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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – February 2018

Posts Tagged ‘webmaster tools’

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 – February 2017

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 5:26 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 first article this month we take a look at the term ‘crawl budget’ in relation to Google Search Console, which applies to the Googlebot that crawls websites to index their pages for the search engine rankings, and the implications this may have for search marketers. The second article looks at Google AdWords, and examines search terms that Google classifies as ‘low search volume’, with advice about how best to approach the use of those keywords.

In the final article this month we take a look at how best to avoid fake emails. These can be in the form of scams, or thinly veiled online marketing sales pitches and this advice should be useful for individuals or businesses who are keen not to fall into these potentially serious traps!

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…


What ‘Crawl Budget’ Means for Googlebot

Webmasters have various definitions for ‘crawl budget’, which is a term that refers to Googlebots that crawl websites to index their pages for the search engine rankings (i.e. ‘Crawling’ is the start of the process to get websites into Google’s search results). Efficient crawling of a website helps with its indexing in Google Search.

Google recently clarified the meaning of ‘crawl budget’, which covers a range of issues, but they also emphasised that it’s not something that needs to concern the majority of webmasters, whose sites have less than a few thousand URLs, as most of the time, sites of that size will be crawled efficiently.

Crawl rate limit

Prioritising what to crawl, when and how much resource the server hosting the site can allocate to crawling, is more important for bigger sites, or those that auto-generate pages based on URL parameters, for example. Crawling is Googlebot’s main priority, while making sure it doesn’t degrade the experience of users visiting the site. This is called the ‘crawl rate limit,’ which limits the maximum page fetching rate for a given site.

Crawl health

If the site responds really quickly for a while, the limit goes up, meaning more connections can be used to crawl. If the site slows down or responds with server errors, the limit goes down and Googlebot crawls less. By setting the limit in Search Console, website owners can reduce Googlebot’s crawling of their site. (Note that setting higher limits doesn’t automatically increase crawling).

Crawl demand

Even if the crawl rate limit isn’t reached, if there’s no demand from indexing, there will be low activity from Googlebot. The factors that play a significant role in determining crawl demand are:

  • Popularity: URLs that are more popular on the Internet tend to be crawled more often to keep them fresher in Google’s index.
  • Staleness: Google’s systems attempt to prevent URLs from becoming stale in the index.
  • Additionally, site-wide events, like site moves, may trigger an increase in crawl demand in order to reindex the content under the new URLs.

Taking crawl rate and crawl demand together, Google defines ‘crawl budget’ as the number of URLs Googlebot can and wants to crawl from a website. According to Google’s analysis, a website that has many low-value-add URLs can negatively affect a site’s crawling and indexing, such as having on-site duplicate content, soft error pages, hacked pages or low quality and spam content.

These sort of issues make it important to develop quality content throughout a website, but also to keep monitoring Google Search Console reports to ensure that a site is being indexed regularly and efficiently, and there are no potential issues with the site that may prevent pages being added to Google’s index.

You can read more on how to optimise the crawling of your site, here, and this is still applicable despite being an article from 2009. If you would also like to know more about how we can check if your site is being correctly indexed to ensure it’ll be admissible to Google’s search results, please contact us now.


Managing Low Search Volume Terms in AdWords

One frustrating aspect of Google AdWords can be the ‘Low search volume’ status that Google will sometimes give to keywords with very little to no search history, worldwide over the past twelve months. They are temporarily made inactive so that they don’t trigger AdWords ads even if you try searching for the term on Google. This can be a problem for new product or brand related keywords.

Google will identify any keywords added to an adgroup with the ‘low search volume’ status and no impressions will accrue against the keyword. However, if the number of search queries for these keywords should increase, even a small amount, they’ll be reactivated and will start triggering ads to show in the results as Google’s system automatically checks and updates the status on a weekly basis.

Before the introduction of the ‘low search volume’ status, it used to be possible to target ‘long tail’ keywords. These are keywords or key phrases that are more specific and usually longer than more commonly searched for keywords, but not searched for very often. Long tail keywords get less search traffic, but usually have a higher conversion value, as they are more specific and more closely relate to the searcher’s intent.

