Getting into Club Google

We’re in Miami. It’s Friday night and we want to go out to the hottest club in town, Club Google. So we get all dressed up and head downtown. But when we get there, there’s a long line to get in. As we get into this line we notice that some people are walking right up to the bouncer and getting in without having to wait. In fact, the line we’re in doesn’t seem to be moving at all. I push my way to the front of the line so I can getter a better grasp on why some people are getting right in.

A cute girl approaches the front of the line without waiting. “Hey Goog!” the girl smiles to the bouncer. “Did you hear about what happened at Nickie’s party last week? Crazy, right?” Goog just smiles at her and checks her name off the list on his clipboard. “Thanks, Goog. See ya for burgers at Tip Top’s later?” Goog nods his head.

A few minutes later, some guy pulls up in a shiny jaguar with his fancied up girlfriend. He tosses his keys to the valet and walks up to Goog who is not impressed. After realizing that Goog is standing his ground, jaguar pulls out some cash and slips it to Goog. Goog accepts the money and calmly steps aside, allowing jaguar and fancy into the club.

As the people in line grumble at this another car pulls to the curb, this time a long black limo. As the valet goes to open the doors, there is a hushed silence as people wait to see who is about to emerge from the limo. I’m not normally star struck, but even I have to admit that when Brad and Angelina step out of the car, I’m taken back a bit. That’s when I notice all the screaming and flashes going off. Hey, where did the paparazzi come from?! I look at Goog, and even he is impressed. Still not saying a word, he quickly steps aside for the celebrities and all of their entourage.

Me? I end up waiting another hour before giving up and heading down to Club Yahoo. (Where I still don’t get in.)

Let’s Translate.

Well, you’ve probably figured out that Club Google is the first page of a Google search. So what’s the deal with the three parties that got past our bouncer?

The first girl that got in was a “local”. She knew the bouncer’s name, referred to Nickie’s party and even mentioned the local burger joint where she would be spending time with Goog later. She represents those local businesses that appear next to the map on a local Google search. Whenever a person does a search with a city included in their search, Google usually provides a map and 3 to 10 results. There are many factors that drive these results, but location is a huge part of it. And because cute girl represents a local business, being local helped her get onto the first page of Google. You may have even noticed that some of the results that Google places next to the map don’t even have web sites! That’s because they are doing their best to give a local result.

Shiny jaguar man is easy, and you’ve probably already figured out his translation. He paid to get into the club, just like every ad that appears in the sponsored links section is willing to pay to get onto the first page of Google. Simplified, you pay – you get in. There are other elements to how this section is ranked, including quality score and bid strategies, but in a nutshell, it’s about spending money to appear on page one. (To be clear, most sponsored links only have to pay if clicked on. Don’t want to mislead anyone about that.)

So what’s left? The coveted organic section of Google. The place every SEO expert and business owner obsesses about being day and night. The place where there are only ten people let in. Kinda the VIP section of Club Google to extend the metaphor. So how did Brad and Angelina get in? They have high scores in the areas of “the big three”, relevance, popularity and authority. It’s a club, they’re relevant to the scene. Celebrities and clubs, they just fit. Let’s translate. I just Googled “pizza kansas city” and in the organic section of Google are a bunch of local pizza places and local restaurant guides – things that are relevant to my search. Next, Brad and Angelina are clearly popular. Everyone knows who they are. What about my search? Minskey’s and Imo’s are there. Two very popular local pizza places here in KC. (Thanks, St Louis for sharing Imo’s BTW!) The last of the big three is authority. Easiest way to describe an authoritative web site is simply to name a few. You want sports scores? What’s the weather going to be like today? News? You get it? Google looks at who is the authority on a given subject and prioritizes them.

I should also point out that Brad and Angelina’s entourage got right into the club too. This is best translated as websites that have links from authoritative and popular sites. If you can’t be Brad or Angelina or or, see if you can’t get the authoritative sites in your field to link up with you. That might increase your chances of getting into Club Google.

See ya at Tip Top’s later. – David McBee

Amendment 04-01-09:

A friend suggested that I show screen captures to indicate that I have personally had some luck getting onto the first page of Google. So the following are some examples of my websites showing on page one along with an example of one of my customers (who also appears in the sponsored links.)

What’s a Google Spider?

You’re out of town, staying with your brother-in-law. You’re standing in the middle of the kitchen. Because you and your family will be staying a few days, your goal is to know everything you can about that kitchen and all of its contents in the event that someone asks you where something is. Your first instinct is to start exploring that kitchen so you know where the dishes are and what foods are in the cabinets. Thing is, you can’t move. So you reach in your pocket and you pull out a handful of robot spiders.

You put the spiders on the floor and they start crawling the kitchen. They look in the cabinets and the drawers and in the fridge. All the time they are examining and documenting what they find. When they crawl back to you, they share everything they’ve learned with you and you put it all into your handy dandy… notebook! (Yes, I’m a dad.) Now you know everything you possibly can about that kitchen. When your daughter walks in and says “Where are the cookies?”, you look in your notebook and can tell her that the cookies are in the cupboard on the third shelf. You know this because your spiders crawled that shelf and told you what was on it.

Let’s translate.

The kitchen is the world wide web. You are Google, and you want to know everything about the world wide web, every website, every blog, every address, every phone number, in the event that someone asks you a question (aka a search query – you know – the words you place in the Google box?) So you write these programs and you call them spiders, because it’s like they are crawling the world wide web. These programs look at websites, read all of their content so that they can understand what the website is about. They bring the information back to you (Google) where you place it into an index.

When someone Googles “podiatrist kansas city” you look in that index and you provide the results that you think best match what your spiders found for websites about podiatrists in Kansas City.

Keep in mind, that spiders don’t make logical conclusions the way that people do. They may not know that a podiatrist is a foot doctor. So if the websites they crawled talked about foot doctors, but didn’t specifically mention the word podiatrist, they may not serve up those websites for that particular query. (Note: Spiders are getting smarter and smarter every day. They are often able to make the leap from podiatrist to foot doctor, but still, if the query asked for a podiatrist, that’s what Google wants to serve up as the most relevant result.)

Let’s take it back to the kitchen for just a moment. Your daughter asked for cookies, right? When you checked your notebook you found cookies in the cupboard. Great, your spiders did their job. But what if there were also cookies in the cabinet, and some Girl Scout Thin Mints in the freezer? Now you have three answers for her, but not sure which is the best. If she had a more specific question – aka a long-tail keyword query – like “Where are the chocolate chip cookies?” you can give here a more relevant answer.

The lesson – tell the spiders what your site is about. If you’re a real estate agent make sure your website says “I will sell your home”. If you’re an attorney, be sure to call yourself a lawyer somewhere on that website too. The spiders can be your best friends. And now that you know what their job is, you can help them do it better.

– David McBee