Are you losing the SEO game? Fear not, there is more than one way to get noticed on page one of Google and rise above the competition.
Once upon a time, there was a “winner” on page one. The top organic search result was the holy grail and represented the epitome of internet marketing success. Over time, however, Google began changing the top half of page one SERPs to include things like PPC ads and map listings, and more recently product listing ads and image results.
These changes mean those who play their cards right can dominate the 1st page of Google for highly targeted search terms without stressing over unpredictable SEO results
While we certainly don’t completely rule out SEO, there are certain industries or niches for which it simply will not garner much benefit. Effective SEO can take years to execute, and most do not have the time, patience or money to invest in doing it in a way that is both sustainable and viable over the long term.
Algorithm updates: Google is notorious for rolling out unannounced updates that create havoc for those who rely on SEO to survive. These changes can cause decreases in SERP rankings and traffic, which can be devastating to your bottom line.
Spammy competitors: The SEO industry is full of devious folks who will go to extreme lengths to get ahead. From sending unscrupulous links to your site, to DOS attacks to blackhat techniques that give them unfair advantages, you can never be sure what your competitors have up their sleeves.
Unreliable SEO consultants: Unfortunately, a majority of companies that “do SEO” are not qualified to market your business. They rely on automated and outdated techniques that get zero results at best. At worst, their tactics can get you penalized or delisted from Google.
Personalized search results: Over the past several years, Google has implemented personalized search that tailors results to match the behavior of users logged into their Google accounts. There is currently no effective way to monitor these results, meaning you’ll never truly know how your SEO is affecting all aspects of your online business.
Here’s a breakdown of available real estate on the top half of page one that does not include traditional organic results (also see below image):
– Pay-Per-Click ads (in blue)
– Product Listing Ads (in blue)
– Map Results (not shown)
– Image Results (in yellow)
*organic listing shown in green
Interestingly, we find that the top-heavy presence of paid listings seems to overwhelm and minimize the visibility of organic listings, which have been pushed further down the page. The cynical argument is this is Google’s way of forcing advertisers to dish out more money, but even so, it’s difficult to argue with the benefits of being able to appear multiple times on page one.
What does this mean for advertisers? To start, it shows that heavy hitters who hold organic positions 1-3 are no longer promised to receive the majority of clicks. Since paid results are open to the highest bidder, smaller players can now jump above bigger brands who may not be doing paid ads for certain keywords.
Let’s say you own an online store and do not rank well for your most coveted organic keywords. A combination of Product Listing Ads, Pay-Per-Click ads and image results gives you the opportunity to appear in three locations at the top of page one. Psychologically, this indicates to searchers that your brand is legitimate and dramatically increases your chances of getting clicks and conversions.
The below example represents a search query for “mid century modern sofa”. Thrive Home Furniture, a furniture company with a single physical location, occupies four page one positions: two Product Listing Ads, one Pay-Per-Click Ad and one image result. Rooms To Go, a much larger national chain with dozens of locations, occupies two paid positions; however, the array of ads from Thrive are better positioned for clicks, as they appear front and center in the left-hand column and are grouped in close proximity.
This is a perfect example of a small company competing with a much larger competitor and dominating above-the-fold real estate.
In another example, a search for “fixed gear bike” returns a SERP format with a traditional left-hand column (PPC ads and organic listings), but the right-hand column displays eight Product Listing Ads. Notice the right column is much wider than normal, thus increasing its prominance. Big Shot Bikes holds ad position #1 for PPC and is showing three product listing ads for this query. Pure Fix Cycle, on the other hand, has the #3 position for PPC and the #2 position for organic.
In this case, both companies are well positioned to capture the interest of searchers; however, Pure Fix Cycles has a slight advantage due to their position #2 organic ranking, which should drive plenty of free qualified traffic to their site.
For service-based businesses a combination of PPC ads and Map listings can be a powerful combination. Map results are often presented in a large format that takes over much of the available space, giving select businesses a chance to really shine. In the below example a query for “ft lauderdale b&b” returns a huge local listing in the right column complete with a photo, map and business NAP (name, address, phone) info. Most importantly, the map listing is pulling from Granada Inn Hotel’s free Google Places listing, meaning they are well optimized for Local SEO.
Also noteworthy is the fact that the paid listings consist of major players like booking.com, trivago.com and hotels.com, while tripadvisor.com holds the #1 organic position. This is another example of how Google’s blended results have leveled the playing field to make room for smaller competitors who can’t afford paid campaigns.
Years ago, SEO was the only game in town when it came to internet marketing; however, as you can see the tables have turned. Whoever tells you that an expensive organic search campaign is the only way to grow your online business is not being truthful. With a clever strategy and knowledge of your industry’s digital landscape, you too can have a piece of the pie.
If you’d like to learn how your business can take advantage of page one advertising opportunities in your industry, contact us for a free consultation.