This is often why the ‘low search volume’ status can be frustrating in AdWords and there has to be a methodology to manage them, such as the following:

  • Do nothing and wait for Google to automatically check again within a week. If more people start searching for your keyword, it’ll be reactivated. This option can be particularly helpful if a new brand, term or product is being advertised.
  • Change the keyword match to broaden it out from phrase or exact versions, as the probability for someone searching for a keyword with 5-6 words in a certain order is very low.
  • Pause the keyword. If there are a large number of low search volume keywords, pausing the ones that are generic and have a low quality score should be considered. Having a few low search volume keywords in your account doesn’t affect account performance. However, if you have a significant number of such keywords then it may affect the Quality Score of the adgroup, which in turn can affect the avg. CPC of the keywords.
  • Move the ‘low search volume’ keywords to a separate campaign. This can provide more control over them and improve overall campaign quality score.
  • Remove the keyword and use the Keyword Planner to find additional keyword ideas.

The best way to increase traffic on low search volume branded keywords is to run Display campaigns to create brand awareness. People will become aware of your product/site and start searching. This will increase search traffic for the brand terms and low search volume keywords will become active. It won’t happen immediately, but results should begin in a month or so.

If you want to know more about how we can help to improve the Quality Score and performance of your AdWords campaign, contact us now.


Avoiding Fake Emails

Ever since emails became a mainstream part of the Internet, the use of unscrupulous or fake emails to try and trick recipients have been a common threat, with varying degrees of annoyance or danger. However, being email aware can make recipients cautious about emails and avoid taking any unnecessary action.

From the early days of Nigerian email scams, which promised recipients untold wealth from surprising will gifts, emails have become more sophisticated and widely used by scammers, hackers and criminals to hide behind a fake profile and to tempt participants to part with money to do things they shouldn’t be doing.

In the search marketing field, these scams include marketing emails that supposedly come from an ‘expert’ who has viewed your website and want to scare you into taking action with them. These senders have rarely viewed your site and send the same warning message to thousands of recipients in the hope that a few will ‘bite’. They tend to come from Gmail or similar generic email addresses and have no indication of coming from a legitimate business, with no address or phone number details.

At a more serious level, emails that contain clickable links can lead you to fake websites and probably malware or viruses that can attack your computer and personal information. Many of these emails are cleverly designed to look like legitimate emails from companies and attract your attention and have to be treated with caution. Many emails systems – like Gmail – are pretty good at filtering out a lot of these scams, but some can get through (and sometimes real emails can be filtered incorrectly).

A few simple checks are worth taking with any emails that look unusual, such as:

  • Would you expect to be receiving this type of message?
  • Check the message headers, as the “from:” address and the “return-path” reference should reference the same source
  • Does the content of the email read correctly or contain typos?
  • If you hover over any links from the email, does the URL match the expected website you’d be connecting to, or an unusual address?

If in doubt, go directly to the website you would expect and login or signup there rather than via the email link. Also make sure you have virus software on your device and you regularly scan the device or run a malware check.

By being email smart and questioning anything that looks odd, should help to keep you safe and just delete the suspicious emails. If you’d like more information, please contact us for 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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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – October 2016

Monday, October 3, 2016 6:53 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 the first article this month we look at Google’s recent release of the long awaited Penguin 4. This should be interesting to SEO practitioners and webmasters who are keen to keep up-to-date with Google Search ranking algorithms and how those may impact their websites’ rankings.

We also look at the major changes to Google’s Keyword Planner, which is used by many SEO and AdWords professionals but is likely to be less so, as its data becomes less detailed. Finally this month, we look at the demo Analytics account that’s been made available by Google. This should be useful for businesses, or users who want to become more familiar with the full range of reports and data sets.

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 Releases Penguin 4

In a significant development for SEO practitioners and webmasters who are keen to keep up-to-date with Google Search ranking algorithms, Google finally released it long anticipated Penguin 4 at the end of September. Notably, the ongoing updates to this algorithm will now be on a real time basis, so that search results will be continually reviewed and adjusted based on the core Penguin criteria.

The so-called Google ‘Penguin’ algorithm update was first announced in April 2012. The update was aimed at decreasing the search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s guidelines by using ‘black-hat’ SEO techniques to artificially increase the ranking of a web page, particularly by manipulating the number of links pointing to the page through unscrupulous techniques and using poor quality websites.

