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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – October 2017

Posts Tagged ‘Conversion Tracking’

Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – October 2017

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 23:31 No Comments

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter which focuses on news, tips and advice for effective website marketing, with particular attention on Google and best practice search engine marketing techniques, plus current trends in the market.

In our first article this month we take a look at Google’s increasing focus on website connection security and how it intends to eventually show the “Not secure” warning for all HTTP pages through the Google Chrome browser.

We also look at two recent announcements from Google AdWords, with the reduction of the ad rotation options, and secondly, the way that Google tracks AdWords conversions through Google Analytics. We look at the implications of these changes for advertisers.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. 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 Focus on Website Connection Security

In January 2017 Google’s Chrome Web browser began to indicate connection security with an information icon in the address bar. Historically, Chrome had not explicitly labelled HTTP connections as non-secure, but since then any HTTP pages that collect passwords or credit cards have been marked non-secure, as part of a long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure and to encourage increased web security.

Chrome previously marked HTTP connections with a neutral indicator, which didn’t reflect the true lack of security for HTTP connections, because when a website is loaded over HTTP someone else on the network can look at, or modify the site before it gets to you. Studies showed that users do not perceive the lack of a “secure” icon as a warning, but also that they become blind to warnings that occur too frequently. As a result, Google’s plan has been to take in gradual steps to label HTTP sites more clearly and accurately as non-secure.

Since that change in January, there has been a 23% reduction in navigations to HTTP pages with password or credit card forms on desktop, so Google has decided to take the next steps they see as necessary. Beginning in October 2017, Chrome will show the “Not secure” warning in two additional situations: when users enter data on an HTTP page, and on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode.

Passwords and credit cards are not the only types of data that should be private. Any type of data that users type into websites should not be accessible to others on the network, so starting in Chrome version 62, it will show the “Not secure” warning when users type data into HTTP sites.

When users browse Chrome with Incognito mode, they likely have increased expectations of privacy. However, HTTP browsing is not private to others on the network so in v62, Chrome will also warn users when visiting an HTTP page in Incognito mode.

Eventually, the “Not secure” warning will be shown for all HTTP pages, even outside Incognito mode. Google will publish updates as future releases are developed, but they highly recommend switching websites to HTTPS as it’s easier and cheaper than ever before and it enables both the best performance the web offers and powerful new features that are too sensitive for HTTP.

It can also provide an advantage in search rankings (particularly for mobile results) against the sites that haven’t yet transitioned. So if this hasn’t already been done, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later.

If you want to know more about how website connection security can help to improve your business, contact us now.

 

Google “Simplifies” AdWords Ad Rotation Settings

Ad rotation is the way that Google delivers ads on both the Search Network and the Display Network. If there are multiple ads within an adgroup the ads will rotate, because no more than one ad from the account can show at a time. The ad rotation setting is therefore used to specify how often the ads in the adgroup are to be served relative to one another.

On 25th September 2017, three updates were made to simplify and improve ad rotation:

1. There will only be two ad rotation settings:

  • “Optimise” will use Google’s machine learning technology to deliver ads that are expected to perform better than other ads in the ad group. This setting will optimise ads for clicks in each individual auction using signals like keyword, search term, device, location and more.
  • “Rotate indefinitely” will deliver ads more evenly for an indefinite amount of time.

Now that this change has taken place, the previous “optimise for conversions” and “rotate evenly” settings will be greyed out in the AdWords interface. This means:

  • Campaigns using “optimise for clicks”, “optimise for conversions” or “rotate evenly” will now just use “optimise”.
  • Campaigns using “rotate indefinitely” will stay the same.

2. Campaigns using Smart Bidding will use “optimise” regardless of their ad rotation setting.

3. Ad rotation settings will now be available at the adgroup level, rather than at campaign level. This enables the use of multiple rotation settings across a single campaign.

It’s not critical to take any immediate action but Google states that to continue optimising for conversions, the use of Smart Bidding is “recommended” (and there is no other way to do it). This helps to tailor bids based on the likelihood of a conversion, and chooses the ad most likely to drive that conversion, although the results will be dependent on Google’s automated system and the more conversions there are, the more effective this is likely to be.

Google states this change is to simplify the settings, but the fact that the previous “rotate evenly” option will now automatically optimise for clicks encourages a more cynical view, and the reversal of these options comes after the numerous complaints made some years ago when the choice of rotation was originally changed. Furthermore, Smart Bidding using Google’s machine learning has yet to be proven to be highly effective at increasing conversions and lowering the average Cost Per Acquisition, since it’s still relatively early days for that technology and advertisers should review the changes after this change and decide which rotation setting to use.

It’ll be interesting to see if Google ever back-flips on this decision due to more industry dissatisfaction at there being less control (as has happened previously with device bid modifiers). In an attempt to appease a similar outcry, Google is still thankfully providing the option for ads to “rotate indefinitely”. AdWords managers who prefer more control with an even rotation can still do that to split test the ads without any automated optimisation input from Google, although it will require more monitoring and changes to ensure the best results. That will, according to them “be the sole option for an even rotation going forward”, but how long that possibly unpopular decision stays in place remains to be seen.

You can read more about simpler ad rotation or contact us now for more information.

 

Changes to AdWords Conversion Measurement

In another recent change to AdWords, Google recently emailed all advertisers with details of adjustments that would be made to the way conversions are measured. Most advertisers won’t need to take action but should be aware of the reasons and implications of these changes.

