Optimize My Brand

Strategy, tactics, ideas and tips from Creative Company.

Search engine optimization basics

Why is Google’s ranking essential?

Following on an earlier post about hiring a content marketer rather than a website designer … generated in response to a potential client’s frustration over his well-designed but invisible (to search engines) website, our director of digital, Ron Miller, penned the following response.

Note … if you consider yourself up to speed on creating an online presence with good SEO, this may not be appropriate for you. However, we’ve found many business owners and managers find these issues bewildering and frustrating.

The questions posed by the upset and discouraged business owner:

  • Why do I have to appeal to Google? What about other search engines like Bing?
  • What proof is there that Google penalizes a website for content that is not original?
  • Shouldn’t my website designer have known about content designed for search engines?

Ron’s response:

You raise very good questions and I appreciate the chance to answer them and clear a few things up. I’ll include in this some links to other sources but I will also rely on my experience. I started building Internet ventures in 1994 when I worked on the first online Yellow Pages directory. At least 80% of my career since then has been spent making the Internet work for business.

Most of the questions involve how people find you online

Direct traffic from people who know your Web address

Websites get traffic lots of ways. Most traffic (called “direct traffic”) comes from people typing a Web address into their browser. For instance, I know I want to look for Nike so I simply type in “www.nike.com” or I click on a bookmark in my browser or a link someone sends me. For Creative Company, direct traffic accounts for 50% of our traffic.

Traffic from people who know your name

Next, there are the people who know your name but don’t know your Web address. These people will go to a search engine to access your site. If you have a unique name, they don’t have any problem finding you that way. It varies by site, but 70-80% (or more) of your traffic comes one of these two ways.

People looking for what you sell

Even though it’s the smallest number of visitors, from a marketing standpoint, the last group of traffic is the most interesting and presents the biggest opportunity for an online business. These are people who have never heard of you but know they want something you sell. The goal of SEO is to get your site as high as possible when people search for the words and phrases related to your business. Your site can have great traffic from the first two ways but if your SEO isn’t good, then you’re missing out on being found by new customers.

Google has the power

For a public entity like the Internet, it’s unfair that Google has the power they do, but they do. 66% of Web searches are done on Google (1). The remainder includes Bing/Yahoo (29.3%), Ask, AOL, AltaVista, DogPile, Cuil, Excite, HotBot, AllTheWeb, Lycos, etc.

All of the search engines have their own algorithms but essentially work the same way. They have made a decision on the value of every website and then based on the search term, deliver ranked results. Because of their different ways of determining site value, their results are different. But since they all kind of work the same, the differences are usually slight. The point in all this is that we tend to focus our SEO efforts on Google but we aren’t completely ignoring the other search engines. I often use “google” to refer to all search engines, much the same way I look for a “xerox” machine when I want to make a copy.

It’s about the searcher

The most important thing to keep in mind is that all Google cares about is the person doing the search. Their algorithm is incredibly complex, top-secret and undergoes frequent updating (2). All the science they apply to search comes down to generating great search results for the person who is doing the search. As such, they value original, unique content above all else.

Fundamental to Google’s algorithm is something called PageRank

It’s the grade that they assign to every page on the Web. PageRank grades are on a scale from 0-10 with 10 being the best. The average site has a PR of 2.7. If you are above that, then you know that Google values your site “above average”. You want your site to be above that. By itself, a PR of zero doesn’t mean necessarily that your site is being penalized, but it does mean that Google is not valuing the content of your Website. You can check your PageRank yourself here: http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php  PageRank is arrived at through a complicated process. They look at who links to you, who you link to and the amount of original content on your site.

Copying and crediting copied content isn’t enough

In the offline world, we use bibliographies and footnotes to inform our readers of our sources. That isn’t enough on the Web. The way that Google wants us to share someone else’s content, is to write a short synopsis and then put a link to the original source. Just crediting the source might protect you from copyright problems but not Google. Even with a credit to the source, if you copy and paste the content, Google’s robots presume two things; your site is not original and you are trying to steal that other site’s position. (3)

There’s an added advantage to referencing other content and Websites this way. Google puts values on links. If you link out to other sites, you look like a “curator of content.” In other words, you are someone helping to organize and make sense of the Web and they like that. Also, when you link to other sites, it makes those sites open to the idea of linking to you, which helps your PageRank.

A website designer vs. a content marketer or SEO pro

Everything here falls under what I’d call standard Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. Most website designers don’t have the experience or understanding of this science. Instead they’re just trying to make a good-looking site. The advantage to working with a firm like us is that all of us on your team bring different skills and focus. This well-rounded approach is designed to create not just a good looking site, but one that works for your business.

We can understand your frustration … you have a nice looking website. However, most designers who focus on design focus only on that, and don’t address content of the site. I imagine they asked you to provide all of the copy and content. This is an indicator that they don’t know or understand what it takes to have a website that is a functioning business asset rather than a good-looking online brochure.

Additional links for your reference are below.

Thanks to Ron Miller for an insightful summary

As a designer myself (at least I started out that way) I know good design has value in a website. After all, once someone arrives at your website, we want them to be engaged and informed. Their positive experience should include visual impact and easy navigation. But the reality of today’s online-focused world is that if they don’t already know who you are … your Website has to appeal to Google first, so that the audiences you want to reach can find you.

This is another reason why we’re advocates for inbound marketing coupled with great content (a requirement) and extraordinary design. Here are a few more posts on the topic, and a few pages on our website to reference.

Are you happy with the results your seeing from your website? If not, let’s talk. We can help with strategy, design, audience targeting, SEO and … inbound marketing.

To send us an email, click here

About the author

Jennifer Larsen Morrow

Jennifer's four decades of work in the industry, starting as a designer and adding marketing, copywriting and digital marketing, has generated response for clients since 1978.

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