Welcome to the first issue of our monthly newsletter for 2015, which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search marketing techniques and trends.
To start this New Year, we’ve compiled a list of 10 key events that took place in the website / search marketing world in 2015, which have already had an impact on many online businesses, but will also have an ongoing impact throughout 2015. These events include developments in the organic search marketing field, as well as notable changes in Google AdWords and Google Analytics.
Each of these events have been covered in some detail in previous issues of this monthly newsletter, but we have summarised the main changes below and the implications for any website marketer, as they will all have a bearing on developments and online success in 2015. In this rapidly changing field, we can expect more notable changes over the coming 12 months and we will continue to report and comment on these. However, for now, these recent ones from the past year need to be considered as part of your marketing plans for this year.
You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.
On to this month’s edition…
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Trends
Google My Business for local search
The launch of ‘Google My Business’ in June marked another stage in the evolution of local search marketing through Google, and a further change to the original Google Places listings that many companies had previously set up. Google My Business was supported by extensive media advertising as Google encouraged local businesses to create or claim / update their listings, so that potential local customers – particularly on mobiles – could find their information through search. Google My Business has certainly had teething problems and the close integration with Google+ has caused some confusion and difficulties, but any online business should ensure that their details are set up correctly and managed on Google My Business with the correct details and branding.
(You can read our original article here on Google My Business).
Ongoing changes from Google ‘Panda’ updates
One of the more significant changes to Google’s ranking algorithms in recent years has been codenamed as ‘Panda’. Although first introduced in 2011 to try to reduce duplicate and poor quality content in their search results, Google has been making regular ‘tweaks’ to this algorithm over the last few years, with a significant one noted in May 2014 (Panda 4.0). If your website has been following Google’s webmaster guidelines and implementing correct search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques over time, there shouldn’t be any noticeable impact from these changes, and if anything, possibly some ranking gains as competitor sites might (hopefully) be adversely affected!
(You can read our original article here on the SEO impact of Google Panda).
HTTPS becomes a known ranking factor
In a significant blog post in August 2014, Google announced that they would begin to view HTTPS encryption as a positive ranking factor, so that potentially websites that were hosted on a secure server would get a ranking boost. Google rarely goes public about ranking factors in their search results, but on this occasion they made this clear in an attempt to encourage websites to become more secure and therefore to make the web generally safer from hackers. This was naturally followed by websites deciding to move across to secure hosting as part of their SEO strategy, although recent reports show there has been no significant impact from this yet.
(You can read our original article here on HTTPS as a ranking factor).
Developments in Pay-Per-Click Advertising / Google AdWords
AdWords revises AdRank factors
AdRank is the core factor in Google AdWords that determines ranking position, combining the bid price with the Quality Score attained by an advertiser’s search term. Back in February 2014, Google announced some changes to the factors that determine AdRank, by including in weightings for ad extensions (particularly sitelinks), which would now also have a bearing on an advertiser’s Quality Scores and so AdRank. As a result of these changes, ad extensions gained more importance and also the AdRank became a bigger factor in determining whether ads are eligible to display extensions and different formats when appearing at the top of the search results.
(You can read our original article here on AdRank as an AdWords ranking factor).
Shopping Ad campaigns become a notable part of AdWords
Although the Shopping campaign option in AdWords had been available since 2013 (also known as Product Listing Ads), the format of these campaigns changed in the middle of 2014 so that advertisers had to eventually migrate their existing campaigns to the new settings, or new campaigns could be set up differently. These shopping campaigns are a visible and highly effective form of advertising for many ecommerce retailers and so Google made the set up and management process easier for many advertisers.
(You can read our original article here on Google AdWords shopping campaigns).
Callout extensions added to AdWords
Google introduced a new advert extension option towards the end of 2014, which would also supposedly contribute to AdRank (see above). These ‘callout’ extensions enabled advertisers to add an extra line of information in bullet point format, which would appear below their ad text when the ads appear in the top left panel above the main search results. Similar to sitelinks – but without a link option – the callouts offer more flexibility in messaging and meant that all advertisers had the opportunity to include more marketing content in their ads.
(You can read our original article here on callout extensions in AdWords).
Changes with Google Analytics
The Google Analytics Solutions Gallery expands
Back in March 2014 we featured the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery, which had been launched to enable Analytics users to share their report formats and for other users to download and use them. The Gallery has continued to grow into a valuable resource for Analytics users, providing a wide range of pre-built dashboards, segments, custom reports and more. There are reports covering a wide range of needs, many of which have been posted by Google staff, and is a great time-saver to fast-track the creation of new reports in Analytics.
(You can read our original article here on the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery).
Universal Analytics becomes the default tracking code
Back in May 2014, Google released their new Universal Analytics code from beta so that it became the default tracking code for new accounts, whilst existing accounts were encouraged to update to Universal and take advantage of the new reports and tracking options that were available. Although many websites still use the older versions of Google Analytics, the new tracking code is gradually becoming more commonplace and all websites will eventually be updated to use this version.
(You can read our original article here on Google’s Universal Analytics code).
Google Analytics relaunches benchmark reports
Although a number of new reports were introduced into Analytics during 2014, towards the end of the year saw the relaunch of benchmark reports for Analytics accounts. Using their wide base of websites that now track and share data through Analytics, website owners and marketers can now access a series of reports to see how their trends compare to other similar sites in their market sector. The reports can provide some new insights and indicators for future strategy and are a valuable addition to the range of reports available.
(You can read our original article here on benchmark reports in Google Analytics).
Google Analytics adds Treemap reports
At the end of the year, a new set of visual reports were added to Google Analytics to help AdWords advertisers improve the performance of their campaigns. Treemap reports are a popular way to review data visually and so quickly identify areas of good or bad performance that can then receive additional attention.
(You can read our original article here on treemap reports in Google Analytics).