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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – November 2016

Posts Tagged ‘Website Design’

Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – November 2016

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 4:57 No Comments

Welcome to the latest monthly issue of our regular newsletter which features news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search engine marketing techniques and trends.

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

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.

On to this month’s edition…

Expanded Text Ad Implementation Deadline is now January 2017

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

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

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

The key recommendations for the new format ads are:

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

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


The Impact of Mobile Site Speed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We hope you’ve found this month’s newsletter useful. As usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – April 2016

Friday, April 1, 2016 6:40 No Comments

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, featuring news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search marketing techniques and trends.

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

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

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter by month. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.

On to this month’s edition…

Principles of Mobile Site Design

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

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

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

The key findings were:

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

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

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


Google Concierge Humanises Home Services

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

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

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

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

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


Google’s PageRank Score is Discontinued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


We hope you’ve found this month’s newsletter useful. As usual, if you have any questions or need help with any of these items, please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website’s performance.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – July 2014

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 8:33 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 Google’s recent introduction of ‘Google My Business’, which should interest SMBs that want to have a strong local representation on Google Search. Next, we look at the latest advice for webmasters on how to make website moves between domains easier and to reduce the risks on search results. In the final article this month we review the benefits of Bing Ads as an alternative pay per click advertising service to Google AdWords.

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…

Introducing ‘Google My Business’

At the beginning of June, Google announced the introduction of ‘Google My Business’, the new account for companies to target their local market. This service replaces Google Places and should be of significant interest to business owners or online marketing managers who are interested in maintaining a strong local presence on Google Search.

Over the past year, the original Google Places listings have undergone a series of changes, with some businesses having been forced to re-claim and re-verify their listings multiple times, either via a postcard or telephone PIN code as Google launched new feature updates and modifications. In addition, some companies have seen their user reviews and other valuable content disappear or get overwritten as these local listings have been ‘enhanced’.

Finally, last month Google announced the launch of ‘Google My Business’, the long awaited and, so far, much-lauded redesign of its local business portal. ‘Google My Business’ replaces both the original Google Places for Business interface and the more recent equivalent within Google+ (Local), consolidating several features into a friendlier interface.

Local search had become a difficult system for business owners to manage, particularly since it was integrated more closely with the Google+ social network interface. This was ironic, as Google has poured unlimited resources into providing accuracy and usability for the consumer, endeavouring to ensure they have the gold standard for Local search, which is way ahead of the competition. It wasn’t a money-spinner though, and as a free service not tied to the consumption of ads, Google’s small business portal was permitted to languish.

From the business owner’s point of view, the perspective is quite different. Strong representation in Google Maps is the single most important differentiator between businesses who succeed or fail in gaining new customers via local and mobile search. Despite the hurdles, business owners who recognise the benefits have gone to the trouble to navigate the often-complex process, or find someone to do it for them.

So the ‘Google My Business’ account is an improvement and it’s designed to connect local businesses with customers, whether they’re looking on Search, Maps or Google+, and across all types of device. It requires much of the same information as before, with address and contact details, opening hours and brief business information, plus it makes it easier for Google users to rate, review and share business details through the Google+ network.

If you have a business and, in particular, a local target market, you need to ensure that your business has a strong local presence on Google with an up to date and complete business listing. If you need more information or help with this, please contact us now for details.


Guidelines for Moving Websites

Sometimes website owners have to move the site, from a more basic server move to a more complex domain change. These changes can have a varying degree of impact on Google and other search engines, depending on the way the move is managed, so Google’s Webmaster Tools have recently provided guidance on best practice for such changes, to minimise the impact on Google Search.

Website moves involve two types of content transfers, from transferring a website without a URL change (such as moving hosting) to transferring a website with a URL change (such as a full domain change, or a sub-domain or page URL changes following a redesign). The steps needed to move a site with no URL change are more simple and straight-forward, such as setting up a new hosting plan, removing temporary blocks to crawling and updating the relevant DNS settings.

