The Fear Factor – the most under-discussed fact about search engine optimization.

The Fear Factor – the most under-discussed fact about search engine optimization.

Heavy duty opening line huh?

Mentioning the word fear when it comes to Google, search engine rankings, and the need to be found at the top of search engine results pages (SERP’s) is not something you’ll get from most consultants or experts.

Yet it needs to be said – not to imply that it’s impossible to be found or get high ranking, not that there’s anything to be afraid of in reality, just that small business owners need to have the courage to get a better understanding about what really goes on in getting a site listed and then found at Google and Yahoo. Realistic site owner expectations are vital in the process and they’re sorely lacking in the SEO industry.

I’ve been an Internet consultant since January of 1995. Before that I had a decade in small business management. I’ve managed hundreds upon hundreds of web sites, from the smallest mom and pop shop sized five page site, up through entire web solutions for Macy’s, Princess Cruises, Weight Watchers International, and dozens of Fortune 1000 sized corporations. Client expectations are much more challenging when dealing with small business owners, because of the emotional attachment between owner and business success.

Because of that emotional investment, in my experience, I’ve found that most people in the small business arena, by the time they get to the SEO aspects of a web design or overhaul process, have already set themselves up or been set up to completely ignore or disregard the facts about SEO.

Or they’ve been so bombarded by the hype from people who don’t know what’s really involved or who want to take advantage of them, that they think they understand when they really don’t.

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“My web site is online – so how come I don’t see it on Google?”

“You said you submitted my site to the search engines but it’s not coming up when I do a search – how come?”

Most people who are not actually working in the field of search optimization tend to have preconceived expectations that by just having a web site, it should automatically show up on the first page at Google for whatever keyword or keyword phrase they type in when they go to look for it. As if by some powerful magic, even if they are in a field with thousands of competitors, and even if every one of their competitors has had a high quality search engine optimized web site for many years, THEIR site should show up at the top of the heap. Instantly. As soon as the site goes live.

In reality, it can take anywhere from a few days upwards of a month or more for your site to be indexed. Once it’s indexed, how long it takes to get found on the first page of Google, if ever, depends on how well you’ve followed the white hat SEO fundamentals I outline on my blog site.

But why does it take so long?

Before your site is even in a position to be assessed for ranking value, the search engines have to know about your site.  You can submit it for free to the top search engines and directories, your create a sitemap.xml file and submit THAT, but either way, even the search engines don’t guarantee that they’ll ever get around to indexing your site.  Fortunately I’ve never encountered a situation where they didn’t – it usually takes a little time – counted in days…

Then their system runs through a mathematic formula in evaluating whether your site is worthy, in their formulaic opinion, to come up on the first, second, third, eight or twentieth page of results.

Why don’t I show up on the first page?    

I always try to provide basic understanding through simple logic. If you are competing against 50 or 100 other web sites, and if all of those web sites have similar or the same keyword phrases as you to describe their products or services, how is every one of these sites supposed to show up on the first page of results when there are only 10 web sites listed on each of the results pages? And what if you compete in a field of thousands?

So if EVERYONE can’t be on the first page of results, then there must be a way that Google and Yahoo and the others determine which sites to show first. Well if even half your competition also understands that, that’s still a lot more sites than fit on the first page results isn’t it? Yet over and over again, small business owners don’t or don’t want to hear or believe that their site won’d magically appear in the top ten results.

What I have found as the single most influential reason for this thinking on the part of site owners – defying logic, reason or fundamental math, is a combination of hope, marketing hype and fear.

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Why do they feel that way? Because they have very tight margins as it is. Employee salaries. Health care. Inventory. Rents. Upkeep. Inflation. Cost of living increases. Rising interest rates. It’s an endless list of places where money goes out the door as soon as it comes in where we seem to have no control over what, where or how much it’s going to cost us.

Every dollar spent on those expenses takes away from the end result that is supposed to be income and profit. Advertising almost always comes in last when it comes to spending by the vast majority of small and mid-size business owners, even though it belongs higher up in the food chain from a long-term success mentality.

For those who obtain income or revenue through non-internet paths (retail stores, word-of-mouth referrals, trade show opportunities), having a web site, even at this point in the life of the world wide web, just seems like yet one more expense. One more thing to have to figure out. One more thing to have to spend time, and energy and resources on.

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Without having put in a great deal of research into what’s involved, most small and mid-size business owners fall into the trap of absorbing, almost sub-consciously, what they’re bombarded with on a day by day basis from the things they hear on television, or the ads they read that come in the mail. Mostly, they end up absorbing the hype – “Make money on the internet overnight” or “Make millions selling online” or “build a web site for pennies…” These all speak to those financial issues. An answer to the problems most small business owners face – the chance for financial relief or even financial freedom!

And when it comes to SEO, the single most important aspect of a web site’s design and creation next to content and value, it’s even worse…

“Top ranking at Google – $99 Guaranteed”

 

“Get listed in 1,000 search engines for free”

 

“Instant top listings at Google and Yahoo”

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Let’s face it – these type of ads abound. Unscrupulous scam artists make big bucks giving false hope to people who are desperate to make a few extra bucks or to make it rich for little up front because of this. And those very same con artists help to set the unrealistic expectation in the mind of most legitimate small and mid-size business owner that getting found on the first page at Google must be easy – heck if so many companies are offering such cheap guaranteed results, it must be true right?

Because if it’s true, then “I’ll launch my site this week, and by this time next month I’ll have thousands of site visitors who will surely buy my products and make me rich… Or at the very least – I’ll make enough money in the next 30 days that I won’t need to worry about the roof over my head or whether I will be able to put food on the table – I can’t WAIT for that relief to finally happen!”

With so many small and mid-size business owners working 60, 75 or even 90 hours a week to try and get ahead, it’s no wonder that they’re susceptible to all that hype. With so many people wanting to believe in the honesty and trustworthiness of others, it’s totally understandable that, without having previously experienced this particular world and it’s mechanics, that they’re going to take that hype driven hope, the one that seems to be the ideal answer to their money worries, and allow that to override anything we tell them during the site development process.

Heck – as soon as they take the plunge, once they’ve shelled out the money for a professional web site, they’ve jumped off the cliff and so now they sub-consciously or semi-consciously reach a no-turning-back state of mind. Now it’s gone from – “this could work” to “this HAS to work”…

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A mind that’s reached a point where the words “has to” take hold – watch out – because it means that too much has been invested already and it’s too scary to think about this NOT working, so I’ll do all I can to focus on it working – and without realizing it, blind myself to anyone who tries to warn me that it’s not a guaranteed sure bet.

WHEW – That’s intense. Shocking even, to some people to read that. Because it might just threaten someone right now who’s reading this and being told “look at your beliefs, expectations, and fears”…

Yet if you’re openminded enough to look at these issues, you’ll be giving yourself the opportunity to understand that all isn’t lost. Accept the fact that as long as you get a web site properly optimized, that with time, and patience, you WILL be found at the search engines. People WILL come to your web site, looking for whatever it is that you have to offer. And once they do, it’s up to quality content and quality products or services to determine whether you succeed. You just need to give it the time it REALLY takes.

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What are your thoughts on this issue? Have you been guilty of basing your expectations on underlying financial fear?

Post a comment – share your experience….

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

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