If You’re Not First, You’re… OK

You’ve heard it from Ricky Bobby and other sports figures, “if you’re not first, you’re last.” Who really wants to finish second in sports? There is no super bowl trophy for the runner-up. We’re driven to be the best and shoot for the stars! These are all great competitive attributes when it comes to sports, business and almost every part of life. There are few times when being second, third, fourth or even fifth means anything.

Beware Those #1 in Google Claims

Contrary to what you may hear in marketing circles, being first for a given keyword in Google is not always the best use of time, money or effort. Companies will dig through keyword reports to identify those top 3-5 keywords where they must rank #1 in Google. Search engine optimization has a bad rap due to SEOs who clout #1 rankings or claim they will get you to the top in 30 days. These SEOs are the snake-oil salesmen of search and often churn through clients looking to grow their business quickly. The truth is, search takes time, there are no quick and easy ways to go from nowheresville to page 1. Search marketing goals should be measured in months and years and not weeks or days. SEO or SEM shouldn’t be the only marketing channels you use to drive visitors and sales to your website.

The Long Tail of SEO

Keywords are a great start to your search marketing campaign. It’s hard to know what your target audience is looking for without a good mix of potential keywords. What a keyword list leaves out is all the variations of that keyword and what’s called “the long tail” of search. When you first start optimizing a website you tend to see longer 3-5 word phrases appear before you see the 1-2 word keywords.

1-2 word keywords drive lots of search volume but may not be the highest converting or best keyword to own for your business. Reaching #1 in Google for that 1-2 word keyword may be throwing money at a low ROI target. Anyone who tells you should target a 1 word keyword or they’ll get you to #1 for a 1 word keyword should be looked at with skepticism.

Being #1 is Expensive in AdWords

In the Google AdWords pay-per-click marketing world, being #1 can drive lots of clicks but can be very expensive. Often searchers will click on the first result they see, the #1 listing in paid search, without giving much thought or reading the ad copy. This often results in a ton of high cost clicks to your website where the visitors have a high bounce rate. Not a great combination if you have a limited budget and need to get ROI on your ad dollars.

Shoot for Page 1

Organic keyword rankings these days are not achieved by building a ton of low quality directory links, comment spamming blogs or buying links from other websites. All of these will get you in some really hot water with Google if it doesn’t follow their quality guidelines. Beware of any SEOs that use link building schemes to get results. The results they get will be very short lived and could get your website filtered out of search results completely like many business owners experienced during the Penguin update in April 2012.

Make sure your search marketing program and any SEO consultant you work with has a long term vision and strategy to getting you results. Again, to get where you need to be in search is going to take a lot of work. If you’re just starting a website it could take many months, perhaps 1 or 2 years, before you begin to own page 1 results for a few of your target keywords. Don’t get discouraged, just be realistic about your short term goals.

Google Ain’t No Dummy!

Google is smart and getting smarter about who they list in organic search results. Brands typically are not built over night, Google knows this. Once your company has earned quality links and earned social media shares, then you will see your online business take off. There will be much rejoicing! Maybe even a trip to Applebee’s to celebrate?