February, 2011 – How to Get High on Google
A big thank you to all the M1000 members who participated so proactively in February’s call! The live online discussions and inquiries were awesome—and I know Maverick1000 Member #113 Randy Charach had a blast answering your burning questions and discussing search engine marketing during the call.
If you missed it: Randy has more than a decade of experience in the Internet, starting with an overnight success from the release of his book, Secrets of a Millionaire Magician. Prior to this, from 1981 to 2001, Randy was a professional magician and speaker. From helping people with their online businesses, to establishing innovative strategies in the Internet domain space, Randy has since moved to providing valuable services with a purely b2b approach.
Interestingly, Randy worked in the Internet marketing industry for many years without caring about search engines, but in his words, “The game has changed”; and he now focuses his time and energy on search engine marketing.
To start off our Mindstorm call, Randy shared some statistics about search engine market share. We’re looking at:
- 65% Google
- 15% Yahoo
- 13% Bing
- 6% Other
So what does this mean? Randy agrees with the rest of the SEO/SEM world: Don’t worry about the other search engines—focus on Google. Although different terms of service apply, the algorithms are different, etc., with an SEM strategy focused on Google, the other search engines will naturally fall into place. However keep in mind that Bing, for example, has been successfully aiming to be stronger in areas like hotel bookings; and Yahoo tends to deliver better consumer searches in industries lead to more transactions. Do your homework, but in the end, focus on your Google rankings.
Randy concentrates his services on improving organic search results for his clients, and he upholds that organic results are the most valuable, both immediately and in the long term. Pay per click, in contrast, may deliver some quick hits and a respectable return on investment at times, but according to Randy, PPC is not a good long term strategy.
During our call, Randy shared some interesting information about search engine result pages. Specifically, click-through rates on Google’s organic results:
- The #1 position gets 56% of all clicks
- The #2 position gets 13% of all clicks
- The #3 position gets 9% of all clicks
- Positions 4, 5 and 6 get 3-4% of all clicks
- The rest of the positions combined get less than 9% of all clicks
Basically, if you’re not in the top three, you might as well be nowhere. There are some other factors to keep in mind, including your title tags, a well-crafted call to action, brand recognition, etc.—and your overall marketing strategy can sometimes mean higher click-through rates from lower positions.
So what is going to help you rank higher in search engines? Before Google changed their algorithm, on-page content accounted for 10% of the contribution to a site’s organic position, while off-page content accounted for 90%. With the recent changes to their algorithm, Google shifted the quality and relevance of on-page content to 20% of the driving force, while off-page content remains the most important contributor at 80%. Bottom line: Valuable links coming into your site drive the vast majority of organic search engine results.
The format for this month’s Maverick1000 Mindstorm call was somewhat new. Due to the high number of participants, we elected to use a question and answer format, driven by three areas:
- Questions emailed from members before the call
- Questions and discussion points that poured in during the discussion via Twitter, text messages and emails
- Randy’s new RankMasters search engine marketing curriculum
If you missed the call, you definitely want to listen to the recording soon. For now, here’s a little “executive summary” of the questions we addressed:
Does Bing’s search share come from eating into Google’s share or other engines? And more importantly… is any upward trajectory happening with any of Google’s competitors?
Answer: There are no real upward trends—you should still focus SEM efforts on Google. In fact, Bing and Yahoo share results in many cases.
Why did you move into SEO?
Answer (summarized): While the market is flooded with poor SEO and SEM services, Randy genuinely loves helping his clients. He stays above the board with a 100% “white hat” philosophy, beating out the devious techniques with his approach of simply delivering value and measurable results to his clients.
Why should SEM not focus on Google’s competitors?
Answer: The answer is very clear. When your spot moves on Google, it also moves on Yahoo, Bing, and others. However if you put your efforts into making changes to move higher on Yahoo or Bing, you may still move very little on Google. According to Randy, “You’ll know you’re winning in a meaningful way if your Google rankings are going up, as opposed to the others, including Yahoo and Bing.”
“White hat, grey hat, black hat”—please clarify what these terms mean in the world of search engine marketing.
Answer: All search engines have very specific terms of service, and search engine marketers each have their own ethics and philosophies in relation to these terms.
