If your site ranks in the first place of Google's search results, you receive about 35% of search traffic for given keywords. The second place equals to about 16% and the third position provides modest 7%. The higher you are, the better traffic you receive.
I will mention 20 ways that will help you to rank better, you just need to do the following:
1) Create a web site in a CMS/Framework that supports modern SEO technologies, like AMP, Metadata for Google search and Facebook, make sure sitemaps (normal one, image and video) of your website are published (many experienced web-developers from older times are missing it, as this used to be not-so-relevant in the past). Video and image sitemaps are being missed by most today.
2) Make sure your site works as fast as possible and it is on HTTPS. These are the ranking factors today. Testing performance is possible with tools like my favourite https://gtmetrix.com/. Pay attention to the mobile version speed and usability, it is a whole different world with its own rules. A decent tool is Google's PageSpeed Insights. After Google had started using Lighthouse for all the benchmarks, do also install a Lighthouse plugin into your Chrome.
3) Use SERP features. These are specially designed rich search results of Google that boost the number of visits. One of the most effective ones is video SEO; Utilise JSON-LD Schema markup for content on your pages for ability to be featured by Google. Provide the largest image you can in the metadata, but also take care of having reduced resolutions for Google to select. Now that Google News has become a prominent SERP feature too, take more care to get well-indexed in GNews.
5) Build a referring link skeleton and ensure you get a decent rank from OpenPageRank. You can check your dynamic ranking in various SEO tools like Semrush. They do not and cannot use PageRank itself, but do make a similar analysis, almost reflecting the original PageRank;
6) Create social media channels and post relevant content to drive social users to your site and encourage them to re-share your content. Mentions on social media are a very important ranking factor;
7) Create a YouTube channel, post videos that refer to your web site for additional details. Use these videos in video SEO, see video sitemap creation above;
8) Post quality content, that will attract and keep the core audience, the most exclusive and useful of it will gain you links from renowned Medias;
9) Use push messages to deliver interesting content to your existing users;
10) Submit your site to Google news to publish your content as fast as possible;
11) Use analytics like Matomo or Google Analytics to know what's going on today;
12) Get to know your audience and its interests, improve articles that have gained traction. It does not matter how many articles you create. What matters is how you maintain them in the search index. Avoid developing broken links over time. Google is after long-term quality;
13) Ensure your site is served via HTTPS. Learn how to configure HTTPS for your site.
14) Do use SEO analysis tools. Nowadays the search result optimisation (SEO) requires too many parameters to be accounted for, so it is simply impossible to understand what is going on with your website, without having crawled the most of the web and having analysed backlinks and weight of other domains.
15) Avoid poisonous links. Often sites do have spammy links pointing at them from link factories even and most of all if sites did not order them. Such hyperlinks can silently kill your positions in Google. Often similar factories demand you to pay to get rid of the links. Obviously, don't do so. These have to be disavowed (uploaded in a special text format to Google for the consideration and ignored during search position formation while crawling).
16) Use backlink researching software. Despite Google lets you see your backlinks via Search Console, I have found this to be extremely inaccurate, even despite Google advertises the method as a replacement to "link:" search request for SEO privacy reasons of competing sites. That said, any decent tool can show you hundreds of backlinks, unknown before. Also it could demonstrate which of them do pass the weight, and which do not, by just filtering out the results for nofollow and do-follow links.
17) Use SEO tools. Choose them wisely. I have tried to use a famous Ahrefs tool and made a lot of researches with it, but I do not think it is worth paying about 90 dollars per month for a tool that can just find backlinks to your website or analyse basic keyword position in search results, that does not represent the actual Google output in fact. Other functionality is underdeveloped and the tool itself looks quite aged. I used it as a complement to other tools on my trial period. But do agree, it is too expensive to pay a similar sum for 2-3 tools just to complement possibilities of one by a different one. The other tool I liked, while also not everything about it is Semrush. It looks modern and gives you mostly good advices. I still continue to research competing tools and will update this article as I come across different useful solutions.
18) Analyse competition. The most important feature of this and other SEO tools is ability to analyse your competitors and their strategies in-depth, adjust your website to rank appropriately.
19) Be on a watch-out for new features of search giants. As Google is ever changing its search algorithms in the race for a better user experience, more and more demands descend on shoulders of website developers and owners. As a web developer since 2001 I can admit, we should forget most of what we did till now and rebuild our strategy according to the new SEO market.
20) Optimise only one page for one set of keywords, not a site overall. Make sure you do not have two or more pages, competing for the same keywords.
One lesson I have learned from SEO tools optimisation, means both good and bad for Google.
The Good: Being more specific
We should create a page per specific set of keywords, that targets Google's top search results. That means we do not promote a website as a whole, it matters much more to promote a page itself.
The Bad: Being too specific
We might end up creating pages, that mean less sense to humans just to be in the first places of Google search results. Normally people search nominative and grammatically incorrect sets of words, that still should be findable on your page. You might face a challenge to have a page looking naturally to humans, at the same time corresponding to search results. This is much less of a problem in English-language searches, but more common to other languages.
So far I can only hope that new updates to Google eventually would take natural language into consideration and produce the same results for any sequence of words of the identical-meaning phrase.
This article will be constantly updated with the new findings, so feel free to bookmark it and return.
Last updated: 23 November 2019.