First Thing Monday 15 Sep ’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!

Yes, this weekly news round up has both a new name and a new day. “No Noise Friday” is now “First Thing Monday”.

Last week we sent out a survey asking readers if they’d prefer to get this update at the start of the week rather than on Fridays. The response was an overwhelming vote to switch to Mondays and so that’s what we’ve done. Grab a coffee and read what caught our attention this week…

  1. Google Changing Mobile Ad Formats from Today
  2. Google Analytics – New Benchmarking Reports
  3. Callouts – the latest AdWords Extensions
  4. Oops – Google Breaches Its Own Webmaster Guidelines
  5. Google Brings PLAs To Third-Party Sites

1.Google Changing Mobile Ad Formats from Today

Increasingly people use mobile phones to search online. The limited size of mobile screens means mobile ads must make every character count. In line with this Google have announced that from Monday 15 Oct advertisers may see Google displaying ad extensions instead of the second description line in their mobile ads.

Google are positioning this change as an improvement designed to show more relevant and useful information to your customers. Cynics will say it’s to increase the number of ad clicks and therefore revenue for Google.

Below is an example of what the change will look like. Before the update, people who searched for “flowers” on Google.com saw the ad on the left which shows the business’ website URL, two lines of general information and a link to place orders. After the update, potential customers may see a Google Maps marker that shows the location of the flower shop, in addition to the website URL, ad creative and online order form – all within one ad.

Google AdWords mobile ad formats
Why should you care?

If your website is like most, then the number of visitors accessing your website from mobile devices has grown significantly and this growth is accelerating. Chances are that 30 – 50% of your visitors now come from mobile. (You can easily check this out if you have Google Analytics). So mobile matters and if you’re running AdWords you need to ensure your ads are optimally configured to make them work as hard as possible for you.

While no specific action is required, it’s always a good idea to keep these mobile ads best practices in mind:

  • Ensure that your most important information is in the first line of ad text (description line 1) to address customer needs right away. Remember to keep this text within the 35 character limit.
  • Enable all relevant extensions to help consumers find information faster and increase clickthrough rates (CTR).
  • Use mobile preferred creatives to help consumers quickly and easily take action while on the go. You’ll also get better results when your ads are more relevant to mobile searchers.

2. Google Analytics – New Benchmarking Reports

How does my website perform compared to competitors? This is a common question that will soon get a bit easier to answer.

Google have announced  the roll out new Google Analytics Benchmarking reports over the next few weeks. Benchmarking will allow you to compare your website data with aggregated industry data from other companies in your industry. You’ll be able to choose from 1,600 industry categories and refine the data by geographic location and traffic size classifications. This will let you to compare your website against websites with similar traffic levels in your industry.

Why should you care?

This new reporting will provide valuable context around your website’s performance, helping you to set meaningful targets, gain insight into trends occurring across your industry, and find out how you are doing compared to your competition.

At this stage Benchmarking reports don’t yet appear to rolled out in NZ, but when they are you’ll find them in the left navigation under the Audience section of your GA account. Note this reporting will only be available to Google Analytics users who have opted in to share their data anonymously. To do this simply check the “Share anonymously with Google and others” box in the Account Settings tab of your account admin page.

3. Callouts – the latest AdWords Extensions

Google have rolled out a new extension to AdWords ads called “callouts”. These extensions are  additional text that can be used to draw attention to important product details and benefits, or highlight what makes your business different from competitors. Examples are free shipping  and price match guarantees. Below is an an example of an ad with callout extensions highlighted.

AdWords ad with Callout text highlighted

Why should you care?

SureFire got to beta test callout extensions before their general release and we saw some great results for clients. Callouts are additional to other ad extensions, such as sitelinks, and can strengthen the messaging and performance of ads. If you or your agency aren’t already trying them, you should be.

4. Oops – Google Breaches Its Own Webmaster Guidelines

Last week Google inadvertently contravened its own webmaster guidelines by indexing its own search results.

Google Webmaster guidelines state: Use robots.txt to prevent crawling of search results pages or other auto-generated pages that don’t add much value for users coming from search engines.

When the error was pointed out Google updated its robot.txt file to ensure it blocks its own search results from being included in the Google search results.

Why should you care?

Frankly you shouldn’t, however this illustrates it’s easy to inadvertently breach Google’s ever evolving list of rules and you need to stay vigilant.

5. Google Brings PLAs To Third-Party Sites

Google has announced it’s extending Product Listing Ads (PLAs) to retail and e-commerce sites across the Google Search Network. The ads are served via a new Google product called AdSense for Shopping. This offers retail and e-commerce sites another way to monetize site traffic while expanding the reach of advertisers’ PLAs. It also should give Google a stronger foothold in product search if enough sites are enticed to join the network. As we’ve previously mentioned, product search is an area Google and Amazon are both hotly contesting.

Walmart.com is among the limited set of publishers currently participating in AdSense for Shopping. Below is how these ads look when a search is done on the Walmart website.

Google AdSense for Shopping PLA ads

Why should you care?

At this point PLA ads are not available in NZ, but hopefully this will change soon once Google completes its migration of regular Product Listing Ads campaigns to Shopping campaigns which is occurring over September. Shopping campaigns display Product Listing Ads in their own box on Google Search (separate from text ads), on Google search partner websites, and on Google Shopping (in select countries). Product Listing Ads include rich product information like an image, title, price, and store or business name. These can be extremely effective for retailers, so the sooner they’re in NZ the better.


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

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About the Author SureFire

These search marketing news updates feature articles of interest picked up through the week by the SureFire team.

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