The Disappearing Act of Organic Results
Remember back in the day when you would Google something resulting in a few text ads at the top followed by 8 – 10 organic listings in blue below? The whole page was awash in the text; nary a picture, icon, or graphic apart from the Google logo existed. It was a glorious time! Sure, there were link farms, keyword stuffing, and various other practices to game the system. But overall, paid and organic was fairly straightforward, and Google prided itself as a search engine.
Fast forward to the present day. Google something and count the organic listings above the fold, not counting any that point to the big guys (Amazon, eBay, and Walmart). Not very many right? Let’s look at a recent search for “traction boards.”
What we see above the fold are Shopping Ads and ads for Amazon, as well as the “People Ask Section.” In other words, no organic results. Moving down the page, we see the rest of the “People Ask Section,” followed by three blog posts, an actual organic listing, and a Walmart listing. Then more shopping ads, a video about traction boards, an article about the best traction boards, and finally, 2 organic listings.
What Does This Mean for Your Brand?
Simply stated, there are fewer organic results per page, with more various types of content and many more ads. What does this mean for you?
- First, you should be running Shopping Ads. As an SEO, I’m telling you, even if you don’t run any other campaigns, run shopping. And make sure your feed content is well optimized, aligning with best practices.
- Next, be realistic with the competition. Chances are you can’t outrank the big boys. Accept that fact and move on.
- Investigate the “People Ask” and “People Also Ask Sections.” Could you write clustered content around other queries? If so, start planning a content strategy.
- Think beyond basic queries. In this instance, think about snow traction boards, traction boards for snow, traction boards for mud, heavy-duty traction boards, lightweight traction boards, etc. Do your research, see what the results pages look like, and cross-reference this within Search Console.
- Stop swimming upstream, and adapt to new SEO strategies.
Why is Google Doing This?
Why does a bird fly? Why does a cat meow? Google wants to best connect the user with what they are searching for. As the search continues to evolve, so does the process of how Google displays results. What we are seeing now will be totally different two years from now.
The way we are searching is also changing. We use devices, the systems in our vehicles, and our voice; what is now commonplace didn’t exist when Google search started. Google and the behavior of search coexist as a sort of technological symbiotic relationship. Our behavior as a whole leads to change, Google’s changes lead us to shift, and so on.
Google also has a financial gain in showing more ads and fewer organic results, for the benefit of the user, of course.
What Does This Mean for SEO? Is SEO Dead?
As long as people search for items online, SEO will continue to exist. Your site needs to be free from technical errors, look good, and feel good. Branding and storytelling are more important than ever. Optimizing your site helps convey who you are, why they should care, why they should buy from you and why they should return.