Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search marketing techniques and trends. This issue marks 10 years of this newsletter, with over 350 articles published in this time and much has changed! Take a look back at the original edition published on our UK website from June 2004 (although the original design for this edition has changed).
Back to the present day and for the first article this month we take a look at Google AdWords’ enforced campaign migration from the Product Listing Ads (PLA) format to the new Shopping campaigns (by late August) and the impact this will have upon existing campaigns. Next, we examine the recent introduction of call forwarding numbers for AdWords advertisers and the benefits of using this option.
Finally this month, we investigate the increasing trend in SEO sales tactics to use scaremongering to convince some website owners to sign up through a potentially misplaced fear.
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…
Google’s New AdWords Shopping Campaign Format
Ecommerce advertisers using Google AdWords should be using Product Listing Ads (PLAs), as this links to Google’s Shopping search engine and enables small product images and prices to appear at the top of the search results. However, Google is updating the PLAs campaign format to the new Shopping campaigns, so that any AdWords campaign managers who currently use PLA campaigns need to be aware of these significant changes.
At the end of 2013, Google tested a new campaign format for how retailers manage product ads on Google Shopping via AdWords. In February 2014, it made Shopping campaigns available to all Product Listing Ad (PLA) advertisers and in March it released AdWords API support to help manage the campaigns at scale. This was shortly followed that month by the official announcement of a forced campaign migration to happen by late August this year. More details about that can be found here.
As a result, businesses and AdWords managers should be prepared for the imminent changes to the new Shopping campaign format. Google has continued to release more information about this enforced upgrade, including details about the new upgrade options here. This information culminated in the very useful article on how to monitor and optimise Shopping campaigns here.
One of the key benefits of this migration to the Shopping campaigns is that it’s no longer necessary to create separate ad groups, or product targets to track impressions, clicks and cost. This should make it easier to integrate the Google merchant centre listings into the AdWords Shopping campaigns and it’s now also possible to analyse and report on the PLA performance by product attribute or by individual items in the Dimensions tab, regardless of the campaign structure.
If you want to know more about the benefits of the migration, the Web Marketing Workshop are Google Shopping specialists and are at the forefront of these developments. So, if you’re interested in having a new Shopping campaign set-up, or an existing PLA one migrated and optimised to its maximum potential, contact us now for more details.
Using Call Forwarding Numbers in Google AdWords
Google has recently introduced call forwarding numbers for AdWords advertisers, which enables an alternative method of phone call tracking and advanced call reporting for all advertisers who use call extensions. Although this system is not as sophisticated as some call tracking services, it does help to provide advertisers with more insights into phone leads coming from their advertising spend.
When a Google forwarding number is used with an advertiser’s call extension, a unique Google phone number is registered to the ad. This tracking number doesn’t cost anything extra with the number either being toll-free or charged at local call rates. The two main benefits of these new advanced call reporting features are advertisers can now see where the call is originating from with local area codes recorded and the duration of the call is also saved. These new advanced features provide useful information to advertisers who can then assist in creating a profitable mobile advertising campaign.
The Google forwarding number is a simple redirect with the visitor being directed to the correct business number from the ad. Google forwarding numbers are only available in the search network and are currently incompatible with the display network. These new features allow advertisers to identify and target calls of high value which can lead to conversions and overall mobile advertising success.
Linked to the call forwarding numbers are new reporting features that include phone impressions, total phone calls and phone through rates. Phone calls by specific type of mobile device can be accessed. The dimensions tab allows advertisers to see a detailed analysis of each call with useful information such as duration of call, call status and area code from which the call originated. The goal of the Google advertiser should be to identify what types of calls are most valuable and likely to lead to conversions. Once this call type is identified, advanced bidding strategies should be implemented to ensure mobile ads have the best chance of reaching this caller.
Previously the lack of advanced data in relation to call tracking has led to poor quality calls being counted as conversions. These new features allow advertisers to specify the characteristics of a call that should be counted as a conversion. Conversion tracking will vary across different advertisers so that, for example, plumbers may potentially count a conversion as a call that has duration of longer than 40 seconds – this may be due to plumbers only needing a name and address for which a quote is provided. In contrast, a florist may count a call as a conversion only if it lasts longer than two minutes, which is necessary due to payment information often needing to be provided over the phone.
If you want to learn more about call forwarding numbers in Google AdWords, or try these for your campaigns, please contact us for more information.
SEO Trends and Scaremongering Sales Tactics
Over the past few years, Google has introduced some high profile updates to their search ranking criteria, in an attempt to improve the quality of their search results and to combat some of the less desirable search engine optimisation (SEO) techniques that have tried to ‘game’ the system. As a result, some SEO agencies have been using scare tactics to overplay the impact and to convince some website owners to sign up through a potentially misplaced fear.
Google’s primary concern is to provide their users with a positive search experience, to get to the desired results – and quality of results – as quickly as possible, and so to return again for future searches. They have always done this well, which is why they became so successful, but they are always competing against the SEO industry, whose aim is to get websites into the relevant search results to drive visitor traffic to websites. This can be a fine balancing act and although Google provides best-practice guidelines to webmasters, many companies try to manipulate the results to their own advantage using techniques that are not acceptable to Google.
Over the past few years there have been several significant changes by Google to improve the quality of search results. These updates have been introduced and refined over time and the main ones have been named as Panda (from Feb 2011, targeting low quality content sites) and Penguin (from April 2012, which was mostly targeting poor quality link networks). More recently, the Hummingbird update in August 2013 was a different update which changed the way the search algorithms read and interpreted online content to try to understand the relevant meaning and context.
These developments have been used as a core sales approach by some search marketing agencies and not just from those anonymous Gmail addresses that send out templated emails – usually from India – but also from some mainstream agencies who are touting for business. The claims of widespread ‘changes to the rules’ and massive impacts across most websites are often overstated to scare companies into signing up and serve to continue the myths and confusion behind effective SEO techniques.
However, the basic principles of SEO remain much the same today as they always have. Yes, there have been changes in emphasis and focus, but the core elements such as title tags and on-page content focused around the search phrases that people use remain just as important, as do clean and fast loading websites, fresh and unique content, plus external links from other high quality and relevant websites. Most sites that had their rankings impacted over the last few years were usually the result of poor quality link building, often outsourced and generated from low quality sites that Google can identify and penalise.
Some say that SEO is now ‘dead’ or that it’s changed significantly, but this isn’t the case. Google and other search engines still need to use signals from websites to determine relevancy, as well as the hyperlinks between sites and social media signals to identify popular or good quality websites that will provide unique and useful content to users.
If your website has been following these key principles and complies with Google’s guidelines, then little has changed and you may have even seen ranking improvements as competitors drop back. SEO remains a core online marketing strategy, which needs to be an ongoing and long term process for every website. It also needs to be focused around words and content that takes advantage of the many ways that people search online, and the content also needs to be focused on the searcher’s needs and expectations when they find your website.
If you’d like to discuss your current and future SEO performance or strategy, please contact us for more details.