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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2018

Posts Tagged ‘Mobile Search’

Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2018

Tuesday, April 3, 2018 6:13 No Comments

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter which focuses on news, tips and advice for effective website marketing, with particular attention on Google and best practice search engine marketing techniques, plus current trends in the market.

This month we look at the recently launched Speed Scorecard from Google which helps website owners and marketers check the load time of popular websites on mobile, and how speed may impact revenue or conversion rate. We also look at message extensions in Google AdWords and the new reporting options being introduced which will help to provide better insights into the use of this option. Finally we look at Google’s changes to privacy and advertiser settings in the face of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which particularly impacts websites operating in the European market.

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 launches Speed Scorecard and Impact Calculator

At the end of February, Google announced the launch of their new mobile Speed Scorecard and Impact Calculator, which is an easy-to-use online tool that allows web marketers to compare their mobile website speed with other companies.

Google is continually extolling the virtues of a fast-loading website, to help the searcher experience as well as general usability of a website, and with mobile search now becoming the dominant form of search, the speed of a mobile website is vital. Slow loading sites can be a frustration for visitors, and a 2016 study by Google indicated that 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes more than three seconds to load.

The new Speed Scorecard tool shows the speeds of thousands of sites from 12 countries across the globe. Google generates the data from their Chrome User Experience Report, which is the largest database of real-user latency data for how Chrome users experience popular destinations on the web. However, not all sites will be included in this database so results for some sites can be patchy.

When it comes to mobile speed, Google recommends that a site loads and becomes usable within 5 seconds on mid-range mobile devices with 3G connections, or within three seconds on 4G connections. By using this tool, companies can check the load speed of their website and compare to others in the market.

A slow mobile site doesn’t just frustrate customers, it can limit an online business. In the retail market, it’s been calculated that for every 1 second delay in page load time, conversions can fall by up to 20%. The Impact Calculator is an additional tool that estimates the revenue impact that could result from improving the speed of your mobile site.

Google already provides a number of site speed tools, including in Google Analytics where a list of speed suggestions are generated. These often suggest the same things for most websites, but it’s important for companies to be aware of potential speed issues, and to discuss the checklist and possible options with their website developers to gain seconds in page load time.

If you’d like to know more about the new Speed Scorecard and how you can assess or improve your website’s load time, please contact us for a discussion.


Using Message Extensions in Google AdWords

Click to message ads, or message extensions, have been available in Google AdWords since the end of 2016 although are not widely used by many advertisers. However, Google’s research indicates that 65% of consumers would consider messaging a company to get further information, or to schedule an appointment. Now Google has announced more detailed reporting for this type of extension.

Starting to roll-out in the number of countries, including Australia and the UK, message reporting is designed to provide advertisers with more information and insights to assess the effectiveness of the message extensions with AdWords adverts.

The new reporting will include a number of performance metrics, including:

Chat rate – how often users start a conversation with you (“Chats”) after seeing your message extension (“Message impressions”).
Chat start time – the timestamp for when a user sends you a message to initiate a conversation. Advertisers could use this insight to help schedule their message extensions.
Messages – the total number of messages exchanged between you and a user within a single chat. This insight could be used to evaluate which campaigns are driving the longest or most in-depth conversations compared to the average.
The most common uses for message extensions might be for advertisers whose potential customers may want to make fast contact, but may not want to talk to someone directly. They can start a new contact channel which should be responded to quite quickly and puts the emphasis on the advertiser to provide more information and to encourage further exchanges with the enquirer.

Message extensions could be used as a mobile equivalent to a live chat option on the website, but starting from the advert itself, and the advertiser can start with a strong text message in the ad that relates to the search term and encourages a first contact to be made.

Google provides a ‘best practice’ guide to using message extensions and this should be tested by advertisers if they think their customers may want to communicate in this way. The new message reporting should also help advertisers assess the response and effectiveness of this ad extension as they develop the conversions from their campaigns.

If you’d like to know more about message extensions and how it could be used in your AdWords activity, please contact us now for more details.


Understanding the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

At the end of March, Google sent out a lengthy email to their advertisers and users of their various data services, particularly in Europe but also throughout the world with regard to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In the light of the recent Facebook issue where personal data was shared without consent, this move by Google seemed timely and also in preparation of possible future changes to legal restrictions that could be imposed.

The GDPR is a new data protection law which came into force in Europe on May 25, 2018. The GDPR affects European and non-European businesses using online advertising (such as AdWords) and measurement solutions (such as Analytics) when their sites and apps are accessed by users in the European Economic Area (EEA).

