Can we all fit in Google’s top 10 results?

Appearing on Google’s 1 – 10 web results is every web administrator’s dream. With Google generating over 85% of all Internet search engine referred traffic, reaching that privileged ranking can differentiate the professional Internet players from the amateur website owners. As a matter of fact, numerous tests have demonstrated that the top three Google results are read by the majority of web surfers, the remaining results on that first page are the second most efficient ones, but only about 10% of Internet users explore beyond the third page of results.

In other words, if your company is not part of the elite, or the top 30 results, the probability of being contacted by a client becomes almost non-existent. Thirty spots are all you have. And only ten of them are reserved for the cream of the crop. Is this truly all the space that is available for everyone around the globe? In reality, there are several factors that make those top rankings that you so feverishly compete for less contended than they first appear. The answer lies in the segmentation and accurate identification of your market niche along with an effective positioning of your website for this niche.

For now, you may want to temporarily forget about the Internet and start by asking yourself how many competitors you have in the real world. Or, if you prefer, you may want to list those businesses that are offering a product or service portfolio resembling yours and targeting the same client segment that you are profiting from. It is entirely possible that you may have already gone the extra mile differentiating your product or service offering, finding a market niche that can be addressed in a unique way, or identifying some other competitive advantage of your own. In other words, you may already be competing with a reduced number of firms, probably less than 30, and perhaps even less than 10. If this is what your real world looks like, why should it be any different on the Internet? Even if we accept the fact that there will always be markets or segments that will attract a greater number of competitors, as long as we have accurately segmented our piece of the pie, we will frequently find that only a handful of competitors are vying for our same portion.

Let’s look at this issue now from an Internet perspective. Can we all fit in Google’s top 10 results? The answer is a definite yes, at least as it applies to those results generated by search terms that potential clients use when looking for companies like yours. The good news is that Google has reserved for your business a small number of pages where your website can appear on the top three results, and then, a handful more where your site will definitely rank among the elite, but where, unfortunately, you will also contend alongside your closest competitors. Therefore, constantly measuring and tracking the amount of traffic that a site experiences does not seem as important -after all, in a real shop, one is more interested in helping customers than visitors. Instead, you should concentrate in assuring that when potential Internet clients look for your products or services they can indeed find your website. Let’s see how this is done.

1. Accurately identifying your market niche

You must get to know the type of clients that you are addressing: who they are, where they are located, and how they look for your products or services. Keep in mind that the typical Internet user begins a search using very broad terms. For example, someone in Great Britain looking for homes in the Costa Blanca of Spain may enter “houses in Spain” as search terms. However, those same keywords could be used by a student who is interested in Spanish architecture, or by a person looking for rental property in Madrid, or by an economist who wants to know how real estate prices have recently faired in Spain.

When a search engine returns an unmanageable number of results, users typically restrict their next search by including more specific criteria. For example, they may limit the geographic coverage -“house in Costa Blanca”-, include the type of product –“townhouse in Costa Blanca”-, or add an action –“opportunities + townhouse in Costa Blanca for sale”. If your business happened to be a small real estate agency in the town of Javea -in the Costa Blanca of Spain-, a potential client of yours would probably belong to the profile of those that entered “opportunities + townhouse in Costa Blanca for sale.”

Nowadays, a great majority of Internet searches are conducted by entering concepts consisting of two or three words. However, after a user becomes more familiar with Internet search engine technology the tendency is to type in more specific and detailed phrases.

2. Identifying your keyword sets

Are you targeting a general English speaking audience or perhaps Scandinavian customers that may be interested in buying luxury homes in Javea? One of your first criteria should therefore be the language.

After a language is selected, you must figure out how potential clients will look for your website. Keep in mind though that if you are a small real estate agency in Javea, focused in selling local properties to a British market, for example, it will be extremely difficult for your website to appear as part of the elite results when someone simply types in “real estate in Spain” as the search criteria. At the same time, be aware that the chances of your small business capturing a customer that entered those terms in Google are much reduced. The problem is that “real estate in Spain” is not the space where your small local company should be competing in. If, on the other hand, you had correctly identified your market niche, you would be enjoying a definite advantage when users entered more specific terms, such as “townhouses in Javea”, “villas in Javea”, “apartments for sale in Javea”, or “real estate agents in Javea”. In summary, the keywords that we select must always identify very clearly our specific market niche.

