Search Engine Marketing - or

Search Engine Marketing – or “The Google Tour Guide”

June 17, 2011  |  Hints & Tips

So here’s a big topic that I’ve been asked about quite a bit recently: Search engine marketing.  Also known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  To be honest with you this is a topic that I’m somewhat hesitant to write about, simply because it’s such a deep and complicated topic.  However, it’s also a very necessary topic to discuss.  Here’s a typical scenario that illustrated the need for this article:

You’ve just spent a small fortune and several weeks getting your website developed.  You’ve launched your site and it’s now available to the public.  But the problem is, nobody’s going to your website.  You thought for sure that all you had to do is simply launch your site and the hungry buyers would come flooding into your site with fists full of dollars begging for your product or service.

The Problem:

Therein lies the problem.  Nobody can find you.  With tons of new websites launched each day, you are the proverbial needle in a hay-stack.  Just because you’ve launched a new website, does not mean that you are going to be found.

Now the typical business owner starts to do some research on how to show up on the first page of Google.  They get bombarded by companies that Guarantee that they can get you on the first page of Google.  They’re also presented with tons of misinformation on the art of SEO.  They receive terrible advice regarding little “tricks” they can use to get listed higher in the search engines.

Allow me to try and cut through all the crap and break everything down for you.  Please note that throughout the remainder of this article, I will be referring to SEO strictly as it pertains to Google.  For all intents and purposes, Google is the only search engine we care about, as it’s the industry leader.  Also, if you’re performing well in Google, chances are you’re performing just as well in the other search engines.

The Concepts:

There are two concepts you have to be familiar with before we continue this discussion:

Keywords:

Keywords are the words or phrase that you want people to type into Google to be able to find your website.  For example, the Keywords that I target are “Bahamas Web Design”.  Before you begin any SEO project, you have to determine what keywords you want to target to show up on Google.

The main thing you need to understand about keywords is that you want them to be laser-targeted.  The more targeted the keyword, the better.  For example, I’ve had real estate agents tell me that they want to show up when somebody does a search for “real estate”.  The problem with this is two-fold.  First of all, people searching for “real estate” are not necessarily searching for real estate in the Bahamas.  Secondly, the competition on that particular keyword is bound to be huge.  You’re going to end up wasting a great deal of time, money and effort trying to rank well for a term that may bring you visitors who are looking for Canadian real estate.  The better search term would be “Bahamas Real Estate”.

Google Bot (A.K.A. Website Crawlers):

The Google Bot is program known as a website crawler.  This website crawler scours the web and looks at the information on each webpage it visits and adds it to the Google index so that it can be added to the search results.  Google has a page on their website that explains it in detail (click here for the page).  But for our purposes, it’s enough to say that this bot will go to your website from time to time, look at your content and play part of the role in determining where your website should be ranked.

The Two Aspects of SEO:

Now that we’ve clarified some of the terms above, we can get into the meat and potatoes.  There are two aspects to SEO.  The first aspect is what is known as On-Page SEO and the second is Off-Page SEO.

On-Page SEO:

On-page SEO is stuff that you do to your website to make sure that Google likes it and the Google Bot has an easy time indexing your website.  On-page SEO consists of the structure of the website (including the way it was coded) as well as the content.  Any web-developer worth his/her salt will have developed your website with strong on-page SEO in mind.  Proper mark-up and the proper use of CSS is all a part of the web developer’s job.  However, you also have to keep SEO in mind when developing the content that you’re going to put on the website.  You have to use your main keywords in the site’s title and throughout the text on the website.  For example, my website is not going to show up when people search for “Bahamas Website Design” if those words don’t appear throughout the website.

Good on-page SEO is the foundation of getting ranked well on Google.  While Google does not look favorably upon other aspects of SEO, Google not only likes On-page SEO but also promotes it.  In fact, Google has released a free eBook that explains Google’s best practices for optimizing your website so that it’s easier for the Google bot to crawl, index and understand your website.  You can get it HERE.

Off-Page SEO:

And here we are at last.  Off-page SEO is all of the things you do off of your website that helps your website rank well in the search engines (such as having other websites link to you).  This is where most people get in trouble.  This is where most SEO goes horribly wrong.

Before we continue, there’s one major point that you have to understand.  Aside from on-page SEO tactics, Google does not reveal the factors that it uses to establish where a website is ranked.

Google does not want you to know the formula and processes that they use to determine website rankings.  The reason for this is very simple.  For Google to stay in business, they have to deliver relevant search engine results to their users.

If someone were to determine the secrets of manipulating the search results, then they could feasibly harm Google’s service by providing less than relevant results.  As I always say to my clients, Google doesn’t want people searching for Disneyland and ending up on the Playboy website.

As a result of Google’s need for secrecy in their ranking process, Google strongly frowns upon any attempt of webmasters to manipulate the search engine rankings via off-page factors.  Going overboard in your use of off-page factors for SEO can potentially harm your website rankings.  Google can at any time, ban your website from its rankings with no need to explain why.

This is why I’m so wary of so called SEO companies that guarantee their customers a page one ranking on Google.  Because Google has not revealed how to manipulate search engine results, any attempts to get onto page one of Google are simply guess work or the knowledge gained from trial and error.

I will not get into the off-page SEO factors in this article.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve done my fair share of experimenting with SEO.  In fact, I have managed to get a few of my testing websites to the top of Google’s results for several keywords.  But the results are spotty at best and can be catastrophic at its worst.  While I’ve had some websites skyrocket to the top of the Google listings, others have not.   And as if this isn’t enough, Google is constantly changing it’s algorithms and the way it ranks sites in an attempt to fight companies and individuals that are trying to manipulate the results.

In fact, Google just released what is known as the “Panda Update” in March of this year.  This update resulted in websites getting dropped from the rankings.  These were mostly sites that were using certain off-page SEO tactics.  The biggest site that got banned from Google was JC Penny’s website.  Google just recently removed the ban on the JC Penny’s website but that was only after massive media coverage and other efforts by JC Penny.

Now you have to think about this for a minute.  A multi-billion dollar corporation such as JC Penny’s with a major search engine marketing budget was blocked by Google.  If they couldn’t manipulate Google without getting caught, what chance do you have?  The message to take from this is that when it comes to SEO, Google always wins.

The Conclusion?

So in the end, when it comes to getting found by Google, it pays to follow Google’s best practices and advice as listed in their eBook (click here) and avoid shady SEO companies that are trying to outwit Google.

Now before I have you thinking that all is for naught, let me say that there are legitimate ways to use Google to get traffic to your website.  In fact, Google runs a program called AdWords (click here) that will allow you to advertise under the keywords of your choice and only pay when somebody clicks on the ad and goes to your website.  This article has already become longer than it should have, so I’ll have to do a separate article on the Google Adwords program,.  Suffice to say Google’s Adwords program is the ONLY GUARANTEED way to get exposure on the first page of Google.