Google’s EU User Consent Policy is being updated to reflect the new legal requirements of the GDPR. It sets out the responsibilities of companies for making disclosures to, and obtaining consents from, end users of their websites and apps in the EEA. The policy is incorporated into the contracts for most Google ads and measurement products globally.

Google has been rolling out updates to their contractual terms for many products since last August, reflecting Google’s status as either data processor or data controller under the new law.

For users of Google Analytics (GA), Attribution, Optimize, Tag Manager or Data Studio, whether the free or paid versions, Google operates as a processor of personal data that is handled in the service. Data processing terms for these products are already available for users of these tools to accept (in Admin → Account Settings pages).

If users are an EEA client of Google Analytics, data processing will be included in their terms shortly. GA customers based outside the EEA and all GA 360 customers may accept the terms from within GA.

To comply with and support the compliance of companies with the GDPR laws, Google will be launching new controls for Google Analytics customers to manage the retention and deletion of their data. The policy will also require that publishers take extra steps in obtaining consent from their users and so, before May, Google will launch a solution to support publishers that want to show non-personalized ads, and they are also working with industry groups, such as IAB Europe, to explore proposed consent solutions for publishers.

At present these laws mostly apply to European countries, but could herald further restrictions and controls for online business and advertising around the world. It you’d like to know more, please get in touch.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – February 2018

Thursday, February 1, 2018 5:08 No Comments

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter which focuses on news, tips and advice for effective website marketing, with particular attention on Google and best practice search engine marketing techniques, plus current trends in the market.

This month we look at page load speed and the potential impact on mobile search rankings on Google, as well as some new tools available in AdWords for eCommerce advertisers using Google Shopping campaigns. We also look at the new user interface coming to Google Search Console plus the reports and tools that are being added or updated.

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…

Page Speed to Impact Mobile Search Rankings

Google’s studies have shown that people really care about the load-speed of a page particularly on mobiles, as they want to be able to find what they’re searching for as fast as possible. Although speed has been used in ranking for some time, that signal was focused on desktop searches. Google recently announced that starting in July 2018, page speed will be also be a ranking factor for mobile searches. So any efforts that have been put into that up until now will have been worthwhile.

The “Speed Update,” as they call it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.

Developers are encouraged to think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user experience metrics. Although there is no tool that directly indicates whether a page is affected by this new ranking factor, here are some resources that can be used to evaluate a pages performance:

  • Chrome User Experience Report is a public data-set of key user experience metrics for popular destinations on the web, as experienced by Chrome users under real-world conditions
  • Lighthouse is an automated tool and a part of Chrome Developer Tools for auditing the quality (performance, accessibility, and more) of web pages
  • Page Speed Insights is a tool that indicates how well a page performs on the Chrome UX Report and suggests performance optimisations

It’s important that these points are noted ahead of time in order to help benefit your business’s mobile rankings from July. If you want more information about we can help to improve that, please contact us now.


Useful New AdWords Features for e-Commerce

Google recently introduced some useful new AdWords features, about which e-Commerce retailers should be aware.

1. Promotion extensions

These ad extensions allow you to append a discount code or site-wide discount to your text ads. They were first mentioned by Google last May (when they were still in beta), but they’ve finally released them to all advertisers.

These are handy because previously, ad headlines and descriptions had to be used for promos, which took up valuable characters that are limited in number. This now enables the ads to include the original copy which can still include a strong call-to-action and be used to boost ad relevance. The promotion extensions also help the ads take up more space on the Search Engine Results Page, which is always a core objective for AdWords ads.

2. Ad Variations

With any e-Com business especially, it’s always been important to A/B test ads to determine which are the most effective for KPIs. Doing so has been a protracted process, having to upload multiple copies of a given ad in which single components (a headline, a call-to-action etc) are altered and rotated against a control ad to determine its effect.

Thankfully, Google has now provided the function to easily test ad variants en masse. The ‘AdWords experience’ provides access to the new ad variations tab. Within that ad variants interface, it’s possible to:

  • Find and replace certain keywords in your ads
  • Update entire textual components (headlines, description, paths)
  • Invert headlines (which should always include the relevant keyword)

Once the ad variants are created it’s possible to use the Experiment split section to assign the percentage of the campaign budget that’s allocated to it. This is particularly useful if only a small percentage is required, which may be the case during a time of year when many e-Commerce businesses make a substantial share of their total annual profits and so the majority of the budget should continue to be focused upon that in that period.

