What Google Wants: Overview
Have you ever wondered why Google ranks another business ahead of yours for the terms your customers use to find your product or service? You’ve undoubtedly heard about how you can optimize your web pages for these terms, but my guess is that you’ve only been exposed to tactical tips and tricks that can get you incremental results at best.
To fully take advantage of search engine traffic, you have to start from a strategic standpoint. And to do that, you need to know what Google wants to find when it visits your website.
Strategy before tactics
One of my personal principles is “strategy before tactics,” which I find to be counter to how most people think. In many things in life, especially business, the people I meet seem to love to talk about tactics—or better yet tricks. I get questions and comments like:
- “Does it matter how long my domain name is registered for?”
- “I heard it’s better to have lots of domain names rather than just one.”
- “My cousin has this software that will create hundreds of websites over night.”
Potentially valid concerns (or pitfalls like that last one), but useless unless added to a thorough strategy.
To me, it’s the strategy that is interesting. The underlying fundamentals and principles that, when deeply understood, allow you to discover, create and riff on new ways to improve or optimize things. SEO and other forms of online marketing are exactly the kinds of fields that one can find success through this type of experimentation.
We’ve found that fundamentally understanding what Google wants is the best way to come up with new tactics and tricks to add to our SEO playbook, or to judge those that others suggest to us.
While this article may not give you the exact strategy you need for your website, it should give you the fundamental understanding you need to design one.
So, what does Google want then?
Let’s start by understanding who leads (and has previously led) search initiatives at Google. Largely, Google Search is lead by academics, researchers and those with advanced post graduate schooling.
Therefore, we can assume that these software architects are going to believe that an academic style of writing is more authoritative than commercial or marketing-focused content. Let’s compare a scientific or medical journal entry to a flyer that is left in your windshield while you are at a shopping mall about the same topic. Google is definitely going to prefer to serve you the journal entry first.
Regardless of your feelings towards either medium, it’s hard to argue that you’re going to agree that a well-researched, cited and peer-reviewed article is going to have slightly more weight than a glossy 4 x 6 on $99 Botox flyer claiming the miraculous and age-defying benefits awaiting you (living in South Florida, I have actually received such a promotional piece in my windshield).
Google feels the same way.
Takeaway #1: understand how academic institutions structure their content and use that when creating your website and content.
This is the first in a series of blog posts about “What Google Wants.” Read part two here on the site about perfect match content.