SEO / SEM - 'Number 1 on Google!'23 Sep 2012
"Dear Sir/Madam, we notice you are not number one on Google for your chosen search terms..."
What the hell does that mean? Why does the sender only have an obscure gmail address? How do they know my chosen search terms?
There are two ways to try to increase your position on Google. The first is SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. This means changing the contents of your site so Google likes it better and gives you a higher rank. It used to be the way we did things but now it's getting close to a waste of time and money. I do everything correct when I set up your site, but I will not use tricks that may actually be penalised by Google at a later date.
The reliable way to get "number one on Google" is to buy advertising on their search result pages. This is called SEM or Search Engine Marketing. SEM costs a lot of money and should be done correctly. This is what those emails like I mentioned above are doing - charging you for ads on Google and taking a cut for themselves. They may also insist they redesign your site but that is just so they can make some more money off your fear of not being on Google.
Take a look at the two graphs below. They are both from Google Analytics. One of my customers (the graph on the left) went with a cheap company that promised number one on Google. The other went with an expert in this field who I know and recommend.
Why did they stop after a period of time? They had too much work. That's money well spent.
Don't believe me? Here's what Google say
No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google.
"Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a special relationship with Google, or advertise a priority submit to Google. There is no priority submit for Google. In fact, the only way to submit a site to Google directly is through our Add URL page or by submitting a Sitemap and you can do this yourself at no cost whatsoever."
Here is a video of Matt Cutts, the head of Googles Webspam team, discussing the subject...
So there you have it. There is no magic way to get number one on Google using SEO.
But what about Meta Tags and Keywords?
Q: Does Google ever use the "keywords" meta tag in its web search ranking?
A: In a word, no. Google does sell a Google Search Appliance, and that product has the ability to match meta tags, which could include the keywords meta tag. But that's an enterprise search appliance that is completely separate from our main web search. Our web search (the well-known search at Google.com that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards keyword metatags completely. They simply don't have any effect in our search ranking at present.
Here is a video of Matt Cutts, the head of Googles Webspam team, discussing meta tags...
This was made in 2009. Beware of any "expert" who tells you to put keywords into your site to improve your ranking. Their advice is way out of date. That should make you extremely suspicious of their SEO credentials!
But wait, what about Yahoo and Bing and ... ?
The short answer is "What search engine do YOU use?"
The long answer is that according to the reporting I do on my sites, non-Google search engine hits barely exist. Many sites get more links from Facebook than Bing. I rarely see Yahoo appear at all. Don't even mention Yellow Pages! Microsoft are putting a LOT of effort into making Bing a serious competitor so that may change. Right now, though, Google is still the only game in town.
Want to know more?
IF all you had to do was get number one on Google then there would be no ads on TV, no ads on radio, nothing in your letterbox. But those other forms of advertising are still there. Companies still attend networking events. Many companies I deal with list "word of mouth" as their primary source of business. Keep that in mind next time somebody tries to sell you some SEO or (more likely) SEM services. It is important, but it is not a magic bullet.
Also, do not make the mistake of thinking this is some kind of secret that will give you a competitive advantage over the "big boys" in your industry. They're onto it and they're spending enormous sums of money. Some of the SEM products I've seen recently are staggering in their complexity (and pricing). Getting number one on Google is an area that is fast getting out of reach of the average website owner who is tinkering with their site.