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Google is Hogging Half Your Traffic: How to Get It Back




Pinar Ünsal: Welcome to our webinar. Today we're going to talk about how Google is hogging half of your traffic and how to get it back. It's a super interesting topic and I'm very, very happy to be participating in this webinar today with my long, long time from Google friend, Andreas. Also, Eric is here. Nik is going to join us but she'll be coming in a little bit later. We’re just going to start kicking off the webinar by introducing ourselves. Do you want to start Eric?

Eric Siu: Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me here. Big fan of SEMrush always. My name's Eric Siu. I do a podcast with another marketer named Neil Patel called Marketing School. I have an ad agency called Single Grain and then also focused on my software company called ClickFlow.  I like to have my hand in many different cookie jars.

Pinar Ünsal: Wonderful. Nice to meet you. Hi Andreas, how are you? It's, I think, super early in Australia at the moment.

Andreas: Yeah, very good thanks. Now it's 5:00 AM in Sydney. So my background is I've worked at Google a long time ago. My last position there was a product specialist on the Play Store side. Right now I'm co-founder and co-CEO of Longtail UX and that is a landing page automation platform for both sides, paid search and organic search. 

Pinar Ünsal: Before we start with the presentation, I also want to say hi, I'm Pinar Ünsal. I'm the cofounder of Kubix Digital. Before Kubix I was part of Google as well, like Andreas in Dublin. We were one of the first hires back then when the Google Dublin headquarters was kind of founded. It was only eight people, now I think it's 6,000 people. 

How is Google Hogging Half of Your Traffic?

Andreas: All right, let's dive straight in and I'm going to share my screen and share and I want to quickly go to the presentation. Google is hogging half of your traffic, how to get it back. I'm going to explain what that actually first means, and then what are the implications, and then what's our take on that. 

This webinar is for both PPC and SEO. Really anyone who worries about how Google updates will affect the bottom line. It's lots of changes and all the time and we think that the recent changes and the direction is actually the most radical what we've ever seen. What are we going to share with you today is where Google is going. 

Google is now your number one competitor on search. When you look at all the changes happening here, you obviously see lots of layout changes. The biggest change you're actually between left and right...on the left all those links actually lead to a website...on the right all those links...they actually don't lead to a website, they keep you in Google. That's a big change.

Here's what Rand Fishkin announced on the SMX East in New York. In November he did an amazing presentation, giving many, many examples and he said, "The largest source of traffic on the web, free and paid is becoming a walled garden, intent on keeping people on its own properties." Google is canceling a 20-year-old contract basically; you provided the content and you got traffic.

Here's the proof. First of all; SEO impact. You start just with pet friendly hotels Las Vegas, (I'm searching). Here are the text ads first. Well, what happens after that? You have another widget, which is hotel ads. When you click on that, right, you land on another Google page. And then you have the answer box. And these answer boxes are very user-friendly because you find information really fast. But what happens when you click on them? You don't actually land on the page. 

Then you have your number one organic results, which is definitely not above the fold. What happens if you click on one of those answer boxes? Two things happen. First of all, you have the complete answer and no need to click and also...other questions pop up below. Google figures out, and they do this really well “if you have this question you might have a related question”. You have another search, here's more googling.

Airlines credit card travel benefits. This is not like a question like “how to”, or “where is”, where you could expect an answer box. In this case, then you don't have an answer box, you actually have a featured snippet. But again there's actually no need to click because you already see everything...you see all the benefits. Here's an interesting study saying that the click-through rate of a number one search engine results page result falls by 39% when the featured snippet is present. That's quite high.

You used to be really happy about your number one results. Probably not that happy about that one. That's the question, right? Why don't you click anymore through to websites? Well because it's basically everything is there, why would you? And that's the SEO side. 

On the SEM side, it's actually a very similar story. Look at shopping. Shopping is a very interesting format. We all know there's more and more budget going into shopping. There's more and more shopping ads. Google has a massive focus on shopping. They had like an internal war room on their product team and basically to catch up with Amazon.

In the U.S. more than half of the first searches where people start to search for products, more than half of the searches started on Amazon, not on Google. Google is thinking like, "What can we do? How can we make product search better?" 

This is what they do. Here you have your shopping ads and everyone knows the user behavior. You click on an ad, click one. And it opens in a new tab. This is actually quite telling. Why would you open a result in a tab? This is the only format which Google opens in a new tab. Why do they do this? Because you have to go back.

