April 2009

I know it’s been a while, but I’m going to again reach for the “I’m busy” excuse.

I am always eager to take a chance to show people how convoluted and complicated the search marketing world is. Search engine marketing and the search engines have done a great job at showing what they do and making it simple. That is great for marketing, but leads to unrealistic expectations from clients who believe this is “simple”.

I was about to write a new blog, but it turns out this will be another in my series of “stolen blogs because someone else said it better“. This time, we once again visit another brilliant blog from Search Engine Land. As usual, I have edited and rewrote it some to make things simpler and applicable to what we do here at Blue Poppy, but I take no credit for the content…. just passing on information.

Here are three lies the search engines will tell you.

Lie #1: Write great content and the links/traffic/rankings will follow

What you have on your page counts, but not as much as you think. They write a great page and want to know why they’re not number one when everything they have read states that relevant content is the most important factor. They forgot one thing – the competition. Let’s just try an example. Say I’m going to open a store that sells ‘Orc Miniatures’. That’s a pretty narrow niche. So the competition shouldn’t be too bad, or is it? As you see below, there are nearly 2.8 million pages listed:


Basically, content alone is not going to boost you into the top 10 for any even remotely relevant phrase. Go ahead and pick out the most obscure niche in your own industry, and check out the competition. here’s a few suggestions:

  • If you’re a speaking coach, try ’speaking upside down’ (2.5 million results).
  • If you repair cars in Seattle, try ‘Edsel repair Seattle’ (186,000 results – still a lot).
  • If you run a diner in Terre Haute, try ‘Terre Haute Ostrich Burgers’. Somehow, Google still finds 12,000 results.

Good content is a must, but not the be all end all. Even Shakespeare wouldn’t rank for ‘Alas, poor Yorick’ (56,000 results) without a little help. Trust your professionals when they are doing the other things that may move you up. Don’t focus on the glamorous parts.

Lie #2: Search engines are not competing with you

Back in the old days, when search engines were just search engines, they weren’t competing with your website. Nowadays search engines are becoming aggregators (publications, even), and as they do so, they’re keeping more eyeballs on their pages and away from other pages. That means fewer coming to yours.

Check out this search result on Bing:


Between the paid ads, the related searches and the map, you have to look carefully just to find the organic search results. Then, by merely running your pointer over the listing, you can get a preview of the site content without even leaving the page.

Search engines are competing with all of us. They make money by generating page views and clicks (on pay per click ads). To get more page views, they need to keep people on their site. To get more clicks on those pay per click ads, they have to get visitors to click those ads, instead of the organic listings. They also deliver the ads that get more clicks. Sounds a little competitive to me.

Lie #3: We are good

Actually, this is a lie that we tell ourselves – the search engines just let us believe it. Google, Bing and Yahoo! aren’t good and they aren’t evil. They’re profit-seeking enterprises.They are in business to make money, period.

Delivering relevant results is a core part of search engines’ search for more profit. Relevant results make their users happy. Happy users bring other users. And happy users search more often. That generates pageviews and pay-per-click traffic (see Lie #2, above).

That’s the lesson, really. I’m not suggesting that search engine representatives deliberately lie to us. Not a chance. There are many things they cannot tell us without exposing their algorithms to all sorts of spammy practices to manipulate the results. That would screw up their quest for the most relevant results. If they can’t control the results, how would they stay in business?

Luckily, their need for money involves helping folks find other businesses when their business is relevant.