- White hat — Never break any terms of service
- Black hat — Clearly not within the terms of service, often even exercising illegal activities (i.e.: buying links)
- Grey hat — Somewhere in between
- White hat strategy: Go to a blog, read a post and reply with a meaningful response and a link back to your own website. This is real—this is what the search function is intended for: to find the most relevant content.
- Grey hat strategy: Hire a team of people to add posts on blogs with links back to your website, without much focus on value.
- Black hat strategy: Create an automated system that finds blogs and posts garbage with links to your website.
Were any of your clients significantly affected by the recent changes in the Google algorithm?
Answer: No. Serving just 20 clients, the quality of the work Randy offers secured that none of his clients’ sites dropped in organic rankings on Google. But outside of his clients not feeling any effect, what were the implications of the algorithmic changes in general? Google results now include more valuable on-page content—from 10% to 20% importance, as mentioned earlier in this article. Another factor: a relatively new Google Chrome browser extension, which encourages users to report search spam. Google’s official stance is that if enough negative feedback comes in from the online community through this extension, those reports, plus other long-established research, will cause Google to drop a site’s ranking. The changes noticeably impacted 11.8% of queries—not an insignificant number, but mainly targeting the “made for AdSense content farms.”
All of this ties back to the white hat / black hat discussion: Basically, if you have a site full of regurgitated junk content that has no value, your site will not perform as well now after the algorithm changes. In contrast, if your site offers truly valuable content, you won’t be affected. Thus, the bottom line is, if you maintain a site full of rich, relevant, quality content, you should not have been affected by these changes.
In terms of geography, a new hot point of conversation is about how to improve ranking for sites outside of the US. Being that you’re in Canada, do you get these requests?(Thanks to Maverick1000 Member #104 Shelby Larson of Content Divas for this one!)
Answer: Relevancy—why would you want your .co.uk site to focus on ranking highly outside of the UK? In most cases, links from sites with your same extension (i.e.: .co.uk linking to other .co.uk sites; .com linking to other .com sites, etc.) make the most sense and are most valuable. If you want to rank in US searches, establishing a .com site is key.
What’s a great link-building strategy to kick ass in Q4, and when do we start getting our content right?(Thanks to Maverick1000 Member #45 Tim Storm of FatWallet.com for this one!)
Answer: Start with content development now. Websites are always changing, so constantly update to stay relevant. A kick ass strategy? Keep surveying the landscape, start slow, benchmark where you are now, and keep measuring your progress. And as you develop content and bring content in from partners, keep in mind that while good duplicate content is valuable for your audience, it does not rank well with search engines. Only the originator gets the credit.
Next, Randy moved onto a discussion about Google PageRank, which is a 0 – 10 scale of how valuable Google thinks your website is. (An interesting tidbit here: “Page” refers to Google co-founder Larry Page, not “web page.”)
Here’s what Randy shared about Google’s PageRank (PR):
Every single web page has its own PageRank. This means that while an index page may have a high PR, other pages on the same site may not, so be aware of the quality of the links you’re being offered. A link may seem like it’s coming from a PR7 site, but the URL itself may be a PR0 page within that site network.
Here’s an interesting relationship: One PR6 link is equivalent to 125 PR3 links; and one PR7 link is equal to 625 PR3 links!
Doing your due diligence for PageRank is important, because PR can be faked. Take the time to check inbound links, use the Way Back Machine (http://waybackmachine.org), and check back-links (i.e.: “link:domain” in Yahoo will show who’s back-linking to that domain). Keep in mind: Since 80% of the SEM battle is off-page, it’s way more important to get high PR links to your website than it is to have a high PR yourself.
What tools and services do you use in your business and what do you use them for?(Thanks to Maverick1000 Member #125 Dori Friend with SEONitro.com for this question!)
Answer: Randy doesn’t use a lot of tools. Focus on what’s important for key words:
- How many searches for a word (search volume)
- Does the keyword have good buying patterns? (high conversions)
- How much competition is there?
Randy suggests assembling key word analyses using Market Samurai, which offers a free version of their software. For a real powerhouse suite of tools, Randy uses SEO Power Suite. Use Yahoo to understand inbound links (search modifier “link:”). Ultimately, take your time up front to figure out your intended keyword, find out if it’s worth going after, and understand whether or not you can compete.
All Maverick1000 members get a special M1000 discount on Randy’s services at RankMasters.com. Give him a call or shoot him an email to kick your search engine marketing into gear!