Is SEO the New NFL? - Warm Thoughts Communications
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Is SEO the New NFL?

Posted on November 18, 2013

For years, the formula for success in the NFL was a ball-control offense that leaned heavily on a power running game. But that formula doesn’t work anymore. Today it’s a passing game and success comes from the QB and wide receivers putting up points—fast and lots of them.

Much like the NFL, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a different game than it used to be. The old days of meta data, keyword ranking, and back linking are giving way to a new Internet world order. And what that means for your business is that it’s getting harder and harder for your website to rank with the search engines. And the more competitive your geographic location, product, or service, the more apparent that challenge is.

Companies, just like football teams, have two choices: they can change with the times, or they can continue to stick with what worked in the past and get steamrolled by companies that have adapted.

If you’re the type of business owner or manager who sees a website as a way to maintain and grow your business, and is open to learning some new tricks, then read on.

How does google work

SEO: A Brief But Complex History

To the uninitiated, SEO has always seemed like a strange world of unknown algorithms and mysterious tricks by people with weird job titles. And in retrospect, it actually seems pretty straightforward. All you had to do was figure out what keywords people use to search, and then make sure your website was full of those words. In the background, your Webmaster needed to use those same words in the meta tags, throw in a few back links, and voila! Go to Google, search for heating oil (your town) and there was your website, proudly displayed at the top of the Google listings. Of course I’m making it sound far easier than it really was, but the bottom line is that it just wasn’t that complicated.

So what happened?

To understand why and how all of this has changed, it’s important to realize how the largest search engine operates and makes money. Google, at its core, is an advertising medium. Think of it like a television network, creating its revenue from advertising. In order for advertisers to pay top dollar, the network has to attract millions of viewers, and of course, it has competitors. There are other networks that want their share of advertising dollars. So in order to compete, the network must satisfy its viewers with great programming. Google has to do a better job than Yahoo!, Bing, Ask and others at providing its fundamental service—answering questions. In fact, Google answers more than 1 billion questions every day.

To answer those questions, Google has to understand what the customer is asking, and then serve up a list of possible answers. And they have to do this better than anybody else, meaning that it has to be extremely likely that the customer will find the answer to their question within a couple clicks. If they don’t, the user will get frustrated and take their question elsewhere. So Google has to make sure its listings—the answers it serves up, (a good portion of which are paying to be there through its pay-per-click program)—are the correct ones. And Google’s never-ending quest to improve the way it answers people’s questions, is the reason this is a constantly changing world.

The New Focus on Content

We’ve always known that content is king. The most important factor in a successful SEO strategy has always been fresh, relevant, keyword-rich copy. But as competition among websites has increased, it has become increasingly challenging to win the battle. Plus, the game has truly changed. Content is no longer just the great copy on your website. It’s what is all over the web, some of which you can control, and some of which you can’t. The screen capture below demonstrates just what I mean. While writing this article I had a craving for pizza, so I did what most people do. I asked Google, “Where can I get the best pizza in Clifton, NJ?” Google’s answer included some great suggestions with pictures and reviews up at the top of the page (culled from the nifty new trend in SEO called schema data), pay-per-click ads from local pizzerias, links to review sites, blog posts and social media such as YouTube and FourSquare. That’s a lot of content.

Google SERP Results

Google displays just 1 organic listing for a pizza parlor in this search for pizza.

The key, for any highly successful pizza place, would be to own as much of that real estate as possible. In this case, Bruno’s is pretty successful: They are the first item with 26 four-star reviews at the top of the page; they have a listing on Yelp; and the YouTube video is theirs. If they had a pay-per-click ad, they would be—hands down—the search-marketing winner, commanding about 20% of the available real estate.

Notice, too, that you don’t see any individual websites—not even Bruno’s. The reason for that is competition. No matter how good of a job their Webmaster may be doing at on-page SEO, it is almost impossible to compete with the web giants like Yelp, or large publishers like and If you clicked through multiple search engine results pages, the individual pizzeria would eventually show up. But, as they say, the best place in the world to hide something is page two of Google.

Why Multiple Strategies are Critical

There are many opportunities available to push your content to other outlets, which then provide links back to your website, which will in turn boost your SEO rankings. Writing a blog and posting it to Facebook, publishing press releases and uploading them to PR sites, and asking your customers to write reviews for you are all effective strategies to improve your web presence. The more fresh, relevant content tied to your website, the more of you Google will display when prospects are searching for your products and services.

Google SERP percents

Just 23% of the “above the fold” real estate is dedicated to organic listings.

Because Google derives virtually all of its nearly $40 billion annual revenue from advertising, the pay-per-click ads are what drive page rank (the location on the page your listing can be found). If I search for heating oil companies near Clifton, NJ, seven of the results above the fold (the portion of a webpage you see before scrolling) are paid ads—while only three are organic results. In fact, Google shows only between seven and ten organic results beyond ads and map listings—a small fraction of the first page—and competition for those spots is fierce.

In fact, Google has recently made winning the SEO game harder than ever. If you have ever looked at a Google Analytics report, you know that one of the key performance indicators is a measurement of keyword specific data. Learning which keywords led users to your website was a critical metric for establishing how your SEO is functioning. Unfortunately, several months ago, Google decided they would no longer provide that data. And while there is still plenty of other data we can look at, such as page views and trend monitoring, it is clear that we can no longer rely on traditional on-page strategies. We need a balanced approach that uses search engine optimization, advertising, and social media so that consumers will find your business when they search for your products and services.

Are You Ready for the Passing Game?

In this rapidly changing environment, companies have a choice. They can keep trying to succeed with the old formula for success, or they can embrace a new playbook, and accept the reality that the SEO world is a very different place and new strategies are required to win.

Ben Gutkin
is VP Marketing Services for Warm Thoughts Communications. He has advised dozens of the nation’s leading energy companies and associations on improving their web presence, search capabilities, direct response advertising and return on investment during his 20+ years with Warm Thoughts. You can reach him or 201‑330‑9276 ext. 227

300 Broadacres Dr. Suite 205
Bloomfield, NJ 07003

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