Changes that are made by governing bodies and organisers to complex structures are almost unavoidably likely to have an impact on uninvolved bystanders; such is the nature of any system.
Modern economists make frequent use of the law to explain how decisions at a governmental level have significant unintended consequences further down the food chain.
Examples of the law in practice include wind farms that actually harm the environment by killing birds. Laws used to promote green vehicles which with the help of an enterprising salesman resulted in free golf carts for businessmen, and the Australian law making cycle helmets mandatory that actually resulted in an increase in the risk of death and serious injury to cyclists.
So what does all of this have to do with Google?
In the search engine world, there’s little doubt about who makes the rules; and with its recent Penguin update, Google has left some innocent websites suffering in its campaign for good SEO practices.
Some Early Examples
Now of course there is some history here. There are many early examples of unintended consequences that have arisen from decisions and courses of action that Google have taken,
- Using Pagerank to dictate that links had value resulted in the link economy, blog networks, comment and forum spam and a proliferation of low quality web directorie
- Google AdSense for publishers led to an explosion in content scraping, copyright theft and MFA (Made For Adsense) sites.
- The introduction of rel=nofollow led to Pagerank sculpting and siloing.
So Where Does The Penguin Update Fit In?
The Google Penguin update was introduced in April 2012 as a means of identifying and demoting websites that had previously benefitted from aggressive SEO techniques.
According to Matt Cutts (Head of Google’s WebSpam team), the update targeted ‘all those people who have sort of been doing, for lack of a better word, “over optimization” or “overly” doing their SEO, compared to the people who are just making great content and trying to make a fantastic site.’
To put it bluntly, it was designed to demote websites that appeared to be benefitting from undeserved backlinks.
The principles behind Penguin meant that it was welcomed by most web users. It would ensure that websites that engaged in link-spamming and other underhanded black-hat techniques would drop down the rankings. Google speculated that the first update would only have an impact on 3.1% of English search queries and 3% on searches made in the German, Chinese, and Arabic languages.
The Penguin Update was largely successful, resulting in the demotion of a hundreds of thousands of websites that had been ranking unfairly. Unfortunately it also affected some sites that hadn’t knowingly engaged in shady link-building practices.
For example, the specialist WordPress site WPMU.org was crushed by the update, dropping from 8,580 daily visits to a paltry 1,527 after it was introduced.
Despite the site’s owner, John Farmer claiming that there had been no keyword stuffing, link schemes or had any problems regarding quality. Matt Cutts came forward with the claim that the site had been penalised due to a few bad links pointing to it.
Largely it was felt that due to the nature of the site (a WordPress resource); there were bound to be links to the site indicating authorship and design of blogs often of a lower quality – links that were keyword heavy and in footers, blogrolls and often sitewide.
Even so, the damage had been done and it was left for WPMU to rebuild their rankings.
One major unintended consequence of the Google Panda Update was the ‘bad-by-association’ approach to some sites. If one site was penalised, sites associated with that site were shown to be affected negatively. In an online discussion Michael Martinez of SEO Theory said, ‘what they are seeing is a Cascade Effect where the websites that link to them suddenly lose value. So the real problem lies 1 or 2 tiers back. These are not false positives, although they are collateral damage.’ However we define this problem, it is clear that some websites have experienced a drop in traffic and money-earning potential through no fault of their own.
The Target Changes…
Some leading SEO experts have revealed that some more aggressive (and less-ethical) SEOs have posed as their rivals and petitioned sites with fake requests for the removal of perfectly good links. Such tactics have been adopted as a means of reducing competitor’s website rankings. Thankfully as yet this problem doesn’t seem to be widespread.
When fake emails aren’t enough, there have also been some reports of unscrupulous webmasters building spammy links to rival websites hoping to see them penalised as a result.
Even examples of blackmail threats made to websites with the threat of black-hat SEO and possible penalties.
Members of the specialist SEO Forum Traffic Planet revealed how devastating this tactic could be by test-targeting two websites with ScrapeBox blasts. This involved the creation of thousands of anchor-text based backlinks and resulted in a substantial ranking drop for the sites targeted.
The Traffic Planet case study was just one way of outlining the effects of a wide reaching problem. Danny Sullivan, the Editor in Chief of Search Engine Land pointed out that, ‘As for not accepting there’s no negative SEO, I’ve repeatedly said that it is possible … perhaps it [is] more viable now because it’s cheaper now. That’s exactly the opposite or refusing to accept that links could be cheaply and trivially pointed at any site. What remains unclear is how serious a threat it is to the vast majority of sites out there.’
The cautionary message here appears to be: as much as Google’s addressing of black-hat SEO may make for a quality content-driven user-experience, it’s by no means flawless. When in doubt, leave it out and play it safe.
In 2012, Google launched its Trusted Stores program in the USA. Now, the search engine has opened the program to UK retailers, aimed at creating a better shopping experience for both consumers and eCommerce websites.
What is Google Trusted Stores?
