Google search traffic is NOT dying

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Notes

Chris responds to an article published by Social Media Examiner about the death of Google search traffic, and how not only is it not dying, but in fact thriving…if you are doing the right things.

This is not a rant or a dig at SME, this is simply to restore some balance to this article as so to minimise any fear that people may have about their current marketing and sales strategies, and so they don’t feel like they should abandon a perfectly good organic search strategy.

Additional Resources:

Transcription

This is a response to an article that was written by Social Media Examiner about a month ago from recording this, and I think it was the 4th of July. This is the 6th of August. At first, I was angry about this article. The article is called The Death of Google Search Traffic and What It Means for Marketers, so, if you just search for The Death of Google Search Traffic, you should find it. It’s on the Social Media Examiner website.

I was first angry about this article not because it goes against my opinion, but there were people that I know that were reading it and starting to make decisions on this content. They were reading it and then thinking, “Oh, my God, what am I going to do about this? This is a big deal type of thing,” but the reality is is that it’s not a big deal and it’s stuff that’s been happening for a very long time.

In fact, since Google’s inception, they’ve been making changes ever since, so it’s not news and it’s not new. It’s just the way that it is.

I’ve got a few problems with the article, and, like I said, it made me angry at first reading it because there were people that I know really well that were reacting to it in the wrong way, and the reason that it was the wrong way is because the article is incomplete, it’s misinformed, it’s mis-educating people about what’s going on, and it’s creating fear in people who, up until now, were doing absolutely fine.

There was nothing wrong with what they were doing, and if you find the article and read it, maybe you’ve already read it perhaps, but anything with death in the title is typically a good reason to just stay away from that article.

When it first caught my eyes on it, I wasn’t interested in reading it at all, but because I saw people in my close… my closest customers and network reading it, I felt like I had to read it, and I also felt compelled to have a response to it as well. After reading it a couple of times and really digging into it and then responding to each part of it, I felt like… It feels like the article is off the cuff, irrational and not really thought through, and I feel like it was reasonably irresponsible for such a popular blog to write something like this, and I sat on it for a few weeks. I’d been on holiday, et cetera.

I’m not angry about it. I mean, I didn’t lose any sleep over it or anything like that, and, this podcast episode, it certainly isn’t a rant about it as well because, I don’t know about you, but every time someone says I heard a rant on this podcast episode, I just… I don’t even… I mean, I’m ready to switch off already.

I don’t want to hear people ranting. I want people to come to me with some level of thought, rational thought, and I think this is what this Social Media Examiner article really is actually. It’s a bit of a rant. Therefore, it’s incomplete and a little bit just, I don’t know, just rubbish and basic actually, so my main concern though is not to have a dig at Social Media Examiner for publishing this article, but to turn it around a little bit, and this is really for the people that have read it and need help to understand what’s going on and what’s actually happening and to dial down that level of fear-mongering that’s happening there, and to give people who have been getting great results from Google Search and organic traffic the confidence to continue on that path.

This isn’t a dig. It’s not a rant. It’s not really an angry response either. It’s just like, “Let’s get some things clear here,” and, also, it’s for the CMA community because, I mean, it’s part of what we teach. I mean, this is one person’s opinion against another person’s opinion. That’s what I don’t want this to be, and this is really for my community and my audience as well who are… perhaps read this article and then started to question everything they’ve learned and questioned their marketing strategies and their tactics based on what they’ve read there, and I’m just here to add some balance to this, to smooth things out.

The truth is is that you don’t really have anything to worry about if you’re doing the right things in the right ways. I know it’s difficult for someone to say, “If you’re doing things in the right ways,” because there are many, many things to do, but I’ll… I think that becomes clear. If you’ve listened to the podcast before, it’d be very clear to you what the right things are. If you’ve not listened to the podcast before and this is your first experience with the podcast, then I will explain and give you an idea of what I believe to be the right things and why I’m saying it in that way.

I know there are a million and one ways to market and grow a business. I know there are loads of different things you could be doing, so there’s no one right or wrong way. It’s just that, sometimes, there is though a better way, and I believe this is what we teach at CMA as the better way.

Before I continue, if whatever you’re doing right now is working for you and it’s getting results for you and your company, your brand, what I say or what anybody else says should not discourage you from doing what you’re currently doing. Use your head. Use your reason. Use your rationality. Don’t make quick judgments. It might seem like marketing is moving and changing really fast, but when you look at the big picture, it’s not changing as fast or as quickly as you think.