The announcement in September resulted from changes that Apple are introducing with their Safari browser, using a new feature called Intelligent Tracking Prevention. This is designed to stop the use of cookies and other tracking data operating across more than one website and the implications are that it may affect the accuracy of AdWords website conversion tracking through Safari, and therefore in particular on iPhones.

Google has therefore made changes to help ensure that conversions are reported as accurately as possible in AdWords, by making three changes which are consistent with Apple’s own recommendations for ad attribution:

  • If an advertiser has auto-tagging enabled and a Google Analytics tag on their website, Google will begin to set a new Google Analytics cookie on that site’s domain, which will store information about the ad click that brought a user to the site. If the AdWords and Google Analytics accounts are linked, then the AdWords conversion tracking tag will be able to use that click information.
  • AdWords will continue to report conversions for users who have recently interacted with Google services and domains.
  • AdWords will also use statistical modelling to estimate website conversions that could not be measured from Safari, and include them in the AdWords reporting.

Google has started to use the ad click information stored in the new Google Analytics cookie from September, although it may take a few days before these conversions appear in the AdWords reports. Advertisers can turn this off by updating their Google Analytics tag, but this would not be recommended.

Google does recommend that if an advertiser hasn’t yet linked their AdWords and Google Analytics accounts, this should be done to better measure conversions in AdWords. They also recommend that the conversion data is monitored over the next few months to see if there are any notable changes to previous trends with the data tracking.

If you would like more information about this change, or help with linking your AdWords and Analytics accounts together, please get in touch.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – June 2017

Thursday, June 1, 2017 7:15 No Comments

Welcome to the latest issue of our regular monthly newsletter which features news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search engine marketing techniques and trends.

In our first article this month we take a look at Google’s recent release of new audience solutions for AdWords Search and Shopping campaigns, and how that can assist in targeting both loyal and potential new customers. The second article looks at Google’s recent improvement to AdWords Quality Score reporting and how this can help to optimise campaigns.

In the final article this month we take a look at how Google Tag Manager now includes Analytics integration and how this can make it easier to manage multiple tags and tracking options.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. 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 Releases New Audience Targeting in AdWords

Engaging both new and loyal customers is just as important to an online business, and so to help attract more potential new customers, Google has started to release ‘similar audiences’ for Search and Shopping campaigns. Alongside this, new Customer Match for Shopping targeting will also help businesses use their own data to reach the right customer with the right message. This is in addition to Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) which have been around for a while to reconnect with people who’ve been to a website before.

The ‘similar audiences’ option in AdWords helps to find people who share similar interests with a business’s best customers, right when they’re searching for relevant products and services. This makes it easy to expand reach by connecting with more people who want what you have to offer. For example, if you’re marketing a hotel in Sydney using RLSA and you want to connect with Summer travellers, then the people in your “Recent Converters” list might be searching for things like ‘flights to Brisbane,’ ‘scuba classes,’ and ‘flip-flop sandals.’ Powered by Google’s machine learning, similar audiences use these search trends to help you find people who are looking for the same things as existing customers, even if they’re not already on remarketing lists.

By connecting with more qualified customers, similar audiences can help unlock new opportunities to grow a business, so that targeting generic terms may work better with a similar audience applied to them. You can also use it as a bid modifier to be more competitive in a crowded auction, tailoring your bids to reach people who are more likely to buy. According to Google, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, a leading global auto company, used similar audiences for Search to increase conversions by 22%.

It’s now possible to see Search list size estimates for similar audiences, letting businesses know how many people they can reach. These audiences can be applied to both Search and Shopping campaigns. You can learn more about similar audiences here.

Customer Match for Shopping campaigns will soon be available globally. By using existing email lists, Customer Match makes it easy to focus Shopping campaigns on high-value customers, like previous purchasers, newsletter subscribers, rewards members and in-store shoppers. You can learn more about Customer Match here.

For instance, if you manage marketing for an online apparel retailer and you’re interested in connecting with your rewards members, to make it easy for you to reach these customers when they’re shopping you can now use your “Rewards Members” customer email list to show them relevant Shopping ads featuring your latest styles (subject to minimum volume requirements).

If you want to know more about how similar audiences and Customer Match can help your business, please contact us now.

 

AdWords Quality Score Reporting is Improved

During May Google began rolling out several improvements to Quality Score reporting that make it easier for advertisers to get more visibility into these scores. Effective ads connect people with the content that’s most relevant to them, right when they’re looking for it. In AdWords, you can assess how relevant your keywords, ads, and landing pages are by evaluating Quality Score and its components: expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance and landing page experience.

Three new optional status columns that show useful Quality Score components have been added to the Keywords tab for “Exp. CTR,” “Ad Relevance” and “Landing Page Exper.” These columns can be added to keyword reports to get a comprehensive snapshot of the keywords’ current scores.

To improve campaign performance, it’s important to understand how changes to a account – like ad optimisation or landing page experience – impact Quality Score. It’s now possible to view historical Quality Score data as well, and their three main components, for all of the keywords to understand how they’ve changed over time. This data is available via four new columns: “Qual. Score (hist.),” “Landing page exper. (hist.),” “Ad relevance (hist.)” and “Exp. CTR (hist.).”

There are two important things to know about these seven new columns:

  • They reflect the last known score for the date range you selected.
  • Historical data isn’t available for dates earlier than January 22, 2016.

