I’ve been a digital marketer for over 20 years now, which at this point seems like an eternity! Google has always been a staple of any good digital marketing strategy, especially Search Engine Optimization (SEO), to attract free organic traffic based on the quality of the content on your page. However, when we noticed a drop in our SEO traffic recently, we asked our SEO consultant to investigate the main cause. He said this was due to a recent redesign of the Google search page that moved the free organic links further down the bottom of the search results page. What was more disturbing was when I asked him the best way to fix the situation, he said, “Spend more money on advertising on Google to get back to the top of the page,” which is a very good SEO strange thing was expert to say as it is not needed in this scenario. This means that SEO as a strategy for ecommerce businesses is potentially deadly, and paid search marketing has become your primary way to get an audience through the search engines, at least through the industry leading Google. Let me explain further.
A quick history of Google search
Since Google launched in 1998, Google has been an important part of any good digital marketing strategy. Originally, it just had a good SEO plan to help you improve its free organic rankings – at the top of the first page of search results. The search results were very simple and clear and were similar to the following example. The Google page only shows organic free results based on the content of your page and its relevance to the keyword you’re looking for (in this example, a search result for the word “technology”):
Then, in 2000, Google launched Google AdWords (now called Google Ads). That way, you could “buy” your way to the top of search results with paid text ads. Which meant you now need both a good SEO strategy for free organic traffic (for the links at the bottom of the first page) and a good strategy for keyword bidding for paid traffic (for the links at the top of the first page). as can be seen in this example search result for the keyword “text”.
In 2002, Google then started Google Shopping, with which e-commerce companies could also forward their product lists to Google according to a pay-per-click model, adding a third dimension to their mix, which, however, was largely separate and of its own “Shopping” tab on Google. At the time, this had no effect on traditional search results. And finally, in 2004, Google launched Google Local, which gives companies with multiple retail locations the ability to advertise and advertise their various locations in addition to the company’s parent company. This change simply localized the advertisement to the user’s location (e.g., instead of a national ad, an ad for a nearby local business was served). Again, this had no significant impact on the page design.
However, in the past few months, Google has made significant changes to the page design for Google Search. And previous “holy reasons” rules like “stay true to our organic search roots and don’t clutter the page with a ton of ads” have been completely flushed down the toilet. As you can see in this example of a keyword search result for “restaurant furniture”.
Notice what happened to the page design. Today, there isn’t a single free organic search result on the first page above the crease (where the computer screen breaks the page). Every single link on this page is now a paid advertisement. The top left links are from Google Ads, the bottom left links are from Google Local, and the right links are from the Google Shopping product feed. Each and every one a paid placement, which is great for Google to help maximize their ad revenue. However, if you want to show an organic search result that is really based on the quality of the landing page’s content, you have to scroll down and even then they don’t start until the end of that second screen after scrolling.
The death of search engine optimization
What does all of this mean for you trading companies that sell products or services? . . This means that search engine optimization is geared towards “life support” as a strategy. Most Google users focus on the first page of results, mostly the links that appear “above the crease”. Now, if there is no way to get your organic search result into that position based on the current Google page design, why should you focus on SEO in the first place? Your entire focus must be on giving Google lots of cash to make sure your business gets promoted on the page in Google Ads, Google Local, and Google Shopping placements. This is exactly what Google wants, their cash register rings every time they click on their website !!
That makes a pretty extreme picture. Yes, you can still do traditional search engine optimization for organic rankings, especially for websites other than Google (e.g. Bing, Yahoo). Yes, there is still a minority of Google users who scroll down the first page and an even smaller number of users who click on page two or three past the first page. However, the amount of SEO traffic you get from free organic SEO efforts has gotten much less than it was before the Google page redesign, especially due to its dominant position in the search industry. That’s the point here: yes, SEO can still play a role, but a much less powerful one when you’re in the ecommerce world.
It’s also worth noting that Google is using its new page design for the most frequently traded search terms (e.g. “restaurant furniture”). There can still be SEO value in focusing on “long tail” search terms where Google uses a more traditional search result page design (e.g., as shown below for “30 x 30 table top”).
However, I think it is only a matter of time before Google figures out how to advertise every single one of its page results, including the “long tail” keywords. Even in the example above, Google Shopping has five paid links at the top of the page, Google Ads has one paid link in the middle of the page, and there are only two free organic results at the bottom of the first page the crease “.
So if you’re trying to figure out the best way to spend your limited marketing dollars, the 20 year old “prerequisite” for optimizing your website for free organic traffic has become a much less effective use of your time and effort. It just doesn’t get the same “bang for the buck” it used to, which means it’s a lot harder to increase ROI. Whether this will help or harm Google in the long term will be decided in the future. However, you can bet that Google’s competitors like Duck Duck Go will try to convince internet searchers with their largely free organic search results (which you can see in the example for “restaurant furniture” below), which are being promoted nastily to protect your privacy Google advertising empire.
Let’s see if Google’s attempt to boggle all advertisers for even more money and further improve the user experience opens the door for one of its competitors to increase its stake in the search industry. But until then, the Grim Reaper is sharpening his blade for the SEO industry. RIP my dear friend.
Reprinted with permission.