It’s definitely not changing in the moment you read a blog article and, with reference to this blog article, nothing changed the moment this blog article was published. The stuff that is in this article has been around for a while. The changes, generally speaking, the theory behind the changes or the principle behind the changes that Google has put in place on their search results pages have been happening for years, and that’s where we need to start this conversation off.

We need to, first of all, understand how Google works with content marketing, so let’s start there. Let’s start with Google.

How would you define Google’s job? How would a five-year-old describe what Google is? It’s the answer to everything. I type something in and I get the answer. Google’s job is to return to you the best answer based on your search term. If Google wasn’t good at it, what would you do? As a consumer, if Google wasn’t serving you first, you would go somewhere else, so it’s not just in the best interest of Google to be the best at returning to you the best answer to your question or the best search results based on your search term, but it’s crucial that it continues to deliver at that level, continue to predict consumer behavior, continue to challenge its own business model to give you what you want, and what you want is you want it quickly. You want it easily.

People have been using Google for decades. They know how to use it. They know how to find what they’re looking for, and as consumer behavior continues to change, there will continue to be changes in Google’s platform. We can be absolutely certain of that.

The other thing we can be certain of is that we cannot control what Google does, so we have to manage what we can control, what we influence, what we can’t control. Search isn’t going anywhere either. This is what I was saying at the start is that as soon as you see something that has ‘death’ in the title of it, you can rest assured that the thing that they’re talking about is not dying. You wouldn’t read something that has ‘death’ in the title. It’s going to be bullshit probably.

Search isn’t going anywhere, and it’s not dying, and, in fact, if you do the right things, I feel like it’s thriving. Yep. Okay, in the future, there might be more developments with AI. In fact, there definitely will be more developments with AI and filters and things like that where you’ve got assistants doing all your work for you and predicting what you’ll find, want to look for, but there’s probably still going to be search. You’re probably still going to want to search for stuff, but no one can predict the future accurately, but what we know right now is that Google Search isn’t dying and it is changing as it should.

We can’t fight Google and its changes. It’s going to change. It needs to change. It should change and adapt, and we have to change and adapt with it, too.

If anything, Google’s changes reflect changing consumer behavior and, therefore, if we’re smart and we’re using our brain and we’re thinking rationally, we should be going, “Google is changing. Why? How do I change as a result? What do I need to do differently? What does our company, our brand need to do differently to make sure that we’re aligning with the trends and consumer behavior?” It’s all over Google’s blog. All the data, all the information is there. We cannot ignore it. We cannot fight it. We cannot pretend that it doesn’t exist.

Things will get more difficult. That is definite. Things are going to get more difficult. As Google makes these changes, it does make us… It makes more difficult for us to be found. It makes it more difficult for people to click-through to our website. These things will happen.

An increase in content makes it more and more competitive in our industry, but does this mean that we should give up hope? Absolutely not. That’s a defeatist attitude. If you’re going into something saying, “What’s the point? It’s too difficult,” you may as well give up. No. If that’s your attitude, you may as well just stop what you’re doing. The game is over for you, but the game is not over for everybody else. It’s far from it. There’s still a lot of room for better in the marketplace, especially in the content marketing space.

Google is still seeking and is thirsty to find and display the single best answer that exists for the questions and the problems that your buyers are searching for the answers for. Your buyers are asking these questions. Google wants to give them the answers. You have the ability to create the single best answer that exists online for that question or that problem.

In some ways, as I’ve been going through this article and trying to piece together my response to get some more clarity on this, in some ways, it’s kind of like not a surprise to me there is a social marketing website that has put this together because, in my experience, social media companies are the ones that struggle the most with content marketing, and this article clearly has a complete misunderstanding of what content marketing truly is.

The one major reason that most companies and brands and people, marketers, whatever, the biggest reason that they disregard organic search is simply because they’ve never had any significant results from organic search, so, with all that in mind, let’s get into the article, and what I’m going to do is I’m going to pick up on some of the major points in the article, and then I’m going to explain what’s actually happening and discuss how this affects you as a marketer and a business owner and what you can do about it.

The article’s got some good points in it as well, which I’ll cover at the end, so let’s look at the first part of the article. Also, if you’re listening to this podcast or watching it and you’re also looking at the article, then that would be a perfect scenario, but I appreciate it. When you’re listening to a podcast, you’re mostly doing something else. You’re listening passively while you’re driving or doing something else, but it may be worth revisiting this so you can see how I’ve worked through the article and the points I’m picking up.