Google Trusted Stores is a program that is beneficial to both consumers and eCommerce sites. With the Google Trusted Stores program, retailers that meet certain criteria get a Trusted Stores badge, which displays on their site, and on paid search engine results. This badge allows stores to show they offer fantastic customer service and consistent, on-time deliveries.
Benefits to Consumers
The Trusted Stores Program benefits consumers in a number of ways. As online stores have to meet strict criteria to join the program, consumers are able to shop with more confidence. Online, there are thousands of stores for consumers to choose from, and often, consumers don’t know which ones are going to provide them with the best shopping experience.
When a consumer sees the trusted stores symbol on a store, it differentiates that site from others. It allows shoppers to more easily identify stores that offer a high quality shopping experience. Merchants with the badge will also offer free purchase protection from Google.
Benefits to Businesses
For retailers, the program can be highly beneficial. It provides merchants with the chance to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The Trusted Stores badge immediately makes a store stand out.
For example, a person searching for a floor lamp on Google will see an abundance of stores. However, if they see one store is displaying a badge, they are most likely to visit that particular store. This increased level of visibility will attract more customers, and therefore, increase sales and conversion rates.
Most importantly, however, the objective data offered to consumers through the program can drastically increase a store’s customer base. When a consumer places an order with a site, they want to know that it offers a good shopping experience. The Trusted Stores Badge provides consumers with more objective information on a store’s quality level.
When a consumer hovers their mouse over the badge, they will see a report card. This card offers information on a store’s customer services and shipping reliability. Also, it will display overall data on the store, such as returns, delivery times, email response times and the overall shopping experience. This data is collected through an independent shopping evaluation company called StellaService. With this symbol, the consumer is given an objective review of the site, and will be more likely to purchase with that store.
Applying: Who should Apply and How to Apply
Stores can apply to the Google Trusted Stores program, only if they meet certain eligibility criteria.
- Process a Certain Number of Orders: Your site must consistently process at least two- hundred orders, over twenty-eight days to be eligible.
- Use Shipping Tracking Numbers: On the majority of the orders your site ships, you must use shipment tracking numbers. This is so Google is able to see how quickly your shipments were delivered, and how many were delivered.
- Cannot Sell Restricted Items: If your website sells any restricted items, such as tobacco, weapons, and certain pharmaceuticals, it won’t be eligible for the Google Trusted Stores Program
- Must Offer Reasons for CancellationsIf your site becomes part of the Trusted Stores program, it must provide reasons for cancellations. When an order status changes to cancelled, you will be taken to a pop-up screen. On this screen, you will have to state the reason for the cancellation. In order to keep your Google cancellation feed up to date, you have to enter this data.
- Deal with Customer Escalations Promptly: If a customer is not happy with one of your employees, and wants to talk to someone in a higher position, this issue must be resolved within one working day.
- Use a Custom Domain and Have an SSL Certificate: Your website must have its own custom domain, and have an SSL certificate to participate in the Google Trusted Stores program.
Launching in the UK, the Google Trusted Stores program is sure to have a big impact on eCommerce and paid search, and may helpincrease conversion rates for many stores.
September 16th, 2014.
The reason behind writing this post is simple. Although AdWords is a very performant and user friendly platform a new user might get caught in a web of settings and technical procedures – the post you are about to read intends to make things easier to understand.
Keywords & Text Ads
No matter how newly accustomed you are to the AdWords platform you must have heard about the famous Quality Score and about the advertisers’ task to make it bigger and bigger.
By now you must now that the bigger the Quality Score is, the better your campaigns will convert and the higher your ROI will be. So let me clarify the rules a bit.
Customers search on Google for different things and advertisers try to target these searches by using keywords. A very important aspect of the keywords is that they have to match the clients’ search terms.
When you are starting a keyword list you should try to enclose all the search queries your clients might use. You should also add the main categories of your business or of the services you provide. Also, break your keywords into related themes – it will make tracking their performance much easier. Remember – your campaigns should look neat and organised!
P. S. If you are running out of ideas when adding new keywords you can use the Keyword Planner to get that much needed inspiration!
The Text ads are those ads that inform the client about your business. You want them catchy and interesting? If yes, just try to apply these simple suggestions:
- Inform your clients about that feature that makes you better than your competitors. Doesn’t matter if its “discreet delivery” or “lowest price guaranteed” what matters is that your “unique” services should be advertised.
- Include the promotions and the prices – let the clients know that your great offers are time-limited.
- The Call-to-Action should be loud & clear. Invite your clients to “order” or “sign up”.
- Remember those keywords we were speaking earlier? Add some of those in your text ads!
- Landing pages should match your keywords and your text ads and present exactly the services you are advertising.
- Location extensions & Call Extensions & Callouts are AdWords’ way of helping you become more visible. Say “Thank you, AdWords!” and make them really work to your advantage.
And remember the quality and the relevance of the keywords and of the text ads are going to have an impact on your CPC so try to make them relevant to your business!
September 3rd, 2014.
