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20/20 Vision: A Rise in Featured and Vertical Paid Elements – Jordan Koene // Searchmetrics

Episode Overview:  As Google moves to increase zero-click SEO positioning it’s also adding more vertical based paid ad elements, which raises an important question – How will these changes affect brands and advertisers? Join Ben and Searchmetrics’ CEO Jordan as they continue 20/20 Vision Week discussing Google’s focus on increasing featured elements and analyzing how these changes will impact the search ecosystem and competitive landscape.

Summary:

  • As Google tailors its paid and non-paid verticalization experience by establishing its own ecosystem rules and competitive landscape, it potentially exposes the company to more regulation or lawsuits from brands and advertisers.
  • Google’s flight and vehicle finder features will rise in prominence as Google seeks to consolidate resources for consumers, acquiring more search market share on their platform.
  • An ongoing prediction for the decade is that Google will further iterate voice search experience as they continue improving mobile with more featured elements and vertical paid ad elements.

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Ben:                 Welcome to SEO Predictions Week on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this week we’re going to publish an episode every day covering our bold SEO predictions for 2020.

Ben:                 But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics is an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data driven decisions. And to support you, our loyal podcast listeners, they are offering a complimentary trial of their services and software. That’s right. You can try the Searchmetrics Research Cloud Suite and the Content Experience Tool to optimize all of your content, risk-free, no credit card required, by going to searchmetrics.com/trial. That’s searchmetrics.com/trial.

Ben:                 Okay. Joining us for SEO Predictions Week is Jordan Koene who is the lead SEO Strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc., and today Jordan and I are going to talk about how there’s going to be an increase in featured elements from Google, and also how more vertical based paid ad elements are going to be included in SERPs.

Ben:                 All right. Here’s the second installment of SEO Predictions Week for 2020 with Jordan Koene, CEO and lead SEO strategist of Searchmetrics Inc.

Ben:                 Jordan…

Jordan:             Hello, Ben.

Ben:                 Welcome back to SEO Predictions Week for 2020. We’re off to a flying start this year. We talked a little bit about position zero, about brand SEO, about where voice search is going to play in 2020.

Ben:                 Now we’re going to talk a little bit more about what’s going to happen on the SERP. Your prediction is that we’re going to see an increase in featured elements and more vertical based paid ad elements.

Ben:                 Talk to me about what you think is going to happen on the SERP this year?

Jordan:             Yeah, this is nicely connected to the first prediction around zero click positions and brand SEO, but more specifically this prediction is about Google becoming more verticalized, and we’ve been seeing this now for about a decade with Google.

Jordan:             It really started with PLA, which made a ton of sense. You know, product listing ads where Google can come in for products in specific product feeds, showcase ads that are very direct to consumers, as well as to the brands who are selling those ads. We’re going to see this more often this year. We’re already starting to see a massive trickle of verticalized experiences.

Jordan:             We’ve seen a massive increase in what we call the hotel finder. So for a lot of hotel based queries, what you see is Google’s own paid ad experience that allows different hotel brands, as well as online travel agencies, to list hotels, and actually bid for placement of different hotel and hotel offerings in the hotel ad finder.

Jordan:             And I expect that we’re going to see this continued verticalization and association, both paid and non-paid, experiences that allow Google to provide consumers with a very direct set of results.

Ben:                 I think there’s a lot of risk here for Google, and I don’t disagree that we’re going to see more paid integration similar to product listing ads. You know, we’re going to see flight booking, right? And you’ll be able to book all these things, hotels, we’re seeing more of this vertical integration, where Google is your travel agent, your product comparison engine.

Jordan:             Yeah.

Ben:                 Right? And I also think that Google is trying to compete more with Amazon and just be a universal search option for products.

Ben:                 On the flip side, I do think that there is some risk here for Google on the legal side. Where, when you start blending the ads and some of the free stuff, the line gets a little gray. There’s risk that Google is not making it clear who is the actual service provider, and I think there’s some legal risk.

Ben:                 Do you think there’s any scenario where Google avoids doing more of these featured elements, specifically the paid ones, to just try to avoid litigation?

Jordan:             Yes. I mean, there have been verticals where Google has tested this, for example, the car marketplace. They’ve already tested this with flights in the past, and it really didn’t work out for them. But essentially, then, the challenge here for consumers and for Google, is that Google is dynamically changing these things. They are not very static when it comes to this.

