Mastering the art of SEO has never been easy, and it seems as if each day brings a new obstacle that marketers must overcome in order to stay competitive. These days, there are a number of factors that could change SEO as we know it. In order to remain visible to potential customers, it’s important that you learn about and plan for these SEO threats:
How Search Results Are Displayed
Thus far, brands have managed to compete with pay-per-click ads that appear further up on the page than organic results. Marketers are used to seeing these ads displayed as links accompanied by a short text box that encourages users to click through to the website. But, that may be changing. Brands will have to learn how to compete with different, more persuasive ads that show up in search results and threaten the success of organic results. For example, maids, plumbers, electricians and handymen can now advertise in select markets using Google’s new home services ad. These individuals fill out a basic form with their information, which Google organizes into a profile, and then bid on ads as you would with a regular PPC campaign. But unlike traditional PPC ads, ads for these handymen will show up as “Google guaranteed” and “pre-screened by Google,” thus making them more attractive to users.
That’s not the only type of ad that could threaten organic SEO. Product listing ads, or PLAs, will also give brands that rely on organic traffic a hard time. How does it work? Let’s say you’re in the market for a new coffee maker, so you go to Google to do a little research and see which one you should buy. Not too long ago, you would type in “coffee maker” and then scroll through the results to look at different brands and retailers. But today, the first thing you see when you search for “coffee maker” is product listings for different types of coffee makers sold at various retailers. Each listing has a small image of the product, the price, the name of the retailer, and some even tell you how many stars other customers have rated the product. With all of this information located right at the top of the page, there’s no reason for users to continue to scroll down to find what they’re looking for.
New ad formats aren’t the only way customers will get information. The Google knowledge graph, which appears as a box on the side of search results, aims to provide users with a snapshot of basic information related to their search. For example, if you search for “Barack Obama,” you won’t have to look through search results or click on any links to find out who he is, what he’s known for, and even the names of his children and wife—all of this information is within the knowledge graph. However, Google is only displaying knowledge graphs for certain categories of keywords at the moment, including famous people, events, and works of art. If Google decides to expand these categories further, this could affect your SEO strategy.
Marketers tend to create SEO strategies based on the assumption that users will perform searches by visiting Google and typing in relevant keywords. But, today’s users have other options when it comes to searching for information, and this may affect your SEO strategy. For example, the Google Pixel smartphone comes with a digital assistant similar to Apple’s Siri. Users who search using the digital assistant will only be given one result instead of pages upon pages of ranked websites. For example, if a user were to ask the Google assistant “where can I get my car washed?” the assistant would show them information on a local car wash instead of listing pages of options. In fact, many voice search tools will only return one result per query, so this could greatly affect your SEO strategy.
Searching by voice isn’t the only non-traditional search that is becoming more popular. People are turning to other websites to conduct more specific searches. For example, if a user wants to find the best Mexican restaurant in her town, she may choose to go directly to Yelp to search instead of entering keywords into Google. Why? Yelp is designed to help people search for local businesses and then read reviews from other customers, so this is a more appropriate platform for this search than Google. Or, if people are looking for a specific product to buy, they may head directly to Amazon to search for the item instead of sifting through the ads and irrelevant links that may appear in a Google search.
Even though Google is a search engine, it sometimes seems as if they are trying to eliminate the need to search altogether. How? The Google Now feature will analyze your searches and location to present you with information before you even begin to search for anything. For example, tap on the Google app on your iPhone, and you’ll be shown suggested stories. Google may show you the final score in your favorite sports team’s game, or tell you what’s on your favorite channel later that night. If you were headed to Google to look for this information, your work is over well before you performed the search. If Google continues to improve upon this feature, a number of industries could be affected. Google could advertise different products to you based on what you’ve looked at in the past. Or, if you have a history of searching for restaurants in your area, Google could suggest where you should eat dinner that night. This is definitely something marketers need to keep an eye on to see how it will affect SEO.
Marketers should be aware of these threats, but that doesn’t mean they should stop their SEO efforts. SEO isn’t going anywhere for now, so if you need help improving your SEO strategy, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.