October 27th, 2011.
Earlier this month Google announced changes to the importance Google AdWords places on Quality Score, which is likely to affect a number of advertisers. Based on tests carried out in Brazil, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Spain and Portugal, Google’s Adam Juda announced that the update will be rolled out globally over the coming weeks.
The update places more importance on the relevancy of a landing page when calculating Quality Score- a component in the formula which determines where your ad displays in search results and your cost per click when competing with other advertisers. Essentially- it’s now more important than ever to ensure that landing pages used for PPC are as relevant and optimised as possible- rewarded by higher positions with lower cost-per-click costs.
In an interview with Search Engine Land’s contributor Pamela Parker, Google’s Director of Product Management- Jonathan Alferness suggests that the current user experience for AdWords users could be improved:
What we’ve seen is that there are ads available in the auction that are as good a quality as the top ads. But the landing pages — the merchant sites, the advertiser landing pages — are of much higher quality than the ads that we see at the top of our auction… This means the user experience isn’t what it could be…
In the end, we believe that this will result in better quality experience for the users.
How will this change affect you?
With added emphasis on landing page Quality Score, it’s important to be aware of this change and now is the time to assess your current landing pages. We can expect to see an initial change within AdWords as this change initially rolls out to the rest of the world:
As the changes roll out, some campaigns will see variation in keyword Quality Scores and typical ad position. Within a couple weeks, things should stabilize and we expect most campaigns will not see a significant change in overall performance.
Past this, sites with lower quality landing pages may expect to see lower quality score values, lower ad positions, and possibly higher cost-per-click prices when competing against advertisers with better quality landing pages.
October 24th, 2011.
Google claim that 16% of more than a billion queries entered every day have never been seen before may sound hard to believe, but perhaps a closer look at how people search online is warranted first. 450 billion new, unique queries have been handled by Google since 2003. All of this begs the question what are users doing that results in such a large number of new and unique queries each day?
Firstly we need to look at how people actually use search engines. In their early experiences with search portals users tend to put in short, generic terms into the search engine. As users become more skilled in searching for the items or information that they want, their search terms become more specific and descriptive.
Instead of using short, generic keywords when searching for a pair of shoes for instance, the user might be inclined to be more descriptive of the type of shoes they are looking for using far more adjectives, e.g. light brown, leather, high heeled ladies court shoes, in the hope that it would be more specific to get exactly what they want.
It is also worth considering the search buying cycle as this especially impacts upon conversions.
Firstly think about how you yourself might behave online when you’re researching buying a product.
Taking a typical online purchase for something like a television. You might start with a search query for a very general phrase like TV or television. You’ll see that there are several irrelevant results for our purpose such as the BBC and ITV results, but using the informational properties such as Wikipedia, or the Google shopping results you may then make a decision that you’re looking for a plasma TV rather than an LCD TV.
Of course you may also decide to visit one of the commercial websites listed for these queries, or buy from the PPC listings, but it’s more likely you’ll want to research a bit more first.
Next you’ll probably search for Plasma TV, this is looking a bit more promising, there are several relevant shopping results some reviews websites and a few more relevant commercial sites appearing. After reading a few of the sites you decide that the Panasonic 50PZ800B looks fairly impressive and you want to find out a bit more about it.
Of course you search for it, possibly adding terms like review, test or comparison to bring up the more informational resources.
It’s about now that you feel you’re happy with your choice, you have compared it against other makes and models, you’re happy that it’s what you’re looking for and you want to go ahead and purchase.
To find online shops selling that specific model you may use buying trigger search terms such as buy or cheap, or possibly even adding geographic search terms such as London or UK.
As a site owner you need to be prepared to be targeting as many of these longer tail phrases as you can with your main site, no easy task when you don’t even know what they are!
Try to develop good (great) content on your site, category and product pages warrant special attention for this. Getting this right will result in high levels of targeted, focused, converting visitors.
October 20th, 2011.
Trusted Stores is an ecommerce certification program that Google launched early in October. The idea behind the program is that it will give people more assurance in buying from online retailers. At the moment the program is still in beta those ecommerce stores that attain Google qualification will be able to add a badge to their site, proclaiming them a Google trusted store. The program is backed, more interestingly, with a consumer purchase protection package worth $1,000.