The first point is the point in the article that’s talking about how we’re moving towards having… that consumers are moving towards wanting only the single best answer that exists online, and this is really fueled from voice assistants, I’ve covered this in the podcast probably 18 months ago or so, and how voice assistants are nothing to worry about at all, and they still aren’t anything to worry about at all, and I’ll explain why.

In the article, they used a question to illustrate how Google’s job is to return only one single answer, and the question they used to prove this point is, “What is the capital of California?” and then to, illustrate that point further, they used another short tail search term, which they aren’t positioned in one… or in the top two or three positions for, which is this, the short tail search term, which is social media, two words, and then the article goes on to showcase that their website is really far down the page due to new search features, which we’ve talked about on the podcast before, that deliver a specific answer to that. It could be like a dictionary or a Wikipedia or something like that, and then, out of the 1.43 million searches for that term in the last 90 days, only 1% click-through to the Social Media Examiner’s website, so let’s wrap all of that up quickly. We have to stop for a moment and unpack this.

If you’ve been following the CMA podcast for a while and you’ve been working with CMA, perhaps you’re in the membership or you’ve worked with us as a client, you know that we’re just simply not concerned with short tail searches like social media or the equivalent of that in our industry. We know that our buyers when they’re in the buying journey, aren’t really searching around short-tail phrases. They’re really concerned with very… highly specific answers to questions, solutions to problems.

For me, this debunks the whole experiment. If you pick a question that has only one answer, “What is the capital of California?” that’s a terrible example to showcase and illustrate the point because there is only one answer to that question.

This is exactly the experiment that I did in a podcast a while back, which I will link to in the show notes, which is about voice search and why you don’t need to be concerned about it because your buyers are not asking their voice assistant to compare and for reviews and for… to understand pricing and to understand problems of industries that happen around certain products and services. This is not happening. We use voice assistants to get single answers to things, “How many times has the San Francisco Giants won the World Series?” stuff like that, “What is the capital of?”

This debunks the whole experiment. Experiment it with yourself. Get a voice assistant, start asking it questions, and you’ll see how quickly it starts to tap out. In other words, you’re not getting the information that you want anymore and you do have to go to search to find the answers. That’s just where we are right now with voice search. It’s where we are with single answers as well.

In most cases, for people asking questions that are in the buyer’s journey, there is no single answer to the question. There’s many different answers and variations of that question even, so experiment it with yourself. Have a look at it. There’s nothing to worry about here.

That’s been going on for quite a while, and, as I said at the start, Google’s job is to return to you the single best answer based on your search term. Google’s job isn’t to give you a million answers. Although it does, you’re never going to go through all of them. We want to find what we’re looking for very quickly and easily, and if we can’t think of what we’re looking for quickly and easily, we’re back up to the top. We’re putting our search term back into the box and we’re researching. We’re not going to page two. That’s not what we do.

Our mission as content marketers, as business people, as communicators is to create the single best piece of content that exists online today that addresses that question that your buyers have in the best way. If you’re doing that already, then you truly have nothing to worry about because, as time moves on, as the changes happen, and Google’s job is to return to the user best answer that exists, if you’re really challenging yourself and pushing yourself to address it in the best way, then you’re going to be at the top. You’re going to be that one answer. That’s what you should be pushing for. That’s what you need to do.

If you’ve not been doing this and you want to understand how to do this, head over to our website. Go to cmauk.co.uk. Download my E-book and checklist and tutorial, video tutorial that takes you through exactly how to create the best content that exists online today for your industry, and that will get you started off on the right foot.

In conclusion to this point, the examples that they’ve used to illustrate the point are bad examples. They don’t illustrate the true meaning of what’s happening with Google Search and how our buyers are using Google because these terms are not what buyers would use to search Google. It debunks the whole test for me. Anything else beyond that is void.

It’s clear to me that the person that’s written this article doesn’t understand what content marketing is and how it works for brands and companies. That’s clear to me at this point, and so, because the examples are terrible, the article really has no grounding from that point forward, but we have to continue, so let’s go on to… I’ve got two more points I want to make on this, and then we’ll wrap things up with some ideas about how to move forward, but also a lot of the ideas I’m sharing in here are things that are just inherent in the podcast. If you go back through the last 30 or 40 or 50 episodes, you’re going to get all of this.

