The recent changes Google made to Adwords has caused a bit of hand-wringing in the digital marketing world, with many wondering what effect the repositioning of ads on the platform will have on the effectiveness of paid and organic searches.
In case you didn’t know, gone are the right-column ads, and now instead of three paid ads above the organic results, there is a fourth, with up to three paid ads underneath the organic searches. Whether this is to combat the rise of ad blocking, the reasons for which you can see here, or simply a new business model, it will have a major effect on search results.
It means that the organic results now form the meat in a paid ad sandwich, pushing them further down the page and stuck in between highlighted content, arguably making them less readily identifiable, less likely to be clicked on, and therefore, less likely to be effective, regardless of the quality of the content and SEO. This could suggest that paid ads is the way forward.
The news from Accuracast that these changes have resulted in an increase in Click-Through-Rates for paid ads would seem to support this view.
Their two-week study post-repositioning in February shows that all but one of the four top-billing ads saw a rise in CTR. First-placed ads saw an increase of 8.4%, position two saw a rise of 7.7% and the fourth-placed ads saw a whopping 18.2% increase.
Poor old position three saw a fall in CTR – by 5.6%, which can be explained by the fact that it used to be the position which sat directly above the organic searches, and so by proximity and association was more likely to be seen as an organic search result.
We must keep in mind that though these changes have been rolled out globally, there are different rules and regulations regarding the display of paid for searches in different regions, so a search in the US, for example, will bring up different looking results than one done in the UK, where the differentiation between organic results and paid for ads is much stronger, which can be a factor in determining which result a person will click on.
However, the tweaks by Google are, in their own words, ‘designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers’.
Highly commercial queries? These are the searches where people already show a deep intention to buy, rather than just research.
As a result, though, they are expensive, because of their chances of returns, and with the new positioning will come new prices. And by new, we don’t mean cheaper. This is likely to increase the cost of purchasing paid for ad searches to a point where they are not feasible for any business not dealing in the millions. And it is important to remember the golden caveat that even at this advanced stage of a customer journey, not every click will result in a sale. Far from it.
On top of this, the remaining ads on the Google results page – those outside the top four – are now reduced from 11 to 7, which means that competition for those places has just gotten that much stiffer too. The result? You guessed it: Higher prices.
So what can businesses who can’t (or never could) compete with high bidding prices for paid for searches do? The answer is to compete. How? By focusing on organic search, but to make sure it is optimised to be the best of the results on any search page that is not paid for.
Kevin Gibbons, MD at BlueGlass, said in a recent blog from searchenginewatch.com when asked about the impact of this AdWords change and what organic content creators can do: ‘Become the brand that people think of before they even get to typing a query into Google. Whether it’s paid listings, competitors, vertical search or anything else that may get in the way of potential customers visiting your site, try to make sure they get to you first and then remember who you are, so that they come straight back the next time.’
How can you do this? By making sure that you are creating great content that is fully optimised, and by turning inbound to make sure you are offering information that provides the solutions to the needs and challenges of your potential target market, at every stage of their customer journey. This can take time and effort, but an inbound digital marketing agency can help.
An inbound marketing strategy involves understanding who your potential market is, where they hang out on the internet, what they do there, and what their challenges and needs are, and then creating optimised content that provides relevant and useful content that offers a solution to those needs at every stage of the customer journey.
An effective inbound digital marketing strategy also involves promoting your onsite SEO content with multiple channels such as social media, targeted newsletters and emails, influencer outreach that extends your reach, and any other platform that can help you engage constantly and consistently with your potential customers to attract them, convert them into sales leads, then customers and hopefully advocates for your brand.
Ipsos MRBI figures show that more than half of us use social media every day, with an increasing amount of website traffic referral dictated by it. Your target market is on social media platforms, so being there too, to listen to the issues within your industry and find out who is driving the conversation online, is important.
Shareable content posted to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, for example, can reach a huge number of people, so posting about new content (accessible via a link) is something you need to do consistently and frequently.
All of this should result in increased brand awareness and higher ranking on organic search results, and you don’t have to pay out increasing amounts of money every time somebody clicks on your content.
As bidding wars for AdWords rumble on the horizon, this sounds like the more efficient and more effective solution.