The business environment as a whole has always been dynamic, however, this adage is especially true when we talk in terms of the web. Regardless of industry, changes on the web take place in design, consumer acquisition, and communication strategy at tremendous speeds. As marketers, it is incumbent on us to adapt to these changes, and whenever possible, foresee new trends as they occur.
While this is certainly easier said than done, having been in a particular industry for quite some time makes it easier to predict certain outcomes—and you’d be hard pressed to find an industry that experiences as much flux as the SEO industry. With Google’s first algorithm update taking place in in 2000, the Google dance has become a nonstop ride for webmasters and SEOs everywhere, with the rest of the web hanging on for dear life.
The newest trend on the horizon is the changing nature of search engine results pages or SERPs. What used to be a pretty straightforward mixture of advertisements and organic search results is now an evolved form of the SERP, packed with a product carousel, merchant center, and Google Places results. This has once again changed the game of search engine marketing, causing business owners to struggle to rank their websites above the fold. Being on the first page of Google used to be the goal—a goal that has dramatically shifted to being in one of the top spots that is actually visible among the new features.
If we’ll recall, Google’s ultimate mission is to provide the most relevant and pertinent results to the user when a search is conducted through their search engine. Nowhere does this imply that SERPs will or should be made up of mostly organic search results. If you thought we were living in a world where SEM and visibility on search engines was going to stay static, it’s time to wake up.
Although we’re seeing a gradual push to place less importance on organic search results, there are still plenty of things we can do as SEMs and SEOs that will make us visible on SERPs.
Here is a brief overview of some of the newest additions to Google’s search engine results pages:
Depending on what kind of search is being conducted, Google will now supply a carousel and the very top of the page showing relevant results to your search. If you’re searching for a local restaurant for instance, you’ll definitely notice this new feature, as it’s now displaying a picture of the business as well as customer reviews.
Our Tip: These results are tied to your Google Places property so be sure that you have claimed the property as the business owner and filled out the necessary information. This includes adding a professional image of your business as well as checking your reviews. Don’t have any reviews? Kindly ask your customers to drop a Google review for you and add credibility to your business.
Searching for local businesses will now yield Google Places results, also affectionately known as the 7-pack, coupled with organic results. These results are designated by letters of the alphabet and correspond to locations on the map displaying to the right. While we can hardly consider this a new trend, it’s certainly something to be aware of when talking about SERPs.
Our Tip: While the jury is still out on the method of how these are listed, Google isn’t particularly known to display things at random either. We have a sneaking suspicion that this is tied to how active and reviewed a business is on their Places and Google Plus page.
If a user searches for your business directly, then a Google Places result will appear in the SERP. More than likely, your business is already listed in this fashion and it includes your address and phone number (scraped from your website). It’s definitely best practice to claim this listing and make any necessary changes to the information and image.
Our Tip: Pay attention to those reviews! Your customers are reviewing your business regardless if you know it or not, so stay on top of the online chatter and pay attention to your customer base.
Couple these new trends with the existing Google ads, your organic on visibility on Google may be slim to none. And since Google is still the go-to search engine now and for the foreseeable future, our only choice is to complain or do something about it—the latter being far more effective in seeing results for your business.
So claim your local Google Places property, garner reviews from clients, and think about investing in advertising on Google. Above all, DON’T STOP YOUR CURRENT SEO EFFORTS! SERPs may be changing, but there’s still plenty of room for organic search results above the fold, especially if Google has deemed them relevant to the search.
Keep working on your content, architecture, building quality links, and a great user experience and let the organic traffic find its way to your business!