Where Is the Top of Google?

by Mitch Turck

If I had a dime for every dealer who demanded to be at “the top” of Google…trouble is, most of them don’t know where the top actually is. Or, they know where the top is and (as usual) prefer to invest money for instant ROI rather than invest time and effort for long-term ROI. In both of these cases, the dealer inevitably lands on spot #2: the top of paid search.

But folks, that ain’t the top.

If you’re a dealer asking questions about getting to the top of Google, then you already have some understanding of the power and value of search engine presence. But what you haven’t realized – or refuse to realize – is that “paid search” (PPC) marketing is not the magic bullet of search engine marketing. While PPC is highly cost-effective and can be tracked and analyzed to no end, it’s still just rented ad space. If you don’t pay for your ad to be there tomorrow, some other competitor will take your place… just like print ads.

Organic SEO on the other hand, builds upon itself. These are the results that “naturally” list out along the left side of the page; the sites which Google has deemed relevant to what users are searching for. The closer your site gets to the top of that area, the more clicks you receive, the more Google values your site, and the higher your site will go. It’s the snowball effect, and there’s really nothing like it in any other area of automotive advertising. Build a high-quality site and maintain it frequently, and you could be on top of the natural listings within a few months. That’s the discipline to keep in mind: the top of Google is in the organic/natural listings, not the paid listings.

The #1 result in the organic listings (Spot#1) gets about 40% of the click share on Google and other search engines. The #1 paid result doesn’t even come close (maybe 20% of the click share on a good day when listed above the organic side (Spot #3), and more like 10% at the top of the sponsored side (Spot #4)), and often you get better results as the #2 organic listing (Spot #2) than you would as the #1 paid listing. That means the majority of people are going to look past your PPC advertising efforts to find the page that Google has declared the most relevant page on the queried topic. That’s because users know PPC marketing listings are ads, and to a degree, they’ve trained themselves to avoid looking at such listings. It’s also because the organic results deliver more information in their results, so the user has a better idea of what they’re clicking on.

Now there are still a ton of people who mistakenly or purposefully click on paid listings, and I’m not suggesting you give it up. It is, after all, the second best marketing expense in this industry right now. But it’s still an expense, and that’s why it’s in the same boat as newspaper, direct mail, radio and TV advertising: when you stop paying, you stop getting leads. If you’re on a tirade about being #1 in Google, your first step is to realize that it’s not going to happen overnight, and that PPC marketing is not what gets you to #1. Your second step is to find a website developer who rocks at SEO and can build you a killer site… unfortunately, that means looking outside the offerings within this industry.

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