If you think that it has gotten harder to achieve organic search success, you may be right. Most marketers recognize organic search’s tremendous value as an acquisition channel and focus on optimizing for organic search.
Even if you are following all of the guidelines and work hard to keep your site in tune with the current demands, you may still be watching your results falter or not grow at levels that had once been easy to achieve. The rewards are still there, but organic search success has gotten harder.
This article will explore three reasons why, despite best efforts, achieving significant search traffic gains may be eluding you. The reasons are structural, outside your site: increased competition for top organic listings; more screens, each with its own demands; and changing consumer expectations.
More Players, Smaller Field of Play
Early adopters of search were richly rewarded. Many online businesses that recognized the potential of search cashed in by optimizing their sites.
At the same time, the search industry landscape was more diverse than it is today. The technology was also much less complex and easier to game. Although there were more search engines to consider in building an optimization plan, there were more baskets to put eggs in.
As the landscape changed and Google became increasingly dominant, search marketers had to focus their efforts toward pleasing an ever-more-sophisticated algorithm. The unfortunate side effect is that a mistake or a misbegotten tactic could and would catastrophically impact a site’s results. Add in that it was no longer a secret that search really works, and the number of businesses seeking those top results grew exponentially.
With the continued growth of e-commerce and the stumbling of bricks-and-mortar retailers, such as Sears, retail has rushed into the organic space. The increased competition of more players seeking the top spots on just a few engines has increased the amount of effort that must go into successful search optimization. This view assumes that the site owner is making all the right moves to meet the improving technology. In short, it is harder — net technology advances.
More Screens, Less Space
The growth of mobile and its impact on organic search cannot be underestimated.
Previous posts have discussed mobile rankings and Google’s own move to a mobile-first index.
Mobile makes the work and the chances for success harder for several reasons. Many sites are still developed in ways that make them mobile hostile – too-small text, color schemes that are hard to see on smaller screens, buttons that are too small, layouts that are difficult to maneuver around.
In moving to a mobile-first index and ranking scheme, Google has upped the ante for search success. Additionally, by rewarding content creation in the algorithm, site owners must balance the demands of the small screen and content presentation. The real downer is that on the small screen, the organic listings are pushed below the fold, off the screen, more readily.
With the recent announcement of new Gallery and Discovery ad formats, it remains to be seen how much screen real estate will be available for organic results. Being No. 1 never had greater valance than it does today.
Consumer Expectations Drive Search
Consumers drive search — they always have. Gone are the days of clunky keyword-stuffed copy (written to impress an algorithm, not a human). Deceptive titles and descriptions are a thing of the past.
Their role has been reaffirmed. Consumers are savvy enough to click away from a page that does not meet the expectation stated in the search result. Google’s use of snippets is a measure of how well or how poorly your page matches user queries. If Google is always pulling a snippet and never using your description, then it may be time to rethink your scheme for writing metadata.
As consumers grow more demanding, it is essential that we, as marketers, provide what they want. As consumer wants change, so we, too, must change.
Change is hard. And today, it is harder than ever to create and execute organic search strategies that work.