We’ve covered the Google Penguin algorithm in previous issues of this newsletter, such as in October 2015. At that time we reported that Google was struggling to solve the issue of making the Penguin algorithm run in real time, which had been a “hard problem” for them. This caused its release to be frequently delayed, so the last official update was Penguin 3.0, which took place in October 2014, although since then there have been numerous updates to that algorithm to continually refine and improve the quality of the search results.

So the latest release of Penguin 4 has been an eagerly awaited development, but it only really means that changes in the rankings will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after a page has been re-crawled and re-indexed. Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a Webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the Internet, many of Google’s algorithms would take that into consideration very quickly, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed. With this change, Penguin’s data is now refreshed in real time, so the ranking changes will be seen more quickly.

Another element of its release is that Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site. That raises the question that if Penguin no longer penalises spam links to a site, is it still necessary to use a disavow file to help recover from Penguin issues? (A disavow file is used by Penguin penalised Webmasters in particular, who want to disavow or ‘annul’ links to their site that Google feels are unnatural and just used for ranking purposes. It allows them to flag and remove links that ‘somehow’ pointed to their site and were previously hard to disassociate from).

Google’s Gary Illyes has said that “specifically there’s less need” to use the disavow file for Penguin, but he added “you can help us help you by using it. So, in a nutshell, it seems Google Penguin no longer penalises sites or specific pages, but rather just ignores/devalues the spammy links and so the rankings are adjusted in that way and not demoted, which should make Webmasters “happier”, but Illyes also said that “manual actions are still there, so if we see that someone is systematically trying to spam, the manual actions team might take a harsher action against the site.”

If you want more information about how Penguin 4 may impact your site’s rankings, contact us now for details.


Major Changes to Google’s Keyword Planner

A favourite Google tool is the Keyword Planner – originally known as the Google Keyword Tool – which is used by many SEO and AdWords professionals to research the keywords being used on Google. However, access to this tool has recently undergone some significant changes, the main one being that it’s now necessary to have an active Google AdWords account to access the full data available to users.

The Keyword Planner is a free AdWords tool for advertisers to enable users to build new search campaigns in AdWords or to expand existing ones, but it’s just as useful to identify the best search terms to target through an SEO campaign. It’s possible to search for keyword and adgroup ideas, see how a list of keywords might perform, and create a new keyword list by multiplying several lists of keywords together.

Amongst other changes introduced fairly recently is that now, instead of showing individual search volume estimates for each keyword or keyword phrase, Google has decided it would be better to lump all of that data together. So even though the keywords ‘SEO’ and ‘search engine optimisation’ are two different search variants, Google displays the search volume for both as the same. So while you might think that each keyword or keyword phrase has unique figures for its searches per month, Google actually adds these two terms’ results, to display the combined total for both.

It’s worth noting that the Google Keyword Planner’s figures have never been 100% accurate and this combined figure means that the tool is even less reliable than it used to be. As well as lumping data together, which can be an inaccurate way to perform keyword research or estimate search volumes for a Google Adwords campaign and it’s been speculated by some that there might be additional keywords included in with this data, completely skewing accurate estimates. This is why experienced SEO professionals use other premium tools, like Moz and SEMRush.

In summary, the Google Keyword Planner is now combining:

  • Plurals with non-plurals for any word in the keyword phrase
  • Some acronyms with longhand version (e.g. ‘SEO’ and ‘search engine optimisation’)
  • Stemming variants: -er, -ing, -ized, -ed etc keywords (ie. designer, designing, designed)
  • Words that can be spelled with or without space (ie. car park and carpark)
  • Words with and without punctuation (ie. kid toys and kid’s toys)

These aren’t always the case however, as ‘Christmas Day’ and ‘Xmas Day’ have different search volume results, which means that while Google is combining some data together, that’s not a hard and fast rule across the board.

The other main change to the Keyword Planner is access. You would need to have an AdWords account to have full access to the data available from this tool, but not necessarily an active one, although this has now changed so that the data is more limited unless you are running an actively spending AdWords account. Although the spend is not necessarily high, it does mean that users do need to be spending money on AdWords for at least several weeks before being able to see the keyword data, which will otherwise be shown with some broad and fairly meaningless number ranges.