We’re always telling our clients that following Google’s best practice is the best strategy to ensure longer-term success in the search results.
So it’s no surprise that every small announcement of changes to their algorithm now gets picked up upon quickly and generates a rush to ‘comply’ regardless of the detail.
In our opinion site speed is really important for the user. Whilst Google will also look at this metric it is way down its list on important factors affecting page/site rankings. Matt Cutts himself even stated that these changes would affect less than 1% of all queries,
You’ll notice that the current implementation mentions that fewer than 1% of search queries will change as a result of incorporating site speed into our ranking. That means that even fewer search results are affected, since the average search query is returning 10 or so search results on each page. So please don’t worry that the effect of this change will be huge. In fact, I believe the official blog post mentioned that “We launched this change a few weeks back after rigorous testing.” The fact that not too many people noticed the change is another reason not to stress out disproportionately over this change.
Site owners seem happy to panic about site speed and security before addressing more fundamental (and infinitely more important) aspects such as page mark-up, site structure and hierarchy, and on-site copy.
It goes without saying that a fast site will improve usabiltiy and help conversions and this is as good or better reason for addressing it than for a Google announcement.
Recently Google announced that they will treat sites served with https better then sites that aren’t using a secure certificate.
As with site speed metrics, this is way down on Google’s list of priorities in the ranking algorithm, and we do not consider that it is a particular band wagon to be jumping on with the aim of improving search results. Google themselves admit that
“For now it’s only a very lightweight signal—affecting fewer than 1% of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content—while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS. But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we’d like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web.”
Google certainly has history of implementing changes which website owners feel obliged to comply with, only to backtrack on them later.
So our advice is to implement HTTPs on your site only if you feel it is required for other reasons than just search (eg customer confidence), we have outlined the possible pros and cons for you below,
- Your site is protected by an additional SSL layer
- A minimal algorithmic gain in rankings, implementation is certainly unlikely to result in any visible rankings changes
- An increase in trust from site visitors, especially important on sites offering more sensitive data or transactions
- The initial connection to your site may be slower, especially if you have to implement 301 redirects from non https pages
- Cost of an annual SSL (if you don’t already have one)
- In some cases you may lose referral data
- You’ll need to ensure all https pages are correctly 301 redirected to the newer https versions
- Need to update your internal link structure if you’re using relative URLs for internal links
- You may find that many products don’t support the use of https
June 5th, 2014.
Are you currently designing a new website for your business? What are you looking to achieve? Are you confused with how to balance an amazing user experience with higher organic traffic?
Questions like the above are asked all the time and if you’ve been following design trends over the past couple of years, then you should be no stranger to Parallax scrolling.
Let’s be upfront, parallax design is beautiful, it give voice to brands and an experience that wow’s most users. However it would seem that SEO and Parallax are still no closer to a perfect romance and website owners often sacrifice one for another.
My job is to help get SEO and Parallax into the same bed with a mission to start a new breed of super sexy search savvy slick sites. (I’m a sucker for sibilance).
The parallax design list of compatibility problems
Design – In many cases a designer using parallax will opt for a single page design which makes it difficult to optimise a site for a wide variety of search terms. Having a good spread of topical pages not only gives users access to deeper content and knowledge but also helps increase your over all search visibility. Given that, you should plan out your sitemap to allow for supporting pages to have deeper content around most of the keywords.
Analytics – Another challenge is in gaining valued and accurate analytics for your website. How accurately can you measure engagement on a single page website? The problem is parallax pages take a long time to load so users can often get frustrated and click elsewhere.
The second problem is identifying the stronger pieces of content on the page as the “time spent on page” metric will become more ambiguous. The only workaround I can see from this problem would be to use heat mapping software which might highlight the pieces of content that users were most drawn to.
Finally what to do about setting conversion goals? You would require another page if you want to measure users who were interested in a part of the content but didn’t follow through on their intent.
Page Speed – Another sacrifice of having a beautiful parallax design is the heavy load on the home page. This is generally caused by having very high quality images and videos all located on one file. Although some of these issues can be resolved using faster servers, tidy code and CDNs. Google still dislikes slow page speeds as this represents a poor user experience in their eyes. Use Google’s page speed insights to check your site doesn’t offend.
Mobile – There still isn’t a perfect solution for using Parallax scrolling on mobile devices. Webmasters will have to create separate versions of the site specifically for mobile devices. A popular example of this is Google’s “How search Works”.
How to make the two compatible
Yes it’s possible. The two can co-exist in a way that pleases the eyes of both users and Google.
1) A “One page” design with parallax scrolling using jQuery.
This was first written about by Kevin Ellen of iProspect. The solution uses the help of jQuery’s “pushstate” functionality. This allows a parallax scrolling page to be cut into many various sections which can be identified by Google in the SERPS. The great thing about using this function is that each section will have its own unique URL and Meta data. This is great because one single page can be indexed multiple times for different content. This is handy because parallax designs that are implemented without any specialist SEO advice sometimes result in a severe lack of indexed pages meaning a poor search visibility.