3. Optimizing your website

Your next step will be to ensure that the contents of your website reflect precisely the products or services that your clients are looking for.

If you are wondering how search engines classify websites, you must bear in mind that after all, a website is nothing more than information. Books have been organizing and presenting information for centuries. If you were handed a book and asked what the book was about, you would probably first look at its title, subtitles or any other text on the book’s cover. Next, you might turn the book over and look for a summary or synopsis on its back. A third level of information could be derived from looking at its index. Finally, and without having to read the entire book, you would browse through some of the pages, where individual chapter and section titles would catch your attention. If you were considering buying the book, you would probably take a look at recommendations from prior readers, paying more attention to those that you consider experts in the field.

Google is no different. When it comes to classifying a website, Google will look at the title of the default page, at its description or subtitle, and at the contents inside the page itself, which if properly built, should be a synopsis of what the users will find in the website. Google will next evaluate the website’s navigation or indexing by traversing through the various links inside each page or chapter. While Google navigates through a website, it will repeat the process of looking at the title, description and contents of each and every page.

In the same manner as we use recommendations from prior consumers before making a purchasing decision, Google will also take into account those links that point to your pages from external websites. And, the more important and prestigious those external referring sites are, the higher your own website will be rated by Google.

It is therefore extremely important to have a good title and description for our website’s home page, but it is equally important to make sure that the titles and descriptions for the remaining pages accurately reflect their contents (nobody wants to read a book whose chapter titles are all the same). It goes without saying -unless your company name is Coca-Cola or Nike- that you should not use the name of your business as a page title. If someone already knew your company by name, they probably would know your web address as well.

4. Learning from your clients

You should review from time to time your website’s traffic statistics and derive from them those search engines and search terms that have primarily been used to find your website. At the same time, this information will identify those keywords most often entered by your potential clients. If you then create new pages using these same concepts and look for partners willing to include in their websites a referral link to your home page, you will start noticing a progressive improvement of your website’s ranking, at least for those searches that deliver the most profitable results.


In your race to become a highly ranked website, do not try to compete using very broad terms. Your site can join a search engine’s elite (top 30 results), or even be part of its cream of the crop (top 10 results), if you identify and segment your market niche accurately. In fact, even though you may end up registering less Internet traffic than before, or less than your competitors, the ratio between the number of visitors that simply pass through your site and the number of potential clients, also known as the customer conversion ratio, will be much higher. After all, what are you most interested in, traffic or clients?

What is your real goal: web positioning with top results or the ability to attract more qualified traffic to your website?

If placing your website within the top search engine results, entering certain keywords in Google, Yahoo, MSN Search, or Alta Vista, has become your daily obsession, stop for a moment and reflect. Is achieving top search results with selected keywords the real objective, or, is it perhaps developing a means for connecting with your potential customers, thus attracting more qualified traffic to your web site, what you are truly after? Besides, what are the chances that your prospective clients will key in, exactly, those keywords that you chose in, precisely, those same search engines that you have targeted to locate your website within the first page of results?

Now that the majority of website administrators have finally accepted that online marketing applying search engine technology is the most efficient strategy in the long term for capturing qualified Internet traffic, companies that offer web optimization and search engine submission services have started launching aggressive campaigns guaranteeing top positions for their clients by using a limited number of keywords (typically five, ten, or fifteen), regardless of their websites’ business domain. This approach should immediately raise doubts as it is obviously much easier to position a website dedicated, for example, to the dissection of butterflies, that probably enjoys very little competition, than positioning a website dedicated to real estate operating in an extremely crowded market. Therefore, one must always carefully weigh in the promises made by these web-positioning firms since two different scenarios could occur:

  • In order to achieve the promised top search results, a web-positioning company may be forced to choose keywords that are so exclusive and specific that even if your website surfaces among the first few spots, the chances of a prospective client typing those exact keywords is extremely remote.
  • On the other hand, a client may demand from the web-positioning company the utilization of keywords that are so generic and belong to such a highly competitive business domain that the web-positioning company is unable to realize their promises even after applying all the proper techniques correctly.

