t share with us anymore, so just use domain authority. Domain authority you can look up using And it will give you a number. It’s one to 100. So you may have a domain authority of 30 or of 60. Whatever that might be. Now here’s’ the trick and this is what most people miss. And this is the breakdown 101: if you learn one thing from this video take this away.

Target phrases for which the domain authority of the other high ranking pages is in the same range as yours.

If the other sites have a domain authority in the 80s and 90s, you’re going to need a site with a domain authority in the 80s and 90s, to successfully compete with those sites for that topic. If the other sites are in the 20s and 30s and 40s you’ll have a chance if you’re in that range.

We joke… don’t enter the Indy 500 on a bicycle, you’ll lose every time. But you might win the Tour de France. You’ve got a bicycle. You’re going to win every marathon. So if your domain authority is in a certain range, let’s say the 40s, don’t target phrases for which the other high-ranking sites have a domain authority much higher. But go ahead and target anything in the range of the 40s or lower.

Sites with higher domain authority have a much higher overall likelihood of appearing high in the search results in Google. So there’s numbers here. The statistical correlation is something like .39. It’s a very high correlation compared to other factors.

The power of guest blogging
A great content marketer is not stuck on their own site. Get out there. Write for other people.

Making SEO pay

SEO is slow. I can’t think of a slower form of marketing. IT takes a long time. It took me seven years to rank high for Chicago Web Design.

Again, question three is “can I make the best page on the internet for that topic?” Can I really write something great? Is it worthy of ranking? Google has 2,000 math PhDs on staff. You’re not going to trick them. You really have to make something great and deserving of rank or else, why bother? So, as you write that great piece of content on the topic, focus on the reader, be legit, write something good.

Indicate relevance (a better name for SEO)
Once you’ve done that just go back and make sure that you indicated relevance. And I think we should just call it (SEO) indicating relevance. I always say this phrase. I think we should rename SEO “indicate relevance.”

Did you use the phrase in those most important places to tell Google that yes, you are truly about this topic? Is it in the title? Is it in the header? Is it in the body? And is it in the meta description? Leave it at that.

Don’t just use the specific phase four to six times or a certain percentage of density. Try to use different forms. Different related phrases. Phrases that are compliment to that. Phrases that are in the family in that topic.

You can better indicate relevance by making the page more focused on the topic. You can do whatever you can to try to make the page higher quality. Simply improve the page. Make it longer. Make it more specific. Add a video. Add graphics.

Ultimately we’re not going to try to reverse engineer Google as much as we are trying to collaborate with Google to help visitors discover quality. Help them surface great content, so they get better content. That’s advice that SEOs don’t say enough, “Hey, your pages don’t rank yet? Make it better. Go improve it.”

Learn more about Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios.

Content Chemistry

Check out Andy’s book, Content Chemistry: An Illustrated Handbook for Content Marketing