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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – January 2014

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter – the first for 2014 – which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing and search marketing techniques and trends.

To start the New Year, we’ve put together a list of the top events that took place in the search engine marketing / online marketing world in 2013, which have had an impact on websites already, but will also have an ongoing impact throughout 2014. These events include developments in the Pay-Per-Click field with Google AdWords, within the SEO sector, and also with Google Analytics.

We’ve covered these events in some detail in previous issues of this newsletter, but here we summarise the main changes and the implications for any website marketer, as they will all have a bearing on developments in 2014 and may be used to an advantage where applicable. In this fast changing and developing marketplace, we can expect further changes in the next 12 months, but for now, these recent ones from the past year need to be considered as part of your marketing plans for this year.

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…

Developments in Pay-Per-Click Advertising

Google AdWords launches Enhanced Campaigns

In February 2013, Google announced major new changes to AdWords, called Enhanced Campaigns, and these were fully implemented across all accounts by the end of July. Enhanced Campaigns met some criticism from advertisers as some of the previous flexibility across devices was removed, but the benefits included some more flexible bidding strategies and targeting of some ad extensions. Most advertisers have not seen significant changes since the introduction of Enhanced Campaigns, although the main issue remains the management and cost of mobile ads and some associated factors. However, since the new system is now fully operational, advertisers should be looking at the new opportunities for their campaigns and how some of the new settings can be used to their advantage.
(You can read our original article on this issue here).

Google Shopping integrates with AdWords

In September there was a significant change to Google Shopping (previously called Google Product Search) which meant that it became more closely integrated with the paid AdWords advertising system. Although any ecommerce business can still upload their listings to Google Shopping, the visibility of these in the search results and in the Shopping search is now dependent on running a Google AdWords Product Listing campaign. This change proved controversial as many small businesses showed concern that they would not be able to compete with those companies that can afford a larger advertising budget. However, since the change, most advertisers have found that the paid Product Listing Adverts are a very effective search marketing technique for price competitive products, at a lower cost per click than the standard text ads. This is likely to become more competitive in 2014 but it’s an essential advertising tool for online retailers to be using.
(You can read our original article on this issue here).

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) Trends

Google introduces the new ‘Hummingbird’ Search Algorithm

Google announced a major change in 2013 through implementing the ‘Hummingbird’ update, which is a new search algorithm that attempts to improve results for conversation based search queries. The Hummingbird update allows Google to understand more detailed search queries and to also identify the correct meaning or context of the search request to produce more relevant results. Some website marketers have seen notable ranking changes following the introduction of this change, but the impact for most companies was minimal and underlined the importance of unique and quality content on web pages. However, it is one of the ongoing and ever-changing factors that website marketers need to consider as part of their SEO strategy and content development to ensure that ‘long tail search terms’ are being incorporated effectively and that search referrals continue to increase in 2014.
(You can read our original article on this issue here).

The importance of search query data in Google’s Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools is starting to gain more importance for website owners when reviewing search query data and traffic coming from organic (SEO) search rankings. This is due to the more limited data now available in Google Analytics (see below) which means that the reports in Google Webmaster Tools provide at least some level of insight and trend information. The Google Webmaster Tools reports can be integrated with Google Analytics, but also provide some depth of analysis in the original reports, including the ability to click on a specific page URL and see what search terms are sending traffic to that URL. Although there are also limitations with these reports, all website marketers should be using this information at least monthly to track their SEO activity.
(You can read our original article on this issue here).

Guest blogging gains popularity

Following Google’s previous actions to crack down on poor quality links, 2013 saw an increasingly popular trend for ‘guest blogging’ for website marketers to develop valuable backlinks on popular and prominent blogs. However, it has also become a new platform for spam emails and for bloggers to be inundated with requests to post content, so that what used to be a valuable technique has now become popularised and questionable. While the technique can still be used effectively, Google’s Matt Cutts has emphasised that spammy or paid content can lead to harsh penalties for specific websites or networks of websites. It is therefore more important than ever to implement effective and valuable strategies for guest blogging, including developing relationships and contributing valuable content, and it remains one area to consider for link and content development in 2014.
(You can read our original article on this issue here).

Changes with Google Analytics

Google Analytics showing “(not provided)” search data

Perhaps the biggest frustration for search marketers in 2013 has been the increasing impact of ‘not provided’ data in Google Analytics, which has meant that organic search term data is no longer being reported and so is unavailable to companies to see which search terms have been used to find their website through a Google search. This is the result of Google using a secure search function, initially just for Google account users but then, by the second half of 2013 for most searches globally, due to privacy concerns. For search marketers, this loss of data is significant and places more reliance on Google’s Webmaster Tools reports (see above) or data from paid search activity. By February 2014 it’s expected that all Google search data will be ‘not provided’ and there is little that can be done about this other than look at the overall search traffic volumes and some alternate but less insightfull reports.
(You can read our original article on this issue here).

Google’s Universal Analytics

Google had been testing their ‘Universal Analytics’ tracking code for some time and made it available to all Analytics accounts in March 2013. The roll-out of this significant new version is likely to continue more actively in 2014 as Google wants to move all websites to this upgraded version of the new tracking code – it’s a simpler but more flexible tracking method, enabling new functionality and potentially tracking of users across different devices. There are still some limitations – such as being able to use remarketing – but this should be fixed soon and the new UA code will need to be upgraded by website owners to keep up with the ongoing development of Analytics tracking and reporting.
(You can read our original article on this issue here).

Google Analytics introduces Demographics & Interests Reports

Regular users of Google Analytics will have seen some notable changes to the report layouts and naming during 2013 as Google continues to improve the product and make it more accessible to the average user. Two notable reports that have been added are the Demographics and Interests reports, which use Google’s user data to provide a sample insight into the visitor profiles of a website – you can see gender, age range, interest categories, which in turn can provide new insights as well as advertising targeting opportunities. To enable these reports, website marketers may need to amend their Analytics tracking code (and the new Universal code doesn’t yet support these reports) but it’s a recommended enhancement that should be implemented and reviewed in 2014.
(You can read our original article on this issue here).

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