Also, if you apply the “Day” segment to Keyword reports, these columns will show daily values that reflect what your scores were at the end of each day. Therefore these additional reporting columns are a useful addition by Google, which will help to assist the optimisation of campaigns by being able to monitor how the Quality Scores have been changed due to adjustments or trends in the market.

If you would like more information about how Quality Score optimisation can improve your campaigns, contact us now.

 

Google Tag Manager Includes Analytics Integration

An increasing number of websites are now moving their tracking code strategy towards Google Tag Manager (GTM), which can make it easier to manage multiple tags and tracking options. However, it can be technically more complex to set up compared to Google Analytics, although Google has now introduced an easier way to help this process.

As website tracking options become more sophisticated, marketers may require measurement through Google Analytics tags, or the application of event tracking tags for clicks on certain buttons, links leading away from a site, form submissions, and so on. Keeping the settings for all of these tags in sync can be a challenge as users have to ensure that Tracking IDs are set correctly and that any custom settings are consistent.

Making changes to things like Custom Dimensions and Metrics across multiple tags can require repetitive work or cumbersome workarounds, and so to help users with these tasks, Google has announced new Google Analytics Settings Variables in GTM.

A Google Analytics Settings Variable acts as a central location to configure sets of Google Analytics settings for use across multiple tags. This means that instead of having to enter your Google Analytics settings over and over again in each new Universal Analytics tag in GTM, you’ll simply be able to select (or create) a Google Analytics Settings Variable to apply to the tag.

With this simpler process it will make it easier to manager tracking tags and avoid the chance of errors in the settings. Users can have as many Settings Variables as required for different combinations of settings, and it’s easy to override specific fields in a given tag with the click of a checkbox. This feature will now appear in all Universal Analytics tags as the primary option and should make the implementation of GTM easier for many users.

If you’d like more information about the Google Analytics Settings Variable in GTM, please contact us for more information.

 

We hope you’ve found this month’s newsletter useful. As usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017 8:08 No Comments

Welcome to the latest issue of our regular monthly newsletter which features news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search engine marketing techniques and trends.

In our first article this month we take a look at the important forthcoming launch by Google of exact match close variants in AdWords and what this means for keyword search results and conversion rates. The second article looks at Google’s roll out of Optimize, the website testing and personalisation tool, which is designed to help businesses improve their customer experiences and business metrics.

In the final article this month, we take a look at the eventual closure of DMOZ – The Open Directory Project – which had been kept running despite well outlasting its usefulness.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. 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 AdWords Exact Match Close Variants

Over the coming months Google AdWords is expanding close variant matching to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords. This is to ensure that the right keywords are used to reach the right customers and to eliminate the need to build exhaustive keyword lists to reach these customers.

Close variants help to connect with people who are looking for a business, despite slight variations in the way they search, and now the expansion of close variant matching will include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords.

Through this expansion, Google claims that early tests show advertisers seeing up to 3% more exact match clicks on average, while maintaining comparable clickthrough and conversion rates. This is done by ignoring ‘function’ words and including reordered variations of a keyword. Function words are prepositions (in, to), conjunctions (for, but), articles (a, the) and other words that often don’t impact the intent behind a query. For example, the “in” in “hotels in new york” can be safely ignored because it doesn’t affect the meaning. However, the “to” in “flights to new york” would not be ignored, because a “flight from new york” is not the same as a “flight to new york.”

Reordering won’t add any words to the keywords, but exact match will now use that same logic to match with queries that are reordered variations of keywords, such as “buy new cars and “new cars buy.”

With this expansion of exact match close variants, it’ll no longer be necessary to build and maintain lists of reworded and reordered exact match keywords to get the required coverage. If reworded or reordered keyword variations are already used, AdWords will still prefer to use those keywords identical to search queries. (Phrase match keywords aren’t included in this update).

This is a useful addition by Google, but the results from the expansion will need to be closely monitored to ensure that the average cost per click doesn’t rise and that claims about the additional clicks having comparable clickthrough / conversion rates is actually the case in practice.

You can read more about keyword matching options here, or please contact us for more details about this change.

 

Google Rolls Out Optimize

First announced last year, Google has been rolling out their new Optimize service, so that some Analytics / AdWords users now have access to this and it will eventually be made available to all users for free. As a web and mobile-web testing and personalisation tool, Optimize is designed to help businesses improve their customer experiences and business metrics.

Google previously included Experiments as part of a Google Analytics account, and Optimize is an extension of this, developed as a separate account but part of the overall Analytics login platform. It’s designed to make testing as simple and easy as possible for companies to use their Analytics data efficiently as part of a conversion optimisation process.

Optimize is built on top of the Google Analytics platform, which means that users can take the customer insights from Analytics to test against business metrics that make a difference — such as goal conversions and e-commerce transactions – without any additional development work. Tests can be set up such as simple A/B testing to more complex multivariate tests, which can be customised for different customer segments which increases the flexibility of any testing programme.

This new tool is easy to set up with the addition of a line of code to Google Analytics on a website, and then the ‘visual editor’ enables users to quickly and easily create variants of their web pages without any recoding. The ‘click to edit’ interface means that even non-technical teams can use it. A diagnostics tool also alerts users to potential problems with the testing before starting the activity.

Of course, before running any testing programme you need to identify what should be tested, what the objectives are and the expected or target results. You also need to have a reasonable sample size of users and sessions to make the test work effectively, but as an integrated tool as part of the Google Analytics suite of products, Optimize is a welcome addition and one that should be considered.

