In search engine marketing, the only constant is change. And the latest change is one that all business owners who rely on Google for website traffic should definitely know about.
The company recently announced that the local pack, which occupies some prime real estate on Google’s search engine results pages, will soon contain at least one advertisement. This could potentially have a major effect on your company’s visibility on the search engine.
This is the latest move in a shift that’s been happening for years: Google giving more and more prime space to paid advertisements. It follows the recent introduction of a fourth AdWords advertising slot at the top of search engine results pages. Of course, all other things being equal, the higher a link is on the page, the more likely someone is to click on it.
For your company, the bottom line is this: with less room for organic (non-paid) results to appear, you’ll be more likely to pay for this premium placement (or risk not showing up in a high position at all). And in fact, once this new ad placement starts being integrated in real-time, the top 5 placements on many search engine results pages will be paid advertisements.
Because this is such prime real estate, Google knows that businesses will pay a premium to be in that slot. It’s difficult know exactly how this will affect the user experience, but it certainly has the potential to generate additional revenue for Google.
In general, this shift might favour larger companies who are able to set aside a larger advertising budget to pay for more prime placement.
But, it could also present an opportunity for some smaller businesses, either in small markets (smaller than Ottawa), or less competitive industries. Rather than spending a long time on SEO, an additional advertising slot could provide more opportunity to fast-track your traffic generation, if the rates make it feasible from an R.O.I. perspective.
If you are a business with a limited budget, in a large market or competitive industry, this could be bad for you: large companies with significant advertising budgets may price you out of the competition for that additional slot. Additionally, this could negatively impact companies that are currently on the fringe of the top 3 local pack results. Already, the pack has been reduced from 7 companies to 3, and now, it will be down to just 2 organic results.
Anytime Google makes a major change to its search engine, the hyperbole machine tends to get cranked up. Instead of taking the doom-and-gloom approach, business owners should use this change as a catalyst for their digital marketing efforts. Specifically:
1. It underscores the importance of having an online marketing specialist at your disposal, to keep you updated on these major changes and develop a plan to address them.
2. It reinforces the need for a comprehensive plan to attract qualified traffic to your site – one that utilizes search engine optimization (SEO); pay-per-click advertising (PPC); and other techniques, such as social media marketing & advertising. Utilizing a mix of different channels to attract visitors insulates you from being highly affected by changes to one.
Our online marketing specialists are ready to help your business. You can count on us to deliver custom Internet marketing strategies that fit the needs to your business, and quickly adapt to all of the latest developments and changes. If you need help managing your search engine visibility, get in touch with us today!
(Local pack mockup image via Search Engine Roundtable.)