SEO is a hot topic these days.
I’ve been trying to explain my stance on the SEO issue for a few months. A few recent posts include:
- Don’t Ask Your Designer About SEO Anymore (from Sarah Lynn Design)
- Guest Blogging (And All Outreach) Is Not About SEO
- It’s Not All About Links
- Blogging Is No Longer About SEO
- When Blogging, Ignore SEO
As you can see these posts are looking at a future where SEO is less important. For the last five to ten years SEO has ruled the online marketing world because the traffic was free and relatively easy for savvy marketers. With the help of a good designer, a good SEO expert and good merchandise a business could take over the rankings.
But that’s just what the issue has become today.
I’m not trying to say that SEO is dead. I’m simply saying the real estate on the search results pages is changing and there is less space available for those organic rankings.
SEO Real Estate is Disappearing
It’s probably best to look at a few examples of search result real estate. We’ll focus on Google since it’s still the most popular search engine and the one most website owners and business owners care about.
The biggest change in SEO real estate is happening with highly commercial keywords. Let’s look at a keyword phrase that is more than generic, but still generic enough to be popular – mens hunting gear.
The screen on my laptop is pretty small (11″ MacBook Air), but you can see the issue with organic rankings for a term like this. There is one, one result that appears above the fold that is not a paid result. Everything on this page is a paid listing or add provided from Google.
Again, this makes perfect sense. Google is trying to make money just like any other company out there. Google does not owe anybody free traffic. The stated goal of Google is to try and provide the best search results for its users. If Google feels they can do that with paid results they’re going to do it because it’s better for its bottom line.
So when you’re considering SEO for your website this is what you’re going up against.
Detailed Keyword Phrase Results
Let’s look at another example where a keyword phrase is a little more detailed. Let’s try one in the same industry – how to shoot a bow.
This is a little better. There are technically four organic listings here, but if you look closer there are really only two listings that aren’t owned by Google.
About 18 months ago Google started getting really aggressive with ranking its own property, YouTube. Since that time you’ve probably seen YouTube video previews in the results for various keywords including keywords like this one.
No longer are there ten simple blue links with descriptions that are all organice. You’re stuck with video rankings that draw tons of attention for the person that is searching.
Now, there is some opportunity if you’re looking to make videos and earn traffic, but you still need to host those videos on YouTube although there are more examples now of Google giving some love to other video sites. I’m not sure how long that will last.
Again, the moral of the story is that Google is helping itself. It makes sense. We would all do the same.
Local Search Results
One area where there is still some opportunity is local search. You can still find more than a few links for local search results.
There is one shift in all results including local results that has had a big effect and that is how certain brands are being ranked. Google seems to be playing it safe with its rankings. They want to prevent spam and an easy way to do that is to go with well known brands.
As you’ll notice there are a couple results saved for Bass Pro Shops. It’s a well known brand. People trust them and Google trusts them. It takes quite a bit to build a brand, but if you can do it you’ll probably get some SEO rankings as a result.
It’s really about real estate when we discuss SEO today.
SEO has been great for many websites in the past mostly because Google was willing to give away free traffic. The results page typically had 10 links to different websites. There was little competition from paid ads.
All that’s changed now.
There are more paid ads. There are more features on those paid ads like star ratings and photos and video previews. Google is also giving more credit to its own YouTube property.
There is less real estate for your business and your website unless you’re willing to pay.
So what can you do?
Focus on other forms of referral traffic.
- Guest post on sites with established audiences
- Create content that your current customers will share
- Work on your email marketing program, build your list
I would still focus on SEO too because it’s not going away completely. Things have simply changed and there isn’t as much real estate for sale (for free) as there used to be.