This is a follow up post to my previous post on ranking #1 world-wide for the search phrase “Upwork sucks” in less than 3 weeks. Ranking at the top of Google for a controversial phrase and welcoming thousands of freelancers to click, comment, and share the heck out of a story that made them feel better, at least momentarily, was surely a bit of fun — not to mention a great opportunity to promote any resource related to freelancing on the web. But that was the easy part!
A few weeks later, and now I’m ranking on page #1 for their actual company name, Upwork. No joke, my article is now the #3 or #4 result OVERALL on Google, outranking even Upwork’s own Twitter, LinkedIn, and Wikipedia profiles.
What!? How does that even work? How does a blogger with no hookups in Silicon Valley, no friends at the New York Times, and no advertising or marketing budget… literally just a KEYBOARD… outrank dozens of corporations with millions of dollars in capital funding, huge domain authority, and thousands of backlinks??
And therein, of course, lies the absolute beauty of the internet (and our dear friend Google).
Ranking highly for an entity’s name is not a new achievement for me. Indeed, in the past I’ve been accused of things like blackmail, extortion, or otherwise, because I’m able to rank so highly for “certain” commercial phrases over a long period of time, and “certain” parties have accused me of immoral intentions — which of course, isn’t true at all.
“I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices. Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
In fact, it’s quite the opposite: whether it be a political, social, or marketing issue, I believe strongly in grabbing attention and forcing a discussion to take place; the internet is a beautiful thing, but only when individuals and bloggers of all flavors put serious effort into a resource and then work to make it visible. Nothing is as important in the digital age as transparency and debate, as these are what keep governments, corporations, and even ourselves, the most accountable!
So then, ranking for “Upwork sucks” is a rather tongue-in-cheek phrase to rank highly for, is it not? If my only audience for a story that explores problems with Upwork’s business model are “angry” freelancers searching a phrase with pre-conceived negativity, well, it definitely has potential, but not nearly as much as ranking for the “Upwork” name itself.
Pushing an article “over the edge” i.e. “bumping” it from a high ranking for a niche phrase into a high(er) ranking for an even more niche phrase is where a true understanding of how Google thinks comes in handy. And while many things in Google’s algorithm change on a daily (or hourly!) basis, there are some things that don’t:
1. Update your post. Seriously. I can’t stress this enough; I can recommend this until I’m blue in the face, and 99% of the time nobody will follow it (not that I care… just makes things easier for the rest of us!). But really, if you understand that Google’s algorithm cares not only about regularly-updated content, but about content that is specifically updated in regard to the core topic that it “claims” to be written about, you will know why I stress this so much. In the case of my Upwork article, my original story was largely about my own personal experience and criticism of the platform in general. Over the coming weeks, however, I updated the piece several times with information and LINKS that were relevant not only to Upwork “sucking” but also to Upwork specifically, i.e. their CEO’s apology, a recent blog post from their website, and some recent tweets from Twitter in regard to Upwork. This clearly helped to hit home the point that my article was not just about “sucking” but about recent, high profile events that directly correlated with Upwork as a brand and overall entity.
2. Pick up a few niche backlinks. In my first post I mentioned that “over-distributing” (i.e. spamming) an article is a stupid move, and that you really only need to distribute your story to a few highly engaged communities. THAT IS 100% TRUE. However, while distribution on a niche social network or discussion forum definitely sends good signals to Google (not to mention the HUGE benefit of actual visitors, bookmarks, emails, and social shares that result), you can still benefit even MORE by getting some non-social types of backlinks too. For example, a few niche blog comments always help (on REAL, QUALITY blogs), or a blogger or two that reference your story is even more valuable. So the social distribution may get the juice flowing (and help rank, a bit) but the double-punch really comes when you achieve a few niche backlinks as a result.
3. Re-share it with your updates. What good is updating your article if you aren’t going to re-distribute it again? I’m not saying to go back to the same places and spam the link multiple times, but at least get it out again on Facebook, Twitter, or otherwise with a nice big “UPDATE!” attention getting message. If you take your updates seriously and communicate the significance of the update, these follow-ups can often generate more of a following than your original story.
4. Get at least one authoritative link. I’m not gonna lie; the truth is that getting at least one link from an authoritative website can help solidify your killer new ranking! from your previous kind-of-good-ranking for specific long-tail phrases. In my case, I was already creeping up to Page #1 of Google for “Upwork” without an authoritative link, however, I do know that getting this link surely didn’t HURT my ability to maintain that new top spot for “Upwork” for the past several days (and most likely the coming weeks/months… or even longer). In my case the authoritative link I got was from a Wikipedia page, because my article was the ONLY place on the web that documented the apology issued by Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel. In other words, my UPDATES provided encyclopedic value to the internet! Now, if you’re still not getting it… please return to #1 :)