A Publication of WTVP

Last December, in an iBi article entitled “Having a Nice Website Is Only Half the Battle,” I discussed how optimizing a website to rank more highly in search engine results was as important as the website itself. No matter how nice a website is, if no one can find it, what’s the point in having it? Unless you are running a wholesale business, use your website only as an employee resource site, or want to stay “off the grid” for some reason, marketing your website online is very important.

For the sake of this article, we will use Google as the example, as it is the industry-leading search engine. There are three ways to see your website on Google:

  1. “Pin your way” is achieved by having a Google business listing that shows up in the map section when someone is searching for your product or service in your immediate area.
  2. “Pay your way” is accomplished by running a pay-per-click campaign, also known as Google AdWords.
  3. “Earn your way” is accomplished by search engine optimization (SEO), and is often considered the most effective method of marketing a website. We believe this is true because it is a long-term solution rather than a short-term answer for lead generation, like pay-per-click or digital display ads.

All three of these methods have evolved over time, and continue to do so. These changes come down the line for a variety of reasons. One reason is simply the ability to offer consumers a better product or service as better technology becomes available. A second reason would be to increase company profitability, and a third is to stay ahead of those taking advantage of the system. Let’s face it: as soon as new technology hits the market, people are looking for ways to “beat the system.”

Since last December, there have been two significant changes that may have gone unnoticed by some, but were glaring to those in the industry. And these changes will have far-reaching implications to organizations marketing online.

Changes to Paid Ads
We will start by talking about pay-per-click advertising. If you haven’t noticed, the paid ads down the right-hand side of the search results page have disappeared. Paid advertising is now limited to a maximum of four positions at the top of the page, with any remaining paid ads pushed to the bottom. An analysis of the data showed that more money could be generated by allowing two, three or four of the larger companies in any given market to compete for the top position.

Like a car auction, a reserve rate has been placed on key terms and phrases. If the rate is not met, an organization may still receive its paid ad placement, but that placement will be at the bottom of the page. Yes, they are still on page one of the search results—but now there may be four paid advertisers, the businesses listed on the map section, and any company performing search engine optimization ahead of them.

Changes to Local Results
For those of you paying a corporate office, business or individual outside of central Illinois to perform search engine optimization, you will want to know about the following important change. Until December of 2015, local rankings and results from around the country could be searched remotely by simply plugging in a zip code into the search settings. For example, last year, if I wanted to see the ranking results for top realtors in Bakersfield, California, I could do so and get local results. That has all changed. With that feature removed, I can still perform the search, but will receive only the national rankings. I no longer have a clear picture of what is going on at the local level in the Bakersfield, California real estate market.

Search engine optimization is not a service someone can perform easily without the local data. I say “easily” because there are complex workarounds designed. (As I mentioned earlier, “people are always working to beat the system.”)

If you are paying for SEO services performed outside your region, it may be a good idea to have an audit performed to see how your business is actually ranking in key areas. Likewise, if you are paying for these services without seeing regular updates on your website’s ranking performance, you are just assuming it is being done, and done correctly.

Mobile Is Critical
One additional change we’ve noticed through regular website and industry audits is that most industries have now surpassed the 50-percent mark with regard to consumers performing online searches using mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, rather than on desktop computers. I mention this because having a mobile and responsive website is becoming another critical component to digital marketing. Without one, a company may be missing out on that entire mobile search community. iBi

To learn more about SEO or other online marketing solutions, call (309) 693-POGO, or visit