As a small business owner, there may be something mystical about how search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing! work. Being a brick and mortar small business owner myself, I can also relate to the tons of sales calls from so called SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing) marketers, promising first page Google rankings. If you do not have a marketing background like I do, then trying to decipher or weed out bad advice from good, in regards to getting the most out of your website, is probably pretty confusing and frustrating. Thankfully, I was taught six years ago that the way in which websites are ranked in search results is not magic, but in fact science.
My objective in this blog post about understanding search engines, is to demystify Google and to explain what it is that Google, Yahoo and Bing! are trying to accomplish. I believe once you understand the goal of search engines, you will look at your website differently. And even if you are not up to date with digital marketing terms and lingo, you’ll still understand the gist of it, which could save you marketing dollars on bad SEOs in the future.
Search Engines Want The Same Thing As You!
That’s right, they want to make money. Search engines, just like you, the small business owner, are just trying to make money. So what’s their product? Search results. And how do they make money? Through advertisements. You know, those things you never click on, well, many people do! A trusted pay per click company I follow for Adwords tips states an incredible stat. Wordstream says that for keywords with high commercial intent, click through rate (CTR) beat organic clicks 2:1. We’ll get more into pay per click and Adwords in another upcoming blog post, but for now, the point is that search engine companies want to make money, and they make money when people click on ads. So why is this important to you? That’s a great question that leads us into our second point: The user or searcher’s goal.
Search Engines Cater to the Searcher
Imagine if your local hardware store never had the items you went there looking for. Or, maybe your local hardware store does have what you need, but the store is so unorganized it’s nearly impossible to find anything efficiently. If that was the case, you’d probably drive an extra mile or two to a competing store that you know will give you better results–a more organized store. More searchers use Google over Yahoo and Bing! because, generally, Google delivers better results to searchers. If a searcher goes to Google and searches the term ‘hardware store’ and Google delivers a list of quality local hardware websites, the user is happy…Google is happy…the user will use Google again next time they need information. The more searchers who use Google means the higher potential of people clicking on Google advertisements, and the more money Google makes.
So what did we just learn? If you guessed that Google wants happy users/searchers then you are correct! And how do they make happy searchers, by delivering the user the answers they want in an efficient manner via quality and relevant websites. All search engines have their own secret sauce or recipe on how they deliver search results, so here’s what I’ve learned about their recipe.
Search Engine Secret Sauce Revealed
To be a relevant search engine like Google, Yahoo and Bing!, then your number one job is to help filter through the enormous mess known as the internet, and categorize it in the best possible way. The better job the search engine does categorizing, the better results it will return to searchers. Think of your current small business, what means of organization do you use now to make sure your customers can find what they need easily? If you are a grocery, liquor, hardware or similar store with lots of items, you incorporate well labeled isles. You most likely put similar items on the same isles and possibly go a step further and place items in alphabetical order. You sort, then sort some more in an intelligent way until your customers can find what they need rather easily. When a user/searcher uses Google, the search engine uses it’s search algorithm (categorization process) to deliver results. Google, looks at millions of websites that it thinks are best relevant to the searchers intent.
Now that you know what search engines are trying to do, is your business’s website helping Google understand what it is your business does, or is it throwing Google off, thus hurting your website’s ability to rank? Is your small business’s website well categorized and organized in the same way your brick and mortar is? If it’s not, then you most likely do not rank well in any search engine, unless, your business is super-niche with zero to little competition, then you may be okay. Now it’s important to know that Google and the others use more than one variable when it comes to ranking websites, however, if you are new to SEO, SEM and digital marketing, a well thought out, categorized, organized website is the first step. I will cover in a later post other important variables Google uses to rank websites.
So What Does A Well Organized Website Look Like?
Just like the example I gave of the grocery market and hardware store above, those types of local businesses try to make finding items easy. They focus on the customer experience and so should your website. Ask yourself, when a customer/lead visits my website do they and can they:
- Clearly see what my local business’s unique value proposition is?
- Clearly understand what my product and/or service is?
- Trust that my business is an authority in the industry?
- Easily find products and/or services?
- Easily purchase products or get information?
- Easily contact my local business?
Other important and more advanced questions to ask yourself are:
- Is my website messy or have too much stuff/distractions going on?
- Does other less important information get in the way of the quality information that leads to sales?
- Does my website’s copy and images cater to my target audience?
All search engines try to deliver users/searchers the best results. Better results leads to happy searchers which leads to more people using the search engine which generates money via advertisement clicks. Search engines are constantly trying to better categorize the internet. Websites with clear and organized content that are focused on user experience have a higher chance of being selected by Google to show in the results of relevant searches. Review the questions regarding your website. You may think your website passes all these questions, but what do your customers think? After all, they are the ones buying or not buying your product or services. Give these questions to 100 of your leads and customers, see how they respond. You may be surprised.
If you have more questions about search engines and website rankings, or this post in general, ask in the comment section and I’ll do my best to answer.