Here’s a question I get asked often.
If I want to generate local leads from my business (or practice) should I be doing SEO or focus on Google Adwords?
This is often a dilemma for small businesses because you have limited advertising budgets and you want to get the best possible return on your investment.
So, what will get you the best “bang for your buck”?
For local lead generation, it now Google Adwords. Here’s why…
Local Organic Search Results Are Now Buried!
Over the last few years, Google has slowly been burying local search results. Take a look at the following screenshot.
This is a search result from a few years back. As you can see organic search results began on position # 4. This meant that if you focused on SEO and reached page one of Google, you were guaranteed consistent “free traffic”.
Of course, the traffic isn’t free, you are still paying for search engine optimization, but once you get to number one or two you were literally guaranteed an avalanche of search traffic to your business.
Another common argument against Adwords was that your prospects didn’t click on the ads anyway. They jump down to the organic results.
This also was true to some extent.
As you can see from this 2012 Adwords vs SEO heat map above, only 25% of the traffic went to Adwords while organic search got 75%. In fact, if you were number one on organic search, you got a whopping 27.1% of all the search traffic.
But that was the past.
Today if you search for a local business the result are VERY different.
Take a look at a search I did recently for “Toronto Divorce Lawyers”
The organic search results have now been buried at position #8. The first 4 listings are Adwords ads followed by 3 map listings and finally the organic # 1 listing.
This means that for local search if you spend your advertising budget on SEO, the best you will ever get is position #8. This trend actually makes sense because Google earns its massive revenue from Adwords (its advertising platform).
They do not make any money from organic search engine results. So Google WANTS you to advertise and they want you to get good results so that you keep spending money on advertising year after year.
What about heat maps? Are your prospects still skipping all the 7 top listings to find the organic listing way down in number 8?
This doesn’t seem to be the case. According to United Digital Group, their heat maps show a stronger focus on paid search (blog post in German).
From theses newer heatmap images, you can see that your prospect’s eyes land on the top 4 listings, which are all paid ads now. Then down to the map listings.
For most desktop screen sizes, you will need to scroll down to actually see the #1 organic listing, which is now below the fold.
As a local business, if you are going to invest in SEO, you will get better results by focusing on getting into the 3 pack map listing as compared to getting to the first page organically for your site.
The Google search results page for local search changed significantly in early 2016 with the removal of the right-hand ads and the addition of one extra paid ad at the top. This further pushed organic search results to position # 8 and in some cases, below the fold for smaller screen sizes.
So focusing on SEO for lead generation will at best get you into position #8 while Adwords you have a chance at one of the 4 top positions. If you still want to stick with search engine optimization for your business, then your money is better spent focusing on getting into one the 3 map listings.