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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – August 2017

Posts Tagged ‘Link Building’

Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – August 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 11:36 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 recent blog post that provides warnings about the use of guest blogging as a link building technique for SEO (search engine optimisation). We also look at the use of responsive ads in Google AdWords, which provide flexible ad formats for a wide range of websites, apps and devices.

In the final article this month we cover the announcement of the new voice control feature in Google Analytics, which is part of the Intelligence tools to enable users to get more information from the stats provided.

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 Warnings Against Guest Blogging

Over the past few years, a common SEO link building technique has been to target relevant blogs and to provide articles on those blogs with links back to a site. However, Google has always warned against this technique as a form of paid link building, and they recently provided further guidelines through their Webmaster blog.

We provided some best practice techniques for guest blogging back in July 2013 and any approaches to this need to be planned, managed and communicated carefully to avoid conflicts with Google’s guidelines. Google has recently reported that they are seeing an increase in spammy links contained in articles referred to as contributor posts, guest posts, partner posts, or syndicated posts and have provided some tips about these.

These articles are generally written by, or in the name of, one website (which is usually trying to develop more links to their domain), and published on a different site. Although Google says they do not discourage these types of articles in the cases when they inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to a cause or company, they do dislike such articles when they believe that the main intent of the article is to build links in a large-scale back to the author’s site.

Google has therefore indicated the signals they are looking for to identify these types of link building content, which can indicate when an article is in violation of their SEO guidelines:

  • stuffing keyword-rich links to your site in your articles
  • having the articles published across many different sites
  • alternatively, having a large number of articles on a few large, different sites
  • using or hiring article writers that aren’t knowledgeable about the topics they’re writing on
  • using the same or similar content across these articles, or duplicating the full content of articles found on the original site (in which case the use of rel=”canonical”, in addition to rel=”nofollow”, is advised).

When Google detects that a website is publishing articles that contain spammy links, this may change Google’s perception of the quality of the site and could affect its ranking. Sites accepting and publishing such articles should carefully vet them, asking questions like: Do I know this person? Does this person’s message fit with my site’s audience? Does the article contain useful content? If there are links of questionable intent in the article, has the author used rel=”nofollow” on them?

For websites creating articles made for links, Google takes action on this behavior because it’s bad for the Web as a whole. When link building comes first, the quality of the articles can suffer and create a bad experience for users. Also, webmasters generally prefer not to receive aggressive or repeated “Post my article!” requests, and Google encourages such cases to be reported through their spam report form.

You can read more about Google’s quality guidelines for link building schemes, or you can contact us for more information and advice now.

 

Using Responsive Ads in AdWords

Google has been prioritising mobile devices and search activity over the past few years as mobile becomes the largest portion of search usage in many countries. One such tool in AdWords has been the new responsive ad format, which gives advertisers the flexibility to target searchers on many different device formats.

Google’s responsive ads for display have been available for almost a year now, and were provided to advertisers to enable their content to adapt across the more than two million publisher sites and apps on the Google Display Network (GDN). They also unlock new ‘native inventory’ which means that advertisers can engage consumers with ads that match the look and feel of the content they’re browsing.

Responsive ads offer more flexibility with minimal setup as they automatically adjust their size, appearance and format to fit just about any available ad space. For example, a responsive ad might show as a native banner ad on one site and a dynamic text ad on another, as it automatically transforms itself to fit precisely where it has been targeted to meet the advertiser’s goals. In this way, responsive ads can increase the reach and impact of a display ads campaign while also saving the set up time for numerous ads.

To create responsive ads, you just need to provide 2 headline options, a description, an image, and a URL and Google will automatically design these responsive ads that should work in numerous different formats on various devices, websites and apps. When you create a responsive ad, you can preview some common layouts, but it’s not possible to see every possible layout across all the sites that comprise the Google Display Network.

The main downside of these ads is that although they are simple to create, they utilise Google’s template which can mean that they are not always the best looking ads and may not ideally suit the brand requirements for a business, but they do provide the flexibility and reach that would be hard to achieve with tailored ad designs.

You can read more about responsive ads or contact us now for more information.

