Can you manipulate Google?
April 27, 2010 12:55 PM   Subscribe

To SEO people out there ... is it possible to manipulate a small business website to push the business up Google's rankings and get it onto the first page of results?

I am working on a Wordpress based website for a family member who has a small business.

Their business is very competitive and well respected inside the industry. They have no problems keeping their existing customers happy. What they want to do is to use their website to market their services around the wider local area. The problem is that they are physically based in a non-industrial suburb and one that has a longtime association with gangs and high crime.

My family members want to be able to push their business up in the Google rankings and have it come up on the first page when someone searches *business *wider suburb.

We designed the website to say that the business is in the wider area of town and liberally sprinkled those keywords inside the copy of the site. Traditionally the business's address has been in the more well-known suburb but when Google did their mapping thing they clearly defined it to be inside the smaller, less desirable suburb.

So, my question is to SEO people out there ... is it possible to manipulate the website to push the business up Google's rankings?
posted by chairish to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can't you just pay google to place your ad in the front of the listings when it's searched for?
posted by Grither at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2010

You know this is what AdSense does right? If its a niche enough term it should be pretty cheap enough.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:02 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Buy ads.
posted by GuyZero at 1:03 PM on April 27, 2010

Echoing Grither; I was coming in here to say you would probably have better luck using Google AdWords. I'm not sure if you're confused and uninformed or actually trying to game the system, but that would be my suggestion if it's the former.
posted by sa3z at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2010

And echoing everyone else who answered while I looked away mid-typing.
posted by sa3z at 1:06 PM on April 27, 2010 it possible to manipulate a small business website to push the business up Google's rankings and get it onto the first page of results?

posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:09 PM on April 27, 2010

Google "local seo".

> So, my question is to SEO people out there ... is it possible to manipulate the website to push the business up Google's rankings?

Yes, but... you'd get the same answer if you asked, Is it possible to climb to the top of Everest?

It's possible in the abstract, but there are lots of things you need to figure out first.

I suggest you spend a little more time researching the idea of keywords... because the real questions are:

1) For which specific terms can I get to the top of Google?
2) Are there more-specific-to-my business, less-keenly-fought-over terms which can bring me visitors who want to buy my product?
3) What are the most specific and narrow terms that are bouncing in my prospective customers' heads... that aren't yet on the website or the articles linking to my site?

And, again, Google "local seo".
posted by darth_tedious at 1:14 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK, so in my haste to obfuscate the details I managed to hash up my question. The 'business' concerned is actually a school in a very competitive area. So ads, etc are not allowed as part of the policy from the school trustees.
posted by chairish at 1:15 PM on April 27, 2010

Go to Google's Webmaster Tools page and do everything they list. Create sitemaps, etc. Have you considered a Google Place Page? More on Place Pages.
posted by GuyZero at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Manipulate? No. Improve? Yes.

The web is a 24x7 popularity contest. Each incoming link to your site is a vote of confidence. Ask other related sites to link to you. Of course, you'll have to have content that people find valuable and useful. (Google "linkbait")
posted by scottatdrake at 1:23 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

So you want to rank high when someone searches Google for " School Name wider suburb"?

You can try buying links on websites that point to your site with your keyword as the anchor text.

Technically, Google does not like the buying and selling of text links for SEO purposes but they really can't tell. I have bought backlinks with my targeted keyword as the anchor text and it worked well for me.

Even if you can't buy links you should still work on getting as many backlinks as possible that contain your target keyword in the anchor text. Try and get links on other school sites(the .edu domain holds a lot of weight in Google's eyes, btw). Good luck!
posted by Funky Claude at 1:28 PM on April 27, 2010

Okay, so, the answer is this: maybe.

1. If you have well-thought-out meta tags that accurately reflect your site's content, in a non-superficial way, and you follow good practices for HTML structure (as far as heading and paragraph tag relationships are concerned), then you may end up quite high on the front page. EXCEPT --

2. If other people in your region and with your subject matter have done the same thing, then you'll be competing with them, and they've been there longer, so you'll likely stay below them unless they get blacklisted or make a mistake. FURTHERMORE --

3. If other people outside of your region/with unrelated subject matter want to be high on the same listing(s) you're aiming for, for whatever reason, and they have the budget and wherewithal to try and game the system, they'll push just about everyone else out of the first-page listings. UNTIL --

4. Google catches on and blacklists them, and then others like them take their place, and/or they come back using a method that gets them around the blacklist.

So, maybe. For what you're doing, follow darth_tedious's not-tedious advice, and aim for being as Google-friendly as possible (rather than gaming the system), and trust them to bubble you up sooner or later. Just don't expect miracles; I personally have the first name-based hit on the first page of Google for a local charter school I work with, without any risk of being blacklisted -- even though there are tons of other schools nationwide with that name. At the same time, I can't get on the front page for non-name-based hits, because there are other schools who have been in the same region for many years, and Google (rightfully) bumps them to the head of the class (as it were.)

In short: set expectations accordingly, and minimize the need for your audience to find you via a random non-name-based search by getting your name out there and distributing materials/doing outreach that includes the web site directly.
posted by davejay at 1:28 PM on April 27, 2010

You can get your website onto the first page of search results. The word "SEO" is the business you're talking about.

