Following the launch of Google Allo, it was learned this week that the company’s smart messaging app may be a cause for concern when it comes to privacy.

Allo, an app which Google claims has privacy in mind, keeps all messages indefinitely until they are manually deleted. While that may not matter to some, there are others who aren’t comfortable with their correspondence being saved forever.

The reported reason behind Google’s decision to have Allo store messages permanently has to do with the Smart Reply function. It is thought that the technology will work better if it has a longer backlog of conversation history to draw from.

Allo’s approach to storing messages actually sets it apart from its competitors. While other messaging apps have privacy functions turned on by default, Allo is instead trasparent about the fact that it’s storing your messages from day one.

Users will have full control over how long the data stays on Google servers, with the option to delete entire conversations or just single messages. As another option, people can use Incognito Mode, which offers end-to-end encryption.

Over time we’ll see if the trade off of privacy is worth having Smart Reply being able to accurately predict what you’re going to say next.

Source : https://www.searchenginejournal.com

 

Categorized in Internet Privacy

The always online lifestyle of workers today means that their files need to be on hand anytime. To do this, many upload their files in Google's cloud service, Google Drive.

Some users though have complained that it is difficult to find files uploaded in the site. The tech company seemingly has taken these complaints into account and taken action to resolve it.

Google announced an upgrade to its cloud storage service, Google Drive, giving it search option capabilities similar to its internet search.

The upgrade includes the addition of natural-language-processing (NLP) features in the search bar of Google Drive.

User can now find files and information in the cloud in the same way they find information through Google's website search engine.

The updated Google Drive will allow the retrieval of files using commonly used phrases and will provide key word suggestions, which is already familiar to users who have used the Google search engine.

Apparently, the addition of natural-language-processing (NLP) has made these changes possible.

Google Product Manager Josh Smith described NLP as a "fancy way of saying 'search like you talk.'" He added, "Drive will understand what you mean and give you the option to click for those specific search results."

Searching "Google Drive" for documents using specific filenames can now be abandoned.

Instead, users can type, for instance, "show budget spreadsheets" or "find presentations from Jodie," and the cloud service will find the files.

Google Drive will also now autocorrect misspelled search word in queries. What is more important is that Google Drive's NLP can learn and even improve with each query.

Lastly, Google Drive users can now divide documents into multiple columns. Auto saving of files when using MS Word, Excel and Powerpoint will also take effect.

The search upgrade of Google Drive comes at time when the tech firm has just introduced a host of IT-friendly features for "Google Drive for Work" which include sharing controls, security features and custom alerts.

Google said that as of March 2015 last year, more than 1,800 businesses registered up for "Google Drive for Work" every week

Source : http://www.itechpost.com

Categorized in Search Engine

 

More than half of all traffic to luxury brand Web sites comes from search. Some 46% of this traffic is paid, greater than the paid rate seen for the broader apparel and accessories market at 39%, according to research released this week.

Once consumers reach the brand's Web site, according to data from the PMX Agency study, Google, alone, accounts for 48% of all referrals to luxury brand sites. The search engine is the biggest source of traffic to the luxury category. Nearly 40% of visitors leaving a luxury brand site keep shopping by going on to another retail site.

PMX Agency’s 2016 Trend Report — Luxury Brands Online – analyzes the success of top luxury apparel brands online by leveraging a variety of metrics such as site visits, brand searches and social media interactions to better understand reach and consumer engagement.

The report suggests that the market segment for personal luxury goods will grow between 2% and 3% by 2020, up from $282 billion in global sales in 2016.

More than 80 apparel brands such as Louis Vuitton and Hermès, newer brands like Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, J.W. Anderson, and Christopher Kane serve as a benchmark for the luxury sector study.

Lancel has the highest percentage of visits from search engines to its Web site at 79.2%. Ironically, 0% comes from paid search ads and 100% from organic search. Manolo Blahnik at 78.2% of visits from search engines and Céline with 73.2% of visits from search engines also get all of the online traffic to their Web sites from organic search.

