Organic Google results are being pushed out. Where can our efforts be redirected?

September 12, 2017 10:48 am Published by

In a similar manner to how the word ‘Ribena’ has been abstracted to mean ‘any blackcurrenty squash’, ‘Google’ now means ‘to use an internet search engine’. Frankly, this is no surprise. The Economist recently claimed that in most European countries, Google’s market share is above 90%. Perhaps that’s why no one has ever sarcastically replied to an obvious question with “Eurgh, Yahoo it!” or, God forbid, “just Jeeves it!”.

As we all know, more of Google’s searchable screen space for non-paid for (organic) results has been taken over by paid for results (in other words, ads). Whereas in the past, paid for results would appear on the far right of the screen, up to four can now appear at the top of the screen.

These paid for results replace organic results. This means that Google’s users, particularly those on mobiles and tablets, have to scroll down to see organic results – or go ‘below the fold’ if you want a good dose of jargon. Additionally, up to three paid for results can be found at the bottom of search result pages, pushing more organic results into the netherworld of the second page.

In recent years the formatting of these results has meant it has become increasingly harder to spot that they aren’t organic. In 2007, paid for results would have a coloured background and a colourful box that clearly read ‘Ad’. Now, the backgrounds are the same as organic results and the ‘Ad’ box is white and green, blending into the page. Supporting the idea that organic and paid for results have become blurred, Search Engine Watch found that 50.6% of adults surveyed couldn’t even recognise a paid advert. A lot of consumers don’t realise that they’re being manipulated to click through to paid for sites.

The issue for all marketers now is that, in many sectors, Google has become somewhat pay-to-play. In the past, a bit of SEO ingenuity could put a small business at the top of the results page, therefore increasing click-through. Now this can’t realistically be achieved without an industry leading digital marketing budget.

We all understand the commercial reasons as to why these changes have been made by Google. However, this understanding alone doesn’t really help your brand if you’re on a tight budget. Empathy will only get you so far with internet titans.

So, what can be done?

One option is to direct more attention towards Facebook. It’s been the case for years that Facebook is Google’s main rival in terms of traffic referral – by some metrics, and for some brands, they even surpass them.

Although the social media behemoth can be similarly pay-to-play, there are exciting chinks in its armor. Whereas consumers go to Google to search for specific things, they stumble across things on social media. The main way in which users will organically stumble across your brand is if people share your content. The exact manner in which you create such shareable content is very much dependent on your particular brand. The old adage ‘how long is a piece of string?’ springs to mind. For example, what’s interesting and shareable about a local charity is going to differ greatly from a multi-national power tool company. However, we do have a few general pointers.

First of all, harness the power of video. Video content takes more effort to produce, but it’s definitely worth it. A study conducted by The University of Sydney found that video posts receive up to four times more shares on average than content which included only a photo.

Secondly, be engaging. This may seem like an obvious point, but many seem to miss or misunderstand it. The vast majority of Facebook users, unsurprisingly, use the website as a tool for their SOCIAL lives. Unless you provide a super fascinating product or service, why would anyone share your posts if they’re dry and unappealing? The two main avenues are to appeal to people’s emotions and humor. So, make them feel uplifted or make them laugh depending on what your organisation does.

Finally, it was also found in the prior mentioned University of Sydney study that social media posts which incorporated celebrities and famous sportspeople received double the shares of those posts which didn’t. Furthermore, the amount of comments and reactions were above 60% more. You’re unlikely to get David Beckham to endorse your product, but you can still make reference to popular culture figures.

The important thing is to experiment and find what works for your business and produce a range of different content that’s engaging for your audience. You’re a person. Think what you’d like to share with your friends.

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This post was written by Alex Mason