At various Digital Marketing (DM) meetups where I speak I’m often asked whether it’s possible to get top ranking in Google Search Engine Results Page today using – Keywords – or perhaps – Long tailed key phrases.
This question never fails to astonish me. Apparently, no one seems to be paying any attention to the tremendous changes implemented by Google when delivering SERPs – based on a user’s search criteria.
Google is going from strength to strength every day, delivering search results based on what’s best for the seeker. Hence, one cannot just rank for something as short sighted as the keywords one wants.
Example #1: Do a search for – “best headphones”
As shown in diagram 1.
Here’s the shocker. Not a single URL on Google’s SERP first page is a product page.
Each URL points to articles about different headphone types, their benefits, their pricing, and so on.
We are all Google users. These are definitely far better results to get than getting a single brand’s product page. The reason being that most – Seekers – want to shop around, compare products, and read reviews, only then make an information based purchase. Aren’t you?
Example #2: Do a search for – “restaurants in mumbai”
As shown in diagram 2.
What do you notice? Not a single URL on Google’s SERP first page is a restaurant’s website.
As a matter of fact, the results above the fold are tied to review aggregators like burrp and zomato.
I’d rather read reviews, written by real people (i.e. people like me) about dozens of excellent (or lousy) restaurants than be directed to a website of single restaurant. Wouldn’t you?
This way I get to make an informed decision on the cuisine I want, and go someplace to eat where there an excellent chance that I’d be completely satisfied.
Example #3: Do a search for – ” buy a cheap 55 inch tv”
As shown in diagram 3.
What’s caught your eye? Articles that talk about product attributes, price comparisons, and so much more. A specific TV brand’s page is not visible on SERP one.
Example #4: Do a search for – ” plumbers in San Francisco”
As shown in diagram 4.
Not a single result on the SERP – first page is a website. There are only review aggregators eg. Yelp.
OK, So What’s All This About?
Google has a tremendous amount of data and they are leveraging that strongly. Google understands what seekers / users really want by analyzing this massive amount of data.
Take off your SEO sun glasses and it’s hard to disagree.
I actually love the power of informed choice. I’d much rather purchase a product for a list of companies which show real people reviews, comparison attributes and statistics than take a pick from such sites than websites that make it to the top of organic listings. Wouldn’t you?
Google is unashamedly moving into the “pay-to-play” era
Facebook moved into the “pay-to-play” era no too long ago. The display of FB posts and events has been severely and painfully curbed. You have to advertise on FB if you want your posts and events to reach your target audience. Now Google is headed that way.
Google’s main source of revenue is advertising. Advertising accounts for almost 90% of Google’s revenue in 2014. One of their main earners, display, is falling fast.
Hence, Google’s message is clear. If you want to sell directly through the Google platform, then you’ll have to pay for it.
Let’s go back to the last example. “Plumbers in San Francisco.” Take a look at what’s happening above the fold on the right hand side of the SERP. That’s right, paid for local listings.
This has a massive implication on local search. I’m pretty sure this is going to be the future of local search. Pay and get noticed.
This Raises The Perineal Question Is SEO dead?
No. SEO is absolutely not dead.
As long as people use Google search, SEO will be alive.
Let’s recap. Money/buyer (i.e. purchase-intent) keywords are:
Dominated by huge brands that 99% of the world can’t outrank (without spamming)
Returning less product pages.
Articles, reviews and other forms of valuable information are being delivered consistently.
This means is it’s time to seriously re-evaluate the SEO landscape.
The days of ranking a products or services on the first page of a SERP, for purchase-intent keywords are very limited or dead.
Hence to capture site visitor traffic going forward, there are currently three things that can be done.
#1- Pay for it
This is straight forward. Paid search has always been seen as a remarketing tactic. Capture traffic from all corners of the web. Then when those people are ready to buy (using those money keywords), use highly targeted paid Google Ads to capture their business.
#2 – Create Measurably Valuable Content
Go back to the best headphones example, the results are dominated by content that compares ratings and pricing for various headphones. No one shares, engages, or links to products and services pages. The truth is, no one, except for us cares.
Instead of trying to jam those pages with links, create a piece of content that delivers what Google (and users) want. By creating value with your content, you open it up to earning social media shares and powerful links from relevant sites.
If you want to compete against the big guns in organic search real estate, top quality, value add content is your only option.
#3 – Optimize Your Website For The Web
It’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization), NOT GO (Google Optimization).
Yelp is a search engine.
Facebook is a search engine.
Twitter is a search engine.
Amazon is a search engine.
Quora is a search engine.
Pinterest is a search engine.
YouTube is a search engine.
Do you see exactly where this is going?
Each of these platforms offers unique benefits to the user. In a ton of cases, people looking for specific items on these platforms are very likely to bypass Google altogether.
Apply This To Your Website
The long-winded point this Blog post is trying hard to make is this:
It’s no longer just about optimizing your website for Google. It’s about optimizing your presence across the web.
Understand who your target audience is. Where they spend their time. Then attack those platforms and build an organic presence.
If you’re an attorney, you need to be on sites like Avvo, Lawyer.com and Find Law because they dominate the SERPS
If you’re a local business, Yelp and Thumbtack are really delivering awesome results right now
If you have an e-commerce store, get your product on to as many platforms where your customers are as possible (including Pinterest)
If you sell large-ticket B2B services, SlideShare and LinkedIn are gold mines for connecting with C-suite executives looking for information
The list goes on and on . . .
Website / business owners must realize that times have changed. It’s impossible rank for keywords and expect that to deliver money into a bank account anymore.
This is not a phase. This is the way it’s going to be going forward. We all need to get on board now.
As Google gets more intelligent, we need to get more intelligent about how we approach marketing.
That is not looking for ways to beat the search engine algorithms, instead, we must learn to leverage the search engine algorithms use to our advantage.
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