Are You #1 on Google?

I get an offer in my email every few days to make my website “#1 on Google.” You probably do, too. Just like you, I delete those messages, but sometimes I feel an evil prompting to grill the sender.

You know those pictures where they show someone with a tiny devil on one shoulder and a tiny angel on the other? It’s like that. The tiny angel tells me to get back to work, but the tiny devil wants me to punish the spammers by wasting their time.

“#1 for what?” I could ask. “#1 for my choice of keywords? Or just for the name of my company?”

I have seen web firms announce with triumph that they have gotten a client to #1, while the client looks at me saying, “Weren’t we #1 already?”

“How are you determining that #1 placement?” I want to ask them at that point. “According to Google Webmaster tools, the client was averaging #1 for that term before you started.”

You can’t determine your rankings for your keywords by Googling. All you can see is that a company is or is not #1 for you, for that search, on that computer, right now. With your Webmaster Tools you can see what your average ranking is when a particular page of your website is offered for particular searches. With multiple comparative searches among a small set of competitors, you could make a pretty good guess of your comparative rankings, if you have a few hours to waste some day.

Actually I have to admit that I have asked people how they determine those rankings. “We use a proprietary tool,” they said, which might impress someone who doesn’t know any better.

Here’s the thing: you want to be #1 on Google for the particular people who want your goods and services. So on hearing that a proprietary tool has determined that someone is #1, I am tempted to ask whether that proprietary tool is planning to buy the client’s goods. If not, that tool is no better than Google and Bing’s proprietary tools , to which they give webmasters access for free.

Different people see different things on the search engines results pages. Being #1 on Google is not like being six feet tall. It’s like being first in line — sometimes you are, sometimes not. It depends on the line.

Now let’s talk about that line. Many business owners have a favorite keyword they want to rank for. But if we look at the converting visitors to a good website, we’ll see thousands of different queries (understand keywords vs. queries). 20% of the queries Google receives every day are brand new, and the largest proportion of your queries will be sending you just a handful of visitors each.

You can’t see all the keyword data in your Analytics any more, but all the evidence we have shows that people are less likely to type one word into the search box and click on the first option. People used to search that way, but they no longer do.

So I’m tempted, when I run into an offer to make me #1 on Google, to ask how they plan to make me #1 for all those unique queries — the long tail keywords. “What do you plan to do about the long tail queries?” I’d like to ask.

Mostly I resist these temptations (read what happened when I gave in). There is no point in wasting their time and mine by asking questions they won’t be able to answer, about services I won’t buy. But I hope you’re not taken in by these spammers. You can be sure that they are listening to the devil on their shoulder, not the angel.






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