What does search and SEO in 2022 look like for manufacturers? The last few years have seen a seismic shift in the search space, especially for building product manufacturers. It comes as no surprise, we have seen it coming. It’s the result of multiple factors accumulating over a period of time.
Now the impact is starting to be felt, and the knee jerk reaction is to shout ‘why is this happening’? So why it is happening?
Well, because of many of the reasons we’ve been regularly bringing to the table over the last few years. Because ‘everything is ok’ – until it’s not. And as soon as things aren’t as good as they once were, you have a massive task on your hands.
Keeping your manufacturer site at the top of Google search results
When you are at the top of your SEO game, it is relatively straightforward to stay there by using the normal tactics we recommend…
- Publish regular content
- Organic third party link building
- Push tactics such as email, PR and social media
- Tweaks to UI / UX
- On page improvements
- Keeping abreast of algorithm changes
- Ensuring technical errors and fixes are found early & maintained
However, when you are not on top of the SERP and your manufacturer website is not on top anymore, it’s a big slog to get to position one.
For marketers working in manufacturer businesses this is a tough pill to swallow. It is also even harder to justify to the board who purely look at the numbers, and have relatively little (in most cases) experience, understanding or interest in SEO.
Manufacturers in construction have enjoyed the glory years of being able to create niche technical content and drive organic search traffic due to relatively low competition. We’ve helped them do that really successfully and on relatively low marketing budgets. Unfortunately, expecting results from reasonable low budgets has become the norm.
But today, the search space has changed, and so must the expectations of the board and of marketers working in the manufacturer space.
Why is my manufacturer website is not performing in search?
So lets outline what has changed in recent years;
1. Paid search ads
PPC ads now dominate the top of the SERP. Google has gradually increased the retail space taken up by PPC ads from 2 to basic search ads.
2. Rich content
Google 1st page is now flooded with different search features; Google shopping feature, local search maps & results, video from youtube, GMB listings, PAA suggestions.
Search users are being provided with many other areas to click and gain information and this will ultimately affect your click through rates.
3. Rich snippets & local listings
Google snippet has been around for years now, but many fail to recognise the correlation between snippet and click through rate. Many people get the answers they need from Google snippet without actually clicking through to a site.
Simple answers are also being pulled into GMB. The phrase Google is your new homepage’ is something we talk about a lot. Recognising more users are interacting with the Google SERP is critical to managing expectations of click through.
In the retail world, merchants dominate. They have done for years. These days you can practically predict what Google will return for a product search.
- If its a soft furnishing product you’ll probably get position 1, 2 & 3 interchanging between Dunelm, The Range, Wayfair.
- For a garden products you’ll get Amazon, Homebase, B&W.
- DIY products will produce results for Amazon, Screwfix.
- Searching for white goods? Curry’s, Argos and AO will be at the top.
Manufacturers have very little presence. Why?
Well, Google favours commerce, quite simply. This is how Google makes money and consumers buy from merchants, not manufacturers.
So there needs to be a reality check for manufacturers when it comes to search results.
In construction, the merchant world has suddenly woken up when it comes to the online search opportunity. They are now powering behind this model, and we are not just talking about the major high street players like Jewsons, Travis Perkins, and Wickes.
More specialist trade sites are becoming more powerful (Selco, Buildbase etc). On top, the success of relative ‘newcomers’ and specialists such as roofingsuperstore are all hugely impacting the experience of users when it comes to the search space. More traffic is being driven directly to merchants.
Consumer help sites & mainstream media ‘rags’
For years, consumer focused websites have been creating content and building their brands and search presence on topics that are relevant to homeowners. I’m talking about which, money supermarket etc, and papers like the Sun and the Mirror.
Unfortunately, the volume and topics of content being created by these brands inevitably starts to bleed into areas of niche and specialism, as they all fight for the ‘medium and low difficulty’ content gaps.
They have large budgets and big targets. Despite a lot of this content not being particularly high quality, and certainly not technical enough for a construction audience, it gains search position and so the problem compounds itself. Google recognises the brand as powerful and ranks this content over average content that has been produced by an industry specialist.
Orgs & associations
By nature, organisations and associations are slow moving beasts. They have been arguably the slowest to adopt digital and truly recognise the opportunity. However, orgs and associations by nature also hold a lot of trust in the eyes of Google and so their domains have strength.
They too are finally embracing the value of digital, content and search. No longer is it possible to gain easy traction with niche content alone. Sites such as energysavingtrust.org, BSI, designing buildings wiki are really starting to eat up the search space for niche terms.
Lack of investment
The truth is, for years, we’ve seen a lack of understanding of SEO in the manufacturer space, from board level through to marketing administrator. How many companies have SEO as part of their budget breakdown? Often, it’s lumped under a generic title such as digital.
Many cost centres don’t even have digital. It may be labelled as advertising or website. This signals a real lack of understanding of the time and effort required to plough into SEO, content, and link building. Only now are we really seeing the impact of years of underfunding.
Here’s the bottom line. If you want your website to dominate search for the phrases, SEO needs investment more than any other marketing tactic. If your website numbers are important to you for lead generation, customer acquisition, brand presence, merchant support, and of board reporting, it is time to park your “campaign work” and reallocate budget to SEO.
When it comes to manufacturers, we have always championed quality over quantity. But just as critical is the board’s understanding and expectations of what they will achieve from their own site.
If 80% of the search volume wants to buy the product, why would they want to come to your site if you don’t sell directly?
If someone wants to buy a product, Google is likely to send them to a site where they can do this. Therefore as manufacturers we need to make a call as to whether we want quantity for board vanity metrics, or quality for right fit audience and lead generation.
There is a balance to strike here. Measuring what matters is critical. We need to focus more on CTR and CRO and less on pure volume. We also need to focus on search terms that are achievable in the modern and competitive search space.
Finally, we need to decide if we do want volume from consumers, how do we invest in the right areas to get that traffic, and what do we have them do when they arrive.
Everyone wants to be number one
Everyone wants to be number one. But only one company in the world (or UK) can be at a given time, and that can be momentary.
So ask yourself, why should your company be number one? What are you doing to deserve the top spot? If you are not investing time, energy, money in this area, please don’t expect that positions 1, 2 and 3 will always be yours.
You have 3 options, which are pretty straight forward;
- Sell direct and cut out merchants
- Embrace the merchants and work to optimise your products across that network
- Go big with your SEO investment
Number 1 has always been seen as cutting your nose off, so I would imagine that even with the shift in online behaviour, going direct to market is more damaging than it’s worth.
Number 2 is an effective method as long as you are comfortable handing more power to the merchant. Power, is the perfect word. The only way you can ever choose to interact with a customer is when the customer is not even yours. If your route to market is only through the merchant, you have very limited options in building a customer base of your own. You lose touch points, traceability, communication, control of content and ability to put potential customers in the top of your funnel in order to nurture.
Number 3 is perfect for businesses who want to be in control of their brand and be able to influence their audiences directly. It’s also super important to reinforce and build brand loyalty with those who specify and the merchants that actively sell your product on your behalf.
Unsurprisingly, we think the 3rd choice is ultimately the only way to ensure you maintain control of your brand, influence your audience and dominate your niche. If you want to discuss your SEO strategy for 2022 and beyond, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.