First Thing Monday 03 Nov 14

This week: Webmaster Tools Mobile UX, Digital Marketers On Notice; Facebook Wants Search; Google My Business Mobile & Digital In Store Shopping Results…

  1. Webmaster Tools: Usability Reports Now Available
  2. Facebook’s Five Year Plan for Search
  3. Google My Business gets Mobile Updates
  4. The Impact of Digital on In Store Shopping

The latest news about web marketing, SEO, PPC Advertising & Web Analytics. But only the stuff that matters from a New Zealand perspective. Less noise, more signal!

1.Webmaster Tools: Usability Reports Now Available

Just over two weeks ago we warned you Google would soon be including mobile user experience when determining rankings in mobile search results.

We made the prediction after hearing comments by Google engineer Gary Illyes at Search Marketing Expo East in New York. And now we’re feeling pretty confident we got it right…

Last week Google Webmaster Tools was updated to include a Mobile Usability report which looks for common errors such as use of flash content and fonts that are too small to be read on a mobile device. The report also highlights instances where clickable links and buttons are too close to each other.

Need more proof that Google is getting serious about mobile site experience? Okay, then: Google is also expanding on the warnings now shown to mobile users when a site is Flash-enabled, making it available in more languages.


Why should you care?

User experience will become a ranking signal in mobile search results – Google’s making that clear. With mobile traffic increasing every year, it’s important that your site doesn’t disappoint just because someone is looking at it on a smartphone or tablet, not a desktop computer.

You can readily identify major issues using the Mobile Usability report in your Google Webmaster Tools account (look for it under “Search Traffic”). Accounts we’ve checked state that Google has not yet processed the site, but expect to see results shown for your site in the near future.

2. Facebook’s Five Year Plan for Search

Connecting everyone, understanding the world, and helping to build the knowledge economy: that might sound like Google’s mission statement, but no. That’s how Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg characterises his company’s goals.

Graph Search – which lets people search their friends’ posts for, say, a good place to stay for a weekend-getaway – is a focus for Facebook over the next few years. That was made clear by Zuckerberg, in announcing record quarterly earnings for Q3 of  USD $3.2 billion (that’s $407 every second).

“Over the past 10 years, an amazing base of knowledge has been built up,“ Zuckerberg said. “Now, we’re trying to find different ways to expose that and make it more useful to people.”

Graph Search was introduced in March 2013, and announced for mobile devices early this year. However, rollout has been glacial, with Zuckerberg recently telling The New York Times that Graph Search is “a five-year thing”.

Facebook Q3 advertising revenues were up 76% year on year, with mobile advertising accounting for more than half (53%) of ad revenue.

It’s scary to think what those numbers might look like should Facebook get Graph Search right. For some searches, Facebook content might provide better results than using Google. Add in highly relevant ads, shown just when consumers are looking for the very same products and services, and we’d expect to see Facebook earning significantly more than 2013’s 5.7% of all global digital ad revenues.

Why should you care?

While Graph Search is still a work in progress, it holds a lot of promise. After all, Facebook already knows what people ‘like’. When that information is provided to people who are ‘searching’, marketers will be able to target prospective customers more effectively.

3. Google My Business gets Mobile Updates

Google has announced recent improvements to the mobile capabilities of Google My Business.

Key amongst the new features is that you now get a notification every time you get a new review, a feature that has got some business owners pretty excited.  We’ll let the Google Help files explain: “Every time you get a new review on Google, you’ll get a notification in the top right corner of Google My Business. You’ll also get notifications on your phone if you’ve installed the Google My Business app.”


Why should you care?

While we don’t particularly care for the name, Google My Business consolidates a number of recommended Google services onto a single (free) platform. These include Google+, Maps, Hangouts, Google Analytics, Reviews and Insights, making it easier for local businesses to manage their Google presence through a single interface.

With this update, and availability of an Android app (predictably, iOS is still to come), business owners will be notified of new reviews, allowing for quick response when necessary.

If you were previously using Google Places for Business, you’ve already been upgraded to Google My Business. If you haven’t yet claimed your account or don’t know how best to use it, drop us a line – we can help.

4. The Impact of Digital on In-Store Shopping

What do shoppers use their smartphones for when they’re in a store, if not to make a phone call?

Not being sure, we ran an informal office poll and got the following feedback:

  • To check a shopping list or see if we have all the ingredients for a recipe
  • To text home so we know whether to buy the small or larger package, or if we need something
  • To check product reviews (on Amazon, IMDB …)
  • To listen to a Spotify playlist
  • To see if it’s cheaper somewhere else (Amazon, Pricespy…)

We had other responses too, but it’s that last one that interests Google. Fortunately, rather than hitting us up for our answers, Google recently commissioned Ipsos MediaCT and Sterling Brands to conduct a more authoritative research study into how smartphones and online information have changed the in-store experience in the US.

In saying that the results may surprise, Google also said there were some obvious findings:

  • Consumers are better informed than ever.
  • They crave information throughout their shopping experience.

So what was surprising about the study’s results? In looking at the behaviour of some 6,000 smartphone users aged 18–54 who have used the internet to look for shopping-related information,  it exposed some common wisdoms as myths.

Myth #1: That search results only send consumers to e-commerce stores.

Reality: Search results can actually lead to consumers visiting physical stores. Three in four people who said that local information is helpful also said that what they learned from the search results increased the chances that they would visit that store.

Myth #2: That once a shopper looks at their smartphone while in-store the store has lost their attention / sale.

Reality: This is a great chance for the brick and mortar store to connect with these shoppers. Of the respondents, 46% said that they check the retailers own site or app for more information on the product in front of them.

Myth #3: The amount of information online means that shoppers only go to a store to carry out a transaction.

Reality: Shoppers are hungry for more information and customised experiences when they visit a store – not less. In fact 69% of shoppers said that they gather information from the physical store at some point in the buying cycle.

Why should you care?

Digital is often but a point in the path to purchase (as purchases are still often completed offline). Furthermore, our digital experience is increasingly via a mobile device.

For retailers that means ensuring a strong search presence, particularly in local search results, to get consumers into their stores. That accomplished, the job is only half-done.

Marketers need to make sure that the consumer experience of their store (via smartphone) is no less than that they might get in conversing with their most knowledgeable and approachable sales assistant. Make sure that valuable content such as product specs and reviews is easily found on your mobile site and consider using the opportunity to present in-store smartphone users with customised offers and recommendations.

OK, that’s what we think. We’re keen to hear your thoughts on any of the above – please comment below. 

Click here to read previous editions of “First Thing Monday” web marketing news.

Want this delivered to your inbox each Monday?


If you found this useful, please tell your friends.

About the Author Jeremy Templer & Mark Sceats

Jeremy and Mark are two of the partners behind SureFire Search. Despite their deceptively youthful appearances, both have worked in search marketing for many years. To put that in context, Google didn't even exist when Jeremy started.