In the dim and distant past (well, 10 years ago), the Google search results were simple. The top 10 websites down the centre of the page with adverts at the top and down the right side. To get to “the top of Google” you either needed to be one of those top 10 sites or pay to appear in the “sponsored” results through Google Adwords.
Today Google are using various types of search results for different enquiries so that the results page is made up of an assortment of different elements.There are now many more ways to get your website found through search. Understanding these – and choosing the right ones to target – are key to using search to get your website found.
The many different search results pages
Let’s look at a few examples.
Example 1 – Local service
My first search is for a locally based service – I’ve used Accountant York.
Here Google is using 3 types of results – paid adverts or Google Adwords (in brown), what we call natural or organic search (in blue) and Google Places/Local in Green. (Google is currently integrating its Google places function into Google+ so you may see this referred to as either Google Places or Google Local).).
If you have a business which operates locally, make sure you have a Google Places page.
Example 2 – Product
This time I’m looking for a particular product – I’ve chosen the Nespresso Pixie.
Again we have adverts at the top and down the side, but mixed in with the natural search results we have Shopping (in yellow) and down near the bottom we have videos.
To display your products in the Shopping results you will need to create a data feed via the Google Merchant Center. This is currently free in the UK but probably not for much longer. Shopping listings became Product Listing Adverts in the USA in October 2012 and we can expect the UK to follow sometime soon. This may still be worthwhile investigating if you have an ecommerce store.
As Google owns YouTube, it likes to pull video results into its search pages. A well thought out video, with good keywords and hosted on YouTube can get your product or brand in front of a wider audience (and YouTube is also a powerful search engine in its own right).
Example 3 – A more general search
Here I’ve typed in the phrase “Red Rose Bouquet” and again the results are different.
At the top we have Images with Shopping halfway down.
If visuals are important in your business, then make sure your images are properly optimised. This means using keywords in the file name and making use of the “alt” tag and description. This article goes into more detail about optimising images
Amazingly, this time, the adverts were right at the bottom of the page. However, when I repeated the search a short time later, they were back at the top!
So what does this mean for you?
Take a list of your target key phrases – the ones your potential customers are likely to use – and run a number of Google searches (it’s best to use depersonalised search for this).
Look at the results closely and identify which elements Google is using. You should start to see a pattern emerge. From this you can decide where to concentrate your efforts for search optimisation.
Don’t forget to repeat this exercise every few months – Google is constantly changing