Search Engine Optimization is essentially ruining google for profit.
posted by lakerk at 1:29 PM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

Provide plenty of good, accurate and popular content on your website.
Try to reach out to as many ppl as you can.

Structure the information well, and ensure you list the content synapsis
of pdfs of videos etc to ensure that the search spiders can find them all.

You might want to hire an information architect to go over the taxonomy
and structuring of your site to ensure its easy to navigate and browse
for both humans and bots.

By providing good content, over time, and with struggle you should have
more sites linking to your site, and by getting enough sites linking to your
school you will climb the page rank.
posted by digividal at 1:58 PM on April 27, 2010

The best way to do this is to find websites that are a) related to your website and b) already highly pageranked by Google, then request them to link to you, using the word or phrase you would like to appear on the first page for.

For instance, if you're trying to be on the first page of Google results for "Long Beach, CA public schools" you would want to be linked to with that term.

People like to denigrate SEO, but the fact is that the above technique is relatively benign, because if you don't have a quality website, no one will link to you in the first place. If it is quality, people will link to it and it will rise in the search results. Besides, generally speaking, your competitors in the search listings are doing the same thing.
posted by malapropist at 1:58 PM on April 27, 2010

You should buy '*business *wider suburb dot com' and follow the other positive advice on here such as being relevant and useful to your audience and looking for quality link opportunities. If you are stumped for places to get links, from SEOMoz is a good tool to start with.

I would also be careful with AdWords. It's probably your best bet in the short term, but you can easily throw money away if it's not configured correctly.
posted by ejoey at 2:14 PM on April 27, 2010

@davejay: Google ignores META tags for ranking purposes. However, having a good META description can help out, since most often, that's what Google displays in results pages for a site.

I work in the SEO industry. If you were my client, the first things I'd do are:

1. Set up Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics on the site.
2. Build a sitemap.xml and sitemap.xml.gz (I've seen a trend where Google will index more pages from a compressed sitemap versus non-compressed if it's a large site).
3. Determine if the content is crawlable (not giant images of text, etc.), and fix any of those issues.
4. ONE H1 on each page, and make sure it contains the keyword theme for that page. If the page is about school sports, it should contain 'school sports' in the H1 tag in some fashion.
5. Make sure that the content on each page is relevent to what the page should be about.
6. Set up a Google Local Page for it. Fill out every possible form field and use your popular keywords when possible, but don't make it spammy. Make sure ALL of the info is correct.
7. Start participating in local forums, private school related forums, etc. Be smart, be useful when people have questions, and don't spam. You can set up links to your site (many are high-PR sites), and you'll get pertinant traffic from these. You can usually keyword link in the signature from these, which also helps a lot.
8. Try to get links placed on as many locally based sites as you can, using the 3 or 4 most common search terms for your target audience. DON'T do reciprocal links.
9. Consider AdWords. You can highly localize it to show for only certain areas, and it works great in that context. Have a contact form or some other way to measure conversions. If it's not profitable, stop doing it.

These are only a few first suggestions. I could go all day. It might also be in the school's interest to hire a competant SEO to get the site up there.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 2:17 PM on April 27, 2010 [7 favorites]

The benefit of AdWords in this situation is that it gives you instant and control and measurable results, though it's not free - you have to pay for the clicks you get. (Good SEO is not free either, but the costs are not quite as straightforward as with AdWords). The learning curve to AdWords can be steep though. If you go that route, remember to make your keywords match exactly with your ad text (use the keyword in the top line of the ad text if you can), don't use too many keywords, structure your account by theme, and experiment to get the results you want. Feel free to MeMai me if you want more help.
posted by StephenF at 2:58 PM on April 27, 2010

Let's step back from this.

"Can I win be one of the top 10 finishers at the Boston Marathon?"

Well, it isn't impossible. But it isn't going to happen to you. There are thousands of competitors every year, and the top finishers are people who spend years training pretty much full time. You, ordinary person that you are and just getting into it, just won't rate that high unlesss there's a miracle.

It's exactly the same thing here. There are a certain number of slots in the first page of hits for Google, which means that some people really do show up there. But it isn't going to happen to you. There isn't any simple magic thing you can do which suddenly raises your rating and gets you onto the first page of results, for two reasons:

1. If there were, everyone else would be using it too, and it wouldn't work any more because it cannot put five hundred people into ten search hit slots.
2. Whenever Google's engineers learn that someone has figured out how to game their rating algorithm, they change the algorithm. (They change it all the time anyway, for other reasons.)

And if, despite all that, there really were some magic way to do it, then wouldn't you think that those who know it would guard that secret like their children, and wouldn't give it to you? Because if it became widely known it would cease to work, for reasons 1 & 2 above.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:12 PM on April 27, 2010

Small typo. ""Can I win be one of the top 10 finishers at the Boston Marathon?"
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:13 PM on April 27, 2010

If you're running on wordpress, it's a pretty simple step to start running the site as a blog - start posting regular updates of school activities, being sure to include the school name and the name of the area you'd like to be associated with.

Do you have sports teams? Post their results i.e. "The Riverdale High School Raiders have defeated the Rams of Springfield 3-0 in league play" etc. etc.

Google will index your RSS feeds very quickly - keep writing about your school and you will end up in the results.
posted by davey_darling at 8:43 PM on April 27, 2010

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