3. Custom Intent Audiences

Many e-Com businesses find that the results using The Display Network can be a bit hit or miss due to the widespread variation of websites upon which the ads can appear.

To address that issue Google’s introduced custom intent audiences that use “Google’s machine learning technology to analyse existing campaigns and auto-create custom intent audiences… based on the most common keywords and URLs found in content that people browse while researching a given product or service.”

Basically, Google uses data from your AdWords campaigns and website to determine what is being sold, then cross-reference that against humanity to auto-generate new, qualified (at least as far as Display goes) audiences. This kind of audience creation further cements Google shift towards a Facebook-like, audience-centric mode of targeting on the Display Network, in which characteristics take the place of intent as a primary means of targeting net-new prospects.

It’s also possible to generate your own custom intent audiences using a combination of URLs and keywords.

4. Gmail Re-marketing

Up until now it hasn’t been possible for e-Com retailers to show their Shopping ads to previous visitors to their site within Gmail . So the introduction of Gmail re-marketing is welcomed as the ability to re-market and more importantly, do so dynamically, via Gmail is a positive development.

Google calls AdWords Gmail ads dynamic re-marketing “an immersive shopping experience” in your prospects’ in-boxes. This provides e-Commerce advertisers with the ability to bring a prospects’ shopping cart into their inbox, just on the busiest shopping days of the calendar year, for example on ‘Black Friday’.

This is an extremely useful new function, but could be a costly one though, as the avg. CPC for doing that is likely to be high and well above that for most standard campaigns.

The wise use of these new AdWords features could significantly benefit e-Com businesses into the future. If you want more details about how they could be implemented to help your business, please get in with us touch now.


A New Look for Google Search Console

Following a few months of beta testing, Google has announced that it will start rolling out a new user interface for the Search Console tool, which will also include some changes to reports and new features. This tool has become a core resource for any SEO activity and with these new changes, it is likely to become even more valuable.

The new interface follows the style of the recent changes introduced with Google Analytics and Google AdWords, Google says that the new look will help to create a more simplified process of optimising a website’s presence on Google Search. The functionality available to users will include Search performance, Index Coverage, AMP status, and Job posting reports.

One of the best developments with the new version is the updated Search Analytics reports, which are now called Search Performance and have been improved to show 16 months of historical data, rather than the existing 90 days limit. This will make the reports more valuable in looking into larger data periods and long-term trends, as well as year-over-year comparisons which have been a big omission to date.

There is also an updated Index Coverage report which will give users some insights into the indexing of URLs from their website. This section will show correctly indexed URLs, warnings about potential issues, and reasons why Google isn’t indexing some URLs. The new functionality will also alert users when new issues are detected and so helps webmasters or site marketers monitor the fixes that have been made.

When there are specific issues being shown, users can click onto the error URLs to see the issue and link to diagnostic tools to help understand what is the source of the problem. There is also a share button to involve others with fixing any issues if required and also help with resolving an issue with Google so that the search index can be updated accordingly. You can inform Google to crawl and reprocess any affected URLs with a higher priority, helping to get the pages back into the index as soon as possible.

As before, sitemap files are recommended to be used and submitted through the Search Console as best practice to let search engines know about new and updated URLs. Once a sitemap file has been submitted, the new interface allows users to use the sitemap filter over the Index Coverage data in order to focus on an exact list of URLs.

Google will be notifying existing users of Search Console once the new interface is available, and similar to AdWords, there will be an interim period when both the new and old interfaces will be available and users can switch between. In addition, more functionality will be added to the new interface over the coming months and Google is also welcoming feedback and new suggestions for tools that could be added.

You can read more about the new interface here, and if you’d like to know more about using Search Console for your website, please get in touch.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – December 2016

Friday, December 2, 2016 2:59 No Comments

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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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – November 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 4:57 No Comments

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.

This month we look at Google’s extension of the deadline to implement the new Expanded Text Ads in AdWords, from October 26th to January 31st 2017 and its recommended best practices on doing so. We also consider the important issue of mobile site speed and how that can impact the performance of a website in terms of sales and search 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…

Expanded Text Ad Implementation Deadline is now January 2017

In a follow up to our original article on Google’s release of Expanded Text Ads in July this year, Google has announced that it’s giving advertisers more time to upgrade the creatives. The original deadline to do this was by October 26, but that’s now been extended to January 31, 2017.

