Google Rankings, SEO and What Matters

Big Changes Afoot.

Why do you have a website? For most it boils down to sales or income. We have our websites to help us bring in an income.

Essential to this is website traffic, the people who actually visit our websites. Assuming our site can convert traffic to sales, the more relevant traffic we receive the better. I include the word “relevant” because we want our traffic to be people who are actually interested or likely to buy what we sell . . . it’s a waste to receive traffic that will never convert to sales. There are many components to a well designed sales machine on the internet, but without relevant traffic none of it matters.

So . . . how do we get traffic?

With lots of variety the two main sources for traffic are SEO and paid advertising. SEO is short for “search engine optimization;” the purpose is to increase the chances that a website will so up in the search engine results for relevant searches. Paid advertising of course is buying ad space in one of the myriad of venues on the web. Both have their advantages and in some cases have a good deal of overlap.

Ok, so that’s the backdrop of what I want to talk about, the relevance and importance of what I have to say varies from business to business and market to market, but my belief is that it is important for anyone doing business online to consider. AND, as time goes on it will only become more important to include.

Many companies will try to sell you SEO services, many of them are not very good and beyond certain basics you may ask if it’s really the best place to spend your money on bringing folks to your site. For several years I’ve offered SEO services myself, I know that when matched with the right markets it can be a great boon . . . but increasingly the search engines themselves are working against you if you rely on SEO.

You see, the search engines rely on advertising to make their money, the more ads they sell, the more money they make. . . . and they ARE in the business of making money. For the sake of simplicity I’m going to focus on Google since they are the #1 search engine.

Google has to do a balancing act, maximize revenue via ads while providing enough relevant results to searchers that they won’t switch search engines. So the big question is, how do they make the most money from the results they provide. They are constantly experimenting with this.

I’m going to turn cynic here for a moment, you see Google lies. Recently a Google spokes person released a statement regarding changes I’ll address below: “We are constantly exploring the best way to bring a better search experience to our users.”  This is a lie, what they really do is explore the best way to stay the #1 search engine while increasing revenue from ads.

Why is this even important to consider? Because as Google finds ways to increase revenue from ads, the organic results from SEO are pushed further and further from the viewers eyes. Google is looking for ways to make the paid ads seem to be the most relevant results for people using the search engine.

In the San Fransisco area Google is now experimenting with a way to eliminate the Google Maps/Pages listings for businesses in the home and building trades. The “7 pack” of Google Maps results we’ve come to know is being replaced with paid service listings to get direct bids from various service contractors. Here is an example:



And a closer look –



If you look at the first image above, you will also see that no individual site is showing up, the organic results are dominated by Yelp. To me this says that you must consider the relevancy of spending on SEO for your website when you are better off buying ads and optimizing your Yelp page.

As I said before, each market needs to be addressed on it’s own and, sometimes it’s not Yelp that dominates organic results but rather YellowPages or Angie’s List or any of numerous other mega-directory sites. But I do believe that this is a trend that will only increase, paid ads get prominence at the expense of organic results. If Google can find ways to make searchers believe that the paid results ARE the most relevant results Google wins big time. This is their goal.

The above is in testing phase but already being instituted is Google’s elimination of the “7 pack” of Google Map results with the new “3 Pack” What this means is that the businesses that show up in the “free” Google Map results (when it shows) are fewer . . . that means that it’s also harder to get displayed there. (See – 7 Pack Gone)

When you can get good ranking for relevant searches via SEO it can be a gold mine . . . but it’s not really free and usually takes time. Some markets it’s well worth it some it’s not. And once you get it right, the next change in Google might wipe you out.

Paid ads assure you quick placement and, if well designed, quick results. But before you run out and hire a company to handles your ads know that as with SEO, many ad management companies are not very good. You need to do your due diligence. Find a company that willing to optimize your ads and test the results. Setting up a campaign can be complicated (or probably more aptly: tedious ), once properly set up though the results are quick.