Select Page

How I Ranked on the

First Page of Google


My Keyword Goal

I recently ranked on the first page of Google for a keyword that directly describes my brand.

Shawnee National Forest!

My brand is Hiking with Shawn; it’s all about hiking in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.

My main search competition includes state and federal government agencies, state and local tourism organizations, and other websites created long before I made mine.

Getting ranked on the first page of Google was always a goal but looked like a very far away goal.

But I had a strategy in place. I stuck with my strategy. And now, I’m ranking on page one for the keywords Shawnee National Forest, which completed my goal.

Now I want to show you how I did it so that you can adjust your strategies to get on the first page of Google with the keywords you’re targeting for.


To Get on the First Page of Google, You Need to Build Your Brand

So, the first thing I will talk about is brand development.

I started Hiking with Shawn on YouTube. I was posting one video now and then. I soon learned that consistency is a big deal to grow on YouTube. I changed to posting a few videos a week, and nowadays, I have some form of long-form or short-form video posted daily on my channel.

I created a Facebook page and a group. I got very active in the local hiking community on Facebook. I asked permission and promoted my video content. It got me a lot of subscribers but even more views.

I got on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and other social media platforms to make sure I had a presence on those as well. I tried to post unique content for each of them.

Social media algorithms focus on native content. My strategy is straightforward! 90% of content posted is native. Text-based posts, photo and video uploads to the social platform, and stories/reels created on the platform (not repurposed from another network). The other 10% of my content is promotional such as links to my blog posts and YouTube videos.

I developed my simple YouTube channel into a full-scale social media brand in five years. It was all a part of my five-year business plan.

Treat your brand as a business, plan for it, stick to your strategies, and you’ll grow it. Even if you don’t intend to monetize your brand, it should still be treated as a business, and strategy should be implemented.


Learn About Search Engine Optimization and Digital Marketing

SEO and marketing are critical if you want to get on the first page of Google.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It simply means that you’re creating your content in a way that is friendly for search engines to index it. Indexing means the search engine is looking at and recording your content and putting it on its search results. The more valuable your content is, the more it’s shared, and the more people are reading it – the better it will rank on search engine results.

SEO is all about getting on page one of Google.

You want to get on page one because most people don’t search past page one. Their answers are usually right on the first page. So, you have to do things to ensure you can get on the first page when people search for a website or content like yours.

This is done using keywords.

The keyword I targeted was ‘Shawnee National Forest” because 99.999% of my content is directly about the Shawnee National Forest.

When people search for information about the Shawnee National Forest, I wanted my website to be right up there with the US Forest Service and tourism websites. It took SEO and marketing work, but now it is legit.

Digital marketing is about promoting your content and getting your eyes on it. There are plenty of free organic marketing methods but plenty of paid options as well.

However, one main rule is always to remember when you’re doing SEO and marketing work to get on the first page of Google – Always create for humans ethically. This means that you should make content for humans before search engines. Google wants you to do that! And when it comes to marketing, don’t become a spammer. It can KILL your presence on search results. Be ethical about it all.


Get on the First Page of Google by Blogging Frequently

Whoever says blogging is dead is missing many opportunities to rank for their targeted keywords.

To get my website on page one for “Shawnee National Forest” was a blog post that got me there!

The blog post was centered on things to do in the Shawnee National Forest.

Now there is a backstory that leads to this blogging strategy so let’s cover that one first before I dig into the main points of the blog post that got me on page one.

My Backstory:

When I first started blogging for Hiking with Shawn, I researched what I chose as my competition. Government agencies, tourism organizations, and other directly related websites started long before I did.

I researched their content strategies on their blogs, general website content, and social media elements.

I ensured that my content strategies on the above points focused on higher content frequency than those websites.

This led me to start posting a new blog post once a week. I will post on Thursday and 10:00 AM CST. That allows me to be consistent with my content strategy. My viewers know when my content will post, and so does Google.

I focused on Quality Content that users of the forest and trails were asking about. I focused on unique and genuine content that was not being served or was under-served on other websites that I was competing with.

For about two years straight, I could consistently post new blog posts weekly on new topics.

Now I ranked for longer-tailed keywords that used “Shawnee National Forest” in the keyword but also focused on topics that I wrote about, such as “Shawnee National Forest Cabins,” which I dominate on Google. I would ensure each article focused on my target keyword with a topic. I wrote one article for each topic.

I promoted each article on my Facebook page, Facebook Group, Twitter, and Instagram Story. My primary “product” is my hiking videos. I start each one with the familiar intro of “Howdy Folks, Shawn here from Hiking with Shawn dot com” so that everyone who watches my videos knows I have a website.

I don’t burn out from content creation because I love writing. If you don’t like writing, it won’t work for you unless you hire a freelancer or something like that. Advertisement Time: I am an outdoor brand freelance content creator and digital marketer. I provide content and digital marketing services for the outdoors. If you need help, Contact Me Today, and let’s talk about it. Consultation is and always will be free. End of Advertisement!

So, to make this method work, you should focus on content creation daily. I write every day, but I also take vacations where I don’t write. I also often bike, hike, and will soon be kayaking. I ensure I don’t just write and do other things to keep me from burning out.

Constantly creating new content will help you get on the first page of Google. Create the content and use a scheduling feature. I blog with the self-hosted version of WordPress, which over 40% of the website on the internet use at the end of the day. WordPress has an out-of-the-box feature that allows you to schedule your content. I keep content scheduled ahead of time, so I don’t get behind.

Getting behind can hurt your SEO efforts.

Now back to the article that got me on page one – what was my strategy?

Most of the articles I posted on my blog once a week were trail guides for the 400+ miles of trails within the Shawnee. Good, updated trail guides were just not around, so I took advantage of that gap and filled it. My trail guide series is popular.

