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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2017

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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