While Google’s latest SERP shake up has nothing to do with a search algorithm, it may still be impacting the position of your business in search results. Google’s Adwords side bar ads are officially out and in their place are up to four ads at the top of the page, located above organic desktop search results. While Google has been testing SERPs with four ads for several months, until early February, only 1 percent of SERPs had four ads above the top. As of late February, that percentage had jumped to 36.4 percent, reports Moz. These ads all continue to carry rich features, including location enhancements and site links, which means ads have gone from three to six lines, taking up even more top-of-page real estate. Google’s display ad change may not be directly affecting organic search rank, but it is having a major impact on where results now fall on the page.
The addition of a fourth ad is pushing organic search results further and further down the page, with the majority now falling below the fold. As an added challenge for local businesses, Google’s local map comes immediately after the four top page PPC ads, which further pushes down organic search results, reports HubShout. That’s bad news for businesses who have worked hard over the years to organically rank higher on search pages. Unless your business hold the first or second search spot, users will need to scroll significantly further down the page or even click onto a second page of results in order to find your business.
What’s Next for SEO in 2016: Organic Search Visibility With A Diversified Inbound Marketing Plan Matters More
With nearly a month having passed since the change, early feedback is starting to roll in from small businesses about the impact of Google’s PPC display ad shake up on SEO. Here’s how to adjust your strategy moving forward:
Diversify Your Online Marketing: SEO is still important, but the competition for rank placement is tougher than ever. That’s why relying solely on organic SEO for site traffic may not be the best marketing plan in 2016. Try ramping up with additional inbound marketing tactics, like video marketing, email marketing, targeted social media ad campaigns, display and remarketing campaigns for broader lead generation success.
Consider Adding Google Adwords / Pay-Per-Click: SERP is more competitive than ever. Previously, landing in the top five organic search results was good news for most businesses. Now, if your business doesn’t make the one of the top three organic search slots, it may never be seen. Even with a great SEO strategy in place, that simply may not be enough to get your business visibility and traffic you need.
Focus On Getting Reviews For Google Maps: All may not be lost for local businesses. While Google’s “Map Pack” is also highly competitive (Google shrunk it to three results last August), landing in the Map Pack with 4 & 5 star reviews will favorably boost your search rankings and conversions. If your business is not already optimizing for local map search placement or using a customer review strategy, now’s the time to do so.