One way to get your business at the top of Google’s search listing is scientific, and the other is social, and only one of them involves magical thinking.
You may be surprised to hear that the scientific choice, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), is usually most associated with magic. People (not my clients; they’re too smart) have a magical belief that if sites are sprinkled with magic SEO dust everyone will find them in the vastness of the Internet. Don’t get me wrong – SEO works. You can certainly pick one word, or at best one phrase, and optimize a site for it.
If you sell chocolate and you work at your SEO hard enough, you can fix it so people who Google ‘chocolate’ will find your site. If you want ‘cheap domain name registration’ you can optimize for that search easily. But what if you do something more complex than sell one thing? Or what if your services (like mine) involve a lot of moving parts? What if you’re a real estate broker who specializes in various regions of a city? What if your restaurant appeals to different kinds of people, not just those in the hunt for ‘cheap eats?’
Pure SEO can only really help you if your elevator pitch is more like an elevator word.
When we optimize a site for search, we are making those searches machine-friendly, making sites easy to read for bots, spiders, and crawlers who provide data for rankings. In this world, single words become incredibly powerful. I think that’s pretty weird, because when shopping for services or connecting with a cause, we are looking for something complex, not something simple. We often seek something with more edges and surfaces than a couple of words can express. Also, the Internet is also always changing (perhaps you’ve heard this, yes?) and no single search stays golden for long. Check out Google trends and you’ll see that ‘biggie smalls lyrics’ surge one day and someone else’s lyrics surge the next day. Nobody knew what a social media consultant was a few years ago, but now we know that most people searching for one live in New York, Toronto or London. The SEO you do this week may surge you to rankings heaven, but depending on what your competitors are doing, and what others are posting and looking for, you may sink next month.
There is another way, and it’s the social way.
Google is gaming its own rankings to give a boost to Google Plus, so posting something there will give you more juice. Post to Twitter, and all those Tweets are indexed by Google. Writing blogs, posting to Pinterest and writing for The Huffington Post will all improve your rankings, and in ways that are more complex than one-word searches may reveal. If Facebook is your beat, post away there, but know that what happens on Facebook stays there – Facebook posts will do nothing for your Google rankings.
Test this theory by Googling your name or business name. Watch what comes up. When I Google ‘Lee Schneider’ my Huffington Post archive tops the list, because I shared it on Google Plus. LinkedIn is next, because LinkedIn is spending a lot of money buying placements and has a lot of activity on the site; I know it’s my most active and engaged network. Next is my company site for DocuCinema, and then another Google+ posting about a panel I recently moderated for the San Francisco Green Film Festival. If I try the same exercise with my Twitter handle ‘docuguy’ I get a listing of my Twitter posts, my stories on Storify and my Pinterest listings – all of which are closely associated with the name ‘docuguy.’
The takeaway for your business? Thought you’d never ask.
- Be social and more people will find you online
- Posting to Twitter, Google Plus, in blogs and on LinkedIn will shape Google rankings
- Think visually – posts to YouTube and Pinterest will boost rankings
- Be dynamic – search thrives on novelty and change, so keep posting regularly
- Use SEO for specific, phrase-oriented searches and optimize SEO page-by-page
- Use social engagement to reach out to a community interested in your work