This was shortly after Trump took to Twitter to protest Google, which frankly I rolled my eyes at. But my father brought up a valid point: the average Joe doesn’t know or understand what goes into Google rankings, and a lot of people are concerned that Google is manipulating the results to control the internet.
I don’t want to even try to address the Big Brother conspiracy theories, but what I will say is Google search results can be manipulated. I’ve done it and you can too.
Generally I phrase this as “optimizing search results,” or “improving your search engine rank,” but when it comes down to it, it’s all about manipulating the system.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is an ongoing effort designed to help you get to the top of the search results.
Here’s what we know: Google has more than 200 different factors that impact how a web page ranks. This includes everything from the words you use to how fast the web page loads. If you want a full explanation, try this.
Once you understand how things work, you can follow a formula to help your web pages rank better.
Do people that leverage SEO have an advantage? Absolutely!
Is that fair? I’d ask you if it’s fair that someone who studies hard gets a better grade than someone who doesn’t.
The thing is that anyone who puts in the effort (or the money to hire an expert) has the same opportunity to improve their rankings.
Your actions impact Google Rankings
When I say you impact Google rankings, I don’t mean you as a business owner or marketer. I mean you as a user searching for information on Google.
Google has implemented AI (artificial intelligence) into their search engine, which is intended to adjust the rankings in real time based on how you interact with content.
Let’s imagine you want to start a herb garden and put in the query, “how to grow sage” and that gives you the results on the left.
You click on the first link, but you find this information is about the plant itself and general tips, when what you are really looking for is a step-by-step guide. So you go back to the search results and click on the next link. Maybe it takes you a few clicks before you find what you’re looking for.
Google takes note of this. Not only how many links you go through, but how long you stay on each one. The site that satisfies you gets a boost in the rankings, while the ones you discarded will get dinged.
You can buy your way to the top
Google has a revenue of roughly $31 billion annually that comes in from search engine ads. Through Google AdWords, I can buy my way to the top of the search engine results, but so can you.
Google isn’t even trying to hide this fact. Search results that are paid for are marked either as “sponsored” or as an ad.
Generally the markers are fairly subtle, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can clearly tell when Google has sold the space on the search engine results. More often than not, it’s a safe bet to expect the top two or three results will be ads.
It’s also important to note that ads will always show first.
In my experience Google plays fair. If you put in the effort, you may not reach #1, but your rankings will improve and you’ll have an advantage over those that just wing it. If you need help getting started, give us a shout, or read more about SEO.