Most companies are playing yesterday’s SEO game. It’s time to catch up and adapt to the way things are now, and how they’re going to be from here on out.
SEO used to be completely about raking specific pages at the top of the first page for certain keywords so your products and services will be seen by as many people as possible. It used to be really easy to do this too, before Google caught on to SEO gaming and started making major updates to their search algorithm.
I’m not just talking about Panda here either, I’m talking more about how things have changed most recently.
There are still cases where you can rank for specific keywords to get targeted traffic to your commercial landing pages. Usually on a local level or with long tail keywords. Often those keywords are bringing in traffic with little to no commercial value though.
The exception to this rule seems to be already existing, well known brands and corporations. This is likely due to the fact that these brands and companies are in fact trusted and well known. People are very likely to click on these pages since they’re already familiar with the companies. This is how the big guys get and keep those positions.
For example: a search for Guitars will usually bring up guitarcenter.com and other well know and established businesses where you can buy a guitar. Of course there’s a Wikipedia page, there’s almost always a Wikipedia page. Also, a search for any brand, like Ibanez Guitars, will immediately bring up the Ibanez website, Ibanez guitars for sale, and other websites that mention the brand and have the most relevance.
There is still opportunity to rank your pages for keywords that have a strong commercial value, but it has become rare. It’s typically only found in small sub-niches within small industries that have yet to receive a lot of competition, which really doesn’t apply to many businesses out there.
So how do you cope with an ever changing landscape and still get traffic to your website?
The key is to keep up with how Search Engines are evolving and adapt your marketing strategy to stay relevant. This is never one-and-done, you have to constantly keep an eye on how the web is changing and adapt with it on a continuing basis.
SEO should be a monthly activity in your business if you’re serious about maintaining your presence online and consistently driving new potential customers to your website.
Many SEO providers aren’t keeping up and are still telling companies that they can get them to the first page for certain keywords. This your first clue that you are dealing with a snake-oil peddler. The funny thing is, no one has ever been able to guarantee any certain position in the results pages, so you should always avoid any SEO provider that makes this claim. SEO carries an inherent risk as does any form of marketing, there’s no such thing as a guaranteed result.
It really looks like Google is moving down a path of pushing down commercial websites in the organic results and first showing product review sites, content, and information about the products themselves. This makes sense because people don’t want to be sold; rather, they want to make informed decisions about what products and services to buy. The only way to do this is read reviews, articles, and anything that’s highly informative.
If you want your product to show up on page one, you pretty much have to pay to play.
Do a Google search on just about anything and you’ll notice the first thing you see is almost always Google ads, or Google reviews. The organic content is usually reviews, review websites, or content about the thing you’re searching for.
Here’s a search for Chinese Food Restaurants for example:
The first thing you see are good reviews for restaurants in my town with a map above them showing me how to get there. See, Google is smart enough to know that I’m likely looking for the best places to eat in town, so I’m provided with the tools to find it on my own rather than seeing a specific restaurant in the results pages.
On the second page, I start to see pages for specific Chinese Restaurants. These are typically establishments that have won awards or are well known national brands. The mom and pop places show up even further down.
Product pages and company sites will still show up organically, but almost never on the first page anymore. Often times you’ll have to click to the second or even third page before you start getting to actual product pages or company websites.
If you want to sell something online these days, you almost always have to pay for it.
This has actually been going on for quite some time now and is only getting more prevalent. In fact, Ryan Stewart of Webris has completely left the SEO game because of this.
Personally, I enjoy educating my clients and helping them understand what to expect. Sure, SEO will become more challenging over time, but it will never go away. This is why it’s so important to keep up with the constant changes Search Engines are making to their algorithms, or hire somebody who can do it for you.
If you search for your website using a keyword you’re trying to rank for, and your page doesn’t appear on the first page, that’s okay. Look at the pages that made it to the first page. Are any of these results listing websites that you could feature your products and services with? If the answer is yes, then your mission is to now sign up with that website, and do everything you can to get a strong rating there. See what is causing your competitors to get featured on those sites, and make it your mission to overtake them by being the better option.
If Yelp is the first page that shows up, your job is to now get as many 5 star reviews as you can from as many active members as possible. If your company shows up in the first few reviews, you now have exposure in Google on the first page.
Same for Google reviews, if the first result is a set of Google reviews, look very closely at them. All you have to do is perform better than the lowest review to overtake it, and you’ll then show up in that slot. Reach out to your past customers and ask for a Google review, also make sure you ask existing and future customers to do the same.
Let your customers know that anything less than 5 stars is a failure on your part and to please contact you first to see if there’s anything you can do to improve their perception. Even better, ask them how many stars they will give you before you ask for the review! If they’re unhappy, try to fix it and make sure you get the best rating possible. I’m not trying to encourage you to be deceptive or game the system, I’m simply encouraging you to do some quality control with your business. Car dealerships do this all the time and it works really well for them.
Google treats content similarly to how they see reviews. Maybe your product page won’t get indexed to the top, but a blog post about your product has a far better chance. It’s even better if the post is not from your website and has a lot of social shares, likes, and comments and links back to your product page.
One exception, as I already mentioned, is when you have a specific brand, your website will almost always rank for keywords related to that brand. This is really only good for larger and established companies that have a known brand. But if you can somehow promote your brand locally and get known for it, people will search for your brand as the keyword and find your site. If you’re a small company with a limited budget or a startup, I would avoid this approach initially.
The best advice here is to not try and “Beat” the search engines. It’s a common misconception to think that you can get the search engines to do what you want them to do. They almost always won’t.
You need to make a continuing effort to understand and keep up with changes. You then need to adapt your SEO & SEM strategy to get the best results from your efforts. Do this, and you will not only get a lot more relevant traffic to your website, you’ll be able to keep it into the foreseeable future as well.
Do you have any questions or anything to add? Leave a comment below and tell me what you think!