– Pushstate is a great funtion for an existing one page parallax scrolling website that needs to be optimised for search.
-The function is perfect for smaller businesses or a branded mini site. Perhaps these are more interested in UX than SEO. This solution offers the best of both worlds on a very small scale but could never work on a bigger scale, such as an ecommerce site.
– It is a bit of an analytics fail. Scrolling through each of the sections will send signals to your analytics packages that users are bouncing or exiting content very quickly. Again, this might not be a huge issue for small businesses or mini sites that use the function for branding or simply referring traffic.
2) Adopt an SEO architecture allowing multipage parallax scrolling.
Put simply, you start with SEO page architecture pyramid and then place the parallax scrolling design effects on each URL. This is perhaps the perfect compromise between UX and SEO, neither outweighed by the other.
– Beneficial for analytical software because each URL has its own content. Tracking can be placed across all the pages making setting up conversion goals and understanding user behaviour much easier.
– It doesn’t exactly follow the parallax scrolling trend and is therefore not as effective for telling potential of a brands story.
-The design might seem attractive however, having more pages also means that more maintenance is required which could lead to more expensive costs from your design team.
3) Parallax scrolling on homepage and regular SEO architecture.
This technique places parallax scrolling on the homepage and then includes other URL’s that are SEO-friendly, but do not have parallax scrolling. This is the method adopted by brands such as Spotify. It allows them to have an attractive home page which helps communicate the brands voice. Having other non parallax pages helps the users can then dig deeper into the websites content if they’d like to find out more about a particular service.
Another idea would be add a blog on the site. The addition of a blog to your parallax site can add tremendous value when trying to attract visitors. It’s also another way to showcase your industry knowledge and authority.
– Keeps the website light and flexible, making it easier to maintain and design whilst being more affordable than the previous two options.
– Creativity is kept in a box and fails to make the whole website UX and super interactive experience.
Can Parallax actually help your SEO?
Can a parallax design actually help your SEO? The answer is ‘yes it can’, but the best way forward would be to consult your search agency before you think of going gung ho on a funky new design. Seeing a mesmerising new design for your business can be exciting but don’t let it blind your judgement. A short consultation with your search agency should ensure that you can benefit from beautiful design without risking a huge drop in traffic because you dropped most of your web pages.
As SEO has started to become increasingly integrated into the normal marketing process and more specifically content marketing, using a parallax design is the perfect excuse to delve deep into the world of producing great content. Giving users an intuitive brand experience whilst delivering a compelling story can help attract more backlinks, repeat users and referrals. “No other recent web design technology has done more to impact the way we tell stories online than parallax”.
And if you are connecting more with your audience, then your content is likely being shared more widely, thus increasing your visibility in social media whilst hopefully grabbing the attention of industry influencers. All of which means you can create content for conversion.
For many small business owners, online marketing is a vital component of the marketing mix, and thankfully in my experience; this is something that most small business owners will know very well. And while there are a lot of ways to get noticed on the internet, the best way to get online attention has always been Google. Because of Google’s ever-reaching virtual arm, a business owner would be advised take advantage of the local-business focused Google Places.
Google Places is a great tool for any locally focused business, and it’s also free and easy to set up. This post is going to show you exactly how to get your business listed on Google Places and it’s going to take you through the all-important task of getting ranked.
Setting Up Your Account and Getting Listed
Before we get to optimisation, I’m going to take you step by step through getting your business actually listed on Google Places. This process is fairly straightforward and the initial setup should take no more than an hour.
Step 1 – Create a Google Account for Your Business
To start with the very basics, you are going to need a google account for your business. You probably already have a personal google account, but it is advisable to make one specifically for your business. The reason for this is that there is a chance that an employee will manage your listing at some point, and you probably won’t want them on your personal account. This is also convenient if your business does ever switch hands in the future. It’s best to keep your business account easy to remember, and most people will simply put their business name @gmail.com.
Step 2 – Claim Your Business as Yours
If your business Gmail account is good to go then you can now claim your business and get it listed. Now you’ll need to go to the Google Places homepage and click Get Started. Click “Get your business found on Google” and now you’re off to the races. Since this is your first time listing a business under your business account you will have to search for the business by your country and phone number. It is important that you use the businesses landline for this search or google won’t recognise the business (this is because of the integration with google maps).
When you search for your business Google will either find your business and show you basic information (usually pulled from directory sources such as Yell) or it will take you to the next step that we’ll cover. If it does have you listed already then still don’t worry because you will be able to edit and add more information about your business. At this point your business is being claimed as yours and you will now move on to the biggest part of this guide.
Step 3 – Edit Your Listing
Now you are in control of your listing and you can get started on entering all of the details of your business. Google will want you to be very specific and you should prepare yourself because there is quite a lot of information to be entered now. We’re going to touch on each area now and give you a good idea of how to efficiently do each section.
