Despite what many website owners may hope and what some “black hat” internet marketers will have you believe, there is no magical way to have your website instantly appear at the top of the search page rankings in the major search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing).
Search engine optimization (SEO) needs to be an on-going process of first obtaining search engine page rankings and then maintaining those page rankings by providing new content for your website visitors.
Having spent over 10 years doing internet marketing and SEO for dozens of clients, I’ve learned the “universal” truth is that every business has a unique set of circumstances that they bring to the table that influences their website’s search engine page rankings. There are certain factors you can control while there are other factors that are outside of your control.
Before spending any money on SEO, directory listings, PPC advertising or content marketing that could help improve your page rankings make sure to do your homework and continue reading. There are fundamental ways to improve your rankings that will have lasting results without breaking your budget.
Search Page Ranking Factors You Can Control
Make a good first impression – When you launch your website make sure it is formatted correctly. If you are using one of the many template type websites on the market today the majority of the formatting work has been done for you. WordPress, Go Daddy, Shopify and Wix are all DIY (Do-it-Yourself) names most people have heard of that offer some type of basic website templates.
In the early days of the internet (way back in the 1990’s and 2000’s) even simple websites had to be custom built by a web developer based on the website owner’s specific needs. A web developer writing custom code to create a website can sometimes be as unique as a fingerprint and if not coded correctly can be penalized be the search engines who value consistency.
Most of the template website platforms do not offer SEO already built in so you may have to pay to have it included or hire someone to do some “optimization” for you, but the first step is to make sure website is coded correctly for the search engines.
To SEO or Not SEO – building your website is usually where most of your budget is going to be spent when starting your internet business which often leaves business owners with little budget left for SEO. At some point you will need to optimize your website.
My recommendation (based on your budget and objectives) research a DIY website that will fit your needs, make sure it offers SEO and the ability to grow as your business grows. Making sure your DIY choice has SEO capabilities is important because a lot of DIY website builders will sell you the basic website then drain your budget with add-ons like SEO.
Some DIY website builders will not offer SEO at all so you think you are getting a great deal on a website, but then you find out the search engines don’t even know your business exists. Then at least do some basic SEO, which means mentioning your product or service on the website, so the search engines know what your website is about.
Install Analytics – Once your website is built and even if you have decided not to optimize it start because of cost issues, it is time to launch it (take it live) if your website alerts the search engines that it is live and invites the search engines to start ‘indexing” it (looking it over), the search engines will send out their “bots” to crawl your website and report back to the search engine which will then give your website an evaluation. By installing analytics and search console code you can get feedback from the search engines and know what they think of your website and if there are any issues.
At this point if you had your website “optimized” the search engines would have a pretty good idea how to classify your website if your website is not “optimized” then the search engines use their best guess and will place your website where they think it might fit. If you are a woodworking website and they see a lot of images of wood products and there are mentions of woodworking in the title it might give them some clues to go by.
Your commitment – having a limited budget can often be overcome by putting in more ‘sweat equity” spending time on social media, content creation and building your network are all ways that could help improve your search page rankings.
Search Page Ranking Factors You Cannot Control
Your product or service – the product or service your website offers effects its search engine rankings. If you have a product or service that other people offer as well then you have competition in the search engines. If you have a product or service that is unique it may get you to the top of the search rankings, but will it get you any search traffic (people actually looking for your items) to go along with it? As an SEO person I can target keywords related to your website that can get you to the top by being specific.
Example: it looks great if I go to Pete and show him that “Pete’s Custom Widgets” is in the #1 spot for Google Search, but what I probably wouldn’t tell him (if I were a “black bat”) is that absolutely no one is searching for “Pete’s Custom Widgets”.
What I want to do for Pete is find keywords related to his Widget that people are actually doing searches for and get his website search page rankings up for those.
Your competition – you cannot control how much competition you have for your product or service, how long they have been in business, what they are doing on a day-to-day basis and how much they are spending on things like PPC (advertising) so as an SEO person I should not guarantee you that you can outperform them.
- The Directory Websites – If you are in an industry that includes many established directory type websites like the travel and tourism industry, the search engines give priority to established directory websites. It is highly unlikely that your website will be able to rank higher than a website like HomeAway, Citysearch or Yelp. Now these directory companies will want you to advertise with them on their websites which can be helpful if you have the budget (most also have a free listing) but you are also getting lost among the tree’s because you’ve added another search Wall between you and potential clients. Your potential client has to use that Directory website to find something rather than just “google” it themselves.
Your Location – geography matters on the internet even though you think of it as a global network, if your product or service is designed to geo-target certain markets then you have to factor in the competition. Hair salons, doctor’s offices and restaurants all have to take geo-targeting into consideration. This is usually where most “black hats” will say they can get you at the top of searches because most local businesses can have their SEO tweaked to get their rankings up, but until someone actually knows your website they should not be making this promise.
The Keywords you are Targeting – competition for keywords is the huge moneymaker for the search engines, PPC is a big factor on how well the keywords that are relevant to your website will rank you in the search engine pages.
Time – depending on your competition and the keywords your website is targeting, the time it takes for your search page results to show improvement can vary from weeks to months.
Your budget – if you find yourself in a competitive market then having the budget to spend to keep up with your competition may be an option that you didn’t anticipate going in.
Algorithm Updates – the search engines are continually trying to give their search users the best return results that is why algorithm updates are a common occurrence in the search engine ranking world. One month your website could be at the top of the search engine rankings only to be shuffled down the next month. Having a well built, optimized website that you are constantly adding new content to in the form of blog posts, white papers etc. is the best way to keep your website search page ranking from dropping too much.
The search engines want to see that a website is making improvements and offering content that will be useful to search users, if you happen to engage a “black hat” internet marketer who cut corners to get your website to the top, you website will likely get caught in the algorithm update and be penalized for it.
What You Should Look For in a Marketer
The next time an internet marketer approaches you about your website, you’ll know that achieving top search engine page rankings are possible, but not a certainty and you’ll be able to ask a few questions of your own before deciding to spend your money to partner with them.
- Are your competitors directory websites or businesses
- How do they plan on getting your website to the top of the search pages
- Will your search results be “sticky” (last for longer than a month or two before being penalized by the search engines)
- Will they be targeting higher trafficked (searched) keywords that have more value
- What type of competition do you have in search pages
- Are they offering on-going support and updating
Slow and Steady Wins the Search Page Ranking Race
In the internet world of the search engines it is better to be like the Tortoise than the Hare. While you might have a desire to get your website to the top of the search engine page rankings as quickly as possible the only way to insure that your website gets to the top of the search engines and stays on or near there is to practice good SEO and give it time. I’ve seen websites barely move for months then all of a sudden, the next month they are rewarded with first page results and haven’t dropped since while other websites have moved up quickly.
There are too many outside factors for someone to promise you a magic wand that will suddenly get your website to the top.
The relationship between the website owner and the internet marketer needs to be one of trust and should be a lasting partnership that is rewarding for both parties. Within reason, the marketer should be able to work within the owners budget to offer solutions that can show search engine page improvements.
For questions email me at firstname.lastname@example.org