When it comes to how to get top of Google for Free, we need to start at the beginning with what most people see as the first step of getting onto the internet.
Building a website.
Most business owners use a tactic called Hope Marketing.
They work on the basis of 'If you Build It, They Will Come' but, unlike Kevin Costner and the Field of Dreams, Google is not such a rewarding master with no further effort on your part.
Putting up a website full of pretty pictures but with no relevant content and then just hoping people will find you and hoping that they might be interested in your product or service and hoping that they might convert into customers is not going to get you very far at all.
I have met numerous business owners with beautiful websites that cost lots of money but which receive very little traffic because no one actually knows they exist.
You see they're not on Google's First Page... or even the first five pages.
And business owners without customers can be vulnerable to the persuasive sales talk of the passing SEO consultant, who will insist that he can show them how not to get top of Google.
You will hear a lot of opinions about search engine optimisation. The talk of black and white hats. The witches and warlocks of the mysterious hush hush tactics that you wouldn't understand. Just give me the money every month and don't worry yourself about it.
These are the people who put white words on white backgrounds so only the search engines can see them or get involved with link farms and spam comments - my personal pet peeve - or fake reviews. All of which contravene Google's terms and conditions and are more likely to get you kicked off the front page of Google and consigned to the sandbox beyond the tenth page.
But the white hatters can be just as bad with their talk of ethical SEO, attempting to jump on the green bandwagon and swing you in their direction.
And then there are the Optimistic Optimisers who throw hundreds of keywords into the meta data but don't actually do anything with the content on the page itself so there is no correlation in Google's eyes between what is in the meta data and what is on the page.
The truth is that all SEO has to walk a fine line to stay on Google's good side and sometimes they just change the rules without any warning.
At Lollipop Local, we work on High Visibility SEO using on page optimisation and working to build off page backlinks to promote good content and direct targeted traffic back to your website which will interact with the great content and calls to action on your pages.
What is the Top of Google?
So, to ensure that we all understand the basic concept – apologies if I’m teaching grandma to suck eggs with anyone but it’s important that everyone knows the basics.
The Top of Google is the first page of the results which that search engine has gathered in response to a specific search term. It contains what Google believes to be the 10 most relevant results to give you the answers you require. These pages are called SERPS – search engine results pages.
A search term is also known as a KEYWORD. The words or phrases that your potential customers will type into Google to find the product or service that you offer.
Which is why before you even think about building a website, you should identify what your keywords are so you can build them into your website’s infrastructure.
Which is also why you get a lot of businesses choosing to use something called Exact Match Domains.
What could be more relevant than a website which has the keywords included as an exact match in the url.
Which is why when you look up plumbers in Southend, you will find pages and pages of variations on a theme - PlumbersInSouthend dot com, dot co dot uk, dot net, dot org - you get the picture.
Why do I need to know how to get top of Google?
Well when you're doing a search on Google, do you go beyond page 1? Would you go further than page 2 to find the answer to your question?
Where on the First Page of Google Do I Need to Be
There have been lots of studies done on user behaviour when they interact with the front page of Google.
Eye Tracking surveys have shown that most of the attention is drawn to the top left hand corner of the page – which is why Google ads now appear at the top of the page as well as down the right hand side.
But we humans are a contrary and savvy bunch. Most of us know that those links are sponsored and so many of us refuse to click on them, preferring to go for the organic listings below.
Not surprisingly, that's where most of the click throughs occur. Depending which survey you view, the average percentage score seems to be something like 40/20/10 for the top three. Curiously, number 10 tends to do better than number four because people tend to scroll down.
Who Gets On The Front Page of Google?
So it's about an 80/20 split between Organic and Adwords – 80% of the available clicks will go to the organic listings.
These are the website pages that the Google spiders have crawled and decided best fit the requirement of the search query.
So how do they know?
Whenever you publish a page on your website, you need to submit it to the search engines to be crawled. With Wordpress sites this is done automatically with the ping function. Then the Google bots and spiders will come to your page and have a look.