 

New Voice Controls in Google Analytics

Another new feature for Google Analytics has been announced in the past month to help users get more business insights from their data. Voice control analysis enables users to ask a question in plain English and receive a response about their stats and recent trends. Possibly seen as a bit gimmicky, this new tool has nevertheless been extensively developed over recent years.

An example Google provides is to ask your Analytics account “How many new users did we have from organic search on mobile last week?”. With the new voice control feature, you should get an immediate answer with some data reports and suggested insights. It uses the same natural language processing technology available across Google products like Android and Search, and it will be rolling out now to become available in English to all Google Analytics users over the next few weeks.

The ability to ask questions is part of Analytics Intelligence, a set of features in Google Analytics that use machine learning to help users better understand and act on their analytics data. Analytics Intelligence also includes existing machine learning capabilities like automated insights (now available), smart lists, smart goals, and session quality.

Google’s feedback from web analysts was that they spend half their time answering basic analytics questions for other people in their organization. This new voice control feature is intended to help everyone get their answers directly in the product, so that team members get what they need faster, and analysts can spend their valuable time on deeper research and discovery.

The new Analytics Intelligence feature helps users to identify new opportunities through automated insights, which can show spikes or drops in metrics like revenue or session duration, or by highlighting key issues that may need to be investigated further. Insights may also present opportunities to improve key metrics by following specific recommendations. For example, a chance to improve bounce rate by reducing a page’s load time, or the potential to boost conversion rate by adding a new keyword to your AdWords campaign.

This Intelligence system is also designed to become smarter over time as it learns which questions and insights users are interested in. Google encourages usage and feedback of the tool to enable the service to be ‘trained’ from experience. The goal is to help users get more insights and ultimately use the tool more often to gain amazing experiences that make customers happier and help you grow your business.

If you’d like more information about this new feature and how to get better insights from your own Analytics reports, please contact us now.

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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 – July 2016

Friday, July 1, 2016 6:57 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 recent announcement of the largest change to AdWords in years with Expanded Text Ads, which will allow search marketers to promote their products or USPs in more detail.

We also look at how caution should be taken when receiving emails about link schemes that could improve a website’s organic rankings – both from the recipients perspective and for prospective link builders. Finally, we look at how Microsoft is to buy LinkedIn for US$26bn and what it means for the shareholders of both companies, as well as the market as a whole.

Web Marketing Workshop is a Google PartnerOn a separate matter this month, we’re delighted to announce that we have just been given the status of a Premier Google AdWords Partner, which recognises Web Marketing Workshop as ‘one of their most valued agencies’. Google says that this new badge is designed to recognize Partners who manage a substantial portfolio of Google advertising campaigns and deliver great results for their customers.

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 Rolls Out Expanded Text Ads

Google recently announced the largest change to AdWords in years – the format of text ads is changing. According to Google, this new format – known as Expanded Text Ads – has delivered clickthrough rates up to 20% higher compared to existing test ads, during their tests.

The most prominent feature of the change is an increased character length in the headline from 25 to 60, over two headlines. This will enable advertisers to maximise the space on mobile, desktop and tablet devices to promote products and services. The description lines, which currently consist of two lines of 35 characters each, will be merged into one, with 80 characters (inc. spaces). This increase from 95 characters to 140 characters in the headline and description combined is a significant one, with almost a 50% increase.

This new ad format reflects the recent change where Google moved all AdWords ads in line with the organic search results (with no ads being shown in a right hand column any more) and therefore Google wants to display the ads in a way that look more like the traditional organic results. The roll-out of this new format is currently limited but is expected to appear as standard ads on Google.com (USA) from the end of July, and globally by the end of October this year, when the current ad format will be discontinued.

AdWords campaign managers therefore need to ensure that the testing and rollout of Expanded Text Ads is included as a top priority over the next few months. Google recommends that advertisers need to rethink their entire creative by trying not to tack copy onto existing ads and initial tests have shown that advertisers who completely rethink and rewrite their ads for the new format see better performance.

The benefits for advertisers include more direct control over headlines, without having to hope that Google would automatically carry up correctly punctuated portions of description line 1 into it, which it only did randomly and not all the time. There will also be room to fit in more product specific information or unique selling propositions.

We’ll be testing these new format ads over the next few months and if you want to know more about how ETAs could improve your business’s advertising, please contact us now.

