The term organic search puzzles many non-SEO folks. Is it the same kind of difference that exists between regular yogurt and organic one?
Sure. If you want a healthier lifestyle, go for the organic one in the long run. Organic search is the same!
By the end of this post, you’ll know why and how.
What is Organic Search? Everything You Need to Know
- What is organic search and why is it important?
- Paid search vs organic search
- The types of organic search to know
- Ensure your content can be indexed
- Optimize your website across devices
- Publish share-worthy content
- Use backlinks and brand mentions to promote your site
What is organic search and why is it important?
Organic search relates to the search results shown to users following text ads on a search results page by a search engine. Depending on where they are searching from, the type and content of search results shown to you could vary from one user to another. These cannot be manipulated by publishers or advertisers by shelling out more dollars on ads, lending them the moniker – organic search.
While you can manage paid ads through ad platforms like Google Ads or Microsoft Ads, organic search results take into consideration several factors. A few of them being –
- Search query: What did you search for? What words did you use?
- Relevance: How relevant are the pages to your search query?
- Usability: Is the page user-friendly? Can people easily navigate the site to accomplish their intent?
- User intent: What type of information are you looking for? News, photos, events?
- Context: Where are you located? What’s your search history like? If you were in Italy, looking for ‘football,’ you’ll see search results about Italy’s 2021 Euro Cup win. Whereas if you search ‘football’ in Argentina, you’ll see results ranked for Copa America.
Search history has come to play a significant role in how organic search results rank and show to users. They’ve become highly personalized and designed to match your interest and intent. Making them a very good avenue to focus your marketing dollars.
Case in point: Airbnb was able to successfully retain 95% of their web traffic despite pausing all paid search marketing efforts due to the pandemic.
Paid ads target short key phrases with little room to play around with user intent. That’s where organic search comes into the picture. Brands – especially those owned by small businesses – can aim at this ‘free’ traffic to convert these users to returning visitors, customers, and subscribers.
Businesses used to hot compete for top five positions on the first search results page. However, the advent of several search products and algorithm updates has completely transformed the organic search space in the last couple of years.
There’s more variation than ever, so let’s look at what’s changed.
Paid search vs. organic search
Are you a small boutique clothing retailer?
Well, get in line. So are 89 billion others, according to Google.
How does one even begin to compete?
You bid for keywords present in people’s search queries and hyper-target them by location and audience interests.
Paid ads or, more specifically, search ads appear on the top positions of a results page.
Advertisers pay when a user clicks on an ad to visit a page, following the PPC concept. You can expect to pay anywhere between 50 cents to hundreds of dollars depending on the competition in your industry of choice.
Are you an accident and injury attorney? Be prepared to pay at least $100 per click to get people through to your website. It’s also an excellent idea to create visual reports of the returns on your PPC campaigns.
Advertisers have control over who’s shown their ad and when. Meaning as soon as you turn on the ad campaign, your site will almost immediately start showing up in search results.
It’s like a grocery store shelf. You pay to get the spot that is most likely to be clicked, making it an effective short-term strategy, especially in highly competitive niches.
There are some steps involved, though.
- You need to write catchy copy
- Create an optimized landing page
- Find your target group
Organic search marketing is a slow burn yet pays off with incredible ROI in the long run. Here are a few remarkable search features introduced in recent times.
The types of organic search to know
1) Featured snippets
Featured snippets are short 20–40-words extracts describing the page before its link is shown. They are usually served in response to search queries phrased as questions. Google launched it to appeal to voice search and mobile users.
Here’s an excellent example where a search for ‘who won Copa America 2021’ served up a helpful search snippet complete with the team logo and the answer in big, bold letters.
2) Video carousels
A video carousel or a video list takes up the same amount of search results real estate as four text search links. It shows video results most closely related to a search query.
YouTube – a Google entity – launched video chapters that enabled Google search to show highly specific video results, complete with timestamps. See the example below.
Key moments that most likely help the searcher, are highlighted under each video result. If you are making a tutorial video about how to use your product or service, consider adding video chapters! This will help people tune in to the most relevant portion of the video while answering their questions in the quickest way possible.
Are you making and editing videos on the move? There are plenty of free mobile video editing apps available to help you out.
3) Top stories
Top stories carousel features the latest news stories and press releases related to the search query topic. Any topic trending widely in the news will be highlighted in the Top Stories section until replaced by an informational page.
For instance, a search for ‘tesla launched into space’ would have triggered a Top Stories section at the time of its launch. However, now it has been replaced by an informational Wikipedia page at the top spot.
4) People also ask
People also ask (PAA) lists down popular search queries and questions that people have looked up.
It matches user intent and context of the query with results in a balanced way, rewarding both the user (with an answer) and site owners (with high-match intent traffic). A true win-win situation!
