Being on the first page of Google’s search results pages for relevant keywords is a definite boon to traffic. As soon as a piece of your content makes it onto the first page, the traffic influx could be enormous depending on the keyword(s).
There are four ways to get your content to Google’s first page. Read on to learn more.
1. Paid Advertising – Sidebar
The first way you can use Google to drive traffic to your site is through paid listings on the sidebar. Paid listings can help build your brand in two ways. Since you pay per click for sidebar advertising, you will obviously start to generate traffic from clicks. A more intangible benefit, though, is brand building. You’ll still be earning impressions, delivering your message to customers, even when users don’t click on you advertisement.
To set up paid advertising, you must have a Google AdWords account. From your AdWords dashboard, you will need to select a maximum bid per click, a daily budget, and some keywords that users will be searching for. Some keywords, like insurance, are more expensive than others, and the cheapest keywords typically very niche, with four or more words in them, like “recumbent bikes in Chicago.”
2. Paid Advertising – Top Bar
By purchasing keywords that are highly-relevant to your product and paying top dollar, your sidebar listing could be promoted to a top-of-page listing. These listings appear directly above the search results and see far more clicks than sidebar links. It’s not possible to pay for a top-of-page ad on Google; however, sidebar ads with a very high quality score are automatically promoted to these prime spots.
3. Paid Advertising – Product Listing Ads
Through a partnership between Google Shopping and Google AdWords, you can also purchase a listing in the “Shop for…” section of Google’s index. Google Shopping ads only show up for searches that are clearly categorized as action keywords; keywords where a customer frequently clicks on the shopping and continues on to purchase a product.
To set up product listing ads, you must have an AdWords account and a Merchant Center account through Google. These accounts will be linked together to enable you to load your products onto your Google Shopping store. Unlike on AdWords, where you will live and die by the keywords you select, featured placement in the Google Shopping area does not allow you to select specific keywords. Instead, it uses your product name and its relevancy to the user’s query along with your maximum bid per click to determine if, and where, you will end up on the Shopping listing.
In 2012, CPC Strategy conducted a detailed research analysis of the Google Shopping advertising model. They found that, on average, retailers spent about $0.31 per click, or about $11.30 per $100 in sales.
4. Organic Search Engine Results
While the other three opportunities to get on Google’s homepage include paid advertising, organic advertising is free. When your content ranks highly on Google’s search engine for certain keyword terms, you will start to see thousands of clicks. These days, most effective keyword targeting strategies include a location as well as a very specific keyword, just like we learned in the paid Advertising section.
To determine what results show up on the first page, Google uses an advanced algorithm that takes into account thousands of factors, from the relevance and specificity of your content to its uniqueness. It includes bonuses if highly-reputable sites, like the Wall Street Journal, give you credibility by linking to your site.
For most users, the primary method for driving high organic search engine results will be creating a few pieces of content that is groundbreaking in the industry, with bonus points if your research is in order so that you can be cited as a source. This content has the opportunity to go viral among industry leaders in your particular field which greatly increases the credibility of your site.
Even though organic search engine results are free, this kind of research, content production, media outreach, and site maintenance can be time consuming, and for most popular websites, it’s a full time job for one or more people. It can also take months before your content starts showing up on the first page, since Google only officially updates its ranking algorithm every few months.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Three of the opportunities to get prime placement on Google’s search engine results page are paid, and one is time-consuming and takes a long time. If you have a thriving business and want to immediately start increasing sales, and you can afford the 12-15% hit to your margin due to advertising costs, you can drive as much traffic to your site as your business can manage through paid advertising. If you’re bootstrapping or on a shoestring advertising budget, your sweat equity can pay off through organic search engine rankings, and over time, the organic placement could be less costly than paid advertising, but know that it is intended as a long-term strategy.
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