 

Caution About Link Schemes From Black Hat SEOs

In the early days of SEO, ‘black-hat’ techniques such as hidden ‘keyword stuffing’ and ‘link farms’ were prevalent. Thankfully, things have progressed significantly since then with Google’s enhancements through the Panda/Penguin algorithms penalising such unscrupulous techniques. However, there are still some shady link schemes so it’s necessary to be cautious about emails that offer to put strong links to your site upon reputable, powerful ones, as these offers are usually too good to be true!

These type of offers violate Google’s quality guidelines and can harm your site rankings. Such ‘spammy’ link-building tactics, defined by Google as ‘link schemes’ are, buying or selling links that pass PageRank (which includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links); exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it in a blog, for example, and including a link.

Google considers these schemes to be an attempt to fool the search engine algorithms. If lower-quality content can rank high just because it has amassed a high quantity of backlinks, that is not a great experience for the searcher. So Google strives to rank quality content that will meet user needs.

When it comes to spammy link building techniques, there are two types of penalties that can impact your site: algorithmic and manual. An algorithmic penalty occurs when your site loses rankings as a result of an algorithm update – in this case, Penguin. Webmasters may be able to restore rankings by getting rid of spammy backlinks before the next Penguin update, but that is not a guarantee. In any event, steps should be taken to remove or disavow spammy backlinks.

An algorithmic ranking demotion is bad, but it is not as devastating as a manual penalty, which can cause a site (or some of its pages) to be removed from Google’s index entirely. Essentially, the Google ‘Spam’ team manually reviews your backlink profile and places a penalty on the site. To remove a manual penalty, you must work to remove or disavow spammy backlinks and then file a reconsideration request, which is a process that can take weeks or months.

Ideally, all links to a site would be earned naturally, rather than acquired through deliberate link-building efforts. To gain natural inbound links, webmasters and SEOs should build content that is engaging, shareable and easily linkable. So, when receiving emails from SEO practitioners, make sure that you follow these guidelines:

  • Ignore offers of paid link-building or link schemes;
  • If the email states the person is from a reputable organisation, they would use the email address of that company, not a generic one, such as from Gmail;
  • Punctuation and spelling errors in the email should also ring alarm bells!

It’s certainly beneficial to remain cautious and ideally stay away from link-building offers that do sound too good to be true, as doing that will help to avoid link penalties, which can severely damage a sites rankings, traffic and consequential conversions.

If you want more information about how unscrupulous link-building prospecting, or black-hat SEO techniques can impact your business, contact us now.

 

Microsoft to Buy LinkedIn For US$26bn

In June it was announced that Microsoft will pay $196 a share for LinkedIn – valuing it at US$26bn – which is a deal that Microsoft hopes will help it to boost sales of its business and email software. It will also give it access to the world’s biggest professional social network with more than 430 million members worldwide.

It’s possible that LinkedIn will be integrated with a number of Microsoft assets such as Office 365, Exchange and Outlook, but how deeply integrated it will be isn’t specified at this stage. Microsoft emphasised however, that LinkedIn would continue to operate as an independent business and there will be a different approach to previous integrations, to preserve LinkedIn’s “distinct brand, culture and independence”.

Microsoft has to be cautious about such purchases, as the entire US$7.2bn value of the Nokia’s mobile phones division, which it bought in 2013, was written off just a year later. So Microsoft’s investors may look at that $26bn price tag nervously, while anyone with a few LinkedIn shares would be pleased with the 50% premium (on the Friday before the deal) closing share price to buy LinkedIn. That price amounts to US$250 for every active user.

Shares in LinkedIn, which floated in May 2011, have fallen by more than 40% this year. The stock plunged by a quarter in February after the company issued a profit warning for the first quarter and reported an annual loss of US$166m. However, shares soared 47% following the announcement of the deal, whereas shares in Microsoft have fallen by 2.6%, bringing the decline this year to almost 10%. The takeover is by far the biggest acquisition made by Microsoft, which paid $8.5bn for Skype in 2011 and it eclipses the $19bn that Facebook paid for WhatsApp in 2014.

If you’d like to know more about this move by Microsoft, and the possible impact on LinkedIn, please contact us.

