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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – December 2016

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 our continuing series of recent articles reflecting the importance and focus that Google is currently placing upon mobile search, the first two articles examine two significant aspects that should be interesting to businesses of all sizes. Firstly, Google announced that it has begun experiments to make its search engine index priority mobile-first, over desktops. This is a very important change to its search engine algorithm, for which business owners should be aware, and prepared. Secondly we report on mobile AdWords advert extensions and how these can be useful to attract business that may not otherwise be generated.

Finally this month, we take a look at the relationship between PPC / Adwords and SEO and the common question about whether to bid on terms that are also ranking well organically. We look at the pros and cons of this strategy and how to combine the targeting for the optimal goal of getting relevant results in front of users and driving qualified traffic to your website.

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 Mobile-first Indexing Announcement

In an important recent blog post by Google, it announced that it has begun experiments to make its search engine index ‘mobile-first’. That means their search index will continue to be a single index of websites and apps, but the algorithms will eventually primarily use the mobile version of a site’s content to determine a ranking position. So Google’s significant, continuing shift of focus towards mobile-centric usage prevails, but it’s keen to emphasise that they’re going to continue to build ‘a great search experience for all users, whether they come from mobile or desktop devices’.

One of the reasons for this shift in priority is because currently, most people are searching on Google using a mobile device. However, their ranking systems still typically looks at the desktop version of a page’s content to evaluate its relevance to the user. This can cause issues when the mobile page has less content than the desktop page because the algorithms are not evaluating the actual page that is seen by a mobile searcher. So in the near future the search engine index of pages will be built primarily from mobile documents.

This is vital information for SEO practitioners and businesses that don’t yet have mobile-friendly sites, as it could eventually have a dramatic impact on the rankings of sites that aren’t prepared for it. In addition, if companies have a separate mobile site with different content to their desktop version, this could also result in a change in ranking position once this change is implemented. However, Google will continue to carefully experiment over the coming months on a small scale and will ramp up this change when they’re confident that they can maintain a great user search experience.

This gives a little time to prepare and here are a few recommendations to help webmasters as Google moves towards a more mobile-focused index:

  • If you have a responsive site or a dynamic serving site where the primary content and markup is equivalent across mobile and desktop, you shouldn’t have to change anything.
  • If you have a site configuration where the primary content and markup is different across mobile and desktop, you should consider making some changes to your site.
  • Make sure to serve structured markup for both the desktop and mobile version.
  • Sites can verify the equivalence of their structured markup across desktop and mobile by typing the URLs of both versions into the Structured Data Testing Tool and comparing the output.
  • When adding structured data to a mobile site, avoid adding large amounts of markup that isn’t relevant to the specific information content of each document.
  • Use the robots.txt testing tool to verify that your mobile version is accessible to Googlebot.
  • Sites do not have to make changes to their canonical links; Google will continue to use these links as guides to serve the appropriate results to a user searching on desktop or mobile.
  • If you are a site owner who has only verified their desktop site in Search Console, it’s necessary to add and verify your mobile version.
  • If you only have a desktop site, Google will continue to index your desktop site just fine, even if they’re using a mobile user agent to view your site.
  • If you are building a mobile version of your site, keep in mind that a functional desktop-oriented site can be better than a broken or incomplete mobile version of the site. It’s better for you to build up your mobile site and launch it when ready.

Google anticipates this change will take some time and they’ll provide updates as make progress is made on migrating their systems. In the meantime, if you want more information on how this change could affect your rankings, contact us now.


Mobile Advert Extensions: Click-to-message Roll-out

In our second Google, mobile-centric focused article this month, we take a look at the roll-out of click-to-message AdWords advert extensions for mobile users. This is similar to click-to-call ones that have been available for a while, but gives Users another way to contact a business from their mobile device, via a text message.

According to Google, ‘65% of consumers say they’d consider using messaging to connect with a business to get information about a product or service, or to schedule an in-person appointment’. As a result, they’ve recently introduced click-to-message extensions to bring the efficiency and effectiveness of messaging to search ads. By setting up a message extension, users are given an easy way to text to start a conversation and continue it whenever is most convenient for them.

Tapping on the texting option launches a user’s SMS app with a pre-written message tailored to the product or service they’re interested in. For example, if someone messages a travel advertiser after searching for ‘London hotels’, they can send or edit that advertiser’s pre-written message text, “I’m interested in a reservation. Please text me back with more information.”

Many advertisers are already using click-to-message ads to take advantage of a new and faster way to connect with consumers on mobile to endeavour to improve conversion rates. Sometimes customers don’t have time to talk over a web chat or phone conversation, but still need more information. So it can be a good medium to get questions answered that aren’t addressed on a website, or to contact a business when it’s closed, allowing the users to follow up in their own time.

As a result of this new development, mobile users now have more flexibility than ever to choose how they want to connect with businesses. Through messaging, it’s possible to initiate valuable conversations with them by tapping into one of their most preferred modes of communication. As such, message extensions can be an efficient, convenient, way to begin and extend conversations with customers to unlock an entirely new segment of users that prefer to use messaging to communicate.

Another mobile advert extension that can be useful is price extensions. These are best used for events, or products and services that have fixed pricing, rather than for e-Commerce businesses with numerous products that change prices frequently due to seasonal discounts.

If you like to know more about how mobile advert extensions can benefit your business, contact us now.


The Relationship Between PPC and SEO

A common question with a PPC (Pay-Per-Click) campaign, such as Google AdWords, is why bother bidding on search terms where a site is also ranking well organically, including on your own brand name? This is a fair concern, but often PPC and SEO can work together effectively and still create an uplift in clicks to a website from the search results.

Back in 2012 Google published some research that indicated that even with a top ranking organic result, the presence of a paid listing as well can increase clicks to the site by 50%. So incremental clicks from search can increase by half the amount again when using Google AdWords, plus if the organic results are lower, the incremental growth in clicks is higher – by 82% with rankings in 2-4 place, and 96% if ranking 5th or lower.

Now you might think that Google would report that wouldn’t they, as the results favour the use of AdWords, which is Google’s cash cow. Also the layout of the results have changed since that time, with AdWords listings becoming more prominent for most commercial searches these days. However, the conclusion can also be tested by advertisers and, as long as AdWords remains a cost effective marketing technique, it’s certainly worth running the ads alongside the SEO rankings to increase overall clicks to your website.

Many people say that they would never click on the ads in the search results and just the organic listings, as they trust Google’s rankings more than any position paid for by an advertiser. Whether that’s the correct assumption or not, having an ad appearing above an organic result does give a company more chances for a click to their site, plus the branding impact from the domain name appearing several times could also help, with searchers seeing that business as a likely answer to their search if they are visible several times.

Bidding on your own brand name may be less of a necessity, unless there are other AdWords ads that are targeting your brand or generic terms related to your brand that show above your organic result. Bids on your own brand name tend to be low cost and you can also get some good information from the search query report in AdWords about how people have searched for your business, but again, using AdWords for this purpose needs to be cost-effective and relevant to the searcher, and ensuring you get the click to your site through either method.

There’s a feature in AdWords that allows you to track how your site appears in the results for both paid and organic search results, so you can see the overlap or gaps. We’ll be covering this report in some more detail in a future issue of this newsletter.

If you’d like any further information about the overlap in search results and the best strategy to follow for your business, please contact us now for a discussion.


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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