However, moving a website with URL changes can be a difficult process and the risks of impacting the way that Google indexes and ranks a website can be more significant. There are 4 basic steps to follow, which are: prepare the new site and test it thoroughly; prepare a URL mapping from the current URLs to their corresponding new format; start the site move by configuring the server to redirect from the old URLs to the new ones; monitor the traffic on both the old and new URLs.

Google has recently provided a series of help pages for Webmasters, which outline these steps in more detail and provide best practice actions to help minimise the risks and to enable the transfer to occur with the minimum of risks to the way that Google views the site. It’s certainly not a process to be undertaken lightly, especially if the website is well established and has built up some good value with Google over the years, but sometimes these things have to take place and these procedures need to be followed.

In addition to this new content, Google has also produced information for developers of mobile sites to cover the issues involved with such configuration changes as moving from a separate mobile URLs to using responsive web design, which is becoming increasingly common.

If you’d like more details about best practice for website transfers, please contact us now.


The Benefits of Bing Ads

Bing Ads provides search marketers with the only real alternative to Google AdWords. Although it has a much smaller market share than Google, the Bing advertising network offers a number of benefits to advertisers, particularly as Bing strives to increase its share of the search market in the competitive online marketing community.

Bing Ads should certainly be considered by any search marketers as a low cost way of reaching the remaining share of the search market not covered by Google. It’s easy to set up a new account and, if an advertiser currently uses AdWords, it can also be easy to import an existing AdWords campaign into a new Bing Ads account, as many of the features replicate those offered by AdWords.

Bing Ads reportedly has the highest value conversions in the industry, so that based on the assumed average Internet conversion value of $100, it has been calculated that an AdWords conversion would be worth $146 and a Bing conversion would be worth $192. Overall, Bing Ads is seen to have less than 5% market share of the UK search market, but they also claim to have a loyal audience of searchers who use Bing or MSN search and avoid Google search altogether.

One of the main advantages we have seen with companies using Bing Ads is that the average cost per click is substantially less in comparison to AdWords, and the cost per conversion is also lower, due to the much lower levels of competitor activity. Of course, the market coverage and the volume of traffic is also much smaller than on AdWords, but Bing Ads is becoming a valuable alternative for advertisers, producing profitable conversions from the remaining sector of the search market.

Bing Ads is also improving the services available to advertisers, including new features in their Intelligence Tool, which provides unmatched and advanced demographics for a keyword’s audience. Add-ons for the Intelligence Tool can now be directly installed in Microsoft Excel, providing advertisers with valuable demographic data. Another impressive feature is auto-tagging, which is now available in the Accounts and Billing menu option, allowing advertisers to track individual keyword performance.

If you’d like to know more about how Bing Ads can benefit your business, or if you’d like to set up a new account, please contact us now.

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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter – October 2013

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 8:15 No Comments

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

In the first article this month we take a look at new research that shows the importance of phone calls from search results on a mobile device, which means that having a ‘click to call’ function is very important and how this can lead to better branding and improved sales. Next, we examine the importance of WordPress website security and 6 important steps to take to ensure that your business website isn’t a victim of unscrupulous hackers.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject. You can also follow us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.

On to this month’s edition…

The Importance of the ‘Click to Call’ Search Function

The Google AdWords blog has recently published the results of new research which shows that 70% of mobile searchers call a business directly from search results. This action can be taken, for businesses that enable it, by using the ‘click to call’ button that appears in the search results on mobiles. So it’s important for businesses that appear in the search results on Google to know this function exists and the importance of having it show with their mobile-targeted results.

Google says that their ads drive over 40 million calls each month and therefore it’s important for businesses to understand consumers’ use of the click to call feature. The new study by Ipsos Research showed that, from the 3,000 mobile searchers surveyed, calls are important for positively influencing brand perception through the inclusion of a phone number in the search results, as well as still being a vital channel for research and purchasing. Through research, calls help a consumer move closer in purchase consideration and a larger number of calls happen when someone is ready to buy.

