Search Engine Results Pages Are Changing: Here's the Opportunity

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As we continue to navigate COVID-19, we have to consider those most heavily impacted on the business side: the small business (SMB) sector. This post covers how to use search engine marketing (SEM) to support SMBs, while also uncovering some interesting directional sightings from the search engine results page (SERP). Be there, be responsible, and be useful.   Savvy marketers who’ve been paying attention to mobile SERP behavior over the last few years have noticed micro-changes: inflated CPCs for the first position with a move to impression share bidding, larger expansions of maps and local listings, waning website visits and diminishing viewability on all things organic. Paid search ads are becoming more competitive for impression share, while organic ads are pushed further down the page. These signals point to some interesting changes and reflect the evolution of consumers. So where does that leave marketers? Well, on the SERP page, it creates an opportunity for that slowly expanding grey area in the middle: Google My Business (GMB).  This expanding localized area is placing a heavy emphasis on top position bidding, which means increased CPCs, and a slow march to the back for all things organic. Meaning, get ready to pay for that top spot or start optimizing that GMB listing.  On mobile, the first position ads garner half-a-scroll-page of view share, and are followed by another full page of GMB information, maps or buttons. It’s massive. The organic listings will only begin after this one to two-page scroll, which means mobile users will likely have already bounced. Google is smart here. Under the lens of being user-first and policing safety, they are finding ways to keep us engaged 100% in the SERP, without ever having to click through to a website.  On one hand, businesses lose brand control and a UX that comes with a nicely built website. However, on the other hand, consumers who are demanding this evolution do not necessarily want to navigate a website and want more of an Amazon-esque feed where all actions are possible directly within the SERP. Interestingly, GMB now allows for communication with businesses (like FaceBook messenger), booking, appointments, scheduling, blog posts, product listings, questions, click-to-calls, hours, maps, directions, reviews, photos and even recommended searched topics or businesses . All actions can be taken directly from the SERP. The usual Google maps and reviews that users have always loved making it even stickier, and tend to remain the main factor of optimization.  What does this mean for marketers?  First, we need to optimize GMB information to garner as much share of voice as possible, especially for local or store-based business. Check out some stats below, pulled from another incredible article, The Hidden Power of Google My Business
  • 46% of searches can carry local intent. 
  • 93% of local searches feature GMB listings.
  • 68% contact businesses from the SERP. 
  • 88% of people trust online reviews. 
Second, we can anticipate inflated bidding and auctions for that top position since it garners so much impression share on mobile. And third , we can all anticipate website traffic to decline as users will convert more often in the SERP.   Overall, the SERP is becoming more social, more interactive and more useful.  What’s next?  A user can take almost any action from the SERP without ever having to visit the website, but there are still a few crucial pieces missing: branding (which can be done outside of the SERP) and the option to buy and deliver like Amazon, which would be a game-changer.  In the future, will GMB information be biddable in SEM? Or, will we see more display and video formats entering the SERP as we eluded to within a previous article: The Rise of Visual Marketing ? Only time will tell. But for now, you can expect to see incremental decreases from mobile users when it comes to website interaction, while top-position SEM CPCs become more inflated for local or store-based business.