"Google never accepts money to include or rank sites in our search results, and it costs nothing to appear in our organic search results," quoted from Google's official webmaster tools page on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). While this may be true, it's necessary to further explain and modify this claim in order to clarify the world of search engine optimization.
Being listed in Google's results is free, but getting proper placement, well, that's not so free. Yes, Google doesn't accept payment to be listed, but if you want to compete effectively, you're bound to spend a lot of time and money building your most important key phrases (keywords) into top positions within the results. You may not be paying Google for the privilege of getting to page one or even in the top 3 "free" results, but you probably will or already are paying someone to help get you and keep you there. The same basic principles apply for Bing and other search engines.
For you to better understand the world of search engine optimization, you must first understand three things:
1) SEO - Onsite, or as BannerView.com refers to it, Website Optimization (WSO). Everything that has to do directly with what is happening on your website is considered "onsite." Optimization of your website includes control over the way your website is coded, written and displayed on the Web. Hopefully, you've chosen a web design firm that codes websites to the proper standards as outlined by the W3C, an international community that develops open standards to ensure the long-term growth of the Web. Websites that meet these standards usually perform better on search engines, but also look consistent across various platforms and web browsers.
Websites should be optimized not only for search engines, but also for real people who will visit the website and potentially inquire about products and services, pay bills or make purchases. Unfortunately, in the quest to have an optimized website, often overlooked, is how real people are going to interact with a website. It's important to remember that websites are ultimately for people, not search engines.
Therefore, the site should not just be coded properly, but should speak to your target audience. That means the content should be engaging, the images should be of high quality and any videos or links to other websites should be relevant to helping your visitors seek the information that they need. If you only build it for search engines, you'll end up with a very poor performing website.
2) SEO - Offsite, is also known as traditional SEO or "link building." Everything that happens on other websites is considered "offsite." Therefore anyone linking to your website including blog/news articles, product reviews, your partners, etc. are links external to your website. Therefore, what happens on those websites is out of your control. The hope is that you get others to link back to your website, but you have very little say whether they do or how they do it.
A big part of how Google ranks the order in which websites are displayed in their results, depends on the quantity of links, the quality of the websites linking to you and how those website link to you. It's much like a reputation score. The better your reputation, the more likely you are to rank higher for a particular set of keywords than your competitor.
Link building can be a costly and a time consuming process with many companies charging at least $1,000/month or more depending upon how competitive your search terms are and the target area in which you are trying to compete.
3) Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a method where you pay to appear in the sponsored search results on a search engine. It's separate from SEO in that you are paying to get placed in the keyword results. Remember, Google said that you do not pay them to appear in the organic results, but they are happy to let you pay to be in the sponsored results. In a way, this is effectively paying your way to the top, but not quite the same as getting to the top of the organic results because you still have to pay every time someone clicks on your SEM ads. You never directly pay when someone clicks on your SEO results.
SEO and SEM are both strategies in an overall marketing plan, but like many small business owners, we're all looking for cost effective shortcuts. Fortunately, there may be such an opportunity for the lucky to buy their way to the top of Google, Bing and other search engines. But wait! You just said that Google won't accept money to get to place a website at the top of organic results. What do you mean by "opportunity for the lucky?" Is Google playing unfairly? No, not by any means, but smart business strategists know the secret.
The little known secret to quickly getting to the top positions on Google, Bing and any other search engines is, wait for it...buy websites that already rank high for those terms.
Wait, what? Okay, here's what I mean. Let's say you want to rank high for a particular search term. You can use the traditional methods of Onsite and Offsite SEO and SEM, but that takes time and will cost many thousands of dollars. The good news is that, and here's where the "lucky" part comes into play, there are already websites listed in the top results for your specific keywords that might be willing to sell their domain names to you.
One recent example is a customer of BannerView.com that was starting a brand new company with a brand new domain name. The domain name was a variation of their company name, because someone already had registered a domain name with their official company name. This means that when their website launched they would have zero traffic from the search engines and it would take quite some time and money to start getting listed in the top results. However, they made an offer to the person that owned the domain name and that person accepted the offer.
Shortly after the customer launched their brand new website, I was reviewing their statistics and was blown away by the amount of traffic the new website was getting. “We are good, but not that good,” I thought to myself. I then remembered that this person didn't launch with a brand new domain, but one that had been previously registered that was already getting traffic to it.
That got me thinking, there could be an easier way to get to the top of the search engines in a much shorter period of time and probably at a more cost effective rate. What I recommend is for you to do a search on Google, Bing or other search engine in which you want to have top results for your particular keywords and look for businesses that look like they'd be willing to sell. You might find websites that haven't been updated in years or businesses that have gone under who may be willing to sell their domains for an affordable price.
Once you've purchased the name, you can then redirect that name to your existing website and if done properly, begin capitalizing on their keyword place on the major search engines. Of course, not everyone is going to be willing to sell for an affordable price, especially if they are fond of their name and realize their positioning on the search engines. Although, just like our customer did, you may find the right opportunity to capitalize on an under appreciated asset and propel your website to the top of the results with very little effort and a bargain price.
About the author Mark Cenicola is the president and CEO of BannerView.com, developers of BannerOS, the software that helps companies turn their websites into powerful business tools. Mark is also the author of the book "The Banner Brand – Small Business Success Comes from a Banner Brand – Build it on a Budget." Read Mark's full biography. You can find him plussing on Google+, as well as tweeting on Twitter and starring in videos for the company's YouTube channel.