Updated: Feb 14, 2020
Probably the most asked question for anyone that works in digital marketing is "how can I get my site up to #1 in Google," and every digital marketer has their own answer. Here is my high-level answer. There are no magic bullets, just five main areas to focus on.
Keyword Planning - The first step is to choose the key words / concepts / terms that you want to rank for. Don't boil the ocean and try to rank first for everything. Find the key terms that you want to ensure you win on, optimize for those, and then move to the net set of terms once you have succeeded. A good place to start is with your brand terms, and a few key industry terms relating to what is key to your business.
Site Content – You need to look at all your content and make sure it is best positioned to be scanned by Google. Ultimately, Google is looking to deliver the best answer to whatever query is submitted by a user. To find the "best answer," the key things Google wants are Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. So, all your site articles / blog posts / content should strive to answer questions as best they can. They should have authors and dates, and better yet author pages that connect to the blog authors, to explain their background and why they are providing authoritative answers. Also, don't hide your light under a bushel. PDFs and content behind walls are not great at passing along any signals, so limit these, and if you need to do this, try and also have the content (or overview) available on-page to be scanned.
Technical Speed – Like pizza, good content is only good if it is delivered fast and hot. Your site needs to be Google provides pretty specific insights on how to improve, using PageSpeed Insights. Both desktop and mobile scores matter. Things like compressing images and CSS, as well as simple fonts and light pages will all help.
Inbound Links – In addition to your content, another piece of data that Google uses to score a site is inbound links. Generating links from partners or other companies that you work closely with will help. At the very least, capitalize on all of the free ways to generate links, including Google My Business and your social media channels.
Structured Data – Every site can benefit from using structured data / schema, especially if you are an eCommerce site, or if you host events. For example, putting events in a calendar or in a format that has defined fields (Date, Event Name, Time, etc.) will help Google capture that information. You can test your pages to see if they have structured data with the Rich Results Test tool.
These are just some of the ways you can help your site rise in the rankings and achieve the natural search rankings you want.