Point number two is over half of Google searches do not result in a click. Again, this is true. I think it’s something like 61% of Google searches do not result in a click-through to a website, so let’s just go with the rule of thumb. Let’s just say it’s more than half. This is not new information. Again, Google’s job is to return to you the single best answer that exists online based on your search term, and if you can’t find what you’re looking for on top of page one, you’re to change your search, you’re going to be going through this process. People have been using Google for years, decades. They want to find the answer quickly.

Google have introduced or have been introducing lots of features or testing and trying different things all the time to give you the answer as quickly as possible, and some of these features mean that people are not going to click through to your website.

Now, these features like the snippet boxes and the knowledge bases and just… There are loads and loads of them as pushing organic search is down. Your position one can be below the fold, very… far below the fold, sometimes on page four or five if you’re on a mobile device, so I screen four or five if you’re on a mobile device, but there are two ways to look at this. You can either look at this as a threat or you can look at this as an opportunity.

If you are striving to create the single best answer that exists online for the questions and problems that your buyers are searching for, then you’re going to be in the best position possible, but if you’re not, then you’re going to struggle, because the opportunity here is that your company, your brand could be all over page one. It’s not just about being in position one organically. There are lots of other opportunities on the search engine results page for you to take advantage of now.

To me, it’s like, wow, I can be in five places instead of just one now. That’s amazing. Let’s get on with creating the single best article that exists online today for that question, that problem. Let’s do that and let’s take advantage of all of these opportunities that exist on the search results pages. I think that’s how we need to look at this.

Google are going to be introducing features. They’re going to take features away. They’re going to be trying different things all the time. We can’t control what Google will do. We just have to go with it, so you either fight it and drag your heels, or you lean into it, you go with it.

Now, the concluding points in the article are, that I feel like this article is based on… The whole experiment is based on search traffic or volume traffic to a website, so the total volume of traffic to a website. That’s really what it feels like, so it draws two… three conclusions, sorry, and I think I’m just going to check the article quickly as well because I’m pretty sure it says at the start that… He says that “I would begin now some detailed analysis.” This is not really detailed I would say because there’s like a causal link or there’s like a… No, it’s not causal. What’s the word I’m looking for? It’s just an assumed link between the decline in traffic also results in a decline in customers, which is simply not true. You’d have to have hard data to prove that.

The three conclusion points in the articles are, number one, there’s going to be a continuing decline in traffic. Search traffic continues to decline as Google takes the top slots for search queries.

Number two, fewer people to nurture. Fewer people reading your content are going to be… It’s going to result in fewer people sharing it and fewer people opting in for your free email offers.

Number three, fewer customers. Revenue declines as your owned audiences shrink. Fewer website visitors and email subscribers means fewer people to promote your products and services, too.

This is just garbage, basically. It’s just simply not true. As I said at the start, the reason that people disregard organic search is because they’re not getting the results they want from organic search, so they see a threat, a change in Google, and they automatically… They pull back from it. It’s like a threat. They feel defeated before they even started. Yep, search traffic will probably decline to your website and blog, but it doesn’t mean you have fewer customers. This gives us the challenge now is can we be better? Can we do it better now?

There’s not a direct link between lower traffic and then getting fewer customers. In fact, what we’re seeing is the exact opposite. There are not even fewer customers. We’re getting customers. A lot of the people in CMA and the people we work with are getting higher value customers from their content. In other words, more customers paying more, staying for longer, better quality. It’s like the exact opposite of what I’m reading in this article.

As Google changes, there are going to be new features. We are going to have to be aware of them. However, there’s an underlying foundational principle here is that, if you can lead with, lead your content strategy with our mission statement, which is that we’re going to, as far as reasonably possible, we are going to put her energy into creating the single best article that exists online that addresses this question, this problem, whatever it might be, then I feel like you’re going to be going in the right direction. You’re leaning into the same principle as what your consumers are looking for. It’s what Google is then trying to deliver to your buyers as well.

That’s where I get to feel like, if we can just take that, if we can take one thing from this podcast episode, it’s that one line or that one thing, that if we do that and if we’re striving for that, I feel like all the other challenges slip away and become less of a problem and much more of an opportunity for you.

I’ve got four or five wrap-up points here as well. The major reasons that people struggle to get results from organic search, and there’s tons of them, obviously, hundreds, but the majors are that they’re not really focusing on the right search terms. They’re searching on short tail stuff like social media, for example, so they aren’t thinking about the search terms that their buyers are section four when they need to make an educated buying decision.

