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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – September 2014

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 take a look at Google’s increasing focus upon https as a ranking factor and why that should be noted by webmasters and SEO practitioners. Next, we look at the global consternation about Google Analytics data corruption by the Semalt referral traffic. In the final article this month we examine the significant increases in mobile search share in the UK, US and Australia.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter here. 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 Announces HTTPS as a Ranking Factor

In a rare move, Google announced at the start of August that they would be using HTTPS encryption as a positive ranking factor, in an attempt to encourage websites to become more secure. Currently this is only a small signal that can contribute to a higher ranking position, but Google says that this is likely to become a bigger factor in the future.

Google’s move is a significant one and part of a strategy to ensure that websites accessed from Google’s search results are secure. They have therefore provided this guidance and details to help webmasters prevent and fix security breaches on their sites, which can be seen here.

More webmasters have recently been adopting HTTPS (also known as HTTP over TLS, or Transport Layer Security), on their website, which is encouraging. Google wants to encourage more webmasters to do this however, by using HTTPS as a ranking signal, so that websites using secure, encrypted connections will see a benefit in the rankings.

Currently, this only affects fewer than 1% of global queries and is still less critical than other ranking factors, such as high-quality content, while webmasters are given time to switch to the secure protocol. Over time though, Google is very likely to strengthen the importance of https as a factor, as they want to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.

Google is beginning to publish detailed best practices in its help center to make TLS adoption easier, and here is a useful article on how to change your website’s address. Google is also very keen to see more websites using HTTPS in the future to make the web more secure, so the sooner webmasters make that transition, the more they will benefit from the inevitably increasing weight that will be put onto that by Google’s ranking algorithms.

If you’d like more information about how your website could benefit in the rankings from the transition to https, contact us now.

The Issue of Semalt Referrals in Google Analytics

Many users of Google Analytics will have seen a growing number of visit referrals from the Semalt domain over the course of this year, although the quality of visits are poor and reflect an automated visit, which has been impacting the overall user metrics for these websites. Globally, this has become an irritation but one that Google has now targeted and provided a new tool to combat similar activity in the future.

Any search for Semalt will get some varied results, but their website describes itself as ‘a professional webmaster analytics tool that opens the door to new opportunities for the market monitoring’. However, many Analytics users just find it to be a significant annoyance as it has been skewing the data in their reports from the beginning of this year, with 100% bounce rates from a significant number of visits. These also tend to mostly originate from Brazil.

There have been a growing number of complaints about Semalt referrals, as the company seems to employ malware to crawl the web and spam server logs, potentially ruining your Google Analytics data with irrelevant data. This ‘referral spam’ is apparently used by Semalt to drive traffic to their website to get users to sign up for their €14.65 / month service.

However, this spammy traffic data pollutes many Google Analytics reports, because all crawler traffic uses the HTTP referrer header containing the URL semalt.semalt.com/crawler.php (which redirects to semalt.com). For some accounts this activity ceased in April, but for others it has continued until Google appeared to begin to automatically block it in early August and hopefully, for most Google Analytics accounts, this will mean that these referrals will now cease.

Google have also recently introduced a new Bot and Spider Filtering function in Analytics. This allows users to select this in the Admin / Views area of Analytics to then exclude all data that comes from specific bots and spiders on the IAB known bots and spiders list. More information about this new filtering option can be found here.

These recent changes should now fix this data problem, but historical reports for this year will continue to carry the Semalt referrals, which need to be considered in trend data. If you’d like more details about how the accuracy of your Google Analytics data reports could have been affected, please contact us now.

Increases in Mobile Search Share

This article highlights the increasing importance of mobile click share and advertising spend for business owners and online marketers. Recent research shows the rapidly growing speed at which the adoption of mobiles are used to access the Internet is a highly significant trend.

Data released in August 2014 by digital marketing software firm Kenshoo shows how three of the most mature paid search markets – US, UK and Australia – saw mobile search share rise by between 8 and 11 percentage points year-over-year in Q2 of this year. From those three countries, the one that had the largest percentage increase in clicks was Australia, which rose by a notable 13 percentage points in this year’s Q2 annual comparison. The search advertising share of clicks here rose to 44% (with 38% in the UK and 33% in the US).

This data indicates that mobile browsing is proving to be exceptionally popular in Australia, as average phone CPCs for search advertising spend remain 12 cents lower than for tablets and desktops. The average CPC spread between phone and tablet has narrowed in the US and UK, however, with the US figures showing that average phone CPCs are just $0.04 cents lower than tablet. In the UK, the phone CPCs are only .02 Euros less than tablets. The Kenshoo report surmises that “Higher CPC for mobile (in the US and UK) reflects marketers getting savvier about how to measure mobile and set different goals for campaigns targeting those devices.”

Oddly, in Australia, Kenshoo found that clickthrough rates on both tablets and phones fell, bucking the overall trend reported by Google in Q2. The gap between mobile clicks and spend also widened in Australia year-over-year, with 35% of spend allocated to mobile and 44% of clicks generated from mobile ads. This indicates that due to the lower CTRs causing a lower level of competition in targeting mobiles, marketers here still have the potential to get excellent ROI from them before the CPC gap between the devices narrows.

If you would like to know more about how we can help to improve your online marketing ROI from mobile targeting, contact us now.

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