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Can you really get a google top result?

Can you really get a google top result? A lot of web design companies make a very bold claim: that they can get you a Google top result.

It's a strong seller. Everybody wants to dominate their competitors in Google and get 'massive traffic' for 'huge profits', and sit back while their website 'runs on automatic'.

It's also a claim that is true. These companies can get you a Google top result.

There's just one catch: it won't be for the term you want.

Anybody can get a Google top result for something particularly obscure.

For example, we are top on Google for the following terms:
  • web design sheffield "world class" functionality
  • ocportal web development
  • tired of partial solutions
  • cms web development "projects partnerships"
Unfortunately nobody will actually search these terms. The kinds of terms we want are far more competitive, like:
  • best CMS
  • web design sheffield
  • reliable web developer
It takes huge popular appeal, and often forms of incentivisation campaign, to get high on these results.

So, if you are shopping for web design and someone is telling you that you'll get a top Google result, don't expect it for “London carpenter” or “best chauffeur”, expect it will be something far more obscure. It may well still be a term that does get a modest stream of searches though (Google's keyword suggestion tool is great for finding 'long tail' searches that people actually do but aren't particularly competitive).

Some companies do actually say they can get you a top Google result for any search term of your choice. Thinking logically, the only ways they could do this are:
  • Doing it only if you have an infinite budget (with infinite resources, you could incentise infinite quality back-links and invest in whatever is required to make the website the most compelling one ever built)
  • Bribing or Hacking Google (seems very unlikely)
  • Calling a paid Google ad a top Google result (likely very common)
One final wheeze I imagine is that the companies are just hiding behind the law. They probably guide you in your choice of keywords before you sign up, and for the small percentage of customers who still insist on something, they won't agree to sign them up, so nobody cannot sue them for false advertising (only a customer can really sue someone for that).

So to summarise, do not take the stupid claims many web design companies make on face value. This is particularly a problem with lower quoting companies, who have a business model that requires treating their customers like sheep and subjecting them to a flashy sales process that makes a lot of shallow but impressive claims. These companies are legitimate in the sense that the model allows them to do stuff cheaper than anyone else and to a basic reasonable quality, within the budget of very small businesses, but it's important to also have an understanding of what you get for the money and why they are so cheap.

A little closing advice

SEO is certainly a strong possible marketing route for many websites. Two scenarios are particularly strong:
  • for small businesses that serve a local community. These businesses can actually work off their local-nature to great advantage (imagine a query involving the name of their trade, with the town they operate in appended on the end).
  • for websites with a lot of community-generated or database-generated content. These sites will naturally end up targeting a large volume (a 'long tail') of less common terms that people do search for but aren't so competitive. A bit of work exposing the appropriate terms automatically and you can have a very effective strategy.
If you are going to go down the SEO route, make sure that you have someone who will do 'white-hat' techniques rather than 'black-hat' ones. If you hire the wrong company you might find that they are trying to make your website rank highly by exchanging or buying a lot of links, and Google will likely find out very soon and get you banned.

This was article 1 of 8 in my "Web industry Exposť" series of blog posts.

If you think it's good advice, please share this link with others. If you think I'm wrong or have something to say, please discuss below.

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