Google has always presented businesses with unprecedented opportunities to start, sustain, and grow online. It’s also created an unhealthy dependence on the product set for many companies.
Shifts in Google search result pages are shrinking the opportunities to earn organic traffic.
Everyone is talking about it, including some of the top contributors in our industry.
Google continues to make changes designed to boost ad revenue, direct users to Google-owned properties, and fulfill searchers’ needs without leaving a SERP. That means fewer opportunities for digital marketers to earn organic traffic from Google.
No, this isn’t another “SEO is dead” post.
Organic search is still a strong traffic source and should be a core component of your long-term strategy. But you need to adjust your strategy if you’re reliant on Google’s organic traffic.
None of the strategies shared here are new or trendsetting, in my opinion. They do level up to solid marketing, though. It’s not about algorithms or quick wins to boost your quarterly bottom line; it’s about diversifying your traffic to create stability when change comes (and yes, change will continue to come from Google).
Let’s dive in.
Ramp Up Your Paid Budget
Whether we monitor the shifts that are changing Google’s SERPs, react to the disappearance of organic social reach, or account for the improvements brought to programmatic from AI, it’s time to increase your paid media budget.
With fewer opportunities for organic traffic, we’re recommending brands significantly bump up their paid budgets for the coming year across our agency’s book of business.
On the paid search side, Google is constantly testing and tweaking its search network ad formatting and SERP coverage. Early 2018 marked the end of the right rail and the introduction of the four-unit, top of the results page. It must be working for their bottom line; Q3 revenue from Google search ads was up 16% year over year as advertisers are tapping into Google’s ad product set with larger budgets than before.
As organic listings continue to get knocked down, paying to play (even on your branded keywords) is essential.
The decrease in organic social reach has been more than well documented over the past few years. With Instagram’s feed changes this year and closer integration with Facebook, we see their ad platform driving more demand from marketers (especially on the B2C side) to stay relevant on the platform.
On the display and programmatic front, we’re placing a higher focus on filling the top of the funnel than ever before. Effectively building top-of-funnel users ready to engage with your brand for the first time provides the opportunity to create carefully segmented remarketing lists. While the influx of traffic shouldn’t drive conversions immediately, your remarketing campaigns should be able to drive mid-funnel and purchase-decision conversions depending on the industry you’re in.
Building an appropriate attribution model for your top and mid-funnel-focused campaigns is key to understanding the value your driving from your paid efforts.
Provide Value for Free
Provide as much value as you can with no strings attached. Gasp!
Hear me out. What if you actually gave your audience a reason to consume content on your site without expecting something in return?
Find a way to provide something useful and valuable.
It could be something innovative that users can’t find elsewhere, something interactive to engage them with your brand, or a piece of content that fulfills an immediate need and creates a moment of clarity for them.
Be useful for free. (Asking for an email address is not a free transaction.)
Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles features an interactive map that allows visitors to learn where the company’s product supplies come from. The information is available to anyone who visits the site, without having to provide anything to access it.
It’s informative. It’s unique. And it drives affinity for the brand. It also has nearly 2,800 backlinks.
It’s tough to put a direct ROI on efforts like this. Please don’t try and do it.
When done right, good things happen. Brand affinity grows, opportunities for link building pop up, shares spread organically throughout social platforms, and referral traffic consistently builds your acquisition funnel. When done right, the results can be immense.
If your plan is to continue putting out high volume, low value (be honest with yourself) content, time to change it up.
Find Your Influencers
Get ready to continue buying attention.
Finding influencers that resonate with your brand may be as important as ever. As younger generations depend more on the personalities they trust over brand names and value propositions, the importance of identifying and partnering with influencers is growing.
Think about the demographics of your customers. Research shows how variably different generations lean on influencers in their purchase decision.
We’ve seen massive success in this space when executed with precision, and it all starts by picking the right influencers.
Finding influencers doesn’t have to result in buying promotion from trendy “Instagram Celebrities”. Some of the best success we’ve seen came from highly targeted, low volume-producing influencers. Think quality, not quantity.
We’ve also found success in this space with podcast advertising.
On the long list of emerging tactics and trends in the digital space, podcast advertising blends digital ad buying with influencer marketing. With ad inventory levels growing and the market around pricing beginning to solidify, podcast advertising opportunities offer advertisers a diverse set of promotion opportunities. Podcast advertising techniques are solidifying as well, creating a viable medium for many advertisers to tap into for the first time.
Take Advantage of the Traffic You’re Already Getting
While the three topics covered focus on finding ways to drive more traffic, we’re recommending brands focus more of their time and budget on optimizing website experience to drive the bottom line.
Yes, detailed plans need to be made and carried out on how to acquire traffic. But don’t forget about the traffic you’re already getting.
While you can find countless definitions for UX and CRO in the digital marketing space, we look at it as the work required to decrease friction on the journey to a conversion point.
If done right, the immediate results can bring big changes to your conversion metrics without adding more traffic.
Don’t Get Carried Away
I mentioned earlier that this isn’t an “SEO is dead” post.
SEO certainly isn’t dead, and your digital strategy should continue to find ways to effectively grow your organic presence.
There are still a lot of opportunities for organic search to thrive in your digital marketing initiatives. But be wary if you’re too dependent on that particular avenue for revenue-driving traffic, you may only be a few algorithm or SERP layout changes away from a place where your singular traffic source runs flat.久草网