You may have already picked up on the unfathomable amount of power that Google wields in the PR and marketing ecosystem today. I would even go as far to argue that few companies—or even, forces—throughout human history have changed the world to the extent that Google has, especially when it comes to ecommerce and the business world.
In today’s world, it’s entirely possible to build a business solely on the back of Google. You can start a retail business without ever having to contemplate having a bricks and mortar store. If you’re adept at knowing what terms your customers will use to find the product or services you sell, you can drive all your customer interest via Google, and never even consider using old school marketing methods.
Indeed, for better or for worse, Google has changed the world. The “for worse” part of that last sentence has to do with the fact that Google has essentially created a monopoly of this market. Though there are other search engines in the game – such as Bing and Yahoo, and successful international competitors, such as Baidu in China, Naver in Korea and Yandex in Russia – they’re not even close to the market share that Google has. In effect, Google has created the rules to its own game, and if we want to do business online, we have no choice but to become competitive participants.
The game that Google has created is called search engine optimisation, which, at its most basic definition, means tailoring your website to help prospects, or interested searchers, find you. The goal is to communicate to the search engine exactly what your web page and wider website is about. You do this primarily via judiciously selecting and repeating relevant words and phrases, or “keywords,” and structuring the backend of your website in a way that Google’s bots understand. And whilst there are other search engines, SEO in Europe and America might as well be called “Google Optimisation,” because it is undoubtedly the most important player in English speaking markets.
So the next logical question might be to ask: what does Google want from my website? Despite that being a straightforward question, there is unfortunately, no straightforward answer. SEO is a game with no formal rules; that is, Google does not publish how their algorithm works or the precise way that they determine which websites to favour over others. For web-based businesses, the Google algorithm is the Holy Grail, the Wizard of Oz, and the thirty million dollar question, all rolled into one. Not only that, it’s estimated that they publish 500 updates to the algorithm per year, and they generally don’t notify website owners until after the fact, making the game ever more quixotic.
Until about a year ago, there was one man responsible for all of this: Matt Cutts, who led the web spam team at Google, and with the search quality team on search engine optimisation issues. After a prolonged sabbatical of more than a year, this job appears now to be managed by a team of people at Google.
The job is, in itself, both highly technical, and one of the most powerful in business today. Website owners and business owners are desperate to know what Google is thinking and this guesswork has spawned an entire £multi-billion industry. The SEO industry is comprised of firms of marketers, developers, analysts, strategists and writers whom you can hire to advise and guide you on how to optimise your website – all with the intention of impressing Google and improving your place in SERPs (Search engine results pages – what you see as the result of your search). However, the only problem is that the only people who can actually do this with any certainty are Matt Cutts and his team. Today’s SEO consultants are quite literally saying to their clients: “We think the Google algorithm has changed and the way we think it’s changed is to this.” It’s hard to think of another industry of this scale that is based entirely on what essentially amounts to very well organised and carefully researched guesswork!
Given that Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t be evil,” you might be wondering why they insist on making it so damn difficult to create a website that will perform well in their search results. To answer that, you have to think about where Google’s loyalty lies. When you consider the vast, dark expanse of information that is the internet, you can understand why SEO is necessary from the searcher’s point of view. It’s a way for non-humans like Google’s bots to navigate the gargantuan amount of content that exists. In its absence, the searcher would be lost amidst a sea of content and dissatisfied because they couldn’t find what they wanted. As a result, they would no longer trust Google, and Google, like any business, doesn't want to lose the confidence of its users.
So what’s the takeaway here? While you might be irritated by SEO and you think it’s unfair to spend time and money making your website adhere to it, you quite simply do not have a choice. And when you think about what Google is actually trying to achieve with SEO – levelling the playing field so that savvy webmasters can’t cheat the system and get their sub-par content to the top – it starts to make a bit of sense. So get involved, roll up your sleeves and learn more about what you can do about it.
Tip #30: Mastering Google is the gateway to finding new prospects and more revenue. Love it or hate it, you have no choice but to learn and play by its rules.
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