If you want to know more about how we can help your business succeed through essential keyword research, contact us now for details.


Google Makes Demo Account Available in Analytics

In a recent move to help Analytics users become more familiar with the full range of reports and data sets, Google has introduced a demo account of a real website – their Merchandise Store – which can be included into any Analytics account and viewed with all the active data.

Google has introduced this demo account as another learning tool for people wanting to get a better understanding and more familiarity with the Analytics reports and interface, and possibly in a roundabout way, promoting their merchandise store to shift more product! However, it’s a significant new development that anyone with an Analytics account can access and work through.

Many Analytics users may only be running websites with low traffic volumes or with features that are not relevant to their situation, so the new demo account can provide reports with some high traffic volumes and potentially new or different settings in place, including ecommerce tracking data. Google has therefore decided to open this information out to anyone, and reveal what many companies would see as confidential information.

To access the demo account you can start here and click on the demo link once you are logged into your Analytics account, and this will import the Merchandise Store account / property, containing 3 views (although these are all reporting the same data at present, so all are using the same filters). There is linked AdWords and Search Console data showing, site search information and of course goals, events and ecommerce data, so a full array of reports.

You can also view real time data, access a number of preset dashboards and save shortcuts or set up or import custom reports from the Analytics Solutions Gallery. Of course, access is read only, so you can only view settings and not make any changes, but it’s a welcome tool to have a good look around lots of reports with plenty of data and to use all the different functions available.

There’s a good blog post here by Avinash Kaushik that helps you review some of the key areas of the demo account, which you can then translate across to your own data and hopefully find new ways to review and interpret your own website’s performance.

If you’d like more information or help with the Analytics demo account, 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 – February 2016

Monday, February 1, 2016 6:02 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 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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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – January 2016

Monday, January 4, 2016 5:20 No Comments

This is the first issue of our newsletter for 2016 and so we’d like to wish you a happy and prosperous year ahead.

The start of a new year is usually a good time to review what’s been and to plan for what’s to come, and so we’d like to contribute to this process with a review of best practice for search engine marketing.

From our regular client management as well as training courses we run, there are some key essentials required – what we’d suggest are the ‘3 pillars’ of any website marketing activity using search engines (and in particular, Google).

We’ve outlined below some of the key things that you should have in place, or be considering as part of your online marketing activity, and why they are important for your business.

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…

SEO Essentials for a Website

Every website should have the basics for SEO – search engine optimisation – in place, particularly as there are many things that can be controlled by the website owner and implemented reasonably easily.

Although some search markets can be very competitive and challenging, having a good SEO structure will enable a website to maximise the opportunities to rank on the first page of results for as many terms as possible. So, the key things to consider are:

  • Search term research – identify what your potential customers are searching for across many different variations. Use the Google search suggestions as a starter, but the AdWords Keyword Tool for more in-depth insights, and build a list of good, relevant search terms including the most popular, common terms, as well as the wide variety of ‘long tail’ terms that can provide many opportunities to reach your search market.
  • Using terms on the website – from the list of search phrases you can then write keyword focused and attention grabbing title tags and description metatags for each page of your website, as well as coordinate the page content to target the same phrases in a prominent way that’s not too repetitive.
  • Creating internal links – external links, or backlinks, to your website are important but can be hard to achieve, so make use of your own internal website links as a first stage, linking suitable content together to help engage users and also target search terms in the anchor text of the links.
  • Using Google Search Console – every website owner should have a GSC account in place (previously known as Webmaster Tools). It’s a free service and enables a communication channel with Google, as well as providing help and insights to ensure your website gets the best experience with Google, plus you get access to the excellent Search Analytics report and links reports.
  • Using Google My Business – this is essential for any local business but just as important for any business to ensure that their company details and ‘owned’ and up to date on Google / Maps. Claiming and verifying a listing is important, as well as ensuring it’s 100% complete, uses some suitable content and category groups for the business, and attracts some good reviews to help ranking positions.


Paid Search Marketing Objectives

Using paid search ads is always an option for websites to improve or expand their coverage in the search results and to target core search terms to drive more visits to a website. However, whether it’s Google AdWords, Bing Ads, or another form of paid advertising, every business should have an objective for the ad spend, and a way of measuring that.

