Latest trends in fine stationery, custom invitations and announcements from the Stationers Guild

As I have reported many times, internet search results are often manipulated by very smart people to the detriment of the consumer and visitors who are looking for information rather than a sales pitch.   As most of you are no doubt aware, Google and most other major search engines segregate their page listings into two areas:  paid search and organic search.  For instance, if you are searching for ”wedding invitations” using the Google search bar, the results page will look something like this:

The search for “wedding invitations” returns more than 14 million pages which Google has found which contains information relevant to wedding invitations.  The three lead paid search results bracketed in RED are paid ads where companies bid for the top placement.  In this particular case, Wedding Paper Divas, bid more than Normans Printery (whoever that is) and Google places them in the top position because of that fact.  Immediately below the top three paid listings are the ORGANIC listings.  These listings are derived from a proprietary algorithm  developed by Google to determine the most relevant websites for that search term, independent of any paid advertising.    They use over 100 factors in determining that ORGANIC relevancy, include key word density, title bars, backlinks from other websites and many other factors.

While the companies on the first page of Google for paid and organic search results can often be radically different, in this particular case Wedding Paper Divas also occupies the Number 1 position in ORGANIC search as highlighted in GREEN.   Why is this important?  Simply stated, the first listing in ORGANIC search will attract somewhere between 36% to 45% of clicks, almost twice the percentage of the next organic listing.   In other words, it pays to the be the number one organic listing for key search terms.   For that reason, many businesses will do most anything to obtain that coveted ranking:  It is big dollars!

In a fascinating article that appeared in the New York Times on Sunday entitled The Dirty Little Secrets of Search, NYT’s investigative reporters discovered that J.C. Penney’s had used “black hat” SEO (search engine optimization) tactics to grab the number one organic listing for key product search terms.  When the information was reported to Google, who conducted their own investigation, J.C. Penney was manually stripped of its number one listing and its search relevancy signficantly altered (in some cases falling to as low as 77 (seventh page of search results).   All this for a company that was listed number 16 of the most influential 500 internet retailers.

While J.C. Penney’s has now fired the SEO firm that was responsible for these questionable marketing strategies, I suspect that its reputation will be permanently damaged by this revelation.  Nevertheless, it raises a number of question for firms that are practicing similar strategies.   The wedding industry in particular is ripe for “black hat” marketing.   For local retailers, it is absolutely imperative that you do everything legitimately possible to boost your online presence.  Google and other search engines try to list “local” providers if they believe that qualified local suppliers exist.  There are a number of simple and inexpensive ways to do so.  Don’t let online marketing companies destroy the stationery industry.

Consumers are waking up to the fact of the deceitful practices of many internet marketing companies.  Congratulations to Google for taking the high road and acting promptly to safeguard the integrity of their search algorithm.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

Tags: Google, J.C. Penny, New York Times, organic search, paid search, Wedding Invitations, wedding paper divas

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