People are searching for you on Google (and the other search engines). Using SEO good practices will help them find you.
Clawing Your Way to the Top of the Heap
Every second there are more than 40,000 Google inquiries. That adds up to more than 3.5 billion per day.
Most of them aren’t your people. They’re looking for something else. Or maybe they want your hard work for free, or they’re someplace you don’t serve, or they don’t speak your language, or they’re just jerks. Let’s leave them out of the equation.
Let’s just eliminate 99 percent of all searches. That leaves 35 million, probably not all for you, but it’s still a lot.
There you are in the mammoth pile of websites offering what they’re looking for, and 95 percent of searchers don’t turn past the first page. In fact, 95 percent of those never scroll past the first screen of the first page.
How do you compete with that?
There are ways to climb the Google ladder, to get your site in front of the people looking for you. It will take time and effort, but everyone sitting in in the number-one spot got there the same way you do. They just got a head start.
And you’ve got a head start on the people coming behind you.
So how do you climb the stairway to Google heaven?
Let’s start with a bit about Google.
Google Is Not a Nonprofit
Those of us who turn to Google to find out how to fix a sink or what’s the capital of Mauritania may sometimes ponder why Google is the world’s most valuable publicly traded company.
Advertising (among other things).
Google uses unpaid search results like pollen to attract searching bees to be exposed to the ads appearing above those results.
If the information that appears in their organic (not paid) search results is not true or badly written or ginned up to get search engine attention — searchers will begin to go elsewhere. That will make the advertisers go elsewhere, and that will make the Google gods very unhappy.
So first of all, when you provide content for search results, you are working for Google. If you succeed, they pay you back in website visitors.
How Google Works
Day and night, Google is sending out little programs called bots to slurp up your content and add it to their vast indexes of information available on the web. The bots don’t “read” the browser pages. They don’t see images; they don’t watch videos. Everything they know about your page, they read in the underlying HTML code. It signals what you’ve decided is important on your page.
The code includes headers and bold and italics. But the bots don’t see the formatting, only that it’s there and what text is being decorated. The code includes file names and sizes for the images, but the bots don’t see the pictures. They notice when a phrase is repeated, and they may understand that “dentist” and “dds” mean the same thing, but probably not that such and such an island is the “jewel of the Pacific.”
SEO Good Practices and Long-Tail Keywords
Anytime someone searches for a keyword phrase (what’s typed into the search bar), Google runs through the pages in its memory and delivers up what is, according to its current formula, the most relevant answer to that search.
- If that search is “health,” it will be one set of results.
- If it’s “health care for diabetics,” it will be a more specific set of results.
- If it’s “health care for diabetic children,” it will be yet more specific results.
- If it’s “health care for African-American diabetic children,” it will be even more specific.
- If it’s “health care for African-American diabetic children in Long Island, New York,” it will be even more specific.
Obviously, there are vastly more searches for “health” than for “health care for African-American diabetic children in Long Island, New York.” And there are very authoritative sites — WebMD, government agencies, Wikipedia, and so forth — which are planted in those top search results and aren’t going away any time soon.
But if you go out to the “log tail” — more words, fewer searches — you’ll find it easier to score that home page and also find searchers looking specifically for what you’re writing about.
Chasing the Long Tail
The long tail is where you start leveraging your way up the ladder. Because “health care for African-American diabetic children in Long Island, New York” contains “health care for diabetics” and “health care for diabetic children.” The bots are smart enough to read words close together as phrases and to ignore “stop words” like “the” and “and” and “is.”
But here’s the thing, if you looked at Google’s Keyword Planner, you would find that the searches for “health care for African-American diabetic children in Long Island, New York,” is too small to record. But Google says that 15 percent of its daily searches are unique. If you’re trying to write for the search about diabetic African-American children, it will seem a futile effort. But if you write about health care for diabetic children (a fairly long tail) and mention that your practice is in Long Island, then you can get those searchers who are your direct targets.
How do you catch the long-tail searches? By writing frequently and specifically in your field. An active website with a quantity of varied material on your site, you can snag searches you never expected.
SEO Best Practices and You
If you write naturally, providing content your web readers will value, it will have two effects. One is to lead your readers to know, like, and trust you.
If you make some small tweaks to the content — SEO best practices — so that you give true signals to the Google bots about what you’re talking about, you will gain Google’s help in attracting more visitors to your site. Those small tweaks are SEO best practices. They are technical but not hard, and in the next two parts of this series, I’ll tell you more about how they work and how to climb the ladder to page 1 of the search results.