The eternal quest to get to the first page of Google search results is perhaps important for optimising exposure, but potentially deceiving in terms of real value being offered. I did a short experiment with some simple searches – like ‘pimple popping’ – and found only one legitimate and really helpful result on page one (instruction from a dermatologist and surgeon), unless you, of course, want to watch disgusting videos! Even more serious subjects, like ‘effective leadership’, produced a mixed bag of results. It seems that search engine optimisation (SEO), done really well, can put any old brand at the top of the pile.

Now, I am not suggesting for a moment that you shouldn’t use all the available tools and other resources to court Google and secure her love for your website and thus your products – exposure and brand awareness is critically important to differentiate yourself from competitors and get sales. Equally important or perhaps more significant is the growth and development of your brand’s value proposition. The two go hand in hand – being known is one thing (popular), being known for product quality is another (reputation). For sustainable results to be an outcome, investment is not only necessary in perfecting search engine optimisation, but also in the integrity of your brand – a consistent demonstration that your brand always offers customer-oriented solutions, real value, quality, reliability, faithful service and so on. This brand investment focuses on innovative products and solutions as well as knowledgeable, engaged and helpful staff.

Steve Johnston and Liam McGee, in their book: “50 Ways to Make Google Love Your Website”, suggest that there are three main reasons why Google has chosen a measure that looks at the links that exist between sites as a method to rank the information that it finds:

  1. Relevance does not equal usefulness – for example, massively duplicated, but highly relevant, use of a manufacturer’s description of a single product across multiple retailer websites. Google, however, can’t use the same information to rank the different sites by usefulness.
  2. People lie – Google doesn’t trust you to have only appropriately relevant information on your website. “She” knows that many websites clearly exaggerate what they are capable of in the name of marketing differentiation.
  3. Collective wisdom works – Google taps into people’s appetite for referencing those things that they find useful and interesting by linking them to their own sites, the same thus providing a representative source of “voting” data to help Google identify the most useful information on the web.

Now, one should note that the web is not a real democracy in Google’s eyes – each voting link is not equally influential (some sites carry the equivalent of many more votes). For example, if I wrote an article on the topic of ‘effective leadership’, as mentioned previously, and a number of prestigious university business schools linked to my article, Google might recognise reputation (the combination of relevance and authority) and thus “influence” her view of the target.

Seemingly, search engine optimisation and brand value proposition development work together to develop a more sustainable presence in the digital arena. Some websites may get on to the first page of Google for unethical reasons, but you can greatly enhance your chances of first place presence by relevant and authoritative links and testimonies from employees, consumers and other industry bodies based on the value that you truly offer.

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