white paperOnline marketing strategyr e l i a n c e o n s e a r c h e n g i n e o p t i m i z at i o n ( s e o )f o r i n d u s t r i a l s m b s i s a s l i p p e ry s l o p eWhat Do google’s ever-Changing search results algorithmsmean for your Business?
intrODuCtiOn Did you know that Google makes more than 350 algorithm changes every year? Algorithms are the formulas applied to billions of web pages in order to determine what pages will likely meet the user’s search request in order of priority. Basically, algorithms determine the ranking order for Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP). With such volume of changes each year, it is no mystery why Google’s results pages differ from day to day, even when typing in the same search term(s). It also illustrates the volatility of the search results ranking process. For example, not long ago, local results were infrequently displayed on Google’s search results pages. Yet today, we are seeing them with far more frequency. This is not because local businesses have suddenly become savvy at optimizing their websites. It is by Google’s design…design of yet another algorithmic change. Today, industrial and manufacturing companies are investing in online marketing including website enhancements, search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) programs that can be impacted by Google’s direction. The purpose of this white paper is to demonstrate why reliance on SEO is a slippery slope for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and to provide guidance on what to do next. Specifically, this white paper will… 1. Explain the four major algorithm changes made by Google since April 2010. 2. Outline their impact on search results delivered on google. 3. Review the implications of these changes for industrial businesses that promote themselves online. 4. Provide recommendations for succeeding in the ever-changing world of online search. This white paper offers an overview of B2B branding. It explains how branding influences customers’ buying decisions, and it reveals strategies that industrial companies can employ to encourage more people to buy your brand. the industrial marketer i online marketing strategy white paper 2 w w w. p r o m o t e y o u r b u s i n e s s . t h o m a s n e t. c o m i 866.585.11911
impaCt On inDustrial BusinessesWith 97% of industrial buyers beginning their purchasing process online1, it is obvious why Googlealgorithm changes have far reaching implications for industrial suppliers of the OEM and MRO productsand services for which buyers are searching.The significance of Google’s changes has been making headlines with search engine experts as well asmainstream news sites. According to David Goldman of CNN, the past 14 months are arguably consideredone of the most disruptive years for Google changes. Even more noteworthy, Google’s most recent changeknown as “Panda” is considered its most significant. Google engineers have noted that this particularupdate affected nearly 12% of all search results.What does this mean to industrial businesses trying to promotethemselves online?Consider these scenarios… ≥ If a major manufacturer of fasteners serves a nationwide buying market, what are the chances it will be found if local business results dominate the first page of Google? ≥ How does a supplier whose product offerings and/or capabilities have not changed much or at all in the past few years attract the attention of search engines looking for the newest and “freshest” information? ≥ If an industrial supplier is using a SEO vendor/agency, what are the cost implications associated with trying to keep up with the constant Google changes? 97% of industrial buyers 3% other beginning their purchasing process online1 the industrial marketer i online marketing strategy white paper 3 w w w. p r o m o t e y o u r b u s i n e s s . t h o m a s n e t. c o m i 866.585.1191
gOOgle plaCes • APRil 2010Google’s Local Business Center was re-launched as Google Places to target regional, local, andconsumer-facing businesses.This change requires a bit of history. Google’s success in the search engine business has been laid on afoundation of relevance. True to this direction, they had not ventured off of this path... until Google Placescame along.What is it?Google Places is a self-serve tool that allows businesses to claim ownership of their business listing andthen add enhancing information to the listing such as business hours. However, once businesses are signedup, there is a fee to add enhancements such as a website URL, photos, videos, etc. to their listing.In April 2010, Google Places listings began surfacing in the search results with greater frequency and withhigher ranking. By October 2010, Google SERPs were completely changed to show mostly local results,depending on the search term(s). So many search experts claimed Google was giving preference to itsown business model rather than to pure relevancy.What does this mean to an industrial supplier?Industrial buyers using Google to search for products will be seeing local search results, even if theyare not specifically seeking local suppliers. Businesses that serve a local or small regional area, such asplating or welding services, can benefit from this change. However, suppliers that sell nationwide (i.e.,OEMs) will find it tough to stand out among the local results that show up on Google.How should an industrial supplier respond?Whether selling locally or nationally, industrial manufacturers should sign up for Google Places. It’sanother opportunity to reach your prospects even if it is only for a local audience. Google Places allowsone listing per physical address, so companies with multiple locations and sales offices should makesure that each has its own listing. Still, the preferential nature of this change means the available spacefor organic listings has gotten a lot smaller. As such, companies should also be present on targeted B2Bverticals that offer national as well as regional search capabilities such as ThomasNet.com. Google Results Vary by location!FACT: Search results are served up based upon a user’s location. If you live in Cleveland and your company is based in Cleveland, you have an increased chance of showing up on the first page of Google SERPs if your products are relevant to the search term and your product details are indexed (see page 5) by Google. However, while you may be pleased that your company showed up on the first page, these are not necessarily the same results served for every user nationwide for those terms. So, while this is excellent if your company serves a local audience only, a company trying to reach a national audience is at a disadvantage. the industrial marketer i online marketing strategy white paper 4 w w w. p r o m o t e y o u r b u s i n e s s . t h o m a s n e t. c o m i 866.585.1191
