Why you should be ignoring your search results

Today I’m attending a search engine research workshop run by Brad Fallon in Atlanta, Georgia, and am fascinated by the people here who obsessively track their SERPs (search engine results placement, jargon for what match number you are on Google for a given search term).
My part of this workshop is to talk about how blogging can help your search engine placement, but what I’m actually talking about is whether SERP is a meaningful measure of whether or not you’re being successful. And that’s what I want to talk about in this article too.

The problem is that there are too many people who are flying at the five-foot level, focused completely on search engine optimization tricks and on daily traffic, daily search engine placement, and daily tweaks to try and suss out the best possible placement. It’s the Internet equivalent of corporations who manage purely for quarterly — or even monthly — financial results. It’s tactics at the cost of strategy, short term trumping long term.
This morning a woman came into the breakfast area, rather upset, and shared that “I’m no longer in MSN search! I can’t find my site in Yahoo at all!” My somewhat flippant response was “Ah, good, now you can relax for a while.”
But it’s not that flippant, because long-term businesses are created by having a strategic view of your site and your online business. It’s about taking a long view, being at 10,000 or even 30,000 feet rather than taxiing on the runway, worrying about the day to day.
Success in online business doesn’t come from search engine placement, it comes from creating an online store that is a best of class merchant, that demonstrates that you, as the store proprietor, are the subject matter expert. Why? Because then you’re creating content to establish and reinforce your expertise and, over time, will gain better and better search engine placement.
Keeping with this theme, let’s talk for a moment about the underlying goal of search engines like Google and MSN Search, because that’s critically important too. In the long run, the goal of search engine developers is to return better and better results for any given search, to identify (and weed out!) duplicate content, spam pages, affiliate pages, scraped content, spawned RSS content from other sites, and all the other stuff that pollute the current search engine space.
That’s the tension in this space: search engines are constantly tweaking their search results to come closer and closer to always offering the perfect content, the answer to whatever question or problem for which the searcher is seeking an answer.
That’s why I think that spending your time and effort worrying about daily SERP or being paranoid about whether you’ve applied the latest search engine placement trick is such a bad idea: instead of focusing on the long-term perspective of what’s going to win not tomorrow, but next week, next month or even next year.
The long-term winners are going to be the sites and online stores that establish expertise in their market segment, that actually have content, that are adding value to the Internet. Over time, these sites will always bubble up to the top on search engines and the other sites, however well they’ve optimized their content, will drop off the list.
And so, finally, my real answer to the woman at this event who was freaking out about her lowered search engine placement is: Good. Now you can turn your focus to producing valuable and helpful content that ties into your market, that appeals to your potential customers, and use that as the basis of your new long-term site strategy.
Oh, and one excellent way to establish your credibility and expertise in your market segment? Focused, customer-centric blogging. But we’ll talk about that more here at the workshop and online…

8 comments on “Why you should be ignoring your search results

  1. Dave:
    I looked at this post for a long time to see if there was a meaningful comment that I contribute to your sage advice, but I have nothing. This is just plain brilliant thinking and writing.

  2. Well, a reality of the current business world we live in is that Internet search engines are no longer just an afterthought, but rather a crucial marketing tool. Millions use Google, Yahoo and the like to find everything from a lawyer, to a local plumber to long-lost friends. If you are in a highly-competitive industry, like say a lawyer or a plumber, having good Google search results could mean the difference between a new client or unpaid bills. The search engines represent a ridiculously low cost of sale, especially compared to other forms of advertising. And the best part is, a top search ranking is basically free advertising. For those unwilling or unable to do it, just pay the few bucks per click-through to Google and get a spot guaranteed at the top. Its still cheaper than the yellow pages, and you only pay for what you use.
    Now, as for the bloggers and general public worried about their Google placement – time to get out of the house more.
    As for my site… I dont really care where its listed. When you do what I do, anonymity can be your friend.

  3. I was at the work shop and I must say I am guilty on all counts. I check my placement at least once a week and breathe a sigh of relief when I am still in the top 10 for a particular keyword phrase.
    However, my eyes have really been opened to the idea of content. That is one subject that was pounded home by yourself and many of the other speakers.
    I’m looking forward to learning the fine art of bloging and hope to meet you again soon. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
    Dave Brandley

  4. Dave,
    Thank you for the insight. I would agree that in the age of our “instant” mentality, we want business results right away, as if they were fries at your favorite fast food restaurant. As you point out, and is probably worth repeating, if you’re building a business, it takes both quality of action and a quantity of time to make that happen; regardless of whether the business is online or brick and mortar.
    As a ‘dot commer’ I too need that reminder that my operation is a real business and when I treat it like a real business by taking calculated, strategic action, I will reap the rewards that a ‘real business’ earns and deserves, instead of a fly by night income.
    THANK YOU for your presentation at the conference. It was greatly needed and appreciated.
    Warmest Regards,
    Michelle Chance

  5. I followed the article perfectly until I realized that what you were saying is somewhat contradictory. On the one hand you saying good content will get good placement on the search engines, and on the other, being high in the search engines results is not important.
    Or it could be that I’m sleep deprived, my wife is about to have our fourth and I am working way too much.
    Hello Dave, wanted to stop in to say hi!

  6. Contradictory?
    What I get from what he is saying is that quality
    content will **sooner or later** “bubble up to the
    top”. Whereas, you can get to the top by constantly
    fiddling with little stuff — i.e. you can
    manipulate or “game” your way to the top — or
    you can do something for which you deserve to be
    at the top. Take a guess which is more 1) worth
    doing, 2) rewarding, personally, and 3) blessed
    in the eyes of God.

  7. “On the one hand you saying good content will get good placement on the search engines, and on the other, being high in the search engines results is not important.”
    I see no contradiction in Dave’s post. He’s saying many things –
    … spend time on important things (like writing good content)
    … good content creates a *sustainable* model for internet visibility
    … optimizing for a small set of phrases is not sustainable and places you at a competitive disadvantage
    … visibility on the Internet is important, but good content is more important because it achieves many things including better visibility with qualified buyers

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