First Thing Monday 26 Jan 15

This week: Google now most trusted news source; Webmasters warned on usability; Knowledge Graph adds features; Vessel launches; Facebook at 1 billion mobile users.

  1. Google now the world’s most trusted news source
  2. Google sending Mobile Usability warnings to Webmasters
  3. Knowledge Graph adds functionality; now shown for 25% of search queries 
  4. Vessel launches – subscription-based YouTube rival pays more to video creators
  5. Facebook to reach 1 billion mobile users this year

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. Google now the world’s most trusted news source

Every year PR firm Edelman releases its annual Trust Barometer, an international trust and credibility survey of attitudes towards business, government,non-government organisations (NGOs) and media. This year’s surprises – globally, trust levels are at their lowest since the Great Depression and, when it comes to keeping up with the news, we trust search engines more than we do traditional media.

A significant factor in search engines overtaking traditional media for the first time (they were trusted by 64% of survey respondents, while 62% trusted traditional media), was that 72% of millennials preferred search engines.

The 2015 Trust Barometer was based on responses from 33,000 people (27,000 described as “general public”; 6,000 as “informed public”) in 27 countries (including Australia, but not New Zealand).

2015 Edelman Trust Barometer – Global Results from Edelman Insights

A close third with 63% trust was Hybrid media, defined as digital media sites or blogs that aggregate or curate stories from traditional news sources (such as Flipboard, VentureBeat, Business Insider, the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed). Social media and Owned media (brand-controlled communication) were less trusted sources for general news and information.

Why should you care?

How we are wired – background, political persuasion, and our tendency to skepticism – likely colour our views as to what we think credible news sources.

Even in a week where the mayor of Paris has threatened to sue Fox News for claiming the city has no-go areas for non-muslims and police, there will be some who still think the news broadcaster credible. Others will think The New York Times more credible, despite recently publishing an op-ed contribution from the extreme right Marine Le Pen, president of the Front National party.

The good news (excuse us) is that we don’t have to rely on a single source to find out what is happening in the world around us. Search engines are particularly good at providing us with news stories from around the world, from many different sources, updated within the hour. And if we’re interested in a given story or a particular topic, a smorgasbord of traditional, hybrid, social and owned media news reports is only a Google search away.

The Edelman report suggests that a news story, if shown in Google results, is more likely to be assumed legitimate. What’s not clear though is whether inclusion in Google results confers authenticity, or whether users look at Google results to see how many and which sources are reporting a particular news story, thereby determining whether a story is legitimate or not.

Either way, however, SEO becomes important in making sure that your stories appear in search results. Or, as Edelman’s Ben Boyd put it, “…the findability of (a company’s content or message) is paramount.”

2.Google sending Mobile Usability warnings to Webmasters

Google appears about to launch a mobile-friendly algorithm update reported to have been in testing since November. That’s the conclusion reached by Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal following news that Google has sent warning messages to webmasters for websites that are not mobile-friendly.


These notifications, which identify the issues and warn the site will rank lower for smartphone users, are being sent to webmasters’ email addresses and posted in Webmaster Tools accounts. They follow Google’s recent release of a mobile friendly testing tool and the addition of mobile usability reports in Google Webmaster Tools. Google also recently started labelling compliant sites in mobile search results as mobile-friendly.

Why should you care?

Three reasons, really.

First, we now live in a multi-screen world where users expect a good site to function well no matter the device they use – and are quick to abandon those that don’t.

Second, we’re at a point where internet traffic from mobile devices is on the verge of eclipsing desktop traffic. What percentage your site gets can be readily verified by looking at your web analytics reports, but it’s probably sizeable enough not to be ignored.

Third, Google is telegraphing its punches, and you’d be foolish not to take heed. Let us know if you need our help.

3.Knowledge Graph adds functionality; now shown for 25% of search queries

Google’s Knowledge Graph is now including links to social profiles (other than Google+) for businesses and brands, and has enabled improvements to event-related data.

Links are now added automatically to company pages on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Myspace. Businesses wanting to add to or modify what is displayed can use structured data markup to do so.

tvnz knowledge graph with highlight

In addition, Google now provides more markup and schema types for companies promoting events. The Knowledge Graph shown for events and venues can now include on-sale dates and availability with a direct link to ticket sales, amongst other new features.

Wondering how often Knowledge Graph results are shown and if it’s worth the effort? For the first time, we now have an estimate: about one in four searches feature a Knowledge Graph result.

That figure comes from technology journalist Steven Levy, author of the 2011 book “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives. Levy has just completed a four part article for Backchannel called “Google: Still in the Search”, full of fascinating insights into what’s going on at the search company. But what’s caught the attention of those in the search community is a single sentence from the part one coverage of Knowledge Graph:

“Google won’t say officially what percentage of queries evoke a Knowledge Graph answer but appears comfortable with a ballpark estimate of about 25 percent”.

