Few benchmarks for marketing success are as widely discussed as attaining the number one spot on Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs). But while these placements in paid and organic search hold extreme importance in advertisers’ minds, they don’t always deliver.
In fact, given recent developments in organic and paid search, there are some compelling reasons to reconsider your online marketing priorities. Search behaviors are becoming increasingly sophisticated and ever more fragmented, and long-standing views about Google’s top paid and organic search positions are quickly becoming obsolete.
Although there is still value to showing up highly in Google’s SERPs, as you’ll see below, there just isn’t a single answer anymore. Here are four major reasons that getting the number one spot on Google doesn’t matter as much as you might think it does.
Direct Answers Land on Top
The appearance of direct answers on Google’s SERPs proves once again that (optimized) content is king. Direct answers are small snippets of a webpage that show up above all the search results. This means you can trump even the number one position if you have the right information to offer. Better yet is the fact that a direct answer gets more real estate on the SERP than a standard search result. Check out this example:
Direct answers may come from one of the top search results, but this isn’t always the case. Google pulls these snippets from pages with optimized schema data and content designed to answer important questions in a concise manner.
As Rachel Lindteigen observed in her Search Engine Land column on this topic last month, “Position No. 1 isn’t as important as being the direct answer. Focus on creating great content that’s useful to your audience, and target the queries that would send someone to your site.”
The Fourth Ad Position Sometimes Performs Better
Advertisers pay top dollar for the first position in paid search ads, but in some cases, studies are showing that the fourth spot is seeing an upsurge in attention. While most advertisers would expect lower positions to correlate with lower click-through rates, the opposite is actually true with some campaigns.
Only position two, sandwiched near the top, has remained unchanged. Click through rates (CTRs) recently rose 2 percent for third place, 13 percent for the number one spot, and a shocking 18 percent for ads listed fourth.
Voice Searches Change Query Content
Voice-related searches are putting a new spin on the way customers look for your content. A number one spot for relevant keywords isn’t as important as it once was because your customers may not use those keywords as often anymore. A growing number of internet users are turning to voice-activated smartphone technology for their search needs.
To reach these customers, you need to scale back on your efforts to rank for keywords like “plumbing in Smalltown” and focus instead on the long-tail approach. Identify the questions that your potential customers are asking, such as “Where is the closest plumber?” or “Who’s the best-rated HVAC business in Smalltown?”
Local Results Precede Top Search Spots
Google features a neat three-pack of local businesses at the top of relevant search queries, above the other search results. The businesses highlighted in this three-pack appear with their name, star rating, address, phone number, and hours. A brief description may appear, and both your website and directions are available to the right. See this example:
This is another instance where you don’t need to land in the number one spot to be at the top of the page. Users who are searching for local businesses often will skip directly to the local search pack before making a decision. And even in the search pack itself, users may not select the business in the top position if it has a low star rating or no reviews at all.
You need an optimized Google My Business listing and quality reviews to appear in the coveted three-pack. Keep a close eye on your Google reviews and encourage satisfied customers to use this resource for offering ratings, as it will directly impact your success in search results. For local home services businesses in particular, dominating the local search pack through local SEO has never been more important.
The New Frontier of Online Marketing: Multi-Tiered, Holistic Campaigns
While a top place in search results is always an exciting accomplishment, it’s important to realize that there are several ways you can gain your customers’ collective attention. And perhaps more importantly, not all of those opportunities revolve around that number one spot.
Fortunately, LeadBuilder® Internet campaigns are a holistic and robust approach to digital marketing. We monitor changes in online platforms and search behaviors as they happen. Our digital strategy, performance marketing, and local SEO teams are actively testing new features and trends as they emerge to ensure local businesses maintain a healthy presence in all aspects of paid and organic local search.
Brantley Smith is the Vice President of Digital Marketing and Product Innovation at Mediagistic. He is a big picture sort of guy. If you want to know what the future is bringing, he’s a good guy to talk to. His entrepreneurial DNA led him to start up four tech companies before age thirty-five, one of which he navigated through its merger and acquisition by publicly traded Online Outpost Licensing Corporation. Connect with him on Linkedin.