Building a Relationship with Google
I have spoken before of the need for small and locally based business to the develop on-line presence,especially here in Normandy. I have also said before just creating a website is not enough. A website needs to be a living breathing thing, not a few pages dumped onto the internet, which it is hoped your customers will come to.
I proposed that for a local business should creating a website in the form of blog is a great idea. So why is a blog a great idea? Primarily because Search Engines thrive on content, and sites that provide quality timely content are likely to rank higher (this is not the full story). Search Engines like to see websites that evolve and improve their rankings over time growing organically. A site that jumps straight to the top is likely suspected to be a spam site using “black-hat” Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques, resulting, if proved, in its rapid demotion. So what does Google offer the small and local business:
- Blogger; a blogging environment which allows you to purchase a custom domain to create a website – owned by Google
- A Profile – tell Google about yourself and allows you to link back to your website.
- Account; the glue that ties the whole Google environment together
- Gmail; email from Google – it may not be your first choice email, but it comes with the package, and could be used just to manage your relationship with Google.
- Places; put your local business on Google’s map – will appear on the Search Result Pages. I think it would be better called Google Business Place as it really gives you a chance to inform Google about your business
- Alerts; set up searches to monitor your and your competitors presence
- Analytics; helps you to understand how Google perceives your on-line world and allows you to tune your presence.
- Buzz; one of Google’s social attempts – somewhere between Twitter and Facebook
- Youtube – video sharing site – owned by Google.
- Real-time Search – search that looks at social activity particularly from Twitter.
So these are the tools, what are we trying to do with them? In short we are trying to define an integrated network of links that Google can see, understand and rank, that defines your on-line presence. Google seems to expect an organisation to be multi-faceted in terms of its on-line activities. Thus an organisation will be producing:
- Pages of quality, timely content associated with your business activity- hence the blog and perhaps the Youtube postings
- Primary location for your activities – Google Places. Effectively it allows you to define your business and its area of operations on Google.
- Link to your website and other on-line activities e.g. (back-links provide are a highly weighted factor in ranking search engine results) – Google Profile and Google Places
- Video serves two purposes; it allows you to get your message over visually, and also gives greater depth to your Google Profile via Youtube.
There are many factors involved in producing the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), and whilst the weights of the individual factors is not known. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) attempts to convince the search engines that a particular on-line presence is the most relevant for a particular search. This is mostly about positioning keywords with quality content and back-links. I saw a tweet, which I have since to re-find, which said “Content is king, but back-links are the king makers”. Google ranks the back-links by authority of the provider and who could be much higher than its own Google Profiles or Places?
Google Profiles allows you to define yourself and your business. It also allows you to link to other websites perhaps Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Twitter is particularly important because Google has access to the real-time stream of all tweets, and you can post links a to your blog post via this route. Google Buzz can also be used in this way, but bizarrely I find it is often not referenced directly.
I am now going to contradict myself. Google is emphatic about maintaining the quality of its search result. This results in frequent changes to the results for a given query. In fact recently Google even managed to rank Google Places as a lower quality result. However, do not be disheartened, keep on surveying your on-line presence, modifying it piece by piece to deliver better result rankings. Remember whilst rankings are important it is the conversion to sales that really count.
,Please note: I am not recommending all of the components above as the be-all-and-end-all of your on-line presence. You will need to determine what works for you. I personally prefer WordPress to Blogger.
Update: Google Hotpot – this is Google’s User Generated Review product. However, Hotpot is being assimilated fully into Google Places, but the concept will continue to exist. Engaging with your customer’s and gaining traction within Google’s search result is a must for small businesses. As Google attempts to make their search results more socially relevant, User Generated Reviews will become a more pertinent signal in their search algorithms.