Do you know how Google works? Probably not. But to get the most out of Google, local businesses need to have a basic understanding of how this search engine operates—and how it can help or hurt you. There’s no need to go into the complicated algorithms, but learning about the four different parts of Google can help you understand how search results for your business can impact your company’s success.
The 4 Parts of Google
As you may or may not already be aware, there are three different ways to advertise with Google. Every search results page has a different section that corresponds with each of these three different advertising methods:
1. Sponsored Links (highlighted at the top of the page as well as included in a sidebar)
- You pay for each click and bid for position
2. Organic Results (typically listed below the sponsored links)
- Google decides which pages are most relevant
3. Maps Results (listed beside a map of the area)
- Organic results with a geographic component
As you can see, each type of advertising puts you in a distinct place on the search results page. What is less apparent, especially to those of us who aren’t particularly tech savvy, is that each section of the search results page is controlled by a separate department at Google. Each department even uses its own rules to determine ranking, legitimacy, and more!
That means, achieving a great rank in one section of the search results doesn’t affect any other section. You can be number one in the sponsored results but that won’t impact where you rank in the organic results or maps section. Your ranking in one section will not have any bearing on your ranking in any other section.
You Said 4, But I Only See 3
That’s true! While there are only three advertising departments at Google, there is a fourth department that can have a major bearing on all the different advertising departments: The fourth arm of Google is its Webspam Department. Although each advertising department operates independently, the Webspam Department can affect multiple parts of the search results page at the same time! Anytime the Webspam Department identifies someone doing anything outside of Google’s guidelines, it can dramatically impact your ranking in all three forms of advertising (organic, maps, and sponsored).
That means even though you have to work your way to the top of each of the three sections of the search results page independently, the Webspam Department can penalize you in all three simultaneously—putting all your hard work, and even time and money, down the drain. At Prospect Genius, the most common scenario we’ve seen is with companies that engage in “map spamming.” Some of our customers have done this in the past, only to get burned across all of the search results sections: not only do they get penalized in the maps results, they can also receive a -40 penalty that pushes their rankings to page 5 and beyond in the organic search results!
I’ve Never Heard of Map Spamming. What Is It?
Google’s guidelines can be found online, but the major issues we’ve seen include:
- Adding a listing for your business address and then creating additional listings using your home address and even relatives’ and friends’ addresses
- Stuffing keywords into your business name (e.g. “John’s Plumbing Heating Cooling Electrical Services”)
If you use either of these practices, and Google’s Webspam Department finds out, your map listing will be penalized. But they also have the power to penalize your organic listing and even charge you more per click in the sponsored results, effectively punishing you across the board. And because these penalties are assigned to YOU not your advertising company, simply switching to a new marketing company won’t do you any good. Eventually, Google will discover it’s you again and you’ll be right back where you started!
The Bottom Line
At Prospect Genius, we ourselves adhere to Google’s guidelines, and we try to ensure that all of our clients are doing the same. Why: simply because it’s the best policy for YOUR long-term success. Playing by the rules does pay off in the end!
If you have more questions about how Prospect Genius works to provide you with effective online advertising for local businesses, we’d love to hear from you. Send us an e-mail or give us a call to learn more about SEO and your company.