As a small business owner, you’ve got a lot on your plate. You’re balancing your revenues and expenses, managing staff, hiring and training new employees and making sure you’ve got enough inventory or materials to deliver your products and services to your customers… and that’s not even considering how much work you do with customers themselves! It’s a lot to manage.
Given how hectic and busy you are just running your business, I can completely understand why it seems like running your marketing – and in particular, your online marketing – is a completely daunting and imposing task. To make matters worse, even when you do find time to make updates and changes online, Google seems to come along a few months, weeks, or even sometimes days later and completely shift the rules.
For a small-business, it has to almost seem like Google isn’t playing fair. Just when you think you’ve learned the rules, they change the game. How are you supposed to keep up and manage your business? I’ve talked to several business owners who feel frustrated with the whole online marketing system, and in particular, are irritated with Google for always pulling the rug out from underneath them.
Well, the solution to that problem is understanding how Google operates, why they do what they do, and how to use the system to your benefit. That’s what we’re here to cover today.
How Did Google Become Dominant?
Let’s address the initial part of that question first. Google is the king of search engines and online presence, so they have a ridiculous amount of leverage when adjusting the way that the world views online information, such as your business’s website. We all know this, and tend to accept it with very little hesitation. But how did Google come to acquire so much dominance in online marketing that they can completely impact the way the internet—and its users—work?
Take a trip back to the late ‘90s or early 2000’s with me. Make sure to avoid the frosted tips, pukka shell necklaces, Doc Martens, Walkman CD players and dial-up internet. They won’t help you here.
During this bygone era of nostalgia, internet usage had just started to become mainstream. Internet wasn’t something that was made just for nerds who needed to share nerd information – you could actually look up stuff and find out about things.
In order to use the internet, you probably logged into MSN, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Netscape, DogPile, AOL Search, Ask.com, WebCrawler, Lycos or AltaVista. Maybe you had some other random search engine that came preprogrammed with your desktop, but primarily, you went with one of these old relics.
Remember what would happen when you used any of them? You might type in a search for “Mexican Food Recipes” and then be flooded with pages of the Taco Bell Chihuahua, Cinco de Mayo articles, news articles about Selma Hayek, a site dedicated to the preservation of the Alamo and the obligatory homepage of some whack-a-doodle extremist group (seriously, why was there always a group of weirdos for every keyword and they always had a site that ranked well in search?). Okay, so maybe this is a radical example, but it’s also not too far off-base.
Point being, you got a ton of information, but most of it had nothing to do with what you wanted. The search engine connected you to boatloads of data on the Information Superhighway, but none of the exits were your intended destination. It wasn’t at all uncommon to go five or six pages deep in just about any search to find enough information to fulfill your needs.
Google’s entire premise was less about making money off of their search engine and more about providing an outstanding user experience. When I meet with businesses to discuss their online marketing needs, I frequently tell them that Google doesn’t care about you, me, your business or your business website. What it does care about (and care about very deeply) is the people who use Google to find information. They believed that if a search engine worked efficiently and was easy to use, customers would opt to use it instead of the competition.
Due to their focus and design, Google sought to change the way that search engines connected people with the right information, rather than just connecting them with information overall. The developers at Google consistently tweaked their ranking algorithm to a point where customers no longer had to search through four or five pages to get the information they needed – they could find it on the first couple of pages.
As the internet and internet usage continued to increase, Google continued to tweak the algorithm. They wanted to make it better, faster and smarter. Essentially, they took the broken remnants of the web that were left disheveled by MSN, Yahoo and the rest and created the Six Million Dollar Search Engine.
Flash-forward to 2017, and Google is the most commonly used search engine in the world. Depending on the survey you’re reading, Google commands between 60-80% of all internet searches, and dominates with almost 96% on mobile devices.
Why do people use Google? Because you never have to go past Page 1 to find what you want. Frequently, you don’t have to go further than two or three results down the page. Google delivered on its quest to be the most efficient search engine in the world, and they were absolutely right on what would happen if they did it.
Why All The Changes, Though?
So, now that you’ve got the context, let’s breakdown the rationale.
Google’s dominance is directly correlated to the quality of its ranking algorithm. The people who use Google are now spoiled to the point where they want accurate information, and they want it in the first two or three results they find.
To keep up with this demand – and maintain their dominance – Google is always seeking to improve the ranking algorithm. The goal, as mentioned earlier, is always to deliver the best user experience possible. Keep people happy and they’ll keep using your search engine. The only way to do that is to keep making your recipe for rankings more efficient, more accurate and more precise.
Google not only revolutionized the search engine industry, they also learned from the history that they helped create. Google saw firsthand what happened to search engines when they don’t deliver great user experience and great results to customers. That’s why there’s primarily only three search engines in the world today as opposed to the dozen or so that existed pre-Google.
That’s Great, But What’s It Mean for My Business?
I’m going to pretend that everyone was interested in all the information I included up there. If not, it kind of makes that all seem like a waste of time.
However, now it’s time for the fun part: why the heck should I care?
Well, first off, you have to accept that Google’s got a lot to do with the online success of your business. Given its dominance and the increasing reliance on search engines to connect customers with businesses, you cannot survive long-term without a solid online presence.
That also means that you need to stay up-to-date with the latest Google updates. There are several sites that will break down new developments in the ranking algorithm, and one of my personal favorites is this site from Moz.
Finally, it means that you need to have someone running your online marketing full-time that can be dedicated to keeping up with the latest trends, news, developments and updates. Doing so will help keep your business ahead of the curve, because there is always a new curve coming.
Whether you hire an internal online marketing manager, assign the task to a current employee, reallocate your time to learn the industry or hire an outside team of experts (*cough* like Citywide *cough*), your business must have someone filling this role. Leverage your dedication to online marketing to put your business ahead of the competitors who don’t practice the same standards.
If you don’t, you might find your business going the way of DogPile, Ask Jeeves and Lycos… and you wouldn’t want that.