Google SEO Changes That Will Affect Your Website Traffic

Google always finds a way to change the SEO and PPC game. This time, they’re making big changes to their desktop user interface, which should affect your digital marketing strategy altogether.

Here’s a little backstory.

At the beginning of the year, we noted that Google had removed AdWords Right-Hand Column ads altogether, leaving users with only 3 paid ads at the top of each search. This change has come and gone, and we noticed that AdWords ads had become a lot more competitive ever since. To many of our clients, we recommended a stronger SEO strategy in order to gain more organic traffic and visibility through Google Search and Google Maps.

It looks like with Google’s new change, we’ll have to switch gears on many of our client accounts once again.

Google is rolling out a new desktop interface

Throughout the month of December, Google has been rolling out a new desktop interface for certain keywords. At the time of writing, we can replicate the changes by searching for certain branded keywords such as “apple”:

apple seo search

What you can see from this is that there is only one organic search result above the fold. In order of appearance, we see one Google ad, followed by an organic search and its sitelinks, followed by news, and finally the Google Map results, which are somewhat hidden below the fold.

Curiously, this change has not yet rolled out to all keywords so we can see some interesting results. A search for “marketing agency” results in the following:

marketing agency seo search

And, just for comparison purposes, a search for “cucumber” shows the following result:

cucumber seo search

Notice a trend here?

Depending on the search, Google is providing additional information in the right-hand column that is related to the intent surrounding your query. For a search on an established brand such as “Apple,” Google provides additional News and information about the business’s stock price and employees. For a generic search on “marketing agency,” Google allows businesses to compete via AdWords at the top of the page, then shows the relevant locations on Google Maps. Lastly, for a search on a product such as “Cucumber,” Google doesn’t even bother showing ads – rather, opting to show the nutritional value of the vegetable.

Google Is Turning Desktop Search Into An Advanced Mobile Search

All the relevant search details are crammed into the left-hand side of the search results – including Google Maps, News and Ads. The only information shown on the right-hand side of the page is related to what Google expects you to be searching for – additional information that would answer quick questions.

All crucial information is found in the left-hand column of results, similarly to how you’d see them on a mobile browser.

How do these new changes affect your business?

Right off the bat, we can identify 3 immediate impacts this change will have on your website traffic:

  1. Organic SEO will become even harder to compete with

    With Top Stories and Google Maps taking up a large amount of space above the fold, the second and third organic search results are now shown below the fold on a desktop search. This is huge!

  2. Google AdWords will become even more competitive

    With the loss of the top second and third positions in organic search, high-ranking websites will have to compete even more for the top AdWords position. Expect the average cost-per-click of the primary keywords in your ad campaign to rise in the coming months.

  3. Topical Blog Posts Are More Valuable Than Ever

    With “Top Stories” appearing above the fold for search queries, it’s more important than ever to publish timely, topical blog posts. It may be a good idea to hold off informative blog articles that may last for longer periods of time (also known as evergreen blog posts) in favour of recent news articles.

  4. Local Marketing May Surpass SEO In Importance

    “Local Marketing” is defined by all the factors that come into play in finding a local store – namely, Google Maps and business reviews. Since Google Maps appear above the fold for most searches, ensuring that your business can be found and is showing only the most up-to-date, relevant information, is more important than ever.

The most relevant impact of this change is that it diminishes the value of organic SEO. If your digital marketing strategy revolves around SEO, you may want to look into other strategies or update your approach.

Our recommendation so far, is to include more location-based information in your content, helping to promote your ranking within Google Maps. If your content strategy involves a lot of blog-writing, make sure that you’re writing on topical issues more so than informational updates. Lastly, we recommend keeping a close eye on your competitor’s ranking on your primary keywords. Are they starting to rank higher than you? How, and on which keywords?

It’s important to keep tabs on all aspects of online visibility in your digital marketing campaign, from organic SEO to Google AdWords and Local Map ranking. If you have any questions, feel free to contact our marketing agency in downtown Vancouver. We’d love to chat!