This means starting then, it’ll no longer be possible to create or edit standard text ads and ads will need to be created and edited using the expanded text ads format. Existing standard text ads will continue to serve alongside expanded text ads, though.

Over the last few months, Google has reviewed a lot of text ads data and has found that Expanded Text Ads can deliver great results, particularly for those who have invested in writing and testing new creatives, as the quality of the ads matters. Extra characters don’t solve any performance problems on their own so it’s very important to be thoughtful and compelling with the additional headline and characters, which is what we’ll be analysing during their implementation and we’ll be taking into account these recommendations from Google about the best practices for Expanded Text Ad optimisation:

The key recommendations for the new format ads are:

  • Test multiple versions of Expanded Text Ads
  • Focus testing upon headlines
  • Replicate what works in standard text ads in Expanded Text Ads
  • Consider shorter headlines on brand terms
  • Leave standard text ads running until the new versions are consistently outperforming them
  • Review the pre-existing ads for previous success with longer headlines

We’ll be continuing to test these new format ads over the next few months and if you want to know more about how well written ETAs could improve your online advertising, please contact us now.


The Impact of Mobile Site Speed

The expression ‘speed kills’ is often used about driving, but the same could be said about the load times of mobile websites. Perhaps the outcome is not quite so drastic, but for a business, a slow mobile site can still have a significant impact on results.

As more online users access the web via a mobile device – and particularly smart phones – the importance of having an effective and relevant mobile site is becoming increasingly important. The mobile user will tend to operate in a different way to a desktop user and potentially have different requirements, so usability, ease of use, clarity and speed of process is vital, whether this is from a responsive site or a standalone site designed specifically for the mobile screen.

Google is now able to provide a number of reports on mobile usability and speed, including a mobile site audit for AdWords advertisers (please ask us if you’d like to receive one of these). Included in the report is illustrative data on the impact of mobile page speed, based on various research which has been conducted on the impact for online businesses.

One example of this data is that a 1 second delay in page load speed can increase bounce rate from a site by just over 8%, meaning that users can’t wait for the page to fully load so hit the back button and probably then jump onto another site option, particularly from search results. That 1-second delay can also decrease the number of page views by just under 10%, and more importantly, decrease conversion rates by 3.5%.

From a business perspective, Google has measured that a 2% slower load time for their search results can impact the volume of searches per user by 2% as well. For Amazon, a 100-millisecond faster page load time can result in a 1% increase in revenue, and presumably vice-versa, which is not an insubstantial issue! Also, importantly from a search perspective, Google will look at the page load speed of websites and use that as one of their ranking factors in mobile search results.

There are a number of online tools to help review page load times, including Google’s Page Speed Insights tool, plus you can also review sample load times in Google Analytics, and hopefully the positive impact after changes are made to the site. Another current trend is the move to Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which we will cover in a future issue of this newsletter.

If you’d like to know more about mobile page speed issues and review how your site performs, please get in touch.


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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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016 6:40 No Comments

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 core principles of mobile site design. This is becoming increasingly important for all businesses, as the rate at which the use of mobiles to access the Internet has risen rapidly over the past few years and, central to this growth, is the issue of usability and speed so that users expect to be able to complete a transaction smoothly.

Our second article examines how the on-going testing by Google of its Home Services procurement in California has resulted in that becoming more humanised, with the Google Concierge service. Our final article this month explains how the PageRank score will no longer be made publicly available by Google – something which should be of interest to all SEO practitioners, as it was an indicator that was erroneously relied upon by many in the industry.

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…

Principles of Mobile Site Design

In a quest to establish mobile site design best practices, Google recently partnered with AnswerLab in the U.S. to research how a range of users interacted with a diverse group of mobile sites. Consumers increasingly rely on the mobile web to research and make purchases, which makes it more important than ever for companies to have an effective mobile presence. So this article should be of interest to any business that realises the increasing importance of having a good ‘mobile-friendly’ website.

From this new research, Google has established 25 principles of mobile site design to help companies build mobile sites that meet customers’ requirements and drive conversions. For this article we’ve selected a few of the best practices, but we can also email the full list on request – please contact us for a PDF copy of the report.

For each site that was included in the research, AnswerLab asked the participants to complete a conversion-focused task, like making a purchase, booking a reservation or researching plans/prices. The participants then rated their experience with each site and also the researchers provided ratings based on site experience and task success and logged errors/site issues by severity.

