First Thing Monday 13 Oct 14

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

As a switched on marketer you’ll know how important your website is to the success of your business. Being aware of what’s happening in the fast moving world of SEO, PPC Advertising & Web Analytics is essential. But things change so fast and staying abreast of this can be overwhelming. Most people simply don’t have the time to do so, despite knowing how important it can be to their business.

At SureFire we want to help you by sifting through all the noise and highlighting what’s new and noteworthy in SEO, PPC and Web Analytics. But more importantly, answer the question – Why this might matter to YOU and YOUR business here in New Zealand.

So grab a coffee and spend a few minutes checking out what caught our attention this week…

  1. Google to add a new ranking algorithm factor – Mobile user experience
  2. The Golden Triangle isn’t so golden anymore
  3. Most search marketers admit they are not tracking phone conversions
  4. Facebook opens its Audience Network
  5. Custom affinity audience ad tool released by Google
  6. Google can monitor your bills

1.Google to add a new ranking algorithm factor – Mobile user experience

You have been warned.

Google sees what your users see. And if it sees that your business is serving up a bad mobile experience then you may see a drop in your mobile search rankings.

Google engineer Gary Illyes made the point at the recent Search Marketing Expo East in New York that user experience is extremely important to Google. “We’re making a big push to ensure the search results we deliver reflect this principle,” Illyes told the SMX East audience. “We want users to be able to enjoy the web wherever they are”.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, our readers. Back in June 2013, Google’s Matt Cutts announced that slow-performing mobile sites would be penalized in search rankings. Now the company is simply saying that it will judge the user experience of mobile sites with the same rigour it does their desktop counterparts.

Why is the mobile user experience important to Google?

  • Studies show that most mobile Internet users are unlikely to return to a website if they have had difficulty accessing the site on their phone.
  • A growing number of people are using their mobile devices to browse websites, with Internet Retailer reporting early this year that more than half the mobile traffic to websites comes from organic search results.
  • In the US, 166 million people now have smartphones according to a recent Comscore report, making it the second-largest smartphone market in the world, behind China and (for the moment) putting it ahead of India.

Why should you care?

Whether you’ve realised it or not, if your website isn’t performing well on mobile devices you are already losing customers and sales. They’re going to your competitors’ mobile-friendly sites instead.

When Google starts to include user experience in its ranking algorithms for search results on mobile devices, mobile users may not even find your site in the first place.

The bottom line is this – you need a mobile-responsive or dedicated mobile website. And don’t tell us we haven’t told you that before.

2. The Golden Triangle isn’t so golden anymore

In the circles in which we orbit, the “Golden Triangle” isn’t the geographical intersection of Thailand, Laos and Myanmar. Rather, it describes how people view Google results.

The term was coined in 2005 by some clever people at Canadian search marketing company Enquiro (now Mediative). The Enquiro team sat people down in front of computer screens and recorded their eye movements in a series of fascinating heat map illustrations that graphically illustrated where people spent the most time looking when viewing popular websites. And these included Google search results pages.

Over time, as Google’s algorithms improved, the triangle became ever more evident. Simply put, as it became more obvious to internet users that the good stuff was at the top of the page on the left, fewer and fewer eyeballs spent time looking at the paid search results to the right. And fewer still moved down the organic results to see what was at bottom of the page.

Following is a typical heat map, illustrating the point. The hotter colours (red, orange, yellow) show where people spent the most time looking.

Golden Triangle Example

Pretty, isn’t it? You can imagine it in a 22nd Century art gallery, but it may well bewilder its audience in the same way that a Mark Rothko painting can today. Assuming Google is still around then and that we are still using search engines to navigate the web, the Internet of Things or whatever, what may baffle them further is that there is a “golden triangle” there at all.

That’s because Google results are changing (and it’s not just us telling you so). A new Mediative eye tracking study of Google search results shows that the Golden Triangle isn’t so golden anymore. Have a look:

Golden Triangle Example2 Golden Triangle Example3

Why should you care?

If you are at all interested in how well your site does in Google search results, this is something you should want to know more about.

Key findings from the study include:

  • People aren’t spending as long viewing each result but they are viewing more listings in a single session.
  • If you thought you had seconds to capture the attention of a searcher, well, you used to be correct. Back in 2005, searchers spent two seconds viewing each listing – now it’s 1.17 seconds. That’s not a lot of time for your page title and meta description to do their job.
  • Being the top result is still important but there has been an increase in click activity, especially in positions 2-4. However, the number one organic result still gets the lion’s share of traffic with 32.8% of clicks.
  • Users have caught on to the fact that the top organic results are no longer in the top left corner and actively look elsewhere for them.
  • Mobile devices have trained users to look for information vertically rather than horizontally.

