Since its launch in 1998, Google has risen to global prominence. It’s a world force. It shapes industries, informs culture, and influences public thought.

And it all started as a search engine.

But what a search engine!

Google is, hands down, the world’s dominant search engine. In fact, a 2016 study from comScore found that Google accounts for 64 percent of total searches.

To add some more perspective, there are over 100 billion searches performed on Google each month, averaging 2.3 million searches per second.

This makes Google a marketer’s playground. Understanding how to reach consumers through search engine marketing is vital. Fortunately, there are numerous avenues you can take, and a variety of customizable strategies that can meet your specific marketing needs.

In this in-depth guide of online marketing, we will discuss the fundamentals of digital marketing with Google with an extreme focus on using inbound techniques to drive more leads and increase revenue. More specifically, we’ll cover topics like user psychology, SEO, paid advertising with AdWords, and utilizing Google Analytics to generate meaningful data so you can make better decisions with your campaigns.

You’ll learn how to make Google work for your business, and how to accelerate your digital marketing career.


How Do I Effectively Market Within The Google Ecosystem?

Google seems to have a hand in just about everything these days. While it started out initially as just a search engine, Google now affects nearly every area of the internet. You could also make the argument that it’s shaped and sculpted the internet into what it is today.  

Here’s just a small sliver of what Google offers:

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Google covers the web, mobile, business, media, geography, social and home and office. Its reach extends far and wide, affecting nearly every facet of our daily lives.  

To make Google work for you, you must understand its ecosystem and how its various elements impact one another.  

How Search Has Changed the Way People Do Business

Although search engines have become completely intertwined with our daily lives, it wasn’t always this way.

Even as little as a decade ago, most people found information about a business through more traditional means, such as the Yellow Pages or word of mouth.

The concept of turning to a search engine is only a recent phenomenon, but it has forever changed how people do business. For example, it’s now necessary for business owners to have at least a basic understanding of SEO and implement SEO strategies to compete in their industry.

Failing to land on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs) is basically a death sentence. It’s like you don’t even exist.  

Here’s what I mean:

As you can see, there’s a significant dropoff after the third search result position. But if you can land within the top three positions, you can pull in a considerable amount of traffic. If you can reach No. 1, roughly a third of all people who performed that search will visit your site.

Google has also had a dramatic impact on the way that businesses advertise locally. In fact, “Google search interest in ‘near me’ has increased 34X between 2011 and 2015,” according to Google.

Instead of turning to the Yellow Pages for information about local businesses, most people simply “Google it.”

Here are just a few other ways it has affected businesses:

  • Google’s Mobile Friendly Update forced companies to make their website easily navigable by mobile users.
  • Algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin have been motivating factors for businesses to generate high-quality, valuable content.
  • Algorithm update Hummingbird placed an emphasis on semantic search, which has meant that companies need their content to focus on user intent rather than merely keywords.

Keys to an Effective Search Strategy

Understanding Google’s ecosystem and tailoring your marketing campaign accordingly is imperative for your business to thrive in this search-centric era. Some of the primary points of emphasis for an effective search strategy include the following:

  • Targeting relevant keywords
  • On-site and off-site optimization (e.g., backlinking, optimizing titles and headers, and hyperlink optimization)
  • Taking measures to rank for local searches (e.g., having proper contact information and customer reviews, and being on sites like Yelp)
  • Consistently creating valuable content (e.g., blog posts, videos and white papers)
  • Experimenting with paid advertising through AdWords
  • Using Google Analytics to track your progress.

How to Use Search Data to Improve Your Business and Product Strategy

Search data translates into concrete knowledge, which ultimately allows you to make highly informed and smarter decisions as they pertain to your product strategy and business as a whole.

Some examples of search data would be:

  • The volume of monthly searches for a particular keyword phrase
  • The level of competition for a keyword phrase
  • The suggested bid or cost-per-click for a keyword.

Using search data can steer you in the right direction when choosing which keywords to target in your content. In turn, this can aid you when generating new content ideas.

It can be advantageous in terms of on-site optimization, and will let you know what adjustments you should make to increase organic traffic, boost visitor engagement, and reduce bounce rate.  

Search data can also be instrumental for performing market and product research. For instance, it can help you determine how big of a demand there is for a particular product, and may allow you to identify trends.

Why Understanding the User is Vital to Marketing Within Google

Search data translates into concrete knowledge, which ultimately allows you to make highly informed and smarter decisions as they pertain to your product strategy and business as a whole.

Some examples of search data would be:

  • The volume of monthly searches for a particular keyword phrase
  • The level of competition for a keyword phrase
  • The suggested bid or cost-per-click for a keyword.

Query Types

Although the specific queries that search engine users enter can be nearly infinite, you can break them down into three main types.

  • Navigational: A search query entered with the intent of finding a particular website or webpage (e.g., Facebook or Forbes).
  • Informational: This is used to elicit information about a broad topic, such as Florida or spiders.
  • Transactional: A query that indicates an intent to complete a transaction, such as making a purchase (e.g., looking for a local restaurant).

Determining Intent

As a marketer, it’s your goal and challenge to figure out what the intent of search engine users is. Some questions you might ask yourself include:

  • What are their needs?
  • What are they trying to accomplish with their search?
  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What information are they looking to obtain?

The more adept you become at determining intent, the more effective your marketing will become, and the easier it will be to reach your target audience.

How Searchers Evaluate the Page They’ve Clicked On

First impressions are incredibly important for search engine users. In fact, research has found that “you have 50 milliseconds (0.005 seconds) to make a good first impression.”

One of the first things a visitor to your website takes into account is page load time. Even a one-second delay in load time results in a 7 percent loss in conversions.

If your site takes longer than three seconds to load, 40 percent of people will abandon it.

