Why Just Getting On The “First Page of Google” Doesn’t Matter


Google LogoI have heard the phrase “first page of Google” more times than I care to remember, mostly from the mouths of snake-oil-selling web designers or self-proclaimed SEO and SEM “professionals.”

It usually amounts to a sleezy sales tactic where these individuals are speaking to much less internet savvy people – many times small business owners – who want to have their business found online but have no idea how to do it or what is involved.

(Google logo provided by Wikipedia)

Different Definitions of “First Page of Google”

I’ve primarily heard this term used in these 2 different contexts, each of which is a complete load of, well you know.

1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) #1

Home Depot Wasting MoneyI remember once attending a local sales and marketing seminar that I was invited to by a not very well known acquaintance. I didn’t know it at the time I was invited but they were a speaker at the seminar. When it was their turn to speak, it was either the first or second sentence that contained the phrase “first page of Google” followed by a bunch of junk trying to get local business owners excited about how their business could benefit from this.

Their program consisted of charging the business owner some amount of money, and then spending a smaller percentage of that money to buy AdWords for specific search terms. While they did provide some results for the businesses, I felt (and still do) that it was quite misleading and this person – among others whom I’ve heard say this – were treating their customers like idiots which I feel is wrong and incredibly disrespectful.

If you took your car in for a repair, and they just said “I’ll fix your car for $1000” wouldn’t you want to know what was wrong with it and what they would do to fix it? Sure, the consumer is responsible for making an educated decision, but that shouldn’t give others the green light to pull the wool over their eyes. I’ve been taken advantage of in cases when I was less knowledgable, and it isn’t fun. No one can know everything, but a good service provider will help to educate their customer instead of raping them over the coals.

Along these lines, I have actually heard advice from Google’s own SEM campaign managers who suggest that you should buy ads with the name of your business. In most cases this seems completely idiotic for me. Why would you buy ads in order to rank above your already #1 ranking for the search term for your business name?

In the example to the right, Home Depot is bidding for their own brand term “home depot” which no other advertisements are showing for. Most users will click the first ad, resulting in Home Depot just giving away much of their advertising budget to Google for no reason at all.

Now, if a competitor was showing up in the ads area above Home Depot’s organic listing, I could see this could possibly make sense, but in this scenario it seems completely idiotic to me.

I’ve had numerous clients ask me whether that should be something they should do in their own SEM campaigns, after a Google rep has suggested it to them. My answer is usually along the lines of “if you’d rather give your money to Google for bringing your existing customers back to you instead of finding new ones, then yes.”

I have also seen advertising agencies bid on terms like this for some of my clients. This benefits the agencies, because it helps spend the advertising budget which the agency usually gets a percentage of based on the amount of dollars they spend on the advertising. Doesn’t seem to benefit the business owner though, if you ask me.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization ChartI’ve heard not only SEO companies but website owners and even some “make money online” personalities or sites talk about how they have had success for themselves or clients for specific search terms. I even saw a video of one a couple weeks ago and while I’m not going to mention the actual person and search term, it followed the exact method as the others.

In this scenario, the search phrase is usually such a long tail and/or low competition term that it doesn’t take any work to rank for it. It also is usually a phrase that has no measurable traffic or search volume associated with it.

These people or companies take money from the business owner or the advertiser and show how they rank for these search terms, but that doesn’t actually mean those search terms provide them with any meaningful visits to to the website. That’s because no one, or in the best case, very few people actually use those search terms.

What Actually Matters

Let’s look at what the ultimate goal is here.

When you’re trying to get your website found (aka ranked) online for a specific search term, ultimately you are looking to find new customers or visitors to your site where you can generate income from their visit whether that is by selling them something, referring them to someone else and making a commission, or just getting paid by advertisements on your site for the traffic and viewers.

To distill that down, you’re looking for new customers.

In order to find new customers, you need to be found for search terms that are relevant to what you have to offer, not who you already are.

Let’s look at a simple example. If you are an online business that sells shoes (Let’s pretend you’re Zappos) while you want to make sure you are found when someone searches for “zappos” – by the way, they also are bidding on their own brand term – what you really want to do is find NEW customers.

In order to find new customers, you need to be found for terms that those customers are searching for. In this case, they could be something like:

  • buy shoes online
  • men’s shoes
  • men’s dress shoes
  • cute flip flops

You get the point.

Don’t Get Taken Advantage Of

Remember, being on the “first page of Google” or any other search engine alone doesn’t matter if no one is using the specific search term to try and find what you are selling.

Questions To Ask

If you are using an advertising agency or other service provider to help you with your search marketing and optimization, here are a few questions you should ask them.

  1. What search terms are you targeting?
  2. What is the Google AdWords search volume for those terms?
  3. Can you show me a report of the terms you are targeting?
  4. Can you show me a separate report of the traffic to my site for each of those terms, not only visits, but bounce rates, time on site, and pages per visitor?

What About You?

Are you on the “first page of Google” for any search terms? Do you know how to look up the search volume for those terms? If you’d like any help, please don’t hesitate to comment below.



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