 

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 – November 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014 5:45 No Comments

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

In the first article this month, we take a look at how Google’s removal of the option in AdWords to opt out of close variants on exact and phrase keyword match types has caused a backlash in the Pay-Per-Click market. Next, we look at the best ways to make the most of the excellent, and increasingly useful, real-time reports in Google Analytics. In the final article this month we examine how the invaluable SEO tool, Open Site Explorer, gets a makeover.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter here. 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 and Close Variant Match Types

At the end of September, Google AdWords started to change the way that exact match and phrase matched words could be targeted, so that the disable option is being phased out and so all match types are now served up with the ‘variation’ or ‘near’ match option as standard. However, savvy AdWords proponents and managers throughout the industry have strongly disagreed with this decision, as it will place limits on the targeting levels of keyword campaigns.

Google says the reason for introducing this change is because ‘people aren’t perfect spellers or typists’ and ‘at least 7% of Google searches contain a misspelling’. So ‘the relative search result will be provided even if what the User typed isn’t perfect’.

The option to disable these close variants was removed, so exact and phrase match keywords are now matching to close keyword variations (commonly misspellings, singulars, plurals, etc), which Google says ‘allows you to reach more of your potential customers with the right ad’. You can read more about this on the Google AdWords Blog.

The key point about this is that advertisers are slowly losing control over their ads. Variation match isn’t always bad and there are times it can be good to use variation match. However, there was previously a choice, which no longer remains. It’s this that has infuriated the industry as this change, together with previous recent others to AdWords, are further eroding the ability to control costs and conversions within AdWords.

The beauty of exact and phrase match (without close variants) was that users could guarantee that a searcher used a specific phrase that triggered an ad. In this new all-variant ecosystem, this isn’t the case.

A positive aspect of this change however, is that with voice and mobile search, it’ll be more likely to catch those conversions that hadn’t been caught before. Overall though, the Pay-Per-Click market isn’t happy with this change, as the opinion is that the most realistic reason for the removal of the ability to turn off this option is to further increase AdWords’ profitability.

If you want to know more about how the end of ‘pure’ exact match keywords can influence your businesses’ results through AdWords, contact us now.

 

Making Use of Google Analytics Real-Time Reports

Back in September 2011, Google introduced Real-Time reports to their Analytics service, which marked a notable improvement in the type of reporting available to users and placed Google Analytics alongside some of the high-level analytics tools that charged good money for this type of analysis. Since then, real-time reports have provided Google Analytics users with some valuable insights into their website activity.

The Real-Time reports can be accessed within the main Reporting view within Google Analytics, and there are a group of reports available under the Real-Time section in the left hand menu. Each report view contains activity charts for sessions in the last 60 seconds and 30 minutes (the total length of an active session). There is an overview summary report, plus more detailed views of current sessions on the site by location, traffic sources, content (pageviews) and, more recently, reports to show active events being recorded or goals/ecommerce conversions.

These reports provide a fascinating insight into the current activity that is taking place on your website – whether there are hundreds of visitors on the site at any one time, or just a few. The reports constantly change, with the charts showing new sessions appearing or dropping off the site, and the tabular reports change as visitors appear or move around different pages on the site, indicated by green lines for new activity and red when a session or pageview ends.

So these reports can be good to review occasionally to get a better feel for current volumes of traffic on the site, and high-volume websites can display these results to staff to show traffic levels at that time. However, there are other uses of these reports as well which can be particularly useful, even if you only have a low volume of traffic on your website.

Firstly, the real-time reports can be used if you are conducting short bursts of marketing activity – such as posting on social media or sending out an email campaign. Once the activity is made, you can view the real-time reports to see what immediate reaction your marketing achieves and so how many new visitors come onto the website from that source, plus what they do on the site. This short term activity is harder to track through the standard Analytics reports, and so the real-time reports can give you a better understanding of impact.

The second main function of the real-time reports is perhaps more important, since they can be used to check or verify how the Google Analytics code is working on your website and tracking data in the reports. By navigating through your website in one browser window, and viewing the real-time reports in another, you should be able to identify your actions on the site and verify that the code is working well. This technique is useful to track goal paths, events and also external traffic sources to see how Analytics is recording these – for example, clicking on Facebook links will sometimes record a visits source as ‘direct / none’ due to tracking paths, which would indicated the need to use referral tracking URLs for those type of links, where possible.