Basic Information is where you’ll input all of the, you guessed it, basics of your business. This section is fairly easy to understand, but it is also very important for your listing. These are the categories that your listing must have, straight from Google:
- Company Name
- City, County, Postcode
- Main Phone Number
While the fields are pretty self-explanatory it is important to note that consistency is key here. Google wants to trust your business and it wants to make things simple for the consumer, so it is very important that you enter everything here consistently with how you’ve used it in the past. Look at other websites that your business is on, such as FreeIndex or Qype, and make sure that every detail is identical. It really helps to nitpick here because even minute things like using St. instead of Street can make a difference to Google.
The business description in Basic Information is also a very important part of your listing. This is your time to shine and make your business look good (all in 200 characters or less), so you should think of it as something that you would feature on your own business website. Use keywords here and make sure to target the description to your ideal consumers.
Service Areas and Location Settings Areas
In this area you will be asked if your business is in one location or if it is in multiple locations. If your business doesn’t do deliveries or outside business of any kind then select that option and you’re done. If your business does operate in multiple locations then you will have to determine an area of service. For this option you can either provide a distance from your location or list the cities/areas that you want to be listed in. Both options have their advantages and it will really depend on your type of business.
Hours of Operation and Payment Options
This section is again pretty straightforward. Google will pull the information from your company website if you don’t enter it, but it is best to be in control of the information and avoid any errors. Completely filling everything out will also help to build on your reputation with Google and make you look more trustworthy.
Photos are a very important part of your listing and they should definitely be included. Pictures will make your business look more attractive to potential customers and it will also make you look more professional and trustworthy to Google. There is a limit of 10 pictures so be sure to use the best pictures possible with you limited slots. It’s also a very good idea to use your most important pictures first, so that customers see the good ones even if they don’t look through all of them. The pictures that you should use include:
- Company logo
- Images of your employees at your business
- Pictures of your products
- Pictures of the business itself
Videos aren’t exactly necessary in your listing, but they definitely won’t hurt. Every little thing still builds credibility and makes you look more trustworthy.
It might be tempting to put keywords and extra marketing in this section, but that would be a very bad idea. The best use of this area is to put additional details only, things similar to the examples that Google offers (brands carried, parking). You can use your keywords in the other sections, but reserve this area only for important details that didn’t fit in the other areas.
Step 4 – Verify Your Google Places Listing
You are almost done now, but you still to verify with google that you do actually own your business before you can take full control of your listing. There are two options for verifying your listing, and these options are phone verification and mail verification. Mail verification can take 2-3 weeks so as long as the option is available to you (which it will be in 99% of cases), you’ll want to use the phone option. Immediately after you choose the phone option your business line will receive an automated call from Google which will give you the 5 digit verification pin. Enter the pin and you will finally be ready to go on your listing.
Optimising Your Google Places Listing
Now you and your business are all set up and verified on Google Places, but there are still some things that you can do to get the highest ranking possible on your listing. Being listed is all well and good, but this isn’t the same thing as being found.
A lot of the little tricks have been mentioned above, but I’m going to go through a few more good practices that will help to get your rankings up.
Maintain Your Google Places Listing
This might seem a bit obvious, but you will definitely want to keep up with your page and change any details if anything in your business changes. It’s also a good idea to check the analytics on your website and play with your listing until you get the optimum traffic from it.
Market Your Google Places Listing
It might seem redundant to market a marketing tool, but giving your listing some love really will make a big difference in the long run. To ensure that your Google Places listing gets the most attention possible you might want to consider these steps:
- Encourage your customers to review your listing – use transactional emails and mailing lists for this.
- Post updates on your Google Places page with things like coupons and discounts
- Build up business reviews on other reviews services
- Optimise your business website for Google
Utilise Citations to Improve Your Google Ranking
The last thing that we’re going to touch on which will really help your ranking is the all important tool of citations. Google loves to see you being mentioned on other websites, and having a good list of third party citations is one of the best things that you can do to improve your local ranking. There are countless services that list local businesses, and getting yours on just a few of these (but especially the right ones) will endlessly help you in your pursuit of getting noticed by customers. LocalVisibilitySystem is a great starting point to see the types of websites that you should be getting your business listed on.
I have also put-together a useful list of the top local citation sources that are used by Google.
The Excel Spreadsheet can be downloaded from here
The above tips will all help your business not only get listed on Google Places, but will also help you actually be seen. If you follow these steps and always keep your Google listing in mind then you will start to find that it is an excellent source of well-targeted local customers.
LASTLY – you can of course ask your SEO agency to do ensure you have your Local SEO done right. Please see how Datadial can help you by clicking here.
March 20th, 2014.
Again, Google gets the backs up of companies investing heavily in its services, though this time it’s not through an algorithm update or a change in the webmaster guidelines. Rather, it’s their comparison feature that has sandbagged the major comparison shopping firms.
If you’re involved in Travel, Finance or Insurance, you need to be aware that Google is interested in controlling these verticals within its own search engine, as much as possible. The opportunity for profit is huge as is the tonnes of valuable data that will be collected.
