If you searched for products on Google this past holiday season, you may have seen paid ads mixed in with the organic search results you were hoping for.

The integration of ads into search results is nothing new, but with the addition of Google’s Search Plus Your World pushing organic search even farther down with personalized search results, it is imperative your brand examine ways to ensure your brand appears high in search results among all the competition. Some brands may wonder if the inclusion of paid ads and personalized search results make search engine optimization obsolete, but SEO is not dead and will never die off–it’s just important to optimize with paid and social factors in mind.

A recent Planet Ocean article about the dominance of above-the-fold ads showed a search example of HD monitors, where the search engine made the assumption the user was searching for the term because of purchase intent. For web users not using wide screens and high-resolution monitors, the only results they may see at all initially are ads, with paid advertisements taking over more real estate in searches. Unless your brand has the budget to purchase those ads to appear in the top positions of user searches, a more economical and long-term solution would be to re-focus targeted search terms and emphasize long-tail search queries.

Long-tail search queries are focused and specific terms relating to your brand beyond general terms. For example, while “HD monitor” is a primary term, “HD monitor resolution” is a long-tail search term. If you concentrate on those long-tail searches, then you have a better chance of appearing higher in specialized searches, and the user is more likely to click on your results, with less of a likelihood of ads popping up.

When you’re optimizing and determining what those long-tail search queries are, it’s key to look at how the competition is being displayed in search engines. As you do keyword research, don’t just use keyword tools, but also look at how those terms are being displayed currently. If you get a lot of local results and paid results and then just a handful of organic search results, that should be another indicator to you of how that term will actually be displayed and whether you should put effort into that keyword.

Some ads will acquiesce to Google’s algorithm and buy ads. It’s important for brands to use their budget, time and expertise wisely and examine their audience and where they’re coming from to determine whether ads are worth the investment. Examine analytics to see terms you may not be focusing on but should be based on traffic, and optimize terms based on that. Google ads in search results have an uncertain future and may fluctuate based on purchasing seasons such as the holidays. ZOG Digital is interested in helping your brand create long-term solutions in the ever-changing SEO world.

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