If you’d like more information about Optimize and the testing opportunities for your website, please contact us for more information.

 

The End of DMOZ

DMOZ, or The Open Directory Project, that uses human editors to organise websites has closed. This marks the end of a time when humans, rather than machines, tried to organise the web and the announcement came via a notice that’s now showing on the home page of the DMOZ site, saying it closed on March 14, 2017.

DMOZ was born in June 1998 as “GnuHoo,” then quickly changed to “NewHoo,” and was set up as a rival to the Yahoo Directory at the time. Yahoo had faced criticism as being too powerful and too difficult for sites to be listed in. DMOZ was soon acquired by Netscape in November 1998 and renamed the Netscape Open Directory. Later that month, AOL acquired Netscape, giving AOL control of The Open Directory.

Also born that year was Google, which was the beginning of the end of human curation of websites. Google bought both the power of being able to search every page on the web with the relevancy that was a hallmark of human-powered directories. As the web developed at a rapid rate, the demands of a human edited directory meant that these sites quickly became outdated and obsolete. However, DMOZ did go through a phase of being a resource used by Google and many companies tried to get listed, usually unsuccessfully as the number of editors on the site declined.

Yahoo eventually shifted to preferring machine-generated results over human power, pushing its directory further and further behind-the-scenes until its closure was announced in September 2014. The actual closure came in December 2014, with the old site these days entirely unresponsive. DMOZ continued, even though for marketers and searchers it had also long been mostly forgotten as a resource, so the only surprise in this news is that it took so long to close!

DMOZ will live on in one unique way – the NOODP meta tag. This was a way for publishers to tell Google and other search engines not to describe their pages using Open Directory descriptions. While the tag will become redundant, it will also remain lurking within web pages that continue to use it for years to come.

If you’d like more information about DMOZ and the recent closure, please get in touch.

 

We hope you’ve found this month’s newsletter useful. As usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – September 2016

Thursday, September 1, 2016 6:53 No Comments

Welcome to the latest monthly issue of our regular newsletter which features news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search engine marketing techniques and trends.

In the first article this month, we look at Google’s decision to retire “Converted clicks” from AdWords later this month to focus on ‘Conversions’. This should interest any business that’s running an AdWords campaign, or any search marketing managers, as this is a significant development for the way in which conversions will be recorded in the future.

In another AdWords development, we highlight the long-awaited and welcome return of device bid adjustments to AdWords campaigns and how this feature can be used to control bids and ranking positions separately for desktop, mobile and tablet devices. This is great improvement in the ability to manage AdWords campaigns more effectively.

Finally this month, we examine how anchor text should be used in links as part of an effective SEO strategy, but how they need to be handled with some caution. This is important information for SEO practitioners as the correct use of these can improve search ranking performance.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. 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…

‘Converted Clicks’ To Be Retired From AdWords

Conversion tracking was introduced to AdWords in the early days, as an important way to measure what happened after someone clicked on an ad. The ability to know whether or not people completed a desired action on a site meant that it was possible to determine which keywords, ads and campaigns were the most effective. However, the original “Converted Clicks” conversion measurement metric was very basic, as it simply reported on whether an ad click led to any type of action on a site. Therefore Google has now decided to retire this metric later this month, with “Conversions” becoming the default way to measure valuable actions for a business.

In the 15 years since the introduction of conversion tracking, multiple improvements have been made to measuring and attributing conversions. The “Conversions” metric now offers the full picture of how many conversions AdWords drives for a business and is the best way to track these valuable actions. The advantage of “Conversions” over “Converted Clicks” is that only the former can measure behaviour that spans multiple conversion events, or multiple clicks. It can also track important, non-last-click attribution models, different counting options and mobile-centric actions, like cross-device conversions and store visits. The significant cross-device conversion numbers will be included in the “Conversions” column in AdWords from this month.

If you are already using the “Conversions” metric for reporting and bidding, then no action is required. However, if Target CPA or Enhanced CPC is being used and the primary bid metric is set to “Converted Clicks”, that should be updated to “Conversions” by September 21st and there should be a warning message and email sent to accounts using this technique.

Proper conversion counting is vital, and it’s something that’s imperative to get right as online behaviour evolves. This change is therefore a welcome and timely decision by Google, and the new metric will enable businesses to more precisely track how well AdWords keywords, ads and campaigns are producing leads and sales.

If you need to update your conversion figures, there are a few points to consider, which can be found here. If you want to know more about how this change could impact your AdWords campaigns, contact us now for more details.

 

Device Bid Adjustments Return to AdWords

In another development for AdWords, Google has just announced the introduction of device wide bid adjustments at the campaign level, which gives the advertiser more flexibility in controlling bids and ranking positions across all devices – desktop, mobile and tablet.

Prior to Google’s introduction of ‘Enhanced’ AdWords campaigns in 2013, it had been possible to create separate campaigns by device and bid separately for each (or block ads from appearing on a particular device). Google then stopped that option and all campaigns had to target all device types, with only an option to modify bid levels on mobile devices.

Earlier this year Google announced that bid adjustments would be introduced for all types of device, and this has just been rolled out to all AdWords accounts. It is therefore now available in the campaign settings (if All Features is selected), so that the default bid level can be adjusted up or down by each of the 3 device types, depending on results being achieved.

This new feature allows advertisers to review campaign metrics and performance by device and adjust bids accordingly from -100% (which would turn the ads off on a device) to +900%, so there is quite a range of bid options available. However, it’s best to maintain some level of coverage across all devices and optimise the bid levels based on historical data and conversion tracking results (CPA – Cost Per Acquisition).