When it comes to online market share by brand, Ralph Lauren had top online market share among luxury brands, accounting for roughly 1 in 5 visits to the category.

Ten brands -- Ralph Lauren, Michael Kors, Coach, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, Burberry, Hermès, Louboutin and Versace  -- account for 78.5% of traffic to the luxury category and are the same as reported in 2015.

Chris Paradysz, CEO of PMX Agency, said brands like Ralph Lauren will attempt to inspire and close that gap between the super-affluent and the consumers with the disposable income who may or may not choose to spend it with traditional brands. "They need a new experience to entice them and keep them connected and engaged," he said.  

Keyword variations of "handbags" -- such as "bags," "purses" and "clutch" -- remain among the most popular, and show that this accessory is still a key product for attracting consumers to luxury brand sites.

The coexistence of all players such as consignment sites, brand sites and partner stores in search results brings considerations like price, shipping costs and preowned goods to the forefront. Luxury brands that may not wish to compete on price should promote exclusive content or product selection as a key differentiator, according to the report.

Ralph Lauren captured top market share among luxury brands, receiving nearly 1 in 5 visits to the category -- 19.2% of total visits. The brand jockeys for the top spot with Michael Kors, which is nearly as popular at 18.5%. 

Source : http://www.mediapost.com/

 

Categorized in Search Engine

I am reluctant to write something about this because the chatter in the SEO community is all over the place. It seems like many are saying that Google is testing the new Penguin 4.0 update in the wild. Some are saying they see rankings for Penguin impacted sites jump up and down over the course of the same day.

It is possible that Google might be testing Penguin 4.0 on some users but I am not sure if that is how this algorithm release can work. I suspect it can, but again, it is hard to tell.

The Black Hat Forums thread on page 14 started to spike up again with people saying their sites were going up and down over the course of 24 hours. There is also some chatter about this in the ongoing WebmasterWorld thread.

The tools are hit or miss, it depends on when they run and if they hit the Google Penguin test (if there is a test). For example, Mozcast has been on fire all week:

click for full size

But some of the other tools are steadily high or just all over the place.

Here are some quotes from the threads:

Right now it's just dancing around bit, but in all likelihood these small patch updates are warning sings of an impending penguin 4.0
It is my opinion that Google is probably testing a filter on those weird days, and some people are winners and other are loosers. Since our company is expecting a Penguin recovery (due to recent NSEO disavowels), and since Penguin is imminent, and since we have good days when others report bad days, this behavior is most likely Penguin testing. About a year ago, Google said Penguin was coming soon. That's about the time "Zombies" started getting reported.

I am seeing many tweets from folks and I have tons and tons of emails from people asking me what is up.

Again, it is too early to tell but it wouldn't surprise me if Google is testing a Penguin refresh.

Forum discussion at Black Hat Forums and WebmasterWorld.

Update: As the day goes on, it seems more and more like Google is indeed testing the new Penguin update. No confirmation from Google on this.

Update #2: Friday at 8am ET, Google confirmed the roll out of Google Penguin 4.0, the real time version.

 

Source : https://www.seroundtable.com

Categorized in Search Engine

 

Columnist Jordan Kasteler notes that strong search performance requires more than just ranking well in organic results. The tools listed here can enhance your existing listings and help you to appear in other places on the search results pages.

 

It’s no secret that Google is in a constant state of change. The “ten blue links” that used to comprise a search engine results page (SERP) are diminishing in importance, and new features are becoming more essential with every passing month. From image results and local packs to site links and knowledge panels, Google is reshaping search marketing.

Clearly, focusing only on your website is no longer effective. Ranking higher than your competitor in Google’s organic rankings is less meaningful if that competitor is displayed in, say, an answer box. The current name of the SEO game is acquiring as much page real estate on the SERPs as possible.

