I could see the anger welling up in Susan’s face. She couldn’t get over how such an “obviously lesser” interior decorator could be beating her in Google rank.
By Susan’s reasoning, this lesser competitor has only been in business a few years (compared to Susan’s 20+), doesn’t have formal schooling in design (Susan has taught college courses on design) and (at least according to Susan) this person does shoddy work.
“How can Google be so dumb!?”
Susan’s complaint isn’t just a matter of vanity. With Google being the #1 place people look for local service professionals, those who show up get the phone calls. In fact, according to a study, 86% of consumers turn to the Internet to find a local business. Being in the top 3 for the right searches is the difference between being fully booked and worrying about payroll next week.
The Truth Is Google Rank Has No Idea Who The Better Company Is!
Google uses over 200 different ranking signals to figure out who will rank for a search. None of those factors involve Google knowing if you’re any good or not!
You might think that a site with a lot of 5-star reviews would be an indicator of a company who does good work. But even that can be misleading:
- The companies who are best may not have many online reviews because “they’re old school” and haven’t been asking happy customers for reviews.
- People may have a lot of “friends and families” who give them positive reviews without really being happy customers.
- Unscrupulous people may try to cheat Google and buy fake online reviews (more on that later)
So, even online reviews aren’t a faithful indicator of who’s best…just who’s best at getting a lot of good online reviews!
That’s not to say Google isn’t trying to put the best companies first. It is. Google knows that if people are to continue trusting their Google Rank for their online searches, it needs to do a great job at giving the best sites. (As of April 2019, Google had 88% of all Internet Searches) But without actually visiting each company, reviewing their work and talking directly to actual customers, Google has to rely on other indicators, their ranking factors. Simply, some companies are better at making themselves look good in the eyes of Google by optimizing those ranking factors.
What those 200 ranking signals are and how much weight each one has is a closely guarded secret. And Google is constantly evolving how they rank websites to give users the best results possible. Astute marketers work at keeping their online presence in step with Google. But what was effective to rank in Google 5 years ago isn’t the case now. Through a lot of testing and some good guidance from Google, the Search Engine Optimization industry has a good idea on what many of them are.
Some of the Google ranking signals are things we can control (like online reviews) and others are beyond our control (like how old your website is). The good news is that most local business websites can significantly improve their rank by improving as few as 5 key factors.
(Cheaters Beware! Don’t be fooled by tricks and schemes to manipulate Google. Any short-term gains you may get by trying to cheat Google will result in long-term consequences. Google is very good at hunting down cheaters. In fact, there’s a phrase used to describe their various crackdowns: “The Google Slap”.)
Know What’s Driving Your Google Rank In Less Than 5 Minutes
In less than 5 minutes, I can usually do a quick “back of the napkin” analysis and figure out why one site is doing better than another. It also tells me whether or not it’s going to be hard or easy to improve your Google rank.
Here are the 5 tell-tale indicators I look at first:
- Website. Has the website been Search Engine Optimized? Does it have relevant content that people are looking for? Does it load quickly?
- Google My Business. Does the business have a proper “Google My Business” listing? This is like Google’s directory listing for your business with information such as your business category, operating hours, address, etc.
- Online Reviews. How is the number and quality of their online reviews compared to the sites that are ranking ahead of them?
- Online Mentions. Is your business showing up in various online directories and sites with correct and consistent business information (name, address, phone number)?
- Social Channels. Do you have an established social media presence on key platforms like Facebook?
In most cases, these 5 indicators tell enough of the story to know what’s going on with your Google rank. When you compare these 5 factors with your top competitors the reason for who’s doing best is usually pretty clear. On rare occasion, the story isn’t so clear and we need to dig deeper. That’s when we need to go deeper into Google’s 200+ ranking factors. This is especially true if your competitors are also actively working on their Search Engine Optimization.
By analyzing these needle-moving ranking factors, we can put together a detailed game plan for how to compete and get your site ranking well. We’ll know if it’s going to be an easy goal or a hard goal to achieve.
Good News! It’s Easier For The Good Guys To Rank In Google Search Results
Going back to Susan’s situation…
Susan has a great opportunity to overtake her lesser competitor in the Search Engine Rankings. What makes her opportunity so great is that Susan really is an accomplished, top interior designer in her City. That means we can run a social reviews campaign and build up her 5-star online reviews in ways her competitor can’t. We can Search Engine Optimize her website. We can optimize her Google My Business Listing. We can significantly improve those Top 5 Ranking Factors and leap-frog her competitor.
And as Susan improves her presence in Google Search Results, her phone will start to get the calls that were going to her lesser competitors. Ka-Ching!
Google may be “dumb” when it comes to knowing who the better Interior Designer is, but Susan would be dumb not to play the game. By working on your online presence and moving up in the rankings, you will start to drive more business your way. For Susan, a new Interior Design client can easily be worth $3,000. There’s very good ROI for looking after her online presence!
If you’re in the same boat as Susan and are tired of losing phone calls to lesser competitors because they’re beating you in Google, then take a look at your free SEO report and let’s schedule a time to talk.