Paid search advertising can be a very cost effective way of getting interested prospects onto a website, and it can become one of the primary sources of traffic for a website. However, it can also be an expensive exercise, especially in markets that are seeing more advertisers bid on terms, so having clear objectives and a way to measure them is essential, such as:

  • Online sales – an easy one to track and a clear objective for an online store, with sales and transaction value providing an excellent and measurable way of proving if the ad spend is working, or where spend can be cut or increased to get the best results.
  • Online enquiries – any online forms are also a measurable way of identifying good responses from a search advertising campaign, whether it’s an online form or a clickable email link, these can be measured and a cost per lead identified.
  • Phone enquiries – this becomes harder to track where the action happens ‘offline’, but any business where calls are a key response mechanism should use a call tracking service, even with Google’s basic call extensions in AdWords. There can also be ways of tracking related signals from a website, such as clicks on the number from a mobile device, or views of a contact page.
  • File downloads – maybe a key metric involves downloads of a PDF document or order form, or even clicks off to an external site like your business’s Facebook page. Using event tracking provides more flexibility in tracking actions on a website that you want visitors to take, and combining these with conversion goals is a great way to track the effectiveness of your marketing activity.
  • User engagement – for some websites where content is key (such as blogs or news websites) it can help to track user engagement metrics such as bounce rate, pages viewed, time on site, or repeat visits to gauge the success of a marketing campaign at getting the ‘right sort of people’ onto your site, and use these as measurable objectives and goals.


Insights from Google Analytics

The third essential element for any search marketing campaign is to understand what’s happening, both with the quality of visitors coming to the site, but also how the website performs in converting these visitors to the required conversion objectives.

Any website analytics package would be good for this, but as most websites use Google Analytics these days (and it is an excellent free tool for this purpose) then we are covering the use of this here. Some of the main reports and tools to use would be:

  • Key metrics – tracking the trends with such key metrics such as sessions and users, as well as new v returning visitors, is a core focus. Also user engagement based on bounce rate trends, time on site, pages viewed and, ultimately, goal conversions all help to indicate the success or otherwise of your marketing activity.
  • Trends – this is an important way of looking at data, rather than just as a snapshot for one time period. Trends in data, such as month or month, or year on year, provide better insights into what’s working well – or not – and how recent changes or testing programmes are working.
  • Secondary dimensions – within most data tables in Google Analytics, there is the option to add a secondary dimension, or to break down the initial line of data into more detail by another set of criteria. This can be a great way of gaining more detail and insights about a report when looking for answers.
  • Segments – probably the best tool in Analytics is Advanced Segments, available above most report tables, which provides the ability to isolate data or compare two or more datasets for a particular group of visitors to the website. Also good for better insights and to delve into small, specific groups of users via the default or custom built segments.
  • Custom reports – to access more advanced data insights, custom reports provide the ability to build your own data tables and combine these with secondary dimensions or segments to view data tables not available through the standard menu options. Gaining insights by hour, or day of the week, for example, or monthly trends for the past 12 months, are just a few ways that custom reports can be used to understand more about your marketing and your website.


We hope you find the above summaries useful and a good checklist to compare how your search engine marketing is set up ready for 2016. If you’re not using some of these options, but should, please get them ready as some of the main cornerstones for the coming year to help give your online business a greater advantage.

And, 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 – September 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015 7:30 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 recent changes to the format of the local search listings when displayed on the main search results page. This should be of significant interest to businesses that have any local ‘My Business’ listings and want to target local searchers.

In our second article, we look at Google’s advice for website owners and managers on how to avoid being targeted by hackers, which is becoming an increasingly common problem. Finally this month, we take a look at Google’s recent launch of the new Adwords Report Editor, a tool which any business running an AdWords campaign should be interested in, to help review and analyse their marketing performance.

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…

Google Changes Local Search Results

Google has recently changed the way in which local search listings are being displayed on the first page of search results. This should be of interest to any business that has a local business listing, as they are an important asset on the Search Engine Results Page, as Google gives them preference in the organic rankings.

Up until recently, Google would usually display about 7 local business listings in the search results, so this recent change to limit the list to 3 businesses means that there’s more competition for the limited visibility. So having a well-optimised listing is more important than ever.