This raises the question of whether the mechanisms currently employed for determining the success or failure of a web positioning strategy are adequate, or, perhaps, better alternatives exist. In most cases, web-positioning companies justify their success by providing periodic web positioning reports to their clients. These automatically generated reports show the positions achieved by each of the selected keywords with every search engine targeted. Software programs repeatedly launch queries once a week, or once a month, with each of the search concepts using all the search engines selected, capturing the results and presenting them in weekly or monthly reports. The customers review these reports and apply their information as the only basis for determining the level of success, which brings us back to the original question: Is achieving a good positioning the real objective, or is it using web positioning as just another means for obtaining more qualified traffic the intended goal?

From my perspective, attracting qualified Internet traffic should be the ultimate goal of any online marketing strategy, from web positioning to online advertising, including email strategies, permission marketing, or pay-per-click campaigns. That is why marketing professionals should be using web traffic reports as the true indicators of their online marketing success, as opposed to relying solely on the information provided by web positioning reports. Even though these latter reports can offer a good indication of where a website would appear if certain keywords were used in a search engine, the cornerstone for determining how well a website is actually performing comes from analyzing the real-time statistics provided by web traffic reports. Let’s analyze next some of the reasons that make these reports such an invaluable asset.

  • A potential customer can locate a website entering such a large variety of keywords, phrases, synonyms, misspelled words, expressions, etc. that limiting the positioning of a website to the utilization of five, ten, fifteen, or even twenty keywords would not begin to cover the spectrum of possibilities available to any Internet user.
  • The origins of prospective clients are typically so diverse that adopting an online marketing strategy that simply positions a website for a limited number of search engines would greatly reduce the chances of capturing additional audiences frequenting areas such as forums, user groups, e-mails, newsletters, referrals, chat rooms, blogs, online articles, etc. Even though, in most cases, Google, for example, generates over 75% of the traffic referrals for a website, it is important to note that external referrals to a website from areas such as forums or newsletters are also taken into consideration by Google and other search engines while positioning a website. A complete web positioning strategy should therefore take into consideration external website referrals due to the effect that they have on the overall positioning and also because these referrals are excellent sources for directing more qualified traffic to a website.
  • A web positioning report illustrates the ranking that a website would obtain if the keywords chosen by us were submitted to the list of search engines also selected by us. A web traffic report, on the other hand, shows exactly how a prospective customer found our website (i.e. shows both the keywords typed in by the customer and the search engine used by the customer.)
  • A web positioning report shows the spot that could be achieved, but provides little insight on how to improve the results obtained. One of the many features of a web traffic report is the ability to capture what specific keywords and corresponding search engines generated the majority of the visits to a website, or those that actually converted visits into real customers. This continuous feedback provided by the web traffic reports is an excellent mechanism to fine-tune search concepts and improve their effectiveness.
  • Web traffic reports can also be utilized to analyze how the popularity of a particular search concept evolves over time and how new trends or concepts are born. This information enables the incorporation of new niche keywords that will improve the positioning of a website not only by reducing the scope of a search, but also by increasing the chances that a potential customer will select those keywords.
  • Finally, a web traffic report also lists all the external referring entities (e.g., forums, chat rooms, blogs, etc.); information that will prove invaluable for expanding a web positioning strategy and enhancing its vision for a more global reach.

Attracting qualified Internet traffic to a website (i.e. customers that are interested in the products or services being offered) ought to be the ultimate goal of any online marketing strategy. This effort cannot be simply limited to the selection of a series of search keywords and engines, all chosen beforehand. Instead, a more global approach must be adopted that encompasses web optimization, search engine submissions, inclusion of references in external areas such as forums, user groups or value-added portals, the publication of articles, and the contribution of content to other websites. This expanded strategy will enhance our overall Internet presence and will enable the most popular search engines to locate a website applying a greater variety of search concepts. Lastly, by applying the feedback obtained from the web traffic reports, our global Internet presence can be continually improved and sustained to ensure consistent and effective results.