Your Job Is to Make Google Look Good

Yes, that’s right, if you want Google traffic, your job is to make Google look good. This post will explore why this is true, and what it means for your SEO strategy.

make-me-look-good-text

Why, Oh Why, Is This True?

A few months back I was speaking with someone, and they asked me an age-old question about links. Basically, it went like this:

Other Person: “You are telling me I need links, but I can’t simply buy them. Why would someone link to my site?”

Me: “It’s simple. People link to other sites when they believe that doing so benefits them. Here are two examples of ways this might happen:

  • The site they link to is being used as an authoritative source of information as backup for some point they are making. This is like a classic academic citation.

classic-academic-citation

  • They believe the site they are linking to would be valuable to visitors on their site, and by sending these users (temporarily) away, they are building their relationship with these users.

In short, links from their site benefits visitors to their site, and that’s good.”

Other Person: “But that means I need to make a good site which is worth linking to!”

Me: “And, this conversation is exactly why you will never become a client!”

OK, the conversation did not really end like that, but you get the main point. Links are given by publishers for a reason, and it’s generally intended to benefit the publishers themselves — via the seemingly indirect means of being of benefit to the visitors to the pages of their site.

It’s no different for Google. Their search results have many links in them. They carefully sculpt and craft their search results page with the goal of providing high-quality results. If they send lots of people to your site, and most of them end up being dissatisfied, guess what? It reflects badly on Google.

In fact, they are constantly testing their algorithms in an effort to improve the quality of the results. They know that improved quality helps them build stronger relationships and higher levels of activity with their users, and ultimately, this leads to greater revenue for Google.

user-satisfaction

So how do they measure whether your page is a good for them to link to? There are two major methods they could use:

  1. An analysis of on-page content to evaluate its quality. Some of the core concepts of this are covered in this article by Cyrus Shepard: “More than Keywords: 7 Concepts of Advanced On-Page SEO.”
  2. An analysis of user interaction with your content to determine how they like it. Some ways that this could be done are discussed in this Microsoft research paper.

So which methods do they use, and how do they weigh them? I don’t know. As a tech geek, knowing this would fascinate me. As a publisher, it does not matter, as the impact on my behavior is the same either way, so let’s discuss that next!

Provide Complete User Experiences

You have to start thinking about providing a complete user experience to your visitors. Think of it this way: If 100 visitors come to your page after searching on your target key phrase, what percentage of them will be happy with what they see?

For example, if you had a site that sells shoes, and someone searched on “women’s running shoes” and then arrived at your site, what might they be looking for? Here are some examples of things you might need to cover on your page:

  1. Some shoes to buy
  2. Different sort orders, such as by price, size
  3. Types of running shoes (e.g. track, cross country, etc.)
  4. Different brands
  5. Product descriptions
  6. Pricing
  7. A shopping cart and option to check out now
  8. A privacy policy
  9. An about us page
  10. Trust symbols

100-person-refinement-model

Your text on the page should reinforce the page’s ability to address a breadth of needs. Not every need is on the one page, of course. In many cases, people should be able to obtain different variants of their needs by clicking through to other pages on your site, or even off to other sites. The bottom line is that the search engines want to know that your site does a better job of satisfying users than the other sites out there.

Summary

Accomplishing this is hard. You will need to continuously invest in improving the pages of your site to get there. To get some idea of what Google does to pursue that, go back to this article I linked to above to get some ideas, or this article from Lisa Barone provides some useful tips.

However, know that this is a deep topic that needs more than a few hours of your time. Creating an awesome website has to become a compulsion, and yes, it’s an SEO ranking factor, one way or another.

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