I have seen many who struggle to make their website rank 1st page so I'm sharing some tips and test we did recently.
Side note: off page SEO requires a lot of work so if your up for a very competitive niche prepare to work very hard or just simply hire and outsource
So our test involves 2 websites. We have chosen a keyword with 505,000 results for exact search(in Google) and has 9k exact searches per month.
website 1- The 1st site was optimized for the targeted keyword. Optimization was almost perfect that the end results was it had very low bounce rate 30% to be exact for the target keyword.
website 2-The 2nd site have content that is not even related to the keyword we are targeting. For example our target keyword is "law" the content of website 2 is weight loss related. No on page optimization was done. No keywords about law mentioned on the website. All content written are about weight loss. Title tag, description tags are all about weight loss.
The test was about "can we rank both sites on 1st page of Google while the other site(website 2) is just pure off page SEO? Can pure off page SEO make a website remain in 1st page?"
After many months of off page labor website 1 was on 1st page. The following month website 2 has also started showing in 1st page(we used different private proxies to check rankings. We also use rank trackers like SEscout - SERP tracker for web professionals)
It was a little funny because a weight loss site is ranking 1st page for a "law" keyword. So the conclusion is that with pure off page SEO your website can rank 1st page.
After a week website 1 is showing more progress and ranking higher. On the other hand website 2 just vanished from SERPS.
Conclusion: pure off page SEO is a waste of effort. Google will just reflect your website back to nowhereness
Now for the tips
If you want to reach 1st page work hard on your off page SEO campaign. Get as many quality backlinks. Yes backlinks can get you to 1st page(but backlinks is not the only factor that can make your website remain in 1st page.) The amount of work depends on how your competitor are also doing their campaign.
Put 3 layers on your backlinks. Layer 1 pointing to your main site, layer 2 pointing to your layer 1, and layer 3 pointing to your layer 2. This requires a lot of work but very effective. If you have a high budget then just buy high PR links from related websites make sure the exact page has the PR.
Now for most people that are wondering why they have been slapped by big G try using google analytics and google webmaster tools for once and evaluate every data available.
Many have reached 1st page and wondered why the next day their site is nowhere to be seen in the SERP. Try to evaluate your bounce rate. Are the visitors of your site actually think your site is useful to them? Do they visit other pages of your site? Does your visitors come back to your site?
Your on 1st page now and your bounce rate is 90-100%. In our test website 2 has very high bounce rate so google can easily determine its not related to the keyword it is ranking. Dont make Google think your site is irrelevant to your keywords you are trying to rank. Its a program bot so it will slap you right away. And even if you dont use analytics(thinking you would get away) google bot can still evaluate your data So just use analytics to your advantage.
Bottom line crappy sites gets slap by big G bots. Google also has manual reviewers so you also might want to watch out. They do review manually but can only do as much per day.
When your already in 1st page take advantage of your title and description tag. In the test website 1 title and description is very catchy that just by reading many people would click it even if its ranking on spot 8-10. If your site is ranking number 8 but its getting more click than site number 7 then its logical that your website is more relevant than site number 7 therefor google would basically rank your higher next update.
Combined with less bounce rate and more click through your site can easily reach top 3 ranking within a month.
I'm tired of typing now so I'll ad more next time
Please feel free to ask and share tips here. Learning is fun!