Tom sells bicycles. He creates a website that says he sells bicycles. You search for a store that sells bicycles. You find Tom’s Bicycle Store.
That’s the basic idea, anyway. It’s the variables that now creep in and make SEO challenging.
First, if I’m in Kentucky, I’d probably like a bike seller in Kentucky. But I didn’t say that in my search, so I will get 700,000 bicycle sellers from all over the world. I needed to narrow that down in order to find Tom’s Bicycle Store. But did I mean new bikes or used bikes? Did I mean mountain bikes, touring bikes, or motor bikes? When you get your search terms right, Google will give you the results you really wanted.
So, as a customer, I have to be somewhat smart in how I search. But even then, there’s the issue of Black Hat SEO sites. Black Hat SEO is what it is called when you use the search algorithm to lure people into your website, then try to sell them something they don’t want at all. Imagine a storefront that had bikes in the windows, bikes in the name, and was called “Bill’s Bike Store”. Seems like just the right place if you’re looking for bikes, right? Wrong. Inside Bill’s Bike Store we actually find credit card applications. Lots of them. Everywhere. Because, really, Bill works for a credit card company and gets paid by the application. He doesn’t care HOW you manage to arrive; he only cares that maybe you will fill out one of his applications. Some people actually think they’re applying to buy a bike. Bill doesn’t care. He’s getting paid by the application. Getting paid matters to him. Your satisfaction with the search results is entirely outside of his field of vision.
That’s where the OTHER side of the Google algorithm comes in. Google hunts Bill’s site, notes he’s advertising himself as a bike store, but then notices that he has no bikes for sale. He has no information on biking, tires, seats, or even pedals. Worse, he has just as much stuff on his site for horseback riding, dental implants, and online dating. And, to top it off, the domain name, “BillsSuperDiscountBikeStore.com” is actually only six months old. Google punishes people who do this, as Google’s only concern is just the opposite of Bill’s: they WANT you to be happy with your search results, otherwise you will use another search engine next time, and they won’t be able to show you the paid ads they have on the SERP pages. That point bears restating: Google is ONLY concerned with giving you the BEST results based on your search, because that is how they keep you logging back into Google the next time you have a question.
And that point is the biggest clue in how you can use the Google Algorithm to successfully advertise your small business on the internet. Let’s dig in to how that actually works.
Forget about what you do
I know. I just told you that you have to absolutely be honest about what you do. But, in order for your online marketing to work, you have to stop thinking that you know what you do, and start considering that you might be the solution to a problem you didn’t know people were having. One of the best ways to understand how to get around the battle for page one is… to fight for a different page one.
You see, just because Tom sells bikes doesn’t mean that “bikes for sale” is the best thing for Tom to target with his website. With a little homework, you can discover certain terms that are being searched, but DON’T have sixty thousand people trying to fight for page one. Because, really, do you need sixty-thousand new leads every month to stay in business? Probably not. In fact, If you just had sixty… or even six… you’d probably be able to make a good go of your business. So start to think in terms of what you need, and not necessarily what is out there to be had.
Let’s actually run some analyses to see what the difference is between Tom trying to target “bicycle” from his store in Topeka, Kansas.
My software tells me that today there are approximately (get ready for it) 1,500,000 searches for the word “bicycle” … PER MONTH! Wow! Isn’t that fantastic? If Tom can just get one out of 10,000 searches to go his way, he’ll have an extra 150 sales per month! He’ll be able to open a second store, hire help, and even give bikes to charities!
So this becomes Tom’s quest. He puts the word “bicycle” into his website everywhere he can. He creates pages with just the name “bicycle” in it. And, after three months of intensive blogging to create backlinks, lots of reviews written on line, super loyal customers on social media sharing our media everywhere, you check and you see that you are not only “off” page one (death), but you are somewhere back on page 86, right under an article from CNN about how a bicycle was stolen from a Hollywood actor on vacation in Bermuda. Tom has spent hundreds of hours, and maybe even thousands of dollars, trying to get his share of the 1.5 million searches, and has come up entirely empty handed.
But what if Tom had started just a little differently?
Software exists today that can reverse Google’s algorithm on itself, and not only run the search you request, but also create variations in the search. So, in this real life example, let’s see what happens if we make just a simple adjustment, and go from a keyword, to what is called a “long tail keyword”. Or, in English, we’re going to search for a phrase instead of a word.
What if we changed the search term from “bicycle” to “bicycles Topeka”? Well, we would certainly have a LOT fewer searches to deal with. In fact, according to my software, there are exactly ZERO searches per month for bicycles in Topeka. It could be that Tom started his bicycle store in a really bad location. But surely there are a lot of people who still want to buy bicycles, and might even buy them online, right?
If you change the words again, but this time to “bicycle for sale”, you end up getting 22,200 searches per month. The key with this phrase, however, is that NOBODY on the first three Google SERPs is actually targeting it with their websites! This long tail keyword has no competition from any of the top Google results. Google WANTS to find the best results, but the best results aren’t always good results.