Do You Understand How SERPs are Changing?

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SEARCH ENGINE MARKETING Park City, UTSome people think that Google makes money by providing organic search. You know, you type in “Roger Federer’s tennis racquet” and up springs a page with a variety of sites listed. This is the search engine results page, and it consists of both paid search and organic search.

Google doesn’t make any money directly from organic search, despite the fact that organic search is what made Google the behemoth it is today.

Google makes lots of money from paid search. Since this is a capitalist enterprise, where do you think Google wants more action? Organic search or paid search?

You got it — paid search.

That’s why there has been a continual adjustment on search engine results pages (SERPs), increasing the visibility of paid search and limiting the visibility of organic search results.

A little history

In the beginning, back when there were other search engines (remember Ask Jeeves and Altavista?), Google was just one of them. And all it delivered was organic search results, meaning the SERPs were populated with sites that ranked the best according to the (then) hundreds of millions of lines of code in the Google search algorithm (now there are over two billion lines of code in said algorithm). There was no paid search.

As Google became more and more dominant, it first experimented with paid search ads. Originally, these were on the right side of the much larger list of organic results. It was obvious they were ads. They even had yellow shading behind them so no one would be confused. Organic search dominated the page returns.

Then, around 2013, those background colors went away and were replaced by a yellow box with the word “Ad” in it on the left side of the listing. The paid search ad headline was underlined, again to make it obvious it was an ad, not organic.

In 2014, the underline went away.

Then in early 2016, February 19, to be exact, Google announced that SERPs would no longer show text ads in the right sidebar. Instead, as many as four text ads would be displayed above the organic listings. That’s right. No more sidebar for ads; they now went to the head of the class above the organic listings.

This really changed things for organic search, as it was relegated to space below paid search ads. Although the paid search ad still had the box with the word Ad in it, that box was now a less obvious green color.

In 2017 that green box denoting this was a paid search result lost its color and became an outline box with the word Ad inside.

You can see what the goal of these transitions was — to make more people click on paid search ads whether they knew the listing was an ad or not. Why? Because Google gets paid for every click on these ads. Click on an organic result and Google doesn’t make any money, although they probably will as you delve into the site further in other ways.

The latest change was announced in late May of this year. Google began rolling out mobile search redesigns. These dropped the green outline box altogether and replaced it with the word “Ad” in black. This is currently only on mobile search, but it will likely be expanded to desktop, as well.

The end result? It gets harder and harder for searchers to know if they are clicking on an organic search result or a paid search result. And that makes lots of money for Google.

At least now you should know the difference.

Current SERPs

OK, so when a potential patient is searching for a procedure or treatment that your medical practice offers, do you know what comes up on those SERPs today? Let’s go through the current results page makeup.

First of all, this type of search is now completely local. If a searcher types in “Dental Implants,” for instance, the Google algorithm assumes he or she wants to finally replace that tooth they knocked out during last year’s family Turkey Bowl football game. The algorithm assumes the searcher wants a practice that is near from where the search is originating. On mobile, Google will put up a screen asking to use your location.

OK, so you type in Dental Implants and here’s what you find. I’m writing this from Park City, Utah, the home of MyAdvice.

You can see what has changed from the good old organic search-heavy days. The top three listings returned are all paid search. Note the green outline box with Ad in it.

But what’s that below? I still don’t see any organic results. Ah, those would be the Google My Business listings, along with the trusty map above them to help you note each location. One of those is paid, as well. Note the green box and the green pin marker on the map. If you scroll down just a bit, there are two more Google My Business listings. Organic search is nowhere to be seen. Alas, you have to scroll down well into the dreaded second page of search to find the organic results, as you can see below. There is the fourth Google My Business listing, followed by questions, and the start of the organic results.

Mind you, not all SERPs are like this. Type in Gum Scaling and it’s all still an organic world. See below.


But for very popular procedures or treatments, such as Breast Augmentation for plastic surgeons, the four paid ads, followed by three or four Google My Business listings will show up above the first organic result shown.

Now you know.

A mix is necessary

That’s why at MyAdvice we tell our clients a mix of SEO strategies for organic search, paid text search ads, and paid display ads, along with email marketing and Facebook for Business pages are all necessary parts of the plan. You need to cover your bases and adjust to the ever-changing world of search.

We will help you find the right mix of organic optimization and paid search to fit your budget. Together it will work as one to bring more patients through your front door. If you want us to help your practice navigate the ever-changing world of digital marketing, give us a call or fill out our contact sheet.

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