Why it's harder today to rank well on search engines
Ranking well on search engines has never been easy. Today, it's harder than it used to be. There's several reasons for this but a lot of it has to do with lost opportunity. Opportunities that used to be online that have come and gone.
We've been doing search engine optimization since the beginning of 2000. Over this time quite a bit has changed. There's been a lot of turnover and many of the sites that used to rank well no longer do and others are completely out of business (possibly from lost visitor traffic). Even websites that are primarily informational, such as community forums and such, don't appear to do as well. We reckon that it's because of changes in search engine algorithms to fight spam from marketers using them to climb ranks.
It is well known by now that the most popular search engines have used backlinks to rank pages on their search engines. First, what is a backlink? A backlink is any link external to your site pointing at your website. So for instance, if WebDevelopers.com posts a link on their website to us here at Etchedweb.com, then we would have one backlink. This backlink could look something like this:
The actual HTML to make a link that looks like the above is shown below:
<a href="http://www.etchedweb.com">Web development company in Georgia</a>
The href attribute in the html above is the location (www.etchedweb.com in this case) where you can find Web development company in Georgia. Web development company in Georgia is called the anchor text part of the link.
If you go back to year 2000 or even before, it was very popular back then for website owners to create 'rings' of visitor traffic by linking from one site to another in order to keep visitors in the ring. The idea was to give visitors a way to find other similar sites without resorting to search engines or directories. It was also popular for website owners to do reciprocal linking where they point mutual links to each other on their websites.
Search engines, especially google for what it's famous for, started using these links to rank pages on their search engines. The idea was that a link is essentially a vote that you liked another site enough to link with it. It also described the website with the anchor text. Eventually, marketers working for these websites started to use this method more and more until spam got out of control. Search engines in return imposed penalties and devauled these links. Prior to devaluation, you could easily trade a link with one of your competitors and help both of you up the search engine. These links were also valuable because visitors who are interested in your competitor are also interested in you. Some of your business would come from these links. Outside of the internet, you wouldn't normally see your competitor referring their visitors to you. But online it was different and this practice was normal until it collapsed.
Today, it is very rare to see e-commerce sites exchanging links like it used to be. So the opportunity to get a link from your competitor has pretty much dried up unfortunately. That era has come and gone. Furthermore, the news gets worse as if it isn't bad enough.
Back when the internet started, one of the things users loved about the internet was the ability to find small companies all over the map that could fill their needs. It was something that their yellow pages could not do. Many of today's large internet companies started in someone's garage back then. For certain types of businesses, especially niche types, the internet is a powerful and vital tool to refer interested visitors to their product or service. Unfortunately for internet-only businesses, the most popular search engine, Google, is now inserting local results before the organic listings (results #1-10 that you'd expect to see first). Local results aren't new, but putting them in before organic position number one for niche keywords somewhat is. When I say niche keywords I refer to keywords and industries that might not have enough local business to stay afloat, but as a national aggregate, there's enough business to support them.
Take for instance the keyword gift baskets. The gift basket business from past history is mostly a mail order catalog business. There's some large businesses in that industry but none of them have local stores. You wouldn't normally get in your car and look for a gift basket business and you normally wouldn't try yellow pages either. That's because you drive around town every day and if that industry was there, you would have seen them. Like the keyword suggests, gift baskets are gifts and the intention is to give it to someone. Usually they are delivered to a recipient through a shipping company or USMail. That said, it's not to say you won't find any local businesses that might sell something similar, but it's unlikely you'll have the selection that a mail order catalog or internet business provides. That was one of the reasons why the internet became popular, to find those niche websites that excel in what they do. Either way whether you do find a local substitute or not, you could have tried this with yellow pages. In essence, google's search results are looking a bit like we've come full circle and the most popular search engine is now back to yellow pages type results. This is going to put further pressure on internet-only businesses that solely rely on the internet to stay afloat. One of the problems forseen is that potential customers will likely be back online unsatisfied with their yellow page-type listings that they go out and search for.
Take a look at what the current results for this keyword look like at the time of this writing:
As you can see, the first two results are actually ads. You can tell because there's the tiny AD icon listed in those results. The products listed with photos on the top right are also paid results. Below the ads, come in the local results. The first and the third listings of the local results don't appear to be real businesses. There is no website listed and the property photos appear to be an empty lot and an apartment building respectively. It's possible that they could be home based businesses but home based businesses aren't for the public to go visit. The second listing is actually for a flower shop that carries some gift baskets. There's about a page worth of gift baskets. Not too bad but probably not exactly what you are looking for from a probability standpoint. Like I said, you could have possibly gotten this result with your local yellow pages.
So where does this leave us? It leaves us in a situation where some effective and economical marketing oppotunities that used to be there are no longer there. And if you do find good substitutes, it leaves you in position #7 or #8 at best if you are the first result in the organic listings. Chances are that you aren't necessarily number one anyway so expect anywhere around the 10th listing on average provided you have an effective SEO strategy. An important question is how long we can expect the results to stay like they are. If in my example 2 out of the 3 local results aren't even useful, will the results stay like this forever? I don't expect it to stay like this forever unless it's cleaned up. Other leading search engines are also not following suit. Sooner or later Google will likely modify the local listings or users might migrate to other search engines. I know personally I've had a harder time finding unique sites on google that used to come up in the results. I have resorted to smaller search engines for those. But as internet marketing and seo professionals, we must come up with viable solutions to bridge the gap where possible. Obviously we can't remove the local results so we have to live with those for now (at least on Google).
An interesting observation I've noticed is that
This article was written by Roger DeSousa and published here on 3/26/2019.
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