Like Rome MM years ago—Google is now THAT powerful. They knew it would eventually happen. It’s why their internal slogan has always been “Don’t be evil.” Google is so ubiquitous, it’s achieved that rarified status of being both noun and a verb, and in the world of science fiction, lies somewhere between George Orwell’s big brother and the master program from Tron—virtual totalitarianism. I’m not saying that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it’s probably both, but the sooner you admit Google’s strength, the sooner you can benefit by aligning to it’s methods.
There are three primary avenues for businesses to address Google, the great and powerful: organic search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising (Google AdWords) and Google Plus. There’s more to Google than just those three items: Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Calendar are all extremely useful, and Meridiansix incorporates all of them into it’s everyday workflow. But for basic marketing purposes, SEO, AdWords and Plus are at the top of the list.
Search engine optimization is when you try to make your site show up as high as possible when somebody makes a relevant query for your particular services, e.g. “web design santa fe.” You can make this same query on Yahoo or Bing, and, in theory, good SEO will have a positive effect on all of them. It’s just better to make Google your primary target engine, as they contain the lion share of such traffic. There are two parts to SEO, and the first is “relevancy.” Relevancy refers to how well your website seems to match up with the search term, and involves an exact or approximate match to the search terms queried, how many times those keywords show up and in what level of importance they appear on your page. Google’s algorithm is pretty smart. Early attempts to fool their “spiders” that crawl and index the web, e.g. writing keywords in white text on a white background thousands of times, just doesn’t work anymore. Neither does packing a bunch of keywords below the fold, in the footer or in hidden layers. Google knows exactly where your keywords are appearing and treats them accordingly. This gets technical, but in a nutshell, to score well keywords should appear in: the page name, the page headline, the url, in the first paragraph, some bolds and italics don’t hurt, neither do few images containing the same keywords as filenames and in their filename, “alt-tags” and “meta-tags.” Doing this first chunk goes a long way to increasing relevancy.
The second part of SEO is popularity. Google’s algorithm weighs: how many other sites link to your site, what specific text is used when they link to your site and how well those sites rank in relevancy and popularity for the same search terms. This part of the puzzle is known as “link building,” and it’s the more difficult of the two SEO requirements, because you don’t control what other people do on their websites. You have to reach out and convince them to link to you—not an easy matter.
Though a lot of companies say they offer SEO services—very, very few actually perform these services to industry standards. If the services are being performed earnestly you can expect 1) an analysis of appropriate keywords and their level of competition; 2) development of an overall keyword strategy; 3) a once-over optimization of all pages of the website; 4) monthly reports on current keyword rankings for your site and three competitor’s sites; 4) ongoing keyword optimizations and new content expansions; 5) link building efforts to increase site popularity. If you’re paying for SEO and not seeing all 5 necessary steps, you’re probably getting ripped off.
Google Adwords are sponsored links that show up on the top and the sides of the results of a query. If you are trying to compete on keywords organically against competition that is way too strong, this your best option. It’s a pay-per-click model, in a bidding format. Whoever bids the highest amount shows up on top, and you only get billed if your ad is clicked. Competition defines the cost of a click. If a keyword isn’t very competitive, it’ll cost less than a dollar. If it’s very competitive, e.g. “women’s clothing”, you can expect to pay $3, $4 or more per click. The good news is that you set your own daily budget. Your ad appears until your budget is consumed, then it simply disappears for the rest of the day. There are also great scripts you can embed into your site to pull accurate metrics on actual conversions.
Google Plus is the way you claim your business profile. Google Maps results are hugely important. They have a decent idea of the location of every business in America. The amount of web traffic generated by Google Maps is staggering. Google Plus allows you to gain control of the business profile used by the maps database, upload accurate contact information, hours of operation, photos and other descriptive text. Other Google users are able to comment on your company and give it a star ranking. It’s not difficult to do, and its value is … invaluable.