But they can't see images or flash, they can only read words and if you've got a lot of words on your page, that can take a long time. So in the code of a website, good optimisers will put words into specific spaces where we know that the spiders will look.
The meta data that describes your website or page gives you a title and a description which Google uses as a snippet when it positions you on the SERPs, so you should make sure that these are completed carefully to include the keywords that are relevant for your site or page. Remember the optimistic optimisers?
The blue underlined section is the meta title and the black writing underneath is the meta description.
If you can, you should try to get your keywords into the actual URL of the page itself.
Then you need to ensure that your images are tagged so that the bots know what they are – these are called the alt tags.
And finally, you need to put your keywords into the text, preferably broken up into sections with the use of different sized titles called header tags. The same way that you would divide up a long piece of text into paragraphs with descriptive headers for human readers, so you need to break it into bite-sized chunks with clues for the spiders and bots.
But, if you have a hundred pages which all fit the criteria because they've done all the on page SEO correctly, how does Google decide how to order them?
Content is King. And Google has been updating its algorithm to ensure that the entries which go onto its first page in response to a search query give the most relevant and up to date information which best answers the question being asked.
But Google is a machine. It cannot make aesthetic choices about which content is best in terms of writing style or explanatory skill. It can only tell that your pages are relevant because you've told it that they are through your SEO. It needs to have a better reference point.
So it then looks at your website to see how often the content is updated. Google loves regularly changing content because it wants the most recent information on a subject. If it can see that you are posting regularly with fresh material, it knows that your site is keeping abreast of developments.
It then checks to see how many other sites are linking back to yours. This is where someone else puts your website address or URL onto their website, often with a keyword phrase as anchor text. This clickable link shows Google that your website has been deemed worthy of approval by someone else. If that someone else also has lots of backlinks going to their site, then it's a huge tick in your favour in Google's eyes because you have backlinks from other authority domains. It begins to trust both your website and what you are saying.
Finally, it looks at the activity on your site: Are people visiting your site? Are they leaving comments? Are they sharing your posts on social media like Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter? Are they using the Facebook LIKE button or Google Plus's +1? Are they making a note of your site with a social bookmark like Digg or Stumbleupon? This is the human proof that Google needs to know that you are kosher.
So these are the tools that Google uses to determine who it's going to put on the front page of the organics.
But then it started to split things up even further and the term SoLoMo was born. This is the holy trinity of the future.
Social. Local. Mobile.
These are the places where your customers are based and where you need to position your website too.
Google Local/Google My Business/Google Maps
Google realised that local people like to buy from businesses that are sited within five miles of their own location. So it started to give away FREE websites to local businesses. And then it started listing those mini sites on its front page, marked with red balloons in positions A-G.
So how do you get one of these free Google Places Pages? Well, first of all you need a gmail account. Google are building a huge spiders web of services to make itself indispensable. It builds itself into your life as a necessity and who doesn't need a free email account?
Once you're logged into your gmail account, you google 'google places', the website it google.com/places and click on Get Started.
They will ask for your business telephone number and if they have already made you a free Page, you will be directed to the dashboard where you can claim your page. If they haven't, you can create one yourself by filling in the relevant info in the form.
You need to remember that some keywords won't trigger the top seven Google Places pages on the front page but when it does, one of those eye tracking studies taken recently revealed that the focus of attention has shifted down slightly. The brightest light is now right over the seven pack of the Places Pages.
In the beginning, Places was all about the red balloon – or pin as they call it - and it still is on the actual map. But now in the SERPs they've changed it to grey which turns to red when you hover over it. As you'll notice, it's not so noticeable. Whereas the paid Adwords Express listings are now being shown with a blue balloon. Call me cynical...
Anyway, A-G are the top markers, with everyone else appearing on secondary pages. If you don't have one of those A-G pins on the front page, you're nowhere.
How do they decide who goes where?
Along with a large number of undisclosed factors, they look at the way you've filled out your entry. Make sure you complete all the sections carefully and fully. Categories, services, hours of business, locations covered, photographs, videos. You should be aiming to get the marker to 100% complete.
Proximity to the centroid – now just because you think you're in the middle of town doesn't mean that you will get position A. Google has some very strange ideas about where the centroid is for some areas.
