Why you don’t have to rank first in the search engines

On February 10, 2011, in SEO, by Zaid Rasid

This post might seem counter intuitive to a lot of search engine marketing experts.  But I want you to consider the quality aspect of search engine results.  I was reminded of this issue when I first saw a clever Microsoft Bing commercial on ‘search overload’.  It’s a brilliant ad which makes people question the quality of their current search engine, in most cases Google.

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A Quick Google History Class

I’ve been a big Google fan ever since the advent of AdWords.  A while back I stumbled upon a book called Winning Results with Google AdWords by Andrew Goodman and I read it from front to back.  That was how I first became prevalent in PPC.  And during the time when PPC was becoming popular, Google search results were pretty good.  As PPC became more popular, Marketers began taking notice.  Eventually the success of Adwords exploded and it’s one of the main reasons Google is successfull.

So, what happened after PPC?  Well Google released another product called Adsense.  This is contextual advertising where ads appear within the content of your searches.  Although these ads were less imposing, the resulting click through rates for Adsense weren’t as high.  Google has done a much better job with their Adsense offering and for some companies it can be beneficial to advertise among the content network.

A Super Quick Microsoft History Class

Microsoft, who obviously gained their success from the Windows operating system, noticed the popularity of Google Adwords and has been relentlessly attempting to change user search behaviour.  They launched a few search engines and branded a few options.  They advertised and marketed immensely.  They launched their own version of Adwords called Microsoft AdCenter.  They have struggled with their previous products in capturing Google’s market share.  Microsofts’ recent Bing search engine however has been making ground.  And they have been focusing on the premise that Google search engine results have become convoluted.

The Internet CESS Pool

“The internet is fast becoming a “cesspool” where false information thrives”, Google CEO Eric Schmidt

With Google’s ever growing popularity, there is the unfortunate aspect of poor quality results.  Even one of Google’s own founders has said that the internet has become a ces pool of information.  With the ability to use Adsense, PPC and SEO together, there have been certain content creators who have been able to optimize their own site to rank well in Google.  The problem is, the methods these people use are good for their ranking but bad for the user experience.  For example, many sites exist-ranking extremely well- that contain pages with over populated ads, content with hundreds of imposing links, and design structures that are all together a horrible experience.

Let me illustrate my point by conducting an experiment.  Open up a browser window and try a search on the below terms.  Take a look at the top listing; the one that ranks first.



credit card



What were your results like?  Did you learn anything from the results?  Did you find what you might be looking for?

Some Observations from our Experiment:

You might notice that some of the sites that rank first aren’t exactly the most relevant.  Without identifying a site in particular, I noticed some were extremely busy with content and links.

  • The site on ‘diet’ has links all over the place, a video, ads, people talking, scattered content, brief content; overwhelming to say the least
  • The site on ‘credit cards’ has Google AdWords all over the place.  It has some sort of credit card calculator.  The site brand was unrecognizable which made me question the security right away.
  • The site on ‘dogs’ is a real and legitimate site with good content.  But because I am versed in Google AdSense, I know right away that this is being optimized for ad revenue.  Now this isn’t a bad thing if the site’s purpose is to make some money in exchange for returning valuable content.  My only qualm is that it’s heavily ad focused.
  • If you do a search for the keyword ‘Lawyer’ a Wikipedia result comes up.  This is probably a good thing for consumers.  For marketers, it will be next to impossible to rank higher than Wikipedia, unless your site gets a lot of links and is very popular.

Beyond the First Link

Luckily for you and I, there is more than one search result that Google provides.  In fact they provide page after page of results. DO NOT get me wrong.  Ranking your website in the first position will get you plenty of high quality clicks and traffic.  It is a challenge however to rank in this position quickly and without doing a lot of work.

So then what should your goal be?  It should be this: be the first listing in Google with the most relevant content for the user.  It actually doesn’t matter what position you’re in, as long as your content is better than what might be above you or below you in the engines.  You do however, want to at least be on the first page of Google which is easier to rank for in a shorter amount of time.  Put some trust in the user that they will find your content, especially when your content is well tailored and highly qualified.

What does the Future have in Store?

I really believe that Google will have to take a closer look at the quality of their results.  It’s a daunting task but one that Microsost is aware of and is capitalzing on.  Bing is the fist search engine I have seen during my career that is slowly making a run at Google.  But is Bing’s search engine any better?  Or are they running a really good ad campaign?

The take-away: don’t stress out about ranking first for a term, especially when the top ranking pages of your competitors are poor quality. Instead, focus on being the first site that ranks on the first page of results and includes highly relevant content.


2 Responses to Why you don’t have to rank first in the search engines

  1. Neeraj says:

    Good info and concisely written. I like how you touch upon SEM, SEO, AdWords and the state of the search engine technology within your blog posting.

    Bring more on. Blog entries that I would find most interesting is one where you can go over the basics of such marketing tools (SEM,AdWords, a little bit about SEO, Content Marketing and possibly new technologies or webware). If you can do this without selling a product, I am going to suscribe to your blog, read it on the GO Transit and share it with everybody on Social Media Hubs!


  2. Zaid Rasid says:

    Thanks Neraj for the comment. I got all those topics in mind and will definitely publish some new content for you. You can expect a post at least once a week. Thanks for your support. And don’t worry, I won’t be selling any thing. I’ll even write a post on that actually;)

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