Why Google Search Changes are an Opportunity for SMEs

So Google has changed the way it displays search results, a move that has attracted confusion and ire among many companies. Yet, whilst it’s too early to determine the exact impact of this new algorithm, for smaller businesses advertising on TV, this should be embraced as an opportunity to make marketing campaigns work more efficiently. 

What has Google Changed?

From now on, Google will limit the number of text PPC ads hosted on a search engine results page (SERP) from eleven down to seven, with four ads (instead of the previous three) displayed at the top and three below organic results. The right hand column, formerly the arena for additional text ads, will now be replaced by a knowledge panel and product display ads.

Why have these Changes been Implemented?

Chief among the reasons is Google’s ever-increasing focus on mobile display, with more than 50% of search queries now emanating from the likes of smartphones and tablets. Additionally, Google is also demonstrating a burgeoning emphasis on video and display ads, with search now regarded as of lesser importance in terms of its revenue potential.

How will this Affect Advertisers?

It will be smaller advertisers that are most affected by the new SERP, the likes of whom have typically exhibited a greater savviness in bidding for cost-effective positions on the right hand side. Applying the same budgets to this new system will likely result in placings at the bottom of the page, which will not provide the same level of Cost Per Click (CPC) efficiency. Bigger businesses with bigger budgets, on the other hand, will look to commandeer the most prominent positions, potentially muscling SMEs in competitive markets out of the equation even further.

An Opportunity – Not an Obstacle.

If you’re a small business concerned by this suite of modifications, you needn’t be. The first port of call, of course, is to ensure that your website is built on a strong SEO structure: utilizing keywords relevant to your business in original site content; providing an easily-navigable, enriching user experience; ensuring that there are no broken inbound or outbound links; and combining a mixture of text, images and video. Complying to the correct SEO standards means your company’s organic search presence is amplified, with the likes of blog posts, press releases and social media activity widening the net further.

Yet, whilst the above is of paramount importance in assuaging the effects of Google’s changes, elevating your organic search presence alone may not be enough to fully combat them. Here is where TV advertising comes into the equation.

Speaking from Experience

Launching our own TV campaign back in 2012, we found that over 50% of leads delivered through website submissions were being generated as a result of response to the TV ad.  Intent on making our marketing strategy work more efficiently, we constricted first the number of key search terms we were bidding on, then the maximum bids. Instead of seeing our web traffic dwindle, the opposite was transpiring.

In fact, our TV activity has driven a significant increase in direct web visits and those obtained through branded search, with TV’s evolving role as the new point-of-sale medium allowing us to showcase the unique selling points of our service before inviting viewers online to explore the brand further. Mindful of this cross-platform synergy, we’ve pushed more money into TV and sharpened the focus of our remaining Adwords activity on branded search. This has seen a reduction in our Cost Per Conversion of over 16%, and an increase in web traffic of over 70%.

Searching for a Better Strategy?

New research from Thinkbox demonstrates how TV advertising is a catalyst for improving the performance of affiliate marketing, social media and – you guessed it – PPC. Additionally, according to a report from Econsultancy, TV increases the volume of branded search queries by an average of 80%, whilst the small screen's propensity for driving viewers online - with 79% of respondents to another Thinkbox study claiming to 'multiscreen' regularly - strengthens the opportunity available to SMEs even further.

Let’s also consider the year-on-year increases in the average CPC across highly competitive sectors such as insurance, cosmetics, travel and retail, not to mention the fact that, for just £150, advertisers can run up to 10 TV spots on a platform such as the Travel Channel and reach a niche television audience of approximately 8,000 viewers per spot.

Ultimately, the unprecedented affordability and targeting capabilities now available to smaller businesses with tighter budgets turns the view of Google as a builder of obstacles on its head. Inadvertently, the world’s biggest search provider has created a new opportunity that small businesses should harness.