Keeping a campaign active across all devices still retains the efficiency of enhanced campaigns, but also allows advertisers to continue to target all devices in the most effective way, on the basis that many searchers will use different devices for their needs and at different times of the day. You can also use manual or automated bidding (if you have at least 50 conversions in the past 30 days) to try to improve the targeting of your spend.

This is certainly a great improvement and opportunity to manage AdWords campaigns more effectively and to direct spend to the most effective devices, based on past performance and expected searcher behaviour. You can read Google’s Best Practices about bid adjustments, or contact us now for more information about how this can help your AdWords campaigns.

 

Using Anchor Text in Links

When thinking about links as part of an SEO strategy, the use of anchor text has always been an important consideration and something that Google uses to determine search engine rankings. That remains true today, but needs to be handled with some caution.

‘Anchor text’ describes the visible, clickable words used in a hyperlink that point to another page or website. These words have always been used by Google in varying degrees as a ranking factor, so that the page where the link points will gain some ranking benefit from the anchor text in the link, whether it may be an exact match (such as ‘adwords training‘) or a partial match term (such as ‘best adwords training courses in Sydney‘).

It can still be possible for a web page to rank for a search phrase that isn’t used on the page, but is contained in links pointing to that page. Recent research continues to show a strong correlation between the keywords in the anchor text of links, and ranking performance.

However, it should also be noted that although keyword use in anchor text can have a positive impact on rankings, it can also take on a negative effect if there is an overuse of keyword rich anchors using the same term, so that there should ideally be a variety of anchor text used across multiple links to a website. The use of too many anchor text links with the same phrase can be seen by Google as a sign of link manipulation and may incur link penalties, such as those seen from the ‘Penguin’ update in 2012.

Using links between pages on your own website is a good way of controlling anchor text (such as in navigation buttons or body content) and thinking about key search phrases as well as relevant content that helps the user navigate around your website. Using text links that say ‘click here’ or ‘read more’ is not ideal, if the link can be used behind some content that is also relevant to the target page the link is pointing to.

External links from a variety of sites are also still an important ranking factor and using a range of anchor text content is also advisable. It’s also good practice to get external links pointing to pages within a site, as well as to the home page, with relevant anchor text terms.

If you review your Google Search Console reports, the ‘Links to your site’ report includes one showing how your website content is linked by anchor text, and whether the terms or phrases have a good relevancy to your content and your ranking aspirations.

If you’d like more information about the use of anchor text as part of a link building strategy, please get in touch.

 

We hope you’ve found this month’s newsletter useful. As usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – January 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016 5:20 No Comments

This is the first issue of our newsletter for 2016 and so we’d like to wish you a happy and prosperous year ahead.

The start of a new year is usually a good time to review what’s been and to plan for what’s to come, and so we’d like to contribute to this process with a review of best practice for search engine marketing.

From our regular client management as well as training courses we run, there are some key essentials required – what we’d suggest are the ‘3 pillars’ of any website marketing activity using search engines (and in particular, Google).

We’ve outlined below some of the key things that you should have in place, or be considering as part of your online marketing activity, and why they are important for your business.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. 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…

SEO Essentials for a Website

Every website should have the basics for SEO – search engine optimisation – in place, particularly as there are many things that can be controlled by the website owner and implemented reasonably easily.

Although some search markets can be very competitive and challenging, having a good SEO structure will enable a website to maximise the opportunities to rank on the first page of results for as many terms as possible. So, the key things to consider are:

  • Search term research – identify what your potential customers are searching for across many different variations. Use the Google search suggestions as a starter, but the AdWords Keyword Tool for more in-depth insights, and build a list of good, relevant search terms including the most popular, common terms, as well as the wide variety of ‘long tail’ terms that can provide many opportunities to reach your search market.
  • Using terms on the website – from the list of search phrases you can then write keyword focused and attention grabbing title tags and description metatags for each page of your website, as well as coordinate the page content to target the same phrases in a prominent way that’s not too repetitive.
  • Creating internal links – external links, or backlinks, to your website are important but can be hard to achieve, so make use of your own internal website links as a first stage, linking suitable content together to help engage users and also target search terms in the anchor text of the links.
  • Using Google Search Console – every website owner should have a GSC account in place (previously known as Webmaster Tools). It’s a free service and enables a communication channel with Google, as well as providing help and insights to ensure your website gets the best experience with Google, plus you get access to the excellent Search Analytics report and links reports.
  • Using Google My Business – this is essential for any local business but just as important for any business to ensure that their company details and ‘owned’ and up to date on Google / Maps. Claiming and verifying a listing is important, as well as ensuring it’s 100% complete, uses some suitable content and category groups for the business, and attracts some good reviews to help ranking positions.

 

Paid Search Marketing Objectives

Using paid search ads is always an option for websites to improve or expand their coverage in the search results and to target core search terms to drive more visits to a website. However, whether it’s Google AdWords, Bing Ads, or another form of paid advertising, every business should have an objective for the ad spend, and a way of measuring that.