The Google comparison feature was soon released after they acquired comparison site “Beat That Quote” back in 2011. The feature meant that Google would appear for generic competitive industry related keywords, such as car insurance or mortgages. This is still the case today.
This move was understandable, Google’s desire to keep growing and monopolising the internet means that creations such as this are going to be more and more common. At the end of the day, they’ve reach mass market penetration in the UK, the only way to please the shareholders is to diversify into other lucrative industries.
Brand Bidding is Bad, Unless You’re Google
However, it looks like one rule for everyone else except Google, who haven’t been following their own rules again. Their position as overlords of the internet has entitled them to take advantage of the very companies that are paying them remarkable figures in Google adwords advertisement and other services.
Scratching your head?
Google’s comparison engine has gone a step further than simply appearing for the generic big industry keywords.
A branded search for anyone of the top comparison website rivals will return this:
They’ve effectively done MoneySuperMarket’s job for them, how thoughtful…
Despite the fact that MoneySuperMarket will probably be paying incredible sums of money to raise awareness of their brand name, all of which supports their offline marketing efforts, which includes extensive above the line media adverts. Their efforts are being sabotaged by Google’s “Sponsored” comparison engine which is essentially hijacking users away from the MoneySuperMarket website. Whilst doing this they’re also trying to force the users to adopt Google’s own engine instead, which features a list of alternative competitor insurance companies.
In a nutshell Google’s comparison engine seems to be a glorified affiliate site.
You thought Google only favoured the big brands…
So what do the big comparison sites do, how would you react? It would appear that they just have to accept it. Thanks Mike… ground breaking revelation there.
This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time that Google have tried to force users to use their platform over a potential rivals, this should sound familiar? Google are being hypocritical of their own guidelines and company mission statement.
We’ve all heard that providing a good user experience and unique authoritative content are what Google rewards the most, which makes perfect sense. So why when companies such as MoneySuperMarket provide awesome content, such as this, are they being pushed further down the SERPS real estate?
Kevin Gibbons recently wrote a great piece on how to beat Google in a vertical search, making the point that relying on Google is always a risky game, it’s your biggest competitor. It has your mindshare whenever want to find something or buy a product.
Kevin, goes onto to give great examples of how MoneySuperMarket are beating Google hand’s down by ultimately using their marketing as an acquisition channel which rewards them for coming back. They’re running newsletters, social media, blog, apps, SEO and remarketing to such an effect that a Google search is becoming more and more irrelevant.
And if all that doesn’t work, well at least they have Snoop Dog.
February 20th, 2014.
Google seems to have mutated into some kind of mutant King Sidam. Everything they touch turns to old (news).
Ask Joe Public who he thinks the leader of modern technological advances are and chances are he’ll say Google. And he’s probably right. Then why can’t Google seem to get it right when it comes to launching new products?
I’ll tell you why. But first I need to explain I’m not talking about Google’s acquisitions. They buy a new company every day. Whether it’s Motorola or Boston Dynamics (of terrifying Big Dog fame), they make strategic purchases to position themselves as market leaders in technology. Whenever they buy a company the ensuing press coverage surely boosts that company’s profile. That’s not their problem. Their problem is in launching new products.
First announced in 1901, Google Glass has been in tech news every 5 seconds ever since. You can’t move online without someone mentioning Google Glass. This isn’t the results of Google’s PR team though, it’s just because bloggers are lazy. They’ll write about anything that they think will generate page views. These posts are predictable and pernicious to Google’s overall success. Mostly they’re speculative or fluffed up with rumour, so by the time the real announcements come along we feel like we’ve heard it before.
Bloggers writing about something is one thing, but are people interested? According to Google’s own trend data, apparently they’re not.
Compare this with the pageantry and sense of mystery surrounding other tech announcements. Apple hold a massive conference every year to announce their new products. This occurs a few months before the official launch, fuelling discussion until the actual launch. Here is proof:
The same applies to the PS4 and XboxOne.
You could argue that this is an unfair comparison since these products had an existing market and Google Glass hasn’t been launched yet. I would contend that there is an existing market for Google Glass, but they’ve shown their hand too early. There’s no mystery and no awesome features for us to get excited about. Just a load of pictures of pretty people wearing obnoxious eyewear. And Sergey Brin beginning his transformation into Robert Downey Jr.
Remember Google Helpouts? Don’t worry. Neither does anyone else…
Basically it’s a peer-teaching platform where you can teach (or learn) through video calling. The learner pays the teacher for their time and everyone’s a winner. Except Google, who forgot to do any marketing…
It’s a good idea in theory. The main problem is people can use Google’s fairly well-known search engine to find free answers to their questions for a dash of the time, effort and cost of using Helpouts.
Consider Helpouts as a start-up (one with a billion-dollar backing, but a start-up all the same). Most successful Start-Ups use a growth marketing model. They start out small and build their exposure as interest and logistics allow. It seems like Google just launched their platform and hoped for the best.