Of course, if your website has a lot of ‘noise’ in the real-time reports due to high volumes of visitors on the website, you can create a new view which is filtered for your IP address, which makes it easier to implement the latter of these approaches. The first one will be harder to track, unless another filtered view is created for that particular source of traffic.

If you’d like to know more about Real-Time reports in Google Analytics and how to use them for your website, please contact us.

 

Open Site Explorer Gets a Makeover

Open Site Explorer is a simple tool built by US company Moz and launched at the start of 2010 to enable website marketers to check how many, and which, sites are linking to any other website. It is designed to replicate Google’s PageRank calculations on the number and value of links around the web, and can be a useful resource to assess your own, and your competitors’ link profiles.

Moz refers to Open Site Explorer as “The Search Engine for Links”. It has recently undergone a few changes, with a new URL and a new look to provide a range of link research tools for marketers. Some of the more advanced features and full reports require a Moz Pro subscription which starts at $99 a month, but there is also a free option available with a limited number of searches and data per day.

When you use Open Site Explorer, you can enter your own web address, or one for a competitor, and get metrics on link activity including the number of internal and external links, the top linked pages or linking domains, and the page or domain authority of the linking sites, which is a key measure for link quality. These are actionable metrics that you can track and use to measure SEO performance, such as:

  • Page Authority: The quality score of your web pages (based on link metrics)
  • Domain Authority: The quality score of your website (as a whole, based on link metrics)
  • Linking Root Domains: The number of domains (separate websites) linking to you directly from their website (as opposed to multiple links coming from the same site)
  • Total Links: The total quantity of links points to your website
  • Social Signals: This includes social media metrics that have a positive correlation with rankings. These include Facebook shares, Facebook Likes, and Google +1

One of the best options is the competitive analysis which you can run against a number of other websites to see how these metrics compare and what the potential gap may be in link performance. When reviewing the links for a competitor site, this tool can be used to identify competitive opportunities through link building, since you can see which sites are linking to your competitors. If these sites might also provide an opportunity for your website, then you can contact these other third party sites to also request (or submit) a link to your own site. In this way, by targeting a small percentage of possible links across a range of competitor sites, your website could increase its own link profile in a legitimate and targeted way.

The refreshed look for Open Site Explorer includes a new side navigation feature, improved filtering that allows link data to be sliced and diced more easily and a significant increase in speed – all welcome improvements to this invaluable SEO tool.

If you would like more information about Open Site Explorer and how it can be used to enhance your website’s SEO, contact us now for more details.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – March 2014

Sunday, March 2, 2014 22:09 No Comments

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.

In the first article this month, we take a look at the ongoing development of the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery and how this is becoming a valuable resource for users to access and develop key website performance reports within their Analytics account. Next, we take a look at the rich, interactive formats of the cross-device engagement adverts that Google AdWords recently introduced, and discuss for which types of businesses those are most suited.

In the final article this month we examine Google’s targeting of link networks and how this has led to the removal from the search results of several link networks from around the world, plus the recent targeting of unethical guest blogging techniques.

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 Like our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.

On to this month’s edition…

The Google Analytics Solutions Gallery

There have been some on-going developments to Google Analytics over the past year which have facilitated its user-friendliness with easier ways to see how your website is performing on key metrics. This should be of interest to any business using this tool, or Analytics user who wants quick and easy access to different report formats and to the key metrics that really matter to their website marketing.

Google originally announced the launch of its Google Analytics Solutions Gallery in January 2013. This was aimed to help new users, for whom it can be overwhelming to figure out where to look first for the data and insights that enable better decision making. It was also directed towards more advanced users, for whom it can be time consuming to create different custom reports or dashboards to get the clearest snapshot of a website’s performance.

The Google Analytics Solutions Gallery has been developing over the past year and is now a valuable resource that hosts a wide variety of Dashboards, Advanced Segments and Custom Reports which can be quickly and easily imported into your own Analytics account to see how well a website is performing on different key metrics. Google initially introduced a range of solutions that it deemed to be useful for most businesses, but as more users create and share new report formats, the gallery now holds over 3,000 different templates, such as:

  • Social sharing report – Content is king, but only if you know what it’s up to. Learn what content from your website visitors are sharing and how they’re sharing it.
  • Mobile activity reports – choose from a range of dashboards or custom reports to get deeper insights into mobile or tablet behaviour.
  • Publisher dashboard – Bloggers can use this dashboard to see where readers come from and what they do on your site.
  • Technical dashboard – get insights into load speed, browser usage and screen resolutions to monitor how well your site performs.
  • Engaged traffic advanced segment – Measure traffic from high-value visitors who view at least three pages AND spend more than three minutes on your site. Why do these people love your site?

