As you may have heard, Google recently announced significant changes to the way ads are displayed alongside search results. Traditionally, the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) layout has included paid ad space both above, and to the right of organic results. The new format, which has already begun rolling out to some users, removes the sponsored ad area to the right of organic search results. By eliminating that ad space, Google has streamlined the delivery of sponsored (paid) content within the search results. This change reduces the actual number of ads displayed on a given page, obviously, but it also fundamentally alters the overall dynamic of first page search results. Companies who want to build or maintain their relevance and placement within search results must now make a choice: Pay for sponsored space, or take steps to improve organic rank.
Under the new format, organic search results are pushed down significantly from the position they previously held. A typical user must now scroll past an average of 4 ads – and in some cases, a full map section – before reaching organic results. To give you an idea of just how much space that really is, check out this screenshot.
In this routine local search for ‘House Cleaning Hamilton’, the scroll bar is more than halfway down the results page before the ads are completely out of view. The implications for native results are not difficult to see. If you aren’t paying for your position, it is absolutely essential that you invest in creating quality pages which rank well. With this in mind, here are some pointers for developing a content creation and engagement strategy which will get your web presence on track for higher organic positioning.
Improve Your Rank
Create high quality content. This cannot be stressed enough. Google, especially with PANDA’s addition to the core algorithm, is putting a huge emphasis on user focused content and task completion. This means that pages are being heavily rewarded for solving a given user’s intent on the first try. Along that same thread, you will be penalized for failing to satisfy user need. Think of bounce rate –? what are you failing to offer your user when they are directed to a page within your domain from a specific search query? In Google’s opinion, if you can provide appropriate and complete information to an individual visitor, based on their particular query, you have done your job. This ability to offer task completion is hinged on building out pages which match user need, and solve problems quickly, without requiring deeper traversal into your site. Focus on accomplishing this mission whenever possible.
A second important factor in ranking well, which also ties into the matter of quality content, is social engagement. If you are active and involved with your virtual audience, not only will you organically build brand presence and trust, Google will also take note. Increased social activity has countless benefits – it demonstrates that you are an active participant in the company-client relationship, it can establish your brand as an authority in your field, and it creates an air of accountability. Your social presence does not have to be overwhelming, but in the 21st century, it simply cannot be nonexistent. Create a basic schedule for interacting with your customers and creating or sharing useful, industry-relevant information and articles, and then stick to it. A little goes a long way here, and a lot goes a good way further.
Finally, the old standards of SEO should not be fully abandoned just yet. An efficient and highly effective method for generating relevancy and rank in your industry is to cultivate quality backlinks. There is little that has more impact on Google’s understanding of your ability to offer value than the endorsements of other, highly valued authorities. Take some time to seek out legitimate opportunities for link referrals from reputable sources within your field. If you are currently generating articles for your own blog, investigate the possibility of guest blogging for trusted publications inside your vertical. Authoring guest blog posts unlocks tremendous potential for extending your own reach and capitalizing on the social standing of an already established voice. Regardless of how you choose to go about it, establishing a presence on the pages of industry-affiliated sources is a quick and easy way to build rank.
Your position in native and local search results has always been crucial, but never more so than it is now. Failure to respond and adapt to the changing SERP environment will undoubtedly impact not just your site’s visibility and impressions, but also your ability to generate revenue and convert business through the web. The steps outlined above are universally beneficial and will certainly provide a good starting framework for improving your organic positioning. Remember, though, that the factors which impact page rank are many and varied. They change monthly, weekly, sometimes daily. While the recent alterations to how Google displays ads in native search results represents a huge departure from what we’ve become accustomed to, consequently garnering significant news coverage, a multitude of smaller changes are occurring all the time. Invest in securing a place for your brand on the results pages of your target client’s searches. If you can’t afford the time commitment required to keep on top of all the changes yourself, be sure to find a partner who places a high priority on staying relevant and informed. Good luck and happy rank building!