How I Became the "Smartest Man in Minnesota"

If you ask Google who is the smartest man in Minnesota it will tell you it is Dylan Koltz-Hale and show my picture. Even more entertaining is if you ask a virtual assistant it will say my name, the Google assistant even pronounces my name better than most of my high school substitute teachers. 

So how did I become the smartest man in Minnesota? I will take you through how I was able to get my website’s page to rank in the number one organic result and earn the rich snippet for keywords related to “smartest man in Minnesota”.

Before I go further, I just want to make sure that anyone who works in digital marketing reading this knows I am not boasting as if I accomplished something difficult or novel. My goal was to rank for a funny vanity keyword. That being said I am quite pleased with myself if I am being honest because I now possess the ultimate party trick. 

Understanding Search Engines

Search engines work by attempting to return a result that will most effectively fulfill the searcher’s intent. This should be self-explanatory, but understanding this axiom is important as all practices in modern SEO (search engine optimization) work on this premise.

SEO is too complex to even consider explaining in any depth for this blog, but if you understand how the concepts of relevance and authority are used by search engines to return quality results you will be able to follow along.

In order for Google to return a result, it must determine what content will be relevant to the searcher’s query. Google accomplishes this by crawling websites for information that contains keywords and context that relate to the search term. Old school SEO used to rely on exploiting keyword frequency in order to rank pages. Over the past 5 years or so, search engines have become more complex and have incorporated user experience metrics such as bounce rate and time on page to determine how well a particular page serves the search intent behind a given keyword.

When a website has many links pointing to it from other websites it shows Google that this website is a trusted authority, otherwise why would so many people be referring to it? The authority of a website can be measured by DA (domain authority), which calculates a website’s score from 1-100 based on the quantity and quality of its backlink profile.

Choosing a Keyword

I knew whatever keyword I ranked for I wanted it to show up as a rich snippet, that is when Google pulls information from a website and displays it directly on the results page. These are common for queries that involve questions about people.

I began searching for “ most adjective man Minnesota” and related keywords and found that the “smartest man in Minnesota” keyword returned a rich snippet result from the magazine City Pages’ website with an article covering the “smartest man in baseball”, Craig Breslow, who pitched for the Twins in 2017. Further investigation revealed there were no pages targeting or optimized for the exact keyword “smartest man in Minnesota”.

I evaluated my opportunity to rank for the keyword “smartest man in Minnesota” based on relevancy and authority and I was all set on relevancy for my target keyword as I was going to be running unopposed for that exact keyword. I did look into other keywords such as “smartest man in the World” but those results were much more competitive and I knew I had no shot at even appearing on pages 2 or 3, let alone winning the rich snippet.

I was a little concerned that I would not be able to buck the City Pages website from the number one position though as it boasts a DA of 78 and doesn’t even register when I run it through tools ?. The fact that I was able to rank for this keyword demonstrates how the algorithm prioritizes keyword relevancy first and then will evaluate user behavior and DA if multiple websites serve similarly relevant results.

Optimizing My Page

I knew that if I could convince Google my website was the best source of information for who the “smartest man in Minnesota” is, I had a decent shot and winning the ranking. 

If you read the page on my website you will notice I phrase “smartest man in Minnesota” in a few different ways and place it a question and answer structure. When we remember that Google simply wants to serve the best result to a query, it then makes sense that restating the question you want your site to rank for and then answering immediately after is a powerful method for earning relevancy.

In addition to phrasing, I made sure the keyword was wrapped in header code: <h2>Smartest Man in Minnesota</h2>. This is because search engines crawl websites like humans read, by scanning headlines. If the search engine registers a keyword in the header it knows the content is probably relevant to the query.

In order to get my website some authority, I built some links to it from sites I admin. I would probably get zero replies if I wanted to reach out to websites and ask for a link to some dumb joke of a page and I didn’t want to spend money on guest posting so I pretty much depended on the few links I could muster and being the most relevant result in order to win the ranking.

I did a number of other small optimizations that aren’t really even worth writing about, the internet is already clogged with resources for optimizing pages.

Patience and Other Notes

From the time I started working on ranking the page until I earned the rich snippet has been about 3 months. Google does not usually make rapid changes to search results. This because it simply takes a while for the algorithm to crawl millions of websites and make changes to billions of search results for keywords. Also, Google will send up and coming pages test traffic to see how the users behave. I remember in early October I was checking my page’s rank and I appeared on the bottom of page one for “smartest man in Minnesota” for like a day before dropping off the face of the earth for about a month. I don’t remember seeing my website on page one again until I won the featured snippet and top organic result. 

As I alluded to earlier, I believe I was able to buck the City Pages result because my page is simply more relevant to my target keyword. However, if City Pages or any other high DA website wanted to they could probably kick my result out of the top spot anytime they wanted. I don’t think I will get kicked though for a couple of reasons. One, there is no commercial intent behind the search so no one stands to make money by ranking for this keyword. Two, it is a low competition keyword, so unless anyone starts a “Smartest Man in Minnesota” award I can rest easy knowing I am the smartest man in Minnesota, at least according to the most trusted answer machine in the world. 

If you have an organization or personal keyword you want my help in getting ranked, shoot me a message.

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