Those retailers interested in applying to become a trusted store will need to furnish Google with certain consumer information as the company is of the opinion that retailer’s data is more trustworthy than customer surveys. In order to qualify for the Trusted Stores status internet retailers will need to demonstrate good customer service and a record of shipping goods on time. In terms of customer service retailers must have evidence of resolving any customer issues and disputes in a timely manner.
When customers move their mouse over the Trusted Stores badge, they will see the store’s customer service and shipping grades. Unlike the Google Checkout the company states, there is no connection between the new program and Google Adwords. Google further reiterated that the program is still in its early stages and too soon to speculate on how the program might be enhanced and expanded.
With respect to the purchase protection package mentioned earlier, it appears to work in a similar way to credit card companies that extend manufacturer’s purchase warranties. Google however, does not offer guarantees rather the $1,000 is potentially money back where retailers fail to resolve problems. The customer can only benefit from this package if they have chosen the free purchase protection option. The consumer should contact the retailer first where there is a problem, if this is not resolved, then the customer can call on Google to deal with it, or be able to claim money back. The fact is that Google is capable of getting retailers to find quick problem resolutions.
While Google have stated that their motive for introducing the program was to increase buyer confidence in online retailers, some may suspect the company of having hidden motives. Notions of a future tie in with Checkout or Adwords are at the moment, pure speculation. As yet it’s unclear precisely what data Google will be capturing, but if customers choose the personal protection, the retailer is more likely to have a record of the transactions.
October 20th, 2011.
When it comes to setting up and establishing a local business, there are a number of milestones. Getting your business letterhead, a merchant bank account and customers who aren’t family members, are just some of the hurdles that spring to mind. As soon as your business has grown sufficiently to warrant a mention on Google Places or Yelp, then you start to get customers’ versions or reviews of their experiences. The comments on your Yelp page should make you smile due to your conviction that you’ve provided people with excellent service.
The initial glow of customer reviews may not last, while it’s great to read the rave reviews about your business, it’s likely that you’ll see some that are bad, and possibly even a fiction of the writer’s imagination. The following should give you an inkling of the experiences of review sites that have befallen business consulting clients of mine.
- Customer is unhappy not to receive a refund when they have eaten their meal at an eating establishment, and to further his argument, adds other fictional complaints.
- Competitors who believe that bad mouthing someone else’s business is a valid marketing strategy.
- A negative review that was actually about a business other than yours
We could go on, but you get the picture. To some extent the kind of reviews you get will vary depending on what type of business you’re in and where it’s located. In some cities bar owners try to get along by arranging to have special nights or offers at different times, while in others the thing is to try and beat your competitors to the floor. No matter what your experience, you will need to find means of dealing with reviews of your business, and below are a few tips.
1. Even if a Customer Declares War, They are not Your Enemy
When there is a customer dispute, especially in the current economic crisis, and following reports of labor abuses, the business owner is always in the wrong.
Don’t respond to negative reviews and even downright lies with more of the same, if you do, you will harm your business even further. Take an approach that assumes the customer is genuinely mistaken, and maintain a professional manner.
2. Offer to Find a Solution to the Problem
If you want to safeguard your reputation, don’t admit to any wrongdoing, but offer to help the customer with their problem. If you’ve had a false detrimental review, try responding with something like the following (depending on what business you’re in)
Hi Paul, sorry to hear you thought we overcharged for your Pizza. We do our best to ensure that customers get exactly the toppings they order and all the prices are listed on our menu. We’re actually on the list good value for money pizza parlours. Please contact me, either by coming into the pizza parlour or giving me a call on the above number to see whether we can resolve this situation. Look forward to hearing from you, Steve.
If you already know the customer, it’s probably easy to get hold of them, sort out the problem and you may even persuade them to take the review down. You need to be careful when you contact a customer directly as it requires more tact than you might need on a review site, so take a sympathetic approach to the issue.
3. Be Ready to Accept that There Might be a Real Problem
While I’m not suggesting that the customer is right, if there is even a hint that the complaint is legitimate, then you still have to resolve the situation, and you need to ensure that the same thing never happens with another customer. You may find that your staff need retraining or you might even have to let a person go. Managing and training staff is extremely important, especially when they are in constant contact with customers and only earning minimum wage.
Perhaps your ingredients are not as good as you thought and you either need to improve them, change the supplier, or lower the price you charge. Sometimes it is possible to contact the review site and have a review removed, especially if the reviewer seems to be making a personal attack on you alone. If you have lots of positive reviews than the impact of one bad one should be minimal, ask all your satisfied customers to leave reviews as this will further boost your credibility against the occasional bad one.
