Nearly all of us use Google to search for information online, and to help us find the most relevant results, Google uses algorithms, which are mathematical instructions that tell computers how to complete a task. There are approximately 1.8 billion websites on the internet, and of those, less than 200 million are active. To find information that is relevant to what we are searching for, these algorithms are essential. Google's algorithm finds web pages that contain the keywords you queried, then assigns a rank to each page based on numerous factors, including the number of times the keywords appear on each page. In theory, the highest ranked and therefore most relevant and best pages appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP).
In practice Google SERPs are a combination of paid results and organic listings, and this has always been the case. However, over the years, the positioning of the number 1 organic result has changed. Back in 2013, there would have only been around 2 or 3 paid results before the first organic result was displayed, but now, various layout changes and increased paid results mean that the first organic result is much further down. Previously there may have been around 10 organic results on the first page, with only 2% of SERPs having less than 10, but recent research indicates that now, that figure is above 18%! Studies also indicate that consumers prefer to click on organic links, but changes to the layout of SERPs mean that sponsored results blend in more with the organic, making it harder to tell the difference and taking traffic away from organic links.
Other search engines and social media channels such as Facebook are applying similar strategies, as their businesses rely on big data (data from tracking consumers) and advertising revenue.
Google search algorithms, advertising and page layouts reduce organic search results
Google and Facebook business models are not ideal for SMEs and professionals
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The Challenges For Businesses
As well as changes to the Google algorithm, increasing the challenge for businesses to achieve visibility, modifications to the layout has also increased the obstacles. With the introduction of Knowledge Panels and Rich Snippets, frequently the searcher does not even need to click on a website to gain the information they are looking for. Increasingly businesses are finding it difficult to conduct business online even with unique content and good practices like white hat SEO. You could say that Google is becoming more of a content provider and less of a search engine.
Digital marketing and advertising companies would recommend turning to social media channels such as Facebook business pages. Naturally, they have an interest in a piece of “Facebook’s 70 billion advertising revenue (2019)”. With only 60 million active business pages, Facebook seems less crowded, although it is a worldwide platform, but their business model is similar to Google’s.
Businesses have to make smart investments in their brand, evaluate their human resources and knowledge base, while juggling their marketing budget in an effort to get maximum exposure that generates revenue; not an easy task.
The Consumer Experience
There are commentators that will extol the virtues of Google for consumers, claiming that the user experience is much improved by the changes that Google have made, eliciting more targeted results. But these results may well come at the cost of one’s privacy. Experts have warned that Google saves searches for up to ten years, and it is unclear where this data is distributed. Some may feel uneasy when they search for something in Google and immediately they are bombarded with adverts across websites and social media platforms for an item they searched for. This kind of profiling may be useful for some, but disconcerting for others.
Solutions from the Yellow Pages
When developing the Mauritius Yellow Pages, we were mindful of the hurdles businesses face in gaining online visibility, and of protecting consumer data. We have created an online ecosystem where consumers and businesses can search and trade fairly. When you join the business community on the Yellow Pages your business becomes more visible and searchable online and you can present your business attractively via your business page. When consumers search on the Yellow Pages, they are likely not looking for information, they already know what they want to buy, and if your business is listed in our directory, you are more likely to be chosen before your competitors. While Google’s new algorithms makes it more difficult for businesses to get higher page rankings, the Yellow Pages DOES NOT RANK businesses, if a potential customer is searching for any of the categories, location or services, products and/or brands associated with your business, THEY WILL FIND YOU! We do not discriminate between paid and free listings, even with a free Classic business page, consumers can find you by category and location searches, but of course a paid listing means there are more ways for your business to be found, especially with our new Advanced Search option. The Yellow Pages also provides editorial assistance to businesses in case they do not have the resources to complete their business page content, so it can be used to maximise the branding and marketing benefits.
Not only are the Yellow Pages committed to FAIR SEARCH, we have also introduced FAIR TRADE through our YellowMarket concept. The Yellow Pages aims to support local online commerce and have added a quotation function as an extension of our Advanced Search option. When consumers or businesses search for a service, product or brand they can request a quotation from a local business or businesses and when the business or businesses respond with a quotation, they can choose which to accept and proceed with the transaction following a step-by-step order process.
Our YellowMarket concept provides advantages to consumers and businesses alike, allowing businesses to trade online on an equal footing and consumers to shop locally from the comfort of their home. In contrast to Google, the Yellow Pages does not profile consumers and their search results are based solely on their search criteria. Consumers must be registered as members in order to benefit from certain services like the Advanced Search option and Quotation Requests, but we protect your data and do not sell it to third parties. You will not be subject to targeted advertising as we do not track your searches, and any communications you receive from us will be based upon the preferences you set within your member account. The Yellow Pages also goes the extra mile to protect consumer identity, allowing them to communicate anonymously with businesses to request information via our innovative communication system YellowMail.
With the increasing challenges facing businesses, the Mauritius Yellow Pages are constantly innovating to improve our platform, and provide more benefits to businesses and consumers in Mauritius.
As proud residents we all should #thinklocal, and #shoplocal at the Yellow Pages online #localmarketplace.