Why librarians win at Google Search Results!

  photo by marnox1 

Search Engine Optimization has become a mystical term, invoking the idea of wizards laboring in their lofty towers to get websites onto the first page of Google.

The reality is that SEO for really competitive online sites is an arcane art and if your business is going up against the big boys then you need to seek out professional help. 

However if you are a typical small business and you are in a well defined, narrow niche or you’re in a contained geographic area then there are a couple of basic SEO principles that will make a world of difference to you and won’t cost an arm and a leg to implement.

The challenge I’ve had is how to explain these basics to business owners that don’t know HTML, don’t want to know HTML and really don’t want to get bogged down in the details.  Here’s my attempt – let me know what you think.

Think of Google as a Giant Library…in fact it’s the largest library in the world!

Instead of physical books, this library is made up of virtual ‘pages’, each of them like a book on the shelf of the library.

Google wants to make it’s users happy!

Google makes money (lots of money) because 64% of all searches happen on Google – giving them the leverage to charge a lot of money for ads and other stuff.

However those users only continue to use Google if they get what they want when they’re searching.  So Google wants to make the users happy and the best way to do that is delivering search results that best answer what the user is searching for.

Therefore Google has to understand what all of the books (web pages) are about so they can find the best responses depending on what was searched for.  (With me so far?)

Back to Google being a library

Just like at a library – if you wanted to know what a book was about, the first thing you would do is look at the title of the book (the title of the web page).  If the title is “Great Burgers in Kansas City” then Google would assume the book is about Great Burgers…in Kansas City.

The next step to identify what the book is about is to crack it open and look at the Table of Contents section.  What are the chapters in the book about?  For a web page, the equivalent to a Chapter or Section title is a Header Tag – specifically a Header 1 (H1) or Header 2 (H2) tag. 

Using our example, it would be likely to assume there would be a chapter titled “Best cheeseburgers in the Kansas City Metro area” or maybe “Unusual burgers found in KC”.

Finally – the last thing that Google will do is thumb through the book and glance through the content.  Does it look like it’s a book about burgers in Kansas City?  For Google to really be comfortable, there should be a lot of content that would support the chapter titles and the book title.

Where Google isn’t as much of a library

The other thing that makes Google comfortable that a web page is important (and helps determine what it’s about) is based on the number of other web pages that point to a web site with a link…and how they  point to it.  Ideally other sites would setup a link that says Learn about Great Burgers in Kansas City.

The more sites that point to a page, especially if they’re related to the content overall, the more important that page or site becomes to Google and the higher up it will rank for searches on topics related to the title.

What most sites look like to Google – the reality!

Most small business books (web sites) that are out there either don’t have a title or the title is the name of the business…or sometimes even just the word ‘Title’.  So if your business is BFD and Associates and that’s all you’ve got in your title tag, all Google can do is assume that your book is about BFD and Associates (whatever that is).

Then Google opens your book and there’s nothing in the Table of Contents – there are no Header tags anywhere!  Now Google really isn’t sure what your site is about.

Finally – Google flips through your book – maybe there are a lot of words, but nothing really stands out…as far as Google is concerned, your book is about…NOTHING!

I don’t have actual numbers, but I would bet that 90% or more of small business websites don’t have Titles that reflect what the site is about (Keywords), Header Tags that support the Title and reinforce the keywords and content that additionally reinforces those same keywords.

The really great news about basic SEO!

Because almost no one does it right and most of your competitors don’t understand that Google is a library – if you can make a few small changes to your site, you will quickly start moving up the search results, without expensive black magic!  Here are some Quick Tips to get started:

  1. Come up with at least 3 keywords for your home page that you think your best customers would use to search for your services.  That could be something like Peer Group Advisory Board or Kansas City Small Business Accounting.
  2. Add those keywords to your Title Tag for your home page (it may be difficult to get 3 of them in there, especially if they’re longer, but do what you can).
  3. Create headers on your home page content using H1 and H2 tags as natural descriptions for sections of your page.  Use the identified keywords in those sections.
  4. Add those same keywords into the overall content on that page.  They should show up at least 3 or 4 times on the page – but make sure the page doesn’t sound stupid when you read it.  This is not more important than readability!
  5. Don’t use flash or scripts as your home page (or only use it in 1 section) – it may look interesting but to Google, that’s like have a book without any pages.  You will get NO credit for search if there’s no readable content.

Start looking at your websites or your competitors websites and see how your book reads to Google.  (Try right clicking on your browser page and ‘View Source’ to see the code for your page – you don’t have to understand all of it, just look for Title and H1 or H2).

Does this description make sense?  Send me an email (skinkade at aspirekc.com) to request an article that gets into more detail on this idea – I’d love to hear from you (or post to the comments below)!

Shawn Kinkade   Kansas City Business Coach (letting Google know who I am)!

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