Search Engine Optimization and the Hallowed Ground of Google's 'Page One'

You see that SEO spam day after day. We get it too.  Businesses saying that they’ll “take your site to the next level" by seeing to it that your site is “Page One” on Google. It sounds too good to be true. Is it wrong to long for something more? Promises of increased sales, streams of traffic, and the elusive “page one placement”. It'd be like winning the lottery, wouldn't it?

There is this notion that being on page one is the end-all-be-all of web existence. All the problems you have will melt away as torrents of traffic and dollars flow through your website.

Being on page one isn’t everything you think it is. Now, I’m saying this from experience. I’ve rested in the heavenly bosom of Google’s first page of results for some seriously competitive search terms. My reaction….”so what?”

Now, I’m not saying being on page one isn’t a good thing. What I’m saying is; “it’s not enough”.

As web developers we are perennially faced with the challenge of getting “page one” ranking for every site we build. No one wants anything less. But I’m here to tell you that being on the sacred ground of page one doesn’t guarantee you a thing. You will not find wealth, prestige, or fame, heck – it doesn’t even mean that you’ll see a spike in visits.

In my experience, the mere appearance of your listing on page one will do little, if anything, for you. If  your site is well ranked you have done nothing more than relocated your shop window to a busier street, and that doesn’t mean anyone is going to come in the store.

“But why?”, you ask “Everything in my very being says I’ll be successful if web visitors could just find me!!” It’s a logical premise. Certainly you can’t succeed without being found, but more visibility on any search engine really only gives you the potential for more visits. Without a compelling product,  a well-written, well-illustrated site, you’re really no closer to success. I’ll admit I’ve seen some less-than-stellar sites that have been successful, but those are in the minority. Those sites succeed because their product was already in high demand, or their information is so compelling that the content outweighs their weak execution.

Presentation is key to the success of the site. If you’re site is outdated, hard to navigate, lacks necessary security or functionality, the viewer who found you so quickly will desert you faster than a Kardashian in a rented wedding dress.

We built a website for a product that was profiled on “60 Minutes”. There’s hardly anything you could do to draw more attention to a subject than being featured on that program. The site went from relative obscurity to over 180,000 visits a day. Success was guaranteed, right? As it turned out, there wasn’t a ripple of new business associated with the surge in visits. This was because the content wasn’t feeding the viewer what they needed to take the next step. The pages were sterile, clinical and made no connection with the viewer. The company then spent over $100k per month for Google advertising and yet they couldn't tie a single sale to the ads they placed. By the time the content was revised, the surge in visitation was long gone.

Another site had access to radio media like no other project  I’d ever been a part of. With over 10 million listeners each day, and virtually unlimited opportunities to promote the site, the task of converting listeners to viewers was never achieved. The web is a tricky media…in some ways it’s still in its infancy and just when you’ve got some traction a new wrinkle appears (iPhones, iPads, HTML5, or the debacle over Flash) to shift your focus and confuse your demographics.

Much like bulk mail; you have just a few fleeting seconds to grab the attention of a new viewer. If your site doesn’t satisfy your visitor’s aesthetic needs, you’ll never even know they visited.

Take your time. Write strong content. Present compelling visuals. Capitalize on the traffic you get. If it’s weak content, it doesn’t matter if you were found on “page one”.


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