The key findings were:

  • Mobile users tend to be very goal-oriented – they expect to be able to get what they need from a mobile site easily, immediately, and on their own terms. So, to ensure success, design the site with their context and needs in mind, without sacrificing richness of content.
  • Place prominent calls-to-action – it can be easy for mobile users to miss menu items, so always put your key calls-to-action where you know users will see them. Study participants had the easiest time completing tasks on sites that clearly displayed primary calls-to-action in the main body of the site.
  • Keep menus short and sweet – mobile users don’t have the patience to scroll through a long list of options to try and find what they want. So create a shorter menu with distinct categories.
  • Make navigation clear and simple – easier navigation encourages users to explore the site and ultimately convert. Also use the business logo as a navigation button to return to the homepage, as mobile users expect that.
  • Include a site search box – being able to search a site is vital for helping mobile users find what they’re looking for, quickly. Place your site search near the top of your homepage via an open text field.
  • Use click-to-call buttons – mobile users expect this nowadays. Offering a prominent click-to-call button can help to prevent them from leaving the site without purchasing if they feel the business isn’t easy to contact. It also provides the option to buy over the phone rather than online.
  • Encourage conversions – allow users to navigate the site without first having to register and also, to purchase as a guest.
  • Streamline form entry – most users, whether mobile or not don’t like filling in forms. So whether it’s for making a purchase, getting a quote or joining an email or newsletter list, the user’s conversion experience should be as seamless as possible. This can be achieved through design that produces efficient, clear and concise forms.
  • Optimise the entire site for mobile – unsurprisingly, participants had a much easier time navigating mobile-optimised sites than trying to navigate desktop sites on mobile devices. Sites that included a mix of desktop and mobile-optimised pages were actually harder to use than all-desktop sites.

Of course, great design is only part of a mobile site’s success and it’s just as important to get the technical side right as well. Remember to test the site in multiple browsers and devices, to ensure maximum performance. Following these well researched guidelines can help to improve the mobile conversion rate for any business that realises how increasingly important it has become to have a user-friendly mobile site.

If you would like to receive the full PDF report on this research, or to discuss any of the above recommendations, please contact us now.


Google Concierge Humanises Home Services

In a recent development to its Home Services ads (introduced last July and only in California to provide searchers with details of local services), Google has been testing a more ‘human’ version of the service, that’s colloquially named ‘Google Concierge’. This may be a sign of things to come in the UK and should be of interest to the type of businesses – such as plumbers or electricians – that would use a third-party directory to offer their services.

The new ‘Concierge’ service appears to simply emulate the process followed in the Google Home Services ads, but now reduces the consumer steps to simply calling and having Google complete the process, rather than clicking on the few options to complete the process via Google themselves. Clearly Google is looking to enter the Home Services procurement space even if it means engaging a human to complete the query, as opposed to a search result. Even if it’s only an experiment, it’s quite a change for Google, which has always relied on programmatic rather than human solutions.

When you click on the ad, you are taken to this page that encourages a call, or text to directly discuss your project “with a home services expert from Google”. They will then have appropriate plumbers call you to quote and book an appointment.

With this new enhancement of their Home Service Ads product, which allows consumers to call Google directly when searching for a plumber, rather than searching for one and completing the transaction via the Home Services interface, it shows how hard Google is trying to make these sorts of efforts a success. It also implies that the current Home Services ad implementation that has been limited to California has not been that successful – or that refinements are needed before rolling it out to the rest of the country, or globally.

We’ll be keeping track of these developments and whether the service is expanded to more regions and countries. If you’d like more details about this, please get in touch.


Google’s PageRank Score is Discontinued

Google’s numeric rating of how important it considers pages to be will soon no longer be accessible to the public. Website marketers and SEO practitioners should be interested in this decision, as PageRank was an indicator that was erroneously heavily relied upon by most of the industry.

When Google first started, PageRank was something it talked about as part of its research papers, press releases and technology pages to promote itself as a smarter search engine than well-established and bigger rivals at the time, (such as AltaVista and Lycos). The PR score essentially represented a measure of how Google viewed the importance of a web page, based on inbound and outbound links. However, the function of PageRank was diverted in 2000 when Google released the first version of its Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer, which gave those who enabled the PageRank meter the ability to see the PageRank score out of 10 for any page that was viewed.

For most SEO practitioners, the toolbar was an amazing present, a numeric rating of how important Google considered any of their pages to be. It was also a terrible trap for them and a disaster for the web as a whole. PageRank always was and remains only one part of the Google search algorithm, the system that determines how to rank pages. There are many other ranking factors that are also considered and so a high PageRank score did NOT mean that a page would necessarily rank well for any topic. Pages with lower scores could beat pages with higher scores if they had other factors in their favour.

