This article seeks to help set the tone for conversations and expectations surrounding what is possible and economical in 2019 regarding Organic SEO and to contrast that with the growing benefits and economical value of SEM.
First, Let’s define our terms.
Search Engine Optimization or “SEO” is the pursuit of improving online exposure of your brand and increasing site traffic to your website with the hope of acquiring conversion opportunities for new business. There are many methods and avenues available for this optimization to take place.
Search Engine Ranking Position or “SERP” is often what our clients mean when they say “SEO.” The SERP is the page and position on Google your site specifically “ranks” or, more simply put, where you show up in a search.
Search Engine Marketing or “SEM” is marketing conducted on various search engines. Examples would be Google Ads and Facebook ads. These paid ads help force your brand and site into the public view to help garner enhanced exposure and site traffic with the end goal of obtaining more conversion opportunities.
The game has changed. Google no longer operates the same way they did in 2012 and that means that SEO, SERP, and SEM are not what they used to be.
As early as 2015, Google began to move in a new direction with how they handle search. The threat of Facebook and its new disruptive ads in people’s news feed and the abuse of marketing companies using Keyword strategies to manipulate search results had Google in a place where profits were lost and the user experience was taking a hit.
So, in order to tackle both of these issues, Google made two key moves that would define their search methodology up until the present day.
1.) Google Ads became a permanent fixture in search results.
2.) Keyword-based search algorithms were replaced with User-Intent-based algorithms.
Let’s look at each separately.
Google ultimately exists for one reason, to sell advertising. In fact, it’s a multi-billion-dollar advertising machine! Google is NOT in business to optimize your website, but to optimize how they present searches to consumers with a combination of paid advertising and pertinent organic searches.
In response to Facebooks new ad structure at the time, Google realized they needed a more profitable method of providing ad services to consumers in a way that their users would actually click on the ads.
In February of 2016, Google announced that ads would no longer appear as banners on the top and sides of the search window but would actually be auctioned positions in the search results to guarantee the ability to have page one Google presence if you were willing to pay. This was implemented on May 24th 2016 and dealt a return blow to Facebook and helped restore revenue lost to them. At the same time, this was the first of two moves that would put an end to the SEO status quo that was operating at the time. Ads now occupied the top results of search no matter what. ABC SEO Company could no longer promise you “Page one, Rank One in 30 days or less” let alone any timeframe. The spots were reserved and the new pay to play system was to blame. Unfortunately, these promises still get made today.
As recent as 2018 Google has released documentation showing that the ads at the top of the results generate at least 40% of all click traffic. People use this new structure. Users click the ads, and Google is making a killing.
“Okay, well I’ll just use my keyword strategy to get the next best thing. I’ll have my organic results be first after the ads and soak up what I can after the first 40% of the click traffic is gone.”
Unfortunately for that plan, that’s where change number 2 kicks in.
In the past, Google’s search engine worked using a global, keyword-centric search system to provide people adequate results for their inquiries. In this system, searching the words “tooth decay treatment” would result in the exact same outcome for anybody on the planet that typed in those words in that order.
This meant that there was a true objective rank that sites would have with certain keywords that were used in a search. The likelihood you would show up was able to be influenced by the use of those keywords on pages of your website, making the site look even more relevant to Google’s algorithm which would slingshot your SERP higher and higher toward the coveted page one, result one spot.
This system is dead…and Google killed it.
The new intent-based situation is not keyword-centric but user-centric. The algorithm now uses over 350+ variables in their algorithm to give each and every user a personalized search result. That means that the results are focused on that one person, their location, the device they use, their search history, cookie data, and 346+ other variables that create a custom result for you and you only.
This is why it’s impossible for an SEO company to promise you the things they promised in the past.
SERP is no longer an objective ranking system that you could obsess over and influence easily. Every searcher is unique so every result is unique. You could search the same 4 terms 100 feet away from a friend on their phone and both receive different results in different orders. Remember as well that on top of not being able to control your SERP, your organic searches will forever be “below the fold” behind the SEM ads anyway in the best-case organic scenario. Unfortunately, you are often battling SEO giants like Facebook, Yelp, Reddit and others for these top organic spaces.
The bad news is the days of organically manipulating SERP to great effect are over. The Good news is you don’t have to lose sleep, hair, and money fighting the organic result battle anymore.
This is where Search Engine Marketing comes in. If we lost objectivity in the organic system, we gained it back with Search Ads. Search has always been pay to play, whether it was your own time investment on your strategies or through a hired firm, we all paid. Now, Google controls where a large portion of that business goes. Straight to them.
Rather than try to influence the cloud of probabilities organically and end up at the bottom on page one sometimes, in some scenarios. You can guarantee your spot at the top with SEM.
The kicker with all of this is Google made sure that they were more affordable than the organic battle as well. So even if you did want to attempt to push through the new algorithm to attempt to win out more often, its going to cost you more to be relevant enough to make it to the organic top than the search ads that would get you to the top.
Does this mean on page SEO, site traffic, and making your site and content patient-focused bad? No, absolutely not. Conversion is alive and well. Conversion has been the desired end result of all of this since the beginning, both in the old and new systems.
That’s what we do. We help you convert.
Legwork covers you on everything you need for On-page and Off-page SEO. The metric to gauge the success of that just can no longer be SERP because SERP has been undone.
We always want to tell the truth in a changing industry and this has been the perennial question since February of 2016 when this new system was announced.
Hopefully you can now see that obsessing over SERP and instead focusing on site traffic and conversion opportunities is the way to go. What’s the fastest, most cost-effective way to expose your brand to the most targeted audience possible for the lowest possible cost? SEM. Legwork offers these services if you are looking for more conversion opportunity on the web.
Even if you are on a Website + Software package, we are still helping with conversion and site traffic through off-page services like our automation suite that send patients to your site for online forms and appointment requests, reviews on Google and Facebook, monthly internal campaigns/blogs, and Facebook posts.
After we have done all of this, the rest is up to you.
Your reputation, both online and offline are ultimately all up to you. Combined with our software and marketing services, we can help you cultivate your patient relationships and your online presence, but a website is not magic. It doesn't do the work– it's simply the online face of your practice.
We'll make sure it looks great and is accessible to your site visitors to get them the information they need quickly and on the device of their choosing. We’ll even implement systems that help groom them for conversion with our marketing funnels, but the stop gap to all of this is the quality service and experience you provide your patients.