Paid search advertising can be a very cost effective way of getting interested prospects onto a website, and it can become one of the primary sources of traffic for a website. However, it can also be an expensive exercise, especially in markets that are seeing more advertisers bid on terms, so having clear objectives and a way to measure them is essential, such as:

  • Online sales – an easy one to track and a clear objective for an online store, with sales and transaction value providing an excellent and measurable way of proving if the ad spend is working, or where spend can be cut or increased to get the best results.
  • Online enquiries – any online forms are also a measurable way of identifying good responses from a search advertising campaign, whether it’s an online form or a clickable email link, these can be measured and a cost per lead identified.
  • Phone enquiries – this becomes harder to track where the action happens ‘offline’, but any business where calls are a key response mechanism should use a call tracking service, even with Google’s basic call extensions in AdWords. There can also be ways of tracking related signals from a website, such as clicks on the number from a mobile device, or views of a contact page.
  • File downloads – maybe a key metric involves downloads of a PDF document or order form, or even clicks off to an external site like your business’s Facebook page. Using event tracking provides more flexibility in tracking actions on a website that you want visitors to take, and combining these with conversion goals is a great way to track the effectiveness of your marketing activity.
  • User engagement – for some websites where content is key (such as blogs or news websites) it can help to track user engagement metrics such as bounce rate, pages viewed, time on site, or repeat visits to gauge the success of a marketing campaign at getting the ‘right sort of people’ onto your site, and use these as measurable objectives and goals.

 

Insights from Google Analytics

The third essential element for any search marketing campaign is to understand what’s happening, both with the quality of visitors coming to the site, but also how the website performs in converting these visitors to the required conversion objectives.

Any website analytics package would be good for this, but as most websites use Google Analytics these days (and it is an excellent free tool for this purpose) then we are covering the use of this here. Some of the main reports and tools to use would be:

  • Key metrics – tracking the trends with such key metrics such as sessions and users, as well as new v returning visitors, is a core focus. Also user engagement based on bounce rate trends, time on site, pages viewed and, ultimately, goal conversions all help to indicate the success or otherwise of your marketing activity.
  • Trends – this is an important way of looking at data, rather than just as a snapshot for one time period. Trends in data, such as month or month, or year on year, provide better insights into what’s working well – or not – and how recent changes or testing programmes are working.
  • Secondary dimensions – within most data tables in Google Analytics, there is the option to add a secondary dimension, or to break down the initial line of data into more detail by another set of criteria. This can be a great way of gaining more detail and insights about a report when looking for answers.
  • Segments – probably the best tool in Analytics is Advanced Segments, available above most report tables, which provides the ability to isolate data or compare two or more datasets for a particular group of visitors to the website. Also good for better insights and to delve into small, specific groups of users via the default or custom built segments.
  • Custom reports – to access more advanced data insights, custom reports provide the ability to build your own data tables and combine these with secondary dimensions or segments to view data tables not available through the standard menu options. Gaining insights by hour, or day of the week, for example, or monthly trends for the past 12 months, are just a few ways that custom reports can be used to understand more about your marketing and your website.

 

We hope you find the above summaries useful and a good checklist to compare how your search engine marketing is set up ready for 2016. If you’re not using some of these options, but should, please get them ready as some of the main cornerstones for the coming year to help give your online business a greater advantage.

And, as usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – October 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 8:15 No Comments

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing techniques and trends.

In the first article this month we take a look at new research that shows the importance of phone calls from search results on a mobile device, which means that having a ‘click to call’ function is very important and how this can lead to better branding and improved sales. Next, we examine the importance of WordPress website security and 6 important steps to take to ensure that your business website isn’t a victim of unscrupulous hackers.

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…

The Importance of the ‘Click to Call’ Search Function

The Google AdWords blog has recently published the results of new research which shows that 70% of mobile searchers call a business directly from search results. This action can be taken, for businesses that enable it, by using the ‘click to call’ button that appears in the search results on mobiles. So it’s important for businesses that appear in the search results on Google to know this function exists and the importance of having it show with their mobile-targeted results.

Google says that their ads drive over 40 million calls each month and therefore it’s important for businesses to understand consumers’ use of the click to call feature. The new study by Ipsos Research showed that, from the 3,000 mobile searchers surveyed, calls are important for positively influencing brand perception through the inclusion of a phone number in the search results, as well as still being a vital channel for research and purchasing. Through research, calls help a consumer move closer in purchase consideration and a larger number of calls happen when someone is ready to buy.

It was found that click to call was an important feature for people looking to find information and make purchases across the 7 industries studied – travel; restaurant; auto; retail; finance; technology; local services. Within the local services sector, 76% would use call features to schedule an appointment for professional services, so this makes it particularly important for localised search results (including Google+ Local listings). Also, the majority of calls generated by mobile search ads are not quick informational calls, but instead tend to be more substantive research or transactional calls.

The inclusion of a click to call button can lead to an increase of 8% in the adverts overall clickthrough rate, because of the larger ad size due to the call button, or users feel more confident in the business. Nearly half of mobile searchers indicated that the lack of a call option would lead them to be both frustrated with the business and more likely to turn to another brand. Additionally, 33% said that they would be less likely to refer the brand to others and would be less likely to use the brand in the future.

So encouraging phone calls should still be a priority for all businesses and the importance of this shouldn’t be underestimated in an increasingly competitive online environment. This can be done quickly through an AdWords campaign by attaching call extensions to mobile search ads, (whereas the presence of the call button in organic results depends on a number of factors). Furthermore, the data provided by AdWords on call metrics from doing this can be valuable to identify areas to improve campaign performance and increase the number of conversions.

If you’d like more information about how the ‘click to call’ function can help to improve your business, contact us now for more details.

