Ranking first in Google: 99% 0f SEO “experts” are wrong. Are you one of them?

So you are wondering how to rank first in Google but the advice you found from online SEO experts hasn’t helped. Am I right? But you can’t figure out why. Their articles on SEO are ranking higher in Google than this one, for sure. You’re probably here because you clicked all the posts on the first five pages of search results, right? So what do I know? Well, I’d never call myself an expert but I do rank first on Google for some very specific search terms with this website, so I know how I achieved this and am happy to share how I did it.

Yeah. They know how to rank first. And they’re not telling you. At least, not for free. It’s funny how they all have a subscription product they claim is the best way to fix your site so you rank in first place on Google.

You might think you should give them your money because their free advice didn’t work and you’re desperate to rank first on Google. They might even have some dire warnings about how this year’s latest Google Algorithm is coming for your website like some bogeyman, ready to devour your content and throw it all onto page five thousand of Google’s search results.

Really handy, how these self-styled SEO experts claim to have an expensive and time-consuming solution to your problem. Or you can just pay them the price of a car to do it for you.

But a lot of what they are telling you is public domain information you can get for free, only they’ve turned that free advice into more words by hiring Fiverr ghostwriters.

And one thing I keep seeing is completely wrong. See, being an SEO expert is a hyper-competitive cock fight of guys (they are all guys) trying to outdo each other, stay relevant and rank number one in search engines. To do this, they have to keep creating new content in a very narrow niche. And let’s face it, there is only so much that can be said about search engine optimisation before you just repeat yourself.

It looks like they mostly got their information from the same source or maybe a bunch of them hired the same ghostwriter who cleverly re-wrote the same article for all of them.

Here’s the exact thing they are saying about Search Engine Optimization in 2020 and how it has changed from SEO in previous years:

Search Engine Journal claims SEO has changed with the latest Google algorithm update and they have quoted about a billion “tech professionals”. In some places, they have completely re-worded what the professionals have said to change the meaning behind their words. Here is the perfect example of a misquote causing misinformation about SEO in 2020:

As you can see if you read the quote, clear as day, Michelle Robbins says “staying successful in search marketing 2020 is the same as it ever was – put out good content…”

Yet the paragraph above her quote says the opposite. It says SEO has changed in 2020 and that you need to optimize your content for “users rather than search engines”.

Across other sites and articles about this same topic, I’m seeing the same phrase over and over “optimize for users rather than search engines.” While the above article actually goes into a lot of depth on a broad range of information (and man-in-the-pub hearsay that hasn’t been fact-checked, burying the nuggets of wisdom), SEO gurus are taking “optimize for users” out of context.

Here are the exact words Google used about their new update. I’ve highlighted the most important part that most SEO gurus are wrong about:

Google says focus on user experience, but adds “one of those users is a search engine.”

Here is the link to Google’s SEO guide. I recommend you listen to what Google has to say about SEO. Tune out the others. They’re just the blind leading the invisible.

That one article from Search Engine Journal, for example, has countless quotes from so-called experts who are outright incorrect, spouting nonsense that would have you spending hundreds of work hours chasing your tail doing all sorts of rubbish that won’t make a difference, such as this amazing example of absolute drivel:

“This type of approach to content is exactly what Google is looking for to satisfy user needs and represents the type of market investment that Google will likely never make, because Google is about doing things with massively scalable algorithms.”

Confused? You should be. Someone just threw a bunch of meaningless buzzwords together, tossed in the word “Google” three times for luck, and chucked them on the internet. Someone else, who was writing an article, blindly copied, pasted and attributed that amazing steaming pile of derriere-gravy to “Eric Enge”.

I’m sure he’s very proud of his word salad.

Another fabulous quote that could only come from someone utterly oblivious to anything going on outside their own navel, is this: “In 2020, the really smart SEOs will get up from their desks to talk to customers so they can find out what their audience really wants from them.”

This quote is daft for many reasons, let’s focus on two. First, it assumes “SEOs” (presumably they mean digital marketers… half the quoted people in this article seem to have no idea who actually does search engine optimization for websites) are corporate employees rather than people sitting at home writing SEO articles for companies on a freelance basis.

Usually their home is abroad in a country such as India because it’s really cheap to outsource content creation nowadays. Most content on the internet is produced this way then famous faces and bylines are attributed to the articles to make them seem more credible.

The second reason this quote is silly is because it implies the people doing search engine optimization are out of touch with consumers due to being corporate go-getters rather than because a lot of digital marketing content creators can’t afford an indoor flushing toilet on the money Corporate America throws at them.

