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Web Design Sonoma County – Hey Google, What's Going On?

Greetings from inside the SEO igloo!
Our company, Solas Web Design, has been very proud of our Google local organic rankings for the term Sonoma County Web Design for several years, now. We have an indented listing at #1 and #2 for this nice little phrase in the organic SERPs. But vary the wording of that search term a bit, and the results are not only different – they are truly weird. Here is what is occupying the top 10 spots for Web Design Sonoma County CA:
1) The local Bus Transit company – uhm…weird.
2) An aggregate directory for finding a web designer, with one Bay Area (not Sonoma County) company listed in it…gee, that’ll be helpful! I’ve come to feel that nothing pollutes the SERPs like aggregate directories in every market. They are not only poorly designed, they are information-poor. Wish Google would bury them a bit.
3) A florist! Nothing like a fresh-cut website. They last longer in the vase.
4) The Sonoma County office of Education….okay, don’t know what to say about that, but I wonder if they can build me a blog.
5) Looks like this one might be a web designer. There is almost no text on the site. Hard to tell.
But, look, we’re down to #5 before even getting something relevant to our search.
6) Something about a diet in the Wine Country. “Hey, I said design, not diet!”
7) A bed and breakfast directory…perhaps this is for broken down web designers who need to get away from it all in Sonoma County? Ha ha.
8) Us. Ah…now it’s feeling better around here. An actual full service, local web design company! Solas Web Design doesn’t own a bus, but we can design websites.
9) Another web design company. Okay, good, but look how low on the page we’ve had to scroll to get to what we want.
10) A construction company. “Hey can you build my site with 2x4s and pergo floors?”
I can’t think of a clearer, more concise, long tail, specific search than Web Design Sonoma County CA. It says to me, and you, I’m looking for web design in Sonoma County. How can it be saying to Google, “I’m looking for a bus, a construction company, some flowers, a government building?”
Everybody Thinks They Should Be #1 In Google
In this case, I’m going to pull this card. We ought to be #1 in Google for this term. Or at least outranking the florist! If Google considers us the authority source for “Sonoma County Web Design”, why does changing the word order make a transit company a better bet than us for having a website developed? It just doesn’t make sense.
With the exception of that embarrassingly useless aggregate directory, we’ve got more links than any of the other folks in the top 10. One thing that is in favor of many of the sites in this set of SERPs is age of domain. For example, that Diet site has been around since 1996…but they still don’t design websites.
Basically, what we’re seeing here is a lack of relevance being caused by an imperfect algorithm. Google does their best, of course, and very often, they do an excellent job of understanding query intent to deliver very relevant results. I found this aberration so weird, I thought it was worth posting about.
Chances are, your small business has terms like this where you are absolutely shaking your head about what you are being outranked by. I’m not talking of a case where you know your company makes better furniture than your competitor down the street. Google doesn’t care about things like that. But if your pizza restaurant is being outranked by a shoe store when people are looking for pizza, it can be very frustrating.
What Can You Do About Weird Search Engine Rankings?
If it’s a term that is very important to your business – a great traffic driver, a good converter – you could try some of the following things.
1) Beef up the page in question. Add some new exciting content to it. I have personally seen freshness help.
2) Go link hunting. Get some new, high quality links pointing to the specific page.
3) Use the power of your internal link structure. See if it makes sense to link to the desired page from other strong pages of your site. The more links you point, internally, to a page, the more Google ‘gets it’ that this is an important page on the site. You could even go so far as using internal nofollow links to reorganize the way your page is passing link juice to its various documents. *We don’t advise that novices attempt this somewhat complicated activity. But, the basic point of it is to let Google know that something like your Services page is really important, while a page about your Copyright policy isn’t so vital.
4) Start blogging about the important phrase. Hmm…looks like this is what we’re doing. With the advent of Universal Search which is Google’s new process of showing things like blog posts, video, news, book excerpts and local search information within the regular results pages, attacking the subject from an alternate form of media (like a blog) could get you noticed for the phrases you want.
Some top 10 results are so old, sitting so tight, that trying to budge them is about as easy as prying a granddaddy mussel off a rock. It’s going to depend a lot on the competitiveness of both the term and the industry. My advice, above, is unlikely to help you if you’re trying to get to the top for ‘mortgage broker’, but if your yarn shop is being outranked by delicatessens, I’d suggest trying some or all of these suggestions.
As the SERPs currently stand for my own term of interest, web design sonoma county ca, I bet those bus transit operators are getting pretty sick of being asked if they do Flash.
* The trouble with writing posts like this is that as soon as you publish them, they have the power to change the order of the SERPs. By the time you are reading this, you may notice that our company has shot to the top of the page for the term web design sonoma county ca.