Imagine if the Olympic Committee started selling bronze medals to the highest bidder. What would the ramifications be? Athletes would have to train that much harder to grab the silver and gold.
This scenario is happening with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the number one tool for small businesses to gain traction in the digital world. At SMX, the Search Marketing Expo & Conference Series, we recently learned that Google is including paid ads in the top three local business search results. With 33% of the top three company listings now up for sale, SEO has become more important than ever for small businesses to get on the digital map.
In this post, we’ll provide a brief history on local search, a review of the status quo, and detail several search engine optimization strategies that Advisor Launchpad utilize to help you stay ahead of the competition.
- The Shrinking Local Pack
First, there was the 7-pack that filled the first page search results. If your company landed on this list, you were firmly in the local public eye. Of course, just when we started getting comfortable, Google unleashed the 3-pack. With the search results now halved (and then some), Search Engine Optimization grew in popularity to help small businesses stay visible.
Finally, just this month, the 2-pack became a reality. While Google has long promoted advertisements, this will be the first time organic search results will be led by a paid ad. This will be frustrating news to many companies that have toiled to reach the coveted top-3 spots. What was once organic can now be bought, and small businesses who don’t adapt will quickly get squeezed.
- PPC Posing a Greater Challenge
Search results were formerly based on relevance and proximity. Now, they’re being conflated with pay-to-play advertising. What used to be a meritocracy is a new cash flow opportunity for Google looking to capitalize on pay-per-click (PPC) revenue.
This forthcoming change will have Darwinian implications, as the “fittest” companies will do more than survive.
For SEO users, however, there is nothing but upside.
- How to Stay Competitive in Local Search
Here’s the good news: the 3-pack system is still in effect, and today’s best practices will remain useful for the foreseeable future. The value of your SEO strategy will only grow in relevance. However, in the insightful words of Brad Pitt in Moneyball, “adapt or die.”
As Google rolls out their 2-pack, the divide between those using Search Engine Optimization and those without it will be pronounced. To stay ahead of the competition, ensure the following areas are optimized:
- Be Mobile Friendly: this one is huge, as Google penalizes websites not supported on mobile devices. All of Advisor Launchpad’s websites are optimized for mobile.
- Get Keyword-Rich: from posting fresh, original content to keeping your keywords consistent, here are the best ways to make your website a target-rich environment.
- Stay Fresh: your local profiles are more important to SEO than you think. Make sure your company information on user review sites, like Yelp, are fully up to date. Other major profiles for businesses include Facebook, LinkedIn, and Bing.
Marketing technology is changing rapidly, but one thing remains true: Search Engine Optimization is the most reliable way to keep your company in the public eye. As you expand your digital presence, SEO should be a key factor in every marketing decision you make.