The $140,000 Google Search

What you get from a local search is important
Ten years ago, in between the arrival of child one and child two, we extended our house converting it from a 3 to 4 bedroom. In the process the roof line was pitched upwards and outwards making for a huge space I always figured would be useful one day.

And so it was I found myself on Google a few months ago searching for “loft extensions”, “roof conversions” and seeing who came up. As with most Google searches, things came up that did not fit. You play around with the search words rather than relentlessly trawl through page after page of irrelevant detail. It is quicker just to tap in different phrases as the search engine is so darn fast at getting results.

I think I read somewhere (which his my way of getting out of leaving a properly researched source note) that 70% of Google searches do not go past page one. This means most people will retype the search terms rather than look down page two. So you have to be on page one for that phrase, but you can’t be on page one for every conceivable set of search terms. Especially if you are small or medium enterprise without the budget to afford someone experienced in the art of search engine marketing. As long as you have got your title tag right, put up relevant text on your site and a few other basic things, that is probably all you can do.

And so after playing around with a few terms, I found the company that is now doing our loft extension. If they had not come up in the search for “Perth loft extensions” I would never have heard of them and never be in with a chance of gaining my business. We got in four companies to quote, two from those found on the google search, one referral from a mate and another well known brand. As the prize for being found (and then winning the work) was $140,000, it seems important for businesses to have some clue as to getting on that first page of Google. I have no idea if there are more than two companies in the Perth metro region who do loft conversions, but I expect there are. But if they are out there, they are invisible on Google.

SEO 101 – Do your Title Tag!!!

If you want to be any old Company XYZ then do this!

If you want to be any old Company XYZ then do this!

[tweetmeme source=”ChazGunningham” only_single=false] A decade or so ago I was whiling away an empty moment copying and pasting pieces of text from my company’s home page into Google, and seeing if it was being picked up.

I took the first phrase of the welcome text (which was placed top left) into the search engine and Google found my site as #1 result (in an alarmingly swift 0.27 seconds). I reduced the words down to four, and I was still #1. Down to three, and I was #1. I played around with the order and my site was coming up time and time again at the top of the results.

Google really does read the text on your site, I thought, if ever proof was needed. I changed the text, and over the next few weeks, saw the same thing happening with the different words that were now top left of my site. Google reads left to right, top to bottom, just as we English writers do.

It was a while later when I found out that Google pays most attention to the TITLE of your site, that is – the words that appear in the top tab or bar (depending on your browser – see where the red arrow is pointing, in the above image). It ignores the meta search word tags (the invisible coding that used to work in the 1990s), and it also pays no attention to your meta description tag (also in your code, although it does show this in your results to describe your site). It basically reads your site, starting with the ‘title’ (which is what you call your site and is visible to all).

Right click on the white space to the side of any site and click VIEW SOURCE (or similar, again depending on your browser), and you can see these META TAGS at the top of the source code. Look for some words between the <title> and that is your title tag. Google reads the first 80 characters, so be very thoughtful about the dozen or so words that you place here, as this is given the highest importance in ranking your site. Yes loads of other things are important too, but in my humble opinion and experience in building 300+ web sites over 12 years, MOST of your SEO (search engine optimisation) effectiveness is down to this title tag. It takes less than 2 minutes to change (so your web host/designer should not charge you much for it, or you could do it yourself if your content management system allows) but it might take hours (and possibly weeks) of deliberation to get the mix right.

I am constantly amazed at the companies that still have “Welcome to XYZ Company” as their title tag. Do they seriously believe users who do not know they exist enter these words into Google in order to find them? Of course not. You may not even need to place your company name in there at all. Rather, choose words that actually describe what you do AND (more importantly) are the search words people who do not know you might put into Google.

Get your title tag right, and watch the results. Track where you rank over time for various key phrases, and then (and only then) deploy other tactics such as paid search (Adwords).