The Federal Trade Commission recently issued a warning to the major search engines requesting that they more clearly distinguish between the organic results and paid ads. This applies not only to traditional search engines, but also social media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as mobile apps.
The FTC’s warning to search engines should be a wake-up call to the search marketing industry. The days of playing fast and loose with mixed paid and organic search results on search engine results pages (SERPs) appears to be coming to an end. In its place will be more stringent oversight of how search engines display paid search results and, as a result, more cumbersome and potentially onerous restrictions on what search marketing can and cannot do with their campaigns.
What are the potential implications for marketers of this new guidance? What do search marketers need to do now to begin adjusting for these changes?
It is unclear at this point the extent that each search engine will address this request, but it is expected that minor changes to the way paid ads are identified will ensue to avoid possible FTC action.
These changes, however, can impact the efforts of search engine marketers, as they will potentially need to make more drastic modifications to their search engine marketing efforts.
Here are some potential effects that the FTC’s warning will have on marketers:
Further Real-Estate Limitations
Clarifying the difference between paid and organic search listings can potentially limit the space available to both organic and paid listings. This means that either fewer results will be able to display “above the fold” without scrolling, or the character limits within each result will be reduced.
If the number of results above the fold is decreased, achieving an above-the-fold listing will be even more competitive. Businesses will be competing heavily for top placement and more of an investment will be needed to generate current levels of volume.
In the case of character limits being reduced within each result, businesses will need to update their online messaging to get their point across in less space. Paid ad titles and ad copy will likely have to be updated to fit within new limits and titles, and meta descriptions of organic mobile pages will need to be shortened to avoid being truncated when listed.
More Strategic Mobile Targeting
Paid search targeted to mobile devices is one of the fastest-growing digital marketing channels and is playing a bigger role in how consumers find products and services. The implications of the FTC warning on mobile paid search could have a big impact on how these ads are displayed. Mobile search real estate, because of the size of mobile browsers, is already very limited.
What marketers will need to pay close attention to is how they segment their mobile targeting by device type. For example, the difference in the amount of SERP real estate between tablets and smartphones is likely to increase. Targeting and bidding strategies will need to vary per device to be most efficient.
Changes to Voice-Activated Search Services
Another implication specific to mobile search is brought on by the request relating to voice-activated search results. The FTC’s warning extends to services such as Apple’s Siri and Samsung’s S-Voice. The FTC has requested that when a voice search is executed, an audio disclosure should be made to identify paid advertising. This could potentially deter users from those paid ads, making the organic listings more valuable.
Marketers must keep a close eye on search engine results and take note of any changes that occur. When used correctly and responsibly, paid search marketing can provide a tremendous benefit to brands’ online marketing and customer acquisition strategies. But in light of the FTC’s letter, the days of deceptive paid search tactics are coming to an end. That will benefit both consumers and marketers in the long run.
Where advertising is concerned for your business, you always like to know that you’re getting what you’ve paid for. There are multiple ways for you to get your name out there, and there are some which are much better than others, it doesn’t really matter which method you use, but in the end it’s always about the numbers. How many visitors, how many conversions, how many sales have been made etc.
Organic search engine optimization is one of the most cost effective means to advertise your business old or new. And unlike more traditional advertising methods, like television or print media, it is fairly simple to use analytics software to track your website. Television and print media can offer you metrics of a fashion, they can offer you market saturation numbers, but actual return on your advertising investment is questionable at best. The metrics that you can gather from an online campaign, are much more comprehensive when you compare them to traditional media. Not only can you track how many people have seen your website, you can see what those visitors have done on your website. And one of the greatest aspects of being able to track your online campaign with analytics software is it gets more accurate over time, so you can really begin to determine where your conversions are and fine tune your marketing goals.
By comparison, the Adwords platform has a great suite of analytics software. It lets you track every aspect from impression, to saturation, to conversion rate. Unlike using organic SEO however, you can begin to make changes to your campaigns and start to see results almost immediately. Paid online advertising is a great avenue for newer businesses to explore, as well as successful online businesses to test other avenues for new products or services for your marketplace.
Both organic search optimization and Adwords have their place in an online marketing scheme, and the strength of the data you have available make them the clear cut choice for your business. That is assuming of course that you would like to have information like visitors, keyword activity and conversion rates so you can make your business even more successful.
Is this the beginnings of the death rattle for the Yellow Pages? The advertising giant of the 70s to the 90s is quickly becoming more frail in its later years as businesses large and small, are turning more of their advertising dollars towards the internet. Yellow Pages themselves have had their hand in selling online ad space, with the idea in mind that it would help boost their shrinking print media, but with little success. Is it time to start writing the eulogy? The answer, while slowly becoming clearer, is a resounding.. maybe.
While their use by both advertisers and people who actually use their books has dropped, there are still people out there who use the yellow pages print books. They’re still there, but as a business owner you need to make a decision as to whether or not your advertising dollars are worth spending there. There is also the added allusion that having a yellow pages ad lends your business some credibility to the 45+ business consumer. It’s a dated model of advertising, but a great deal of the business world does still depend on who you know, not necessarily what you know.
You need to have a look as well at the market that the yellow pages book is being delivered too. Is it a major city with millions of people and thousands of businesses to bury your ad? Or is it being compiled and delivered to a city of only a couple hundred thousand, a small local brand where you still have the chance to stand out for a modest price. Yellow Pages do still show higher than larger center averages of use in small towns. Also bear in mind your business, and the type of consumer you’re interested in attracting. If you’re a highly motivated emerging tech company you’ll probably want to be more concerned with online branding and marketing as opposed to making sure you choose the right font for a Yellow Pages ad. If you’re in the vacation business, you’ll probably want to seriously think about placing an ad, as visitors may not have an internet connection at their finger tips to find what they want.
While the value, both real and potential, has dropped and continues to drop with Yellow Pages advertisements, they’re not quite dead yet. They’ve been making money saving efforts for the last few years, and are continuing to ramp those efforts up, but for the moment they’re still here with us. For how much longer however, is yet to be seen.