First Thing Monday 9 Mar ’15

The week: Alcohol Websites Won’t be Toasting Google; Insurance Comparison Websites – Google Muscles In; & Google’s Mobile-Friendly Algorithm – Latest Details

  1. The Cocktails are on Google
  2. Insurance Comparison Websites – time to get worried
  3. Google Mobile-Friendly Algorithm – Update

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.The Cocktails are on Google

A search in Google for “cocktail recipes” returns about 11.2M results and of these, 13,100 are from NZ websites. If your website relies on using cocktail recipes content as a way to attract visitors – as many alcohol sites do, such as www.themix.co.nz – then bad news.  Google just rained big time on your parade.

We’ve previously discussed the fact that Google is increasingly becoming an Answer Engine that directly provides the information people seek, rather than just being a search engine linking to external sites with that information. And here’s another example. Last week Google started providing information about cocktail recipes, as shown in the examples below.

2015-03-09_1-05-12 2015-03-09_1-07-59

These answers from Google appear ahead of organic search results. Consequently we expect that many sites which have worked hard to rank highly for various cocktail recipe keywords will start seeing a big drop in referral traffic from Google.

Why should you care?
Unless you own some of the NZ websites about cocktail recipes, you probably see this as a useful enhancement from a search consumers perspective. And it is.

But what happens when Google start doing the same thing with search queries related to your business and which currently drive a lot of organic search traffic to your website?

This is a reminder to have a diversified online strategy and not be too reliant on any one channel – be it Google or any other.

2. Insurance Comparison Websites – time to get worried

Some of the most lucrative online affiliate businesses are in the finance and insurance space.  The way many work is they have a website which aggregates the offerings from multiple competing vendors and then present this information in a way that allows prospective customers to readily compare them. Examples of comparison sites are Zillow,and LifeDirect (owned by TradeMe)

This can be a win-win-win result. It makes life easier for prospective buyers; the insurance or finance companies receive hot leads; and the comparison website makes good money through referral payments or commissions from the insurance or finance websites. The rewards can be very high and as a result this is one of the most competitive areas online.

Now before you rush off and spend a whole lot of money building one of these websites, be aware the competition just got a WHOLE lot harder. Google entered the market.

Google already operates a credit card comparison tool & last week announced the launch in the US of Google Compare for Auto Insurance. This is a lead generation tool that features sponsored listings from various insurance companies who pay on a cost per acquisition basis (CPA). Users can buy policies online or by calling from their phones.


Currently this is just in the California, but mores states will follow.

Whilst this is big news in the US, Google have been operating Compare services like these in the UK for several years & offer Car Insurance, Travel Insurance, Credit Cards, & Mortgage comparison tools – see https://www.google.co.uk/compare/

We expect these Google Compare services to roll out in time into other markets, eventually including NZ.

Why should you care?
Again this is another example of the Google juggernaut being a disruptive force & muscling in on others’ turf. Whilst Google always does a nice job making it sound like they do these things purely for the benefit users, make no mistake, Google marches to the beat of their own drum and ultimately that of Wall Street.

3. Google Mobile-Friendly Algorithm – Update

Last week we discussed the big announcement from Google that, that effective 21 April, they will be rolling out an algorithmic update which will favour mobile friendly websites in mobile search results. This is pretty significant and we hope you’re taking action. See the steps we suggested here.

A bit more information has come out regarding this new algorithm. Apparently the ranking factor will run in real time which means that once Google re-crawls a page that has been made mobile friendly it will immediately benefit from the algorithm.

In addition, the algorithm works on a page-by-page, rather than site-wide basis. So if you’re unable to make all pages on your website mobile friendly by 21 April it doesn’t necessarily mean all your rankings in mobile search results will plunge. Pages that are mobile-friendly will benefit, but those that aren’t yet converted will probably see a fall in mobile search rankings and traffic. So the more you can make mobile-friendly before 21 April the better.

Why should you care?
If you still don’t think mobile matters, then this is your last wake up call.

Forget Google for a moment. The most important reason to take mobile seriously is your website visitors.

If your website isn’t mobile friendly and provides a bad user experience to existing or prospective customers on mobile devices, then be aware – your competitors’ mobile friendly sites are but a click or two away.

As more and more websites become mobile friendly users will become increasingly intolerant of websites that aren’t mobile-friendly. Check your web analytics data to see what % of visitors to your website use mobile devices (ie. smartphones and tablets) and then compare engagement metrics such as bounce rates to those for visitors using desktop and laptop computers. If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you may well be horrified at how bad they are.

It’s not too late to take action. Many of your competitors no doubt are. You have 6 weeks…


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.