Did you know?
Your company is paying to be on the first page of Google search results.
Let me explain.
Youâ€™re either paying up to $65+ a click for AdWords ads (PPC). Or youâ€™re paying someone to create content and optimize your website for search (SEO). Or youâ€™re paying in terms of lost sales to competitors who are doing the first two.
In any case, thereâ€™s a cost to ranking highly in Google. You either pay directly or indirectly.
Hereâ€™s one reason: In February 2016, Google eliminated paid listings on the right side of search results. Ads now occupy up to four of the top search results and another two or three at bottom. That means unpaid â€œorganicâ€ search listings are being squeezed out.
Which makes sense, when you realize that approximately 97% of the revenue Google needs to build self-driving cars and virtual reality gadgets still comes from pay-per-click ads.
But itâ€™s getting even harder to appear in organic search results.
For example, do a Google search for â€œwater damage Minneapolisâ€ and youâ€™ll find four paid listings up top, followed by a â€œmap packâ€ with threeÂ local listings, which pushes organic listings even farther down the page.
And right below the map are listings from directories like Thumbtack, Angieâ€™s List, and the Better Business Bureau â€“ all of which you have to pay to be featured in.
What this means: Given the intense competition to appear in Google search, nobody ranks highly for free. It was true once. But not anymore. And the faster you get your head around that concept, the better.
Now hereâ€™s another harsh truth about search: Thereâ€™s no single recipe to follow if you want your website to rank highly in Google.
For example, thereâ€™s no formula for how many words your web page should have â€¦ how many times a keyword should appear on a web page â€¦ or how many links to include on a web page. None of that matters. No anymore.
When deciding which pages to rank highly for search, Google uses multiple sets of rules, or algorithms. One of those is called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI), which mimics the human mind to find patterns and meanings in web pages.
Example: a Google search for â€œshop for applesâ€ could mean you want to buy fruit â€¦ but it probably means youâ€™re in the market for a computer. Thatâ€™s why youâ€™ll see search listings pointing to the nearest Apple Store.
LSI is great for Google users because it picks up on subtle differences and shows you relevant results.
That means LSI is bad for anyone trying to game the system. Because you can only write â€œlocksmithâ€ or â€œChicago orthodontistâ€ on a web page so many times before Google realizes that youâ€™re creating artificial content. And your website can be penalized as a result.
As I learned by talking to a number of practitioners at Over The Top SEO, creating content for Google is really not about Google. Itâ€™s about people — your audience. Who are they? Where are they? What are they searching for help with? What do they want? When the content on your website answers those questions — and inbound links from other websites recognize that value — Google can rank you higher.