Last week, a friend brought to my attention some interesting search results. He asked me to simply type the phrase “about us” into Google and see what showed up. That is it, two simple words. Guess which website was at the very top of the SERPs? Much to my surprise, it was Starbucks. The second on the list? A site called Common Dreams.org.
Yesterday, roughly one week later, I performed the test again wondering if Starbucks would still be the winner. I was once again surprised to see the results. Starbucks had fallen off, in fact it wasn’t even found on the first page of the results. This time it was Mashable but the second result remained consistent with CommonDreams.org.
I waited about 10 minutes and then searched again, just to see if it would change, as if this was a random fluke. While the top result remained consistent with Mashable, the second and third results swapped places as well as the fourth and fifth positions. The American Red Cross, was now in position five instead of four.
This little experiment really got me thinking about all the different factors that go into determining rankings and what does it all really mean. What makes Starbucks the “authority” on something as general as “about us” one week and then Mashable is the “authority” on it the next? How do these sites rank at the top for a term that is so general, that is found on almost every single website?
Out of curiosity, I ran a quick SEOmoz Linkscape Report just to see if there was something I was missing that could help tell me what the real difference between these two pages was. What I found was that Mashable has a ton of links (duh!) which is the key differentiator that impacted most of the metrics. But if that is the case, and overall Mashable comes out ahead on most metrics, why was Starbucks at the top last week?
We all know the factors that help determine if and where your page will rank:
- Use of keyword on page as well as in title tag and meta description
- Links in terms of both number as well as quality
- Content – is it quality, is it unique, is it relevant and are you adding new
- Trustworthiness of the domain
- Plus many, many others
But this experiment proves to me that while those things continue to be important, some of the other factors could be having a larger impact and they may not be top of mind.
- Social media – are people loving your site and sharing it with others? A presence on social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, can only help spread the word further.
- PR, Buzz & Popularity – are you in the news recently, leading to a lot of people searching? The fact that the American Red Cross is now showing up in the top five, likely due to both the relief & fundraising efforts for Japan along with the fact that March is Red Cross month, tells me that this is even more important than ever before.
- Click-through rate – your site needs to show up, but also people need to click on it to show that is matching what they are looking for. If people aren’t clicking on your site even though it is in the #3 or #4 spot, that signifies that it may not be as relevant.
Bottom line – you need to put together a holistic approach to your SEO efforts. While the SEO fundamentals are important (such as keywords, content and link building), there is so much more that needs to be considered. By stepping back and developing an SEO strategy that includes things like a social media plan along with PR efforts, you can make sure that you are getting the most out of everything you do for your website. Who knows, maybe your site can be the next top result for “About Us.”
Erin is an Account Supervisor at Hanapin Marketing, a search engine marketing firm focused on generating results through PPC and SEO.