Jordan:             The flight finder’s a great example. Google made an acquisition almost eight years ago to help them improve their ability to understand different flights and provide feeds for flight search, but they’ve never been able to turn that into a monetizeable experience, and that’s why I combined both the featured elements here with the paid ad components, because I believe as Google tests these things out, they’re going to make a decision whether this is a paid ad experience, non-paid ad experience, maybe a little bit of both, but essentially taking more control of the real estate with an owned asset that is theirs to embed very specific content, that has its own set of rules and requirements to participate in is going to be a more prolific experience and expectations should have as SEOs.

Jordan:             I think that’s where it becomes really tricky for us. How do we manage that and how do we adapt and adjust?

Ben:                 I think this goes back to what we said in our previous episode with our previous prediction, and for anybody that didn’t hear that, it’s that there’s going to be an increase in zero click SEO positioning. There’s going to be more brand SEO.

Ben:                 I think the theme here is that Google is going to try to keep the consumer on Google, right? Whether it is, we’re just going to give you the answer when you search for something, your position zero, when you’re looking for a flight, or when you’re looking to book a car, when you’re looking for a product, we’re going to allow you to purchase it within Google, and whether it’s a paid or a free experience, Google is surfacing more and more content in the search results and adding more utility.

Ben:                 My big concern, and like what I said yesterday, is well what’s the value for people to continue to submit their content to Google if Google is just going to keep them on their properties?

Jordan:             Yeah, I think the big difference between yesterday’s episode and today, is that with the zero click policy you have very little in your control, right? I mean it’s going to be the Google show or the highway, wherein these cases SEOs actually have a ton of control and paid marketers as well. Excuse me.

Jordan:             You are making a conscious decision to participate and engage in these experiences, the same way you would set up your Google My Business to have a local positioning, so that you can be seen in Google maps. The reality here is that you’re making some sort of conscious decision to participate and utilize this resource and although I would say that, yes, Google is trying to keep people on Google in these instances, I believe as Google kind of tweaks the dials here, they’re going to make decisions that push consumers in a direction, right?

Jordan:             Because they know that in these experiences, the answer in and of itself isn’t contained exclusively in the module. They’ve only prioritized the options in a more clear cut way, right? They have data, structured data, or they have feeds that allow them to say, “This is number one, this is number two, this is number three,” but it’s within a Google contained experience, as opposed to the organic results.

Ben:                 Yeah, and I agree with you that in 2020 Google’s going to continue to iterate on the experience. They’re going to try to add more utility into the search.

Ben:                 I have questions about what the impact is going to be for marketers, for SEO, for performance marketers, but I agree that we’ve seen nothing but an indication that the more structured data you could submit to Google, they’re finding ways to present that so they can provide the best possible user experience to their consumers.

Jordan:             And you brought up a point earlier. I do agree that this creates a ton more legal risk for Google, right? Because as they verticalize these things, it creates a unique ecosystem and competitive landscape, that then needs to be either regulated or monitored differently. And so it just exposes Google to more potential regulation or lawsuits from brands and advertisers.

Jordan:             So, I do agree that there’s some risk in this for Google, but at the end of the day, I think Google has to do this to create really good consumer experiences, in particular mobile experiences that allow consumers to find the content they want.

Ben:                 And going back to what we think is our 2020 decade prediction, that voice search is going to continue to be an iterative approach for Google, when they are building mobile experiences and building these, we’re going to have the immediate answer for you, it all feeds into what Google’s going to be doing over the decade. Iterate on voice search.

Jordan:             Yep.

Ben:                 And that wraps up this episode of the Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Jordan Koene, lead SEO strategist and CEO of Searchmetrics Inc.

Ben:                 We’d love to continue this conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Jordan, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can hit him up on Twitter. His handle is JTKoene, J-T-K-O-E-N-E.

Ben:                 If you have general marketing questions, if you’d like to talk to me about this podcast, or if you would like to be a guest on the Voices of Search podcast, you can find my contact information at BenJShap. We also have a Voices of Search Twitter handle, which is @VoicesofSearch.

Ben:                 If you’re interested in learning about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility, or to gain competitive insights, head over to searchmetrics.com/freetrial, for your risk-free trial of Searchmetrics’ Suite and Content Experience services.

Ben:                 And if you liked this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning, when we discuss our third prediction for 2020, which has to do with Google’s ability to communicate changes on their platform.

Ben:     Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed this podcast and you’re feeling generous, we’d love for you to leave us a review in the iTunes store. Okay? That’s it for today, but until next time, remember, the answers are always in data.