SEO: Can Search Engine Optimization Get Your Site To The Top of Google

This post was sparked by a comment I read on a forum.  In the post, the lady that made the post said, “Don’t hire an SEO firm if they say they can get you to the first page of Google.”  So, the question is can SEO, whether it is you or an SEO company doing it, get you to the first page of Google?

I think the question is better asked this way, “How much SEO is needed to get you to the first page of Google for the term you are targeting and is it worth it?”  Every search done on Google has websites show up in the first 10 results; the first page.  It is a misnomer to think that all searches are dominated by a few websites.  I have 1000’s of keywords that rank on the first page of Google.  Some of them I didn’t even have to do anything to except put the page up.

The answer to the first question is yes, seo can get you to the first page of Google.  The second question is the harder one to answer and is the one we must understand whether we are doing our own SEO or paying someone to do it for us.  Either way, it can make or break us in the search engines.

You first have to decide if a particular keyword phrase has any value at all.  This is done through keyword research.  I will not go into that aspect of this discussion in this post, but I will instead focus on the competitive analysis of the phrase and the effort it would take to rank for that phrase.  Then I will compare that to the amount of benefit to determine if the keyword phrase is one that should be targeted.

I am going to use two keyword phrases to illustrate a process that I use to figure out if a keyword phrase is one that I can rank for and how much work it will take.  The two phrases are “wireless alarm system” and “apartment alarm system”.  You need to have the mozbar from installed to do this method.  It is a free addon for the firefox and chrome browsers.  You don’t need it installed to follow along with this post.  I will provide screenshots along the way.

keywords first page google

The Steps and Tools

The first thing that I do when I have identified a potential keyword to target is to do a search in Google without being logged into Google.  The mozbar places stats under each of the results returned by Google.  I first quickly glance to see the domain authority (DA) of each of the results.  If they are all very low, under 30, I already know that I have a very good chance of ranking, but I still am not sure of the effort.  If they are all 60 or higher, my initial feelings will be that it could be a little tough to rank.  From this data, so far, we cannot really determine anything.  Don’t let these initial number scare you or make you over zealous.

The next thing I look at is the page authority of each of the results.  This number is what the moz algorithm has assigned as the value, on a scale of 0 – 100, of the the page itself.  You also will see how many links are linking to each of the pages next to the PA score.  The number of links does not mean that there are that many different websites linking into the page.  It is possible that the website in which the page resides is linking to itself from many internal links.  It also is possible that a few external websites are linking from many of their own pages.

It is best to click on a link in the search results and visit the page.  Once you are on the page, you can click on the Use moz tools icon on the moz toolbar (it is the little wrench), and then navigate down to Links>SEOmoz Link Analysis.  This will show you the top pages linking into the page you are researching.  The link anchor text, page authority, and domain authority of the site linking in is very important here.  If the page has the exact match phrase linking in and the page authority and domain authority are good, then they are getting a fair amount of juice for the key phrase.  The more they have linked in with the this right formula, the better it is for them that they will either maintain their position or move up in the rankings.

You want to be able to match their efforts or do better than them if you are going to compete.  Obviously, you are looking for words that have the least amount of stuff working for your competitors that you can target.  If every result on the Google search page has a high domain authority, a medium to high page authority, and have a bunch of links with the exact match, you know that it will take a lot of effort.

The other point that I look at, if I have decided to go further, is the age of the site and the age of the page.  You can find out when a domain was first registered by doing a whois lookup.  This will not tell you how long there has been a site on the domain, but will only tell you how long the site has been registered.  To get a feel for how old the site is, and more importantly, how old the page is, I look at the page in

Go back up to the mozbar and click on the Use moz tools icon.  Navigate to Domain Tools>  This will take you to the first chronilogical entry that has for that page.  If there is no entry, the next best thing is to see what it has for the site you are researching.  You can use this data to compare the dates when each of the pages were put up.

This is important in your analysis because as you are looking at the data on the search results, you may think that a page lower in the search results should beat a page that is above it.  The age of the page is a determining factor in the search algorithm.  The lower page if young, and it has more going for it, will probably beat the higher, older page given more time.

The Process in Action

Let’s look at the first keyword phrase, wireless alarm systems.  The first thing I notice in this search is that all of the results are on domains with medium to high domain authority.  The second thing I notice is that all of the results have a greater than 50 page authority with all of them except for one, which is, having many links.  This tells me that it would be a lot of work and time to rank for wireless alarm system.  There are many other factors that are unique to each business that would determine if you would want to go after this phrase, but it is not one anyone could bank on for the foreseeable future.  It is not a phrase that I would go after.

wireless alarm system first page google

The second phrase, apartment alarm system, is a little more interesting.  Looking at the search results we can see that seven of the ten results have a domain authority of less than 50.  We can also see that four of them have a low page authority and low domain authority.  These are the ones that interest us.  This tells us that sites that are not that significant can rank for the key phrase, apartment alarm system.

For me, most of the time, this would be enough to say that I could rank for this phrase with a little bit of work.  But there is something else that is interesting; that can help us to understand how Google ranks sites.  At the time of this writing, as you can see in the screenshot, outranks and both of them outrank (doesn’t have the “s” on system), even though it has a higher domain and page authority.

apartment alarm system first page google

If we go to, we can see that is much older than both of the other sites, but its page about apartment alarm systems is only a few months older than the page from and the page from is the oldest by several months.  This, coupled with the link data, can give us some good insight into how Google ranks.

The page from has one high domain authority site linking into it with the exact match phrase.  It also has overall site age from 2008 going for it.  The site, has several domains linking in using the exact match keyword phrase.  It also has a medium domain authority site pointing to it with the exact match name,  Yes, that is correct, the site below the other two is pointing to it.  I could not verify if they were owned by the same person, but I suspect they are.  Also, seems to not have any important domains pointing to it with the keyword phrase.

My prediction, if everything stays the same, is that will out rank in the near future.  I also believe that there is plenty of room to compete for a spot on the first page of Google for this keyword phrase without a lot of effort, and with 210 searches being done every month in the US, it is a phrase that I would target if I were in the alarm system niche.  Also, the same phrase with an “s” added to system, apartment alarm systems, has a little more competition, but would not be too difficult to rank for.


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