We’ve probably drilled it into your head that top rankings in Google’s search results are the key to online marketing success. But are they? A proposition that was absolutely true 5 years ago may not hold as well today. Let’s dive in.
Google, like all companies, exists to make money. And it has some pretty big earnings numbers to hit to justify its sky-high valuation. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has a diverse number of income streams, ranging from artificial intelligence to home automation.
Google’s role is to help people find what they need. They’ve always been good at this, and they’re increasingly good at making money while doing it. How? Well, there’s advertising of course, which is their dominant income stream. Their advertising portfolio has expanded (YouTube Ads, multimedia banner ads, etc) and the dominance of advertising on their platforms has increased. They also do a much better job of offering answers and resources right on their platform, rather than sending users off to other sites. As Facebook can tell you, when you increase the minutes users stay on your platform, you increase the opportunities to advertise to them.
How It Relates to Organic Search
All of this is a long way to say that when someone searches for something related to your business, the first result they are likely to get these days may not be an organic listing for your website. This throws a wrench in the whole search engine optimization endeavor. You’ve probably seen for yourself how more and more ads are creeping into search results, as are quick answers, star ratings, and other information displayed right on the Google search page.
Given this steady shift to search results that benefit Google’s bottom line, how have organic results, which don’t directly pay Google’s bills at all, been faring? The answer from what we’ve seen: Not So Good.
- One client whose very high organic rankings were unchanged throughout 2017 saw a 21% dip in visits to their website from organic searches. There would be only two reasons for this: people are searching less for cosmetic services (no evidence of this) or people are clicking out to other resources besides the client’s site.
- A newer client whose rankings actually increased throughout 2017 only saw flat visitation from organic visitors. Again, if organic visitation to his site is flat that suggests searchers are tapping other resources to learn about his practice. Further evidence for this is the uptick in referral visits seen throughout the year.
- Clients running ads on Facebook see a much higher lead gen rate with forms right on Facebook versus clicking out to the client’s website. How’s this relate to Google? Think platforms. When users are on one platform it’s actually less convenient to pop over to your website than to find out what they need right on the platform.
What You Should Do
- Optimize with Rich Snippets – Rich snippets give search engines important and precise information from your site to display in search results. They can include items such as photos, reviews and ratings, prices, etc. to let you stand out from competition. They also help Facebook display proper information when users share your links.
- Beef Up Your Local Presence – Yes, your business needs to be on Google Maps and Apple Maps. But there are still a lot more local listings sites that matter, and that help your customers find you. Services like Moz Local (our preferred solution) and Yext can help you cover your bases on dozens of local listings sites.
- Consider PPC – We’ve talked with many of our clients about the increasingly “pay to play” online environment. While adding paid advertising to your marketing effort means that online marketing isn’t as affordable as it once was, you can take a bit of comfort in knowing that it’s still much cheaper than traditional advertising channels (which have themselves become more expensive in recent years). Also, with the right setup you can track your online advertising spend and calculate ROI down to the penny.
- Stay Social – Google, as well as Facebook and pretty much every other online platform, wants to foster community online. That’s not likely a trend that’s going away anytime soon. A healthy social presence not only keeps your brand active on the social channels themselves, but also signals to Google that you’re engaged with customers and more worthy to show up in search results.