Every day we receive a mountain of SPAM emails from people pretending to be affiliated with Google, offering to get our business onto the first page of Google search results. All we have to do is pay £XXX per month and we can have whatever keywords we like. Actually, ANYONE can get their keywords onto Page 1 of Google IF THEY HAVE DEEP ENOUGH POCKETS.
So how does this "scam" work?
When you run a Google search for anything you like (go on - try it in a different window) then depending on the search term and the type of device you are using, you will generally see three different groups of things:
- Sponsored Results (Paid Ads)
- Cards of information
- "Organic" (unpaid) results
The "cards" of information are assembled by Google in an attempt to capture information about your preferences, and serve you more ads. Typical cards include "People also ask...", information on businesses (opening hours, maps, reviews etc.), "Images for..." and so on. Let's discount these for the moment.
Organic results are the thousands of links to websites that are probably what you were really looking for. This is the contentious part and what SEO is all about - making sure that YOUR website shows up near the top of that list to draw as many clicks as possible.
Sponsored Results are paid adverts that Google will always place at the top of their listings because when visitors click them, Google gets paid by the advertiser. Anyone promising you Page 1 of Google will be selling you these slots. And you will pay over the odds for them because they will also be taking a commission from you in the process.
ANYONE with a website can place their own paid adverts to appear at the top of Google. It's called Google Adwords. You set your keywords, pick and choose your target audience and set a budget for each click. When a Google search matches your settings an 'auction' takes place behind the scenes and the advertisers willing to pay the most money for the click will be featured. Simple as that.
Now, if you are a small fish in a large pond, the cost per click is likely to be quite large - especially if you are chasing a niche market at a popular time of day for shopping. For example, if you are wanting to use the keyword Holiday Cottage you'll be competing with thousands of other businesses doing the same, and the cost per click for a term such as this can be tens of pounds. PER CLICK. And that's not even a guarantee that the person doing the clicking will even bother to interact with your site or go on to be a customer. So you could quickly spend a lot of money for not much return.
On the other hand, if you are offering something totally unique, chances are you don't need to pay for clicks in the first place, because you can reach a large audience for FREE via the organic listings. For example, if you are wanting to use the key phrase Encephalitic Elephants Eating Eucalyptus then you can almost guarantee top spot without paying a penny for advertising!
Most businesses find themselves somewhere between the two poles. If your holiday cottage is in Rothesay, for example, then Holiday Cottage Rothesay would pit you against dozens of businesses rather than thousands. With a bit of careful website work, you could probably get a high organic listing for such a key phrase, but if you wanted to be sure, then AdWords might cost you a pound or so per click. Being slightly more niche, for example Dog-friendly Holiday Cottage Rothesay would be even easier to rank, but only for that specific combination of keywords.
AVOID the spammers and their commission-inflated AdWords schemes. If you WANT to pay for top page placement, search for AdWords and do it yourself. It's pretty straightforward, and you can tweak and change things whenever you like without being tied into contracts or relying on a third party to do things for you.
INVEST time in making sure that your website's on-page SEO is as good as it can be. Make sure the website is optimised to load quickly, look great on a mobile device and follow all the rules about accessibility. Google will then rank you well and you can ride the organic listings without spending more than you need.
CONSIDER the keywords and phrases you should be promoting. ASK people what they would search for if they were looking for your business. Use the freely available keyword checkers on the web to see how popular they are. Think about whether there are any niche keywords that you might be able to try - what is different about the service or product you offer?
How PA20 Web Solutions Can Help
- Help with your on-page search engine optimisation (SEO)
- Guide you or help with your off-page SEO
- Help with keyword research
- Run AdWords campaigns on your behalf (without the huge commission)
We couldn't find a picture of encephalitic elephants eating eucalyptus so here's a cheery artistic impression instead!