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Over the past few years the way the search engines work has changed significantly; especially with the introduction of the Google map listings (Google Plus Local) to the search results for local search. A majority of the advisors we talk with are confused about how the search engines work and the differences between the map listings, organic listings & paid / Pay-Per-Click listings.
In this section, we wanted to take some time to DEMYSTIFY the search engines and break down the anatomy of the search engine results page (SERPs). By understanding how each component works, you can formulate a strategy to maximize the results of each.
There are 3 core components of the search engines results page:
In the paid section of the search engines, you are able to select the keywords that are relevant to you and then pay to be listed in this area. The reason it is referred to as PPC or Pay-Per-Click is because rather than paying a flat monthly or daily fee for placement, you simply pay each time someone clicks on the link. The PPC platform is based on a bidding system and the company that bids the highest gets the best placement. PPC is still a good way to market your business online but should be thought of as a short term marketing solution. PPC can get very expensive very fast, with some keywords costing as much as $40.00 per click in the financial and investment advisory industry.
The map listings have become very important because it is the first thing that comes up in the search results for most locally based searches. If someone searches “investment advisor + your city” chances are the map listings will be the first thing they look at. Unlike the paid section of the search engine, you can’t buy your way into the map listings. Instead, you have to earn it, and once you do, there is no per click cost associated with being in this section of the search engine. We will share our Google Maps optimization strategy with you later in this guide and show you exactly what needs to be done to obtain page one placement in the map section of the search results.
The organic/natural section of the search engine results page appears directly beneath the map listings in many local searches but appears directly beneath the paid listings in the absence of the map listings (the map section only shows up in specific local searches). Similar to the map listings, you can’t pay your way into this section of the search engines and there is no per click cost associated with it. We will share our search engine optimization strategy with you in Section 5 of this guide.
Now that you understand the 3 major components of the search engine results and the differences between paid listings, map listings & organic listings you might wonder…
“Which section is the most important?”
This is a question that we receive from financial advisors every day.
The fact is that all three components are important and each should have a place in your online marketing program because you want to show up as often as possible when someone is searching for your financial or investment advisory services in your area. With that said, assuming you are operating on a limited budget and need to make each marketing dollar count; you need to focus your investment on the sections that are going to drive the strongest return on investment.
Research indicates that a vast majority of the population look directly at the organic & map listings when searching and their eyes simply glance over the paid listings.
This heat map indicates where the searcher tends to view as they come onto a search engine results page. Average Fold indicates the furthest a searcher can see before having to scroll down the search results. Image Credit: Casey Meraz local listing study at Moz
Data from Casey Meraz Moz.com local listing study
So if you are operating on a limited budget and need to get the best bang for your buck, you should start by focusing your efforts on the area that gets the most clicks at the lowest cost. We have found that placement in the organic and map section on the search engines drive a SIGNIFICANTLY better return on investment than Pay-Per-Click marketing.