The Search Marketer’s Challenge — Striking the Right Balance

Today, the digital marketer has at-hand a veritable arsenal of tools to reach potential customers. There is email, organic search, paid search, and display advertising, all on a dizzying array of platforms.

Each platform is busily competing for the marketer’s precious dollars. In the past, organic search has been a dependable, albeit difficult to manage, source of traffic. The Merkle Q2 2019 “Digital Marketing Report” shows that overall in Q2, organic search visits declined by 6%. DuckDuckGo was the only major U.S. search engine to deliver site visit growth in Q2 2019. Organic search produced 23% of all site visits and 21% of mobile site visits in Q2 2019, a substantial share of the market. The sharp focus placed on SEO mobile is aptly placed, because phones and tablets produced 59% of organic search visits.

How are marketers to react to a declining volume of organic search visits when, for so many years, it has been on a nearly continuous rise. In the face of overall search volume declines, marketers must work harder to make sure that they are optimizing not just their organic results, but also the overall mix of platforms and media used: paid and organic search, social, and shopping.

What Are the Drivers?

The answer to what is creating the change in organic search visitors is complex, but one of the answers easily visible to mobile searchers. The small screen is now cluttered with display ads, and the user is likely to not scroll deeply into the results. Those who do and make that click into a site are seldom rewarded with an easy to navigate screen. All too often, the mobile site leaves the user wishing for a better solution.

It is vicious cycle.

A bad user experience discourages the user from making another attempt. Additionally, as users develop favorite sites, where they can dependably navigate and find what they want, they are more likely to direct navigate to them. Amazon is one of these go-to sites; therefore, I have strongly advocated developing a search strategy for Amazon.

In a nutshell, display and paid search, coupled with direct navigation, are creating the environment for decline.

What to Do!

As they say in auto parlance, your mileage may vary.

If you are doing SEO for a site that is in a market sector that does not lend itself to display or is underutilized for paid search, your experience may be different. Declining search results cannot be attributed to the structural changes noted above. A slightly deeper analysis is needed to determine if your decline is driven by SEO mistakes, algorithmic changes, or even market changes. An SEO audit will highlight both SEO mistakes and where algorithmic changes have impacted the site; however, you can easily check for market and consumer preference changes.

Try popping your “money keywords,” those which are key to your business success, into Google Trends using the drop-down to broaden the length of time out from five to 15 years (the max) and then examine the peaks. You may find that the terminology has changed and that you need to revisit your keywords, a tactical solution. If your market has changed, then the challenge shifts from tactical to strategic.