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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – February 2016

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

In our first article this month, we take a look at the recent introduction into AdWords by Google of Smart Goals Optimisation. This is a development that should be of interest to all businesses and AdWords managers that are keen to reduce their average Cost Per Acquisition for conversions, which in turn, can lead to increased margins.

Our second article examines Google’s launch of a new Webmasters website for the recently re-branded Search Console and how User feedback influenced that release. Our final article describes the significance of the recent update to the Google ranking algorithm and how SEO practitioners and industry experts are still often surprised by these updates and the speed at which they can dramatically impact the Google organic ranking results.

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 Introduces Smart Goals Optimisation in AdWords

Conversions are a key metric for AdWords accounts, to help advertisers make better use of their ad spend. However, some companies haven’t got conversion tracking in place, so a recent development by Google should be of interest to any business that runs AdWords, as there is now an alternative way to track conversions.

A conversion is a key metric for almost any business and can be defined as “that moment when users do the thing on the site that you want them to do” – e.g. complete a form, view an important page or .pdf document, or make a purchase. Many AdWords advertisers are already measuring their website conversions, using either AdWords Conversion Tracking or imported Google Analytics Goals and Ecommerce transactions. Measuring actual conversions is ideal, because it allows bids, ads and the website to be optimised with a clear goal in mind.

However, numerous small and medium size businesses aren’t currently measuring website conversions as they may not have a way for users to convert on their website, or they may not have the time or the technical ability to implement conversion tracking. Google understands the importance of this metric, so recently released an easy-to-use solution, termed ‘Smart Goals’.

These Smart Goals need to be set up in Google Analytics, and they can then help to identify the highest-quality visits to a website so that the data can be imported to AdWords and so the ad spend can be optimised for those key visits. The implementation requires no changes to website code and can lead to many more conversions.

Smart Goals are generated by Google applying machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics which are opted in to share anonymised conversion data. From this information, dozens of key factors are distilled that correlate with the likelihood to lead to a conversion – such as session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser. These key factors can then be applied to any website.

The easiest way to think about Smart Goals is that they reflect website visits that Google’s model indicates are most likely to lead to conversions. The highest-quality visits to a website can now be turned into Smart Goals automatically, as there are no additional tagging or customisation required and there is a Smart Goals report in Google Analytics. The behaviour metrics in this report indicate the engagement level of Smart Goals visits compared to other visits, helping to evaluate Smart Goals even before the feature is activated.

Smart Goals can be then be used as an AdWords conversion and optimised accordingly, by setting up a target CPA (cost per acquisition). However, there must be at least 1,000 clicks from AdWords over a 30-day period to ensure the activation and validity of the data. The Adwords spend is then based on the likelihood of a conversion, as determined by the Google model.

If you want to know more about Smart Goals, you can read more here, or contact us now for details of how this feature could help benefit the performance of your AdWords campaigns.


Google Launches a New Webmasters Website

Webmasters should be interested to hear that in mid-January Google introduced a new Webmasters website for the recently re-branded ‘Search Console’ (formerly know as Webmaster Tools). This was created as a result of extensive user feedback by analysing visitor behaviour and conducting user studies to organise the site into the most useful categories.

The site contains support resources to help fix issues with a website, SEO learning materials to create a high-quality site and improve search rankings, and connection opportunities to stay up-to-date with Google and the Webmaster community. It also contains new features, including:

  • Webmaster troubleshooter: A step-by-step guide to move a site or understand a message in Search Console. The troubleshooter can help answer these and other common problems with a site in Google Search and Google Search Console.
  • Popular resources: This section contains Google Webmasters YouTube videos, blog posts and forum threads are detailed in a curated list of Google’s top resources.
  • Mobile-friendly tools: With mobile search and mobile-friendly websites becoming ever more important, there’s a section to test your site on a mobile device, read a mobile guide and a checklist for design and usability.
  • Events calendar: It’s possible to talk to someone from Google through a series of online ‘hangouts’ or at a live, local event. There are office hours and events in multiple languages around the world.

You can visit the new Google Webmasters site here or if you want to know more about how this resource can help to improve the SEO of your business, contact us now.


Google’s Significant Core Ranking Algorithm Update

SEO practitioners should already be aware of the critical importance of following developments in Google’s ranking algorithms, especially as the recent one led to much confusion within the industry. In mid January Google updated its core algorithm and although it rarely confirms these types of updates, it was significant news when Google went on record that the change webmasters were seeing in the organic rankings was related to the core update.

Google Panda, one of Google’s most significant spam-fighting algorithms that was first introduced in February 2011, was only recently confirmed by Google as officially part of its core ranking algorithm (probably since late 2015). There will therefore be no more separate Panda update announcements which helped to clear up some of the recent confusion. Gary Illyes of Google has stated that although Panda is now part of the core algorithm “the recent ranking fluctuations you noticed have absolutely nothing to do with Panda or other animals!”.

There is still some confusion about which parts of Panda run with the core algorithm and which don’t. So the remaining questions are, now that Panda is part of the core, what is the difference to the update and how does it differ both in terms of ranking and to webmasters, impacted by Panda?

Google recently answered this question, which is unusual, as it typically doesn’t discuss the core ranking signals and updates. To be core, the algorithm needs to be consistent enough to run by itself without much worry that it won’t work right – i.e. the algorithm is consistent enough to not require many changes in the future and can run with ‘less hand-holding’. Now that Panda is now part of the core ranking algorithm it means that it’s been tested, it works, and it can now run by itself without much worry.

That doesn’t explain the content of the core that caused the recent ranking fluctuations, though. There was another core update on the following weekend (16 & 17 January), which resulted in SEOs and webmasters reporting major ranking changes in Google. Many webmasters are waiting for a Google Penguin update (the first Penguin update was in April 2012, to better catch sites deemed to be spamming its search results). We are expecting it to happen early this year so that when we see major fluctuations, some are quick to say it is a Penguin change, but Google is telling us this is not Penguin but rather just common core ranking algorithm updates, the same as those which occurred on the previous weekend.

The main issue is that January has been pretty volatile in the search results for both the automated tracking tools and the talk in the community. But again, Google is saying it is not Penguin, it is core, so there is still not a Penguin update to report.

The specific content of these core ranking updates will always be mysterious and hard for webmasters to understand, which is just the way Google likes it! But, based upon the patterns established over the past few years, it is most likely that this adjustment, like the others, focused on the better understanding of user intent and identifying high-quality content.

If you would like more information on the Google algorithm updates and how they might impact your website’s organic rankings, contact us now for more details.


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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