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Why we should view Google search as just another website

Regular readers will know that most of the stuff I write here concerns Google search. It was the most important thing in business marketing – outside of your own website – when I started this blog nearly ten years ago, and it’s the most important thing now. Look at your website visitor analytics and you’ll probably see that anything from 50% to 90% of visitors arrive at your website this way. But I do think many of us struggle to grasp what Google search actually is. So here’s one way of looking at it.

I view Google search as just another website. We all know that it’s not really. It will create a page almost instantly for any search we enter, and huge numbers of searches every day have never been made before. However, I think you can view its results pages as static pages which just happened to have been prepared in anticipation of your search. Once you view Google as a multi-billion-page website just sitting there, it becomes easier to get a grip on what it is, and how to use it.

For example, you know that the people whose attention you’re trying to attract want to find out where to buy blue widgets. Google has a page on ‘blue widgets’. It also has one on ‘buy blue widgets’ and another on ‘where to buy blue widgets’. You just have to choose whether you’re going to focus on one or all of these – or something else completely. You need to work out how many of your prospects visit these pages that are sitting there waiting to be looked at, and balance this against how much time or money it’ll take to be featured prominently on each.

For people who like analogies, I consider these Google results pages to be posters around town. You could be featured on a giant billboard on the approach road, a poster on a bus stop, or a sticker on a lamp-post. Everyone sees the billboard, but if the lamp-post is in the right place, it could be that for every 10 prospects out there, although 8 see the giant hoarding, maybe 5 see the sticker. However, for every 10 prospects, there are 1000 people you don’t care about, and they’ll all see the hoarding, resulting in it being a lot more competitive to appear on …and expensive. Maybe only a handful of people you don’t care about will see the sticker, so the lamp-post won’t be nearly as much in demand. It could be much more cost-effective.

What’s more, there’s only one giant billboard, but loads of lamp-posts. And maybe those lamp-posts could add up to much more ‘reach’ amongst your prospects than the billboard.

Whether it’s selecting targets for SEO or search advertising, the key is to treat search term results pages as individual permanent potential advertising sites, and analyse their value as you would anything else. Be smart with your effort and budget, and know what to focus on and when to walk away.