Now, if you truly want to get ROI, in other words, your return on your content marketing efforts, then you will have to focus on creating content that pulls your buyers through the buying process to help them make an educated decision. This is content marketing. This is not what’s being discussed in the article.

People, companies, brands, marketers don’t view content as a sales strategy. Their marketing is not aligned with sales, another major failing and why people are not getting results from organic search or from their content marketing. They’re creating content for their peers instead of focusing on their buyers, and their content isn’t addressing questions and problems in the best way. In other words, they’re not really focused on creating the best content that exists online today. They’re just creating basic content, and that’s not good enough. That’s just simply not good enough.

People aren’t waiting for another mediocre blog article or video. We need to create the best within our… with whatever is within our control, and that’s all we can control. All we can control is the quality of the work that we do. The results that we get from the work is not up to us. We can influence it by doing certain things, making our titles and our tags and our URLs and all the on-page SEO and all the technical SEO. We can get all of that right, but what Google does with all of that is not up to us. We can’t control that.

The article finishes up with a few solid ideas which I feel are worth taking into consideration about, conversion rates and optimizing conversions on page and making sure that the traffic that you are getting is being converted in the right ways. It also mentions that SEO alone isn’t going to grow their business. I feel like that’s absolutely true as well. There’s not going to be just one thing that’s going to help with this, but certainly if you want to be found in Google and you want to get better results from organic traffic, then SEO is a major, major factor.

I’m going to just finish up with some ideas to help you move forward. We’ve discussed the article. We’ll draw a line under that. Like I said, it’s not about rant, it’s not about getting angry, it’s just about… I wanted to bring some balance to this article so that it didn’t just… The comments were frightening in this article. People just were almost abandoning SEO completely, which is insane, so we don’t want to get to this… It’s just like frantic, this frantic motion in marketing that infuriates me as a marketer.

One of the things that I really hate about the industry is that people are just jumping from one thing to the next without really learning it properly, without really getting the gist of it. It’s infuriating.

Let’s look at some changes you can make to develop this, and we’ll wrap things up.

Number one, see content marketing as a sales strategy.

Number two, make it your mission to create the content that is the best in your industry that addresses the questions or problems better than anybody else. The on-page search engine result page features are going to be reducing traffic to your website, but that builds the case even more for having the single best answer that exists online leaning directly into what changes Google will be making and what’s around the corner with regards to voice in that single best answer. In other words, see it as an opportunity.

You can be in many different places on the search engine result page. You might not be getting the clicks, but you’re getting the exposure. I mean, take it as an opportunity. Think about the natural line of question that your buyers have. If they’re on your website, they’re searching for a question, think about what the next question might be. In other words, imagine they’ve gone back to Google to research the next question. What would keep them on your website? What’s the natural line of questioning?

Get really concerned with longer tail search terms, not what’s included in this article as an example. They’re very highly specific questions that your buyers are asking through the buying journey. Focus on what’s in your control, first of all, the quality of the work that you can do and the research. Secondly, focus on what you can influence. You can do certain things that influences the results that you get, but do not give energy to what you cannot control.

You can’t control what Google does, and you just have to go with it. You just have to work with it, and just because something’s getting harder, it doesn’t mean that it’s dying. In fact, if you do the right things, I think there’s a lot of room for you to thrive in that organic Google Search space.

Just because it’s getting harder, it doesn’t mean that it’s dying. If is getting harder, it is challenging us to be better.

Now, I’ve linked to relevant podcasts for you to listen to. You can also download our guide to creating the best content in your industry. Just go to cmauk.co.uk. Go ahead and download that tutorial and that checklist and E-book. I think you’ll love it, and I’ve also linked to the article from the Social Media Examiner as well so you can go and have a look at that, and then dive into some of the relevant content and podcasts that we’ve put into the show notes as well.

Chris Marr:
As always keen to know your thoughts, what’s on your mind. Any questions that you have as well, you can email me, chris@cmauk.co.uk, or you can tweet, @chrismarr101, and I will catch you next time. Don’t forget to be awesome.

Chris Marr:
Thanks very much for joining me on the CMA podcast today. If you find today’s episode interesting and intriguing, and you want to get better results from your content marketing, then join the CMA membership today at cmamembership.co.uk.

About Nicola Crawford

Marketing PA at the Content Marketing Academy.
In business, I believe in people first.
Mum to two crazy kids, Alaina and Morgan.
Green belt in Shotokan Karate.
Always learning, always growing.