Let Me Google That For You

Many small business owners are afflicted by a pair of difficult conditions: they don’t know much about how search engines work, and they are totally convinced that “winning” on Google – being on top of organic, non-paid search results – is crucial to the success of their digital effort. Not knowing much about search engine functionality is okay in the beginning because knowing that stuff is the job of people like me. Tweaking out about winning or not winning on Google, on the other hand, is not okay.

In some cases, the concern about organic search placement is a problem because the small business owner may be unwilling to take the relatively simple steps required to address some likely issues. If Google can’t find your website, you may have some common problems, as there are certain aspects of a website that influence organic search placement that must be done correctly: proper page titles, which is actually an aspect of proper code  structure; content organization, relevance, and organization; and dynamic content generation.

These factors are almost always about good design, and require that a website be built in certain ways. For instance, if your website design consists primarily of images with very little selectable text, unless you’ve taken specific measures within the code, search engines won’t be able to crawl your site’s content. This means, basically, that Google won’t know what your site is about, so people who are looking for you won’t find you.

Not everything is about code or design in determining how your website performs in organic search. Social media plays a huge role in modern search engine optimization. If you don’t have social properties for your business  that link back to your website, you are missing out on a serious boost to your search results. Search engines give your site more weight if it is linked to other websites, and the (hopefully) dynamic nature of the content on your social business platforms also helps.

Speaking of links, don’t buy links to your website. I don’t mean ads – by all means, buy as many of those as you can – but I do mean the Black Hat tactics that tend to come in the guise of SEO Experts or Consultants. They buy or falsely generate a bunch of links to your website that temporarily bump your site up in search results. You shouldn’t do this because it is wrong, and most search engines will not only cancel out the positive effects of these methods as quickly as they can manage, but will also punish or blacklist your site for the trouble. You should also not do this because it is short-sighted: doing it right produces much better, more immutable long-term results,
which is what you want.

I mentioned social media earlier, and it merits another point: search is beginning to be anchored in discovery, which reflects the fact that search habits today are far different than the way people initially adopted mass usage of the internet. What may be the most important part of how search engines work is actually about how people work. In order to generate good content for your website and your social business platforms like Facebook, you have to understand how people look for you. Assume you have a carpet cleaning business in Denton. Someone in your town is looking for a carpet cleaner. How do they go about the actual process of looking for you? In many cases they will go to Google and type “carpet cleaner Denton” in the search box. Assuming that your ducks are in a row, you will have a good chance of showing up in organic search results. In many other cases, though, some searchers may discover a carpet cleaning service rather than searching for it. This means they will ask their friends who they use when they have similar carpet cleaning needs. You don’t have to be a Rockefeller to understand that a reference from a friend puts someone in a position to buy and skips many of the challenges that come up during the purchasing version of cold-calling.

If someone discovers you through a friend or a colleague, they are ready to buy. Social media makes it that much easier to be recommended and discovered, and anyone who gets significant business from referrals should understand that referral optimization is just as important as (if not more important than) search optimization.

Josh Berthume

Swash Labs, 608 E. Hickory St. Suite 120, Denton, TX 76201, United States