Optimising for Google: when is it the wrong thing to do?

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Optimising for Google: when is it the wrong thing to do?

Google is synonymous with “search”, but a forthcoming product closure highlights a rare weakness. Google Compare, the search giant’s price comparison service, will close later this month. Certainly, when I’ve shopped around for financial products, Google Compare hasn’t come to mind. It seems there is a type of search where Google is not the answer.

How does this affect you? In several sectors, we think your time and money are better invested in other search products. Discover what the closure of Google Compare teaches us about SEO in 2016.

Brainwaves… and blunders

No technology company gets it right every time. NASA launched Apollo 11, the vehicle that took man to the moon. Two missions later, Apollo 13 was the vehicle that took Tom Hanks to the top of the box office. We lauded the Spectrum from Sir Clive, but later we laughed at his Sinclair C5. And let’s not even talk about ‘upgrading’ Windows from XP to Vista.

A Sinclair C5 personal vehicle parked near a concrete wall

Image credit: Grant Mitchell, licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY 2.0.

Google is no different. Google Answers, Google Wave… heck, there was uproar when Google Reader was laid to rest. Later this month, the Mountain View mortuary will welcome a new resident. No flowers.

What is (was) Google Compare?

Google Compare is a price comparison site available in the US and UK. It lets users compare deals on car and travel insurance, plus credit cards and mortgages. Present tense at the time of writing, but soon its comparisons will cease. Search Engine Land acquired an internal email which confirmed the site will shut down on the 23rd of March.

Why has Google done this? The short answer is to save money. In 2014, the company behind the Google Compare trading name in the UK reported a total loss of £19.4 million. The longer answer is Google can’t be the best at everything. They have mastered general search – collating and cataloguing many different types of data. But, at least for now, they aren’t the go-to name for specialised search.

Instead, we save money with a meerkat, and spend tenners via a tenor.

Aleksandr Orlov, mascot of Compare the Market, and Gio Compario, spokesman of Go Compare

When to optimise for specialised search

What does Google’s fallibility mean for marketers? I’m reminded of Wil Reynolds’ presentation at SearchLove London 2015. He spoke about fighting tooth and nail to earn the #1 organic position for a keyword. When he made it to the top, Wil discovered competition from AdWords and Google Places meant a click-through rate of just five percent.

With limited resources, you need to focus your marketing on the channels that deliver. If Google is not the best known search tool for your niche, optimise your site for the one that is. This could mean building an XML feed of your content for a travel aggregator, or paying for enhanced visibility on a job site. It’s not the usual definition of SEO – but if it’s where your audience are, it’s the right thing to do.

After all, a lot of referral traffic is better than a little via organic.

What do you think?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the search landscape in 2016, and maybe even help you make the most of it. For questions and comments, we’re @RocketMill on Twitter.