Google dominates the online search world. Estimates suggest that up to 90% of mobile searches and up to 65% of all internet searches are run through Google so being a top result in the Google search table can make or break your company. While the company is notoriously closed-mouthed about what exactly shapes the rankings, you can give your page a boost – or recover from a Google penalty – if you understand the tools and services available to you. Below you’ll find a clear introduction to commonly used terms and jargon, helping you understand which products add value to your business and which should be avoided.
Sponsored search results and PPC advertising
The easiest way to jump a queue is to pay for a queue jumper ticket. In search terms, this typically means paying to be listed in the advertising slots at the top of the page. Google typically runs 0-4 ads or ‘sponsored search results’ at the top of a search list. On a small screen, a user may not see any other results without scrolling down. PPC stands for “pay per click” and it’s the way most online advertising is run today. If you’re buying an ad in a newspaper or a billboard by a motorway, you have to pay a fixed fee for a particular space or time period – even if no one sees that ad and it generates no sales for you. With PPC advertising, you only pay when your ad is seen and acted on, i.e. when a viewer clicks on your ad. This means that if Google runs your ad next to a competitor’s, it doesn’t matter so much – you only pay if you’re the one the viewer clicks on.
As well as offering PPC advertising on its own pages, Google runs an ad network selling space on other websites. Both types of advertising can be bought through Google AdWords by bidding on particular slots. Unlike in a print magazine, where the slot might be ‘half of page 17’, Google is selling ads next to particular search terms and can give you additional information to help you target your ads more effectively. For example, a local business, such as a hairdresser or garage, might only want to advertise to customers based within 20 miles of Portsmouth while an online children’s clothing store might prioritize searches by customers who’ve already searched for other children’s products and a luxury hotel chain might not want to advertise next to any hotel search with the word “cheap” in it. AdWords puts you in control of your advertising spend, and gives you plenty of data to help you improve your advertising, if you choose to use it.
Organic search results
These are the search results – not including adverts – that you get when you search for any term. While some search engines will artificially boost advertisers up the ranks, Google separates ads and organic search results. Being the first result in the organic search listings on Google is the Holy Grail for business owners as it’s completely free and research suggests that as much as 35% of traffic goes to the page in the top slot. This isn’t surprising – Google works really hard to make sure that the organic search results give customers what they’re looking for. If you or I can find what we’re looking for quickly and easily, we’ll keep using Google. If we’re frustrated, we may switch to Bing, Yahoo! or another competitor.
Algorithms and Google penalties
The computer programmes that decide how to rank pages in an organic search result are called algorithms. Google uses more than 200 different factors to decide where a page ranks. For example, if you’re searching for a fact or a piece of maths (try ‘capital of England’ or 25*5) it’ll probably spit out the answer immediately. For something more complex, such as ‘hairdresser’ it’ll take other factors into account such as location, whether there’s news trending on the topic, the exact keywords used (“child’s haircut” will get you different results from “wedding hairdresser”). As well as trying to understand what you want, Google algorithms assess pages to try to make sure that they’re sending you to the place you want to go. The company gets very annoyed when people (often other software developers) find ways to trick their search engine algorithms and artificially boost the rankings of particular pages. When Google figures out how to counter one of these tricks, they change the algorithm and pages using the method Google disapproves of drop in the rankings. This is called a ‘Google penalty’.
Google penalty recovery
Since a Google penalty can drop your page a hundred rankings and cost your company a lot of business, it’s no surprise that there are many businesses offering Google penalty recovery services. There are ways to rebuild your credibility with the search giant, but be wary of anyone offering a quick fix – even if it works, it’s likely to be short lived. With over a decade of experience in SEO and web design, we’ve learned that the only way to truly beat the search engines is to produce high quality content and present it in a way that’s easy for both bots and humans to read. While this may take more time, a true recovery is something you can build on.
Google Webmasters support
If you want to learn more about what Google offers to businesses, you can dive into the pages on their Google Webmasters site. These pages offer tips on how to improve your website, make it mobile friendly, how to use AdWords and even how to avoid a Google penalty. Of course, if you want a short cut, you can give us a call – we’ve been improving SEO and managing marketing campaigns for our customers for over a decade.