Search engine ranking is an absolutely huge topic and for some folks it’s very confusing. Hopefully, after reading this you’ll have a little better understanding.
Search engine ranking is also known as just plain “ranking.” It’s similar to where your site “scores” or is listed in the resulting list of web site links that people see after they perform a key phrase search. In simplified terms, where your site ranks is where it shows up in the search results list which is also known as SERPS or Search Engine Ranking Position. It shouldn’t be any surprise that anyone and everyone wants to be in the #1 spot. Common sense should tell you it’s impossible for everyone to be #1 since there’s only one #1 spot for any given topic.
There are some misconceptions on how ranking works. I won’t go into all of them, but I’d like to clear up the one I run into most often and hopefully, give you a bit more insight into the world of search engines and ranking in the process.
Searching on Your Domain Name or Ohmahgosh! My Web Site Is #1!
Let’s say you just did a search for your brand new, just launched yesterday web site in your favorite search engine. You typed your into the search box, clicked the search button and voila! There’s your web site in the #1 position and you’re the happiest person on the face of the Earth!
I hate to burst your bubble but your site is not #1 in the search engine rankings, nor are you going to be an instant success or an overnight millionaire.
What just happened is no different than had you gone to your local drug store for a 24 count bottle of Bayer Aspirin tablets. You’ve shopped at this very familiar local drug store every single week for years so you know where everything is located in the store and could probably maneuver it blindfolded. You knew exactly the product you wanted to purchase by brand name and other qualifiers like the 24 count bottle. You can walk into that store, walk directly to the correct aisle, grab the bottle of 24 count Bayer Aspirin tablets off the shelf, head for the checkout and you’re out of the store and on your way home in less than three minutes.
Now, let’s come back down to Earth and have a lesson in reality.
How did you get to your site? You typed in your domain name which you know as well as that local drug store. Just as there is no other company that sells 24 count bottles of Bayer Aspirin than Bayer themselves, there is no other web site on the entire Internet that has the exact same domain name as you or your business does. If you’re going to search for your site by your domain name, of course your site is going to be #1! Finding your web site by it’s domain name is similar to hitting the only pre-programmed speed dial button on your cell phone to call your Mom. There’s no chance you can dial a wrong number that way, so of course you’re going to get your Mom on the other end of the line.
Another something you may not know is that when a new site is launched on the Internet, even if it’s yours and you know the domain name, the site isn’t going to come up for you if you go to a search engine and type in the domain name. Getting indexed (found) by the search engines themselves takes time and work. You can type the domain name into the browser address bar and you will go directly to your site but all that does is to prove to you, that you have a web site.
So, now we need to talk about how people really search!
Realistic Internet Searches
What if the rest of the world has never heard of your ? How are they going to type it into the search box? What if the rest of the world has never heard of your business name or your product, how are they going to know to use them in a search query? To anyone not knowing these key things, your business, your domain name and your product doesn’t exist. The reality is that in most cases, people don’t search by domain name, they search on phrases that they can think of that are related to what they’re looking for.
Let’s say you sell colored rubber boopies and your business name is “FurKids Toys.” Additionally, www.furkidstoys.com was already registered by someone else so you had to select a different domain name and so you registered www.toys4furkids.com
What the heck is a boopy? I’ve never heard of a boopy, have you? It’s not a word in my dictionary. That means boopies is a great example product for this lesson in reality, and if you have heard of a boopy, pretend you never have. Now we have to define what a boopy is or does. Let’s say a boopy is a toy for dogs similar to a ball but with a twist. The twist is that no matter how hard or where you throw this ball, it doesn’t bounce when it hits but instead it rolls.
Let’s pretend I’m a shopper looking for a new toy for my dogs. I just logged onto my favorite search engine on the Internet to do my shopping. Since I don’t know that boopies, FurKids Toys and www.toys4dogs.com exist, I can’t enter them in the search box. What I can enter are things like “dog toys” “balls for dogs” “colored rubber balls for dogs” and the list goes on. I’m going to enter any words or combinations of words that are going to find me balls for my dogs. I’m going to check the results of my searches and start clicking the links to online stores that look like they might have what I’m looking for. If the words or phases I entered in my search attempts are included in your web site’s text content and your web site is properly optimized to be found via a search, what’s going to happen is that eventually, I’m going to find your web site, learn that FurKids Toys and www.toys4dogs.com exist and I’ll have the opportunity to purchase your boopies!
Now that, is a much more realistic look at how people search.
Is Ranking #1 of the Utmost Importance?
Ahhh, but there’s still a kicker or two to all of this ranking stuff. According to statistics, people will review up to and including the third page of search results. In most search engines, that means the first 30 links. If they don’t find what they’re looking for in those three pages, they’re going to move on. They may continue trying using other search phrases, refine the words or key phrases they initially searched on or they’re going to hit a link or two that looks interesting whether or not it pertains to their initial search queries and they’ll wander off in other directions. How many times have you set out to do something and got detoured by something totally unrelated that looks interesting? Happens all the time!
The key is to get your site ranked within those first three pages of results at the very least, and having it found on the first page is fantastic! People will see the link to your site on that first page! If your site is properly optimized and that little description blurb under the link has good, related content to the type of product they’re looking for (yours!) they’re going to click that link and arrive at your site which then gives you a chance at gaining a customer.
So the answer to the question “Is Ranking #1 of the Utmost Importance” is actually no! Sure, it’s nice and it’s something to be proud of to be #1 but it’s not something to go totally nuts over if it never happens. If you look hard at some search results, you’re going to find sites in those first three pages that honestly don’t belong there by topic. Search engines aren’t perfect and you have to remember that there are people out there that think they know how to get a site in the top rankings, but they may not be the right top rankings. If your site hits that number one page, you have every right to be absolutely and totally happy! You can pat your SEO person on the back and tell them “job well done!” If your site lists within the first three pages of results, it’s doing very well.
This doesn’t mean that you and your SEO Specialist shouldn’t keep working at getting the very best rankings you can, but at this point in the game you can literally stop freaking out that your site’s not #1. Honestly speaking, some of the most lucrative online businesses never hit #1. It’s not always the ranking that’s important, but instead it’s the product or information that you have to offer your visitors.
Search Engine Rankings Fluctuate
Search engine rankings do float around some. You could be #1 or #3 one month and the next you could be #2 or #5 or some other position. This is absolutely nothing to panic about. It’s normal for rankings to move around, both up and down. As long as they don’t take huge dips or start sliding continually in a downwards fashion over a period of time, you really don’t have a lot to worry about. Certainly do keep an eye on them, but that doesn’t mean making daily checks and panicked phone calls to your SEO person. Remember the old “a watched pot never boils?” Well, about all daily monitoring of your rankings is going to do is to drive you nuts. There was a period in time that myself and a competitor played “leap frog” in the rankings. Our sites literally swapped places every week for the longest time. We may have been competitors, but we were friendly with one another and it got to be an ongoing joke between us as to who’d be Top Frog this week.
Getting your site found (which is pretty much what rankings is all about) isn’t going to get people to your web site nor is it going to get them to buy your product. But that’s a whole ‘nudder topic.