Once you are logged into your Analytics account, you can access the Gallery from different points when setting up new reports, or you can go directly to the Solutions Gallery site. The most popular reports being downloaded recently are:

  • New Google Analytics User Starter Bundle
  • Social Media Dashboard
  • Site Performance Dashboard
  • SEO Dashboard – Finding Top Content and Keywords
  • Segmentation Greatest Hits: From Ad Analysis to SEO to Sitelinks
  • SEO Insights for Google Organic (not provided)
  • The Remarketing starter pack (A recent inclusion that improves Remarketing with Google Analytics, by enabling the full power of enhanced segmentation for this data set).

Google’s efforts to ease the use of Analytics for both novice and advanced users have been well received and the development of the Solutions Gallery will continue. If you would like to know more about this resource and how it can help to filter the most important metrics for your website, contact us now for more information.

 

Google Launches Engagement Ads

A recent development in Google AdWords has been the introduction of Engagement Ads as part of the Display Network. These ads use a new format that can be relevant to businesses that want to strengthen brand-to-audience relationships by making a rich creative canvas come alive as consumers stream videos, play games, and more.

Since the initial beta launch on Engagement Ads, they have become multi-screen compatible and offer a number of different formats. Advertisers have found it preferable to enable consumers to have the same experience with their brand, irrespective of which device they’re using to connect. Google has therefore included self-service ad formats, including Cross Device ads, a YouTube Masthead Lightbox to aid in consistent branding across ad formats, and a Shopping Catalog Lightbox, which allows users to display multiple products from a merchant center account. The latter lets marketers showcase a number of items that shoppers can click and purchase, right from within the ad unit.

Engagement ads are available in a number of standard banner sizes and create interaction with the user. When customers interact with these ads, they load rich media either within the ad, or in an expanded canvas to present more information in video or graphic format. This type of interaction reduces ‘accidental’ engagements and therefore provides users with a better experience and should also give advertisers better value and recognition from the advert engagement. For instance, on laptops and desktop computers, people can hover their mouse over the ad for two seconds in order to engage with the content, whilst on mobile phones and tablets, consumers can tap on the ad to prompt the engaged state.

The Display Network engagement branding campaigns are directed more towards large corporations rather than SMBs, but the Shopping functionality may be more suited to SMBs with a wide range of products. You can watch an informative video about Google Engagement Ads here.

If you want more information about how these kind of ads to help your business and how they can be used as part of your Google AdWords campaign, contact us now.

 

Google Targets Bad Link Networks

Google has implemented strict approaches over the past year through penalising and removing link building networks and spam guest bloggers from search engine rankings. Guest bloggers defined as spam have had their sites and network of sites penalised and in some cases removed from Google search results. During the same period a number of large link building networks, predominantly from Europe, have been completely removed from the Google search results.

The head of Google’s webspam team, Matt Cutts, recently announced that webmasters should avoid guest blogging requests as the practice is currently polluted with spam, which has led to a substantial amount of sites receiving penalties. The recent trend for spam content and links being generated through poor guest blogging techniques has been cracked down on by Google and more action is indicated for 2014, so doing this purely for link building is now being targeted (you can read more about this here).

Automated emails to blog owners and automated requests for guest blog posts and reciprocal link exchanges has rendered the technique ineffective, with Google now ignoring or penalising the practice. The changes in guest blogging highlights the importance of natural link building and this can also be seen through Google recently targeting and removing several link networks.

Over the past month Google has removed two major link networks in Poland from search results and this follows take-downs from Germany and other European countries. These link networks have been de-indexed from Google search results and sites associated with these networks have received substantial ranking penalties.