Having said that, you can sometimes find businesses from other areas like cuckoos in the nest. This is normally where Google doesn't have seven Places listings in that town for that search term so it's a great opportunity to place your business in a location where it doesn’t actually have a physical address. But this is becoming less and less common as more businesses set up their own Google Places pages.
Website – Google also looks at your website because it knows it can tell whether you are a trustworthy source – Content, Backlinks, Activity, age of domain that type of thing.
Reviews – if you can get happy customers to leave you a Google Places review either from their PC or their mobile phone, it all counts towards your trust and reliability in Google's eyes.
Citations on Local Listing Directories like Thomson Local, Free Index, Qype, Hotfrog. If you've taken the trouble to enter your business in these free listings, it's a sign to Google that you're in it for the long haul and will provide relevant information for their local search term.
Blended Google Pages
So, after it initiated the seven pack, Google started playing around with the mix and introduced blended results where the information in the seven pack includes wording that it has scraped from your website. So, sometimes you will see the title and/or description from the meta data, the address and photographs from the Places page.
These blended results can appear as a seven pack or interspersed amongst the organic results.
Google Branded One Box
The Branded One Box comes up for certain keywords in certain locations. It is just fab from a marketing point of view because look how much real estate you get on that front page. These are awarded to a business that Google has determined is THE place to go for information about the search term in that area..
Here you can see just how important it is to get all your info into your Places Page when you first sign up because Google brings it all out to give you a great shopfront which dominates the page.
So create it, claim it, update it and manage it. You can change it if you want to try to rank for other search terms – but just be careful to stay within the terms and conditions and don't do anything which could make you lose the rank that you have achieved already.
And then go and put the same information into the free local listing directories. Make sure the Name Address and Phone number are entered in exactly the same format as in your GP Page. Encourage your customers to review you there as well as on your Google Places page. This all helps to build authority in Google's eyes.
And the Domain Authority of these local listing sites can help to push your free entry onto the front page of Google for certain search terms.
Mobile is the future as we discovered recently at a big Google Local Mobile presentation in London.
And your Places page is triggered in mobile search too. If you type in a type of business, it will give you a list of the Places pages for the most local companies who provide that service.
It offers up the businesses that are closest to the mobile phone in question.
You also need to ensure that your site is optimised for Mobile – it needs to be in a proper mobile friendly format – not just a shrunk down version of your regular website. All those words on such a small screen? For customers who are out and about and want to check your location, whether you stock a product or its price. It needs to be clear and obvious, not lost in a sea of words.
A map, product information and pricing for your most popular lines, a menu for pubs and restaurants, opening hours.
But any words that you do use need to be part of your on page SEO effort – keywords, keywords keywords.
Click to call is also crucial so customers can just tap the phone number and it starts calling.
Facebook Places and Foursquare – get yourself listed so that people can check in on both these and using the Google Places app – it all counts as interaction to show the search engines that you are a popular site. People can also leave reviews so bear that in mind when you're dealing with any customer service issues.
YouTube and Video Marketing
Google has always liked to rank video but since it now owns YouTube, it does it even more. Invariably, if there is a video on the keyword, Google will show it on the front page – depending upon how many others are using the same keyword.
32% of all internet traffic is now on YT and 54% of all internet traffic is video.
People like video!
But, even more importantly, the competition for the keywords is much less – 4.6 million articles vs 16,000 videos is the average for each keyword. Add Google's favouritism for this media and...
Google and Social Media
Social Media has been recognised by Google as the delivery system for great content. It's the driving force which directs traffic back to your website, which is why I always go on about social media optimsation and using all the tools that we have been given to promote our content and bring visitors onto the site - not the other way around.
But, from an SEO perspective, there's no doubt about it, Facebook has huge domain authority which means that Facebook Business Pages which have keywords in their URL and their descriptions can get onto the front page. It used to be the same for real-time Twitter. Tweets because they wanted to encourage current relevance.
LinkedIn Company Pages can also rank for Google searches for less competitive keywords so it's a really good idea to optimise these.
