SEO Click Loss Angst!? SOLVED- Now Quit Whining & Get Over It

A cartoon, spotted dog drags a scared, yelling man by his leash.

As usual, Rand Fishkin (Spark Toro Founder & SEO top dog) has the coolest SEO data and intriguing insights. Yep, predictions have come true:  Less than half of Google searches now result in an outbound click.

Oh, my, flabbergasted, dog, OMFD, WHAT a surprise, ROFL.

No bummer for us. AIMCLEAR has been cheering for Google to diminish clicks to websites. Why? Because it favors our channel agnostic, integrated approach that knows how to treat a paid search brand ad as if its site links are a surfaced navigation bar to the destination website.

In reality, SEO sucks as a sustainable, one trick pony channel. Some marketers believe Google’s hold on traffic is unfair, for a variety of reasons. Some media and government types think Google’s distribution stranglehold is illegal. In general, the power and control tech companies hold over markets has become a hot-button issue.

From a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective, marketers will bitch. Here are some common complaints, and why each complaint is at least partially bullhank, cooked up by this entitled generation of marketers and ill-informed bureaucrats: 

COMPLAINT: It’s hard for a little company to get started if they can’t afford to buy Google Ads to compete with big brands.

REALITY: Join the real world. The last 20 years or so have been an anomaly in the history of advertising technology. Only in this generation of marketers were we able to gain huge exposure via free brand traffic from the same platform as paid ads.  It was remarkable and temporary, a blip in marketing history.

Think about it. Lucrative advertising inventory to drive store traffic, phone calls, etc. was rarely if ever free for startups, unlike the last 20 years of search engines. 

When the printing press was invented, printers did not line up to offer startup entrepreneurs free ink and paper. Since we never had free access to printing presses at scale, nobody knew to complain when we lost it.

Newspapers have only the smallest business buzz columns and didn’t simply give away sports or entertainment section display space. Free real estate ads? Nope. Startup realtors needed to buy classifieds or find a way to make actual news.

Television and radio stations donated PSAs (public service announcements) sparingly, usually when the sales staff was unable to sell available on-air inventory or the government required them to do it.

SO, you think marketers are simply entitled to free search engine inventory in perpetuity because it took ad tech 20 years to perfect and fully monetize the search invention? STFU. You’re spoiled and entitled.

The last 20 years were a one time perk for early adopters.  You should have built audiences for free while you had the chance. Because not every product space is competitive, there will always be a limited free SEO opportunity.  Then there’s the informational long tail.  Take what you can get, build your brand in other channels, and quit whining.

COMPLAINT: Google surfaces and monetizes valuable third-party website content (Yours & Mine), stealing post-click on-site revenue. Revenue from CPM banner buys and (haha!) Adsense Think about weather sites, travel, hotels, playable podcasts, songs, Wikipedia, videos, etc.

Google SERP of hotels in Duluth
NOT SHOWN: The four! ads that pushed this Google feature below the fold.

REALITY: Yeah, this is a hard pill to swallow. It’s likely Google nets a pretty penny with each successful flight referral, hotel booking, and extra time-on-Google in the walled content garden. If you’re the airline brand dealing with fewer website visits and direct bookings because flight data is surfaced on Google, that’s a tough one to deal with…or is it?

HOWEVER: This doesn’t mean there’s no room for challenging Google as a potential monopoly. This Twitter thread by Rand Fishkin addresses the issue well (click it to read the entire worthwhile thread):

@RandFish tweet reads, With the news of more investigations & cases against the tech giants, there are a lot of folks saying "the government shouldn't regulate  or punish Google, Amazon, Facebook! They built great products so they should win the market."
Click image to read the thread

If You Don’t Like It…LEAVE
OK, why doesn’t Delta or United Airlines tell Google to piss off and refuse to participate in the G Flights brand hijacking scheme? Well- Delta still gets exposure on Google. Airlines have been paying booking commissions since travel agents. Why does Delta care whether Expedia gets the referral fee vs. Google?

But…but…but…Google owes us site traffic! (Yes, SEOs are actually saying this.)

Twitter users debate if Google owes businesses site traffic.

