search marketing

Are You Driving a Minivan in an SEO Road Race?

SEO race competition
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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SEO race competitionNot all automobiles are designed to win a race. Similarly, not all SEO services are designed to win the race for top search rankings.

Over the years, I’ve spoken with several people who were frustrated that their website was not appearing higher in search results despite doing some SEO or even paying what they considered to be a lot of money for SEO services.

Ultimately, I think the frustration comes from some misconceptions about search engines and search engine optimization, which I want to clear up in this post.

1) Search Rankings Are a Competition.

Yes, your website is competing against the websites of all the other organizations that are similar to yours. If your church is in a city of 100 churches, your website is competing with 100 other websites for “church in [your city]” All 100 churches want to be in the top 10. 90 of them are going to be disappointed. If your restaurant is in a city of 500 restaurants, your website is competing with 500 other websites for “restaurant in [your city].”

2) Search Rankings Are Based on Relevance and Strength.

While search engine algorithms factor hundreds of pieces of information into their calculations, all of these elements can be boiled down to 2 things: relevance and strength. Relevance is how closely related search engines think a page is to the keyword being searched which is primarily determined by the content of the page. Page strength is how important search engines think a page is which is determined by thinks like link to the page and shares in social media.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, but on-page optimization (changes to the page itself) is primarily about improving relevance while content marketing, link building and social media are primarily about improving page strength.

3) Search Rankings Are Relative

Because your website is competing for search rankings with other websites, the position your website appears in the search results doesn’t just depend on the relevance and strength of your website but also the relevance and strength of all of the other websites its competing against.

If you do on-page optimization of your website to improve relevance, but don’t do much link building, content marketing, or social media to strengthen your website, how do you think your site will fare relative to those competitors who are doing things to strengthen their sites?

The SEO Race Is On

Think of SEO like any other competition, including a race…

If you were to enter a road race with a Honda Odyssey minivan and everyone else was driving minivans you might be able to compete and even win the race. But if you try to race your Odyssey against a field of sports cars, you’re going to be in the back of the pack. You can give it a tune up, put new tires on it and makes sure everything is peak condition, but the bottom line is the engine just isn’t as strong as the engines in the sports cars.

You might pay $200-$400/mo to lease an Odyssey, and that may feel like a lot of money to you., however, it just can’t compete with a Mustang or a Corvette.

But before you go out and buy Corvette, keep in mind that a Corvette is going to lose to a field of Ferraris.

And before you buy a Ferrari, know that it will lose in a Formula 1 race.

At this point you might be ready to throw your hands up and scream in frustration…

What’s the Point? How Can My Website Compete with That!

My point here isn’t to frustrate you or convince you that you need the Formula 1 race car of SEO services. After all, maybe your competitors are driving minivans or Corvettes, and a world class race car would be overkill. My point is…

One of the most important aspects of SEO is assessing the competitiveness of the keywords you are targeting.

You need an honest, experienced SEO professional to tell you what level of service you need to compete for top 10 search rankings.

Maybe you’ll find out you’re in a race for which you simply don’t have the resources to compete. Or maybe you’ll learn you need to right-size your SEO service to help you win the race… like we told you about in last week’s post How This Church in San Diego Went to 3 in Google.


  • Are you frustrated with your current search rankings? If so, why?
  • How do you know if your expectations for search rankings are realistic?

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    About the author

    Paul Steinbrueck

    Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.

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