The thing about technology is that it is always evolving. Small changes and big updates happen regularly, continually upgrading and editing the things we use each and every day. While these impacts are usually moderate and even unnoticeable for most people, sometimes bigger changes come that really shake up how we use basic technology and software. It can even sometimes impact our jobs and how we run businesses, too!
With Google working on redesigning its search page, many obvious changes have come. There are new images and the results you get from a search are slightly different, too. While these are impactful, there is an even bigger industry change brewing just below the surface that specifically impacts the SEO industry.
SEO relies on the Google algorithm to optimize content to place well within Google searches. Google has quite literally been a staple of essentially all viable marketing strategies due to its pivotal role in how many people view and consume your content. This is why Google’s recent shift in page layout has had such a massive effect on the SEO industry.
With this change, the organic traffic SEO content is displayed at the bottom of the page while content posted from creators who are linked with Google’s paid advertising program rank higher by default. This forces those who want to be the top answer to pay for Google advertising in order to potentially be near the top of the list. Let’s take a look at how exactly the redesigning of the Google search page is impacting SEO and see if this is, truly, the end of search engine optimization.
Google’s Search History and Role in SEO
In order to understand exactly why Google is so important to those who rely on SEO, let’s take a closer look at its history. Since its first days online in 1998, Google has played a pivotal role in most marketing plans and has continuously been utilized as one of the most vital tools in all marketing and business setups.
When Google first entered itself as a search engine, the results were displayed in a very straightforward and organized way. Only content that was search engine optimized would be displayed since it was all selected via a very simple algorithm that relied on keyword density and basic SEO principles to generate result lists.
Over time, though, Google recognized that there was money to be made as one of the most widely used search engines in the world. In the year 2000, Google launched Google AdWords, which was its first attempt at marketing and profiting from offering the ability for companies to pay to rank higher on the search engine result pages through paid text ads. As the years passed, this eventually evolved into the program that we now know as Google Ads.
With the first introduction of Google AdWords, brands began realizing that they had to dual market using both traditional SEO methods and through paid advertisements if they wanted to thrive within the current marketplace. Having a good bidding strategy for paid ad content would allow them to be at the top of the page and playing into the SEO requirements of the Google algorithm allowed them to further be present at the bottom of the page here the non-paid, free organic content was displayed.
This system was further complicated in 2002 with the introduction of a new product in the form of Google Shopping. This facet of Google’s product line up offered companies the ability to feet their products onto Google’s listings as recommended related purchase options on a pay per click basis. It was added as its own tab, Google Shopping, and mixed into the searches on a lesser basis.
Following this, the 2004 addition of Google Local allowed businesses to promote themselves and their parent companies alike as search generations. This was done to benefit users of the sites, as it creates localized search results and makes the process less general, as it shows storefront location options located near them, saving them time and additional searches.
A Recent Change
More recently, there has been a bigger impact on search engine optimization efforts due to Google search page modifications. Google has begun offering more and more advertisements on its search result pages, which cuts into the organic content ranking highly on the page and has been proven to reduce clicks and interest in some niches.
In some niches, all of the links that are broadcasted at the top of the page are paid advertisements from various brands. This means that the first things people see when searching specific terms will be paid advertisement content. The most impactful and initial content is all advertising from Google Ads, Google Local, and other paid content from Google Shopping. Below this is the organic content that has been search engine optimized.
Google has a good reason for doing this. It has maximized its own revenue and brought in quite a bit of income since more and more companies are bidding for spots on the advertising pages. Still, the impact on SEO has been undeniable.
If there are products available at the top of the page that can fix the issue people are searching for, individuals are not going to click on more links. Their problem is solved, they have the product or service they need, and they are done. This means there is going to be a very stark decrease in the overall traffic within many different niches, especially those that offer products or services.
Similarly, online shops will likely feel the impact, especially smaller ones. With larger companies purchasing many of the advertising spaces in order to remain front and center within modern digital marketing spaces, it makes sense that there would be less space for smaller entities to get the traction they need in order to take off. Essentially, it has become a battle of bidding. Whoever can spend the most to get the spot they want will benefit and everyone else will likely have to take other spots or experienced a lower amount of clicks.
