Interview 2: Making Rank
“The Truth About Digital” is a series of pieces designed to debunk and demystify modern business’ biggest bugbear: the ability to understand and integrate digital into traditional marketing. Using simplified examples, we will review concepts in digital marketing to help marketers navigate this complex space with ease.
We spoke to Maon Seidel, joint-CEO at NP Digital who elaborated on the basics of Google and how it all ends up in a virtual popularity contest.
Rankings – paid-for or organic?
We all know how Google works, you type in a few keywords and hey presto, it serves you a page full of sites most connected to your search terms – these are known as “organic” search results. In order to achieve high search engine rankings companies require robust SEO and content strategy in place. The ideal (some may say the holy grail) is to be on the first page and then move into the top three rankings for specific keywords, that’s because the advantages of organic search are dependent on visibility. And since most people don’t look further than page 1 of Google, a page 1 ranking is key. The higher the ranking the more pronounced the advantages and they all but disappear if your listing is not on the first page. Which is why Seidel says “businesses who appear at the top of the first page of Google have the potential of making 47 x more profit than those who appear at the bottom of page 2.”
In this sense, Google is a bit like a popularity contest, the more relevant your content or site is to a specific search term, according to Google, the more likely they will appear at the top of the page. And that getting to the top of page 1 (the equivalent of winning the contest) involves prize money (profit).
Paid search results or PPC (pay-per-click) are advertisements for which businesses pay to have their site links displayed when users do a search containing specific keywords. The ads are typically displayed above and to the right and below the organic search results, the exact placement of which is determined by both a bidding process and quality score as assigned by Google. And the advertiser only pays for the keyword if the customer clicks on it.
Google’s business model and PPC:
Google sells a variety of different projects and products but the truth is, their bread-and-butter money comes from PPC so it’s not in their interest to have anyone be able to manipulate organic rankings as this will damage the integrity of the user experience overall. Think about it, like the Yellow Pages of previous decades, Google has created a marketplace by serving users relevant listings and is a trusted source of information. If one can manipulate the organic listings, basically crooking the system, the source becomes untrustworthy and therefore they would no longer have a marketplace to sell PPC (or ads like they used to in the Yellow Pages).
Seidel elaborates, “There are two ways in which you can look at this: the first is that Google keeps it this way in the interest of the user, to ensure that the most relevant content is served first, which delivers on the search user experience. The other way to look at it, is that Google keeps it this way to protect their revenue in the PPC category.” Seidel believes that it’s a measure of both – Google must be trusted for them to serve their users but this integrity also ensures that they have high search volumes in order to create a marketplace for their PPC.
“The truth is, 6 years ago, there were easy ways in which to manipulate organic rankings and many big organisations spent all their energy on what is now known as ‘black hat’ SEO techniques to rank on Google. These include clever manipulations to get to the top of the page like ‘cloaking’ or ‘keyword stuffing’,” continues Seidel. Google is continually upgrading their algorithms to address these techniques to try and ensure that what is served organically is only there because it is relevant to the user search; which is why Seidel recommends that good content, linked with a clever SEO strategy is the only way to achieve lasting results on Google for your business.
It seems that the truth about SEO is that we as marketers need to take responsibility for understanding how SEO can enhance our marketing strategies to drive real ROI, because getting to number 1 on Google’s virtual popularity contest, is greater than gold.
NP Digital (formerly known at National Positions SA) is a Google Premier Partner and leading digital agency that specializes in delivering a qualified digital audience through mastering the art and science of search, performance and data. To add digital rocket fuel to any of your campaigns, call Maon Seidel on 011 022 9830