We’d add to the above that the richer information now shown more prominently in Google’s search results – Knowledge Graph, maps, videos, images and news snippets – all mean that there’s more relevant stuff to look at on the page. That doesn’t, of course, make it any easier for website owners to get their sites on the first page of Google results, but it shouldn’t deter you from trying to get there.

3. Most search marketers admit they don’t track phone conversions

US call marketing automation firm Invoca recently conducted a survey of search marketers in that country, finding that over half the respondents (54% to be exact) admitted they didn’t track offline conversions from phone calls. And only 36% used click to call adverts in their search campaigns.

Admittedly, the sample group was relatively small (132 search marketers responded to the survey) and it could be that US search marketers are lazier than their counterparts in other countries (though we doubt that).

Should search marketers be tracking phone calls and optimising paid search campaigns when keywords and ads lead to offline conversions? Of course. After all, 63% of those In the Invoca study said they thought phone leads were just as (if not more) valuable than web conversions.

Still to be convinced? Last year Google commissioned Ipsos, an independent market research company, to survey 3,000 US consumers on their attitudes to click-to-call within organic and paid mobile search results.  The ensuing report The Role of Click to Call in the Path to Purchase revealed, amongst other interesting insights, that 70 percent of mobile searchers had called a business directly from  search results.

Why should you care?

You’ve heard the beating drums by now: more and more people are using mobile devices to access the internet.

Think about your website and business. Do you promote your call centre on your website? Do you get a lot of sales and leads from people who’ve seen your site or ad online and then pick up the phone?

If you answered yes to either question and you’re not already tracking what’s driving your phone conversions, you’re probably struggling to know where your marketing budget is best spent.

Talk to us about including click-to-call ads in your search marketing campaigns. Need to set up unique phone numbers to track the results of online – and offline – marketing activity and record those results in Google Analytics? We can help you with that too.

4. Facebook opens its Audience Network

Facebook’s latest move in its battle with Google for advertising dollars has officially launched: the Facebook Audience Network.

Advertisers and business owners now have another alternative to the Google Display Network, with Facebook Ads now being shown on other sites, not just Facebook. Audience Network ads will come in three different varieties, as shown here.

Facebook Adverts Example

Why should you care?

Like Google, Facebook collects a massive amount of data about its users. Consequently, Facebook adverts can be highly targeted and the launch of the Audience Network extends advertisers’ reach beyond Facebook.

Not sure if Facebook advertising and the Audience Network is right for your business? Give us a call if you’re looking for advice.

5. Custom affinity audience ad tool released by Google

In June last year Google added Affinity Segments to AdWords and YouTube, allowing advertisers to target their ideal customer segments online. Google said then that their affinity groups were designed with Nielsen-type “TV-style audiences in mind” and were based on the type of pages a user visits, along with how often and how long they spent there. Advertisers got 80 lifestyle segments to choose from, based on demographics and interest categories, such as Outdoor Enthusiasts, Sports Fans, Music Lovers and News Junkies.

Now Google has made affinity-based ad targeting even better, allowing advertisers to add their own custom affinity audiences. In making the announcement, Google gave as example game maker Electronic Arts’ use of the newly-introduced affinity-based targeting to promote its new game. Rather than use Google’s default football category, Electronic Arts had created another 32 sub categories that allowed targeting to each NFL team.

Why should you care?

Custom affinity audiences, already available to Google advertisers here in New Zealand, mean that you can now reach only your ideal customers, and do so with a highly specific ad. If you are only advertising locally, however, there is a danger that in creating a custom affinity audience your ads may be shown to too few people (we’re a small country, after all).

6. Google can monitor your bills

Don’t know where all your money is going? Living week to week? Well Google wants to help you solve this problem.

Google is letting mobile app users see when their bills are due and exactly how much is owed with a single prompt.

How exactly? Well, all you need to do is give Google permission to access even more of your data. Or, in the words of Google’s Alistair Barr: “These features are available to users of Google’s search app who have turned on the Google Now feature and given Google permission to access information from their Gmail accounts.”

Once activated, the service will then display the amount shown on bills sent to your Gmail account. What’s owed is displayed at the top of a list of search results which only the logged-in user can see.

Why should you care?

Actually, we’re not sure you should. If you’re constantly missing your payment due dates, and this sounds like a good idea to you, then maybe…

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.

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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.

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