English is not the first language of a lot of content creators. That’s what causes some articles to rank high while being extremely difficult to read. But no-one can go on record as saying that, because then they’d have to admit they knew about the racist exploitation of workers in third world countries. So instead they hide behind weasel words and the SEO “gurus” who make the big money from the work done by digital marketers are still peddling the lie that Google doesn’t care about keywords anymore.

It does. Google still cares about keywords. It just also wants fluent and coherent articles now.

So the real issue no one is talking about in SEO is that the thousands of content creators in India, South America, China and Eastern Europe who have been making good money writing simple articles with the right keywords are now going to struggle to earn a living.

Part of me thinks if it means the sloshy rubbish that makes no sense gets taken out of search results, that’s a good thing. But the human cost is quite high.

At least, it would be, if these SEO scare-mongers were correct. So it’s a good thing they’re all just blowing smoke in a desperate bid to stay relevant.

Luckily, Google ranks articles based on like a zillion parameters now. Not just this nebulous and undefinable concept of “user experience”.

You can also rank for long-tail keywords, site hierarchy (making sure you have a logical site map and that each post or page on your site is linked to properly), image optimisation (using the description boxes for images properly, which literally no one is doing), making your site mobile-friendly and checking how your work is going by using Google Analytics.

How do I know this? That Google article I linked to, above. It’s a long read, but the only SEO article you really need to pay attention to. It’s the only information all those wafflers on other sites have, anyway.

Want proof? Here’s the stats for two articles on my successful travel and beauty site, one article was written in 2015, the other was written last month. Both articles are about blue circles but they are targeting different keywords:

As you can see, the article (above) I wrote in 2020 has 14 views. The article (image below) I wrote in 2015 has had over 175,000 views. It’s still the second most popular article on my site. That is because good SEO from 2015 is still good SEO in 2020. If something had changed, if Google really valued the most recent content or the content written with the latest SEO buzzwords in mind, the article above should have eclipsed the article below. It has not.

Back in 2015, everyone was saying “content is king”. They meant, if you produced top-quality articles, people would find them on Google. It seems funny to me that all these SEO gurus are claiming things have changed when they very obviously have not. I’m a bit reluctant to say “build it and they will come” because it is debatable about whether this is true or not, and I’m erring on the side of it not being true.

So in conclusion, the things you need to focus on if you want to rank really high in Google search results are all the same things as before. Keyword stuffing hasn’t worked as an SEO tactic since about 2012. I’d like to see so-called “SEO Experts” and “SEO gurus” stop banging on about it and actually admit this:

Nothing has changed in SEO that will make any difference at all to a well-organised site with quality content, Google’s new update isn’t going to cast your website to the bottom of the search results, and the moon isn’t about to break free of the Earth and fly away.

So there you have it. With all the scary drama of Covid this year, the one thing you can still count on is that your online marketing strategy doesn’t actually need to change unless it wasn’t great to begin with, in which case you needed to change it anyway.

Why you need to stop selling via a Facebook page right now

When I started my soapmaking business, one of the things I wanted to know was how could I sell my soap to customers without having to have long complicated interactions. I was part of a local crafting and makers’ group on Facebook, and I was very surprised that the majority of small business owners were using Facebook pages to sell products!

Basically, you set it up like this. You start a Facebook page for your business and put some information in the page. Then customers have to send you a Facebook message to order your product or service, before they head over to Paypal to send payment for the order.

It’s so detached and so time-consuming for everyone involved. After going through this purchasing process a handful of times I gave up. I managed to buy a grand total of one thing this way, and all the other attempts I made were unsuccessful. Here are the key points in the sales process where this setup isn’t working for customers or sellers:

  1. Customers have to send you a message to find out your product range, prices and shipping options.
  2. You have to see that message and respond to it before you lose the customer. In my experience, sellers ranged from replying within minutes (best case) to replying two days later, to never replying at all. On a normal sales website, the customer has all this information straight away without any interaction.
  3. When I did get replies from sellers about products I wanted to buy, I often received incomplete replies, or replies where the seller had misread what I wanted to know and gave me the wrong info. This takes more time to unpick. A straightforward website completely avoids all of this and is less stressful and time consuming.
  4. In one case, because of the way Facebook notifications (don’t) work, the seller was replying to my messages at a rate of 1 message every 8-20 hours. It shouldn’t take a customer several days to order a birthday cake with plain white icing and “happy birthday baby” written on in blue icing. I gave up on this order by the third day because I still hadn’t received answers to basic questions like what area they delivered to. This information should be on your website which should be prominently linked from your Facebook page.
  5. In one case, I didn’t get any reply from another handmade cake company. I don’t know if that seller is no longer in business, or if they missed my message, or if they are even aware they have a Facebook page inbox separate to their regular one.
  6. In another case, the seller of some handmade candles seemed profoundly lonely and was trying to have really long conversations with me via Facebook message and I’m sorry to say I wasn’t interested, I wanted to buy a product. I kept replying to be polite but eventually I had to just stop to end the deluge of messages. Developing a relationship with a seller could come over time once the buying experience had wowed me, and in this case, it didn’t.

