I know what you’re thinking. Aside from having a map that tells you exactly where to drill for oil, knowing how customers search on Google for businesses like yours would fill your pockets faster than you can say “67.5%”.
67.5%? Why would you ever say that? Because Google owns 67.5% of the U.S. search market, that’s why. As the numbers roll in from 2014, it’s expected that Google’s search share will increase again as Google Chrome has become a more popular browser among the younger generation.
Less than 29% of the U.S. search market goes to Yahoo and Bing combined, and the few people left go to sites like Ask Network, AOL, and other guys that seem to keep hanging in there somehow.
Now that you know how powerful Google really is, you can understand how valuable it is to learn how your potential customers use it when looking for a company like yours. So let’s get started, shall we?
As many of you already know, there are 5 main areas where a company’s product or service can appear on Google’s search result page after someone types in a query. I’ve listed them below, along with some helpful screenshots. Below each screenshot, I’ll explain the types of companies that those particular sections are best for.
In most searches that you’ll do (especially when looking for a product or service), you’ll notice 1- 3 sponsored ads at the top of the page, and usually a column on the right hand side with more ads. These ads are created in Google AdWords, which, along with Google Adsense, creates 90% of Google’s revenue. Sponsored ads are a top lead source for many businesses, so running a good PPC (pay per click) program can be very valuable for practically any company if done right.
If your company isn’t listed in the organic or map section in Google when typing in the product or service that you offer, then I highly recommend paying to be in front of your potential customers You’re able to be seen within minutes of launching a campaign in Google AdWords. In fact, even if you ARE already ranking in the organic listings, it’s been proven through a case study by Resolution Media and Kenshoo that companies with listings in BOTH sections have higher CTR (click through rates) in EACH area.
If you’re using Google AdWords correctly, you can use the vast amount of information that it provides to determine which keywords (search terms), promotions, and call-to-actions work best. You’re also able to set up call tracking through companies like Call Tracking Metrics to see which activity generates the most phone calls, or set up goals in Google Analytics to see which activity generates the most from submissions, sign-ups, or purchases.
If this is all unfamiliar territory for you, then consider taking some training courses or hiring an agency to manage your campaigns and budget for you.
This is how it all started. “Organic” results are the main results that appear below Google’s paid search ads. Google became the behemoth it is today by developing a sophisticated algorithm (which gets updated regularly) that, within split seconds, is able to generate dozens to sometimes millions of results that it recommends to you based on the keyword you typed into the search bar. It’s estimated that 64% of all web traffic comes from Google’s organic search listings.
Though that statistic may make this section seem like the best place to be listed in, remember that the majority of searches are for random information like “how old is Kim Kardashian”, “who won the Superbowl in 1982”, and “how do you say ‘Google in Spanish?”(Still “Google”). It’s good for you to know that when people are searching to make a purchase, more than 64% click on a sponsored result (a paid search ad).
If you’re lucky enough to rank highly with organic results, it’s because you’ve convinced Google that this page on your website answers the question that the searcher typed into the search bar better than any other page online, while also convincing Google that your website is more credible and authoritative than the others fighting for that same position.
If you offer a product or service that isn’t too competitive such as “Bedlington Terrier breeders”, then ranking here shouldn’t be too difficult. Just a couple of good, informative pages on an easy-to-navigate website and maybe a few blogs per month on this topic and you’re good to go.
However, if you’re in a very congested industry like “iPhone accessories”, then you’ll be competing with monsters such as Apple, Amazon, Best Buy, and Ebay. Don’t even waste your time. How can you tell? Just Google the words you’d like to rank for and see who’s ranking there now.
Now, I’m not saying don’t create good, informative pages on your website and eliminate blogging from your strategy. That’s still important. I’m just saying don’t make this the center of your marketing plan. It’ll likely end up costing you time and money with little to no reward.
In some cases, you’ll notice another section join Google’s organic search results under the paid search ads. This happens when you’re searching for a popular keyword for a service or product that a local business provides (i.e. dentist, chiropractor, fitness center, etc.). These map listings are created using Google My Business, and less than 1% of all search results display this section. Seems low, right? Trust me… for the right business, this section is a HUGE money maker. Here’s what it looks like if you’re searching for a local print company, like one of our clients, Printing Solutions.
If you’re a local business that provides a product or service and you want your city to know about it, then this section is for you.
But, before I fully make this recommendation, it’s important to know that if you don’t have a lot of good reviews, and your listing is surrounded by other companies that do, then you probably won’t get picked. In a Yelp survey, 72% of customers stated that they place the same weight on online reviews as they do with personal recommendations.
If you’re not going to put the effort into getting your customers to review you (positively, of course), then this section won’t be as effective. If you are, then go for it! In the image above, you’ll notice Printing Solutions is destroying it’s competition in total reviews and average rating. The result? More than 75% of their business in 2014 came from Google. Not bad, huh?
If you want to achieve ranking domination in Google’s map listings, then check out this blog post I wrote a few months ago to see a step-by-step process and tips.
This section allows you to see a snapshot of information of what you usually care about the most for companies like this, such as reviews, pricing, location, images, and amenities. Here’s what it looks like:
This section is very similar to the previous section, only it’s more geared towards the hospitality industry. If you’re a resort, hotel, restaurant, golf course, or anything that the average person demands to see reviews, pricing, images and perks for, then this is for you.
But the same about reviews goes for this section: You need to look attractive in order to get picked. This means having good reviews, ratings, images and a price tag that matches those details. You can’t be the most expensive option with the worst reviews/ratings and expect to get a ton of customers from this section.
However… the “price” detail is the main differentiator in this section. Having the lowest price tag with unimpressive reviews and images can still make you a ton of sales from those not looking for value, as much as they’re looking for the cheapest option (i.e. John’s house gets flooded and he just needs to get a hotel for a few days until it gets fixed). If you’re the low-price leader, the you need to be on here. On the opposite spectrum, if your reviews/ratings are off-the-charts good, then you also need to be on here.
If you’ve searched on Google for any type of product or widget, you’ve seen these PLA’s before and your eyes immediately went towards them. How could they not? It’s a section with pictures of EXACTLY what you’re looking for along with the price. This section, like paid search ads, are also created in the Google AdWords platform.
If you sell a tangible product at a competitive price, then this is the section for you. I don’t care if you sell Rolex watches or red beach shovels. As long as the price is right and the pictures are great, this type of advertising is so affordable and measurable that it can’t be ignored.
The only challenge is for those with a lot of products or variations of their product(s). It can be difficult to manage and update regularly. Most of the clients that we currently help with PLAs have at one time attempted to do this themselves. They realized the return was worth hiring someone else to takeover this process. If this is your first rodeo with PLAs, I’d recommend the same to you.
You’ve probably found one or two sections above that are perfect fits for your company. My suggestion to you is, whichever path you pick, commit to the plan and be patient. Internet marketing does have a learning curve, but once you learn how to ride these waves, there’s no better return on investment. Almost everyone has the internet in their pocket these days. And they use it… for everything! Especially for finding a rockstar company like yours.
Mike Arce is the founder and CEO of Loud Rumor. He loves helping small businesses get found online and grow their companies.