 

The Importance of WordPress Website Security

WordPress has become the leader in web publishing, with over 72 million sites using their Content Management System, which is estimated to be more than 25% of all websites operating on the Internet. As a result of this success, it has become a favoured target for hackers, so it’s crucial that if your business uses WordPress, your site is well protected.

In order to make a WordPress site more secure, there are a number of things to watch, plus before making any changes it’s essential to back up everything:

1) Update the admin user name. Surprisingly many people don’t change this from the default “admin”, or use other very common ones, such as “administrator,” “test” and “root”. So ensure the one your site uses is different. This should ideally be done during the initial set-up, or subsequently by going into mySQL and updating the user name, in the wp_users table.

2) Use a strong password. Not only should the username ideally be unique, but the password should also be very strong and includes letters (upper and lower), numbers, special characters, with over eight characters in total. (There are free programs, such as Keypass, that can create and remember which passwords are associated to which of your accounts).

3) Change the wp-config Security Keys: Tucked beneath your WordPress database settings in your wp-config file are your site’s unique keys and ‘Salts’. These are a random array of letters, numbers and special characters you’d likely never run across unless they were pointed out to you. Making a new set is easy with a tool within the CMS that WordPress provides. More details about this can be found here.

4) Limit Login Attempts: WordPress provides a free plugin to do this. It’s surprising how many attempts, mainly by hacking bots are locked out by this useful tool. It’s very configurable and has helpful features like logging offender’s IP addresses and emails you when a lockout happens. These emails may be slightly disconcerting, but serve a reminder that the site is well secured.

5) Use “Secure WordPress”: This is another essential, free WordPress plugin that patches many holes that exist in the basic WordPress install. It will do things like removing the version number of WordPress throughout the site or blocking malicious URL requests. The plugin allows you to toggle these options on and off to customise the settings for your security needs.

6) Backup, Backup and Backup: This can’t be emphasised enough! The best defence is to ensure that there is a complete, up-to-date backup of the site. It’s possible either to download the files to your local machine, or ask your web host about backup options. The latter can sometimes be flawed, so if you want total peace-of-mind, it’s best to regularly do that yourself on a scheduled basis. Ensure that you’re also backing up your database, with one of the numerous options that are available, such as the WordPress Database Backup.

It’s possible to alleviate many attacks just through these 6 steps that will ensure you’re not any easy target, like 99% of the sites that don’t take these precautions. Prevention is much better than cure and usually a lot less time consuming that trying to recover from an attack after it’s too late. Just imagine how you’d feel if the site and database was lost, so be pro-active beforehand, as it can happen.

You can view more in-depth details about this here:

If you’d like to know more about how we can help to secure your WordPress website, contact us now.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – July 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013 9:00 No Comments

Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – July 2013

Welcome to the latest issue of our regular newsletter, which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing techniques and trends, to help you keep up to date on the latest developments.

In the first article this month we take a look at the use of phone call tracking to identify conversions by source coming via this route. Next, we examine guest blogging and how it’s critical to focus on the relationship building process, rather than just as a link-building technique. Finally, we take a look at the release of Google’s Universal Analytics into public beta and the features and benefits of this.

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…

Using Phone Call Tracking

Whether your business is using conversion tracking as part of Google AdWords, or goal tracking in Google Analytics, this type of data is essential to understand where sales or enquiries are coming from, down to the keyword and advert level. However, for any business where most leads may come via a phone call, this is harder to track as the link between the source of the website visitor and the phone call being made is broken. This is where phone call tracking techniques can add more insight and value to an advertiser.

Phone call tracking has been around for many years in different forms, and as the need to track and optimise conversions grows, this technique is becoming another important tool for the advertiser. There are a number of good phone call tracking companies operating in the UK market and they can provide a reasonably low cost way of tracking the source of conversions, whether they come from Google AdWords or any search engine visit, or from any other third party website. Google AdWords also provides a call tracking system in the US and UK.

Call tracking usually works through the addition of some javascript on a website or web page, which identifies the source of a visitor and displays a unique phone number on the website. If the visitor calls the business, that number will track the lead by source, potentially down to individual search term level. Whether the website has their standard phone number displayed in the text or as an image, an alternate number can be displayed depending on where the site visitor come from, although images will need to be changed or adapted to cater for this.

The advertiser will buy a range of phone numbers – usually 1300 or 1800 – to be used for the various advertising sources and displayed on the website. The call tracking company will generate these numbers and track the calls made, including the option of recording the phone conversations, and provide analytics to show which sources have generated the calls. This data can sometimes be imported into a Google Analytics account as well, as a goal source.

One potential issue for advertisers is if they use a memorable number, such as 1300 FLOWER, as call tracking won’t be able to replicate this number and make it so memorable to the user – which can be an issue if the number might be used in a radio advert or on a billboard. The other main question is how many numbers might be needed, as these can be generated as ‘absolute’ (one number for each source) or session based (where a pool of numbers are used and displayed in time segments to identify source). The former method can be very expensive, particularly if there are lot of search terms being used in an AdWords campaign, but is more accurate. However, the latter method should be sufficient for most advertisers.

Although the cost of call tracking isn’t that high, it is an additional cost to include as part of the marketing activity. However, the insights that call tracking can provide is extremely valuable and enables advertisers to see the real cost per lead being generated by source, which will provide a more accurate figure for a Return on Investment calculation. Otherwise, call enquiries will remain a general ‘pool’ of new business leads which can’t be attributed to a source or the advertising spend.

