How Smart Brands Stay Ahead Of Changes To Google’s Search Results

A col­lab­o­ra­tive, uni­fied mul­ti­chan­nel dig­i­tal strat­e­gy will keep your brand ahead of any changes that Google or any­one else can throw at you.

Brittney Sheffield By Brittney Sheffield from The Home Depot. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Google’s search engine results change con­stant­ly, keep­ing us mar­keters on our toes. While it used to be prized ter­ri­to­ry, a No. 1 rank­ing doesn’t look the same as it did six or 12 months ago. Search results are filled with more noise than ever, with local list­ings, mul­ti­ple paid search place­ments, rich snip­pets and Map Packs. It’s time for a uni­fied dig­i­tal strat­e­gy in order to real­ly gain the atten­tion of cus­tomers.

In Atlanta – my home­town – here’s what a search for “mar­ket­ing agen­cies” deliv­ers. Three paid ads stack the top of the page in addi­tion to the tra­di­tion­al right rail of ads. (Even now Google is rolling out a huge change to the way AdWords ads are dis­played, elim­i­nat­ing most right-rail ads.) We also see a Map Pack, which is typ­i­cal for loca­tion-based search­es, but is fre­quent­ly dis­played now when you search for ser­vice-based terms such as “plumb­ing.” You’ll even find the Map Pack pop­ping up when you search for prod­ucts in some instances. The num­ber one organ­ic search list­ing for “mar­ket­ing agen­cies in atlanta” didn’t make the screen­shot on my 13-inch Mac­Book. It’s below the fold.

Marketing Agencies SERP today

What a dif­fer­ence a year makes. Here’s what the same phrase yield­ed a year ago, cour­tesy of Google’s Search Tools fea­ture. The ads are con­densed, there isn’t a Map Pack and the first two organ­ic search results appear above the fold on my screen.

Marketing Agencies SERP last year

It’s pret­ty obvi­ous that a one-dimen­sion­al dig­i­tal strat­e­gy that tra­di­tion­al­ly relied on organ­ic search just does­n’t cut it now.

Considerations For Your Multichannel Presence

Each chan­nel is impor­tant in its own inde­pen­dent way, but cus­tomer behav­ior has always been the dri­ving force behind the changes Google makes to its search results dis­play.


Be sure that your SEO strat­e­gy is fir­ing on all cylin­ders and that your busi­ness is doing every­thing it can to show up in all types of Google results. This means you need to con­sid­er Android App Index­ing, Knowl­edge Graph oppor­tu­ni­ties, and Map Pack results by uti­liz­ing Google My Busi­ness. For SEO, the hard truth is that a tra­di­tion­al No. 1 organ­ic rank­ing may not bring as much traf­fic to your site as it did a year ago – unless your audi­ence has a ten­den­cy to find and click on organ­ic list­ings no mat­ter what dis­plays above them. You may also want to reeval­u­ate how you attribute met­rics like traf­fic and rev­enue to SEO. With tech­nol­o­gy like the iPhone Spot­light search, some mobile traf­fic that should be con­sid­ered organ­ic search is like­ly being buck­et­ed as direct.

Paid Search

If Facebook’s Rea­choca­lypse proved any­thing, it’s that mar­keters have to con­sid­er pay­ing to reach their audi­ences. The evo­lu­tion of SERPs shows the same trend – it’s prob­a­bly time to con­sid­er paid search, even if it hasn’t tra­di­tion­al­ly been a chan­nel for your busi­ness. Even if you have uti­lized paid search, Google’s changes should force a reeval­u­a­tion of your paid approach. More than ever, your paid and organ­ic strate­gies should align so you can bal­ance organ­ic per­for­mance against paid search tar­gets. Even if you rank No. 1 for a term organ­i­cal­ly, you need to eval­u­ate the search land­scape for that phrase. Is it worth dou­bling down to appear on that SERP twice? Aug­ment­ing organ­ic with paid may be par­tic­u­lar­ly ben­e­fi­cial if your organ­ic list­ing falls below the fold for a search phrase. Regard­less of your con­fi­dence in your paid and organ­ic strate­gies, tools like User Test­ing can help deter­mine how your tar­get audi­ence inter­acts with the search results. Mul­ti­vari­ate tests can help you fig­ure out if your audi­ence is more inclined to click on the first list­ing they see, scroll to find the organ­ic list­ing, or inter­act with the page in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent way. The results can lead to an informed deci­sion about your paid search strat­e­gy as it relates to your organ­ic rank­ings.