For example, a best-case scenario for search would be to do well in AdWords results, land a featured snippet, get a spot in a local pack and rank high in the organic listings. It also helps to have a presence in the Knowledge Graph and be seen in video snippets, images and news feeds that show up on Google.

To really create a competitive edge in this changing SEO landscape, don’t hesitate to get a little help from some friends — and by friends, I mean tools that help you leverage SERP features.

Here are a few such tools that can sharpen your SEO sword:

1. Yotpo’s Search Enhancements

Do you work in e-commerce? If so, you’ll definitely want to look into Yotpo, which focuses on integrating reviews into your website for greater SERP visibility. Its helpful, SERP-enhacing features include:

  • inline SEO: Includes reviews as part of a website’s content. The goal is to give an online store fresher content and a wider variety of potential keywords to rank for.

yotpo inline seo

  • Google Product Listing Ads with product ratings: Yotpo can help your Google Shopping and search results display product ratings, which can make your listing stand out from the competition.

Google Product Listing Ads

  • rich snippets: Yotpo helps an online business become more visible on SERPs through review and rating rich snippets.  

Yotpo Rich Snippets

2. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool

Structured data is one element that really revs up today’s SEO. Because it labels a website’s data to make the website look better to Google, structured data boosts visibility and helps skyrocket traffic. Although Google doesn’t consider it mandatory for high ranking, using structured data is certainly recommended.

Are you using structured data effectively? Are there any errors that need to be fixed in your schema markup? The good news is that you don’t even have to ask these questions. Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool will tell you if anything is out of place, making it easy for you to fix any issues.

Google structured data testing tool

3. Data Highlighter

This ultra-handy webmaster tool “teaches” Google about how you structure your website’s data. It lets you quickly and easily tag your site’s data fields so Google can better display your website in as many SERP features as possible.

Google Data Highlighter

4. Schema-friendly WordPress themes

To really make your SEO activities much easier, do yourself a favor and take advantage of the manyfree WordPress themes with schema markup built right in. There are schema-friendly themes for many kinds of industries, formats and blog platforms. When creating a blogcompare blog sites to know the best fit for you.

mythemeshop seo wordpress themes

 

 

5. Schema markup WordPress plugins

Also, as you may have suspected, several schema markup plugins are available. A few of them include:

  • Schema App Structured Data: This tool allows you to edit your WordPress site’s schema markup directly, even if you have zero coding knowledge.

schema wordpress plugin

 

 

  • WP Rich Snippets: This is an excellent plugin to explore if you run a review site. It helps you mark up your content so your site will be as accessible as possible to Google.

Wordpress rich snippets

 

 

All in One rich snippets

6. Moz Pro’s Advanced SERP Feature Tracking

Moz offers an excellent tool to help you stay aware of the vast SERP feature environment. They market their Advanced SERP Feature Tracking tool as containing the most comprehensive data set on the market.

This tool provides analysis of featured snippets, image packs, in-depth articles, local packs, knowledge cards and knowledge panels, site links and more.

Moz SERP features

 

 

7. Rank Ranger’s Google SERP Features Tool

Rank Ranger’s SERP Features Tool tracks the presences of various SERP features over time. How often is a particular feature appearing? Is its presence within the SERPs generally increasing or decreasing?

According to Range Ranker:

This free research tool can be used to benchmark and explore the presence and trending of Knowledge Graphs, Ads, Images, Local Pack, News Pack, Related Search and Organic Results counts, plus special page indicators (e.g., breadcrumbs, events, HTTPs, ratings, notable online, image and video thumbnails, search box, sitelinks, Twitter pack, etc.)

Rank Ranger SERP features

Rank Ranger also provides a helpful guide to all the existing Google SERP features, including visual examples of each, here.

8. STAT

This is an excellent tool for discovering if any of your keywords trigger SERP features such as answer boxes. STAT tracks 20,000 websites and 218,000 consumer products daily.

STAT tool

9. SEMrush

SEMrush is useful when you need competitive data. Use it to find out if the keywords your competitors rank for trigger any SERP features like featured snippets, local packs, Knowledge Graph panels, Google News and so on.

