In order of importance
- Persistence – this. In other words, the job is never done.
- On-page optimization – if this is wrong you fail
- On-site optimization – if this is wrong your job is a lot harder
- Off-Site Optimization – if you promote it they will come, probably
- Social Signals – because Google has had it with abused backlinks
What keyword are you trying to rank for? Why? Who is ranking for it? Do what they are doing better.
That is the flip answer at least but it makes an important point which is that Google has to show its hand. If you’d like to know how to rank your site take a look at those who are currently ranking. Whatever they are doing will give you some hints on what you need to so.
Content and Social Engagement
When you look at the top search results for your terms what do the sites look like? Do they look better? What page titles do they use? Have more, better written content? Have more images and videos? Do they have a strong social presence? What do their Facebook and Twitter pages look like?
After you have done this for the top ten sites, what have you learned? Of that what could you do that you are not doing now? Or how could you do it better?
If you have done this and you still do not have a clue, it’s time to start looking at more technical details. If you are using WordPress, as wonderful as that CMS is, it does a few dumb things out of the box. Check out this WP SEO guide for some advice on cleaning up those non-obvious issues.
If you feel that your site is as good as its going to get for content, social engagement and technical issues then start thinking about “off-site issues”. That is code for backlinks – in other words who links to your website. The more high quality website that link to your the better your site will rank.
All that above is time consuming but it isn’t very hard. Do the work yourself if you have a limited budget or hire someone good to do it if you don’t