At the start of the year, I predicted that 2016 was going to be far more challenging for webmasters compared to 2015, and the latest Google update has come as the first proof of that.
According to Search Engine Land, Google has confirmed that they have stopped placing Google AdWords advertisements on the right side of the Google search page, worldwide.
In the image above, I have shown the results of a random query on Google. If you see closely, you will notice that the sidebar where we used to see several ad postings previously is now lying empty, while the rest of the page shows three paid results and only one result from organic listings.
What does it mean for advertisers?
The main Google search page shows only two to three spots for advertisements (on the top). (It could reach up to four for a highly commercial query).. I think it’s safe to say that there are few spots with many big players vying for the top slot.
Now the challenge for Pay-Per-Click Professionals is to research their keywords well and use the ones that may be less competitive but more converting.
If they fail to do so, there is no way for them to obtain the top paid spots within their limited budgets.
Either small businesses have to pick and work with PPC professionals that help them find the gaps and fill them to enable higher conversion rates and lessen competition, or they will end up paying more money for fewer clicks and conversions.
What does it mean for SEOs?
This is a hard hit for SEOs. With three to four results in the paid section, the chances of users clicking on organic links will be slim. I believe that this CTR curve from Slingshot says it all;
The query that used to receive 18.2 percent of the total search volume (if placed on page 1, spot 1) now hardly gets 3.09 percent. This is not only a huge drop in traffic but severely impacts conversions and leads for businesses.
Like PPC professionals, SEOs will also need to conduct in-depth keyword research using tools including SEMRush.com, Google AdWords data, and others to understand where the gap exists and then fill it, in order to rank the highest for that specific query.
No, I don’t mean SEO is dead, but SEO’s role is going to change after the recent announcement, while Google will use that same traffic (previously used up by organic links) to significantly increase their revenues.
Google came up with this update after years of testing so probably it’s safe to assume that this change is here to stay. Just like the case of hidden data in analytics, SEOs will have to find a way around it.
I think it’s a big wake-up call for ranking-centric SEOs and small businesses that thought ranking to be the only important factor. It’s time for them to adopt the inbound approach and think beyond rankings, and focus on conversions and business sales.
This is what SEOs should focus on next:
- Content Marketing
Remove content from the world of the internet and Google will be useless. Content marketing is one tactic that will never fail so this is the area where businesses should invest heavily, in terms of research and content quality. Now, more than ever, it has become crucial to create great content that will not only attract your clients but ensure that they stay with you longer.
If your content marketing strategy is intelligently designed and targets your audience, you will be able to attract traffic and get business leads.
- Conversion driven link building
Link building is a powerful way to get better rankings and traffic to your website. But if your current link building efforts are only giving your website ranking juice and not any referral traffic, chances are that that kind of links will be less valuable from now onwards.
I think it’s time that SEOs should focus more on building links that help websites drive more targeted traffic. The idea is to stop chasing numbers (links per month) and instead build a few high-quality links that produce conversions over a period of time.
Here is the quick overview of the links that I have built for setalks.com that not only help drive traffic but also creates conversions.
- Email marketing
When it comes to conversion, email marketing is the number one channel for any business to consider. If you have a list of subscribers, you can always pitch new products and services to them thereby continuously increasing your business leads.
I have discussed a few more ideas in my post that can help you increase your email marketing subscribers list. If you are looking for detailed studies on email marketing and how to do it right, I would recommend that you subscribe to blogs like Get Response, Hub Spot, and Mail Chimp.
- Marketing automation
Before I elucidate on its important for businesses, let me first explain what marketing automation really is.
According to HubSpot:
“Marketing automation refers to the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions. Many marketing departments have to automate repetitive tasks such as emails, social media and other website actions. The technology of marketing automation makes these tasks easier.”
If we manage to find out our target persona for the business, understand their problems, and create a social, email, and contact strategy around it and then put it into a smart software to automate it, we are going to save several hundred man-hours per month.
As a result, we will be able to convert traffic into leads and later, business when the audience will feel comfortable. There are quite a few tools available like Hubspot, Marketo, and others that will help you achieve your goal with ease and efficiency.
The above announcement is Google’s step towards increasing its revenues. In my opinion, more such measures can be expected of the search engine in the near future. In essence, this change actually limits the space for small businesses to get organic exposure.
This is a wake-up call for businesses that are relying heavily on Google for most of their traffic and business revenue. Google will continue to do things that are in the company’s favor that may or may not limit organic space for businesses.
My advice for small businesses is to invest in multiple areas that include conversion-driven link building, content marketing, email marketing, paid, social and other channels that allow targeted traffic to notice and examine the website.
For SEOs, think beyond ranking and focus on areas and media that can allow targeted traffic to enter into the website organically and then convert.