The new listings have a number of important changes, including telephone numbers being replaced with directions to the address, as these changes are mostly designed for mobile searchers looking for a location. These directions also link to the new Local Finder in Maps, as does clicking upon the business’s red icon in the search results. Within these new Local Finder results there are 20 opportunities for visibility.

The links to the business’s associated Google Plus pages have also now been removed, as G+ is going through a change of focus and will soon be split into two elements – Photos and Streams. Fortunately, this change won’t impact the ability for searchers to view reviews of a company, which will still appear in the grey box that appears when the listing on maps is moused over. Seeing reviews is now a two-click process into the Local Finder and then another click on the reviews, which isn’t very user friendly.

However, if there are sufficient reviews to show the star rating out of 5, there is a link directly to those reviews from the search box. This means that there’s still a good reason for compiling as many of those positive customer reviews as possible because having that visible star rating provides a competitive advantage as it immediately draws the eye towards the business that has it displayed.

Google has been making a series of changes over the past few years to the Places / My Business listings and to the local search results, which can often be a confusing or backwards step for some companies. It’s hoped that it will soon settle on the most effective format and stick with it for a while, as the data that its own Local Analytics provides is currently not completely accurate and so has limited use.

If you would like to know more about how your business can benefit from these latest changes and having a local business listing displayed, contact us now for more details.


How to Avoid Being Targeted by Hackers

Google has recently been publishing a series of articles for website owners with tips and techniques to avoid their websites being hacked. This is because they say that they’ve seen a 180% increase in the number of sites getting hacked over the past year. Therefore if you publish anything online, one of your top priorities should be security, as getting hacked can negatively affect your online reputation and result in loss of critical and private data.

First launched in 2014, Google’s ‘#NoHacked’ campaign aims to educate webmasters about ways to avoid, or identify hacking attacks on their website, and to keep data and account secure. A recent series of blog articles on its Webmaster Central Blog, has added more content to support this campaign.

Some of the key recommendations made by Google have been:

  • Ensure that all your website’s software is up-to-date: one of the most common ways for a hacker to compromise your site is through insecure software on your site. Be sure to periodically check the site for any outdated software, especially updates that patch security holes. If you use a Content Management System (CMS), or any plug-ins or add-ons on the site, make sure to keep these tools updated with new releases – this is particularly important for WordPress sites, which are a primary target for out-of-date software.
  • Strengthen your account security: creating a password that’s difficult to guess or crack is essential to protecting the site. For example, a password might contain a mixture of letters, numbers, symbols, or be a pass-phrase. Password length is important. The longer your password, the harder it will be to guess.
  • Research how your hosting provider handles security issues: Your hosting provider’s policy for security and cleaning up hacked sites is in an important factor to consider when choosing one. If you use a hosting provider, contact them to see if they offer on-demand support to clean up site-specific problems, or a managed administrator services option, to update software. You can also check online reviews to see if they have a track record of helping users with compromised sites clean up their hacked content.
  • Use Google tools to stay informed of potential hacked content on your site: having a Google Search Console (Webmaster Tools) account can be useful to receive notifications from Google about malware or other issues on your website. It’s important to have tools that can help you pro-actively monitor your site. The sooner a compromise is discovered; the sooner work can begin on fixing the site. You can also set up Google Alerts on the site to notify you if there are any suspicious results for it.

Website security is a fundamentally critical issue for any online business, so taking heed of these points could make the difference to avoiding, or surviving a hack-attack. Check out the blog articles from Google and check what security processes you have in control for your site.

If you want to know more about how a website security plan could help to protect your online business, contact us now for more details.


Google AdWords Launches Report Editor

At the start of August, Google AdWords announced the new Report Editor tool, which would be rolled out over the coming months. This is yet to appear in some accounts, but it will do so in due course, so it’s well worth being familiar with it in advance.

Report Editor is a powerful AdWords tool that lets you explore account data in brand new ways from within a browser. Access to it will be apparent when the new ‘Reports tab’ appears in the AdWords account and from this tab, you can open a pre-defined report or create your own report from scratch. It provides an easy-to-use interface that enables the building of custom tables and charts that can be segmented, sorted, and filtered to help find the insights that matter to a business.

