Over the last few months Google has been busy introducing new search functions and advertising options all aimed at improving the quality and speed of user searches. This is an interesting time for businesses advertising online now faced with the possibility of rethinking their search marketing strategies. Let’s recap some of the changes and review the impact this could have on your online marketing strategy.
Changes to Google’s organic search results
1. Google Instant
The first change in mid October was the Google Instant update. This new function provides users with the ability to see predictions based around phrases and words being typed into Google Search.
If you have not seen it in action yet, check out this video showing how Google instant search works.
Google Instant promises users the following:
1. Faster searches: Users save 2-5 seconds per search.
2. Smarter predictions: You can stop typing as soon as you see what you need.
3. Instant result: Users no longer have to type in a full search term, results appear instantly.
What impact will Google Instant have on SEO? Google Instant will change the way people search. There will be more broad searches and less focus on the long tail forcing websites to place a strong emphasis on optimising for broader terms. Websites that have high authority and currently rank higher for broader terms will benefit from this change. It might be more difficult for newcomers to climb up the rankings.
There is also a greater emphasis on the need to be in the top five results, as users will quickly scan the results for “Bob Dylan”, then “Bob Dylan Album” and “Bob Dylan Album on Vinyl”. There are three opportunities there for traffic, though the attention span is going to be very short on each: meaning you need to be at the top of the page.
Will Google have an impact on PPC ads? Similar to the search results, PPC ads will also be shown for predicted queries. Pay per click accounts may have to introduce some broad terms to their campaigns as users are likely to click on ads before completing their full search query if a result they are interested in is presented to them. Previously users had to hit enter before they could see any ads, allowing advertisers’ to focus on the long tail.
The impact on CPC is not quite clear, however as advertisers start to include broad keywords in their campaigns, the average CPCs will surely increase.
2. Google Places Update
Late October there was an update to Google Places, which now provides users with a image map on the results page showing local locations from the search term.
Not only is this available from a general search term, Google Places will also be situated on the left side toolbar along with images, videos etc. This allows for users to just search for locations which will provide results anywhere from 30 – 40 on a single page, opposed to the current 8 – 10 found on a general search page.
In terms of SEO, this new layout has placed stronger focus on businesses to optimise their Google Places listings. The more information a website has on their Places listing (reviews, up to date information, good images, titles and description) will make a big difference to the organic click through rate and their organic rankings for local searches.
In terms of PPC, websites that do not have high SEO rankings will be forced to bid higher to appear in the top 3 results of the paid listings to avoid appearing below the map. However, because the map pushes the paid search ads to the middle of the right hand side, the CTR of these ads could actually improve (ads that were previously in positions 4-5 did not record very high CTR’s).
3. Google Instant Preview
The final search result change came in early November with the introduction of Google Instant Preview. This function provides users ‘with a snapshot preview of websites on the search results page.’
Although there is likely to be no direct affect on organic rankings, websites will find that they need to place stronger emphasis on website design as traffic and click throughs could be affected by an unattractive preview. For example, any flash on the homepage is currently being displayed as a grey box on the Previews. Many brands will need to rethink their site designs.
At the moment there is no information on whether this preview function will be rolled out to the paid ads.
The search giant is changing the way people search and businesses need to keep up. These changes to layouts and search functions are forcing SEO managers to keep up and best utilise these new changes to ensure they maintain their client’s competitive advantage. The main principles of SEO become even more important – high quality, keyword rich content, good site architecture and high volume of good quality links.
Google’s new advertising Products
It’s not just Google organic search that’s receiving an overhaul, new advertising products are also being introduced to help increase revenues.
1. Google’s AD Boost – Automated Adwords for Small Business
Google is currently implementing their new location-based advertising product known as Google Ad Boost. Currently only in operation in the US, Google Boost doesn’t require constant monitoring and controlling of analytics, maintenance of a bidding system or the need to develop and comprise new keywords. This concept simply requires a “set it and forget it” advertising solution.
Content of the Boost ad includes:
1. Name of your business
2. Address and phone number of your business as specified in your Google Places account
3. Short description of your business (Google will automatically generate an editable description based on your Google Places listing description)
4. Snippet from the Place Page detailing the average star rating and the number of reviews
5. Link to your business’ Place Page
Google Boost is designed to assist SMBs in targeting their local consumers with relevant marketing. It was designed to simplify local marketing and be inexpensive for SMBs.
All that’s required in initiating Google Boost is a free Google Places Page, and a monthly ad budget which can be as little as $50. This design only requires you to pay for the ads clicked on, due to the pay-as-you-go fee structure.
This will ultimately mean one thing: more competition. For all the PPC managers, the quality of your ad copy and regular campaign optimisation will be more important than ever. It seems that many of Google’s recent updates have put more emphasis on localized search results, and Google Boost is where they will capitalise on this.
2. Google Product Listing Ads
Google Product Listing Ads is a product that enables businesses to increase the visibility of Adwords by allowing images of certain products to accompany product information. At present this is only available in the US, but with the positive impact it has had so far, it’s likely this will spread worldwide fairly rapidly.
Writing on the Inside AdWords blog, a company spokesperson says that they’ve “found that people are twice as likely to click on a Product Listing Ad as they are to click on a standard text ad in the same location.”
With Product Listing Ads, users can see the exact products you offer before they even your site, which leads to more clicks, higher quality leads and higher ROI for your search ads. This is a great marketing opportunity for ecommerce websites to showcase their products.
This presents SMBs with the opportunity to expose users to specific products that are capable of driving more traffic directly to their website. Any ecommerce website needs to be prepared for the launch of the product ads.
Ultimately this is going to drastically increase the amount of graphical ads shown in search results, meaning that SMBs have to negotiate and determine the best means in which to effectively market the products / services they provide to end users.
Google is clearly working hard to continue providing quality search results for all searchers. This is certainly keeping us search professionals busy, excited and ready to see where Google will be taking search next. For advertisers, it presents many opportunities to increase paid search traffic both in volume and in quality.