I had a handful of goals at the beginning of this 2014 year. Some of them did not pan out — I still can’t dunk. Other, more serious goals, did pan out: my business got to the front page of Google.
How Google Works
Before I even begin talking about how I got to the front page of Google, I’d like to first discuss what exactly Google does: Google provides the most relevant results for the given search terms or keywords. That is my own definition and one that fuels Search-Engine Optimization (SEO) marketing methods.
SEO, if you do not know, is the art of getting businesses to the top of their particular search terms or keywords in order to increase business or visibility. And just like every other marketing channel, SEO is big business.
There is no guide that Google releases to instruct people on how to do SEO, but there is a man at Google named Matt Cutts that offers tips to the public. He is in charge of the Web Spam department at Google, and thus, directs the search logic or algorithm that determines what pages/sites are deemed “relevant.”
How Does Google Determine Relevancy?
Relevancy is important for Google. Google’s entire company is founded on their search engine logic. That search engine logic helps determine what is relevant (good-quality, useful pages) or “irrelevant” (spam, junk, or otherwise a site with illegitimate or black-hat tactics) by Google. Good SEO work is all about having Google look at your site as relevant.
There is a tremendous list of things that can be done to be relevant, but it all boils down to 2 things:
1. Let Google know what your page or site is about. The process of figuring out what a site is about is done 100% automatically by robot scripts called “spiders” or “web crawlers.” These web crawlers do not see websites like you or I — they only see HTML and metadata. Part of SEO is inputting the right HTML or metadata so that the crawlers will get a good idea of what your page is about.
2. Look legitimate. How the internet works is a lot like real-life: we trust legitimate companies. When we go the store to buy headphones, many of us will prefer a pair of more-expensive SONY headphones versus a no-name pair. Why? Because we know SONY is legitimate and gives quality products. That legitimacy is built through being in business a long time and creating goodwill among consumers. The same needs to be done online — a legitimate site has staying power and has other sites linking to it. The more legitimate a site is, the better it will rank.
The Most Important Thing to Know About SEO
The most important thing to know about SEO is this: it is a competition. Business A can try their hardest and spend thousands of dollars a month on SEO, but if their competitor, Business B tries their hardest too and spends tens of thousands of dollars a month, then Business B will likely be higher in the search results. And if there are many other competitors looking to be in the search results, then someone needs to be pushed back to the second page or third page and so on because there are a finite number of prime positions (basically, the front page). So this is the conclusion: the more competitive or broader the term, the harder you will have to work.
My Starting Point
I am classifed as a web design company. At the beginning of this year, I had no business coming from Google. The only business I got was through networking. And I was not on the map at all for my keywords. Also, I realized that my keywords would be fairly competitive, as there are a lot of other businesses doing what I do in Hawaii. Furthermore, those businesses have been in business much, much longer than I have, which is actually one determinant of “relevancy.” Finally, what really makes it competitive for me is that web design companies understand or at least are cognizant of SEO, making the competition much more stern, compared to say, plumbing businesses, who are not as likely to know about SEO.
My Keywords, Key Terms, Search Terms
The first thing I did in an effort to boost my Google ranking was keyword research. Keyword research was important because I needed to determine what exactly my prospective customers would be searching for to find me. I had some guesses as to what prospective customers would type into Google to find me, but all those guesses needed to be corroborated through keyword research – you don’t want to target or do SEO work for terms that nobody searches for.
So what did I do for keyword research? I can’t elaborate as to how I did this because it is a trade secret, but I will say that I spent many, many, many hours and nights reading article after article about SEO and search engine rankings. Some articles were good, some were outdated and thus not useful, some where downright wrong, and some were essentially people spewing the same things they read in another article without paying any mind as to what the article actually said. That last group of people usually do not work with SEO on a professional basis and will say things like “I heard a blog is good for SEO,” which is not a completely accurate statement. In the end, I ended up with 4 search terms that I could focus on and target my SEO efforts towards:
- web design hawaii
- hawaii web design
- wordpress hawaii
- website design hawaii
As mentioned earlier, competition is a big factor in determining your ranking in Google. Here is a look at some of the other, local companies that are competing for the same terms as I am that are on the first page. This is to help you gauge the difficulty of getting to the first page for me. As I mentioned before, the age of the site helps to determine relevancy, as legitimate sites tend to be older.
|Company||URL||When was their site started?|
|One Wave Designs||OneWaveDesigns.com||2004|
|Hawaii Web Design Studio||HawaiiWebDesignStudio.com||2005|
|Damien Sean Sterling||SterlingWebsites.com||2008|
|AS Designs & Services||HiloWebDesign.com||2008|
|Hawaii Web Group||HawaiiWebGroup.com||2007|
The Most Difficult Part of SEO
The most difficult part of SEO is the fact that it is very difficult to determine how effective your methods or strategies are. This is because results are lagging – something you did 3 months ago could have a positive effect on you today. Or something you did 3 months ago was deemed “shady” by Google and they decide to punish you today and you see a drop in rankings. If you ask me, monitoring SEO is like playing a game of basketball, but not keeping score. You can keep shooting and shooting, but without keeping score, you have no idea if you’re winning, losing. If you do something good, you won’t know that it’s good until the end, when the buzzer blows and a winner is announced. As I mentioned before, Google does not have a guide that tells you exactly how many points you get for doing this or that — their search engine logic is much more complex than that. All you can do is understand the SEO principles (Google’s has a Starter Guide), understand relevancy, and keep at it because SEO is a long-term-only marketing strategy.
My Progress in the Google Rankings
So it is almost year end and these are the results for my keywords and terms:
|Keyword||position @ 2014 start||position @ 2014 end|
|“hawaii web design”||?||#5|
|“web design hawaii”||~#96||#3|
|“website design hawaii”||?||#3|
Note: Google search results are relative, not absolute — they are biased based on your IP/geolocation and your logged in profile. These results were taken from a non-logged in account, so there is no account bias. Complicated, right? I could talk all day about this topic.
What’s Next in 2015
Now that I have a decent footing for the first page (I have fluctuated between #4-#7 this entire month of December), my next step is to expand my keywords. I have to expand to include the term “honolulu.” I actually have absolute no mentions of Honolulu at all in my home page and that is an opportunity for my company. Finally, my new company, RWG Web Solutions LLC, will be having a separate site and I will have to figure out how to best coordinate my Ronswebsite.com positioning and me sending traffic to rwgwebsolutions.com, which is where I will have most of my business detail.