15 Mar 2016

What Google’s Change to Ads Means For Your Business

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Google recently made a major change to the search engine results page (SERP) that has many business owners worried. For the first time in 16 years, ads will no longer appear in the sidebar of Google search engine results. Instead, three to four ads will appear above the organic search results and three more will appear at the bottom of the page under the organic results. This change reduced the total number of available ad slots from eleven to seven.

While experts in the marketing industry debate whether this change actually improves the experience between mobile and desktop as Google claims, or whether it's just a money-grab from Google, we know that your biggest concern is what this update will mean for your business website. Here are some predictions from our Phoenix-based PPC experts on how Google’s change to ads will impact your business.

How will Google's ad change affect your PPC campaigns?

Expect to see a higher cost-per-click for competitive search terms.

With fewer ad spaces available, the competition will be more intense than before, driving up the cost-per-click on the most valuable terms as brands try to claim one of those top spots in the SERP. Your ad quality scores and budget will be more significant in driving traffic to your site and getting leads. We recommend using a variety of niche, affordable keywords in your PPC campaigns to keep costs low and bring in the most qualified traffic.

E-Commerce will Surge.

Google hasn't removed product listing ads from the right side of the search engine results page. This might be the perfect opportunity for e-commerce sites that haven't tried product ads to supplement paid search.

The top ads will cost more, but will receive significantly higher click volume.

A study by Advanced Web Ranking in 2014 found that 17.2 percent of clicks on desktops went to ads – with 11.69 percent to the top three ads and 5.51 percent to the ads on the right hand side. That traffic that was originally clicking on the side ads will now have to either click on the top ads or the organic listings. An aggressive bidding strategy to claim one of these top spots will be needed to stay competitive.

Bounce rates may rise.

Prior to the SERP update, most users knew that the right side of the screen contained ads. They typically wouldn't click there unless they had intent to buy. However, eye-tracking studies show that the majority of internet users hardly distinguish between ads and organic results when both are displayed together. With the space above the fold taken completely by ads, more users are likely to click on these ads rather than organic search results. When they arrive at the landing page and don't find what they were looking for right away, they will go back to the listings. This doesn't take into consideration how many times people might accidentally click on the ads on mobile devices and navigate back as quickly as possible. These scenarios will increase the bounce rate of the website. Higher bounce rates can decrease quality scores, lowering the position of those ads.Google_SERP.png

How will the SERP change affect organic listings?

While it seems like fewer ads would make organic listings even more visible, the addition of that fourth ad above the fold will actually push down organic listings. When you consider that the lower on the page a listing appears, the fewer clicks it will receive, the new SERP layout seems like a bad move for organic listings. So far, most websites remain stable in their organic positions, though we haven't had enough time to really see the long-term impact on click-through-rate or keyword positioning.

What can you do to make sure your website comes out on top of these updates?

First, make sure your SEO is in line. The Google Hummingbird update was all about understanding search intent. Search engines want to provide the most relevant information to the user. Who are your prospective customers? Where are they? How do they search for information? The answers to these questions will provide the starting point of your website SEO. To tailor your content and branding to capture the most leads, you have to get inside the head of the people most likely to purchase your product. Long-tailed keywords will become extremely important as you optimize your website to meet the needs of the user.

If your business is local, make sure your citations are accurate and consistent.  Examples of citations include Yelp business listings, Yellow Pages listings, Google Local listings, and so on. Accurate business listings across the web are good for SEO because they indicate to search engines that your business is legitimate. They also allow your business to show up in local search results.

Next, make sure your website's user experience is as good as it can be. Think of your website as a sales generating machine. It takes website visitors and turns them into revenue. Like all machines, it needs to be efficient and effective in order to provide a return on investment. Here are the biggest things we look for in the design of a small business website.

  • Is your website mobile-friendly (easy to see and use on a smart phone)? Last April, Google announced that sites that are not mobile-friendly will not rank as well in mobile search. With responsive design, websites can be programmed to optimize how a site is displayed on mobile devices. To test if your site is mobile-friendly, use Google's mobile friendly check here.
  • Is your website easy on the eyes? Most website visitors spend very little time on your site. You need to make a quick, positive impression that encourages them to stay a while. The first test is to take a look at your home page and ask yourself if it looks like a modern, uncluttered, professionally designed website. Second, check to make sure your key messages catch the eye. It should be immediately clear what your business does.
  • Is it designed to convert? Does your website make it clear what action the visitor is to take and provide an incentive to do so? Focus on one or two actions per page. Of course, it's always a best practice to have your phone number prominently displayed at the top of your site.

If you don't have a paid search campaign already, now is a good time to consider starting one. PPC marketing is one of the most effective ways of gaining exposure and driving targeted leads to your website. Proper placement of your pay-per-click advertisement ensures that your business is shown to people doing searches for your product online. Even with the changes to the number of ads that display and their positions on the SERP, paid search ads are still the easiest way to get more online sales fast. In fact, clicks on paid search listings beat out organic listings by nearly a 2:1 margin for keywords with high commercial intent in the US. See the three different types of pay-per-click ads and their uses here.

Finally, incorporate a remarketing strategy to your paid search campaign. When a prospect visits your website, they tip their hand. They are interested in what you have to sell. However, unless they contact you, they remain anonymous. Perhaps they are still in the consideration phase and/or checking out your competitors. Perhaps they are ready to buy, but aren't sure whether your company is the best fit. Remarketing allows you to find these people and remind them why they should do business with you.  Because your remarketing audience is known to have an interest in your business, remarketing campaigns often have a very high return on investment.

Google's changes do not herald the doom of SEO or PPC for smaller, low-budget businesses. With any change to the SERPs, marketing companies must test and adjust their strategies to continue to deliver good results. However, as with any investment, the outcome of your internet marketing depends on the time and money that goes into it. If you're ready to take your marketing to the next level, contact us. We will analyze your current strategy and put together a PPC campaign that works side-by-side with your SEO and conversion rate optimization to deliver your desired results. In the meantime, take our internet marketing check-up to see how your website performs on all fronts.

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P.S. Want to know the secret of getting more sales on your website? Read this.