Given the number of Google searches in a day (over 3 billion according to Steven Levy’s story), that’s a lot of times that Knowledge Graph is shown. And, as Search Engine Land news editor Barry Schwartz noted last week, “it makes you wonder if that leads to ~25% less traffic for publishers.”

Why should you care?

Since its 2012 introduction, publishers have been wary of Google’s Knowledge Graph and its potential to cost them revenue. With Knowledge Graph, Google shows information in search results (often sourced from the publishers’ websites) – enough sometimes that the searcher need no longer visit their site.

Our take on this? If a searcher’s happy with the summary information shown in Knowledge Graph, chances are they weren’t going to spend much time on your website anyway.

That aside, businesses now have more options to window-dress their Knowledge Graph results and should do so. To improve your results, add schema.org structured data markup to your website – give us a call if you don’t know where to start.

4. Vessel launches – subscription-based YouTube rival pays more to video creators

YouTube’s new challenger, Vessel, launched last week with an invitation-only beta website and iOS app, and with plans to offer content creators greater revenue share than the online video giant.

Co-founded by former Hulu executives and with $75m in venture capital funding, the streaming video platform will offer paying subscribers fewer ads and early access to short-form videos by top YouTube creators for just USD $2.99 a month. The company has signed top YouTube creators like Rhett & Link, Connor Franta, Jack Vale, Shane Dawson, Marcus Butler, Caspar Lee, Ingrid Nilsen and others. Media companies that have signed up include Warner Music Group, Sports Illustrated, Entertainment Weekly and A+E Networks.Vessel_ProductShot_iPadChannelsShows_redContent creators agree to provide 72-hour exclusives for early access paying subscribers. After this time, their videos will be shown to Vessel’s free subscribers and can be posted on other non-subscription-based platforms. In return they will get 70 percent of all advertising revenue and 60 percent of subscription revenue, where YouTube gives them a 55 percent share of ad revenue.

Vessel estimates that videos will earn approximately USD $50 per 1,000 views while in early access, saying this is as much as 20 times what video creators earn in ad revenue from free web distribution.

The company says brands such as Chevy, Corona, Frito-Lay, Unilever, Land Rover and Jaguar have signed up as advertisers. Advertisers can pick from two formats: five-second pre-roll ads or full-screen ads (called “brand motion posters”). According to an early Wall Street Journal report, advertisers only pay for completed views of ads, with only one ad expected per video.


Watching videos on Vessel feels different than watching them on YouTube or Hulu, according to early subscribers. One reason for that is a “simultaneous browse” feature that lets users look for new videos while continuing to watch their current selection.

Why should you care?

At first glance, you may think you don’t need to. After all, while Vessel is targeting an international audience it is initially focused on the US market. And although it expects to attract a broad audience over time, from the outset it is aimed at the 14-24 age group.

An empty vessel makes the loudest noise, according to Greek philosopher Plato, who died 2,500 years before last week’s unwrapping of the new premium video platform. And Vessel will need to make quite some noise if it’s to attract both the audience and content creators it needs to co-exist with YouTube. Its challenge is that it needs good exclusive content in order to attract a large paying audience, and it needs that audience in order to get great video content.

While the company has had some initial success in luring YouTube creators, others wary of losing their YouTube following have stuck with YouTube. And to counter offers from Facebook and Vessel, YouTube has been offering video creators multi-year deals should they post videos to YouTube first.

So here’s the question that intrigues us: what will YouTube and Facebook do, should Vessel’s paid subscription model prove successful?

As competition heats up in the online video space, expect some surprises. One thing seems certain – advertisers looking for premium video content will benefit from new audiences and opportunities, but will pay higher cost per view rates for an engaged, paying audience.

5. Facebook to reach 1 billion mobile users this year

It doesn’t seem that long ago that analysts were wondering how and if Facebook would make money.

Now a new forecast from online research firm eMarketer predicts Facebook will amass one billion mobile users by year end, and mobile ads will account for nearly three quarters of the company’s ad revenue worldwide (USD $10.9 billion).


The eMarketer report shows remarkable growth in a short period – in 2013, just 45% of Facebook’s USD $6.99 billion in ad revenue worldwide came from mobile ads. Should these estimates prove correct, mobile Facebook users will represent over 60% of mobile social users worldwide.

Why should you care?

Explaining the reason for Facebook’s growth in mobile ad revenue, eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson wrote: “Because the Facebook experience is basically the same across devices, advertisers don’t have to reinvent the wheel to place mobile advertising”.

Facebook’s demographic, likes and interest and local targeting options are a good fit for local businesses promoting their stores, services and upcoming events. And as, eMarketer’s Debra Aho Williamson notes “the Facebook experience is basically the same across devices, (so) advertisers don’t have to reinvent the wheel to place mobile advertising”.

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 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.