Those practitioners that fell into the trap and wanted a better PageRank then also wanted links back to the site being optimised. So the link-selling economy and ‘link-farms’ emerged. Google wasn’t happy with the Pandora’s Box it had opened and so it began to fight back and ended up in court to defend its actions against companies that provided such links. That didn’t stop link selling and the quest for boosting PageRank scores quickly, rather than earning them naturally, continued for many.

As link spam became prevalent, people were chasing higher PageRank scores by putting links wherever they could, including into blog posts and forums. Eventually, it became such an issue that demands were raised that Google itself should do something about it. It did, in 2005, by releasing the ‘nofollow’ tag, which was a way to prevent links from passing along PageRank credit, but that certainly didn’t end link spam. Google then took 10 months in 2013 to finally update the PageRank scores it was feeding into the toolbar for IE users. It’s likely that it never updated the scores after that and PageRank was finally removed from the Google Toolbar, officially. That made the quest to improve the score futile, as the public could no longer find ways to see those scores.

So Google eventually alleviated the pressure put on the importance of having numerous back-links, but gave the game away that they depend upon them to some extent in their complex ranking algorithm (although no-one but Google knows exactly how much). As such, PageRank – Google’s original ‘secret formula’ – has gone back to being secret. Only Google will know the scores, which it will continue to use, mixed in with the many other factors that make up its ranking algorithm.

If you would like to know more about how we can help your business website improve its rankings through Search Engine Optimisation, contact us now.


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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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2015

Wednesday, April 1, 2015 6:40 No Comments

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 ranking algorithm update, which should be extremely interesting for mobile search marketeers, as it will have a “significant impact” on mobile search results.

We also look at Google and Twitter’s new partnership which aims to benefits users by providing fast and democratic Twitter search results. Finally this month, we examine Microsoft’s recently announced, comprehensive overhaul of its Internet Explorer web browser with Project Spartan.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject. 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 Ranking Algorithm Update

In a follow up to our December 2014 articles on ‘Google’s Mobile-Friendly Search Results’ and ‘Using Mobile Performance’, we take a look at, more specifically, the algorithm update that will have a “significant impact” on mobile search results worldwide for mobile searchers.

Not only is it beneficial to ensure that you have a mobile or responsive site, but also to test it to see how mobile-friendly Google deems it to be, so the ‘mobile-friendly’ accolade can be displayed in the mobile search results for your site. As we covered previously, this can be done by using the Mobile-Friendly Test tool. Note that the mobile-friendly update only affects mobile search results – i.e. searches from smart phones and tablets, not those conducted on a desktop or laptop computer.

Google recently stated that on April 21st 2015 its mobile ranking factors will not only label your site as mobile-friendly (as it has already been doing for those that it deems as such), but will also use that to determine if your site should rank higher in the search results. This is expanding on its mobile ranking demotion algorithm launched back in 2013 and from that “users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimised for their devices.”

This has been announced in advance, as Google said it wants sites to prepare. So, you have a few weeks to get your websites mobile-friendly! It stated it had been experimenting with mobile ranking factors recently, and now the changes to the algorithm are almost here.

Google’s Zineb Ait Bahajji from the Webmaster Trends team was recently quoted as saying that the “upcoming mobile-friendly ranking algorithm will have more of an impact on Google’s search results than the Google Panda update and the Google Penguin update did”. Unlike those, it is only impacting the mobile results but even so, it will have more of an impact than them. She didn’t specifically release a percentage of queries impacted, but believes that about 50% of all searches done on Google are on mobile devices.

This algorithm update would not be so important if mobile search wasn’t becoming so dominant. While some industries may not see a significant number of consumer driven searches coming from smart phones and tablets, many, if not most, do. Last year saw the very first moment where mobile search overtook that of desktop and the year ahead will continue along that path.

The critical point from this is that if 50% of your traffic from Google comes from mobile devices and if it seems you are not mobile-friendly, virtually all of that traffic from mobile is at huge risk. So if that’s the case, then it can’t be emphasised strongly enough that it’s imperative to get to work on it immediately.

If you want to know more about how the imminent algorithm update may impact your specific website’s mobile ranking results, contact us now.


Google and Twitter Announce New Partnership

Google and Twitter recently announced that they are back together again and had reached an agreement that will provide Google full access to Twitter’s content stream.