Is SEO Dying?
While it is entirely possible to say that SEO is outright dying, there are signs that it may not be doing well and could use some work in order to compete with the Google advertisement changes that are happening within the present day. The importance of ranking highly is truly a pressure situation now, as most Google users have reported only reading the first page of results, with a large majority saying they actually only review the first few options before deciding on a link to go with.
This means that those who are not paying for advertisements are at a pretty big disadvantage to those who are already investing in Google advertisement options and Google products. The changes could even potentially be detrimental to a portion of those who rely on organic SEO in order to get their content, website, products, and company as a whole out there and visible to the public.
For Google, this shift has been a good one. They have made more money and are essentially making revenue every single time someone clicks a link on their site. Due to this, it is not likely that they will be changing their business model in a way that favors SEO companies and reliant entities anytime soon. To do so would be losing potential income for Google and its affiliates, which would not be a wise business move at all.
This means that if businesses are not willing or able to shell out the money for advertisement through Google, they are not going to be able to get the same level of attention and activity as they could before from SEO.
Is There Hope?
While it does seem pretty bleak on the surface, there is still a grain of hope for businesses looking to utilize SEO and avoid being saddled with potentially costly advertisement campaigns. Other search engines are still operating under terms that are similar to Google’s old search production, creating an opportunity for SEO through Bing, Yahoo, and others. While these are not used as much, it is still a viable method when used alongside continuing Google Search SEO campaigns, too.
Additionally, there is a chance that you can still actually rank within Google. Focusing more on long-tail keywords will allow you to still rank on pages that are not featuring the additional advertisement content. It is unknown if Google plans to one day also include the content on these pages, as well, but it is a likely future prospect. Still, for now, this is a viable way to maintain some SEO presence.
Likewise, it is not as if you will get absolutely zero clicks if you use traditional SEO techniques and work to access the pages that do contain the additional ad content. You will likely get some clicks and reception if you do rank high enough, even a considerable amount in some cases. People will still often scroll past the advertisements and sponsored content in search of truth so there is still a very viable chance that people will seek out your content in hopes of finding trustworthy sources.
That being said, if you are past the first page or two within SEO ranking, you do not have much of a chance and likely need to increase your SEO work to better mesh with the algorithm. Google is going to be continuously pushing for more and more advertised content on the first pages of their searches since it is what makes them money from that facet of their business. Ranking as high as you can give you a fighting chance and opens up more opportunities to potentially getting clicks.
As a whole, we cannot really blame or fault Google for making this move. Financially, it makes sense. They are, at their core, a business, and will work as a business should and chase profits. As unfortunate as it is for those who work within the SEO industry that Google has made this move, it was not wholly unexpected given the entity’s affiliation with the pursuit of wealth, revenue, and assets.
Optimizing their search results to better suit their needs as a brand is certainly a warranted and expected effort that was seen coming. It is still a blow to the SEO industry but, as a whole, the industry has adapted before and shows the potential to do so again if the need arises.
At the end of the day, Google is going to do what is best for its own assets and work to provide channels for revenue. They are a business and will do what a business needs to in order to be the most effective they can possibly be. While this may put a twist in the SEO industry’s longstanding success, it does make sense.
Google’s competitors are already going on the offensive and trying to draw in more users by promoting the idea that their non-advertisement based search results are protective for the searchers and offer more beneficial information and recommendations. This may turn the tides a bit and, if backlash occurs, we may actually see a change in the way that Google handles advertising. Those who use Google very well may take note of the prevalence of paid advertisement and develop some distrust, especially if it impacts the quality of the information they are receiving.
Only time will tell, though. Digital marketing is fickle so sometimes it is just a matter of waiting to see how the industry tides flow. Hopefully, though, things will begin to drift back into SEO-friendly territories. For now, though there is certainly a negative impact on the overall ease of use and effectiveness of SEO work, there is hope on the horizon and options.
Due to this, the SEO industry might be beaten down and in unsteady waters, but it certainly is not dead.