But that wasn’t getting me on the first page of Google.

What got me on that was the article I wrote that directly targeted the “Shawnee National Forest” keywords.

The article is 100 Things To Do in the Shawnee National Forest!

Here’s the deal! Everyone on social media always asks about what to do in the Shawnee. It is one of those questions that annoy everyone. I saw the opportunity and took it.

Let’s experiment, okay?

Open Google Search. Type in a random keyword. Search it.

I’m 99.999% certain you will see a “Numbered List Article Format.” My “1000 Things To Do…” is an example of a numbered list article format. I am giving you 100 things to do in the Shawnee.

But it’s not only a list; it’s the most extensive list of things to do in the Shawnee.

The strategy for making high-quality list posts is simple. Find the most extensive list currently on page one and make your list bigger. I chose 100 because it will be challenging to compete with it. But I have strategies to compete with those who contend with it.

You don’t have to write 100 points. But if the highest numbered article on the first page of Google is 25, you should at least go 10 to 20 points higher. 35 to 45 or more is going to be your sweet spot.

It might seem complicated to come up with 45 ideas, but it isn’t that hard. You take one of the points in the leading numbered article on Google’s first page and break it down into sub-points. That is how you add extra points to your list.

Aside from Numbered List formats, the “How To” format does well. But you have to focus on topics that are not oversaturated unless you can describe a more straightforward method of how to do something. Easy is what people want. Free is what people want. Focus on what people want.

Please the people in your niche!

And that’s how I got my blog post on the first page of Google.


You Don’t Always Stay on the First Page of Google.

I  compare SEO and content marketing strategies for Google to my cycling passion.

I’m a road cyclist!

I’m a fan of the Tour de France, which, if you don’t know, is a famous annual road bike race in Europe.

The way the Tour works is that riders gain points to win stages. The ultimate goal is to win enough stages to win the entire Tour in the Yellow Jersey, which is the main winning spot. Riders may wear the yellow jersey for one stage, but if someone gets more points than them, they can take the jersey away. To me, the Tour de France works just like Google SEO.

It is a victory for me to rank on the first page of Google for the main keyword of my niche. It is my yellow jersey. But it can quickly be taken away from me. Someone can make better content that takes my rank away.

So, when you rank on page one. It doesn’t end there.

You have to stay on top of it!

I wrote my article targeting “Shawnee National Forest.” I’m not writing another article that targets that exact keyword phrase. But I will do two things:

  1. Update the existing article from time to time
  2. Link the existing article to previous and future content

I want to update the existing article here and there to keep it relevant and modern. I might add more points to it at some period where there are more than 100 things to do. I want to ensure that people keep coming back to the blog post and that new folks keep visiting it. I don’t just create and let it die. That is social media, where it is practically impossible to repurpose old content. The real estate is yours on your website; you can do it, and you should.

And, of course, I’ll edit previously made content where appropriate and add the link to my “100 things to do” article. I’ll mainly do that to articles still getting a lot of views and the older articles that I wish to update for repurposing and reviving. I’ll also focus on linking to the article on newer content where appropriate.

Doing these two things will help keep people continuing to visit and read the article that got me on the first page of Google. And that will help me keep that article on page one at the end of the day.


You Can Do This, Too! I’ll Show You How! Even If You Don’t Think You Can!

I’m not trying to sell you something here! My advertisement already ended a few paragraphs up!

But I want to inform you that you can win this victory just like me, even if you don’t think you can.

The trick is niching down on a topic that you’re passionate about.

Don’t create a blog about fishing if you don’t know much about or don’t like to fish. Too many bloggers and content creators start brands and websites on topics they don’t know anything about simply because the topics are trending or popular. They are usually money-making topics. The problem is that the people that successful with those topics know a lot about those topics. If you don’t, you’ll likely crash and burn. Once you crash and burn, it is easy to get into the mindset of “never wanting to do a thing sort of activity again” and that is not a good mindset.

Avoid it with my advice:

Determine your main passion. What do you love to do the most? What do you enjoy doing every day? That is your passion.

That is your niche! That is what you should be blogging about.

And if the current niche for your passion is oversaturated, meaning there is enormous competition, don’t get upset; there is a way to overcome that, too.

Niche down even further.

I’m a perfect example!!!

I love hiking. I hike multiple days a week and put in hundreds to thousands of miles yearly. But I don’t hike the AT or the PCT. I don’t go out west for a hike. I rarely leave my state to hike. So, blogging about general hiking on all different National Forest and Park trails would be hard to accomplish. But you know where I hike the most? Shawnee National Forest! So, I have niched down so much that I’m a local niche, whereas I blog about the Shawnee 99.999% of the time.

Hiking the Shawnee National Forest is my niche. And because I do it so much, I always have ideas to blog about it.

So, anyone can do it, and that includes you. If you don’t have a passion in life, get one! Everyone should have a hobby or interest that they love. It makes living in a negative world much easier and more enjoyable.


And that is all that needs to be written here. That’s my story on how I ranked my desired keywords on the first page of Google. Even though the “100 things to do” article got me on page one, I think this article is the best I’ve ever written. I get to show you how I did it, and I love that a lot. I hope you loved reading this article and if you know anyone else who’d love it, tell them about it. Follow the advice above, and I bet you will rank on Google Page One in no time!

Shawn Gossman

About the Author

Shawn Gossman has created content, blogged, ran online communities, and shared a passion for digital marketing for over twenty years. Shawn believes the best way to help content creators, businesses, brands, and marketers is to give away more than you sell. The same advice is recommended for the readers that follow this blog. Shawn also offers a variety of services for extra help in the area of content creation, blogging, forums, and digital marketing.

Join the Official Shawn Gossman Mailing List