How Search Works (Google’s Church and State)

Make no mistake, the majority of the billions Google rakes in every year comes from selling an audience to advertisers.  Any time a large number of people are viewing something: a wall (billboard, jumbo-screen), a sporting event (sideline signs, uniforms, hats, etc.), television (commercials, product placement) even the sky (pulled airplane banners, skywriting), there will always be a line of advertisers anxious to pay to gain access to even the brief attention of that audience.  The larger the audience, the more dollars it commands, which explains the multi-million dollar cost to run an ad during the Superbowl. 

So, Google would have nothing to sell without a large audience; an audience they build by organically providing the ‘best possible’ answer to any query you enter, whether it be quick access to a historical fact, or the location of the nearest pizza place.  We live in amazing times, where the entire recorded knowledge of all human history can be accessed instantaneously, from anywhere, with a simple question typed or spoken into our phone!  Google’s technology practices for determining the ‘best possible’ answer are ever-evolving and secret.  Naturally everyone wants their website or business to be the best possible answer to virtually any associated search query, but Google has to prevent people from ‘cheating’ their way into prominent position.  If a website proprietor can ‘game’ the Google search algorithm, Google ceases delivering the ‘best possible’ answer to our questions and we (the audience) disappear – and with us Google’s main source of revenue!  Many have tried, and most have been penalized for trying to cheat their way into page position.

 Google’s technology is imperfect, however, often failing to provide the best possible answer for local queries, especially when a business doesn’t have a physical address but rather operates out of a truck, home, or virtual office (i.e. mobile pet groomer, lawn/pool care services, consulting/tax services, etc.).  The challenge for Google is to try to find a way to better surface these businesses without creating a loophole that can erode the purity of their search results.  It’s no easy task, and Google won’t spend a lot of time discussing it publicly.  Google has separated organic search from paid search with a hard wall, that resembles the founding fathers separation of church and state; both exist and both are important, but they are distinct and forever separate from one another.  Google will happily discuss ways for you to spend more money or improve the click rates of your paid ads, but they go mute when the conversation turns to providing specific feedback on specific pages.  They have to protect the sanctity of organic search so that we, the audience, keep coming to Google to get our answers.  While it might sound impossible that the behemoth that is Google could be toppled, if you went to Google tomorrow to search for a place to order pizza delivery and started getting results from 3,000 miles away, you’d quickly start using Bing or wishing AltaVista made a comeback.   Google’s entire business is built on the foundation of protecting the value of organic search results and thus the audience it can monetize with ads.

 In order to be the best possible answer to the keyword searches you care about, your best bet is to be the best possible answer – Easy! 😉  Becoming the best possible answer is basically done by strengthening the relationship between your site and the keywords you care about by:

  • Matching content on your site to the keyword terms you want to target
  • Localizing that copy to reference your geographic position including neighborhood terms that may not be official town names etc.
  • Applying basic best practices for your title tags, metadata, site structure, and content
  • Refreshing your content regularly to demonstrate that your site is ‘alive’.
  • Claiming your Google+/Maps listing and verifying that the information (name, address, phone, hours etc.) for your business is accurate
  • Ensuring that that basic business information is syndicated accurately across popular web directories
  • Earning positive reviews
  • Being patient!  It takes time for even small changes to bear themselves out and improve your page position!

The Reality:

It’s important to note that even with all of the best practices applied, no one can guarantee top page-one position for your organic link every time, all the time, against every keyword you care about.  If someone makes that promise, they’re both lying and most likely employing ‘black hat’ or cheat methods that could eventually get you delisted from Google altogether.  Google’s technology frequently tests and adjusts search results to better match and evaluate customer intent, so you might not ALWAYS show up against the keyword you care about.  You should measure the preponderance with you appear in the results; which is what the majority of searchers will see.  The physical location of a search, device (desktop, tablet, phone), method of search entry (text, voice search) and other factors also influence search results, so accounting for those variable is important in setting your expectations.  Many Centermark customers show up on page 1 against the top keyword terms that drive their business using Foundational SEO alone.  For those with broader demands, we’re proud to offer a service-intensive and customized program with our Enhanced SEO solution.

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