It all starts and ends with Google

How do you get your site ranking in Google? This is one of the main questions asked by local businesses. After all, where people used to scour local noticeboards in the newsagents, libraries, newspapers, magazines and occasional flyers – things that existed in print form, search has changed. In the days where print media was king, advertising was simply about volume. If you wanted your local business to be prominent, then all you simply had to do was to drop leaflets into the houses in your area. Print 10,000 leaflets. Hire someone to put them through letter boxes. Repeat as necessary. It didn’t really matter what text you wrote on your flyers, as long as people could easily distinguish what service you were providing and the contact details. In fact, some advertising was just that – a name card.

And in the days before the internet, people were so starved of things to read, that they would guzzle up any print just to fill up the boredom. Something rubbish to read was very much better than nothing. And if you were a really large company, or just seeking to cast a really wide net, you could try advertising on radio and TV. The cost was enormous, as advertising space was limited, but some psychologists reckoned that because people turned to these forms of entertainment to unwind or had them running in the background, they were more relaxed, and were hence more receptive to the sales messages. More so than if they were heading out for work first thing in the morning and found a name card through the letterbox. The latter might have been perceived more as an intrusion, a soiling of a personal home space, and that advertising attempt may have backfired with negative messages more than anything else.

Over the years of course, consumer behaviour has changed. The average consumer is bombarded with so much information, media and messages to buy that you have to sift through all that to get to the top. The average consumer reaction now to print media is that it is just unwanted junk, filler material. In an age of free newspapers, the kind we pick up on our daily journeys, read to pass the time and then leave for the next person to pick up, print media is just something the average consumer has got used to as being disposable and unimportant. Your name card, which you have spent money to print on high quality card, embossed in gold fonts, may only end up as someone’s shopping list paper.

In fact, while this may seem an over generalisation, you can almost tell someone’s inclinations from their form of advertising. Name card through your door? Probably someone with a traditional outlook. Good if the business has been running for a long time, but if it is one that’s new, a name card suggests actually a lack of innovative thinking, more money than sense. That’s what I think, anyway.

As a small business at that time I was fortunate to transition between these two worlds, where print media was king to one where now digital media is. And this is how advertising has changed; it has moved from newspapers, magazines and printed leaflets to TV and radio, and now power resides almost completely with the digital world.

Why the digital world? Well, two reasons. One is that digital space in itself is cheap. How much does it cost to create a website? Well, you can have a personal one for anything around £10 – £15 a year, which is really a minimal outlay. The second reason is convenience. The internet is a convenient source of information. You don’t have to trawl through the yellow pages or local phone book for what you need – in any case, print media has declined so much in importance that companies don’t advertise in it any more, and the traditional directory providers don’t see print media as the powerhouse it once was. Thomson directories and Yellow Pages have migrated their businesses online.

The only problem with a digital advertising strategy is that while the cost of a website is relatively low, the method to ensure everyone sees your website is where the outlay is. The cost of digital advertising, fighting through the competition to be seen, is where the bulk of your costs will be incurred. And it is an unfortunate reality that the low costs of websites means that anyone will find it easy to set one up.

Where previously in print media you could compete by concentrating your efforts on costs, volume and word of mouth recommendations, there are now more avenues where, if you try to cover them all, you will incur heavy costs that outweigh the business you draw in.

You need to focus your efforts.

So focus them, first of all, on ranking in Google. It is the preferred search engine of choice for many people,  tablets and devices. Many or most phones come preloaded with Chrome, which is owned by Google. Unless you have a Windows phone, which offers you Internet Explorer and tries to shift you to Bing .. But most people are adept at configuring their phones to use Google as a search engine anyway. It makes sense to target the majority of the market here. Otherwise it is spending too much money and time to get little back.

One of the suggestions Google gives to website owners is to write good content. Good content draws readers to sites. If Google can see that people are clicking on to a web site and spending time on it, it must be of worth. Unfortunately many people have taken this recommendation to extremes and set up gambling, gaming and pornography sites, which arguably increase dwell time, but do not offer anything edifying to the general populace – so avoid these. The search for good content is what draws people to use Google in the first place. Many people search for good content to read for leisure and to glean information might be useful. These are the two main reasons people use Google for, so if you position your site as one which offers good technical content as well as one which offers  information people might read for leisure, then that is what will draw people to your site and spend time there. And that in Google eyes, is the sign of a good site that it will reward in rankings.

The technical site to things is easy information to write up. Usually the “About Me” and “What I Offer” sections, a list of services you offer … all this fall under technical content. But how do you write leisure content?

Creating content is hard work enough but usually the main part is in thinking up what to write. But you don’t really have to go far for ideas. You can actually get your ideas, believe it or not, from Google.

Each day on the Google search engine you can see a graphic above the search bar. The graphic leads to a link about an event in history. So for every day of the year you will have an idea of what to post on your site. Look at the image, click on it, and get some ideas for your daily post. But you don’t have to post daily if you can’t afford the time. Once every few days is good, but whatever is enough to get you repeat visits, and whatever time you can afford. In some cases, you may find it more suitable not to do it on a daily basis, but to write posts and content with longer shelf life.

A word of warning though. Look to Google for inspiration, but don’t copy and paste content. It merely establishes your web site as a duplicate site in the eyes of Google, and you won’t rank well. Secondly, if your customers search your site and discover your content is duplicate, and you are passing it off as original, what will they think of your business and work? Thirdly, the content must be suitable. If you offer a gardening service and the Google image of the day is about Albert Einstein then it is not necessarily related to your work.

But what you need to do, and this is where if you practice you will be good at it, is to take the post and give it a slant or viewpoint related to yours. Albert Einstein may not have had anything to do with gardening, but he invented dynamite, through his understanding of chemicals … And a good understanding of fertiliser chemicals may help your plants. You have a link. Newton discovered gravity reportedly by questioning why an apple fell from his garden tree. You have a link between Newton and gardening.

You can see how this post used the above principles.

So to rank in Google, write good content that attracts. And there is really no better starting point than Google itself for ideas.