A few weeks ago, Rand Fishkin raised a critical alarm for content marketers and SEOs. In this superb article (which every remotely serious content marketer should read) he breaks down in excruciating detail how Google is making it harder than ever for content marketers to earn organic click-throughs. They do it by scraping content others have worked so hard to create, and featuring it directly on search engine results pages. So users get the answers they need, without ever having to click away from Google to the site where the information originated.
Fishkin, being Fishkin however, he doesn’t simply share the bad news; He also explains what the bad news means. This is, no doubt, why he is one of the most respected leaders in the field of SEO. It also means content marketers now have a roadmap for what to do.
So, what does Fishkin advise that we take away from the new world in which Google is doing everything it can to reduce click-through rates on organic searches? Here’s how he explains it:
Excellent advice, Rand. Here’s how we’re thinking about putting what you said to work, first for smaller businesses and then, for larger ones.
How to get more out of Google: Action plan for smaller and local businesses
First, for small to medium local businesses like pet grooming, restaurants, hair salons, and contractors, the following strategies are simple, have immediate impact and are budget-friendly:
Claim your Google My Business page and make sure it’s completely filled out. It’s easy, it’s fast, and it really helps.
Get proactive about requesting Google reviews from customers. Those red stars really stand out, and make it much more likely the searcher will call without ever needing to click. Some companies offer services to help you automate this, but even if you just email every single customer immediately after you provide a service to ask nicely for a review, it’s a great start.
Make sure your website looks as good as it possibly can, and gives site visitors a great experience on every page. With click-through rates lower than ever, the last thing you want to do is make a reader sorry they did choose to click through.
How to get more out of Google: Action plan for companies with national reach
For companies that have or aspire to national reach, like Trupanion pet health insurance, or Rover dog sitting, it’s time to think more broadly. (Yes, my dog is sitting under my desk as I type this.)
Consider reallocating budget
First, for CMOs, it may be time to re-examine marketing budget priorities. In an increasingly zero-click universe, budget that now goes elsewhere may need to be reallocated to outbound marketing. This might include influencer programs, list building, PR and event marketing, product placement, advertorial, and more. Good content is still job #1, but it’s going to take more creativity and effort than ever to use it to break through.
Invest in smart SEO
Let’s face it, if not for smart SEO leaders like Rand Fishkin and Ian Lurie (founder of Portent) staying on top of this stuff, most marketing leaders would be only dimly aware of the details driving these trends, if at all. So the tougher things get on Google, the more we need the expertise of SEOs to help us make smart marketing decisions. When you look at the amount of time, effort, and money being invested in large-scale CRM systems, a reasonable budget for top-notch SEO certainly deserves a place in the budget too.
Insist that every piece of content matter
This week I learned that in some companies pointless white papers are called “seagulls” because the perception is that they drop sh*t on everyone. Brutal.
Considering how much work and budget goes into white papers, no company can afford this. There is absolutely a place for white papers, but before you create one or worse, a whole bunch of them, see if a robust Q&A strategy can accomplish the same thing. Q&As are far more searchable, and way more user friendly. No wonder Google loves this format.
Take, for example, the search below on how to check a dog for fleas. (Yup, my dog is scratching right now.)
Result at top:
Result right below:
Not only did I find a video that showed me step-by-step how to check my dog for fleas, I got a bunch of other helpful information about this topic too. I didn’t have to click away to read all of it, but given how much I love my dog, and how rich the content was, I was highly likely to.
This is the kind of useful, niche content Fishkin was surely talking about. It takes a lot of budget and patience, but if AdamsPetCare.com can do it, surely Rover and Trupanion can do it too.
One last thing: Let’s talk about video
The top result on this topic was a video by Banfield Animal Hospital. That’s right, a local chain of vet hospitals beat out Rover, Trupanion, Nationwide Pet Insurance, Petco, and plenty of other huge national brands on this super common search. Video is THAT powerful. So when Rand Fishkin says to optimize your content on Google’s own properties like YouTube, video is an exceptionally powerful way to do that.
Just like outbound, this is almost certainly going to require some budget reallocation. I urge CMOs to consider investing in high quality video that is genuinely useful. Video has always been important, and in 2020 it will be truer than ever.