In June this year, it was found that over 50% of searches now made on Google do not end in a click. On top of this, Google keep changing their ads to give them more space on the page, while also making them harder to distinguish between the organic results. Undeniably websites that rank in organic search are getting a smaller slice of the pie proportionally than has ever been the case since Google began dominating search.
Throw into the mix that Google now rolls out a core algorithm update nearly once a month (among others), that is rarely explained, which has more ranking factors involved than ever. You would be forgiven for thinking that your money and time may be better spent on other channels that don’t have the same level of complexity. However as you can probably tell by my job title (and this not being a very public resignation letter) there is still a lot of strong reasons that every website needs a good SEO strategy.
Google’s mission statement is to: “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” However the accessible part should probably be caveated with “*we will make our ads and products more accessible”. Which from their perspective makes sense as they are business who want to make as much money as possible, however there is a genuine risk of them running afoul of anti-competition laws in some cases.
The key changes that have seen the negative impact on organic search traffic to a website are:
- Rich snippets – The convenient answers/results taken from websites and displayed on Google have been a major factor in the rise of the “no-click” search
- Google ads – consistently Google keeps making ads less distinguishable from organic results to increase their ad revenue, while also increasing the space they take up on the page
- Voice Search – with the rise of voice search we are likely to keep seeing less clicks through to websites
Yet with all this being said it is definitely not time to scrap your SEO strategy just yet. It is estimated that Google has at least 2 trillion searches a year and 45% of those searches are still clicking through and there are ways to target the “no-click” search, so there is still plenty to go round. Yet it has never been more important that your organic strategy is comprehensive to compete in an ever changing search environment. Some key ways that you can do this in a new search environment are as follows:
Targeting voice search will be a key component to SEO in the future. While this may not drive traffic it acts in a similar way to other marketing techniques for building brand awareness. For example when I asked my Google home hub what would win in a fight between a wolverine and a honey badger (an insight into what I use my Google hub for), the answer was a disappointing noncommittal “it could be either”. Importantly though it also said this was from slate.com, followed up by putting the article link in my phone.
So slate.com not only gets a voice call out but essentially a referral to someone with an interest in the topic. This is the case for Healthline with their ‘top 10 tips for sleep’ or Budget Direct and ‘how to change a tyre’. Hence as a brand there are possibilities in voice search.
Targeting rich snippets in a similar vein to voice search will get your brand more exposure. However it is worth noting that targeting the right keywords is vital in rich snippets. The example above with Danny Dyer’s birth date gives no link or even a reference to the data so holds little value to Google using your website’s data. Targeting the right rich snippet though could mean you get position 0 in the results with a link through to your website.
Google has regularly changed ads to look more like search results. The reality is that this leads to an initial boost in clicks on Google ads but people always grow accustomed. People tune out ads and will continue to skip past them lowering the CTR for ads again.
While Google changes have made it impossible for brands to not utilise PPC, it equally hasn’t replaced SEO which it is unlikely to do any time soon. All good search strategies will have coverage on both organic and paid, preferably done by a human as outlined in one of our other posts.
Principals of organic search
Even if everything previously has failed to convince that organic search is still worth your time then the one point that should make you consider SEO is that all optimisations should be done anyway. If you look at the key pillars of SEO they would need to be done for other elements of your website, so it is still worth spending a bit of extra time to make everything search friendly. The principals roughly fall into the following:
A website that is optimised to be fast with great UX is going to help any other channel or any traffic sent to the website.
Great well written content for the user should be on any website and will benefit all channels. By doing keyword research you will also ensure that you are writing about topics people are actually interested in.
Off page will fit well with any of your other marketing activity, if you are doing noteworthy marketing you will generate links. Also if you are already doing PR there is little additional cost/effort to adding link generation.
There is no reason that if you have a website that you shouldn’t be optimising for organic search as it will set your website in good stead for all other channels. Organic search is also still a huge opportunity if you have the right SEO strategy. So unless you are planning to scrap your website, organic search is definitely still worth your time.