Some key elements that people take into consideration when evaluating a page include:

  • The main image
  • Its design and layout
  • Whether it has an intuitive menu
  • How simple it is to use
  • Written content.

When you’re able to create a positive first impression and provide users with the information they want in a streamlined manner, you can increase the level of engagement your site receives and ultimately boost conversions.

It also leaves your customers feeling happy and fulfilled. They’re more likely to return and tell others about their positive experience.

Building Search Personas

A one-size-fits-all approach just won’t cut it in this day and age. In order to reach, and more importantly, connect with users, it’s helpful to create a variety of search personas.

If you’re unfamiliar with this concept, it’s basically a form of customer segmentation where you break down your customer base by specific characteristics like age, gender, interests, spending habits, and so on.

This chart from Search Engine Watch offers an excellent example:    

Notice the specific criteria that are used, and in particular, the searcher’s pain point.

Building multiple personas like this is extremely helpful for guiding the direction of your Google marketing campaign. Search personas will influence the types of keywords you’ll try to rank for, the content you’ll create and the solutions you’ll offer.

Understanding Organic Search

Considering the fact that Google is the most widely used search engine in the world, it only makes sense that your SEO strategy should be built around it. This is why it’s so important to familiarize yourself with Google’s algorithm, and understand the key factors that influence how it decides to rank content.

Unlike paid search, where the positioning of an ad is determined by how much money is funneled into a campaign, organic search is affected by a plethora of variables.

This graph from Moz shows us what the top ranking factors in Google’s algorithm were in 2015.

Each number indicates how big of a factor each variable is out of 10. So for example, domain-level link features, such as quantity/quality of links and trust, are 8.22 out of 10, making them the most important.

To thrive with organic search and effectively get your content on page one of SERPs, there are several items you must check off your list. The good news about SEO is that it acts as the ultimate equalizer, and theoretically a small mom and pop business could outrank a massive corporate conglomerate.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to following the right formula.

Google Search is Always Changing

A big part of the reason Google has been so successful and has enjoyed such longevity is that it’s constantly striving to improve and adapt. To maintain its place at the top of the totem pole, Google has launched a large number of algorithm updates with some of the most major being Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird.

However, there are also plenty of minor ones that don’t receive as much attention but show just how much Google search is perpetually evolving. If you want to see an extensive list of Google’s algorithm change history, just check out this list of updates from Moz.

Content Marketing – The New SEO

Content marketing is formally defined as “the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

It’s an inbound strategy that relies upon generating leads and making conversions by informing and educating an audience in a subtle yet effective manner rather than beating them over the head with more traditional outbound techniques that have more of a “BUY NOW” approach.

In the past, content marketing and SEO were usually thought of as separate entities with virtually zero overlap. But considering the fact that content marketing provides many of the features that impact SEO (e.g., keywords, backlinks and consistent output), the two have never been more intertwined.

For this reason, you could think of content marketing as being the new SEO.

Machine Learning and RankBrain

RankBrain is a machine learning artificial intelligence system that Google uses to generate its search results. Although it was unveiled fairly recently (October 2015), most experts agree that it’s having a considerable impact on SERPs.

In a nutshell, RankBrain is used to sort through billions of pages and provide search users with the ones that are most relevant to their search query. To accomplish this, it’s very semantic-centric and interprets language and queries. It’s also been called a “learning system,” meaning that it’s constantly using its findings to refine and optimize the algorithm.

Fundamentals of SEO

Although SEO is obviously a wide umbrella, there are a handful of fundamental terms that you should be familiar with.

On-site, Off-site and Technical Optimization

On-site optimization deals with the following:

  • Keywords
  • Title tags, header tags, URLs, meta descriptions and image alt text
  • Hyperlink optimization
  • Internal links
  • Your content.

Off-site optimization involves:

  • Links pointing back to your site (quality and quantity)
  • Your social media profiles
  • Shares and likes on social media
  • What people are saying about you on review sites.

Finally, technical optimization involves the nuts and bolts, like:

  • Site speed
  • XML and HTML sitemaps
  • Site navigation

Local SEO  

As its name implies, this branch of SEO affects how your content ranks for local searches in your immediate geographical location. This pie chart from Moz breaks down the key factors that determine local SEO:

As you can see, there are a lot of variables, but on-page signals, like keywords to indicate location and the links that point to your site, have the most influence.

The SEO Toolbox

Effective SEO is largely about utilizing the right tools and generating sound data to aid in your decision making. Some specific areas that tools can help in are keyword research, link building, backlink analysis, and content optimization.  

Required SEO Tools for Maximum Success

Perhaps the most widely used SEO tool (and for good reason) is the Google Keyword Planner. This is a one-stop-shop that allows you to research keywords, check search volume, make traffic forecasts, and much more.

Considering the fact that having a mobile-friendly website is of the utmost importance and heavily impacts SEO, the Mobile-Friendly Test from Google is essential for seeing how your site fares. By running a quick and free test, you can determine whether your site is in fact mobile-friendly.

If it’s not, you will be given specific suggestions on how to improve your site. You can also find out how Googlebot sees your page.  

Open Site Explorer from Moz allows you to see which backlinks are pointing to your site, as well as the domain authority and page authority of those links.

Using Search Console

Search Console is a free service from Google that can help you stay on top of SEO. According to Google, you can “monitor your site’s performance in Google Search results and discover how Google Search – and the world – sees your site.”

More specifically, you can:

  • Ensure that Google can access your content
  • Determine which queries are responsible for your site appearing in SERPs
  • See which sites are linking to your website
  • Analyze the performance of your mobile site.

The bottom line here is that Search Console can be a huge asset and provide you with incredibly valuable SEO-related information.