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Is It Getting Harder to Rank on Google?

Local business fight tooth and nail to get on the first page of Google results for their keywords. Although the number one position is coveted, anywhere on the first page is considered a win—and the higher up, the better. But how much page one real estate is really available?

According to a new search engine study, not as much as you’d think. Although the two major search engines, Bing and Google, each show 10 results on the first page, most of those are dominated by large national businesses. Local SMB’s only get a few of the coveted spaces. That’s disappointing news, but it’s info you should be using to shape your SEO and marketing strategy.

A Clear Message

The study was exhaustive. It consists of over 500 searches conducted across three search engines: Google, Bing and Yahoo. The search strings themselves were also broken into categories:

  • Generic terms, such as “attorney”
  • Specific services, such as “divorce attorney”
  • “Long tail”(highly specific) terms, such as “top DUI attorney.”

For each of these types of queries, some were universal and others contained geographic modifiers, such as “top DUI attorney Atlanta.”

What you might expect with these searches is that most of the results would be businesses that offered the services in question. With the examples above, you’d expect to see some of the local attorneys who rank highly for the terms in question, maybe with Avvo and a few other general sites thrown in. But that isn’t what happened at all.

Instead, the front page for most search terms was almost completely crowded out by national or global level businesses. Most of these aren’t competitors. They’re informational sites like Wikipedia, news sites like the New York Times or Huffington Post, social media like Youtube, or directory sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. For the generic search terms these sites almost totally took over top 10 places, leaving just 1-2 spots for actual local businesses on any search engine. The results for specific services were similar.

Only in the long tail search terms was there more variation. For long tail terms SMB’s averaged 4 out of 10 results. Adding the geo modifiers also favored SMB’s, but only in certain categories. Restaurants and bars were still lost amidst national directory listings, probably because “restaurant in NYC” is not as specific as “plumber in NYC.” Showing the top pizzerias and Chinese restaurants does not help if you’re looking for sushi.

How To Get Traffic

Unfortunately, there’s nothing a local business can do to change the search results. Google’s algorithm currently favors large sites with tons of links and minute-by-minute fresh content. That’s simply the landscape we play in.

However, there are things you can do to get that coveted visibility in the search results, and maximize your traffic. For example:

  • Make sure you’re focusing on local SEO, not just your main keywords. When someone does a local search, you want to be one of those four local businesses they see.
  • Maximize your long tail keywords. Don’t just rank for “diner,” rank for “best breakfast.” Individual long tail search terms get fewer searches, but they also have a higher conversion rate. Identify the most important ones in your market and dominate them.
  • Use directories. Many of those large businesses crowding you out are actually directory sites that should prominently display your listing. If you build up your Yelp profile, it doesn’t really matter that Yelp has the number one spot in the search results.
  • Combine SEO with pay-per-click (PPC). PPC ads like Google AdWords can get your business on the front page regardless of who’s ranking, and they give you a lot of control over who sees your ad and how often.

You don’t have to do all of this on your own. EverSpark Interactive has a team of search experts who know how to identify your keywords, get you ranking higher, and build the internet marketing campaign that works best for you. Contact us for your free consultation today.