These strict approaches by Google over the past year emphasise the importance of natural link building to achieve SEO success. If you’d like to know more about how to avoid getting penalised by Google and the best practice for natural link-building, 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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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – May 2013

Friday, May 3, 2013 6:37 No Comments

Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – May 2013

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 Google’s changes to its search engine filters and algorithms since 2011, including how this may have had an impact on your website’s rankings, plus what can be done to avoid any penalties. Next, we assess the importance of specifying to Google and Bing through the use of canonical links, which webpage takes precedence when there are duplicates and how to avoid the common mistakes when doing so.

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 Panda and Penguin Updates – Two Years On

Each year, Google changes its search engine’s algorithm up to 500-600 times. While most of these changes are minor, every few months Google rolls out a “major” algorithmic update that affects search results in significant ways. In this article we evaluate how Google has continued to evolve the significant releases of their “Penguin” and “Panda” updates, how these changes caused some website’s rankings to decline, and what can be done to prevent this from happening to yours.

On February 24th 2011, Google announced its first ever “Panda/Farmer Update”, which was a ranking penalty that targeted poor website content (what it termed as “thin” or “not good enough”), or websites that used dubious content farms and ones with high ad-to-content ratio. Panda is a site-wide penalty, so that if enough pages are tagged as poor quality, the entire site is subject to it, (even though some good quality pages would continue to rank well). The only way to lose the penalty is to remove or improve the poor quality content. This major algorithm update hit some sites hard, affecting up to 12% of search results according to Google.

The Panda update had a series of subsequent changes over the following year and the “Penguin Update” (aka “Webspam Update”) was released on April 24th 2012. That evaluated the incoming links to a site to determine if they involved link schemes that were solely intended to improve rankings. This was done by automatically raising flags by examining the ratio of links compared with those for competitors’ sites, which then led to a manual investigation by Google. This impacted an estimated 3.1% of English-language search queries.

Subsequent updates were made to Penguin on May 25th and October 5th 2012 and the final release of Panda (#25) was on 14/4/2013. That filter is now going to become part of the core algorithm (Panda Everflux). This means that businesses of all sizes need to consider creating websites/pages with quality, relevant content that enhances the user’s experience. Also, any links that are created to point to it need to be genuine ones, rather than just being developed in an attempt to improve rankings.

So the main outcome post-Penguin, is that businesses need to take care with link building techniques and, ideally, to start earning links through real relationships and useful content. This is not easy for many websites, but Google will reward those websites that follow the process of combining good quality webpage content together with genuine links to support its ranking performance, as these are the kind of sites that it deems will benefit its users’ experience.

If you would like details about how we can help your website improve, rather than get penalised in the rankings, contact us now for more information.

 

Using Canonical Links and avoiding common mistakes

The use of ‘canonical links’ is a helpful tool for webmasters in cases where a website may have duplicated pages of content. The role of ‘canonicalisation’ allows website owners to tell Google and Bing which webpage is the one to give precedence when there are duplicates of that page on the site. However, there are some common mistakes that need to be avoided when doing this.

It’s often a common occurrence for a site to have several pages listing the same information, or set of products if it’s an ecommerce site. For example, one page might display products sorted in alphabetical order, while other pages display the same products listed by price or by rating. If Google knows that these pages have the same content, it may index only one version in the search results, or it may penalise the site for creating duplicate content pages.

Therefore website owners can specify a canonical page (the preferred version of a set of pages with highly similar content) to search engines by adding a ‘link’ element with the attribute rel=”canonical” to the ‘head’ section of the non-canonical version of the page. Adding this link and attribute lets site owners identify sets of identical content and suggest to Google that of all these pages with identical content, this page is the most useful – therefore please prioritise it in search results.

The use of canonicalisation has to be done carefully however, as there are some common mistakes that can be made and it’s important that it should only be used for pages that are duplicates.

These are the most important points to consider:

  • Verify that most of the main text content of a duplicate page also appears in the canonical page.
  • Check that rel=canonical is only specified once (if at all) and in the ‘head’ of the page.
  • Check that rel=canonical points to an existent URL with good content (i.e., not a 404, or worse, a soft 404).
  • Avoid specifying rel=canonical from landing or category pages to featured articles (as that will make the featured article the preferred URL in search results.)

If you would like to know more about how the use of canonical links can improve your website’s indexing of duplicate pages with Google & Bing, contact us now.

 

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