Anyone who has kept a log of the traffic from Google keyword searches in recent years is very aware of a downward trend. If you rely on website traffic from Google search, you should be concerned.
Myriad websites have experienced that downward trend over the last few years, and high-profile websites with such problems continue to make news. The most recent was the travel site Expedia, which was hit by a big drop in Google search traffic. In Expedia's case, the drop seems due to the company arranging paid text links, but a variety of techniques are being hit by the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates.
Reasons for Less Traffic
There are concrete reasons why your website traffic from Google has declined—and why traffic will only get worse.
Years ago, many websites would enjoy a majority share of their traffic coming from Google keyword searches. Provided some relatively simple SEO techniques were used, having your Web pages appear high in the rankings on a Google keyword search page was possible.
High rankings in Google search results pages gave great visibility to company websites and, if they were developed in an engaging way, then customers might have made purchases as a result.
That situation has changed dramatically for various reasons. Underlying them all is the changed nature of the Google organization. It is now a public corporation with shareholders and relies mostly on advertising to generate its revenues and profit. No longer is Google an organization solely with a mission to display the total global information and a mantra stating "don't be evil."
The bottom line is now a key determinant of behavior.
Summarizing recent changes, the following list demonstrate Google's greater emphasis on its own advertising in its search results pages. All of these can be seen in what appears on a desktop computer screen "above the fold."
- The organic search results to other websites are pushed down the page by information from Google-owned online assets.
- Those online assets, such as the Knowledge Graph, are arranged to be "sticky" so that visitors stay on Google properties and get further exposed to Google ads.
- The Google ads that do appear at the top of the initial search page have minimal differences with the organic search results below, so casual visitors might not see the difference.
- Even images from other websites are displayed in a way that makes them harder to navigate to the original host website.
The above is all expressed in terms of what one might see on a desktop computer screen. If you are searching with Google on a mobile device, you are even less likely to find a way to a non-Google asset.
If you find the above picture somewhat daunting, you will find the possible way Google search may involve to be even more threatening.
Google Search Is Always Evolving
As is noted in a Slate article, Google has every intention to create a search function that will operate almost like a computer on Star Trek. In other words, the search function will attempt to be a virtual assistant and provide the answer to whatever question you might pose. In regards to Google, that means the person searching would be staying on a Google site and not have the opportunity to see what your company might have to say. At such a time, if you wish your company website to be visible, your competitor is Google itself.
That is not to say that a small trickle of visitors might come to your site from Google, but the flow would be very much reduced. You would obviously do the best you could to keep this traffic flow coming, but other strategies are needed to survive in this Google-dominated world.
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Your challenge is to make your company website so engaging that social media users will show they like the page and want to share it with their friends. Significant volumes of visitor traffic can be created by such a strategy. It may well be that the movements of those visitors are also picked up by the search engines and could influence the position of engaging Web pages in the search results.
If you are not already committed to a social media strategy to boost your website traffic, then you are strongly advised to do so.
You may like these other MarketingProfs articles related to Search Engine Marketing:
- Visual Search for B2B Marketing Success: Olga Andrienko on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
- Five Ways to Optimize Your Videos for Search [Infographic]
- Five B2B Brands That Prove Voice Search Is More Than Hype
- Google's 'Helpful Content Update': Five SEO Mistakes to Avoid
- A Complete Guide to Anchor Text Optimization in Four Steps
- An 11-Step Plan for Improving Your SEO Strategy [Infographic]