The partnership means that Google now has access to the stream of tweets known as the ‘firehose’. The ‘firehose’, aptly named, sprays nearly 9,000 tweets per second into the ether of the Internet. Previously, Google used to crawl Twitter in order to pull out relevant tweets for search results. That didn’t work well because when Google tried to crawl Twitter at the appropriate rate, there was a possibility of a Twitter server meltdown.

Instead, Google now has complete access to the ‘firehose’ and it benefits from this because Google is about all about indexing fresh information, which is what Twitter provides. Users aren’t satisfied with the information that is four hours old. They want information that is four seconds fresh. That’s precisely why Twitter was invented.

Google’s priorities are to “focus on the user and all else will follow”, understand that “fast is better than slow” and that “democracy on the web works.” So this partnership is about users. Also it’s fast and it’s democratic, so it’s ideal for Google.

The original Twitter/Google partnership fizzled out in Summer 2011, partly due to Twitter’s growing pains. Both companies have since grown, matured, and are ready for something long-term and serious.

Twitter is the quintessential real-time news feed and soon tweets will appear in search results for the world’s most dominating search presence. But it could take as much as a few months, as Google doesn’t yet have a method of featuring tweets in the results. Then they will start to be visible in them as soon as they’re posted. Most likely, Google may feature them on the main results pages, or position the feed to the right of the results.

Social search is bigger than ever and when Google and Twitter combine forces, it will be even harder to determine where one ends and the other begins. So it’s imperative that Search Engine Marketeers are aware of social. Social Media Marketeers also need to be aware of search marketing as these days, as there’s less to distinguish between the two.

If you would like to know more about how this partnership may impact your online marketing, contact us now for more details.


Microsoft Announces Project Spartan

Microsoft recently announced that it will radically overhaul Internet Explorer with ‘Spartan’, a new web browsing experience for Windows 10. The new browser will have the most advanced features ever and have an all-new rendering engine, but beyond that Microsoft wanted to focus on three new features.

Chief among those new features is new linking support that lets users annotate web pages and sync all of those notes to OneDrive and share them with collaborators — a service that makes sense, given Microsoft’s focus on the stylus with its Surface lineup.

There’s also a new reading mode that strips away the clutter of a page and makes it more like reading a book, which is a feature that Apple has offered for a while in Safari on both the Mac and on iOS devices.

A second major feature for Spartan will be the integration of Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant. Microsoft is planning to use Cortana to surface information on flights, hotel bookings, package tracking and other data within the traditional address bar. Cortana integration in the Spartan browser is planned to replace every instance of the existing Bing methods in Internet Explorer.

Another key feature includes a new way to group tabs together to de-clutter the occasionally messy interface of multiple browser tabs. Spartan will allow users to group tabs however they want, making it easier, for example, to split up personal tabs from work ones.

Microsoft is planning to keep the look and feel of Spartan very similar across phones, tablets, and PCs as it’s designed to be a single browser across all devices. It will be a Windows Store app, enabling the company to quickly and easily update the browser in future. The desktop version looks like a simplified version of Chrome, with a tabbed interface above the address bar, alongside options to go back, forward, and refresh a page. It’s all designed to look lightweight, without the bloat typically associated with older versions of Internet Explorer.

Microsoft will continue to include Internet Explorer in Windows 10, primarily for legacy compatibility reasons. Spartan is the main browser in Windows 10 however, and most users will be accessing the web using it. While Spartan is a codename, it’s not yet clear if Microsoft plans to continue the Internet Explorer branding with its new browser.

It you want more information about Microsoft’s Project Spartan, contact us now.


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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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – December 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014 5:44 No Comments

Welcome to the latest monthly issue of our 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 recent introduction of a ‘mobile-friendly’ label to its mobile search results as a way to help users find mobile-friendly pages. In addition, we look at Google’s recent statement that it’s testing this ‘mobile-friendly’ criteria as a ranking signal for its search engine results.

As it’s becoming increasingly important to ensure that a website is well optimised for mobiles, we also look at the new mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools, which highlight major mobile usability issues across a website. Finally, we examine how the new AdWords Treemaps reports in Google Analytics enhance the speed and insight of trend identification, or trouble spots, across an AdWords account.

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’s Mobile-Friendly Search Results

Google has just announced the introduction of a ‘mobile friendly’ label which will appear in their mobile search results, to indicate which websites are likely to work better to visitors clicking into the site from a smartphone search. Linked to this, there are reports that Google is also testing this ‘mobile friendly’ criteria as a ranking signal to help improve the positions for sites that are geared up for mobile searchers.

