How to Get Higher Google Rankings in 2020 [New Checklist]

How to Get Higher Google Rankings in 2020

Today, I’m gonna show you how to get higher Google rankings fast.

In fact, one of my readers recently used the checklist from this video to increase his organic traffic by 88.3%. I’m Brian Dean, the founder of Backlinko.

The place where marketers turn for higher rankings and more traffic. In this video, you’re gonna see the checklist that I use for all of my SEO clients.

You’ll also learn why you might want to delete, yes delete, half the pages on your website. And a simple trick you can use to improve your Google rankings fast.

A few months ago, I sent out a newsletter to my email subscribers. This email listed out some of my all-time favorite traffic hacks.

Out of the blue, the founder of, Sean Falconer, replied to that email.

He said, “Dude, I’ve tried all of these techniques before”, “and they helped us get more traffic.” When I looked at Sean’s site, I saw that he was doing a solid job with his content marketing and SEO.

But, I also noticed a few mistakes that were holding him back from Google‘s first page. That’s when I sent him this message. A few hours later, Sean got back to me.

After executing the checklist that I’m about to show you, Sean‘s organic traffic shot up by nearly 50% in 21 days.

And once the checklist had time to kick in, Proven’s traffic increased by a whopping 88.3% three weeks after that. With that, let’s dive in to the checklist that Sean used to get higher Google rankings.

get higher Google rankings

Your first step is to find and eliminate what I call zombie pages. I used to think that Google rewarded sites that publish lots and lots of unique content. But I was wrong.

Today, I know the truth. The truth is that Google doesn’t want you to publish content just for the sake of publishing content.

In fact, a Google employee recently stated that they prefer websites that publish fewer high-quality pages. This quality-over-quantity approach is one of the secrets behind my blog’s success.

In fact, Backlinko gets over 150,000 unique visitors per month. Unlike most blogs, I only publish every four to six weeks.

But when I do, I make sure each and every post is awesome. In fact, at the time of shooting this video, Backlinko only has 37 total blog posts. Fortunately, Sean only published high-quality content on his blog.

So, that wasn’t an issue. The problem was his site had lots of zombie pages. So, what are zombie pages?

Zombie pages

Zombie pages are pages on your site that don’t provide any value.

For example, zombie pages are pages like old and outdated blog posts and press releases, category and tag pages, search results pages, eCommerce product pages that don’t get any sales, thin content pages, and pages with duplicate content.

In theory, shouldn’t have a ton of pages. After all, Proven is an online job board where job postings come and go. Despite that, they had nearly 50,000 pages indexed in Google.

That’s a lot. As it turned out, Proven didn’t automatically delete their old job postings. So, these pages stuck around even though the job had been filled years ago.

To make matters worse, Google was indexing their search result pages which are classic zombie pages. So, I recommended that they delete their old job postings and add the no-index tag to their search results.

Sean quickly took action. Thanks to these changes, Proven now only has around 4,000 pages indexed. Which is 40,000 less than they had before. Step number two is to fix any technical SEO issues that your site has.

technical SEO issues

There are literally hundreds of technical problems that can impact your SEO. Fixing them is one of the fastest ways to get higher Google rankings.

That said, here are some of the most common technical issues that I see during SEO site audits. How can you find these technical SEO issues on your site?

I recommend using the Raven tool Site Auditor or SEMrush’s Site Audit tool. They’ll crawl your site and let you know about technical problems that might be hurting your site’s SEO.

Fortunately, Proven didn’t have too many technical SEO issues. That’s mostly due to the fact that we deleted so many zombie pages.

Fewer pages equal fewer problems. The only problems I could find were some missing ALT text on images and a handful of duplicate titles.

Not a big deal but worth fixing. As expected Sean quickly took care of all these technical SEO problems. Now that we’ve fixed’s technical problems, it was time to optimize its content.

I probably don’t need to tell you that on-page SEO can make or break your site’s rankings. That’s why I dedicate an entire step of my SEO checklist to on-page SEO.


Because Proven had thousands of pages, I knew I couldn’t optimize every single one. So, Sean sent me his top 10 most important pages.

Now, some of Sean‘s most important pages were blog posts and others were commercial pages that sold his services. So, let’s look at a quick example of a page that I optimized for Sean.

A blog post called Best Questions to Ask References, The Complete List. Sean‘s target keyword for this post was questioning to ask for references.

So, I added that keyword to the top of the page. Why?

Because Google puts more weight on words that appear at the beginning of your content. So, it’s important that your keyword shows up there.

I also sprinkled in a few LSI keywords like business tips. LSI keywords are terms that are closely related to your target keyword. When you include these LSI keywords in your content, you’ll get a ranking to boost.

