Although search engine optimisation still has it’s part to play, things have changed significantly in recent years, with brands no longer able to rely on quick, cheap SEO techniques alone for their online strategy.
Google have made significant changes to the way they rank websites and display search results in recent years, rolling out multiple algorithm updates and design changes to improve user experience and strengthen their own paid model.
To rank highly on Google today businesses must not only follow 'best practice' SEO recommendations, but also build their brand online, provide high quality content and offer exceptional user experience. Whilst that all seems pretty straightforward the reality is that, done properly, it takes a lot of time, which we all know translates to money.
Even with all the boxes ticked, there’re still no guarantees you’ll rank highest. If you’re doing it, so are your competitors. The truth is, for the most part, you’re in a fight to hold on to what search traffic you already have, nevermind increasing your share.
For those that do manage to achieve that coverted number one ranking, the reality is often underwhelming. Google’s ever-changing layouts, incorporating more stealthier ads, local listings, product listing ads, videos, Google Knowledge Graph - and whatever else they fancy adding to their results pages - all mean that those precious clicks are being spread thinner and thinner.
In recent years Google have consistently reported increases in paid search ad clicks - and it doesn't take a genius to work out where those clicks are coming from.
According to a study by Search Engine Land, the presence of ads on a search results page causes the click through rate (CTR) of the first organic result to drop by 30% - from 25.7% in the absence of ads to 17.9% CTR when ads are displayed. So, if you were expecting the same volume of traffic for a top ranking in Google as you got several years ago, think again.
It’s not just Google that’s changed either. Consumers have changed the way they connect with brands too. People no longer automatically turn to search engines for answers any more. They’re searching in new ways, studying the opinions and behaviours of others on social media and adopting new devices and apps all the time.
Yes, organic search performance should still be taken seriously, but a digital marketing strategy based solely on chasing search engine rankings is a fool’s paradise. Businesses must instead focus on growing their brand which, done successfully, will yield increased organic traffic.
The digital consumer is king and with ever more options at their fingertips, brands cannot afford to be complacent when it comes to their online marketing. Wherever your customers are, so must you be. If you’re not, you’ll lose market share to those competitors who are.