When ranking first on Google can end up counting for nothing

By Aaron Harding
Rank first on Google

This post came about from a conversation with a client earlier this week and compounds the reason why good web design is a key piece of your marketing strategy, and that setting your priorities in order before spending any major effort or money on ranking first on Google is so important.

If you approached any reasonable size marketing agency, the last thing they want to do is spend upwards of £500 a month of your hard earned money on Adwords or search optimisation, then direct all that traffic to a sub-standard website. They’ll struggle to get results and it’ll reflect badly on them.

The agency will be polite and diplomatic about it.

If it was me, I’d say if you want to put aside any substantial marketing budget to use on a sub standard website you might as well dump your money in the street and set fire to it as you’ll match the same return on ad spend ….. just a little quicker.

Anyway, back to the client.

For purposes of this article everyone apart from me is suffixed with an ‘x’

Client-X and me go way back as I’ve hired him on many occasion while working for two different firms. He’s great at what he does and is pretty much an all-round good guy.

Client-X came to me and said …… ‘Competitor-X is at the top of the search rankings for x (a chosen keyphrase in his industry). I think I could do what they’re doing.’

I went to take a look at the same set of search results.

Out of the top 10 results, 8 were committing the same crimes, including the site sat at number 1 in the rankings with the same old faces rearing their ugly heads.

    Low quality stock photography

  • Low quality stock photography
  • Generic message
  • Dated designs
  • Virtually no mobile support
  • No information or functionality to help guide the visitor
  • Didn’t convey any form of trust

I had to make it very clear to Client-X that the site sat in position 5 was definitely getting the lions share of all the search enquiries over the site sat in position 1 (I would have bet money on it).

Another site in position 4 probably wasn’t doing too bad. The rest including the top spot were fishing for scraps.

It’s important to remember here that if I didn’t know Client-X I would have carried out the same search for exactly the same services in my previous two jobs so I know precisely what I’d be looking for and who I’d want to ring.

How does all this affect Client-X?

He has a reasonably strong website as far as authority is concerned, he likes to dabble a bit with SEO, so a quick look for him to benchmark his site against the competitors and I think he can hit the first page for the core search term he’s chasing. Might take him a while but I think he’ll get there.

Only issue is, even though he’s chasing a top slot on Google and I don’t doubt he’ll grab a few leads once he gets there.

He’s actually committing a lot of the same crimes as the others competing for leads on the same page, and has built the site himself using an off the shelf WordPress theme that is not only seriously lacking performance wise, but more importantly says nothing about his business.

I tend to use the word ‘soulless’ these days to describe sites like this.

It’s the oldest cliché in the book but ‘people do business with people’.

If visitors can make any form of connection with you online whether they feel they can trust you or a little something on your site has helped them in some way, maybe even bringing them one step closer to making a buying decision, you’re one step ahead of the competitors, and that is all it takes.

Site visitors are so amazingly fickle but what they’re actually doing is looking for an excuse to work with or buy from you, or put you forward to their boss with a good enough reason why their boss should hire you, basically validating their decision.

If they can’t find the reasoning behind that decision on page one they’ll just keep searching.

Even worse is that nobody stands out and then it becomes a race to the bottom on price.

When someone hires me, I think it’s so important to find out as much as I can about the company, how they operate, pain points or learning about their clients and competition. Instead of drowning them in tech talk.

That way the more I know about your business, the bigger the chance your website will potentially connect with the right people, as well as providing you with a solid foundation to grow from.

I can guarantee it will be rare that even you will buy or hire from someone online just because they’re position 1 on Google. It will always be the sites and businesses you connect with that you buy from.

What should you be doing?

The key is to treat every page as a separate homepage.

Half of your visitors may never land on your main homepage, instead landing on pages targeted by specific keywords. Meaning they’re at different points in their journey, maybe they’re ready to buy, maybe they’re still researching. They all have different needs.

Search the same keyword/s you’re trying to rank your particular page or entire website for. Look at your competitors, what are they doing right? What are they doing wrong so you can gain an advantage?

Get the views of different people in your business on what they would look for, it could be something as simple as you’re missing accreditation logos. Or people land on your page and don’t know where to go next or still have unanswered questions before contacting you, forcing them to leave your website to look for answers.

This is such a tiny snapshot of what may be needed but whatever you do, don’t just treat your website or new pages as a box to tick, not when your competitors are actively trying to take business away from you.

Also if you have the time, dig into your website analytics for suggestions on improvements. No page or entire website will be perfect from the word go, there’s a whole industry built around split testing the performance of webpages.

But most of all never think that just because you’re position 1 on Google you deserve the business.

That’s for your site visitors to decide, and the way things are looking if you are top slot on Google it’s becoming a requirement that your website performs, if visitors give it the thumbs down, your rankings are likely to slide in the same direction in the near future.