Balance is the key between Search, Paid Search and Social Search

With Google putting so much focus on Adwords, its paid search programme, and Social Search, is traditional Search Engine Optimisation really safe?

In the Beginning

When Google was born natural search results ruled the roost. The Google homepage was as simple and uncluttered as it ever would be. The aim was to allow searchers to find what they were looking for on the internet, this miraculous new fangled source of information.

When the most powerful search engine (and one of the brands) in the world was born, the nascent SEO industry bloomed, with businesses fighting to get their place on this basic page. At the time, it was all about organic results and how best one could optimise their website to rank highly.

Paid Search and Google Adwords

While this was all well and good, Google needed to find a way to monetize its business, and with top search listings becoming more and more desirable, Adwords came along in 2000. Copied from Goto.com, the predecessor of Overture and Yahoo’s PPC offering, the idea behind Google’s programme was to allow advertisers to bid on targeted keywords against other brands in order to have their ads displayed in prime locations on the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The strategy worked and in 2010 Google generated more than $28bn in advertising revenue. Most of us are now familiar with the pinkish Adwords box above the organic results and the right hand side “Ads” column on Google. With time the layout and design of the ads changed, and they have taken more and more prominence in the SERPs in recent years. One fairly recent addition is the ability for advertisers in the top positions (the pinkish box above organic results) to have up to 6 sitelinks in their creatives (ad text extensions). This pushes the natural search results even closer to the page fold.

Google Social Search

Google Social Search is a new tool that Google created to allow its users to display results in the SERPs based on what their social connections think or comment on. So to put it simply, if you log in to your Google account, link it to your other social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Google +) and do a search on something that your friends have been talking about online, then the results you see on Google will be influenced by their opinions.

Social Search is the latest development from Google’s experiments with social media in its quest to compete with heavyweights like Facebook and Twitter. It ties in well with Google + and the +1 button, Google’s equivalent of a social network and “Like” buttons.

The impact of Social Search on natural listings and SEO is clear with users being able to almost control what results they get.

Other Organic Factors

In recent years, Google has also been able to integrate more information within its natural search results such as news items, images, videos, all part of the Google Universal Search roll out that happened a few years ago. This shows us the willingness of Google to become more and more social.

What about SEO?

With Google tweaking its SERPs on a regular basis to give more real estate to paid search and social results, it is becoming more and more difficult for SEO experts to get their websites ranked organically. This is aligned with Google’s Panda and Penguin updates brutally clamping down on webpages that Google considers to have been ‘over optimised’, effectively nullifying many prevelant SEO strategies.

As far as paid search is concerned this is by far Google’s biggest revenue channel and so will only take more and more online real estate. It is tempting for Google to push natural results down to encourage advertisers to spend more money as a challenging economy compels stockmarket-listed Google to develop a keener eye on revenue generation.

Businesses need to stay aware of the Google search landscape changes and plan their resources and budgets accordingly. As for social media, it is well documented that search engines algorithms rely heavily on link popularity to establish rankings, and the best way to get those links at the moment is to be active in social networks. This is nothing new to SEO experts, and it is therefore something that needs to be integrated into any SEO strategy.

While it is obvious that Google is driving changes across the SEO industry, this does not mean that it is the end of the road for SEO; it does require a radical new way of thinking though.

Search marketing is not and has never been an exact science, it is constantly evolving and needs to adapt to the recent changes to provide brands and businesses with ways to compete in complex markets. Traditional SEO relying on onsite optimisation may now only form a small part of search engine rankings, but its basic principles are still very much alive, they’re just reforming. Companies need to leverage the power of social media by integrating them into their online marketing and SEO strategies as well as allocating adequate resources to paid search.

To learn more about how Azam Marketing can use our 15 years experience in search marketing to help you rank at the top of Google and other search engines, please get in touch here