When you compare this to the real world, this is like going into a shop and you ask the shop assistant, "Hey, I'm looking for 32-inch curved screen monitors," and the person tells you, "Oh, here's one." And then poof, leaves, gone. "Okay, thank you. I would like a little bit of choice. Oh, I have to go back to the entrance”. I have to go back again and back in again. And then I have to ask the same question. That's not a good user experience and Google knows that.

What happens here is the first thing you see as a brand, you are competing on price a lot. Here you have Staples. They have the number one result really for that one. They're mentioned first, probably because they have the lowest price and they have a positive rating. "Hey, compared from 50 other stores." Staples says, "You don't, do not even show my logo. People are not on my website. And you already compare prices with 50 others.

And then what happens is from a user experience, well it's actually the same pogo-sticking because the next click you do doesn't even lead you to a website from here either. You just see the extra product, still within Google shopping. More clicks and you actually don't reach the website. 

What happens also is Google has started to handle payments. Now what Google does more and more and more in more countries, they actually offer to do the whole checkout. Everything is very convenient.

What does it actually mean? What are the implications if the checkout happens on Google as well? They never go to your website. No brand experience, no list building, no retargeting, no cross-selling, no margin, because you actually only compete on price. Because that's what Google is becoming, the price comparison engine. 

Google is really threatening to turn e-commerce websites into suppliers here by forcing us to compete on price alone. That's your shopping experience. Hotels and travel exactly the same. These widgets, they don't land you directly on a website. You go into Google or go into like a Google-only experience. And it takes several clicks to actually get out of that Google website.

Are Rankings and Keyword Visibility Bad SEO Metrics?

For SEO, we've been looking at the wrong metrics and this is actually really important. We've been looking at rankings and visibility. When you think about this, with all these answer boxes and everything else, you might still have number one rankings. Your rankings actually haven't changed. Your visibility hasn't changed either across all those keywords. Yet you get less traffic and you wonder why. 

For paid search, well, we've just gotten used to spending more for less anyway. There's increasing competition, cost per click used to go up all the time and there's a heavy dependence on product detail pages. 

Let's look at rankings. Our SEO mistake one. If you depend on rankings, here's one source, Brian Dean, backlinko.com: average click rate used to be 6.23% for position six. And we just look for the keyword, for example, social media. Here you have a client who has the average position 5.8, so we're better than six. Click rate is 0.8% and it's actually going down.

When you look at your visibility, your visibility might grow. This is actually looking at Merriam Webster. Keyword visibility grew by 150% over this timeframe. Yet when you look at the rankings, it actually tanked by 30% to 70% at the same time. And why? Well, because you have all those definitions there. Why would you even go to Merriam Webster anymore? But they might still be position one. 

Relying on rankings and visibility to estimate the value of SEO...that's probably not going to work. And BERT will actually make it worse like the latest updates from Google. And BERT will make it worse because it's just rolling out, right? It's a learning algorithm. It just actually started. It's going to be rolled out in more languages. The more traffic, the more information it gets..the more feedback it gets from users, the better it will get.

More BERT, more featured snippets, less click rates to websites, profit for Google, but who actually then pays for the content? Is Google bad? Well, there's actually certain areas where Google is definitely not to blame. First of all, when you look at Google's customer for SEO it's not the website, it's not us as digital marketers, it's the searcher. They think about user experience. For a paid search, we pay the money, so we are the customer, but it's still the searcher as well. They have to look at both sides.

Targeting Long-Tail keywords at Scale

Google provides automated content and covers the long tail because we don't, websites don't. Where is Google to blame? We think it's a massive mistake actually that Google does not show you keywords, proper keywords statistics for your own website. Most of the traffic is not provided in Google Analytics.

First of all, that forces you actually to use visibility and records from third party tools. And then Google tells you (in Google search console) about the top 1,000 keywords, but they're mostly brands. We make decisions based on traffic, and it's limited. And we think that's a big mistake. Also Google actually attributes up to 60% of organic traffic as direct.

Google doesn't even recognize their own traffic within their own tool. That's crazy. How can you actually then make informed decisions? Google covers the long tail because we don't. The long tail or formal word combinations are actually growing and they always have been important. There's billions of long-tail keyword combinations, and there will be hundreds of thousands just for you and for your website. You have limited pages on a website and this is the most important thing: content is siloed on a website.