July 8th, 2011.
1. You didn’t explain exactly what it was that you wanted…
Did the SEO agency you chose actually understand what it is you do? Did you assume they would? I bet you did! Well that was a rookie error – just because they know SEO, it doesn’t mean that automatically they’ll know all of your business goals and aspirations. It certainly doesn’t mean that through SEO, all of your dreams will come-true overnight. Covering things such as budget and goals are essential in order for us to devise the appropriate strategy for you.
2. The SEO’s weren’t told what already worked (or didn’t work) for you…
Were you clear about what the best features of your online endeavours are so far? Did you talk about what proved successful, or things you tried and that were unsuccessful?
All conversions can be tracked which shows any progress SEO’s have (or haven’t) made. However, if you don’t inform the SEO’s of what already works or doesn’t then you can’t argue if there are repeat mistakes.
3. You didn’t indicate the importance of having one main person oversee the account…
Because any reputable SEO agency isn’t made up of just one person behind a desk and computer handling every enquiry made, but is rather formed of a team of people ranging in size (the team not the people, although this applies to both ) that help manage your account – it is likely that, much like a ‘Chinese-whisper’, your goals, aims and dreams are somewhat diluted to anyone that didn’t speak to you directly.
For example, when person 1, explained the information to person 2, who made brief notes and handed those to person 3, person 3 wasn’t following your direct instructions. They might not have fully understood the notes…however, you don’t have to accept this. If you only feel comfortable with one person in particular handling your account, request that only that person have access to it. This way, any changes made by you won’t come as a surprise to the SEO.
4. You didn’t understand the amount of work needed and so were surprised when costs were higher than expected…
Good Search Engine Optimization will get your site discovered in online search results. There is however, more to it than that. Many people in an SEO agency work to get your site to its optimum, and you need to be aware of just how much work goes into this.
This team will mainly be in charge of making sure that SEO is being carried out for all your online needs
This team works alongside the SEOs to help get you publicity online.
Usability & Design:
This team will have the job of creating a smooth user experience for all users that come across your website.
This team will develop, build and ensure things work – such as buttons on your site, conversion tracking and more.
Providers of Content:
This team will ensure that good content is maintained, and optimised so that people can find it.
5. You didn’t maintain a good relationship with the agency…
Chances are, you started off all guns blazing, before slowly falling into a pattern of laziness, assuming the agency would take care of everything the way you wanted – meaning you wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Further, you were unavailable for meetings, you didn’t specify what kinds of reports you wanted, and changes were (or were not) made that you caused dissaproval. When (on your say-so) these changes were reversed, rankings and conversions fell and this caused (even more) tension between you and the agency.
Remember, rankings and conversion rates can see-saw and any changes made to your site can take time to show the positive affect they are having. You should try not to ignore advice about possible re-designs or new pages that should be added to your site. Other things to consider are using services to monitor your online reputation and testing better versions of your website to get the best results.
February 24th, 2011.
The current trend of Newspaper sites to publish their content behind paywalls seems to be gathering speed. The recent Google announcement of its OnePass payment system can only increase the process by making payment technology available to a wider audience.
I thought it would be interesting to look to see how the move to paywalls has affected the news sites backlink acquisition rates.
So far the main newspapers that have added Paywalls have been,
- The Financial Times – 2002
- Moneyweek – 2005
- The Times and The Sunday Times – April 2010
- The News Of The World – November 2010
- The Telegraph is set to add a paywall in September 2011
Taking the two most recent examples of The Time and The News Of The World, and using the excellent Majestic SEO graph functionality we are able to see changes on their backlink acquisition rates.
Similar, but less dramatic results for The Times. This is slightly more confusing as the paywall coincided with a domain change from timesonline.co.uk to thetimes.co.uk. We can see clearly that link gains to the old URL start to decline without the new domain ever really gaining links as a comparative rate.
Where I see some really interesting data is in the rate of acquisition for competitors sites who chose not to implement a paywall. A close online and offline competitor to both The Times and NOTW is The Daily Mail.
Their acquisition rate starts to climb sharply from the date The Times paywall goes live, and their highest ever month coincides with the NOTW adding their paywall. It’ll be interesting to see if the following two low months, December and January are a result of incomplete link data or some other trend.
It’s an interesting theory to see of the final few content producers within a market start to perform far better in terms of finance and popularity than those that eventually choose to follow the paywall route.