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This isn’t your father’s search engine results page.
Google recently eliminated right-side (right column) pay-per-click (PPC) ads from its results pages. There are several reasons for the change.
The first is to make results pages more mobile-compatible. WIthout the right column, listings have more room leading to increased readability and allowing more results per page on smaller screens.
The second reason is that right-side ads had a far lower click-through rate (CTR) than top-of-page paid ads.
And the third reason is almost certainly revenue; Google has decreased the amount of on-screen real estate available for paid ads, but the demand for ads is already astronomical and increasing steadily. It’s the difference between an acre of land in Manhattan and an acre in Wyoming; scarcity drives prices upwards. If you’re not using PPC ads on Google, the potential increase in cost is of no concern.
What is concerning is the impact of this change on organic search results
Google is now showing at least three PPC ads at the top of the page (four ads for “high-traffic” queries). A Google search for “dentists new albany indiana” revealed three PPC ads followed by the top half of a Google Map with three dental offices.
That’s all that was visible “above the fold,” or visible without scrolling.
What was not visible was a single organic search result.
Below the fold were 10 organic search results followed by no fewer than three bottom-of-the-page PPC ads.
So what does this mean for your dental website?
Your SEO absolutely must be up to the task of getting your listing into the top 3 organic search results. From the standpoint of a searcher who doesn’t click on PPC ads, the page is annoying; having to scroll to see any organic results is cumbersome.
Interestingly, the second page of the search revealed no PPC ads at the top; instead, there were 11 straight organic results followed by three PPC ads.
While opinions vary about the impact of Google’s recent change on searcher behavior, it’s possible that at least some searchers will begin skipping Page 1 results completely. It’s also possible, although not likely right now, that all of Page 1 will eventually be filled with PPC ads – in which case, the skip to Page 2 results becomes a lot more likely. And then dentists will be fighting for the top three slots on that page.
For right now, dentists who are not using PPC (and even those who are) should do an immediate SEO audit of their dental online marketing. Top positioning is more critical than ever. And, make sure your website is mobile-compatible.
But you don’t have to stop there. SEO is a huge part of today’s marketing equation but hardly the only one. If your online marketing isn’t making the phone ring with new patients, you should check out our Swift Kick Dental Website Review. You’ll receive a customized, 30-minute recorded video critique of your website that covers 131 points you need to do to dominate your market and attract the patients YOU want.