Someone searches for best futon sofa, New Jersey, you don't have one page that actually answers that question. You have your product categories. You might have your sofas. Do you have futon and sofas? I don't know. Then reviews or you might have blog articles and experiences and independent advice that's on your blog. Then you have the store locator in a different section there.

If someone goes to your website, actually they have to piece the information together. All right. And then Google...they have to solve this within their own system. What's the solution? Rand Fishkin mentioned solutions, institutional action. You can sue Google if they, like Genius for example, they use all your content, use your traffic. That takes a lot of time, price, lengthy, uncertain outcome.  The other one is strategic keyword selection, so zero-click decision trees. 

The better solution is actually you want to target low competition, long-tail keywords at scale. You want to automate and then you want to make decisions based on data. And this is where we come in and where our tool comes in. We've talked about the way to actually test keywords and landing pages reading easily. You can upload a keyword, that keyword creates a landing page with a matching content from all different sources.

In a Google world where half your onsite visibility or your on-SERP visibility is worthless, you really want to fail fast and cheap as possible in search when you test keywords. And what do you do? You automate page creation, automate contextual interlinking, automate creation of single keyword ad groups for SEM and all of that. Automation is really important.

Lastly, I want to mention this. Which long-tail keywords to test? When you work in SEO, your biggest treasure trove is actually in paid search, the Google ads search term reports, that's your first point. The SEM team, PPC team spends $1 million per month on paid search. You have so much information. You want to know what your competition does. 

We looked at a large e-commerce website here in Australia, they spend a lot of money. They had 50,000 keyword combinations, search term combinations with four or more words, 50,000 that actually delivered revenue for the last 30 days. That's all those long tail words, you know exactly like what they are and how users behave. We developed a tool (Longtail UX) which makes it easier for you to do that. Here's the URL: https://longtailux.com/

Nik Ranger: Thank you so much for doing that. That was awesome, Andreas. Of course, I'm Nik Ranger, sorry I'm late on the podcast, but technical difficulties, that's what happened. I would really like to hear what Eric and Pinar have commentary on that and so Eric, what are your main thoughts? Do you see how Longtail UX is different from any other SEO tools out there? Like Clearscope?

Eric Siu: Yeah. I think the tool is amazing. Just because it's not just SEO, it's PPC too. I know at least in the United States markets, everyone talks about there's two tools that come to mind, there's Clearscope and MarketMuse. My question would be to people that are using those tools, how is yours different?

Andreas: There's lots of great tools for SEO and SEM, and you mentioned two of them. What they do is like there's lots of monitoring, there's lots of ongoing insight. What our tool does, it's a completely different perspective and really looks at this intersection of what does SEM tell you for SEO? And what can you do and what's the content you want to build? 

What are the keywords you want to target for SEO and where could you link them from as well? It’s one thing is to say, "Hey, you should create more retail pages." The next thing is how many should you create? Because you can't spam the index with a million different variations.

Eric Siu: Your tool is automatic? You guys will automatically make the landing pages?

Andreas: Once it's set up, the creation is automated, but it's automated in terms of you make the decision. We like to call it automation that gives you control. It's not that our tool is suddenly like a crazy algorithm creating new pages, you don't even know what's happening. New page creation happens; you just upload a keyword and you define the rules. And then it actually creates a landing page. It also takes care of the contextual interlinking within your website.

Eric Siu: Got it. I think the tool is necessary just kind of where Google is going. The other aspect is obviously you don't want to put all your eggs into one basket. 

Andreas: Yeah. There's no silver bullet, right? And especially for SEO. If you think there's a silver bullet, like there's one thing, well then it's probably not going to work next year. There's tools that help you and then, of course, you have to really know what you do.

Should SEO and PPC be Separated?

Nik Ranger: Pinar, do you think that SEO and PPC should be strictly separated? Lots of agencies work this way. Could you explain a little bit more on this, or yeah?

Pinar Ünsal: We don't want to separate because it's search. You don't separate between PPC and SEO, because they have to be looked at together. Because you have Google Search Console, then you have all your search term reports. 

