(This is an excerpt from the book Internet Marketing for Newbies)
There are many ways to get traffic to your site. Building a positive reputation is important, but it takes time. Alternatively you can take a shortcut and pay for traffic using paid advertising. Both methods work and a combination of the two can be very effective.
Types of Search Engines
Most people use a search engine to look for information on the web. Google is the most popular search engine today, but others include Ask, Yahoo! and Bing (Microsoft). There are two types of results on search pages, sponsored (paid) results and organic results.
Organic and Paid results on a search engine results page (SERP)
Organic search results
Organic search results are the listings that show up that are not paid for by advertisers. Google’s organic search results are displayed on the top left hand side of the page, with paid or sponsored results on the right hand side. Occasionally Google will also place paid results at the very top left hand side of the page.
Organic results and the Golden Triangle
Many studies have been done about how people view web pages and search engine results pages in particular. Heat maps show that people naturally look to the left side of the page about one inch from the top.
In fact most people do not naturally look to the right of the page where Google serves the majority of their paid advertising. The heat map image below shows how people view a Google search results page. The brighter the area, the more people viewed it and for a longer amount of time. This highlighted area is called the Golden Triangle of search.
The Golden Triangle of search
This does not mean that no one is looking or clicking on the sponsored results. If that were true, Google would not be the multi-billion dollar company it is today. The key strategy for you to remember is to be in the top three organic search results. If you are, you are sure to be getting lots of looks for your search term.
Because of this trend some sites like Ask have started mixing paid and organic results together. This can be dangerous. When you mix advertising with your content it can hinder your credibility. I’m sure they make money, but I question the long term strategy.
One reason Google does so well with their advertising is because they are straightforward about what is organic and what is paid search. I highlighted the areas in the first screenshot, but notice how difficult it is to distinguish the organic and paid results on the non-highlighted page.
Highlighted mix of sponsored and organic results
Non-highlighted mix of sponsored and organic results
Many companies use a hybrid of paid and organic search. Often they will kick start their website with paid ads, and transition over to getting organic results once people become aware of their site.
How to get ranked high in organic search results
The best way to be ranked high in the organic results on sites like Google is to have lots of in bound links- that is other sites that link to your site. Google calls this PageRank- the higher your page rank on a scale of 1 to 10, the more likely you are to show up first in search results.
Though PageRank is the official name, many people call page ranking Google Juice. When a high ranking site links to a lower ranking site they can bring up the rank of the lower site, and vice versa. If you can get a high ranking site to link to you that’s good news, but be careful about linking to low ranked sites because it can take away from your own ranking. It’s better to get the juice than to give it.
The easiest way to see your PageRank is to install the Google Toolbar. Not only will you know your PageRank, but you can see the PageRank of any site you visit or that you link to yourself.
Notice that my site only ranks 2/10, but it is still the #1 ranking for Michael Daehn. This says two things; first, my name is relatively unique so it still has top results with a low PageRank. Second, I need to spend more time getting inbound links to my site.
Google PageRank 2/10
When you link to a site, you are essentially voting for that site, and in a way telling Google you think it is a valuable piece of Internet real-estate. It is usually a good idea to link to people and sites you think are valuable to your visitors. It helps to establish you and your site as a valuable resource. Because linking to another site helps their rankings it is often referred to as showing Link Love.
Have you ever received an email asking you to swap links? You post a link on your site and in return the other person promises to post a link to your site. In general you should stay away from these reciprocal linking schemes. It is appropriate to link to a site that links to you, but do it for legitimate reasons. If the sole purpose is to increase PageRank you are working in the realm of Black Hat SEO.
Black Hat versus White Hat SEO
Just like in the old western movies, the bad guys wear black hats and the good guys wear white hats. If you are involved in shady link trading or other scams that try to game the system you are participating in Black Hat SEO. If the search engines catch you, or they think you are doing something suspicious, they will black list your site. While Black Hat techniques can gain you some short term traffic, they are not a good long term business strategy for legitimate businesses.