Written on: July 22, 2016 by Ben Gutkin
Google. God bless ‘em.
In February, Google once again shook the search engine snow globe, making changes to its Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) that have big implications for your online marketing strategy. Knowing how to respond to these changes could make or break your online marketing campaigns—and possibly your business.
What changed, and what it means for you
The SERP no longer shows ads on the right hand side. Your desktop or laptop search now looks the same as your mobile search—a completely vertical column. The changes Google made— removing “right rail” ads from SERPs on its desktop platform and showing four rather than three ads at the top of SERPs—seem innocent enough.
However, consider the implications of the changes: Less available real estate means more cut-throat competition for top-of-the-page paid search results, which will make the most desirable AdWords more expensive than ever. It also means that organic listings will be pushed further down, even further reducing the likelihood they will be seen.
The bottom line: your online competition just got tougher and now, more than ever, you need to get your internet marketing strategy right.
Four Keys to Success
Warm Thoughts manages more than 70 websites and has executed hundreds of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns. In our experience, to come out on top in the leaner, meaner search engine world, you should follow these three strategies:
Raise your AdWords Quality Score
Having a high quality score (QS) means that Google’s systems think your ad and landing page are useful to their customers—users who have searched on keywords that are relevant to your business. (Google created the QS to prevent irrelevant sites with big budgets from hoarding choice keywords). If you have a high quality score, you’ll rank well on organic searches.
How do you improve your quality score? Understanding how online marketing works — particularly for your industry— is crucial. QS success comes from matching the keywords, text ads and landing pages to create a positive experience for the user. Having keyword-rich content on your site is critical.
Button down your Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO was always important, but with competition rising for prime SERP real estate, and Google’s inevitable intertwining of organic and paid results, it’s more important than ever.
To win the SERP game, you need to know not only what keywords people are using to find your business, but also how to place those keywords so a search engine can find them (hint: there’s more to it than just writing keyword-rich copy). If your keywords aren’t executed properly on your site, Google will more than likely pass it by.
Additionally, it is important to have your business listings consistent across the internet. You would be surprised at how many variations you might find for information as basic as your company name, address and phone number. Chances are your business has links from over a hundred different directory websites. Consistency is important for the sake of your brand and your organic relevance.
Get software savvy
Don’t assume that the most expensive (or least expensive) keyword will be most effective for your business—remember that the cost of PPC words is determined by demand, not by efficacy. You want to find keywords that don’t just drive traffic, but drive conversions.
Software that ties customer phone calls back to the searched keyword takes the guesswork out of choosing PPC terms. It tells you not only which keywords will get visitors to your site, but which will actually make your phone ring. In the brave new world of Google SERPs, where competition for prime keywords is fierce, maximizing your AdWord Return on Investment (ROI) and leveraging your data for organic searches as well should always be the goal.
Google’s changes represent the latest shift in the restless landscape of online marketing—a landscape that grows more complex, more specialized and more challenging every day. Learning how to navigate its terrain is a full-time job; the days of fending for yourself are over.
The best way to get your marketing right? Work with professionals who know your business, know the technology and know your industry.
The bottom line: go strategic, or go home
Your website is no place for guesswork—if you want to survive in today’s complex world of online marketing, you need to know its rules and tools.
From quality scores and SEO to software proficiency and whatever tomorrow’s changes will bring, you need to bring your online A game—the future of your business may well depend on it.