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New Year on Google Looks Rough for Small Sellers

The earliest SEO recommendations for making it to the top of Google search result pages called for quality, authoritative content. Over the years as people gamed Google to get better listings, Google gamed right back against the more odious attempts at manipulation.

Such challenges to Google look quaint as 2016 arrives. Garnering top-of-fold placement in Google search results for products now are advertisements, product pictures, ratings, pricing, and an ongoing call to click through and convert. Earning placement there costs money, a resource more available to larger companies than their smaller competitors.

The forthcoming year looks challenging for Google’s SMB advertising customers. “Pay or be gone,” said one predictor at WebmasterWorld’s forums. “Google continues to build its own enhanced content layers into its search results forcing out SERP listings.”

Although a Forbes contribution contends small and medium sized businesses can take on the big names, they lead off their piece by acknowledging Google favors bigger brands. Not exactly a rousing encouragement for the small seller.

At Bigcommerce, SEO and Web Manager Simon Serrano tells EcommerceBytes, “I wouldn’t be surprised if they made changes and enhancements to how product search integrates with online/offline inventory and more options and expanded availability of Google Express,” he said.

Those sticking with Google will likely pay more in 2016. “Product listing ads will probably get more expensive as more consumers migrate to mostly online shopping and as Google expands and enhances their retail capabilities,” said Serrano.

Smaller sellers have another way to contend and potentially thrive, according to Serrano. “SMB advertisers may have to reduce their profit margins to compete with larger companies with larger budgets or use an ecommerce platform, like Bigcommerce, to reduce overhead, automate the product listings process and optimize ads.”

Reflektion CMO Kurt Heinemann suggested the human factor will be important once Google “pulls the rug out from everyone” with an algorithm change.

“Historically, sites have been rewarded for presenting content that’s geared more toward humans than search robots – this trend is only going to continue,” Heinemann said. “It wouldn’t be surprising if Google search results for products are eventually ranked according to the user’s gender and preferences.”

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David A Utter
David A Utter
David A. Utter is a freelance writer based in Lexington, KY. He has covered technology topics from search to security to online business and has been quoted in places like ZDNet and BusinessWeek. He considers his appearance on NPR's "All Things Considered" with long-time host Robert Siegel a delightful highlight. You can find him on Twitter @davidautter and on LinkedIn.