SEMrush tool

Don’t go it alone!

Effective marketing has always been a complex endeavor, and Google’s constant innovations don’t make things any easier. But with change and innovation comes progress.
Scott Lazerson

Staying current with SEO best practices will only give you a competitive advantage, and that’s where these tools come into play.

To be the best SEO practitioner, always be on the lookout for valuable tools that can make you more proficient. Experiment every day, use the apps that work for you, and know when to abandon the ones that aren’t improving your processes. Just like a good mentor, new tools can help you reach higher levels of success.

Source : http://searchengineland.com/

 

 

Categorized in Search Engine

It had been a while since SEOs were abuzz with a possible Google update, but a big one hit just before Labor Day weekend, according to chatter amongst webmasters.

In fact, website owners may be looking at two separate updates since many site owners reported seeing big fluctuations in their organic and local search visibility.

Here are 6 things we know so far:

1. It’s Hot Out There

The update appears to have happened on or around September 1, the Thursday before Labor Day Weekend, according to Mozcast.com. If you are not familiar with Mozcast, it is a weather report detailing turbulence in Google’s algorithm on a day to day basis. The hotter and stormier a day is, the greater the change in Google’s rankings. And on September 1, the temperature was 108, and the weather was stormy. In fact, it was the hottest, stormiest day on Mozcast over at least the past 30 days.Moz Forecast September 1

2. Core Search + Local

The updates, according to data posted by webmasters at several online forums, like this, and reported by Search Engine Land appears to affect Google’s Core Search algorithm and also changes to the local search 3-pack.

3. Quality Content is Important

Google’s core web search algorithm, aka Hummingbird, includes a ton of different elements, so pinpointing what aspect of the algorithm has been updated. However, if it is part of core search, you can bet the focus is on quality content and a solid site architecture.

4. RankBrain Could Be Involved

Also, about a year ago, Google announced their rollout of RankBrain, a component of the algorithm that uses “RankBrain” an artificial intelligence system that uses machine learning to process search results and provide more relevant results to users. There is widespread speculation that Google’s latest suspected update involves Rankbrain. More on that later.

RankBrain Diagram

5. Not Penguin

Google loosely confirmed that there was an update, but that it did not involve the Penguin algorithm – the system Google uses to evaluate a website’s links, both internally and from third party sources.Sidenote: Google announced on September 7th that they are working on the Penguin launch announcement. It’s been roughly one year and ten months since the last Penguin update in October 2014.

6. Spam Clean-Up

Most of the impact on local search results appears to have affected spammy results. Google Maps, historically, has been plagued by spam. A niche that had exploited Google Maps was the locksmith industry, with many site owners creating fictitious listings in an effort to generate phone calls and web traffic for more website searches in a geographic area without having physical locations.

There were a ton of complaints about these types of practices, but Google had been slow in cleaning up the data. The two images below show the difference for a “locksmith” related search near Times Square. The image on the left was from 2009 (image courtesy of blumenthals.com), when this type of spam was widespread. The image on the right is for what is currently in Google Maps.

Google Maps location spam

The Impact on You

The impact on you will be largely unnoticeable right now. Organic traffic and rankings for our own clients was reviewed on September 5 & 6, the Tuesday and Wednesday following the update. No changes, significant or otherwise, have been seen.

However, what makes this update, and many other Google updates so difficult to analyze is that they usually roll out an update just prior to a weekend. Additionally, because it takes time – sometimes weeks to months – for a rollout to complete, the full effects are not immediately known. Rest assured, however, that we will continue to monitor our clients traffic and rankings and react accordingly if and when the need arises.

So, What About RankBrain?

If this update to the core search algorithm did involve RankBrain, then Google could be placing more emphasis on search results that have poor user engagement and experience metrics. Low time on site, high bounce rates and poor click-through rates are all signals that often convey that the search query used or suggested by Big G did not match the search intent.

