Every now and then, we find ourselves getting very frustrated by Google’s search results.
We are great champions of the search engine and ultimately depend on it for our existence, but occasionally find evidence of fairly poor results that are hard to defend (believe us, we spend quite a bit of time defending Google and explaining why a particular site doesn’t really deserve the high rankings that the site owner believes it does).
As our regular readers and friends will know, we moved office last week. Not a major geographical shift – we are still Essex boys (and girls) – but being more central got us thinking that we really should spend more time trying to attract local customers, as we hardly have any Essex based clients.
We have therefore set up some localised PPC ads to try to attract the attention of local businesses.
A quick scan of some fairly obvious searches (e.g. ‘essex seo company‘) this morning has highlighted two fairly depressing truths:
1) Keyword rich domain names still work
We should caveat this by saying that we haven’t actually spent any time seeing if many sites, which do not have keyword rich domains, have actually been optimised for the phrase ‘essex seo company’ but it is hard to support the notion that keyword rich domains have been devalued looking at the results for this search.
Just three results on the first page do not have a (spammy looking?) domain that uses some combination of ‘seo’ and ‘essex’. Slightly flies in the face of Mr.Cutt’s video exploring keyword rich domains (although he doesn’t deny that it can work).
The quality of the sites that are ranking well is questionable at times and, if you look closely, there is some cross linking between some of the domains. Not the ‘SERP utopia’ that Google strives to achieve…
2) Paid search results are not as relevant as you would hope
This is actually more frustrating than the prevalence of keyword rich domains ranking well and is not a good showcase for the adwords platform.
When we search for ‘essex seo company’ this morning, the first paid result is one of Google’s own (promoting adwords support – not sure how relevant that is to an SEO query?) and then there are a series of ads that are not at all focused on Essex. Yes, they are SEO companies but they are not Essex SEO companies.
Our ad has managed to sneak in at the bottom of the pile and this may appear like sour grapes (it is not, we promise, we are just interested to see / discuss the results!) but you have to question why an ad that is so clearly focused on Essex is not performing better for such a specific search?
There is no denying that we only put the ad live last night, so we have no history on that ad but the cynical amongst us will no doubt suspect that the ‘non Essex’ ads are ranking well as the advertisers are bidding much higher on generic ‘SEO agency’ related phrases.
They do, therefore, have an absolute right to be there and we all know that you don’t actually have to be based in Essex to serve Essex clients, but it would suggest that Google is more interested in generating advertising revenue than presenting the most relevant ads for each search?
The experiment has also confirmed that the ‘low search volume‘ issue is still a real problem. In Google’s defence, a lot of the phrases that we are bidding on will indeed be extremely low volume but it is still frustrating to see that there will be a lot of irrelevant ads returned, despite the existence of highly targeted ads being available.
Our ‘Essex’ promotion is really only a small test as we will continue to serve clients much further afield but we hope it does serve as a good example of how Google is not perfect. There are obviously plenty of much bigger fish for Google to fry and it is of course natural to prioritise developments on the search engine but we would love to see a way for low search volume keywords to be managed more accurately.