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SEO – SO YOU WANT TO BE NUMBER ONE?

It takes a lot of patience and effort to feature on the first page of Google’s search results, but Phil Ridley of Bug Doctor Media explains here why the long-term investment is so worthwhile.

So you want your website to have the number one position in the Google organic search results, for high traffic, commercially relevant keywords? Who doesn’t? But no matter what the less scrupulous SEO agencies may promise, alas, there can be only one number one!

So what are your chances of reaching the number one position? In locations with a lot of competition, the answer is ‘very small’. After all, it’s a competition and there can be only one winner, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. So what should you, or your SEO agency, be doing to get you to the number one position… or at least on the first page?

Firstly, let’s look at the website basics.

Your website setup is critical to success. Unless you have this basic foundation in place, you will always be facing an uphill battle. There are a whole host of big and small technical components that need to be correct, which will be missed by the majority of businesses that manage their own website. You should not assume that some of the off-the-shelf options (Wix, Squarespace, etc) will manage all this for you. They are quite good for the basics, but you still need to have expert knowledge to optimise them correctly.

One key aspect of website performance is load time. Around 75% of users will typically bounce as a page load time passes the three-second mark (source: dotcom- monitor.com). This means every second is critical, even moving from a one to two second load time will lose customers. With Google using ‘mobile first’ to rank websites and load time being a key factor, this is critical.

The age of your website is also a key factor in ranking. It is simply unrealistic to expect a new website with a new domain name to rank anytime soon for a highly competitive keyword. A new or upgraded website for an existing domain name, with existing pages, provides a better starting point.

Larger websites also tend to rank higher and better – larger sites tend to be older sites and therefore have more backlinks (important for ranking) and more content (as long as it’s good content).

How authoritative is your website?

Your website’s authority is a key ranking factor used by Google. Is it seen as an authoritative source of quality pest control information? One of the key measures Google uses to assess authority is the number and quality of the backlinks.

Ahref provides a free tool to assess your website’s authority. Your website’s domain authority provides a good indication as to how easily pages on the website will be ranked for targeted keywords. The domain authority number is driven by backlinks. The maximum score is 100, but the critical point is to understand how your website’s domain authority compares to that of your competition. If your domain authority is 14 and your key competitors are over 50, you are simply going to struggle to gain a higher ranking.

Whilst we are talking about competition, it sounds obvious but the amount of competition has a big impact. For example for rural areas, where there may be only a couple of pest control businesses, you will end up on the first page of results almost by default. Whereas on the Gold Coast where there are over 300 pest control companies, even getting on the second page (which is still almost invisible to customers), is still an achievement.

So when the question is asked “How long will it take for my site to rank on the first page or at number one, for a particular keyword?” the answer will be, “It depends.”

There is simply no way of knowing. However, investing in good SEO is a good medium to long-term play.

And it often means you need to invest to get the results – good technical SEO, good content (regular updates) and active backlinking all takes time and skill. The more you invest (as long as it’s with someone who knows what they’re doing), the quicker you will hit your targets. However, it is still a competitive market – if a competitor is spending more on SEO and has a bigger, better, faster website, it’s going to be difficult to out compete them. Furthermore, even if you are doing everything right, improvements can still take time.

Bug Doctor Media set up a new website, with a new domain name, for a new pest control company on the Gold Coast – a highly competitive pest control market! Launched back in August 2015, it wasn’t until four months later that the first low competition keywords appeared on the first page and not until a full year after launch that these low competition keywords were ranked number one. But these weren’t driving a lot of traffic.

It took until two and a half years after launch for the site to gain numerous first page and number one ranking positions for high traffic keywords and become one of the leading websites on the Gold Coast (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Improvement in website rankings over time (green line) in Gold Coast market with active SEO support

The investment in the early years would not have delivered a significant return on investment. But as of today the value of the clicks alone (if they were paid for by Google ad clicks) is estimated at $2,600 per month; far more than the monthly SEO fees and of course that excludes the significant business that has been generated as a result.

So, SEO is not a short-term play, it’s an investment. But if you get it right, you will get a significant return on your investment and it will drive your business success. However, while you wait for your rankings to improve, you will need to look at short-term advertising strategies to get the phone to ring.

Phil Ridley, Director, Bug Doctor Media