Our work keeps getting more and more challenging because we have to see that direction that Google is going, especially with pushing out more and more shopping products. Different teams actually for standard and smart shopping. The question comes up, will they shut down standard shopping and all these discussions that are going on right now. What they clearly say is that there's a lot of different formats like Andreas was showing that he can do multiple products within Longtail UX.

They will also put these products like carousels and then you will have the shopping together with the local inventory ads. We as an agency, Kubix Digital, we never separated SEO and PPC, we always thought of it as one. 

We try to advise, even though some clients don't take our SEO service, we always try to give them UX improvements, SEO tips. Because it all benefits them at the end of the day. The user doesn't care if it's an app that they're clicking on or if it's Google's platform; they just want to see the product.

We have to keep adapting and find smart ways. Use all the tools we can and I will try Longtail UX eventually. I hope so because I'm really curious about the tool. 

Nik Ranger: I'm going to switch over to the public questions because we've got a lot of really excellent questions coming through. I'm going to start off with Cassie Lowe: “does a long tail landing page strategy work for other business models such as local service providers, not just E-commerce?”

Andreas: It would. You need two things. You need lots of content and you need lots of users searching for content in very different ways. Once you have that you can then match that, all right. If you have a lot of content but everyone searches just for I don't know, like head terms and like really generic, well why would you prepare different page variations?

Nik Ranger: Okay. Vanji Beal asks, do the same processes apply outside of E-commerce? For example publications. Have you seen the same results for putting articles and content, not products together to target the long tail keyword?

Eric Siu: I can tell you right now when you look at companies like HubSpot, they actually have like three or four dedicated people just dedicated to adding long-tail keywords to pieces of content. I would say, I don't think it's just an E-commerce thing. I think it's ... I don't think Google designed something for it to just the algorithms just going to hit E-commerce. I think it's everything.

Nik Ranger: Okay. One of the things that I was wondering...so when a product gets launched, for instance, it's like of course, you see a trend start to hit. How quick is it for Longtail UX to be able to pick up that trend and automate a page that will go after that keyword? 

Andreas: When we work with e-Commerce, actually any other website, our tool basically refreshes the page, and picks up new content whenever that updates on the client database. We get like a feed that can update whatever, up to 10 times a day. Whenever there are new products, that of course that has to update immediately. Also for pricing, like on E-Commerce, because you get pricing changes several times a day, we can even do live pricing.

Optimizing and Auditing Content to Capture More Long Tail Traffic

Nik Ranger: Are there things you can do to optimize on-page to make sure that there are a variety of keywords that can be pulled to be able to capture more opportunities?

Andreas: Well, you don't want to create duplicate content and you don't want to create too many pages. That's also why it's important to be able to test some keywords really fast. Because otherwise you don't want to create just 200 pages and then half a year later you have to make the whole thing again.

What can you do to have more relevance? People are very visual, but Google needs words, content, all right. Why don't you just have a list view as well where you actually show the description of the product? Because that's relevant for the user, but it's also relevant for SEO. 

When you do that, you do that with CSS. You don't actually create them under two different URLs. That's how we actually create relevancy. You have a landing page which shows all the products, but you have the grid and list view and the list view actually shows the relevant content. Like specifications, descriptions, reviews, like the actual words. We actually don't see enough websites that do that, have both.

Another one is “also have” products. Amazon does that fantastically...they show you the products, but then they show you related products. “People have also looked for”, all of these things. That is important for user experience and for conversion rates. It's actually important for SEO, because you actually create, you have more content. 

Nik Ranger: Yeah, it's a really good segue for this next question from John Gutierrez. He asks, "Okay, would it be fair to say that the industries that you detail are the areas that are truly impacted? For instance, what about healthcare?" With the Google medic update, that affected a lot of medical websites. Well you know, YMYL like Your Money, Your Life kind of websites. 

For those particular industries it's becoming a lot more challenging to be able to rank, a lot more challenging to be able to get their articles we've seen as authoritative. What can healthcare sites do, do you reckon?

Pinar Ünsal: I don't have so many health clients actually unfortunately. What I think, I mean they have to look into the rich snippets give answers and maybe use local, I'm not sure. 

Nik Ranger: The way that we've looked at combating this is really gone off to audit their articles. First thing that we're wanting to do is consider EAT. So EAT is expertise, authority and trust and one of the main things that we need to do is to associate their author pages with schema that relates. That this person, this doctor, this nurse, this healthcare professional has real accreditation so maybe in the same ad links we might link to other places that they might be doing corporate speaking. Or if there's a registry of doctors similar that we can link to, to sort of say like, "This individual is a reputable source for information." So that where they're writing articles or anything like that, it is also attributed to that individual as a way to get this.

