Jim Gibson - Publisher, Online Media Today
By Jim Gibson – Online Media Today

Some who read this may be saying about now, "what crazy person has the audacity to title a blog post  "A Tip for Google?".  You're probably saying "c'mon man.. what possibly can you have to say that Google might take seriously - or for that matter, need?  Well, I think I do have an idea that might help improve Google's (or Yahoo/Bing) search experience - for both consumers and business owners.

Allow me to explain.

For those of you who don't know me or are here for the first time, I am a professional internet marketing consultant.  I work with a quite a few local business clients and in the process of drumming up new clients, I talk to literally hundreds of small to medium sized business owners each month.  
 
I talk to all kinds of business owners.  From Doctors to Lawyers to General Contractors and other businesses representing a variety of service categories, I manage tens of thousands of their dollars in PPC, Display and Social Media campaigns.  As a result, I've learned a lot by just watching how consumers search and ultimately interact with online ads.

This article isn't about tossing out a bunch of statistics so I won't spend a lot of time with numbers.  I just want to create a scenario.. paint a picture for you that illustrates a search marketing strategy that I think is a win-win for both advertisers and consumers - and believe it or not, search engines too.

First, if you've been reading anything about SEO in recent months, you probably know that industry experts predict that the future of organic search will be fundamentally rooted in social media - in fact, it's already happening.  Despite privacy concerns, search engines are indexing content generated on social networks and, as a result, traditional SEO has changed forever.   "Links" have now become "Likes" and "Meta tags" have become "Hastags".  You might even say, SEO, as you know it, is DEAD!  (Ref. the value of meta tags in today's SEO). 

But really, what does this mean for PPC?  How does this tie in to sponsored search advertising?  I'll tell you but, in order for what I propose to work, Google, et. al. will have to make a small change in their PPC strategy (and since everyone to a man/woman there is smarter than me, they probably already are well into developing a future strategy that entails some of these elements).

My idea: What if Google started to factor "Likes" into its PPC algorithym?  Furthermore, what if searchers could preview an advertisers quality of service in real and meaningful terms before even clicking on their sponsord ad?  If I could see a snapshot of a business owners reputation before even clicking on the ad, wouldn't that help me find the best solution and, in the process, improve my overall search experience?  That is, afterall, the essence of Google, Bing and Yahoo's mission. 

So why not incorporate "Likes", "Consumer Reviews" and other User Generated Content (UGC)  right below the ad text (Img. 1).
Google Search Results
(Img. 1)
Searchers could search, for example, for a laser liposuction doctor and be able to click on an Advertisers reviews, directions, hours and more without having to click on the ad itself.  Google itself wouldn't have to do much to incorporate this since they already support the display of online reviews in the local maps and they are also pulling in reviews from a variety of other 3rd party sites.  My guess is pretty soon they'll also incorporate relevant "Likes" into that feed.  They'd just have to connect the Adwords advertiser with the Local Places Account (in fact, make it mandatory for Adwords users to have a Google Places account - NOTE: the new/future organic listing).  

Of course it would count as a click and Google would make its money (maybe cost slightly less that the click that leads to the actual website?).  But the great thing is the searcher as well as the advertiser will benefit the most.. especially if the advertiser endorses transparency and regularly engages with its customers via social media.   It essentially pushes business owners to develop a social media content strategy (as opposed to buying links - most are worthless anyway [Note: links not relevant = no link juice] -  and, in most cases, your SEO firm simply hires some company in India to create random links). 

Does Your First Click Really Lead to Your Final Decision?

Here's another thing I have observed with searchers for certain types of businesses.  Let's go back to the Laser Lipo search.  Put yourself in the searchers shoes for a minute - you're searching for a doctor to do a Lipo on that troublesome body part.  Do you think for a minute that you are going to search on Google, click an ad, check out the website and based on that, hire that doctor?  Heck no!  If you're like the majority of people, once you've found a website you like, you are likely going to Google their name, search for them on Yelp, go to Rip Off Report and/or comb the web for anything you can find out about them - and oh yeah, you'll no doubt ask your friends on FaceBook (can you see the new SEO cycle forming here?) or other social media outlet.  If all checks out well you may consider giving the good doctor a call.

What really happens, though, is you are more likely to click around to a lot of different sites - see which one grabs ya - and then start your research on that.  A lot of businessess get click charges (which Google likes) but at the end of the day, you're having to spend more time searching and might even consider going over to Bing to find what you are looking for.

But what if all the consumer generated content about the business was right there at your fingertips?  Right at the point of the initial search?  This, I believe, creates the ultimate "sticky factor" and allows search engines to expand PPC to more businesses who might not feel they can be competitive in this arena.  Trust me, the big boy companies that are milling consumers will be forced to demonstrate quality of service in a very transparent way.  To illustrate my point, just look at what Ebay has done with their rating system - I no longer look at who is selling the product I want, rather I am comparing their negative to positive transaction ratios.  

So how does this tie into a benefit for the advertiser?  Well, if you are working your business the right way, people will naturally talk about you.  If you endorse transparency while employing a good social media strategy, your business will no doubt harness much of the power that "Likes" represent in terms of the highly coveted relevance factor.  At it's core, the new paradigm of SEO will keep business honest.  So, if Google and other search engines start to employ "Likes" into sponsored search results, the best businesses will win and consumers will have a better chance of getting what they are looking for. 

Does this spell the ultimate convergence of SEO and PPC?  Will one day all search listings be somehow paid no matter if found in the organic section?  This is a question for another blog post but I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic.
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Jim Gibson is a certified search engine marketing professional and serial entrepreneur.  In addition to teaching Internet Marketing for Online Media Today, Jim is a Digital Marketing Consultant for ReachLocal, Inc.  ReachLocal (Nasdaq:RLOC) is an industry leading full service digital marketing firm that helps small - medium sized businesses acquire, maintain and retain customers via the Internet.  
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