What The New Google Search Results Layout Means For Inbound Marketers

google-search-results-pageYou might be thinking, Google has an update? What’s new?

Me too. It seems like every time I set out to do a Google search, go to find directions in Google Maps, or sign in to Google AdWords or Google Analytics, something has changed. So, it wasn’t a surprise when we discovered that Google is experimenting with changing their search results page.

You can manage your inbound marketing with a single Google Sheet. (Yes, really.)

At Nectafy, in our most recent Google searches, we’ve noticed a slightly new layout of the results page—specifically, the ad section that appears near the top of the page. But we’ve only been experiencing it every once in a while, which must mean we’re getting a sneak peek of the Google search results page testing phase. Most likely, they’re doing some A/B testing to see which layout gets the most clicks.

Take a look at the change. This is what we’ve come to know as the norm:

google-search-results-1

And here’s how they’re switching it up:

google-search-results-2

See the difference?

Why do you think they’ve made this subtle change? My guess is that they’ve realized that people tend to skip over those ads at the top of the page. I know I do. Most of the time, when I search for something, I just want to get down to the meat of the results, so my eye just scans right over it. By changing the background of that section from yellow to white (like the rest of the page), Google is making those initial ad results blend in more with the “real” results, and, therefore, calling more attention to them.

While it may feel like a relatively minor change, it makes a difference. And we think it’s an excellent chance to ponder the future of our search marketing. Here’s what we think it may mean for us, and for you.

1. First and foremost, let this serve as a reminder.

It’s easy to forget that Google is a profit-driven company. Sometimes it feels more like a “public service.” I search—Google brings back objective answers. However, don’t mistake that service as an obligation—they don’t owe you anything. They’re definitely in it for the dough. I don’t mean that in a bad way… you’re in business for the money, too. (Okay, maybe “not just the money,” but unscrew your halo—you know what I mean.) They’re in it to make a profit.

Don’t believe me? Well, why else would they make this change? Because people are beginning to view that yellow ad space as “spam”—and if they’re going to keep making the big bucks with PPC ads, they need to change that perception. If those PPC ads blend in more with the rest of the search results, maybe folks won’t be so quick to skim over them. They’re checking to make sure this layout leads to more clicks on ads, because that’s how they make their money.

2. Make sure your results get a little extra attention.

For now, search is still the number one way people find new information online. So, how does this layout change effect your searchability? It’s simple—it just gives you a little “competition.” Not really more than before, just different. Here’s how you can keep a leg up on those PPC ads:

Take time to write a powerful headline.

In the words of Brian Clark of Copyblogger,

On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of the headline, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece.

Spending time on your headline is worth it—a good headline will get you clicks. It’s as simple as that. (Check out 7 Nasty Habits To Nuke When Writing Headlines for some headline no-no’s.)

Make the most of search “extras.”

Make sure you’re utilizing everything available to make your search results stand out!

Take a look at this search result for one of our most-viewed posts:

google-search-results-3

Here’s what we’ve done to make sure this result is as meaty as possible:

  • Google Authorship: See Lance’s friendly face beside this result? That’s thanks to Google Authorship. Make sure you have it set up, and your photo will show up by your articles, too. At least for now, those PPC ads don’t get this privilege… so take advantage of it!
  • Internal Menus: Take a look at the links at the bottom of our result (“The Good – The Bad – The Challenge – The Work”). Those are internal menus Lance placed within his article. What a great way to bulk up the search result!
  • An Enticing Meta Description: Make sure your meta description makes people want to click on your page.
  • A Wide-Spread Google+ Circle: Lance is in over 79 Google+ circles! (Help build up Lance’s ego by “circling” him here. Or you could just circle me instead.) The more people you have in your Google+ circle, the better. It’s worth it to put some concentrated effort into this social channel. It pays off in search results.

Check out this article written by Neil Patel for even more ideas on how to make your results stand out.

3. Diversify your strategies.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket—search results can’t be everything. Make sure you’re focused on getting attention on multiple fronts: search results, email marketing, social media, offline sources, etc. And, if you have a well thought-out plan, do some Google Ads. If you want to pay Google, they’ll reward you for that. After all, like I mentioned above, that’s why they exist!

If you’re serious about Google Ads and have the budget to back it, we have some friends over at PPC-Strategies that can help you make every dollar count. Just send Barb a quick message.

What do you think are some other pros and cons about this layout change?
Download Our Inbound Marketing Workbook