Ep. 96 | Getting Found in 2018 and Beyond with On SERP SEO

Google and the other search engines are making it harder and harder for your business to get found organically. Rand Fishkin, an international expert on SEO and CEO of SparkToro, suggests the answer may be to begin practicing On SERP SEO.

Why does it matter?

A couple of years ago, for every paid ad clicked on Google, there were about 20 clicks to an organic result . In other words, most of your website traffic is likely coming from organic. That’s now dropped to 15 organic clicks for every paid click.

[In his keynote presentation at Digital Summit PDX, Rand shows results from a data collaboration research project he did with Jumpshot. In it, for desktop results, 90 percent of the marketing spend is getting 8 percent of the clicks. “You know what’s weird to me?” he asks the crowd. “We as marketers spend 90 percent of our budget in a place where less than 10 percent of the traffic happens. It would be like putting all your budget for paid in Bing.” That is a little SEO humor, but the bigger question why we do that remains.]

But Google and the other search engines (and really, Google remains the 300-lb guerrilla in search) are evolving with the world around them. So the search algorithms are being tweaked and tweaked to consider factors such as mobile, voice search, smart speakers, and Google/Alphabet’s responsibilities to its shareholders.

As a result, you are seeing more and more responses to a searcher’s intent staying on the search engine results page (SERP). Getting tickets to an event, booking a flight or hotel, making a purchase of laundry detergent can all be done from the SERP. That also trends toward less and less organic results being clicked. On mobile, you would hard pressed to find an organic search results listing.

Inbound isn’t dead, but its on a path to being an endangered species.

So what is a marketer to do? In our interview, Rand discusses a concept he calls On SERP SEO and offers some tactics businesses can being employing to hack the search results page.

In a related SparkToro blog post, Rand lists all ways its getting harder for businesses to get found on the web:

  • Plateauing growth of total searches
  • Decreasing clickthrough rates on organic results, especially on mobile
  • Cannibalization of popular queries (weather, sports, traffic, etc.)
  • More and more results being answered entirely in Google SERPs
  • More and more competition for fewer and fewer opportunities
  • Getting harder and harder for small websites and startups to get a foothold

What other time can a B2B marketer have a 20-minute or longer conversation a weekly basis with someone who is listening while they ride the bus, drive to work, workout, or (like me) work in the garage?

Worried that there is already too many podcasts in your space? According to Edison Research’s Infinite Dial report, more than 40 million Americans listen to a podcast weekly, and the average number of podcasts listened to are five. And podcast listenership has been growing by double digits year over year since 2008.

Quote from Rand Fishkin for the Rethink Marketing podcast, where he talks about on SERP SEO and getting ranked on Google

Nathan Isaacs: You mentioned how Google is wanting you to stay on Google more and more often. And it’s something you’ve called on SERP SEO, an opportunity for businesses to sort of like how do you optimize the search engine results page. Can you talk more about that?

Rand Fishkin: The issue here is that given that so many people are staying on Google rather than clicking through to a website, to potentially your website, you’ve got to think pretty hard about how the results show up for them, what shows in those results, what has Google got on the panel on the side, what do they got on top, what’s in the featured snippet, what’s in the instant answer, what other types of results might they be showing whether those are videos, or images, or text blocks. And what does the Google search result say about you, and your brand, or your topic, or your keyword that you care about, and can you influence that.

And the answer to can you influence that is always yes. It’s just how hard is it and how do you do it. We’re calling that On SERP SEO, on the search engine result pages. And I think that will be a huge part of SEO’s future influencing what shows up in those SERPs.

Nathan: What are some tactics that businesses can get started with doing in regards to on SERP SEO?

Rand: There’s three or four.

So, some areas of Google’s results, for example the knowledge graph which is that panel that shows up on the right hand side. If you are the entity behind it, the business or the human being behind it, you can actually go and claim those through your Google profile. And if Google verifies that it’s really you, they will accept edits and changes to that information.

The same is true of Google Maps, where you can claim your Google My Biz, Google My Business, and then go and edit your listing. And sort of if Google trusts and believes you, they’ll make edits to those. Through Google search console, you are able to edit some of the site links results that show up when people search for your brand name.

You can also do a lot to influence which results show up by pointing links from your site, or other websites, or press that you do, relationships that you have, at pages you want to rank, and away from pages you don’t want to rank.

And you can do barnacle SEO, which is essentially here’s this big powerful ship or this big powerful website, where everything that’s published on there ranks really well. Let me see if I can get an article or a piece of content published on that website, rather than on my own website. And very often that can rank for my brand name. So yeah, there’s a lot of different ways that you can impact on SERP SEO.

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We’ve seen this story play out before on social media, haven’t we? Is there such a thing as someone seeing an organic (i.e. unpaid) Facebook post?

And this reminds me of our Rethink Marketing interview with Robert Rose last year. Robert co-authored Killing Marketing with Joe Pulizzi. Basically, they argue that the better long-term marketing strategy is to build your your own audience, rather then rent one from Facebook or Google, who ultimately serve Wall Street.

In many ways, that can be boiled down to growing an organic, engaged email list.

Organic traffic isn’t going away tomorrow, and likely not five years from now. But the savvy marketer will be taking the steps today to be ready. So explore how you can take advantage of On SERP SEO, and continue to build your audience.