Think about this: 

Rank Brain is sophisticated enough to learn what people are looking for when they don’t search specifically for what they are looking for. It can do this because it has so much data, and it is confident it can effectively provide the answer the searcher is looking for, even if they don’t use the correct question. And if it is truly learning, then the quality of the results should be improving over time.

An example of this is a query would be: “who won the 1994 World Series?” The correct answer is that there was NO World Series in 1994, due to an ongoing strike by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Google is confident in the answer to this, so they provide the answer right in search results. Varying the keyword slightly (“who lost 1994 World Series”, “was there a 1994 world series”) results essentially the same search results.

Who won the 1994 world series?

Perhaps with this most recent update, Google has determined that they can rely on RankBrain more, and the most recent changes in search results are a reflection of that. Changes in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are difficult to attribute to any one element, so time, and hopefully an update from Google will tell.

What We’re Watching For

Over the next few weeks, we will be looking for drops in organic traffic across our clients’ sites that can be attributed to drops in organic and local search visibility.

If an organic drop is seen, you must determine if those affected pages are properly optimized and if there is enough variation in the keywords the page is targeting. Also, focus on improving the quality of content for those underperforming pages. Plan on looking at those engagement and experience metrics that Google may be evaluating to determine if a page does not match the searcher’s intent.

If a drop in local search results is seen, it will be important to audit all name, address, phone (NAP) citations for glaring discrepancies. Any issues for those locations affected by the update should be improved. Additionally, if a site has created local pages, those pages should be analyzed from a quality perspective as thin or over-optimized pages likely will not perform well.

Finally, in a few weeks, as this update has matured, expect more site owners and marketers to share their perspective; this information could inform ongoing strategy. One thing is fairly certain, Google will continue their focus on displaying organic results they believe are the best quality and satisfy user intent.

Source : http://www.verticalmeasures.com/

Categorized in Science & Tech

While Google remains the most important and dominant search engine, as it transitions into machine learning with RankBrain, marketers should not neglect other sources of traffic. Emerging search sites like SkyNet, Pinterest, Yelp, YouTube or Facebook imply that whether it is the artificial intelligence of RankBrain or organic searches, quality content and solid site architecture still count for a lot.

Content matters most

While RankBrain helps Google match results to searches better by seeing what pages are actually being consumed — regardless of page rank or authority, other factors like video, privacy, spam, and mobile devices are also changing the face of search. The Content Marketing Institute's recent lecture by founder and former CEO of Moz, Rand Fishkin noted a series of major themes driving search today.

With Google as the dominant search engine in the world, it will continue to drive what and how marketers approach SEO, Fishkin notes.

While Google is more focused on searchers, not marketers, the onus is on marketers to get more in touch with who their ideal visitors are. Learn what they want so they can reach out to them using the right content, terms, and expressions that meet their needs, not the needs of the company.

In other words, make user experience the cornerstone of the companies SEO efforts by generating content ten times better than the competition and Google will respond in kind.

Visuals improve rankings

Visuals help as well since Google is now ranking images, the expert suggests. The idea is to be on the right platform for the search engine results page (SERP) that matter most. So, for video: YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo; for e-commerce: Google shopping, Amazon, Etsy, and eBay; for apps: iTunes and Google Play, etc. Google is getting really good at matching searcher intent to returns (type in "circle of big rocks" and you get Stonehenge, for example).

Increasingly, Google is matching searcher intent to returns. This is good for users but not so much for marketers.

Intent makes direct keyword matching less of a competitive advantage so marketers now try to rank across the pantheon of terms and keyword strings searchers will likely use to find them. Also, how the keywords are used on a website's pages matter. So context counts even more than ever.

