Help! We don’t show up at the top of Google for our main keyword anymore!

 

A friend of mine emailed me the other day. His boss was on his case because one of their main keywords was ranking at the middle of page two. A few months before, they had been near the top of page one. My friend was sure he hadn’t done anything to deserve a penalty, so, why wagoogle-cake-300x225s this happening and what should he do?

Unfortunately, this has been happening a lot more often in the last year or two. The first thing to remember is that where your site ranks on the search engines isn’t always about what you did or didn’t do. Your competitors may have made changes that affect their rank, which, in turn affects yours. More likely, your site was impacted by an algorithm change on the part of the search engines.

For example, we’ve noticed that over the past few years Google has increasingly been favoring big brands in organic search. Nowadays, for important keywords, the only way to get to the top is to be the biggest gorilla in your jungle. Or try to make more noise than all the other gorillas.

Or you can pay AdWords for each click.

In our SEO work these days, we do link outreach, media relations, social media and content creation. For certain keywords, it’s actually more expensive – on a cost per click basis – to do what’s necessary to rank at the top organically than to go the Pay-Per-Click route, unless you already have great content and a cranking outreach program in place. We’re not saying SEO doesn’t work or isn’t important – it just means you should choose your battles carefully.

Do you think this was Google’s intention all along? After all, they’ve watched many companies get the bulk of their sales leads through organic Google clicks. In essence, they’ve gotten a free ride off the billions of dollars Google invested in developing and provisioning its search engine. To make matters worse, there were lots of tricks that could be employed to game the system.

Today, after updates like Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, Google has the technology to force everyone to pay for their share for traffic. Anybody who thinks they can guarantee top placement in organic search is a fool because the days of silver bullets are over.

So I told my friend, when you’re up against bigger competitors, you take what you can get. Everybody wants to be at the top of page 1, not just you.  If your business depends mostly on being at the top of Google’s organic search results consistently, then you urgently need to expand your lead generation into other areas.

These days you should look at Google organic traffic as icing on the cake, not the main course.

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