It was found that click to call was an important feature for people looking to find information and make purchases across the 7 industries studied – travel; restaurant; auto; retail; finance; technology; local services. Within the local services sector, 76% would use call features to schedule an appointment for professional services, so this makes it particularly important for localised search results (including Google+ Local listings). Also, the majority of calls generated by mobile search ads are not quick informational calls, but instead tend to be more substantive research or transactional calls.

The inclusion of a click to call button can lead to an increase of 8% in the adverts overall clickthrough rate, because of the larger ad size due to the call button, or users feel more confident in the business. Nearly half of mobile searchers indicated that the lack of a call option would lead them to be both frustrated with the business and more likely to turn to another brand. Additionally, 33% said that they would be less likely to refer the brand to others and would be less likely to use the brand in the future.

So encouraging phone calls should still be a priority for all businesses and the importance of this shouldn’t be underestimated in an increasingly competitive online environment. This can be done quickly through an AdWords campaign by attaching call extensions to mobile search ads, (whereas the presence of the call button in organic results depends on a number of factors). Furthermore, the data provided by AdWords on call metrics from doing this can be valuable to identify areas to improve campaign performance and increase the number of conversions.

If you’d like more information about how the ‘click to call’ function can help to improve your business, contact us now for more details.


The Importance of WordPress Website Security

WordPress has become the leader in web publishing, with over 72 million sites using their Content Management System, which is estimated to be more than 25% of all websites operating on the Internet. As a result of this success, it has become a favoured target for hackers, so it’s crucial that if your business uses WordPress, your site is well protected.

In order to make a WordPress site more secure, there are a number of things to watch, plus before making any changes it’s essential to back up everything:

1) Update the admin user name. Surprisingly many people don’t change this from the default “admin”, or use other very common ones, such as “administrator,” “test” and “root”. So ensure the one your site uses is different. This should ideally be done during the initial set-up, or subsequently by going into mySQL and updating the user name, in the wp_users table.

2) Use a strong password. Not only should the username ideally be unique, but the password should also be very strong and includes letters (upper and lower), numbers, special characters, with over eight characters in total. (There are free programs, such as Keypass, that can create and remember which passwords are associated to which of your accounts).

3) Change the wp-config Security Keys: Tucked beneath your WordPress database settings in your wp-config file are your site’s unique keys and ‘Salts’. These are a random array of letters, numbers and special characters you’d likely never run across unless they were pointed out to you. Making a new set is easy with a tool within the CMS that WordPress provides. More details about this can be found here.

4) Limit Login Attempts: WordPress provides a free plugin to do this. It’s surprising how many attempts, mainly by hacking bots are locked out by this useful tool. It’s very configurable and has helpful features like logging offender’s IP addresses and emails you when a lockout happens. These emails may be slightly disconcerting, but serve a reminder that the site is well secured.

5) Use “Secure WordPress”: This is another essential, free WordPress plugin that patches many holes that exist in the basic WordPress install. It will do things like removing the version number of WordPress throughout the site or blocking malicious URL requests. The plugin allows you to toggle these options on and off to customise the settings for your security needs.

6) Backup, Backup and Backup: This can’t be emphasised enough! The best defence is to ensure that there is a complete, up-to-date backup of the site. It’s possible either to download the files to your local machine, or ask your web host about backup options. The latter can sometimes be flawed, so if you want total peace-of-mind, it’s best to regularly do that yourself on a scheduled basis. Ensure that you’re also backing up your database, with one of the numerous options that are available, such as the WordPress Database Backup.

It’s possible to alleviate many attacks just through these 6 steps that will ensure you’re not any easy target, like 99% of the sites that don’t take these precautions. Prevention is much better than cure and usually a lot less time consuming that trying to recover from an attack after it’s too late. Just imagine how you’d feel if the site and database was lost, so be pro-active beforehand, as it can happen.

You can view more in-depth details about this here:

If you’d like to know more about how we can help to secure your WordPress website, contact us now.

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