I recently booked a holiday using the internet. The tour operator was one I’d not heard of before which prompted my travelling companion to send me a frenzied deluge of concerned messages. “How do you know they’re legit?” “Are you sure they won’t take the money and run?” “Have the tickets arrived yet?”
In fact, no, the tickets hadn’t been delivered. However this was more likely to be caused by the passing of only a couple of hours since I’d placed my order rather than a nefarious ‘take the money and run’ type scenario. Email confirmation had arrived in minutes and I was pretty confident I’d not been the subject of a scam.
However, to ease the concerns of my friend and to put my detective skills to use, I decided to don my metaphorical deerstalker and do a little investigating. Magnifying glass? No chance – this is the 21st century and the internet in all its glory by far outweighs the benefit of the traditional round glass lens! With Firefox open and my homepage, Google, up on the screen in front of me, I began tapping on my keyboard.
My first search was for the company itself. I looked at the website. It was laid out professionally; there was plenty of appropriate, descriptive text. Moreover, there were reviews which would indicate the presence of other users. Of course, it’s pretty easy to fake reviews on your own website and so I decided to conduct further searches away from the tour operator.
My next port of call was Tripadviser.co.uk, which I’d visited in the earlier stages of planning our expedition. A quick recap for those people that don’t research their holidays online – Tripadviser is a handy review site where past holidaymakers may leave comments and feedback about their voyages away. The resort was listed, which helped to prove it existed, and there were 172 reviews, some mentioning the tour operator. Again, all well and good, although it would still be easy for an unethical shady character to fake reviews if it helped them to make a profit. I decided to look to find the company’s social media channels.
On Twitter, the company had clearly been registered for a while, had made some 535 tweets – not usually more than a couple each day. Facebook was even more useful; the company had nearly 7000 likes but, more importantly, there were a huge number of recent customers discussing their holidays on the Facebook wall.
Sadly I’ve seen online offers to buy Facebook likes (not a safe thing to consider doing), however the level of interaction between customers and the operator was hugely successful in allaying my friends’ fears.
If you’ve read the preceding 449 words you may be wondering when I’ll get to the point and start talking about SEO. Don’t worry, we’re nearly there! Consider this: I’ve just researched a business to see if it’s worthy of my custom. Google does exactly the same thing when deciding if a website is worthy of a ranking.
|What I can do||What Google Does||What you should do to your website|
|Is this an established company?||Research the company and learn how long they’ve been in business. You
can even perform a WhoIs and check the domain age.
|Google looks at the age of domains to determine how much authority it
|Register your domain ASAP to let your authority grow.|
|Is this the website of a professional, legitimate company?||Read the website, look at the grammar and
|Panda was all about removing inferior low quality websites from
Google’s search results. Google looks for in-page spam, it checks grammar, it looks to see if any dodgy techniques are being used on
the website – the same as me.
|Review the site, don’t over-optimise it, make sure it’s professional
and doesn’t adopt any ‘dodgy’ techniques. Make sure it’s professional and
projects the right image for your business.
|Have other people heard of this company?||Look online at appropriate websites and see if people talk about it.||Looks at other sites and counts how many people link to it, taking
each link (within reason) as a vote of confidence. Links from relevant, high
quality sites are worth far more than references in low quality sites such as
|Where is this company based?||Look at the contact details.||Registering with Google Places allows you to appear in Google Maps. Google then inserts Place listings into regular web searches if it thinks these are relevant to your search.||Register with Google Places.|
|Have other people had positive experiences?||Look at reviews||Google used to crawl and read review websites, however they received
a lot of complaints claiming copyright infringement. Google have since
launched their own mechanism for reviewing businesses within Google Places.
|Ask your customers to leave reviews on impartial, relevant websites. Never try to fake reviews – not only is this illegal, neither Google nor your customers will trust you again.|
|Do regular users talk about this in a natural manner that doesn’t
look artificial or fake?
|Look at social channels and read comments on Facebook, Twitter,
|Google themselves have confirmed social signals are an important part
of their algorithm.
|Social Media. Register with social sites and interact with people to
encourage social sharing and improve trust.
So there you have it – everything I do, Google has done before me. Does this make it 100% safe to trust every website listed in Google? Absolutely not! Google is concerned with returning appropriate results which respond to your search term but it can still be fooled!
My point is that in order to satisfy Google, you need to satisfy your customers. Both Google and your customers are looking for the same factors – possibly different aspects of said factors – but still the same factors. So when we suggest using social websites, making changes to your website – this isn’t just to satisfy Google, it’s to improve your online offering as a whole and will have a major impact on improving customer trust, brand awareness, rankings, traffic, conversions… everything!
Modern SEO is as much about providing a trust-worthy, authoritative, informative website as it is with traditional factors such as link building. Something people often fail to grasp is that in order to obtain good rankings, your website, the entire user experience, and the trust people place in you must be as evident in the virtual world as they are in the real one. To determine your rankings, Google looks at your website as if it were a human. And that’s why we’re all a bit like Google. To appeal to Google, you first need to appeal to your audience, because in many ways they are the same.