What Google SERP Changes Mean to Marketers

Even in the heyday of anything-goes SEO (define), it’s always been a feat for a Web site to be listed above the fold in Google’s organic search listings.

Now that Google has been changing its SERP (define), it’s becoming next to impossible.

For example, have you noticed the search box now appearing underneath some site listings? This box enables users to search that specific site for content without having to visit the site. They can enter their query right in the Google SERP. This is a good thing for users. It enables them to find what they’re looking for in one click.

But what does this change mean for marketers? A key goal of search marketing is typically to drive users into specific site content. If users perform their own search, they might not find the information you really want them to see. However, if they click on your link, you control what kind of content they first see when they get into the site.

The second impact is felt more globally across all those clamoring for top rankings: with the search box, each listing takes up more SERP real estate. Top-ranking SERP space is even more limited than before.

And the search box isn’t the only item taking up valuable space on the SERP.

For any search, Google SERPs can now show the following content:

  • Local business results and maps
  • Images
  • Video
  • News releases
  • Deep links (appearing below the listing, linking to additional pages within the site)

Take, for example, the following screenshot of the SERP for “toronto school”:

Between the deep links, the on-site search box, and the local business results, there’s only room for three sites in the organic rankings.

If you’re a Toronto college, good luck getting listed in these results.

Consider if those two paid search advertisements actually appeared above the organic listings (which they often do), and there were some news items or images related to this topic. Where, then, would the actual sites appear?

The fact that Google now indexes a variety of content and provides easy access to what it sees as the most relevant information is probably good for users. But is there such thing as overkill?

My questions:

  • For the deep links listed under the main Toronto District School Board listing, couldn’t Google have chosen the top three?
  • Couldn’t the search box appear directly beside the listing rather than below it?
  • For local listings, wouldn’t five have been enough items to display?

On the other hand, maybe these extra elements included on the Google SERPs are just another challenge for the marketer. That is, it’s not just about optimizing your site any more. It’s about optimizing every type of content you have available. So instead of whining about the SERP’s reduced space, why not invest that energy into listing your business with Google Maps or optimizing your images and video for search?

The reality is Google will continue to change how and what it presents in its search results. As marketers, it’s our job to stay on top of these changes and find ways to exploit them or, if applicable, overcome them, so we can deliver the best search programs possible given the current environment.

Join us for SES New York March 17-20 and for the training day on March 21.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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