If you complainants don’t like the paradigm and have any guts at all, then take your sites pages, data, and feeds all the way out of Google. Refuse to supply your organic content. Don’t buy any ads. You have fun with that. Acuweather has any number of “Free” channels to market in. Perhaps they can put bulletin board fliers in laundromats. That’s about the quality of most free inventory out there.

COMPLAINT: Affiliates and aggregators of all sizes are squeezed out. Instead, Google is a massive super-affiliate, the ultimate aggregator.

REALITY:  When a business model wanes in value with tech progression, then it’s time to go. Should Netflix have been subject to harsh rhetoric and regulation because it and other streaming services blew Blockbuster off the face of the earth?

How about parking lot robot cashier manufacturers or ATMs that replaced some attendants and bank tellers? Did human beings have a RIGHT for that job or category to exist forever because it lasted for three generations?

Aggregators don’t offer near as much value vs. an integrated full search experience, with huge amounts of other related data at hand. Orbitz
does not have YouTube to search about trailhead water supplies, time zone conversions, and electrical adapters in Switzerland, all data Google can integrate. Travelocity could not hope to offer the same level of flights-associated, airport restaurant review data as Google UK can.

It may just be that mainstream, huge category, smaller-than-Google affiliates can’t compete with Google, the ultimate super affiliate.

AIMCLEAR never thought it was our God-given right to get traffic from a search engine. And, we’ve always known in every channel the amount of valuable inventory we can get for free will diminish.”

COMPLAINT: Dumbass SEO agencies could go out of business, or be forced to evolve, with employees reassigned or laid off.

REALITY: Who cares if SEO lives or dies? Anyone who ONLY does SEO cares, that’s who.  To those who remain only SEOs, enjoy your pity-party. Elevator operators, printing companies, and travel agents have already been through this.  Only the wily few will survive practicing SEO exclusively, and they are the best of the best of our industry. That’s normal. Get over it.

AIMCLEAR defines “Dumbass SEO”  as any practitioner who acts as if organic search is siloed, disconnected from brand, PR, paid search/social, programmatic top of funnel display, retargeting/remarketing, organic social, integrated creative, sales, etc. Real SEO is truly integrated.  Yeah plenty of SEOs will go out of business. Maybe they can start a museum.

COMPLAINT: Google collects data on users, exploited to fuel advertising products from which Google profits greatly.

REALITY: We can leave this to regulators, and it has nothing to do with the question of outbound clickstream percentages. I will say that GDPR and CCPA (upcoming) are a giant mess because they were obviously not created by actual marketers who understand the realities of administering data.

COMPLAINT: We have a right for search engines to list our brand prominently.

Tweet from @timsoulo on Aug 19: "It never ceases to amaze me how many brands are bidding in Google for THEIR brained keywords. Isn't that traffic yours by definition? Isn't Google's primary job as a search engine to give people exactly what they're looking for? Props to whoever at Google pulled this off"

REALITY:  We have no right. That’s the bad news. The good news is that paid brand keyword ad units perform way better that organic. Typically, AIMCLEAR‘s paid search brand replacement ads outperform organic-only dramatically, an average of ~1.7X after cannibalization of the organic result. That’s money lift people, not just traffic.

Tweet from @kjlbraaten: "Replying to @martyweintraub: It's the most valuable brand real estate you can get. Why wouldn't you want to own it and control every single word? People say they want to build a brand and then won't bid on it? Smh"

More efficient navigation from #PPC sitelinks drills deeper into pathways to purchase. We get substantially better creative control wit buying ads than most organic SEO results. Creative snippet rotation testing in dynamic ad units kick ass. Overall buying brand keywords is far superior. If not, fix your brand creative.

Myth & Wisdom

It’s a fallacy that SEO sends “free” traffic. SEO costs money too, gobs of it to audit, strategize, fix sites, create content, monitor, rinse and repeat.  We still need to do that for whatever opportunity will continue to exist. You just can’t make a meal of SEO only.

Since the beginning of the Internet, every channel, platform, community, engine, network, etc. that gave marketers “free,” commerce-driving, above the fold inventory, took it back and charged marketers for advertising.

Same as it ever was. Same as it always shall be.  What the hell did we think was going to happen with Google?

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