Most importantly, backlinks from all these social profiles give your website a great boost in Google's eyes.
So, what's with Google+?
Google tried to promote G+ with their own version of business pages and posts. It didn't work. Some people are still trying to keep Google Plus alive but Google has almost completed the transition away from The One Ring That Rules Them All. Google My Business/map listings are now a separate entity. Google Hangouts too have become a product in their own right.
You can get tons of free publicity with articles and press releases and there are many different sites that will take your original content. The domain authority of some will ensure that articles on certain keywords will make it to the front page and if you link from the article back to your website, you have built yourself a healthy backlink. The more authority backlinks, the higher up Google your website will go.
However, since the advent of the Panda and Penguin updates, you need to choose these sites with great care. As a result, Guest Blogging is becoming the order of the day and most good blogs will receive regular requests from other publishers. Again, these need to be handled with care if you don't want to upset your regular readership.
Social Search - Personalised SERPs
"But I'm already on the front page of Google."
If you knew how often I've heard that said... and then I do the search from my computer and they're nowhere to be seen.
Today's browsers – Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera – they're all very clever. They want to provide you with what you want seamlessly. So, if you regularly look at a certain page in response to a particular search term, they remember that. They also take into account where you are and give you the most local results. So someone in Glasgow will see different results to someone in Birmingham – unless they have added a geo modifier to their search term – in Leigh on Sea.
So, the next time you make a search they will take all that into account and produce the pages that you like seeing – a personalised SERPs. That's often how your website can end up on the front page of Google for you... but not for me... or any other potential customer who does not know you exist.
How To Check That You Have Got To The Top of Google
The best way to check your website's real position is to use a tool that excludes your previous preferences and your location. I use hide my ass dot com. This way I can be sure that the results I am seeing are for real. Make sure you log out of Facebook or gmail so there can be no social share to skew the rankings. What I see when I view my page now are:
Facebook Page – domain authority and keyword optimisation
Local Listing Directories - keyword optimisation in the listing and their domain authority
Video - keyword optimisation and YouTube domain authority
Linked In - domain authority and keyword optimisation
More Opportunities for Front Page Listing
Images – if you've got images that represent your business, keyword them up and put them on Flickr and Picasa
Maps – Google Places page – we don’t yet have the facility to edit our map listings but it's coming
News – if you've got something newsworthy, shout about it with press releases and a page meta data title that says news
Shopping – if you've got products, upload them to Google product search
Books – if you've got a book to sell, make sure it's listed with Google Books
Blogs – I am always banging on to my clients about the benefits of blogging and now there is a whole new way to get listed under your niche. Put your search term into the query box and hit blogs.
Discussions – Where Facebook goes, Google will follow and there are Google groups about a wide range of subjects to which you can contribute and get your name and face known. Say something relevant about your keywords and bob's your uncle, you can get onto the front page under discussions.
How to stay on the first page of Google
Backlinks backlinks backlinks and, better still, authority backlinks. These can be gaine through web 2.0 properties, blog comments, related websites, reviews, forums, bookmarking, online articles, press releases, local listing directories, industry specific directories, blog posts, social network profiles – they all count.
Your website becomes the central hub of an ever growing universe of approval showing Google that you are the most relevant source of information for a selection of specific keywords
It’s no good thinking Build It and they will come.
SEO is an ongoing challenge, the more competitive the niche, the more work you have to do… and keep on doing... especially if you have SEO savvy competitors.
At Lollipop Local we make Local SEO and Social Media simple. Give us a call on 01702 476517 for a non-Geeky guide to the internet and let us start directing traffic to your site.
Whether it’s Social Local or Mobile, your website needs to be there
Keywords – Optimisation – Content - Sharing - Backlinks
It's how to get top of Google for free.
But, once you've got there, you still need to provide a great user experience for the people who will be clicking through to your posts and pages.
Inbound Marketing is a great methodology to turn your website into a marketing machine that attracts visitors, converts them into leads by persuading them to exchange their email address for a piece of useful content. By pushing them further into your conversion funnel, you can nurture them with great content until they want to become your customer.