Should Your Diversify Your Internet Marketing Budget?

Eric Siu: I saw a question earlier about should we be diversifying our budget? Some big update happens then  ... you don't want to be at the mercy of that. Because I was just seeing too many people where they're making millions of dollars a month from their SEO, their primarily SEO site. They just get burned and then next thing it's like they go from penthouse to outhouse. You just want to make sure that you're protected in that sense. This is why you see a lot of these business influencers out there making sure that the diversifying, even the people that are uncomfortable. Neil (Patel) doesn't like doing video. I don't like doing video. 

Nik Ranger: I mean, I'm an SEO, so I'm always very much like to do good SEO is to do good business and to replicate that digitally. That's the way that I view those things. But I do agree. I don't think it's wise to put all your eggs in one basket. 

Pinar Ünsal: I mean, you really have to see where you want to go and look at the big picture and just focus and don't just be scared of any new update. Now they just rolled out the January update, Oh, what's going to happen? I mean, life goes on, nothing's going to be that bad.

It's more not just only SEO, SEM, it really is marketing. You have to look at the marketing department and digital PR. There's so many areas you have to look into. Even if you're a small business or a big business.

Andreas: With our tool it actually works best if you have a high domain authority. It's not a silver bullet either. We got people coming to, "Oh we have 100,000 pages in next, we want to work with you." Then you look at what usually happens, zero non-brand traffic and your domain authority is like nothing. 

Nik Ranger: Authority is something that I see quite often winning out. Brands really winning out. I think like the 2005 SEO where you write good content and then you go out and you try and get links to point back to it isn't really something that really works for a lot of people now. I think a lot of the time you really need to focus on your brand and really think about, well what is my point of difference? How am I going to stand out? To really grow your brands.

With Google becoming more of a walled garden, it is now prudent to begin divesting more about SEO marketing budgets towards other platforms like online and offline. 

Pinar Ünsal: I mean you should not ignore Google or you shouldn't maybe pay less attention to your SEO. Yes, you should look into other channels and like we just said with the brand, you have to be that present online and offline. Do things that work offline that you can maybe digitalize and things like this. 

I mean if you do SEO, work on your images, try to do videos, podcasts. Try a lot of strategies, one will work better and then that will be good for your business. Local search is huge as you know. Mobile traffic is something nobody in any country can ignore. These are things that you have to look into.

Nik Ranger: I'm going to finish off with the last question. Is there anything specific publishers should do to combat Zero Click? My company wants me to de-optimize directories, for example, to not show up in featured snippets. 

Andreas: Everyone says how Google wants to be a monopoly on everything and they want it. But they actually make decisions based on data. If they actually see that your website, your page has better experience and they measure that, right?

Should we stop doing SEO? I actually personally think SEO is absolutely underinvested. When you think about the average company spends easily $1 million on paid search, well what's the budget you get for free SEO efforts? It's a fraction of that. But it's the same page. 

You have to be really smart about measuring. You have to be smart about how do you measure ROA, how do you draw your ROA on a keyword. How do you measure and then how do you fail fast? How do you make this much more quicker, learn quicker. Opting out, unfortunately, it's not an option because people won't stop going to Google. There will be another featured snippet and then you're below. 

Nik Ranger: Yeah, that's a really, really good point to end off. Don't cut off your nose just to spite your face. A little bit of analogy there. Doing good SEO is I think like a really good foundation because it's just really improving on your primary asset.

Nik Ranger: I think that's a great place to end it. Thank you so much. Quick thing, where can people find you, Andreas?

Andreas: They can find me on LinkedIn of course. I think that's my only social network I'm using right at the moment. And then of course Andreas@longtailux.com. They can send me an email and that's probably the best way to contact.

Nik Ranger: Fantastic. Thank you so much. And thank you so much Pinar. Where can people find you?

Pinar Ünsal: Also on LinkedIn and Twitter, pinar@kubix.digital is my email address. 

Nik Ranger: Thank you so much guys. And of course I'm Nik Ranger. You can find me on Twitter and on LinkedIn or via SEMrush profile. Thank you so much and that's all we have time for.

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