After you build my website, can you list it on the Home Page of Google?
I sometimes hear this when creating a first-time website for typically more mature entities who have been resistant to new technology. Much to their credit, they've determined that having a website for your business or service today is what having a listing in the Yellow Pages meant a generation ago. This is how you get found.
Reminds me of an old joke:
Where do you hide a dead body that you don't want found?
On page 2 of a Google Search Result.
The answer to being the first Google Result?
"How much money do you have?"
Just kidding, sort-of. The good news is you have some options and control for driving your website's search rankings.
Before we cover the basics, let's take a look at the anatomy of a Google Search Results Page.
Anatomy of a Google Search Result for the term "laptop computer":
The first things we naturally notice are the top results. If you look at the indicator on the website line for each result, you'll see that these are Ads. Ads from companies in the Computer industry who have a big reputation and therefore a lot of buying power - Intel, Microsoft, Staples, Office Depot.
Just under those, Best Buy and Walmart are at the top of what I call the organic section of the list. This portion is driven by site maturity, volume /number of users, activity and active content, and keywords and items related to "laptop computer". This makes sense because these are two of the biggest "laptop computer" sellers in the country.
Finally, the right panel of the pages displays shopping results. Essentially, if you are doing a google search for what might obviously be a Product, you'll see items in this Shopping grid. These are are also effectively paid ads; they happen to be product specific.
DOUBLE-EDGED PRO TIP:
Did you know that you can opt out of this shopping section altogether, if you don't like seeing it as a user? Click on the Information "i" of the sponsored shopping results to see your options.
But you don't want potential customers opting out, if you're sponsoring a shopping item result!
Back to getting your website to the top of a Google Search Result.
You can Pay....
The quickest and easiest way to get on page 1 of Google for a particular keyword is to advertise. Sign up with Google, choose the keywords you would like to target, define how much you would like to pay every time your ad is clicked. This is "pay-per-click bidding". The higher you bid -per click- the higher your ad will appear in search results related to your keywords.
You can also set a daily budget so when your budget is met, Google will not show your ad any more that day. It won't be clicked on and you won't be charged, and the whole cycle repeats the next day. This is an economical approach to advertise and land on Google's first page.
Or you can work your way to it.
The other way to get on page 1 of Google and other search engines is the organic, or natural, method. From the Google search result image above, examples of these are Best Buy and Walmart. These results cannot be achieved by paying money to Google - they are achieved with careful and longterm evolution of many factors that Google uses when ranking relevancy. Just as with sports or school - if you work hard, keep things current, and provide useful information - your website's reputation will rise in the mysterious rankings of the Google Algorithm Genies.
These are the top general factors that helps grade your website's relevancy to search keywords - and as a result, where your website would rank on a Google Search Result page for those keywords:
Keep in mind also, just because you rank well for one keyword or key phrase does not mean you will rank well for a similar keyword or phrase. Google is constantly updating their algorithms, so today's rankings may vary from those of tomorrow. Your website will move up and down in the rankings naturally.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
This information is pretty generalized, but should give you an idea of the factors responsible for your website's appearance in Search Engine Results. As your business changes, so does the need for your keywords and other website metadata to be updated.
Of course if this is more maintenance than you plan to devote to your website, there are a number of SEO or Website Developer consultants who can arrange a routine SEO management effort to keep your site's background data current!
The Pew Research organization estimates that this year, 2015, will see Millennials overtaking Baby Boomers in the workforce. We also know that Millennials are more prone to digital communication -at least as a first point of contact – when engaging with a new company, brand, service, provider, etc.
Virtually every website that you visit will have some sort of Contact feature – perhaps a separate page with multiple contact options: a fill-in form, email addresses, phone numbers, snail mail addresses, live chat, or multiple social media paths: Twitter handles, Facebook page links, Instagram feeds, and so on.
If you are a small business, keep this in mind: be sure to have Contact information, but you must also endeavor to monitor those incoming communications. It’s fine if you have a channel on every social media platform out there – but if you do, you’ll need to monitor those for engagement, at a minimum. Bonus if you devote the time to provide content to engage your existing and potential audiences.
The same applies to the most basic online contact – a fill-in form or email contact. Do you know where that information goes after a visitor to your website sends it? If not, you should do an immediate ‘health check’ on your website. Full disclosure, I’m not a millennial – more of a Gen Xer – but my communication style is all millennial. Millennials, and many others, are often behind keyboards or smart phones for most of the day. It is far easier for them, and me, to keep my fingers on the keyboard to reach out to your company – as opposed to stopping my productivity to pick up a phone and call you. If they reach out to a company, it’s usually digitally – texting, via social media, email, or submitting a fill-in contact form via your website.
When those inquiries are not handled, not only have you potentially lost a customer, but that person is likely going to share that frustration among other social media channels about your business. Case in point: over the last two weeks, I’ve submitted either emails or fill-in contact forms to the following entities, because I’ve just bought a home and would like various projects done: a home repair business, a co-op, a furniture store, a waste management company, an attorney, an insurance company, a car dealership, and probably some others that I can’t recall. How many of these entities contacted me back? Zero. None. In some cases I’ve reverted to phoning them, because they were the only providers in my area. But if there were more competition where I live, these businesses would not have been given a second chance to obtain my consumer dollars.
Don’t let your website disappoint a potential customer before they even have the chance to do business with you. Make sure all of your Contact lines of communication are active and addressed to prevent this problem.
The General Accounting Office (GAO) has issued a report detailing the failures of the healthcare.gov website, and the findings are astounding - starting with the billion (yes, with a B) dollar price tag. Regardless of your thoughts about the policy, the report provides some great lessons learned for IT Project Managers.
The biggest culprits that the GAO study identifies are ineffective planning, ineffective oversight, and ineffective contract management. I've written about this to some degree before, when a study completed 9 months prior to the website's rollout identified numerous issues that weren't resolved. The GAO study dives a bit deeper into these issues.
CMS, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, undertook the website development project. They incurred significant cost increases, schedule slips, and delayed system functionality due primarily to changing requirements that were exacerbated by oversight gaps.
The study concludes that the efforts by CMS were plagued by undefined requirements, the absence of a required acquisition strategy, confusion in contract administration responsibilities, and ineffective use of oversight tools. In addition, CMS did not adhere to the governance model designed for the process, resulting in design and readiness reviews being diminished in importance, delayed, or skipped entirely. By combining that governance model with a new IT development approach the agency had not tried before, CMS added even more uncertainty and potential risk to their process. The result was that problems were not discovered until late, and only after costs had grown significantly.
What does this mean for you? Well, besides having to pay the price for ineffective project management, it also provides a lessons-learned opportunity when pursuing your own IT projects. If you have any hesitation on launching your new IT projects, it pays to have experienced professionals guide you on the front end as opposed to suffering a public meltdown and significant cost overruns on the tail end.
If you have an IT Project on the horizon, Paintrock Consulting can help you manage that project effectively and efficiently. From helping you shape your scope requirements into information that is logical to developers, to determining which project management methodology is best for your goals, to implementing and managing your project and helping you secure additional short-term resources that can come together to help your organization reach its goals - let us help!