Here’s a comparison with a red-hot start-up called Ranku (for finding free degree courses). Other than offering an entirely unique and useful service, Ranku has the benefit of not being called ‘Google CourseSearch’. I’m of the opinion that ‘Google [anything]’ is starting to feel a bit stale. People like to talk about fresh new ideas more than ‘Look what Google is doing now…’
Google Helpouts also sounds criminally like Google Hangouts. To the point where I typed the wrong one about 4 times when writing the preceding paragraphs. Hangouts feels like Google arriving late to the party (about 11 years too late…)
Speaking of being late to the party:
Ray Liotta says it best:
Or, as Google put it:
I think Google+ might be the exact moment Google’s PR went a bit wrong.
A social network that offers entirely no benefit over its rivals is a stupid idea to begin with. They’ve tried basic marketing, they’ve tried reasoning with us, they’ve even tried forcing us to get involved. The fact is, people don’t want it.
Like Vinyl, Betamax, DVD, and Blockbuster, there’s just no need for it. At all. Like actually no need whatsoever.
The PR campaign here just seems to be some kind of war of attrition. Google won’t admit defeat (I guess 300 million ‘users’ can’t be wrong), so they’ll just keep flogging a dead horse. After all, they have YouTube and Gmail – properties their rivals at Facebook and Twitter can never even hope to emulate. All the same, Google+ is a a fart at the proverbial shit fight.
It’s all about the Billions
You could argue that these losses of interest are negligible in the overall scheme of things. Google still has its crafty little fingers in pies of every flavour – so why does it matter if a couple lose money?
That’s just bad business. Why do something if you’re not going to do it right? Google has the reach, the money and the talent at its disposal to turn virtually any idea into a profit – it’s just about finding the right market (i.e. not launching your rocket into space and hoping for the best). This hit-and-hope mentality needs to change.
We hear a lot of rumours about Google’s self-driving car. Here’s what they need to do to ensure PR success and sustained interest:
1) Don’t drip-feed us with non-news stories about what colour the steering wheel might be, or pictures of pretty people in the passenger seat.
2) Don’t market it as something instantly lame like ‘Google Drivecar’. Give it a cool modern name that we won’t shudder to hear.
3) Create mystery and speculation around it. Talk about the crazy things it can actually do. Design elements are not cool functions.
4) Have a launch event where you tell everyone the same thing at the same time. Make it awesome.
5) Make sure all the marketing is as cool as this (it actually makes us get goose bumps about the possibilities):
(Just don’t use Oscar Pistorius…)
6) Watch this Ted talk. It’s about focussing on why a product is great rather than just what it does.
And if all else fails, you can make an infographic about it.
If you don’t work at Google but you want to talk about an online PR strategy for your company, give me a call.
February 10th, 2014.
Are you still waiting to implement a winning strategy in 2014? Is the doom and gloom hokum surrounding Google updates preventing you from making the right decisions?
Let me take you back to the past and into the shoes of a university student who chose to follow the straight arrow path of Marketing.
Amongst the countless amounts of acronyms and matrix tables that flooded lecture handouts is the classic “SMART” formula. The formula exists to guide you to defining better objectives.
Specific – Define what it is that you want to achieve. Answer those 5 W’s! Who, what, when, why and where.
Measurable – Quantify your objectives, how are you going to back up your results?
Achievable – We all like to overreach at times. When setting objectives make sure that they’re likely to be achieved by your team.
Relevant – Make sure the objectives are relevant to the business and in line with the overall marketing plan.
Time based – Set a date for the objectives to be complete (tricky in SEO).
A smarter SEO would also add
So I suppose you want a SMART example in SEO?
A fictitious Mexican food restaurant business based in the UK … “Guapo – Mexican”
“We want to target food lovers from the UK who enjoy tasting exciting Mexican dishes (specific) to raise awareness to our restaurant (actionable and relevant). We will aim to bring over 30,000 visits to our site (measurable) within 8 months (timely)”.
So, how will the SMART acronym apply to your 2014 strategy?
First you must begin to understand how search will change in 2014. So let’s take a look at the predictions.
2013 saw Google unleash the shackles on countless updates. If you weren’t scared at anyone point, then you’re a liar! We saw more frequent Penguin and Panda updates, Hummingbird and the (not provided) debacle finally hit its peak. Enough to send the SEO world into to complete disarray…
It’s safe to say that the SERPS changed in a big way last year. We saw steps to include more localised results as well as better integration of the knowledge graph.
A basic search for “Mexican food” returns a mixture of locally, knowledge based and contextually relevant results.
To get the most out of your SMARTER objectives for 2014, I’d suggest doing the following:
Make the most of local
1) Get listed on Google local places, claim your profile and add all the bells and whistles (360 Photos and Videos) to make sure that your profile stands out amongst your competitors.
2) Encourage sentiment and reward customers who review the restaurant on Google, Trip advisor, Yelp, Top table and other platforms.
