Hint: It’s all about online traction
The first page of Google is prime online real estate, and the top of that page is the best place of all. This is because less than 75% of people ever look beyond the first page when they search, and over 60% only click on the first three entries on the front page.
Leads from search engines have a close rate of 14-15% and 95% of all online experience begin with a search engine. And why does it have to be Google? Because Google currently gets over 80% of the total search engine market share. So at the top of the first page is definitely where your business needs to be for your most important search terms.
Yet most business don’t manage it. The majority of websites languish somewhere on pages 2 to 5 or only appear on the front page of Google for their actual company name. This is great if people know you and will always choose you specifically, but when loads of businesses offer the same kind of product or service, is your business really that famous? And can you really afford NOT to be found when people are generally looking for what you sell?
So how do you get your business right there under people’s nose’s when they are looking for what you are selling? I wish I could tell you that doing just one thing – tweak your SEO, for example – will guarantee first page ranking and immediate success for your brand. However, it just isn’t that easy nowadays.
Instead you need to get a combination of factors in hand and aligned to create the Online Traction that will get you on the first page. If everything isn’t working properly then it’s unlikely to happen. And yes, ok, some brands are lucky enough to stumble over a sweetspot keyword by accident, create an amazing piece of content that lots of people want AND it leads to a bunch of new leads and clients. But like playing the lottery it’s a rare occurrence, so leaving it to chance is an unreliable strategy at best.
Why you aren’t on the first page of Google
The challenges that stop a website appearing on the first page of Google are many and numerous, so let’s have a look at the main culprits.
Poor or too generic SEO
This usually happens because the marketing department don’t really understand SEO and neither do the website designers. So while Yoast, for example, might be installed, it is rare for it to be properly set up.
So we often see metadata not filled in correctly and duplication is common. The keywords chosen are usually generic terms or what someone ‘thinks’ people use to find them rather than what people are ACTUALLY using to search. Without checking how can you be sure? And if there are 128,000 pages for that term what makes you think your website will be the one chosen above all others by Google? Yes it might happen, but it’s very unlikely!
Text not written for search
Most copywriters are great at writing intelligent and persuasive text. Very few are great at writing optimised text. This matters when you are writing for websites. Google likes things to be easy to understand because it is always trying to give the searcher (that’s you and me) the best experience. So Google prioritises text that is easy to read, with shorter sentences and written in the active voice.
Unfortunately when people are trying to write about something in an ‘up market’ or persuasive way, they often use long sentences. They get clever with it, which often means passive sentences and erudite terms. Few understand the power of the sweetspot keywords. Fewer still include them (even by accident) or optimise the text properly.
Google penalises content that is duplicated. If you publish an article in one place online and then reuse it again in another, you have to change it somewhat or else Google will choose one source and degrade the other. There are no real guidelines from them, as far as I know, but we work to the 20% change rule and this seems to work well.
We also see a lot of duplicate keywords used in webpages and blogs. Yes you might well be selling English sparkling wine, but if that’s the main or only keyword you use in all your content you aren’t maximising your chances of getting found online – and you might well be hurting them.
Lack of expert content
Google and users crave expert content. While the average attention span might be dropping like a stone, Google is quietly prioritising articles of 1,000 words or thereabouts because it knows when people are interested in something they will stop and READ ABOUT IT.
Therefore you should be looking for what people are searching for and create a brilliant and useful piece of content that comprehensively answers their query. It should give them solutions and insights, and link to even more information (hopefully on your website!).
In short, be the expert that you are.
Poor user experience
This often happens because marketing people don’t understand website health and structure and can’t do SEO. They will often just choose something that the designer has made look pretty without thinking about the way someone uses it.
Website designers are key to getting a website to work, but they may be too creative or too techie, so the website suffers ether way. This might be because they use pictures that look great but are way too big and it slows the whole website down. A slow-to-load website is one of the key reasons for a high bounce rate.
In addition, they rarely understand SEO as well as you would expect. For example, I’ve lost count of the number of website designers who don’t automatically preserve backlinks when they build to a new website.
High bounce rate
A high bounce rate is the scourge of any online marketing efforts – if people aren’t actually staying on your website you have zero chance of selling them anything. It happens for many reasons, including all of the above. It is also the automatic response if what a visitor is expecting is not what they see when they arrive.
This is why you must be extremely careful with landing pages, and check how your brand appears at every place someone encounters it. This includes how the sales people talk about it, the social media, and the way you write press releases, as well as your website text and the blogs or articles. It all has to be part of the bigger whole. Even if people don’t consciously react to it, something as small as having slightly different colours or pictures out of alignment can cause a feeling of unease and make people feel like this right – and click away.
As a result every little thing matters and every little thing should be aligned to make the whole journey as frictionless as possible.
Activities are siloed
One of the main reasons that a brand doesn’t feel consistent is that activities are siloed. This can be because of internal divisons, or it might be that you are using too many different suppliers to do all the different elements of your marketing, website, PR etc, without making sure there is a strategy and comprehensive brand guidelines.
So for example, social media is a huge driver when it comes to creating online traction, and optimised social media is best of all. Therefore in addition to making sure that your brand tone of voice, colours, fonts and picture style are all incorporated in your social media, you also need to include SEO sweetspot keywords. If you are sending out PR, it needs to be optimised, and point back to an aligned landing page. And so on and so forth. Basically if you aren’t working it all together you just aren’t going to see the results.
Having said that, if you do get it all working together the results can be stupendous, as we have witnessed time and time again. See our case study about the company who begged us to ‘turn it off’ because they were getting too many enquiries once they got to the first page of Google.