Author: Marilyn Bontempo
Regardless of what the “experts” say, the obsession for top organic rankings in search results continues to proliferate among every client I represent. Everyone is incensed at their loss of top placement whether their websites were tainted by “black hat” practices or not. Most of those with the biggest drop in SERPS claim innocence in that regard but in working with them and examining their Google Webmaster Tools’ and Analytics’ accounts, I have reason to believe otherwise.
Of course, most of my clients are too busy with their own jobs to have tinkered themselves with anything that may have affected their placements. Instead, they hired outside contractors who promised stellar rankings and charged them dearly in the process. Unknowingly, some of these clients had made a deal with the devil and are now suffering the consequences. These include an unfathomable number of disreputable links; blatantly keyword-overstuffed page text; and numerous examples of “duplicate content,” as it is sometimes referred to euphemistically, but otherwise more accurately known as plagiarism.
One Solution to The New Ranking Dilemma
While they resent their demotion from top-ranked listings and are willing to go to any lengths to recapture that honor, they would rather pay someone like me to tidy up their web presence than to invest in a Google Adword campaign which would essentially solve their problem. I am not shy about suggesting that remedy to them but for reasons beyond my comprehension, they would rather gamble on my unproven strategies than invest in Google.
Of course, I work very hard to improve their websites in every way I can. I edit and when necessary (which is quite often) rewrite their page content; implement design upgrades; add frequent graphically-attractive, interesting posts to their social sites; correct their SEO coding; and compose intelligent metatags. Sometimes I wonder whether the bots appreciate the creativity and inspiration required to describe each page as uniquely as I do, with sophisticated sentence structure and proper syntax.
What all of these clients are convinced of is that the latest secret to pleasing Google is quality, quality, quality. Yet, my services have always been about quality, not as the latest fad but as the essence of what makes a business successful. The quality which I have always espoused happened long before the Internet even existed. It is the basis of marketing strength, the backbone of business reliability and the quintessence of excellence. No wonder Google favors it so strongly. It is everything they strive to represent and want to be identified with.
Why An Obvious Solution Stymies Most Website Owners
Of course, one of the reasons many of my clients are hesitant to embark on a Google ad campaign is fear of expense. One lawyer I work with cites per-click fees in his area of concentration that are admittedly prohibitive. However, having set up and managed a Google Adword campaign for a landscaping client who targets a large portion of our Metro New York area, I know it is possible to experience outstanding success without an exorbitant cost. As a result of his $50-per-day maximum per-click budget, he receives about five to ten clicks each day for which he is charged an average of $5 per click in a highly competitive industry. Not all of these clicks pan out but between his exposures in search results which include his phone number (for which he pays nothing) and those who click through to view his website, he has managed to completely book this entire season and is working on booking dates for next season.
We cannot give credit to Google alone for all of this business, however. This client and I began working together last winter at which time I designed and wrote a very comprehensive and beautiful website for which I also orchestrated extremely effective SEO. Since a soured relationship with a previous contractor necessitated that he start over with a brand new domain name, thereby erasing his entire online history, we were surprised by his immediate top-of-search-result rankings. But with so many search term possibilities, he agreed that the addition of an adword campaign would guarantee his visibility when organic results wavered. He also asked me to design and produce a large, classy brochure as well as matching business cards; direct mail postcards; print and online advertising; door hangers; and yard signs. Without interfering in the creative process at all, this client gave me full rein to say and show whatever I thought most important and basically changed nothing upon review of proofs. That put an enormous onus on me should his fledgling career fail as a result of all my decisions and consultation. Early on, while awaiting delivery of his postcards to targeted recipients’ mailboxes, tensions ran high and worry consumed me, considering the tentative nature of our present economy and the size of his total marketing investment. Now, six months later, I am feeling consummate relief in having fulfilled his highest hopes. It seems the economy hasn’t affected those who can afford to enhance their quality of life at home.
Organic Ranking Secrets Learned in Working With Google Adwords
In the process of working with Google, though, there is much I have learned which affects organic SEO for every client I work with. Part of what controls what price you pay in per-click fees is your Google-controlled “quality score.” This is determined by a formula Google uses to rate the user’s experience in reading and reacting to your adwords. Once searchers click through to your website, the score is based on how effective your keywords were in matching searchers initially with adword content thereafter substantiated by website content; how many web pages were visited; the length of time spent and any ensuing revisits. Google cannot know whether such visitors put in a phone call but probably record any email activity based on clicks from the site’s contact page. All of these factors suggest to Google that my client’s website is fulfilling to visitors who click on his adwords, giving them a satisfying experience. This leads them to regard Google adwords as a worthwhile and trustworthy source of information. For this positive outcome, Google can give you a 10/10 quality score for your keyword/adword/website combination, which is the best possible grade. And as a reward for this achievement, Google will charge you a lower per-click fee.
Now taking this back to the organic level, Google’s bots rank your website in much the same way, by number of visitors, number of pages visited, how long they spend, etc. If your visitors seem to have a satisfying experience, without a high bounce rate, then your organic ranking will reflect that fact. Google is concerned with searchers’ opinions of whether sites which appear at the tops of their lists deserve such ranking based on excellence of user experience. Once you understand this, then you may be able to grasp why Google is so obsessed with improving its ability to criticize your website. And, as a result, you may be able to address what can make your website a fulfilling experience.
A Final Word to the Wise
But there’s more to be aware of. In setting up adword keywords which act as a magnet for searchers’ pursuits, Google advises being generous in your selection of terms as opposed to limiting your keywords to a single unit. As an example, it is better to include a number of qualifying terms like “professional landscape services” or “backyard patio designers” rather than the sparse “landscaper.” By doing so, your adwords which should match in content will serve to provide more specific information leading the searchers to seek even more elaboration on your website.
The same holds true in organic ranking of your website. While “keywords” as a metatag no longer function in the way they originally did, and hold far less importance (if any) in attracting searches, keywords used within your page content should reflect the subject matter of the page and offer enough information so the searcher can feel satisfied with what he learned. In fact, “keywords” within your page content should really just be terms you are using to represent and describe what you and your website are offering. Keywords should not be a way to “trick” searchers into visiting your website only to leave them in a state of confusion, disappointment or annoyance with a lack of meaningful further explanation.
One additional caveat: When searching for information, it is likewise urged that your search terms be more descriptive and specific to what you are looking for, rather than using a single term which can bring up too generic a range of results. This rule applies both to the general public who may be seeking information, as well as to those with websites who are trying to ascertain their current search rankings. The use of more search terms may bring you a better, more fulfilling outcome whatever your goal.
About The Author:
Marilyn Bontempo, president of Mid-Hudson Marketing, based in Holmes, New York, has been developing strategies for business success for more than 37 years. A professional writer and graduate of Bard College, she has won numerous awards for excellence in marketing, photography, graphics, writing and web design. As a specialist in branding, she assists many of her clients with management of their social media and public relations initiatives. In addition, she handles ecommerce for a number of online merchants not only on their own websites but through eBay, Amazon and others. View her work at http://www.midhudsonmarketing.com