Should You Trust Google With All Your Business?

Google Branding

For many business executives, being ‘found’ by searchers using the right keywords on Google is like discovering the Holy Grail. They’ll travel to the ends of the earth to make it happen.

Although it’s certainly true that having your website listed at the top of the Google search results does tend to bring in more website visitors, this should not be your only marketing strategy. Experience shows that if your company generates most of its revenue from just one customer, then your business is in an extremely vulnerable position. Similarly, if you have been heavily dependent on the free traffic that Google sends you, then you’d best start figuring out how to find some new sources of sales leads.

Of course, Google is still an important vehicle for getting visitors to your site. There are several ways Google drives traffic. One of these is Organic Search, a term that refers to the free traffic you get when people click on your listing as it appears on a search results page. Another form of free traffic could be your site showing up in the local results when someone performs a geographically targeted search.

One reason why you should explore multiple lead channels is that, over the past few years, it has gotten harder to generate the same volume of traffic from Google Organic Search. If you could climb into a time machine and look at a few pages of Google search results  from several years ago, you would see a lot more of the page real estate devoted to organic listings than you see today. That space is now taken up by ads and other information such as a Knowledge Graph card, a “carousel” of icons across the top of the page, or a map results box.

In practice, what this means is that someone searching on Google is now more likely than ever to click on either an ad or something that brings up another Google search results page – with more ads than ever before. That means users are less likely to click on your organic listing (even if it’s the #1 organic listing). Part of the reason for this is that Google has been working on converging their look and feel across desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. It has also been an excellent business strategy, as demonstrated by the increase in Google’s advertising revenue.

So, what should you do to rely less on Google’s good graces?

First, you can sponsor keywords so that Google will show your ad on the search results page. Then, each time someone clicks on your ad, you pay Google for the click. Google’s ad platform, AdWords, can be used for this and a whole lot more. AdWords, known as Google Ads after July 2018, also allows you to place banner ads on millions of websites that are (hopefully) targeted to your intended audience. But be aware that AdWords is a complex, feature-rich advertising engine. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can burn through a lot of money in a hurry, with few results to show for it.

LinkedIn, now owned by Microsoft, provides the ability to precision-target specific types of people in certain industries by company size, individual role, geography, and other factors. In addition to providing a free space for connecting to other people, LinkedIn allows advertisers to sponsor ads and posts that are, like Google’s, paid for by the click.

Facebook provides an increasingly sophisticated advertising platform that, like LinkedIn, allows you to target certain types of individuals. Additionally, Facebook owns the photo- and video-centric social network app Instagram, so if your products appeal to a more visual audience, you can run ads on both Facebook and Instagram through the same ad platform.

Some platforms work better for certain advertisers than for others. Almost everyone uses search engines these days, but if your intended audience does not log into a LinkedIn account, they will not see your LinkedIn ads. Selling IT solutions requires a different approach than selling the latest in car care products.

Finally, if your business depends on local patronage, platforms such as Yelp and Angie’s List can be big drivers of customers. Word-of-mouth referrals are being overtaken by online referrals, which have become an increasingly important factor in determining which companies prosper and which ones languish.

Keep an eye on Google, but also be sure to hedge your marketing bets to increase your business and reduce risk. Have more questions about Google? Feel free to get in touch with us and ask any questions you have!

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