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Ranking #1 on Google Isn’t as Important Anymore

Yes, I hate to tell you, but ranking #1 on Google isn’t as important as it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, I think dedicated businesses can get there for many keywords. However, there are a lot of other considerations you need to take into account before you pay that SEO company to get you to the “top”.

Here is today’s podcast episode:

And the video:

And, of course, the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie Bowles, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily 10-minute shot of business knowledge. 

So what are we talking about today? Google rankings. They’re not as important as they used to be. I know. And that’s unfortunate, because there’s a bajillion companies out there right now just waiting to spam your email inbox promising to get you to the #1 rank. But are you actually #1, even when you show up that way? That’s the real question. 

Can You Really Be Number One in the Google Search Results?

The Featured Snippet

So, there are a lot of things taking away from search engine rank even when you do have that top spot. The first one that I’d like you to consider is the featured snippet. The featured snippet is that relatively new box that pops up with the answer that you were looking for. You often see it with things like recipes, or when you need a list of something, or if it’s a really simple answer, maybe it’s math or the definition for a word. 

But what it means is that you can get on the search engine results page, see the answer, and you no longer need to click through to go to a website. So the person who is ranked number 1, or number 2, or number 3 doesn’t matter. You’re already looking on the page and you’ve got your answers. 

You just close your phone, close your computer and move on. So even if you are number one, that featured snippet is taking away some of your stuff. 

Featured Videos

One of those things Google has been rolling out is featuring videos. That’s the next thing that we’re going to talk about. 

This will typically pop up with your how-to questions, and those how-to questions used to be some of the easiest phrases to rank for. That’s just not the case anymore because of the video features. 

If I say like the following, Google’s almost certainly going to feature videos from Youtube and other places too answer my question: 

  • “How do I install the Yoast plugin on my wordpress website?” 
  • “How do I plant tomatoes?” 
  • “How do I make jam?” 
  • “How do I milk a goat?”

When people ask how-to questions, they often want to see someone doing it. So those video features pop up right at the top on the search engine. Again, kind of pushing down and making the top ranking webpages not as noticeable. 

The Ads

And then of course, the thing that’s been there since forever. The ads. Ads always show up first, and what do we do? We scroll past them. In episode 19, I talked about ad blindness. 

We scroll past them, but what we’re not scrolling past is the featured snippet. We’re not scrolling past the box of “People also ask”, we’re not scrolling past the video features because they could answer our questions. So we have to give them even a little bit of time to review them. 

Consider, with things like video features, featured snippets, “People also ask” boxes… You are looking at all the things that can push search engine results further down the page. 

Snippets as a Point of Contention

The featured snippets themselves are kind of a point of contention between Google and content creators. You’re thinking “Why? They answer questions, they’re so helpful.” 

They’re a point of contention because what Google is essentially doing is taking content that’s not theirs, copying it, and presenting it on their page. Is that technically most helpful to the user? Sure. Especially for easier questions to answer. 

For something like on my website, if I ever popped up in a featured snippet, people will most likely click through to see the rest of what it is that I have to say, because my topics aren’t math questions, they’re not easy to solve, they’re not recipes. 

But Google is still copying content and presenting it on their website, and they didn’t ask anybody if they could do that. So that’s where the point of contention comes from. Google cares about user intent. It used to be that when somebody entered in something on the computer and they were looking for something, Google took those exact words and that’s what they were looking for. 


Focused on User Intent: The Where and How Matters

I don’t know if you remember… Maybe you’re not old enough to remember and maybe it’s just me, but I would have to type in different approaches to my key word to try to get the answer that I was looking for. If you’re a Millennial or older, you might remember that.

if you’re Gen Z, you’re like “Oh, what are you talking about? Google’s always known what I wanted”. That’s what I used to do. I used to change my search query to try to get what I actually wanted. Google noticed people doing that, and so they changed the algorithms because that way it could focus more on user intent. 

Your Ranking Worldwide

Google accounts for location of the people using their search engine. So, if you’ve been working with a search engine optimization agency and they just told you that you ranked #1 for “small business accounting” in Baltimore, you’re not going to rank #1 for “small business accounting” in New York or Miami. 

Other businesses there are going to rank for that. Even though you could render your services completely online, you do not rank #1 for “small business accounting” all over the world. Even if you do rank #1, where do you rank number one? That’s the next question. 

These search engine optimization agencies would say “Oh, we’ll get you to #1, pay us all this money, we’ll get you to #1”. 

You ranked number one where? You ranked number one under what context? Google cares about context. So if I look for restaurant reviews and you have a blog that’s all restaurant reviews, is your blog going to come up? 

Probably not, because it’s going to present Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and Travel Advisor reviews before you. Getting to the top rank amongst that competition is almost impossible, unless you have as much money as Google to pour into the endeavor. 

Making the Shift into Topic Clusters

So, if ranking number one is so hard, why are we still doing content marketing? Because content marketers like myself have made the shift to what we call topic clusters. So it’s not just about the one blog post that you’re going to put up. It’s about the five or ten that you’re going to put up about one particular topic. 

We’re going to take a concept, like filing annual taxes, and we’re going to write 5 to 10 blog posts surrounding that topic. They’re all going to link together. Also, they’re all going to link to a main post on filing your annual taxes as a small business. 

What that does is it communicates to Google that you are presenting a comprehensive education on this particular topic. It also allows you to rank for smaller, lower volume keywords that are easier. 

We’re not getting precise Google keyword volume anymore from Google Keyword Planner. These topic clusters can help you get a better idea of the sorts of traffic that you’re getting and where it’s coming from. You’re better able to analyze a topic cluster than you are one single keyword anymore, because Google’s kind of masking the data. 

Clusters, in addition to building your search engine market share, also build thought leadership and credibility for you. By thought leadership, I just mean your perception of authority. So when you present something comprehensive like that to people, they appreciate it. 

Can Giving Too Much Detail Hurt Your Business?

Even if you were to tell me all the ways that I could file my own taxes, I’m still not going to do it. But because I read everything and now I know for sure that you know how to file my taxes, I’m going to contact you, because I trust you. Because you told me already. 

There’s a variety of reasons why you would give that level of detail. One of the biggest ones is that, just because you’ve given that much detail, it doesn’t mean that people are just suddenly going to start doing it and you’re going to lose business. As a matter of fact, you may increase your business. 

Show your mastery of a topic through topic clusters, and worry a little bit less about your Google search engine ranking, especially if your website is new. It’s going to take a while before you get there. 

So, that’s what I wanted to cover with you today. You should not trust those people who say they will make you rank #1 on Google. 

If you enjoyed this episode, I’d appreciate you leaving me a review or a comment wherever that you heard it or watched it. If you’re watching this on IGTV or Youtube – and I will see you next time. 

This has been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. Go ahead and leave us a review or a comment and we’ll try to answer your other business and marketing questions in future episodes.