Search engine results pages (SERPs) are the source of most web traffic. Current statistics for the exact breakdown are hard to find, but a number that still pops up (see for example this March 2017 article citing a 2011 report using 2006 data) is 93% of all website traffic.
A more recent in-depth study produced by eMarketer points to some significant changes. Increased cultivation of social media links and targeted pay per click (PPC) campaigns have reduced that huge majority of search as a traffic source.
Advertising for Mobile Phones is Growing Fast
The eMarketer study, entitled US Ad Spending: The eMarketer Forecast for 2017, also looks forward from 2017 to 2021 and predicts even more significant changes ahead. Here’s a quick summary paraphrasing the main points from the executive summary of the report.
- in 2016 digital ad expenditures turned higher than TV ad expenditures.
- digital display ad revenues became greater in value than search revenues in 2016.
- the value of mobile ad spending will be almost three quarters of the total value of digital ads in 2017.
- spending by advertisers on mobile ads will be higher than spending on TV ads in 2019.
- TV, radio and other offline ad spending will flatline through 2021.
- print advertising will continue to drop in value in 2017, newspaper ads declining by 5%, magazine ads losing value by 2%.
Even with all this evidence of change, it is still true that a search engine query is what most consumers use most of the time when they look online for an answer, solution, service, or product. And more than half the time, they use a smartphone rather a desktop computer to do it.
Search Algorithms and Customer Analytics
One of the main differences between 2011 (or 2006) and now is the level of machine intelligence inside the engines doing the searching. And that advanced level of artificial intelligence (AI) is the main reason why ad spending is flowing so freely toward mobile users.
The same intelligent digital machinery and mega-data that makes for awesome search capabilities also makes for detailed, long-tailed connections to individual searchers. Advertisers, using a content marketing approach that respects the user’s right to refuse, can leverage these connections for mutual benefit in ways that broadcast advertising rarely can.
Local Leverage of the Mobile Device Platform
Consumers on mobile devices now are the source of almost 60% of all searches. This rises as high as 72% in the food and beverage sector. Even at the low end in banking services the rate is almost 40%. One in three mobile searches is location based, or ’near me.’ Based on 2016 data, 76% of people who search on their smartphone for something nearby visit a business within a day, and 28% of those local searches result in a purchase.
These ratios highlight the marketing power of local search in conjunction with the emerging dominance of mobile web access. In this way, search analytics are closely related to online display ad deployments based on realtime “who what where why” data related to a specific user in a specific location.
Organic Search Results vs. Paid Search and Display Ads
Typically, the SERP will provide the ‘right’ answer within the first few results on the first page. But those top search results won’t be at the top of the page. The top of the list will be occupied by equally ‘right’ paid search ads. On mobile screens, often SERPs will have no organic listings visible without scrolling down the page.
It’s all part of the same search engine optimization (SEO) process, with a simple formatting tag to distinguish between paid and free results. All that data and all that search engine horsepower comes down to the proverbial double-edged sword.
Online searchers can find anything they want, instantly. Equally, any marketing effort that wants to find the searcher is instantly able to do so. And when that searcher is using a mobile device to make a location based query, they are increasingly likely to click on a paid search ad near the top of the page, or one promoted by geo-proximity, rather than scroll down to check the strictly organic results.
Mobile Web Requires Mix of Organic and Paid Search
For any physical storefront, most bricks and clicks shop, and even some online-only businesses, local search results matter more than just about any other marketing effort.
With the ongoing rise in mobile web use and the elevation of geo-proximity in determining search results, it is more important than ever to make sure your SEO basics are in proper working order. Your SEO strategy should evaluate the cost and ROI of both paid and ‘free’ search results and may well include both in your marketing mix.
For more great SEO tips on earning top marks in local mobile web search, call today and talk with Paul Teitelman, Toronto’s foremost SEO and link building expert. And connect with Paul on LinkedIn as well!