Strategies to rank in organic search results
1. Ensure your content can be indexed
The world wide web is an ever-growing library of pages. To ensure search engines can show your pages, you need to ensure that they can find you.
Just how a new library book can only be issued after an index number is assigned to it. Search engines can only show your pages if your site can be indexed. Search crawlers go from link to link and page to page to bring information from those pages to users.
If you have blocked a certain portion of your website from web crawlers, then those pages won’t be discoverable in organic search.
Pro Tip: Connect Google Search Console with your website and check the ‘Coverage’ tab to get an accurate representation of what’s being indexed and what’s not.
2. Optimize your website across devices
Are you producing amazingly written pages? Take a step back before you hit the publish button. You still need to optimize the page for search engines!
In practice, this means mapping keywords to the main thematic focus of the page, title, and subheadings. Optimize your images to include alt-text and captions, making them discoverable in image carousels and image searches. Also, add in helpful in-text links to drive internal traffic to other pages.
3. Publish share-worthy content
Are you producing content which someone would love to talk about to at least two other people?
Does it inspire enough credibility and trust?
Search engines like Google grade content quality as a strong search signal influencing search result ranking. You need to publish original, high-quality, useful, and informational content that fits your needs.
Tip: Combine content and experience to create something that’s fun to share. Interactive media content like quizzes, maps, games help boost the share-worthiness of pages.
Stay away from duplicated and plagiarized content. Search engine web crawlers are smart enough to detect and penalize websites for publishing copycat content.
4. Use backlinks and brand mentions to promote your site
Remember web crawlers? They follow the world wide web page by page and link by link.
To build authority, you need to build backlinks from reputable websites so they can pass some of the search juice to you.
For example, if a popular business publication like Business Insider were to include your brand in a list of ‘emerging brands of 2021’, it would be seen as a solid ‘vote of trust’ by search engine algorithms.
Links from other reputable and trusted websites can boost your search rankings by several notches. This practice is part of off-page SEO, known as link building. A helpful tip would be to enforce this strategy with link trackers, which can help you measure and track the success of your link-building exercise.
Strategies to get more clicks from organic search
1) Make the best of your title tag
The title tag refers to the title of the page and is shown in clickable, big blue letters in search results. It is the first thing users will see, so you need to ensure it’s attractive enough to reel people in.
In the example above, the title highlighted in red sounds descriptive, closely matching the query’s search intent. What makes it stand out among others is that it is enigmatic, inviting users to unlock the secret behind the mystery of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
One area it falls short (or perhaps long) is the length of the title tag. It clips off because it’s too long for the screen it’s being viewed on. While Google swears there’s no limit on the title tag length, the dominance of mobile search means you need to ensure the length is under 60 characters – perfect for the tiny smartphone screen.
2) Create an optimal meta description
The meta description is one of the non-clickable elements of a search result. It is shown directly below the title tag, providing, as the name suggests – a brief description of the page linked to the result. A few tips on writing a good meta description are –
- Keywords: Research popular search queries and make sure to include the most important of them in the meta description.
- Copy: Write readable and scannable copy that can be easily skimmed on a small mobile screen.
- Attractive: Meta description is akin to search ad copy – it provides users a peek into what your page is about. Treat it exactly like an ad for your page, making it as appealing to the end-user as possible.
- Length: The optimal length of a typical meta description is 160 characters for the same reason meta titles are not supposed to be longer than 60 characters. Small screens will display a chopped-off description leaving out important information about your pages.
- Unique: Avoid mass duplicating descriptions for pages because they do not provide any value to the person viewing them in search results. Write a unique and different meta description tailored to the content of a page.
3) Stick to URL best practices
Google has revamped how it shows URLs in search results – parsing each part to redraw a path.
In the example above, the URL is broken down in this manner.
Part 1: gallery/
Part 2 (title): the-50-best-restaurants-in-the-world-2019
Notice how it becomes significantly easier to read and comprehend for those viewing it on a small screen or using screen readers. A few best SEO-writing practices to follow when writing URLs are:
- Include the primary keyword.
- Remove numbers and stop words like ‘for,’ ‘of,’ ‘are,’ etc.
- Remove irrelevant information like dates and serial numbers.
- Avoid spaces and capital letters.
- Avoid burying down the title in more than one sub-directory.
Organic search is for the long-haul
Search engines over the years have become increasingly attuned to the needs of the users. The various search features listed above only serve to prove that further. As an upcoming business, you’ll benefit from focusing attention on improving the organic search aspect of your digital marketing program.
Hyper-personalization and localization of search results mean that now it’s an even playing field for small and medium business owners. They can easily weather stiff competition from global mega-brands by ensuring their organic search game is top-notch by putting the tips shared here into action.