3) A mobile version of your site is a must. The majority of mobile searches are for local services, take advantage of this by making your menu and deals accessible and shareable on mobile devices.
4) Go social… Nothing new there, but certainly a necessary step to taking up more first page real estate. In the case of the above example, the love of food is universal. Therefore a restaurant is blessed with the amount of social media tools available at its disposal. Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram and Pinterest can also be used to great effect. You could also top this off by adding a blog to your site. Adding a blog is an easy way to increase the amount of pages, helping you rank for a wider set of keywords.
5) Add separate pages for multiple locations. This helps Google deliver the best result to the searcher, it’s probably a good call to also add your contact details to many pages.
Move away from one type of Analytics
Predicted by Rand Fishkin in Moz’s 2013 predictions was that marketers would need to stop relying on Google analytics as the sole platform for web marketing. He was right by some degree, other platforms such as Mixpanel, Piwick, Omniture and Hubspot did grow significantly last year.
Google’s (not provided) alienated many web marketers who put all their eggs in one basket. Being able to measure and report became tough but that wasn’t the only issue. Identifying opportunities for growth also became difficult. The market is becoming more competitive and margin for errors of ignorance is less forgiving.
Heavier correlation of G+ in search results
A Moz report in 2013 found a high amount of correlation in search rankings and their number of Google +1’s. Cyrus Shepard reported on the findings as surprising, although “correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation”. The post did create some controversy which sparked Matt Cutts to respond to the debate via hacker news to poor cold water on the findings.
Make the most of Google + by building relationships with your audience and like minded businesses in your niche, identify the industry influencers and connect with them. Take advantage of rel=”publisher” and connect your website to your Google+ brand page.
Incorporating Google + tactics in your strategy will be more important than previous years. The research done by Moz and search metrics indicates the social networks significance and correlation to higher rankings. You will also benefit from increased Click through rate, relevant and influential communities as well as growing your brands authority.
Content Marketing continues to grow but who’s taking over the reins?
Content marketing has been the buzz word for the last couple of years now and it’s taken some time for many businesses to adjust, but to give you an idea of how far it’s come, it is said that up to 92% of marketers are now practicing some form of content marketing. But do marketers really know best?
The content marketing institute estimate that Marketers will have to up their game if they want to remain relevant. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s Journalists who are leading the way with great backgrounds in writing and storytelling and information design. They know how to orchestrate content that makes you care, is different to the competition, is new and surprises people. Beyond their storytelling abilities are tech and research skills and the ability to meet strict deadlines.
Marketer’s who can learn to think like journalists in 2014 will reap the benefits of good content marketing.
Don’t rely on any one tactic
This is nothing new… perhaps it could just be received as conventional wisdom. Relying on anyone SEO tactic will result in either one of two things:
You’ll get burned
Your gains will be short term and eventually … You’ll get burned
Ace job there…
Unfortunately, there will always be digital marketers that will want to get the best returns with as little investment as possible. Hereby lays the problem. The result of this cavalier attitude is low quality content that is happy to be placed on any site that will accept it.
For those of you who pay attention to the latest SEO news might have read about Google unleashing a fire demon on guest blogging this year. My advice to you is, just up your game and you should be fine. Guest posting isn’t dead: Google just raised the quality bar. Matt Cuts has recently blogged about guest posting and its use effectiveness as an SEO tactic. He says, “there are many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community,etc.) Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.”
The bottom line is, if you love your brand … why risk its demise? Make sure that you comply with the search engine guidelines and stay up to date with best practices. Try to focus on contributing thought leading articles and information that give you exposure, branding and increased reach. When trying to find a blog to post on, ask yourself … Would you be proud to see your brand exposed here? Does this blog capture my audience? Are the blog’s users engaged in its content?
How to be SMARTER in 2014
Specific – Are you taking local and mobile into account? … Your audience probably is.
Measurable – Google analytics is great, but to stay competitive you’re going to need more data.
Achievable – Can your team do the job? Maybe it’s time to look to hire journalists for your content marketing needs. Be aware how the SERP’s have changed this past year, it would appear that the contrast of real estate on the 1st page of Google keeps diversifying, with only 7 positions for some phrase types and 10 for others. Local listings, knowledge graph and semantic markup such as reviews and ratings also mean that there is so much more to play for.
Relevant – Are you tactics still relevant to your business plan. Does local SEO, social media’s integration in search and improved level of guest posting apply to your overall strategy and brand message?
Time Based – Setting a period in which to see results will always be tricky. However, you can set time periods for work to be completed. Reflect on the content marketing strategy, more and more journalist style marketers are going into content marketing not just because they know how tell a story but because they also know how to meet challenging deadlines.
Ethical – Make sure you’re meeting Google’s guidelines. Relying on anyone tactic will get you burned, you have to remember that your brand is at stake.
Recorded – Record the processes that you’re implementing throughout the strategy. Are the tactics working? Are they future proof? Are they following the plan?