Tech for tough times: Google Grabbers 2.0

Written by Jim McElgunn

It’s easy to dream up a tactic designed to land your company’s website among Google’s top few matches for your preferred search term. But how do you know whether the tactic will work?

Scott Wilson can answer that question. That’s because the Burlington, Ont.-based video-production firm he co-founded with his brother, Cameron, runs controlled scientific experiments to test hundreds of propositions about what will land a site a top-30 Google ranking for a given search term.

Wilson’s team of math, science and programming specialists has identified scores of search-engine optimization (SEO) tactics that work. Wilson has used these to keep the site for his own firm, eMotionPictureStudios, No. 1 on Google for the keywords “trade show video” since 2007. He has also established a thriving SEO consulting division called, whose revenue has tripled in the past year as its client base has burgeoned from eight to 35.

In PROFIT’s March 2008 issue, Wilson shared exclusively with our readers five tactics his research has proven are effective. (Search for “Google grabbers” at Do-it-yourself SEO tactics like these are among the most affordable yet effective marketing methods a company can use—perfect for recessionary times. Here, Wilson shares five more winning tactics.

USE MEANINGFUL ANCHOR TEXT: Many people know you can boost your ranking if other sites agree to link to yours. But few realize the importance of the “anchor text”: the words that appear in the hyperlink. A link reading “learn more” won’t help your site, but “digital X-ray systems” can do wonders if that’s what you’re selling. The more your link partners use your keywords as the anchor text, the higher your site will rank. Wilson says you shouldn’t break Google’s terms of service by explicitly asking link partners to use specific keywords, but it’s fine to let them know your page’s subject matter.

ADOPT THE LANGUAGE OF BUYERS: Google figures that users searching for “small business consulting services” probably aren’t after a purely informational page, such as one with a white paper on consulting. More likely, they want an idea of how much these services would cost. You can improve the odds that they’ll find your site by creating what Google will recognize as a transactional page, thanks to the inclusion of trigger terms such as “estimate” or “call for a quote.”

GIVE YOUR KEYWORDS SOME BACKUP: Google works diligently to avoid steering Web searchers who enter, say, “natural health products” to a page that’s stuffed with these keywords but offers no substantive content. That’s why it’s increasingly using a technique called “latent semantics,” which favours pages with relevant words related to the search term. Here, that might include “vitamins” or “supplements.” Wilson suggests that you should first ensure that your keywords appear frequently—six times per 300 words of text is about right—but not so often that Google will punish you for “keyword stuffing.” You can then enhance your ranking by tapping your knowledge of your industry to brainstorm which related words to add.

MAKE A SPLASH WITH FLASH: One tip Wilson offered last year was to post a video that’s highly relevant to your keywords. Since then, his team has discovered a way to further leverage video, provided it uses the Flash player. Flash videos include a text box with a message such as “buffering” that runs while the video loads. In less than an hour, says Wilson, a Flash programmer can replace this message with your keywords, “which has an extraordinary impact on optimizing your page—some of the best we’ve ever seen.” (For details, see “SEO paint by numbers” below.)

HARNESS LINKEDIN FOR SEO POWER: The leading business-networking site can give your Google ranking a big lift. First, you’ll need a LinkedIn profile that’s public and thus searchable. Second, where your profile lists websites, choose “Other,” then enter your site’s URL in the field “My Company” and your keywords in “Website Title.” Next, ask your staff to create profiles and do the same. Finally, ask your LinkedIn connections to enter your URL and keywords in their “Other” pulldowns, which hardly anyone uses. The result: Google will find an array of links associating your company’s URL with its keywords, and reward your site accordingly. As an added benefit, your firm might land business directly from all the contacts you’ll make on LinkedIn.

SEO Paint by Numbers

For more information about making a splash with Flash, visit
BONUS: How to gain a competitive edge in local markets

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