Online, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. Google seems to be a great partner one moment, and the next it makes a change that turns it into your worst enemy.
That’s the challenge facing today’s online marketers. bloggers, webmasters…whatever you call us. While we all want to be at the top of Google search results and for Google to be our BFF, we have to remember, it is a giant, for profit corporation, beholden to the almighty dollar and shareholder. We are at their mercy and there is really nothing you can do about that. Or is there?
Let’s back up 12 months or so. Prior to Google’s “Panda” update to its search algorithm, if you searched for almost any company, you were often presented with review and complaint sites. Companies struggled to deal with the negative publicity and, for most, the real problem was that minor complaints were ranking higher than their own site. Many companies went head to head with these sites by creating review sites of their own or by writing fake reviews that painted a more positive, and possibly more accurate, picture of their customers’ experiences. Reputation management was certainly a hot topic.
Then Google’s Panda update fixed many of those issues by degrading the PageRank of those sites. Now Google is reportedly making a new set of changes to how they rank sites. These would penalize companies for being “over optimized.” So while you put in tireless hours of refining titles, perfecting meta data and working on back link strategies…apparently now you can overdo it. Remember, it is Google itself that tells us how to optimize sites in its Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.
So the real question is: what works? And, will it keep working next week, next month, next year?
The simple answer and the “Golden Rule of SEO” is to be authentic.
Google’s goal has always been to give you the most relevant recommendations but since day one everyone has been jockeying for the lead position, trying to game results. (see Googlebombing for a great example). Individuals and companies will do almost anything to gain an advantage over their competitors, at any cost. Google’s actions have been toward combating this type of activity.
Be authentic, be personal, be local and get others who like you to link to your site. This is the best way to gain organic search referrals for your company. This not only puts you in line with Google’s own goal of providing relevant site recommendations, it also improves the overall economics of your site. How?
Think through the alternative. Imagine you sell specialized gold pencils and you optimize your site to bring all pencil traffic to your site. Seems logical right? Wrong! All pencil buyers are not your target. If a #2 pencil buyer finds your site, at best they are only costing you money as they utilize computing and bandwidth resources navigating through your site for good ‘ole #2s. At worst, they convert to a lead and you immediately have your top sales person call them up and spend time trying to sell them that coveted specialized gold pencil. No sale.
Authentic content will optimize your site and bring you the prospects searching for your product. Be an expert and highlight that expertise through your site content, social networks, videos and blog posts. Rally behind the specialized nature of your business to target the right buyers so your sales process is efficient.
So how can you increase exposure without being penalized? As mentioned before, Google is a for profit corporation and right now it is trying to combat Facebook, Twitter and others who are taking traffic away from Google properties. Your marketing methods should be in line with Google’s own corporate goals. Right now social is king at Google. So much so that its own employee bonuses are geared toward success in social. So by all means use Google products, especially Google+ and YouTube. Help them move traffic back to Google properties by actively using and engaging in discussion on these sites. Do a Google search for almost anything these days and you’ll find results from Google + and YouTube at or near the top of the page.
About Russ Fordyce: Russ is managing director of the BIG Awards, a business awards program, and a B2B marketing veteran with over 15 years of experience helping companies connect with buyers. As a veteran of the dot com boom and bust, Russ has learned first-hand how technology can improve the connections between business buyers and sellers. Follow him on Twitter @russfordyce or on LinkedIn.