If you’d like to know more about phone call tracking for your marketing campaigns, please get in touch for a discussion.

 

Best Practice for Guest Blogging

The regular changes that Google’s been making to its search algorithms recently to clamp down on poor quality links or content has started to change the focus of many website’s link building strategies. Outsourcing link building to agencies that use bulk link techniques on dubious sites has never worked that well, but now more than ever, an effective link building program should be focused on ‘relationship building’ rather than simple link building.

One of the popular ways to go about relationship building is by being a guest blogger on a reputable blog. This has always been an incredibly effective means of generating high quality links from popular and relevant web pages, but more recently the over-use and poor implementation of this technique has resulted in many bloggers cringing at inboxes full of poorly written, self-serving pitch requests, and ultimately ignoring the vast majority of would be ‘guest posts’. In the same way that numerous linking request emails started to flood into mailboxes several years ago, the same is now true for guest blog requests, so that a number of blogs are now closing their doors to guest post submissions.

Furthermore, according to Matt Cutts – the head of Google’s webspam team – “Google is willing to take action if they see spammy, or low quality guest blogging…which is basically putting low quality articles with embedded links on that site”. He goes on to say that “article-spinning, or low quality syndication are the areas in which Google are going to take an interest”. You can hear more about his comments in a video here.

Guest blogging still works however, and works well, but it has to be done effectively as genuine relationship building, rather than blatant link building. The links will come by building real relationships with the people running the sites so that a level of trust and respect is developed and the guest blog posts add to the quality and tone of the original blog.

Here are some useful tips on the best practice for guest blogging:

  • #1 Research potential link sources well: Research sources through social media channels, especially Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Seek out high quality blogs and get to know the blog first, before making contact.
  • #2 Don’t be too direct: The first time you contact a blogger, don’t pitch to them – instead, get to know them. If you are targeting a larger blog with multiple writers, then you might want to go by the way of an introduction. Most bloggers are happy to help out people they like with a link, but the only way to get that is to focus on the relationship before the link.
  • #3 Approach through social media: Better yet, skip email altogether for the first contact. Instead, make contact through social channels, where you are much more likely to get a response. Twitter is one of the best social networks for finding and connecting with bloggers and should be the first point of contact. Start by following, then tweet directly to them, but don’t ask for a link on the first tweet.
  • #4 Personalise the pitch: What if you don’t know enough about the blogger to make it personal? Then it’s probably too soon to be pitching for a link! Nothing will get your guest post denied quicker than sending a generic pitch.
  • #5 Offer value: The best way to get what you want is to give something back. The primary value you should be offering is excellent content to the blog, so create valuable, unique content to submit to the blogger. Also, offer to promote and share their content on your social networks, bring technical issues to their attention, such as dead links or broken forms, and leave good quality comments and participate in discussions.
  • #6 Maintain the relationship: Often when guest bloggers manage to get a link placement, they don’t continue the relationship with the blog’s owner. So follow up with the blog owner / editor to see if they have any feedback, positive or otherwise. If your content is good, the blogger will be eager to publish more of your submissions in the future. This is particularly useful for agencies that can leverage these relationships with multiple clients.

As outlined above, the process of guest blogging can be time consuming but should reflect the natural process of relationship building rather than a quick link request. If you would like more information about how guest blogging can improve your relationship building (and links), please contact us now for more details.

 

Google’s Universal Analytics in Public Beta

In March this year Google announced to all Google Analytics users the option to use Universal Analytics. This offers a new way for businesses to understand the changing, multi-device customer journey through the conversion path, as a typical consumer today uses multiple devices to access the web and interact in many ways with a business. This is likely to become the default system for Google Analytics, so websites have the option to try this for themselves now.

Universal Analytics introduces a set of features that change the way data is collected and organised in a Google Analytics account, so you can get a better understanding of how visitors interact with your organisation. In addition to the standard Google Analytics features, Universal Analytics provides:

  • New data collection methods
  • Simplified feature configuration
  • Custom dimensions & custom metrics
  • Multi-platform tracking.

Therefore some of the benefits of using Universal Analytics to businesses are:

  • Understanding how customers interact with the businesses across many devices and touch-points
  • Gaining insights into the performance of mobile apps
  • Improving lead generation and ROI by incorporating offline and online interactions to help understand which channels drive the best results
  • Improving the speed of a website by reducing client-side demands.

The aim is to change the way that data is collected and organised in the rapidly evolving online world of multiple platforms. Multiple platforms are not just limited to desktop, tablet, phone, but also game consoles, the point of purchase (POP), the shopping trolley, ski lift, billboard and so on.

Many of the benefits promised by Google’s UA hinge on two updates to the platform. Firstly, the ability to get data into UA from any source, and secondly, the shift from tracking visits to tracking visitors. The future of data does indeed seem to be blurring the lines between online and offline, and with these new tools, the hope is to make more sense of it all and to paint a better picture for the brand, the client, or any user’s understanding of the data and trends. Through an understanding of this data, business and individuals can better understand how visitors interact with their business online.

UA is an exciting development that holds significant promise for solving some difficult issues such as multi-device measurement and online/offline integration. Currently, the technology is still new, so more experimentation is needed in order to test UA’s promises in real-world environments. However, new Analytics accounts have the option to use this code, or existing accounts are gradually getting the option to upgrade as UA is being rolled out by Google.

If you would like more details about how the use of Google’s Universal Analytics can help your business, contact us now.

 

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We hope you’ve found this month’s newsletter useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.

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