This new ‘mobile-friendly’ label in Google’s mobile search results is intended to alleviate the common frustration of searchers on a mobile phone that can occur when the website has not been optimised to be viewed on a mobile. It is already starting to appear in results in the US and will be rolling out globally over the next few weeks.

In order to achieve a ‘mobile friendly’ label, a website will need to meet the following criteria, as detected by Googlebot – the automated programme that visits and indexes the website pages:

  • It avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • It uses text that is readable without zooming
  • The page content is sized to the screen (such as responsive designs), so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom in
  • It places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped.

Related to this identification and labelling of ‘mobile friendly’ websites, are the reports that Google is testing this criteria as a ranking signal for its mobile search engine results. This would mean that websites designed only for desktop or laptop screens may be pushed lower down the rankings on a mobile-search results pages, whereas those seen to be ‘mobile friendly’ will get a ranking boost in the future.

Google is currently conducting limited A/B tests of the mobile criteria, involving thousands of individual users so that some see one set of results while others see a different set, to see which results perform better based on a number of usability criteria. A spokesman declined to comment on when Google might integrate the new ranking criteria fully into mobile-search results, but this would seem to be a likely extension of the labelling policy and aim to encourage site owners to make their websites more mobile friendly and so take advantage of this growing area of search traffic.

If you would like to know more about how to make your website eligible for the ‘mobile-friendly’ label, please contact us now.


Using Mobile Performance Reports in Google Webmaster Tools

Following on from the first article this month, it’s clear that website marketers need to ensure that their sites are optimised well enough to qualify for Google’s ‘mobile-friendly’ label. One way to do this is to review a new set of reports that are now available in Google Webmaster Tools to help site owners identify potential issues with their sites on mobile devices.

The new Mobile Usability report in Google Webmaster Tools were added in October and these help to highlight the major mobile usability issues that can be present across an entire site. This is therefore a useful feature for web marketers and developers, plus the reports include graphs with trends over time, so it’s possible to see the progress that’s been made if mobile changes are implemented on a website.

A mobile-friendly site is one that you can easily read and use on a smartphone, by only having to scroll up or down. Swiping left/right to search for content, zooming to read text and use UI elements, or not being able to see the content at all make a site harder to use for visitors on mobile phones. Therefore these new Mobile Usability reports show the following potential issues: Flash content, missing viewport (a critical meta-tag for mobile pages), tiny fonts, fixed-width viewports, content not sized to viewport, and clickable links/buttons too close to each other.

The reports will list potential issues with the website as a whole, or on individual pages, as identified by Google’s indexing programme. More information on how to make a great mobile-friendly website can be found on their Web Fundamentals website, plus you can also test your website using the Mobile-Friendly Test tool. In addition to these pages, Google also provides documentation in their Webmasters Mobile Guide on how to create and improve a mobile site.

If you would like more information about reviewing your site for mobile usability, contact us now.


New AdWords Treemaps Reports in Analytics

Google has just launched a new set of reports in Analytics, which enable AdWords advertisers to see a ‘Treemap’ report of their advertising performance, linked to key Analytics data. Treemap reports are a popular way to review data visually and so quickly identify areas of good or bad performance that can then receive additional attention.

The new Treemap reports in Google Analytics can be found in the Acquisition menu, under AdWords. At the moment these are shown as Beta reports and are gradually being rolled out and developed based on user experience. The Treemaps represent data as rectangles so that the size and colour in each rectangle represent different metrics, so you can combine different aspects of your data into a single visualisation. You can also drill down into the rectangles to see more specific information about a particular campaign or adgroup or keyword.

These nested rectangles allow the identification of trends and trouble spots across an AdWords account, with the speed and insight that often isn’t possible when looking at numbers alone. It enables advertisers to have the ability to understand an account with enhanced clarity and to determine what the relative levels of importance in different areas of your account are, or if anything has been overlooked.

The visual treemaps provide an intuitive representation of good and bad performance, highlighted by green and red overlays. For metrics where a high number is good (like click-through rate) there will be higher numbers in green; for metrics where a high number is bad (like bounce rate) there will be higher numbers in red. Users can choose which metrics are compared within the treemaps, depending on the data and objectives required.

These new reports are a valuable addition to the tools available for managers and allow KPIs to be analysed at a rapid rate, which can lead to enhanced and more productive AdWords management. You can read more here about the new Treemap reports.

If you’d like to know more about how to use AdWords Treemaps in Google Analytics, please contact us now for more details.

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