Search isn’t lim­it­ed to Google; cus­tomers increas­ing­ly use social chan­nels as search tools. This isn’t new, but these SERP changes cre­ate new oppor­tu­ni­ties for brands to real­ly nail and ben­e­fit from their social pres­ence. Uti­lize your social accounts to demon­strate your brand’s per­sona and cre­ate a mem­o­rable expe­ri­ence for cus­tomers. Two-way com­mu­ni­ca­tion with cus­tomers and mem­o­rable hash­tag cam­paigns can help cus­tomers think of your brand first when using a social search engine. It’s a mul­ti­chan­nel win when brand­ed organ­ic entries and vis­its increase for your web­site.

Traditional Marketing

Omnichan­nel mar­ket­ing is crit­i­cal for a brand look­ing to leave a last­ing impres­sion with cus­tomers. Cul­ti­vat­ing a brand across TV, print and radio, can help to lead more peo­ple direct­ly to your web­site or help dri­ve peo­ple to your site via brand­ed search. This brand aware­ness can help cut through the noise, and sig­nal Google that you’re a vital resource for its users.

Site Strategy

Once a cus­tomer arrives on your site, a pos­i­tive user expe­ri­ence will keep them com­ing back. Pos­i­tive user behav­ior will also send good sig­nals to Google and help your organ­ic search efforts.


Cre­ate an email col­lec­tion and dis­tri­b­u­tion strat­e­gy that deliv­ers tru­ly valu­able infor­ma­tion to your cus­tomers and poten­tial cus­tomers. If you can tar­get cus­tomers with behav­ior-based emails through mar­ket­ing automa­tion, go for it. These days, the brands that can deliv­er a mes­sage that real­ly gives cus­tomers infor­ma­tion they’re look­ing for will be top of mind. This also means that on-site con­tent is extreme­ly valu­able. If your site offers authen­tic, help­ful and enter­tain­ing con­tent, you can repur­pose it for email and use that con­tent as a land­ing page for email cam­paigns. Sites like Apart­ment Ther­a­py offer a shin­ing exam­ple for curat­ed con­tent repur­posed for its email cam­paigns.

Smart Brands Have Figured This Stuff Out

When you search for flights, South­west doesn’t allow aggre­gate sites like Kayak, Expe­dia, or CheapOair dis­play its fares. As a result, click­ing through to an aggre­gate site page you like­ly won’t see South­west in com­pet­i­tive pric­ing results. So what does South­west do about it? They bid on those same organ­ic phras­es that aggre­gate sites rank for and ensure it gets face time with poten­tial cus­tomers. Even if a cus­tomer does click through to Kayak or Expe­dia, South­west has kept its brand top of mind so that a deal hunter thinks to check the South­west site too before book­ing. As a bonus, South­west vig­or­ous­ly retar­gets cus­tomers via social media.

Southwest Paid Search

On Twit­ter, both Lyft and Uber have fig­ured out how to con­nect with their cus­tomers by tak­ing a per­son­al and proac­tive approach to reply­ing to tweets. I pre­fer Lyft’s GIF-heavy strat­e­gy, but both brands do a great job of mak­ing their cus­tomers feel lis­tened to and inter­act­ed with. Cus­tomer loy­al­ty is key.

Lyft Twitter

When you search for a plumber in Atlanta, the Map Pack results aren’t the sites that rank on page one for organ­ic search. Most aren’t in the right rail ads either. By set­ting up Google Places well these busi­ness­es have giv­en them­selves a leg up that they oth­er­wise would not have.

Plumbers in Atlanta Google SERP

Brittney Sheffield

Written by Brittney Sheffield

Associate Search Manager, The Home Depot

Brittney is an experienced digital marketer specializing in SEO, content and agile project management. She's currently an Associate Search Manager at The Home Depot and previously worked agency-side as a digital strategist, marketer and scrum master.

Inked is published by Linkdex, the SEO platform of choice for professional marketers.

Discover why brands and agencies choose Linkdex

  • Get started fast with easy onboarding & training
  • Import and connect data from other platforms
  • Scale with your business, websites and markets
  • Up-skill teams with training & accreditation
  • Build workflows with tasks, reporting and alerts

Get a free induction and experience of Linkdex.

Just fill out this form, and one of our team members will get in touch to arrange your own, personalized demo.