By Sean White
This article discusses the four areas where a business or practice can appear on the first page of a Google search: Google pay-per-click (PPC), local map ads, the local 3-pack, and organic results.
In today’s Marketing Corner we will be covering how to own real estate on the first page of Google. Everyone wants their website to show up on the first page of Google, since so few people continue to the second or third page, so let’s talk today about how to get you there.
The Search Engine Results Page
The page that loads when you search a keyword on Google is called the search engine results page (SERP). There are four different areas on the first page of Google where your company or website can appear. We’re going to talk about all those different areas and how Google chooses what shows up on that first page.
When potential customers are looking for a product or service, they open their web browser and enter the keyword or term into the search bar, then hit enter. Every single time that happens, Google records those keywords and search terms in their data bank, keeping company with billions and billions of other search terms. Search engine optimization (SEO) specialists can estimate search volume and competition levels based on the limited information Google gives us, as well as via third-party data software. Marketing specialists can then decide what digital content to create so that in turn their website will show up on Google, thus getting the company or organization’s name in front of people and giving potential customers the opportunity to click.
The first opportunity to take up real estate on Google’s first page is called Google pay-per-click (PPC), ad words or paid search—these are all terms that basically mean the same thing. Google typically displays one to four PPC ads on the first page.
Each time a searcher clicks on one of these PPC ads, the website (i.e., advertiser) is charged a certain amount of money based on an auction style competition for each keyword. Dental implants is a very expensive keyword because there are many dentists trying to capture potential customers searching for dental implants. Since many dentists are willing to pay for these web searches, this keyword might cost $12.91 each time someone clicks on your site, versus using your name that might cost just 13 cents per click.
Why bid on your own name? If someone is directly searching for your name or a dentist’s name, you want to make sure they are taken directly to your website, rather than shown a nearby or similar dentist or practice. Being willing to pay the 13 cents helps ensure they see your name and your practice name, click on it, and move onto your website and away from Google. That is a way to take up real estate on Google that is probably worth your 13 cents.
Local Map Ad
The second area you can take up space on Google is the local map ad. This is part of the Google PPC family. Typically, when you search for something and the results pop up, especially on mobile, you have three results that will show up in that local map. Within that group of three listings is the local map ad, which you can bid on separately. Your SEO strategy can include bidding on keywords that allow you to buy your way to the very top of the map pack if that is important to your business.
Sometimes customers wonder why they are not showing up on map ads. While there are multiple reasons this could be the case, it is often because they are not bidding or are being outbid by their competitors who are paying more for those important keywords.
Google’s Local 3-Pack
The third area you can own real estate on the first page of Google is called Google’s local 3-pack. As mentioned before, these are the three local results that typically show up on a desktop or mobile. These results are mostly based on the relevancy of the actual search, the proximity of where the search physically takes place, and how many reviews those businesses have. There are multiple factors that come into play with showing up in the local 3-pack, but it is possible to buy your way to the top there as well.
The fourth and final area you can appear on the first page of Google is through organic results. Below the first three areas we have already discussed are about 10 more search results. These organic results are based on your website’s SEO efforts. About 60-70 percent of your prospects actually click in this area, so it’s definitely important to focus on SEO so you show up one or more times in this area.
Owning More Real Estate on Google
The best-case scenario is to appear in more than one place within the first page of Google. If a potential customer were to search for best dentists near me, you have the opportunity to show up in the Google PPC area, as a local map ad, as one of the listings in the local 3-pack, and as an organic result. This would significantly increase the percentage of clicks you receive because you’re owning more real estate than anyone else.
Can this happen overnight? Absolutely not. A lot of things must happen for this to fall into place. For PPC, since you are paying for these ads, you can capture that area fairly quickly. You can show up as a local map ad if you’ve optimized your Google My Business page and other listing sites. If you are thorough and follow Google guidelines for SEO, you can show up there as well, increasing your odds of searchers clicking through to your site or results page.
Let’s look at an example of a SERP to see how it equates to what we talked about. In this example, we typed in veneers Columbus OH:
The dental practice at the top of the SERP is clearly interested in trying to acquire patients looking for veneers, so they decided to take up some real estate on the first page of Google. They bid the highest amount among this group at this time of the day, and other similar factors, to ensure they show up at the very top of Google’s PPC ads.
Then, when you scroll down, you see the map pack. This same company decided to bid on that keyword and wanted to guarantee they would show up as a local map ad. This area will generate a lot of phone calls and website visits when people are searching on mobile, so it’s important.
In this search, it looks like they are not showing up in the local 3-pack. The practice is located in Lewis Center and we’re Google searching from Dublin, Ohio. That could have a lot to do with it, since proximity of search is a major factor in the results that are shown. However, when paying for ads, you do have the option to geo-target the radius in which you want to focus.
When you scroll down more, you see the organic search results. There are about 10 of them shown on the first page. This is another area where you have the opportunity to take up real estate.
There are several pieces of prime Google real estate for which you can compete. While it is tough to compete in all of them, it comes down to staying on top of it and being consistent.
If you want to learn more about how to improve your real estate on the first page of Google, visit Whiteboard Marketing to find other practice marketing resources. You can also view our Website Audit Checklist and Marketing Resources page for a variety of checklists and plans to download and use.
If you have any other questions about search engine results or improving your real estate with Google, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.