gOOgle mayDay • mAy 2010A major algorithm change that rewards websites that have content matching long-tail searches (searchesthat include multiple words).What does this mean to industrial suppliers?If a searcher types in “1/8-inch aluminum ball valve,” Google’s algorithm was adjusted to find an even bettermatch for this search term than prior to Mayday. Prior to the change, Google may have served up resultsthat simply matched “ball valve.” Mayday looks to deliver and give higher priority to results that match theentire string of words. So the results that rank the highest now likely include “1/8-inch aluminum ball valve”assuming content exists and is discoverable on the World Wide Web. This means that industrial supplierswith highly descriptive product details and specifications on their website have a much greater chance ofappearing on page one for long-tail searches than does a supplier that has simple basic product information.How should an industrial supplier respond?Research shows that nearly 60% of buyers searching for industrial products use 3 or more keywords2.This data coupled with Google’s Mayday makes it imperative for product manufacturers and distributors toinclude detailed part-level descriptive product information on their websites. This includes all the parameters,material types, dimensions, and other attributes, as well as any industry standard specifications that apply.important: All of the content and data information referenced above must be discoverable by Googlecrawlers in order for the respective pages to appear in search results. What is discoverable content? It is important that all content on your site be discoverable by search engine crawlers. Generally speaking, any page that has a link to it from within your site (or from an outside site) is findable by a crawler. By default, all content on such a web page can be indexed.In the website pages below, the image on the left shows a website that is not optimized for Google Mayday.The image on the right depicts a website that has been optimized. The latter is far more likely to meet theMayday criteria for long-tail searches and rank higher in Google’s search results. OPTIMIzED NOT OPTIMIzED the industrial marketer i online marketing strategy white paper 5 w w w. p r o m o t e y o u r b u s i n e s s . t h o m a s n e t. c o m i 866.585.1191 4
Similarly, 53% of buyers searching for industrial services use 3 or more keywords2, so custom manufacturers’ websites also need to include detailed capabilities and descriptions, each on separate pages. Several pages should also be dedicated to showcasing your portfolio. Once again, see below for examples of a website before and after optimization that is more likely to meet Google’s Mayday criteria. OPTIMIzED NOT OPTIMIzED gOOgle Caffeine • junE 2010 A fast way of indexing web pages. Although not an algorithmic change, it was still seen as the most significant update to Google’s indexing process in more than 4 years. What does this mean to an industrial supplier? To fully understand Caffeine, we should first review it from an industrial buyer’s perspective. The Caffeine update increases the speed at which Google’s crawlers identify and index information, rewarding newer and more frequently updated pages. Technically, the ranking of pages was not changed—merely the speed at which new information was discovered and included in results. This is good for buyers, who want the most current information available on the products/services they are researching. From an industrial supplier’s perspective, the downside for some is that your product/service offerings may not have changed much, or at all, in the past three or more years. How should an industrial supplier respond? Changing your current product lines, or adding new ones, will give the crawlers a new reason to return to your website, thus helping to keep your site current in their eyes. If this is not possible, you’ll have to add other content to your website that can be updated more frequently. Consider adding a “satisfied customer update”—a quick two-paragraph description of how your product/service was used to solve a customer’s problem. Customer testimonials and case studies should be a staple on your website anyway. Including news releases is also a great source of new content. the industrial marketer i online marketing strategy white paper 6 w w w. p r o m o t e y o u r b u s i n e s s . t h o m a s n e t. c o m i 866.585.11915
gOOgle panDa (a.k.a. farmer) • FEbRuARy 2011An algorithmic update to improve search quality results. Websites considered “content farms”—those withlow-quality content and a high proportion of ads—are pushed further down in rankings.What does this mean to an industrial supplier?Websites with unique product information, capabilities, portfolios, and few or no ads are rewarded with betterplacement within Google’s search results. The main targets of this change are sites that churn out a largevolume of low-quality content. Fortunately, that does not include most industrial supplier websites. That said,it doesn’t necessarily mean that such sites haven’t been affected. Google has been uncharacteristically tight-lipped about this change, making it difficult to work around.How should an industrial supplier respond?Ensure your website content is fresh and original. This change is all about Google rewarding uniqueness ofcontent. Website content such as a FAQs section should be updated regularly. On the product side, consideroffering CAD models where applicable. Note that, depending on the file type, the drawings themselves arenot necessarily indexed by Google; however, the links and descriptions that precede them are valuable anddiscoverable content. Use unique descriptions for each product item featured on your site, even those thatvary only by size. If you only have a portion of your products listed online, you need to consider adding allof them. In addition, include details about your capabilities, such as machines you have on site, tolerancesyou can hold, materials options, quality assurance practices you follow, production volumes you can support,etc. Every website should have social networking signals—including yours! Any improvement in basic SEOpractices is always helpful (i.e., title tags).final COnsiDeratiOnsThere is no question that SEO is becoming increasingly complex and changing faster than ever before;requiring more time and resources to analyze and understand. Each of the changes outlined in this whitepaper has sent SEO experts and SEO agencies scrambling to figure out what happened and how to adapttheir SEO tactics to address these changes. But consider these words of caution… If you constantly ‘chase the algorithm,’ you might find that you adapted to the wrong version of the algorithm update and then – once Google ‘corrects itself’ – you’re once again left behind. Mark Jackson, Search Engine Watch, May 23, 2011This is especially true for companies that build a marketing strategy that relies on ranking high on theSERPs of Google. And compounding this is the fact that Google predominantly serves a consumer (and nowlocal) audience; making an effective SEO strategy even more challenging. That being said, it is always inyour best interest to continually monitor and tweak your website’s content to maintain SEO best practices. the industrial marketer i online marketing strategy white paper 7 w w w. p r o m o t e y o u r b u s i n e s s . t h o m a s n e t. c o m i 866.585.1191 6