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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – June 2015

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 revisit a story from September last year about the rise of fake referral visits in Google Analytics reports – at the time this was just the ‘semalt’ domain, but since then, this occurrence has become more widespread for many Analytics users, including a new version which creates fake ‘events’. This should therefore be of interest to any Google Analytics users who, like many, have become increasingly frustrated with this problem and we consider ways that this problem can be resolved.

In our Adwords article this month, we examine Dynamic Search Ads and how they can be used to enhance the marketing of e-commerce sites – if they are correctly optimised – and we take a look at the best ways to do that. Finally this month, we look at the re-branding of Google Webmaster tools into Search Console, which has been done to appeal to ‘everyone who cares about search’.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either 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…

Tackling Referral Spam in Google Analytics

Over the past year the occurrence of fake referral visits appearing in Google Analytics reports has become more widespread and an annoyance for many website marketers who are seeing an increase in these false domain names in their reports. These is something that Google Analytics can’t seem to block and new types of fake activity are starting to appear, including false event actions. So what can be done about them?

We first covered this issue in September last year with an article called ‘The Issue of Semalt Referrals in Google Analytics’ as the first occurrence of this activity came from fake visits appearing to come from the semalt.com domain. Initially this was a minor irritation but the number of sessions now coming from fake or ‘ghost’ domains is becoming more widespread and a bigger distraction for many websites as they can skew the visit metrics in many accounts.

These ghost referrals create visit sessions in Analytics traffic reports, apparently indicating that people have clicked to a website from a fake link on the reported site. These sessions are identified by 100% new visits and also show 100% bounce rate, and often occur in high numbers for a short period of time. Common websites offer ‘buttons’ for your website or special SEO offers, and the sessions mostly emanate from Brazil or Russia, although this is not always the case.

So why are these fake referrals happening? In most cases, by appearing as a referral source the people behind these domains want Analytics users to notice them and so visit their websites to see what they are. They may then try selling SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or Analytics services, like Semalt did (and is now using the domain best-seo-solution.com), or they may be trying to spread a virus onto an unsuspecting user’s device. Either way, they represent an unscrupulous technique which is an annoyance at best, and at worst, a threat to the value of Analytics reports as well as people’s devices.

A more recent development has been the creation of fake events in users’ Analytics reports which are linked to the ghost referrals coming from the domain eventtracking.com. Indications are that this issue is going to get worse, but there has been little acknowledgement from Google about this, or attempts to block this activity, so what can be done?

The best way to remove these fake referrals is to add a filter to your reports view (rather than by adding the ghost domains to the Referral Exclusion list in the Admin / Property settings). A Google search for many of these fake referral sites will display many articles and opinions on how to deal with them, but most will recommend creating a filter for the Google Analytics views being used – in which case, a RAW unfiltered view should be retained and a new view created with the necessary filters added. Details about how to filter all types of referral spam can be foundhere. You can also find out about removing the newer eventtracking.com referral spam here.

Eventually Google may build in some ways to remove this ghost activity from all Analytics accounts, but the people and techniques being used behind this dubious business practice will keep trying to find ways to add their spam activity to the Analytics reports. Hopefully it remains a phase that will eventually die out, rather than a growing trend that increasingly damages the value of Google Analytics as a tracking and reporting tool for websites.

If you want to know more about how these ghost referrals could impact your business and ways to combat them, please contact us now for more details.


Using Google AdWords Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) are one of the varied campaign formats that can be used by Google AdWords advertisers to help increase search coverage for paid ads, particularly for advertisers with large websites, or ecommerce stores with multiple products. DSAs are linked to the pages on a website that are indexed by Google and therefore driven by the content of the website.

When using a Dynamic Search Ads campaign, Google AdWords will use details from your indexed web pages in the Google search database to decide whether to enter an ad into the auction for a given search query. Assuming it judges the search query a good fit, it dynamically generates an appropriate headline and landing page to show to the searcher.

Another way to think of DSAs is like the text ad equivalent to product listing ads. With Google Shopping, you give Google a feed of all your product information and set bids based upon information contained within that feed. With DSAs, Google grabs the information it needs from your site and targets it based upon that information.

Marketers who should use DSAs are e-commerce advertisers with thousands of items in stock and a huge inventory of landing pages, making it a useful technique for sites that have a constantly changing mix of products. Another method is when AdWords advertisers may have an extensive website of content who may want to target a wider range of ‘long tail’ search terms that aren’t currently covered by the standard keyword targeting techniques.

There are three key positives to using DSAs:

  • No one wants to spend hours every week uploading new products (or keywords) and pausing ones no longer sold. DSAs will take care of this without the associated costs that come with using a specialist advertising platform.
  • The dynamic advert headlines aren’t limited to just 25 characters.
  • This is a much better way to mine for new keywords than the traditional keyword planner. Where that planner tool is effectively ‘blind’ to your specific products, DSAs will be harvesting data from your site and so having it running in the background makes sure you don’t miss out on changes in user behaviour or new keyword trends.

However, there are also two key negatives – firstly, you give Google a lot of control over your ads, not only where they’re pointing, but also what they say. And secondly DSAs also cross the SEO-PPC bridge, so that if your website contains poorly optimised title tags or page content, for example, matching the right query to the right product is going to be trickier for Google. So DSA product targeting used to be a bit poor on accuracy, but they are a lot better now and perform extremely well when properly optimised. Setting up DSAs is relatively straightforward, however they tend not to do well without careful monitoring and optimisation.

DSAs are designed to sit in the background and catch any traffic that might have fallen through the cracks of your existing campaigns. This means you’ll need to do the fairly arduous job of adding in all existing positive keywords from your account as campaign-level negative keywords for your DSA campaign. In addition to this, checking the search query report will help you ‘trim the fat’ out of your campaigns and so running these regularly is the key to running a successful DSA campaign.

As it’s not possible to control the advert headlines, the 2 description lines can be edited and tested, often with a strong offer or call to action. Optimising ads is also the best way to improve a DSA campaign’s structure, by comparing the search queries for each ad group against the ad copy and then writing something more relevant. Finally, and crucially, to get the best long-term ROAS (return on ad spend), separate the top performing DSA search queries into their own adgroups and compile highly relevant advert creatives.

You can read more about DSAs here or if you would like more information about how we can help maximise the use of DSAs in your AdWords account, contact us now.


Google Webmaster Tools Re-branded to Search Console

Google Webmaster Tools was first unveiled about a decade ago and has been developed as a valuable resource for website marketers, providing a host of tools for anyone wanting to review and improve their website’s performance in Google’s search rankings. In May, Google announced that Webmaster Tools would be re-branded as ‘Search Console’.

This change is in name only, because Google has realised that the reports and analytics part of the service appeals to more than just webmasters and so they want the name of the tool to attract “everyone who cares about search.” Search Console is meant for marketers, SEO specialists and webmasters.

This name change comes soon after the recent revamping of the Search Queries report – renamed as Search Analytics – which now breaks down search data and filters in many different ways for a more precise means of analysis. This upgraded report remains one of the key tools in the Webmaster Tools / Search Console account, as it reflects the ways that a website ranks in Google and attracts clicks from the search results, as well as reporting on changes to ranking positions.

More can be read on Google’s announcement about this here, or you can contact us now to find out about the Search Console tool.


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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