The key functions are:

  • Explore your data with simple drag and drop actions
  • Sort, filter, and pivot your data to focus on the slices of information you need
  • Visualize your data in pie, bar, or line charts to reveal powerful insights
  • Apply multiple segmentations to analyse your data with finer granularity.

Key metrics and dimensions can be examined by simply dragging and dropping the selected ones into a table or chart. Metrics like impressions, clicks, and conversions can be viewed and then you can add dimensions like device, campaign, or adgroup to segment the data further.

It’s also possible to visualise data. Charts can quickly unveil performance trends that may be missed when looking at numbers alone. Now, it’s possible to instantly create a line, pie, or bar chart to surface your key insights. It just takes a click to instantly switch between different charts and tables. Just like tables, it’s possible to save and share charts with others or set them to run regularly.

This release has been warmly welcomed by the AdWords management community, as it makes the data more actionable, providing more powerful insights and vastly reduces the amount of time spent creating ‘old-style’ numeric reports, which don’t highlight the KPIs as effectively.

You can read more about the Report Editor, here. If you would more information about how this important reporting tool can enhance the performance of your AdWords campaigns, 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 – August 2015

Monday, August 3, 2015 7:34 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 recent enabling of local reviews through AdWords. This should be of significant interest to AdWords managers, although Google has yet to confirm when these will appear in the UK.

In our second article this month, we look at how Bing has improved its Webmaster Tools service, which includes compelling information that webmasters should be aware of, in order to utilise some of the best search tools available. Finally this month, we take a look at Google’s release of its latest quarterly financial results and what sections of its business are currently receiving most focus.

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…

Google Enables Local Reviews Through AdWords

This latest change by Google is an interesting development for businesses that are keen display good review ratings as part of their AdWords ads. Google recently announced that it will combine both ‘My Business’ listings and AdWords campaigns, to show these ratings beneath the ads. It’s yet to be definitively clarified by Google whether this will soon be coming to the UK from the US, but the rollout of this option is likely in the coming months.

At present, these review extensions will only appear within the ads on desktop and tablets, not mobiles. This is quite ironic as Google has become increasingly focused upon showing location based search results on mobiles and people increasingly rely on the opinions and experiences of others to help make decisions, such as which restaurant or dentist to visit! So we would have expected these reviews to be included in the mobile search results, but as space for these ads is more limited, this is the primary reason why these will only be shown on those devices that have more room for advert ‘real estate’.

The new ‘My Business’ reviews will be seen instead of seller ratings from 3rd party sites. Previously it was only possible to get Google Local review stars if you were using AdWords Express and typically they would show if you had at least 3.5 stars and a minimum number of reviews (in the case of seller ratings that number is 30). Google hasn’t yet specified the exact number of reviews that are required to show the local review stars, but it will probably be a similar number to reflect well-reviewed businesses.

Although the review ratings don’t include mobile ads, the local ratings seen on desktops and tablets will make ads more useful and informative to consumers searching for local information. They can also improve a business’s ad performance, so these are a welcome addition by the search advertising community.

If you want to know more about building your business reviews and using these within your AdWords ads, please contact us now.


Bing Improves Webmaster Tools

It’s essential for every SEO practitioner to keep track of their website’s performance, and there are plenty of tools that can be used for this. Bing is still a small player in terms of search traffic compared to Google, but Bing’s tools can be helpful in increasing search traffic and quality on both those and other search engines.

A useful feature in the Bing Webmasters toolkit is Connected Pages. This allows the connection of related pages and to get insights into the search traffic from Bing to social network accounts. For example, if your Twitter account and Facebook account are also ranking for your brand name you might want to see how much search traffic they generate. With this feature you’re able to see and analyse this data. The only requirement is that these social network accounts link back to the site that you’ve verified in Bing Webmaster Tools. This feature is extremely useful if your brand has a large social presence and so by adding all of your social networks to Connected Pages, it’s possible to keep track of their search performance.

Another good feature from Bing is the Index Explorer. This makes it possible to find old sub domains or subfolders (such as ones a developer worked with a long time ago) that are still being indexed by the search engines. It’s important to detect any duplicate content that may have been left from that work and Index Explorer is an excellent way to reveal the areas that you don’t want Bing bot to identify anymore. This allows the Bing crawler to focus on more important pages and it can also be good for finding old, lost folders that had been forgotten about!

