Some of you may or may not have heard that Google recently changed the layout of its SERPs (Search Engine Results Pag), or the page you see when you type in a search term and get the results of the search. What changes occurred with Google exactly? Well, instead of having a 2 or 3 ads up top and some ads on the side when you first land on the page, Google has now put 4 ads on the very top, with room for Google Shopping ads (pictures of products) to appear on the right side. If you scroll passed the ads, the first thing you’ll see now will likely be a Google Maps results area. THEN after that you’ll start to see the organic results.

So, what you may have noticed now is that there is a lot less room for organic results above the fold (a.k.a. in the area you see before you scroll down on the page). The point of this is so that Google can get more clicks on their ads, and thus make more money on paid search. According to Search Engine Land, people are 14x more likely to click on those top ads then the side ads. And, with there now only being 7 paid search results versus 11 search results on the page, advertisers using Google Adwords will have to pay more for those top spots as competition has gone up with less spots to bid on.

My Advice – Ramp Up SEO and Get on Google Maps

Essentially what this means for everyone battling it out on Google is that you’re going to have get more serious about your SEO efforts in order to become or remain competitive. This means putting out more engaging content more often (i.e. blogs, videos) and making sure your site is optimized for Google and constantly updated. Ask yourself – “When is the last time I updated the copy or images on my site?”

You also have to make sure you have submitted your site to Google Webmaster Tools and Bing so that those search engines index your site (a.k.a. document that it is on the internet). Additionally, you’ll want to check that all of your page have Meta Data, all your images have alt tags, and that you are using keywords efficiently.

For more information on SEO, view our blog “What is SEO and Why Do I Need It?”

The HUGE thing you should take away from this article is that you HAVE to be on Google Maps if you have a physical location (whether or not you actually sell products from that location). The sooner you get on Google Maps, the sooner you can start to climb the rankings and show up on the Google Maps results on the first page of Google. The longer you wait to do this, the more your competition is getting a leg-up and shadowing your business. Once you are on Google Maps, don’t forget to ask your customers for ratings/reviews as Google likes to place highly rated companies over others.

How to Get on Google Maps

To get on Google Maps, simply visit Google My Business and follow the steps laid out by Google. It takes up to 5 business days to complete as you’ll need to verify the account with a code sent to you by Google. However, it is HIGHLY recommended, and damn near a necessity, that you get on Google Maps as soon as you can.

How to Adjust Your PPC Strategy

If you already have Google Adwords paid search ads running or are considering starting up your advertising, you are going to want to consider raising your budget or narrowing down your keywords to adjust for the rise in bid costs. You can no longer spread your campaigns thin over many keywords, ad groups or ads unless you plan on increasing your budget. So, narrow your focus and increase your campaigns’ efficiency.

Also, if you have an eCommerce site I would highly recommend using Google Shopping as this will help customers see your products while getting them on the first page of Google.

Having less ad clutter on Google’s SERPs should increase the likeliness of your ads getting a click (a.k.a. the Click Through Rate) but will also cause your total clicks and impressions to go down if using the same budget. Be sure to rethink your SEO and SEM strategy ASAP, or get a marketing professional who knows what their doing to do it for you.

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