2016 cemented the change in the way Google displays results, which had a big effect on Google AdWords, organic search results and to a less extent local business listings.
As I focus on small business sites in NZ, I will simply refer to these specific searches.
Google has cleaned up its rendering by removing the right hand Ads panel. In my experience these ads never obtained too many clicks.
In removing the right ad panel they added 1 more ad to the top of the results page so now there is a total of 4 ads directly below the search box.
Again this is for commercially related searches only. Searches for things like “best beaches in New Zealand has a very limited commercial appeal as they are owned by the Govt so ads probably wont appear.
There will be increased competition now to get in the top 4 so to keep the bids / cost down it is essential to increase the quality score of keywords by optimising the new extensions tabs (call outs, messages, snippets, pricing e.t.c.), having highly targeted ads & specific landling pages.
In the image above, the top 4 results are ADS, these pay pay per click, any business can bid to get their website No 1. Google Ads are highly effective at generating immediate leads / revenue.
The Map and following 3 results are Google’s local business listings, and shows a map marker, website link, directions link, phone number and reviews for the business. This is the new Page 1 / No 1 spot. Significant time should be spent optimising a Google business listing for a sites top 10 keyword phrases.
The following results are the organic results. Google still displays 10 organic results per page, however the user is going to have so scroll down. There are many studies on above the fold / below the fold however its universally agreed that having a link above the fold will convert more users than below the fold.
Assuming we are targeting above the fold links we need to break down the results page into mobile, laptop & desktop results. Obviously a 25″ monitor is going to display more than a 5″ mobile screen so a multi display strategy is requited to maintain an even level of traffic across devices.
In the USA approx 50% of all traffic is on mobile devices (incl iPad). In NZ we see about 40%, however this is expected to come in line with the USA within 3 years. Maintaining the same strategy as in 2010, for example a pure SEO organic ranking target will yield very poor results in 2017.
Mobile: Be in the top 2 Ads for mobile devices, you can increase your bid adjustment for mobile devices in Google AsWords to compensate.
Laptop: Be in the top 4 for Ads and 1 local business listing. Being no 1 in Ads will generate a higher click count, ranked 2-4 will have a nominal difference in clicks between 2,3 or 4 but may be a lot cheaper to rank 4 than 2.
Desktop: As most businesses will not rank no 1 or 2 for their primary keyword in organic results for example “plumber” or “electrician” it will be worth targeting the no 1 or 2 rank for longer tail keywords like plumber in (your suburb or town).
As google has changed how its displays search results combined with the increase use of mobile devices to search for local businesses or services it is essential to have a device specific strategy to maximise leads. The strategy a business used in 2010 – 2012 is no longer going to work.
Optimally the strategy will focus on occupying as much “real estate” on the results page as possible by having one link in each of the 3 columns, Ads, Maps & Organic.