Geo-Targeting is another decent Bing feature for sites that have multi-regional directories. It speeds up the process of marking pages as localised content for a specific country/region, such as for a http://example.com/newzealand/ directory. This saves plenty of time adding canonical URLs to the pages to specify which is the preferred version for the search engine to show – which is still required in Google’s Search Console (the new name for their Webmaster Tools service) to prevent duplicate content.

Bing Page Preview is useful to show previews of your pages in its search results. If Bing bot visited your page when it was down or scripts weren’t running, then Bing could be showing the wrong screenshot of your site. Within Bing Webmaster Tools Page Preview feature it’s possible to make Bing replace the screenshot with an updated version. This feature ensures that you always have influence on how your site looks like in its search results and allows you to block images from the site that aren’t wanted to be seen.

In computer programming, an application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. For real SEO experts, the API is a great way to export a lot of available data from Bing Webmaster Tools. Even with Google’s newest version of their API, a lot of information is still not available. Bing enables the export of information on search terms and crawl settings directly from the API. It also provides search volumes on the keywords that you’ll receive traffic from and so this information is useful for a site’s SEO work, and can’t easily be retrieved from Google (at scale) anymore.

These Bing specific features are additional and superior to those provided by Google at present and enhance the SEO development to assist in getting the best performance in not only the Bing search results, but those for other engines, also. Any SEO expert should be very familiar with them and it’s possible that Google will follow Bing’s lead here and introduce similar tools to their Search Console service.

If you want more details about how to make the most of Bing, or Google’s Search Console to enhance your site’s SEO, contact us now.


Google Releases Second Quarter Financial Results

In mid-July Google announced its latest quarterly results which elated investors as they exceeded Wall Street expectations. They were primarily based on strong advertising revenues driven by Search, YouTube and Play, coupled with the perception of a new commitment to financial discipline as the company continues to grow and expand across more business areas.

With the latest quarterly revenue up 11% year on year, and 3% on the previous quarter, to US$17.7 billion, Google’s stock soared to a new high. Class A shares crossed the $700 threshold following the announcement of the results, up more than $100 from the trading price at the time the market closed the previous day. The spike added an extraordinary $50 billion of market capitalisation. In their primary search arena, paid clicks through AdWords jumped 30% globally compared to the quarter a year before. However, the average cost per click was lower again due to the increasing share of mobile search ads.

However, nearly a year after the launch of the ‘Google for Work’ brand, little was mentioned about its intention to storm into the enterprise market with its cloud-based productivity tools, along with a new commitment to a channel strategy. So the results provided very small insight into the health of its cloud business. Google was also quite coy about their results and didn’t go into much detail, with Ruth Porat, the new CFO of Google, only stating “Our strong Q2 results reflect continued growth across the breadth of our products, most notably core search, where mobile stood out, as well as YouTube and programmatic advertising. We are focused every day on developing big new opportunities across a wide range of businesses. We will do so with great care regarding resource allocation”.

Google is shedding partners with a new program that eliminates all but the most profitable. Those are the same partners that the company said formed the cornerstone of its strategy to become a serious enterprise cloud player. There were only two uses of the word “cloud” in the entirety of the Google earnings presentation, or Q&A session that followed. There was no mention of Google for Work and Ruth Porat only referenced the enterprise cloud business once by telling investors it falls into the “adjacent areas” category of Google’s various business pursuits.

The framework encourages a 70-20-10 split in resource dedication: 70 percent going to core businesses like Search; 20 percent to the adjacent businesses, which include Chrome and Android as well as the cloud platform; and 10 percent to developing “really sizable” new markets by pursuing “exciting opportunities,” Porat told investors. Omid Kordestani, Google’s chief business officer, did tell investors, “We’re seeing strong momentum around Google Cloud platform, with a range of great new features”. Other than that, no further information was divulged, as Google chose to keep their cards close to their chest. This isn’t surprising, as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services ramp up their attacks to win the hyper-scale cloud wars and aggressively beef up their channels.

If you want more information about Google’s recent financial results, please 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 – June 2015

Monday, June 1, 2015 8:07 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 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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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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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – September 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014 6:28 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 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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