Overall, Facebook pages have their place in the customer experience, but that role absolutely is NOT to be used as a substitute for a website with product listings that handles the payment process automatically. Customers don’t need to interact with you individually.

If a customer has searched in Google for a product, even if your Facebook page comes up (which isn’t likely, since Facebook pages have terrible SEO), a customer on their phone has to log into Facebook and that means they have to remember their Facebook password to even see your Facebook page, as search engine results don’t take customers to the Facebook phone app where they would already be logged in.

Add to this, if they’re using Maps to find a local business, your Facebook page is the last thing they should be taken to because then they’re using the browser in their Google Maps app, and you’ve also suddenly lost half your map searching customers (because they use Apple Maps or Bing Maps, neither of which work the same way as Google maps, especially on phones and tablets).

Facebook pages are not structured like an online store at all. They’re a place for microblogging with photos. Showcase new items and build buzz with them. Put website links to where people can buy your products. Facebook pages don’t display key information to customers, and navigating them isn’t intuitive, making the whole buying process over-complicated.

The buying process should be as easy and quick as possible for your customers.

Selling via Facebook messages is not a productive or scaleable method and I absolutely hate it as a buyer. I don’t like approaching total strangers to find out if they sell what I’m trying to buy then having to extricate myself from an awkward situation if their product is not right for me.

Some sellers might think that selling via a Facebook page means they can give a “personal touch” but there’s a huge difference between trying to socialize with your customers while they are trying to buy something, and building a strong customer relationship. And when the buying process has missing links because it hasn’t been designed efficiently, you are losing customers and money.

If you’re still not convinced, let’s look to marketing psychology. When customers are in a buying mindset, the very last thing you should do is derail them into a protracted transaction that takes hours or days.

Chances are, by the time you hit message three or four, they’ve lost interest in your product, forgotten what they were waiting for, or gotten bored with trying to buy your product and bought one elsewhere.

In the case of the birthday cake, I bought one from Tesco instead. I spent £4 instead of the price of a handmade cake. It was more important to me to have any cake at all for my child’s birthday than to waste hours getting any specific cake.

And because two different sellers had let me down so badly with their badly thought out setup, I was left feeling annoyed and very unlikely to try to buy a handmade cake in the future, even if I wanted to make an occasion feel very special.

Amazon patented “one-click” technology for a reason: Minimizing the amount of effort a customer needs to make to buy something means they’ll buy from you again and again. It also means you won’t lose them part-way through the transaction.

Since one-click is patented, most business advisors suggest the optimum number of clicks it should take for a customer to buy a product is two clicks. Two clicks from “Look at this product” to “Order confirmed.” Two clicks is not even close to two Facebook messages, especially when you factor in making your customers go to Paypal to pay you!

In the real world, three or four clicks is more likely, unless you have splashed out for a really high-tech site. Customers shouldn’t even have to fill in unnecessary fields in the “customer details” part of the order process, never mind typing reams and reams of messages to you to find out what you actually sell and where you deliver it to!

As for making people send money via Paypal then message you to tell you they’ve paid, you’re effectively sending people away from your shopping experience for several minutes while they wrestle with Paypal, type the right amount in, add your email address and choose “paying for an item”.

An integrated Paypal payment system (or other payment system such as Stripe) solves this by keeping them on your website through the payment process, and is the go-to system for all professional sellers.

If you are struggling to set up your own website, consider asking a family friend to help you, or paying a web designer. WordPress or Shopify are the easiest ways to make a custom website for ecommerce. Your website is the single most important asset you have when you’re selling craft products (next comes your mailing list). Your Facebook page is not your shopfront, nor is it the place for working with transactions.

Running a business this way makes customers think you’re unprofessional and like you’re not committed to your business. Of course, you’re committed to your business, so show them! Put the effort into getting a real website, or if you absolutely can’t handle the idea of that, open an Etsy store, Ebay shop or Amazon storefront, for the love of your customers!

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