Have you ever been in this scenario? Perhaps you’re a brand new company that just made a website, and you’re struggling to come up on Google. Or maybe you’re a well-established brand in a competitive market, and can’t seem to break into the top page of search results.
No matter where you fall in that spectrum, it can be both frustrating and potentially detrimental to your business. After all, customers need to be able to find you in order to generate leads or sales. Don’t panic, there are things you can do, both in the short and long term, to help ensure your business is found when people search.
The no. 1 thing not to do
Keep Googling yourself to see where you rank or how you come up.
For those of you who know why you should never do this, let this serve as an important reminder. For the rest of you who haven’t heard why this is such a futile and detrimental thing to put your website marketing – and yourself – through, it’s in your best interest to read on!
Google is an ever-changing, omnipresence that puts every ounce of its existence into being the best search engine out there. On that premise, rest assured it has many in-depth, algorithm-based rules and preferences to determine your intent and it is a multi-faceted decision as to what to serve up to each search. (Not to mention that according to Google, these algorithms quite literally undergo some amount of change almost every day–talk about a moving target!)
Here are facts you need to know that may stop you from Googling your own business
No two searches are the same. Chances are that there are literally hundreds (or in some cases even thousands) of keywords and phrases that are relevant to what you do and offer that people search for, and it’s nearly impossible to rank highly for all of them with a single page of content. Even the prevalence of voice search these days has altered how and what people search for. Your page may rank well for one term, but not for another, and a single Google search won’t show you this. Start making changes based on a single search term, and you may kill your organic performance on others.
Two people searching the same words may have completely different search results. While Google says they don’t necessarily ‘personalize’ results in the way you might think, they do take into consideration the context and intent of the searcher. For example, Google knows that I’m located in London, UK. It’s also figured out that I often search for businesses and places located here. So if I search for something in the future, I’m more likely to get results relevant to London, UK, than say London, Canada. Add to this the prevalence and weight of local search results, and what you see may differ quite a bit from that of your potential customer.
If you Google your business name and it does come up, you’ve put yourself in a bad situation because any action you take next may send less than positive information back to Google regarding your site’s quality.
- You could inadvertently lower your own rank. If you Google yourself, see your website and don’t click on it, you’ve just told Google that the result it showed you is not relevant for that search. Yikes! Let’s avoid that one.
- If you Google yourself, see your website and want to avoid sending the wrong message to Google about relevancy, you could click on it. But unless you spend time on your website next and click to other pages showing engagement, you are sending Google Analytics a bounced visit and pulling down your own website stats. Again, you may be telling Google that the site’s relevancy to your search wasn’t great.
If you are using paid Google Ads, these scenarios also mess with your ad performance and can cost you money in addition. Click on the ad, and you pay for your own doing. Don’t click, and you’ve made your ad look less relevant to the machine learning algorithms, potentially lowering your quality score which can hinder performance and increase your costs. This is a losing scenario either way!
So what should you do instead if you’re worried about your organic search rankings or performance?
The science of organic ranking
Search engine optimisation, machine learning, algorithms, rank brain, schema, metadata… If you’ve tried to dabble in the world of organic rankings, you’ve probably run across a boatload of industry jargon. And you’re probably more confused than ever regarding what it actually takes these days to find favour with search engines such as Google.
Google is still the king of search, bringing in more search volume than any other search engine, so naturally it tends to be the one marketers are most concerned about. Google uses a mostly secret and proprietary formula called an algorithm to determine what results it shows whenever a user searches for something. The algorithm is constantly changing day to day as it gathers data about how people interact with those results, with major algorithm updates happening a few times a year. Without getting into too much nerdery here, the key takeaway is that SEO is a moving target. What got you to page one of the search results a few years ago is not the same today. And what gets you there today may not be good enough tomorrow. Google gives some broad tips and hints about best practices for websites in order to get found, but where you rank will also depend largely on a lot of other factors–many of which you can’t control.
The long game
Plan to learn and do as much SEO yourself as you do your own dental work. Being knowledgeable and doing some groundwork yourself is great. The rest is a very niche industry and skill set. Here’s what you need to know.
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is most effective as a long-term strategy. Progress rarely happens overnight, or even over a few weeks or months. In fact, pages ranking in the top 10 organic search results are 2+ years old on average – make that 3 years old for the no. 1 position. This is why you often won’t see immediate results from your SEO work, but over time you should see a cumulative effect by way of increasing organic traffic. Keep building on SEO improvements such as high-quality content generation and meta data optimisation to help you grow organic traffic.
Pay to be: The fast-track to getting found
But what if you don’t have time to wait for results?
If your business needs to find online traffic quickly, paying for online ads on Google, Bing, Facebook, etc. should be a part of your marketing mix. Doing paid ads on Google provides the opportunity to show up on page 1 of search results, often above the organic results, in a short time frame. It also allows you to target very specifically and choose your own budget.
I’m doing ok organically, Why would I pay for ads?
Because they work! Did you know that according to Google 40% of all clicks on Google search result pages go to the top three ad placements? Just take a look at Amazon as a great example. Even though Amazon performs amazingly well from an organic standpoint, they still round out the list of top spenders on Google Ads, year after year. They know that if you’re not running ads, you’re losing clicks and customers to someone else who is.
Google has also done a lot over the last few years to improve the ad experience, both for advertisers and for Google users. For the advertiser, targeting options have never been better! You can quickly find people who are looking for what you offer right now, who are searching for answers, who fit your demographics and psychographics, who are reading about things related to what you do, and more. They’ve also given ads the best placement on most search result pages, helping ensure people see your ads.
From a user standpoint, Google has required advertisers to provide high relevance (no more clicking on an ad and going to a totally unrelated landing page). Google wants the ads to be useful to the user, and as a result, quality has gone up significantly over the last 3-5 years. Lots of people click on ads every day, stealing away plenty of traffic from organic search results.
Nothing is free
Remember too that although you don’t directly pay for clicks from organic traffic, it’s certainly not a ‘free’ traffic source at the end of the day. Ranking well organically rarely happens by accident. It’s typically the result of lots of behind-the-scenes work on crafting useful, interesting, or entertaining content that people are searching for. All that content takes time and resources to create, but the long-term benefits can be far-reaching in terms of consistently driving traffic to your website.