In fact, my recent analysis of one million Google search results found that LSI keyword-rich content tended to outrank content that didn’t contain LSI keywords. So, how can you use LSI keywords to get higher rankings?

Well, let’s say you just wrote an article about coffee. LSI keywords for coffee would be things like a mug, caffeine, and Starbucks.

So, you want to make sure that you include those terms in your content. Our fourth step is to optimize your title and description tag for a click-through rate.

You probably already know that CTR is a huge ranking factor right now.

Think about it, if people searching for a keyword click on your result more than others, it tells Google that you’re the best result for that keyword and you’ll rank higher in Google.

In fact, a recently published Google research paper states that “Click-through read data has proven” to be a critical resource for improving “search ranking quality.”

Google research

So, it’s clear that CTR is an important ranking signal. The question is, how can you optimize for it?

Let me walk you through a real-life example. One of Sean‘s best blog posts was a huge list of job boards. Considering how epic this content was, it should’ve been ranking in the top three.

But, Sean‘s page was stuck in the fifth spot. And I had a feeling that the page’s title and description were hurting its CTR and rankings. Here’s what I did to turn things around.

First, I looked at the ad words ad that showed up when I searched for the best job boards and other related keywords. I noticed that almost every ad used a specific number. And none of the ads used the term niche talent.

So, I changed Sean‘s title tag to this and his description tag to this. These changes boosted that page’s organic click-through rate by 64.1%. And Sean currently ranks in the top three for his target keyword.

Now that I improved Sean‘s click-through rate, it was time to optimize his site around another important ranking factor, dwell time. That’s what step number five is all about. So, what is dwell time?

And how can you optimize for it?

When someone searches for a keyword and clicks on a result, two things can happen. They can stay on your site for a long time or they quickly click away.

The amount of time someone spends on your site is known as dwell time. As you might expect, the longer your dwell time, in general, the higher your page will rank in Google.

Here’s what I did to quickly improve Sean‘s dwell time. First, I moved Sean‘s content up so it appeared at the top of the page.

You see, Proven used to have huge gaps that pushed their content below the fold like this. So, I cut this gap down by about 50%. Sean‘s post also had giant images that pushed their content down even more.

I made these images smaller so they took up less room. Next, I made Sean‘s introductions more sticky. Here’s the deal. When someone comes to your site from Google, your intro makes them stick around or click away.

In fact, intros are so important that I spend more time on my intros than on my headlines. In Sean‘s case, I noticed that his introductions weren’t formatted in a reader-friendly way. See how all that text is squished together?

That’s really hard to read. So I formatted his intro so there was only one sentence per paragraph. I also cut out a few lines of text that weren’t compelling or interesting.

Overall, these tweaks boosted that page’s dwell time by 12.23%. Not too shabby. Okay, so our second to the last step is to improve your site’s loading speed.

Can make your site faster really improve your Google rankings?

Improve Your Rank

Definitely. In fact, our search engine ranking factor study found that faster-loading pages tended to outrank slow pages. Here’s how to quickly evaluate and improve your site’s loading speed.

First, head over to Google PageSpeed Insights. Just enter your site into the tool and fix the problems that it tells you about.

Next, check out GTMetrix. Just like Google‘s tool, GTMetrix will show you potential issues with your page’s code. But, it also lets you know about server hosting problems that can slow down your site.

For example, in Sean’s case, his images weren’t compressed. So, they took forever to load. And this single fix made a huge impact on his loading speed.

Now that Sean‘s site was optimized, error-free, and fast, it was time for the last step. Which is to publish a piece of content using the skyscraper technique.

You probably already heard about the skyscraper technique. If you haven’t, here’s the deal. The skyscraper technique is where you find the best content in your industry and then create something way better.

the skyscraper technique

So, I sent an email to Sean and asked him, “Have you noticed any content that’s ranking in Google, but isn’t even that good?”

He said, “Actually, everything I’ve seen “written about job descriptions is pretty weak.” Sean was right.

Most of the content out there about job descriptions was simple lists of links to different examples of job descriptions. For whatever reason, they all used the same lame stock photos.

So, I worked with Sean to create something way better than what was out there. How?

First, instead of a list of links to other pages, we listed each job description on a single page.

Next, Sean added helpful information about each job like the average salary and education requirements.

Finally, he used quality images instead of lame stock photos. Sean‘s post did great. It got a short-term surge in traffic after it went live.

Today, Sean‘s skyscraper content currently ranks in the top five for his target keyword. And thanks to this content and the other techniques from this checklist, Sean‘s organic traffic increased by 88.39%.

There you have it, my seven-step checklist to improve your Google rankings.

Now, I want to turn it over to you. Which tip from this article are you gonna try first?

Are you gonna work on your dwell time? Or do you want to delete zombie pages? Let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

Thank you so much for reading to the end.

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