Thursday, December 22, 2011

SEO Lessons: Guayaki Yerba Mate

As part of our ongoing technical work at Technoracle, we like to work with business owners to help them understand search engine optimization (commonly referred to as “SEO”) and provide better results for them. An initial step is often to ascertain the current state however this proves problematic. To explore this problem, we will use the case study of Guayaki. Guayaki is a company using a restorative business model to help provide fair wages to everybody in their supply chain and also restore sub tropical South American rain forests. in fact, it is referred to as the the "Mata Atlantica", or Atlantic Rainforest, deemed one of the top 5 priorities for biodiversity conservation in the world by conservation international.   The Atlantic forest has been reduced to 7% of its original size.They sell products based on Yerba Mate, a substance commonly used and shared by civilizations for centuries and a common stimulant drink. The powers of Yerba Mate are very restorative and we have started consuming it while coding instead of coffee. On a personal note, it seems to be better for productivity than straight coffee or Coke/Pepsi.

Since most people curious about Yerba Mate seem to search for the term “Yerba Mate” or “Yerba Matte” (mis-spelled), they desire a good ranking and currently have it in some areas. The first step was to use our Google Adwords account to ascertain the most relevant search terms and search term volume for any given month. Google however, uses localization and profiling as factors in ranking search results. To illustrate this, we asked several of our networked associates and friends to help do a straw poll on the current rankings. From what we understand, most of them had never searched for this term before so the results were probably more accurate than someone who has already logged several searches for the term and has those searches linked to their profile. This blog post is a summary of some of the results we encountered. While not considered scientifically conclusive, these results may be of interest to others.

Google uses geographical location and Guayaki’s head office is in Sebastapol, CA, USA. Most of their business is in North America. The request was simple. We asked random associates to navigate to and search for the term “yerba mate” and note where any hosted page appears in the results. Here is a random sampling of results:

This is only a small sampling but it shows a pattern of higher results in countries where the product is sold.  We tried to search via however google redirects the browsers to  We consider ourselves tainted as google could note that we (Yerba Mate fans) have visited several times and hence elevate it in my results via any personal google home pages.  Nevertheless, we found it on page 2 in 12th spot.  This was shocking considering one of the principals and co-founders is located in British Columbia and does considerable business here.

So what does this mean? 

Simply stated, search results seen by one person are not necessarily universally shared.    The first step in SEO is to get an accurate read of where your site appears before any attempts to optimize.  This, in itself, is a difficult feat.  Google uses cookies, IP addresses and a host of other mechanisms to determine how to provide you with the most relevant search results.  If you commonly search for your own brand, it is possible it may appear higher in search results on your computer than a computer that has never searched for the same term.  Google, Yahoo and Bing have all stated this policy clearly but have not explained what that means exactly in terms of results.

What would we recommend for Guayaki?

Since the first site that appeared most commonly was Wikipedia, we found a way to link Guayaki to the Yerba Mate page in Wikipedia.  This is done is accordance with Wikipedia’s terms of service and standards.  The page itself claimed sources were required for verification so we added a footnote to show verification that Yerba Mate is in fact sold as an iced beverage in a can.  Be careful about this however and do not try to spam others with links to your page.  Some types of links are not even followed such as blogger comments.  We never advocate trying to hack the system.  The system is set up to govern itself via feedback and respecting terms of use is something we encourage all people to do.  

Having said that, there is a potential that this blog article itself may end up elevating their ranking since it contains links to their site but that is not the intent of this post. 

DISCLOSURE:  David K. from Guayaki is a personal friend.  He has not asked us to post this blog to help with SEO.  We are merely helping him as we would with any other client to understand the SEO landscape.  We have not been paid to post this article.

How does this information help you?

Before you start any SEO project, try a similar grass roots poll to understand where you currently rank and in what geographical areas your brand is ranked higher.  Match this information with your goals.  You may find this is a chicken and egg problem as business in one area may be slow due to the fact no one finds your website or brand via a search in Google, Bing or Yahoo.  If you are trying to build business, approach SEO as a regional endeavor.

If you have any follow up questions on this topic, please don’t hesitate to contact duane at Nickull dot net.  We’re always glad to help.  If you want to know more about Guayaki, check out this video.

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Do not spam this blog! Google and Yahoo DO NOT follow comment links for SEO. If you post an unrelated link advertising a company or service, you will be reported immediately for spam and your link deleted within 30 minutes. If you want to sponsor a post, please let us know by reaching out to duane dot nickull at gmail dot com.