Ads and sponsored listings have started to dominate search engine results, pushing organic listings further down the page and rendering Google AdWords more important than ever for businesses in 2014.
Digital marketing is a constantly changing landscape, and to stay ahead of the game (and your competitors!) it’s important to embrace the changes and keep on trying out new things.
Practicing SEO is great, but in 2014 this alone is not enough. High organic search listings are still valuable, but less so than they used to be.
Google’s advertising platform AdWords has been around since the year 2000 and has quickly become an extremely important aspect of digital marketing.
If you’re not already using AdWords then you should be. We’re not advising you to ditch your SEO efforts, these are still important – but they should be used to complement a strong Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Google AdWords campaign.
Still not convinced? In this blog we’ll explain how search engine results pages (SERPs) have changed over the years and why advertising on Google is now essential.
SEO vs AdWords: Then and Now
SEO techniques of the past were very different to today’s best practices. Google used to rank websites depending on the frequency with which keywords appeared and the quantity of backlinks that they had.
This created a search engine optimisation industry where businesses would attempt to get their websites to the top of Google using a variety of different techniques. These techniques were effective at the time but didn’t necessary sit comfortably with the way Google wanted sites to be ranked.
Over the years Google has released a number of updates to the algorithm that it uses to rank websites. Each update has made it more difficult for businesses to get to the top of Google using a traditional SEO strategy alone.
Google is smarter now and can identify websites that are trying to game the system, so it takes a lot more hard work and expense than it used to in order to reach the top spots on Google. Websites are now ranked highly if they feature high quality, relevant content that is updated regularly, and will be penalised for keyword stuffing and high numbers of irrelevant backlinks. This means that businesses who were successful in the past are increasingly turning to alternative methods of SEO.
These developments are great news for people using search engines as it means that the results we receive are of a higher quality. However, for businesses trying to rank highly on Google it means that it can take a lot of extra time, effort and money to see results.
The increase in the number of ads appearing in search results has also pushed organic listings further down the page and made ranking on page 1 less valuable than it used to be. Most search result pages are now dominated by paid results like sponsored listings and Google shopping results.
SEO is not dead, but it is becoming a much weaker vehicle for driving traffic to your website than it used to be and works best when combined with other marketing techniques.
Google Adwords Then
Back in the day Google didn’t have any ads at all; all search results were organic listings. Google started selling ad space in their search results in the year 2000 and haven’t looked back since then!
The first ads looked like this:
As you can see, the first ads were pretty unobtrusive and there was still plenty of space for organic listings, but they didn’t stay like this for long…
Google AdWords: Now
Over the years as the popularity of AdWords increased so did the number of ads displayed on search engine results pages.
An article in the Guardian newspaper reported: ‘Google won’t say how many businesses use AdWords, but at its peak 3,000 new accounts were opened in the UK every day and it is still growing 10-15% each year.’
Ads can now be seen in abundance in search engine results pages, pushing organic search results further and further down the page. Here’s an example of where ads appear on SERPs today:
As you can see, a huge proportion of the page is now filled with paid ad listings.
So you’re probably asking yourself, ‘do people really click on these ads?’ The answer is yes.
Although organic listings still get the most clicks overall this is because of all the questions people type into Google when they’re looking for information.
The stats that are important to you as a business are those associated with people performing searches for products or services and showing high commercial intent. For these kinds of searches it is a completely different story.
An article published by WordStream found that when searching for keywords with high commercial intent (eg. searches for products or services) 64.6% of clicks were on sponsored results (paid ads), and just 35.4% on organic results. These stats show how much potential Google AdWords has as an advertising platform for businesses.
With Google making it more difficult for businesses to rank highly using organic SEO techniques due to a lack of space, AdWords has become a relatively easy way of quickly seeing results and making your business visible online.
And for businesses that are new to the digital world, it is a perfect way to test the ROI of specific keywords and page designs before using the data to focus a much more efficient SEO strategy.
Although SEO is far from dead it is becomingly increasingly difficult to see results using SEO alone, and in most cases impossible to rank ‘at the top’ of Google as the top is filled with sponsored listings.
SEO is still important, but rather than being used on its own it should instead be used to complement an efficient Google AdWords campaign.
If you’d like help setting up a pay-per-click AdWords campaign then give one of our Google accredited advisers a call on: 08450 30 44 44.