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Search engines improving rankings for general queries

One difference between natural search engine listings and paid search listings is the use of IP addresses for locating users to determine what paid listings might show.

I live in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan so in the paid listings there are results for Michigan and the Flint-Saginaw-Bay City area. Google knows to show paid listings for that area because my IP address shows that I’m searching from around there. The natural listings, however, don’t use IP information. And if you look at the bottom of the page (sorry, it got a little cut off, and I’m too pathetically lazy when it comes to blog posts to try and fix it) you’ll see a listing for PhiladelphiaOrthodontists.com. Pure Visibility did SEO work for this site a couple years back – it’s pretty amazing that they rank for “orthodontists.” But this is a local practice. They really ought not show for such a general query unless the person doing the querying is from Philadelphia.

The important results for a general query like “orthodontists” would probably be:

1. Definitions & informational resources.
2. National or international organizations.
3. Trade magazines or resources.
4. Comprehensive directories (mini directories for major cities are borderline).
5. Results specific to the area the person is searching from.

Note, local results shouldn’t show up unless location information is being gathered from the search engine user. So Google has a problem with rankings that could be improved.

This isn’t an isolated incident. A query for “car dealerships” shows a listing from a dealership with a couple of Georgia locations on the first page. A query for “restaurants” has results for Atlanta, Seattle, and Los Angeles. A query for “opticians” has a page one listing for the Texas Dept. of Health. A query for “valet companies” has a page one listing for a Detroit valet company. A query for “preschools” has a top listing for a Phoenix area preschool.

Google isn’t terrible at handling local queries, most of the top listings are general and, you’d figure, important to a general query. But it’s a little strange that they don’t include IP targeted results, when they do it for paid listings. I think part of the reason might be to increase the number of clicks on paid listings.

Organic and Paid in One

As a pay per click manager, I fear rising costs in AdWords. I have nightmares about it, bad ones. Half the time when I’m REMing you can be sure “insanity bidders” are in the back of my eyeballs. That’s one of the reasons I pay attention to what’s a natural listing and what’s a paid listing and how they are related. In pay per click advertising, people who track their spend find a profitable cost per click and set their bids accordingly (some of the time). But if you’re already listed naturally – I think for those folks – a new kind of definition of profitability can come up. If you’ve paid off all the fixed costs of having a top listing in Google and consider all those variable costs from paid listings and SEO services, those listings are bringing in “free cash.” If you want to keep this position, and keep new marketers from getting off the ground, you might consider pooling the revenue generated from your natural Google listings with the revenue from pay per click listings to come up with a higher break even point. In my nightmares, it lurks: this backwards world of necessary negative pay per click profit to lock out new search engine advertisers. For general queries, Google is semi-safely guarding this from happening.

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About Steve Loszewski

Steve Loszewski leads the paid search team at Pure Visibility. He is individually qualified in AdWords, has the Google Analytics Individual Qualification, is an Oracle Database 10g Administrator Certified Associate, and is a Sun Certified Programmer for the Java Platform SE 6. Steve has been managing AdWords accounts since 2005 and also has experience in SEO. Most of his time is spent in the trenches, working with keywords, ads, bids, landing pages, placements, etc within the AdWords Interface. You can find him on Google+.

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