Everyone knows that a high rank on Google for your small business can mean loads of potential customers. But achieving those rankings can be difficult, and the rankings can change in the blink of an eye. So how much, if at all, should you worry about search engine rankings for your company?
Web Access Has Changed
It used to be that using Google meant heading to your computer and doing a search from within a browser. Now, Google has expanded into a much different arena: mobile. Many people have the capability of searching Google via their phone, which has some interesting implications:
Results are tailored geographically, making them more localized
Results are listed differently, giving you one-click features to call businesses and get directions
Also, Google has "personalized" search, which takes into account whom your friends are and tailors search results based on your social profile. Instead of one universal ranking, Google now shows results contextually based on who you are, where you are and what device you're using.
How Google Has Changed
It used to be relatively simple to appear high in Google results, as the ranking algorithm was much simpler. You could use fairly basic search engine optimization (SEO) techniques, and you'd start to see positive results quickly. Add a few tags here, optimize for keywords there, gain a few backlinks and poof, you're on the front page.
Unfortunately, how Google ranks sites now is much more complicated than it used to be. SEOMoz profiles how Google changes rankings in an enormous report every year. Even then, these are just educated guesses as to how Google ranks, and nothing is definitive.
How Google Hasn't Changed
As Google constantly updates, tweaks and modifies its ranking factors, one thing has always remained steady: Content is king.
Google has made it clear that if you create content that generates authentic buzz (backlinks, tweets, Facebook shares, etc.), your site will move up the rankings ladder. In short, the more quality content you produce, the better your site will rank.
Google Ranking Myths
All of the secretive juju that goes into Google rankings creates a great opportunity for unscrupulous marketers to exploit small-business owners with fraudulent products or services. Here are a couple of my favorites:
- "We'll guarantee your website a top ranking for the keyword X." Google rankings change constantly, and the complexity of the ranking factors has made this difficult. The general rule is that you can never promise anything when it comes to Google.
- "Our software will build you backlinks while you sleep." As a general rule, links generated “while you sleep” are not links that you'd like pointing to your website.
Should You Worry About a High Google Ranking?
I know this is a very simplistic way of looking at the issue, but it's exactly what small and medium-size guys like us should be doing. We typically don't have money or time to spend worrying about all the nuances of ever-changing SEO tactics. These are uncontrollable factors, and worrying about things we can't control is bad for business. However, we can spend time and money on things we can control with our websites: crafting incredible content, growing readership, improving design, becoming thought leaders in our industries, and so on.
Google Rewards You for Making Exceptional Things
The beauty of this approach is that people take notice of these things and will start to link to you. Links are the backbone of Google results, and the more credible links that point to your site, the more authority Google places on your domain.
It's not that we shouldn't be learning about SEO, it's that sinking inordinate amounts of time into something we can't control isn't worth our time. At the end of the day, we need to be focused on the things we can control (like high-quality content), and make the most of them. If we do that, Google will reward us.
Glen Stansberry writes at LifeDev. He is also the co-founder of Gentlemint, a collection of manly links. You can find more of Glen's business insights on Wise Bread, the leading personal finance community dedicated to helping people get the most out of their money.
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