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Optimizing for Google - What Other Opportunities Exist?

As a search engine marketer, one of the most common phrases we hear when we ask “what do you want your online campaign to look like?” is “I want to be number 1 in Google.”

And sometimes this is possible. Quite easy in fact. But most times it is not a realistic goal. At least not in the traditional SEO sense.

So if you are one of these sites that has hundreds (or thousands or millions) of competitors online, just what can you do to achieve top spot in Google?

In this article I look at alternatives to #1 organic or sponsored rankings in Google. Some ideas you've heard of but others you may not have.

So let's start with the obvious – if I were to optimize a site to achieve #1 rankings in Google, what would be needed?

In my experience you need content – lots of it – and links – lots of them. And the more competitive the term you want to rank for, the more of both you need.

Let's say you want to rank for a geographic term in a smaller area. In Google you may be able to do this with a 20 page site and a dozen links. But as you broaden your horizons you will need more pages and more links.

Let's now say you want to rank county wide for a term. You will probably need 50 pages and 2 dozen links. Statewide requires 150 pages and 40 links and so on. Remember, links in Google doesn't mean any old link. I'm talking quality here. That means in order to get those 12 links you're going to need to submit to 50 sites. For the 20 links, probably 150 sites, while the 40 may take link building from 500 sites!

I'm sure by now you can see where I'm going with this. In order to achieve even modest top rankings in Google it will take a lot of time and effort.

Now what if I told you there are ways to get to the top of the search results page without all that effort. They are almost like “back doors” to the top of the SERPs.

It's true. There are, in fact, some other areas of Google that you can take advantage of to help you get to the top of the page. Granted none of these are foolproof. And their use doesn't guarantee that you will get top spots. But time is showing us that these alternatives are beginning to appear more and more at the top of the page.

Back Door 1 – Google Local

Google Local is just as it sounds – a search engine for local results. We've all probably used it before, we just may not have noticed. Whether you are looking for an address, directions or a local product on Google chances are you have seen it.

From a business perspective, Google Local is a win-win. Simply go to local.google.com and add your site for free. You will need to prove you are the business owner through a series of validations, but once that is done you control what is displayed and how.

Not only that but if you have lots of localized listings such as apartment rentals and the like you can get more than one listing added. (By the way if this is the case, be sure to contact us. We have helped other businesses get multiple listings in Google local and we can help you).

Do you want to see Local in action at the top of the SERPs? Try this: Type in “San Francisco Pizza” in the regular search box on Google. You should see 3 local listings along with a map. Notice how they are at the very top of the page, pushing the top organic down so that only the top 2 or 3 organic listings are visible.

Back Door 2 – Google Base

Google Base is a relatively unknown product, and one that doesn't show up as often in the local results. But don't let that fool you. Google is known for taking a beta product (like Base) and slowly but surely adding its results to the main listings.

But what is Google Base? Well it is a large open database. Essentially you create a feed of your data and submit it to Google and Google integrates your feed listings into Base.

Now we're not just talking products here. You can submit anything. From products and services, to job listings, real estate listings, and even blog posts. It's that flexible. While Google Base has over 80 predefined attributes, it allows its users to submit custom attributes. That means no matter how many fields you have in your database, or what they are for, you can create a feed and submit it to Google Base.

There's also another important aspect of Base and that is Back Door #3.

Back Door 3 – Froogle

Froogle is Google's e-commerce platform. It is where products can be listed and compared. Many vendors already take advantage of Froogle, and more and more users are turning to Froogle for product information, price comparisons and more.

So much so, in fact, that we are starting to see Froogle results creep into more and more organic results. And guess where they show up? Why above the organic results of course.

I recently got an older Sony laptop but I needed a battery for it. So I went to the main Google search and typed in “sony vaio replacement battery” (no quotes) and Froogle results showed up immediately below the sponsored results but above organic results. And they occupy slightly more space than 1 organic listing.

This means that the site that has worked so long and hard to achieve the #4 organic ranking just disappeared below the fold because Google decided to stick Froogle product search results in. Imagine how many pages and links it takes to rank for “sony vaio replacement battery” organically. And when you look at the top Froogle listing you will find that it has no PageRank – an important Google ranking factor.

Back Door 4 – Google Groups

This one still has a ways to go in its development cycle. But Google Groups will turn out to be yet another source of results that Google will stick in the top of the page above organic results.

Google Groups is just as the name implies – a way for people to share information about their interests.

It started as Usenet - a bunch of user forums, which Google incorporated into their search results, but has evolved into a way for people to build portals to share information.

Similar to a blog, Groups is fast becoming a way to reach even more people using a free Google service. And while you do see Groups discussions showing up in obscure search results (for example, if you are having computer problems and trying to find a solution) we feel that more and more Groups listings will creep into the main organic results.

Pulling it all together

As you can see there are at least 3 viable alternatives that you can take advantage of now to help achieve top Google placement. And the nice thing is, these don't rely as heavily on the quality of your site, nor how much content you have, nor the number of links you have.

In fact you will see that most of the sites using services like Froogle are very un-optimized and have terribly dynamic URLs which, in the SEO world, normally means zero organic rankings.

So if you've been banging your head against the wall, wondering how to achieve top rankings in Google consider this: You don't necessarily need top rankings in Google, you just need good placement in other Google services. And for those services there are less restrictions and requirements.

Rob Sullivan
Search Engine Marketing and Brand Development Strategist
Get In Position

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