8 Ways to Climb to the First Page of Google

You want the first page of Google. But you’re not going to get it by gaming the system or throwing money at technical wizards. Here’s what you do:

Embrace the Competitive Reality

Everyone wants the first page. Ever play musical chairs? If there are eleven people, you start with ten chairs, and when the music stops, you try to grab a seat. Lots of games are based on this – fewer of the desired position than there are people. The card game called spoons works much the same way. So how many people are competing for the same few slots on the first page of Google results? And how do you get one?

Focus on the Big Picture. 

There is no first page anymore. Your goals have to be not only reasonable, but very clear. First page for which search, exactly? That matters. It’s easy to get on the first page for “Ace Accounting Chicago” if your company name is Ace Accounting and it’s in Chicago, but so what? Only people who already know your company will find it that way. They’re just looking up the phone number. If you want new clientelle, you focus on what people are actually searching for, and there is more than one answer to that. Usually you target a handful of important search phrases, and not necessarily the most competitive ones.

Flex Your Endurance Muscles.

It’s an endurance battle. It’s a myth than there are relatively few people after the same spot. A search for Chicago Accountant brings up 23,000 results. Let’s say 1% are actually accountants vying for traffic from Chicago searchers. That’s 230. 96% of those cannot have a spot on the first page of search results – because there just aren’t that many slots. And out of those 230 people, you can bet more than 4% of them are doing something to try to get there. You’re going to have to do more than some geek magic to make even a dent. You’ll need a long-term content marketing strategy to win your way up in position.

Target a mix of high & low competition search terms.

You won’t get it all. You can’t compete for every search phrase you want, and you won’t go from zero to ‘owning’ the most competitive search terms in your industry without a lot of time and work. It just doesn’t work that way. So you pick ones to focus on. Your available budget and time should be a guide to how competitive the desired search phrases are that you focus on. Usually a balance of low hanging fruit and high up fruit is recommended. In other words, compete for some surrounding suburbs and alternate industry phrases too, not just the phrases everyone wants. Look at your search campaigns like an investment portfolio – you want to diversify where you’re trying to make money. Focusing on the search phrase “accountant Wilmette IL” (Wilmette is a Chicago suburb) reduces the results to 175,000. The more specific “tax accountant Wilmette IL” brings it down to 135,000. Some companies get the majority of their traffic off of low hanging fruit and search phrases their competition just doesn’t think about or try for. It can be an effective strategy. A mix is a good approach, and some good analysis can help.

Use More than One Search Engine Marketing Strategy.

Your home page isn’t your only asset. Some results are going to come from Google maps and companies with optimized Google plus pages and Youtube channels, so make sure you’ve optimized those. It’s not a guarantee, but you likely won’t get noticed by doing nothing. Some of the results will be from merchant directory listings like Yelp and Merchant Circle. So, take advantage of those too. Every bit of search engine marketing, done effectively, can help your seach position. Don’t just focus on your company web site. Companies should have many web properties, if they expect to compete at all, including the company’s social pages. Don’t wave that stuff away with generational incompetence (“oh I don’t like or believe in that stuff. In my day…”). Your day is done: if you’re not in social media, you’re not doing internet marketing, period. Get help or expect to get left behind. And if you are in social media, don’t rest on your laurels. Those pages need to be correctly optimized and also updated routinely with unique, relevant content, or they’re likely not helping you in search engines at all.

Focus on Content.

Involvement is the new currency. Whole batches of web sites are being downgraded in search position, because they have mainly stale, static web pages that serve up no fresh, unique, frequently increasing content,  and Google is improving the new algorithms and rescanning those sites. When’s the last time you added new focused content to your web site that was actually topical and about your desired search phrases, like a blog article? It should be happening once a week, at least. That’s *minimum*. If your site doesn’t utilize a blog engine consistently, frequently, and in a sustained manner, expect to sink like quick sand over time or be eventually dropped for your desired search terms, even if you’re still there for your company name. The search engines have changed their rules, and new sites are being evaluated differently than older sites with more built up page cred. Don’t expect the old “search engine optimization” gimmicks to rocket you to the top anymore. Those days are dead, and anyone saying otherwise is pushing snake oil. Give search engines what the search engines themselves say they want. Fresh, targeted, continual, and unique content.

Stop Fantasizing about Instant and Start Climbing.

Winners take the long view. When there were 1/10th of 1% of 1% of the web sites that there are now (i.e. just a few years ago), and search engines were correspondingly pretty dumb (again, not long ago in web time), getting to the top could be quite quick. Have a geek jam the right tags and keywords into your page header, post a few links back to your site on forums, and you started to hit. It doesn’t work that way anymore. Oh, you can still buy it. Companies all over the place will sell you packages of that, acting like it’s still an effective technique, and what you’re getting is bad juju that will ruin your site in the long run by getting it blacklisted. Don’t do it. Don’t waste your precious marketing budget. And stop, again, focusing on just your one company web site. That’s so 1990s. Companies who don’t have *multiple web properties* aren’t competing anyway. We want core information about companies in at least a dozen places on the web. Doing it the old way is like having only one coffee cup that you have to keep rinsing and passing around among your clients to share. Stop it, and get with the program. Let us help. But don’t expect to climb overnight anymore. You’re not alone in the pond, and the new search rules are about building up credibility for your company over time, which then pays off with longer running results. Again, this is because it’s based on demonstrating to Google a pattern of consistent, frequent, sustained content generation. Posting 100 blog posts in a day is a waste and won’t help you even a fraction as much as posting twice a week for a year, all things being equal.

Don’t Throw Money at Dial-up Solutions.

They don’t work. So, can anyone guarantee you the first page in Google results? Sure, at least for your company name. But for the most competitive search phrases? Anyone can guarantee anything, but what we recommend is using industry standard knowledge and information on search engine marketing, stuff that’s proven and helps significantly with a stellar track record. Most especially, we recommend giving search engines what they’re explicitly *telling* you they want from you (i.e. implement a content-driven marketing plan). If you’re thumbing your nose at their design crews on that, don’t expect fancy tricks to have a lasting effect. Every gimmick god we’ve seen has started going hungry after a year or so. Do it this way, and guarantees are superfluous. You won’t need the say so of any given marketing guru, because it’s not his own brand of voodoo – it’s public knowledge how to do it. We’re not selling you “marketing secrets” here – we’re telling you what everyone in our industry is supposed to know, but communicating it in a plain, simple manner, with a direct, and we hope candid attitude.

Contact MadPipe for help growing your company through an effective digital strategy.

Daniel DiGriz

Daniel DiGriz is a corporate storyteller and Digital Ecologist® at MadPipe, which provides creative direction, marketing leadership in marketing, and campaign direction for firms that want a stronger connection with their audience. A Digital Ecologist® applies strategic principles from both natural and digital ecologies to help organizations thrive across multiple ecosystems. Daniel hosts podcasts, speaks at conferences, and his ideas have appeared in Inc, SmartBlog, MediaPost, Forbes, and Success Magazine.
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