Google+ in decline, watch Twitter

The demise of Google+ is clear, Fishkin notes, and Twitter has replaced Google+ as Google's primary social result. Initially, Google defined the service as a social network, but when it didn’t work, the company referred to it as “a social layer across all of Google’s services.” Apparently, the social foundation of Google+ is problematic. Google just pushed (almost forcefully) the creation of a Google+ account in order to use other products and services such as when publishing a comment in YouTube. Marketers should be paying closer attention to how Twitter influences the keywords and SERPs they care about: engagement and "recency" govern Google's display of Tweets, for example, so use these two insights to one advantage, he suggests.

Determining SERPs

Basically, a good search engine results page (SERP) today means that searchers don't bounce from their first choice, but according to Google's own engineers, they don't fully understand what is going on. In the future, it may be that thousands or even millions of algorithms will determine SERPs.

For marketers this means focusing resources on pages that are performing well and even hiding pages with high bounce rates from Google so the whole website performs better. "For marketers, big things include focusing on signal-to-noise so bad pages on ones site aren't going to drag down the whole site," said Fishkin.

Source : http://www.thedrum.com/news/2016/09/14/google-still-rules-search-youtube-and-facebook-emerging-well

Categorized in Search Engine

David Collins, columnist and Co-Founder & Chief Operating Officer at The Great National Hotels and Resorts Group discusses how things are about to become equally challenging and interesting for hotel marketers.

Earlier this year, Google ‘unveiled’ plans to change the layout of their search engine results pages (SERPs for short) whereby no longer would they feature ads on the right hand side of your desktop results page. In truth, this was by no means a sudden change; Google had been testing this revised layout as far back as 2010. The impact however has been nothing short of transformative since this took effect globally from mid-2016.

I’ll explain this more below but first let me tease out what exactly Google have done in the interest of ‘improving user experience’.

So basically Google have unilaterally decided that paid search ads will no longer appear on the right-hand side of search results for desktop users, and that up to four paid search results will instead appear at the top of the page. This was a maximum of three previously and the new format mirrors the mobile search experience which has obviously grown in relevance in recent years.

By the way, paid search ads that fall below the 4th rank now appear at the bottom of the SERP which in itself is also a big deal in terms visibility and capturing traffic.

The rationale cited for all this is that it will allow Google to provide more relevant results for end users and also provide better ad performance for advertisers by delivering a more dynamically intuitive search/shopping experience. Users have an increasingly lower tolerance for fruitless searches and this is aimed at targeting consumers during what Google terms as ‘micro-moments’ … a fancy term for where someone may be on the sales curve.

So far so good. Getting users to the information they’re looking for faster and more efficiently is a good thing. No argument there.

The problem however is simply this: organic or naturally occurring rankings are getting less and less of a look-in. Why? Because paid search ads are taking up more space on SERPs with the result that hoteliers have to spend more on paid search to maintain prominence above the fold and also become more sophisticated in their approach to site content so as to hold onto organic traffic and rankings.

Eventually it is likely that organic listings will simply disappear – this is already happening on mobile SERPs – and desktop will follow as sure as night follows day.

In the absence of any real competition (BING, Yahoo, etc. … really?), the temptation for Google is simply too great to monetise completely all search activity and whereas you can’t blame them, after all they are in the business of business, they currently enjoy a virtual monopoly and this might be construed by some as an abuse of their position. In fact, I am staggered at the lack of concerted, coherent objection from the travel and hospitality industry to this latest move but equally don’t be surprised when FaceBook wade in to carve out a piece of this increasingly lucrative ‘search’ pie.

So what can be done to avoid having to jack up your PPC budget? In truth, very little. Unless consumers suddenly change their behaviour from depending on Google for search, hotels are going to have to buckle up for the ride: your competitors will be doing everything they can to ensure visibility and you must do the same. Only better.

And that also means retaining customers better than ever before; you’ll be paying more to get them to your site as a result of changes to search so it’s critical that you maximise your ROI. Which is why content marketing is now coming into it’s own.

Typically we as hoteliers tend to see loyalty schemes and reward programmes as the solution to retaining clients. In truth whereas these may have worked in the past, end users today seem to prefer instead to be engaged by brands in a more intuitive, personalised way, one which recognises their likes, dislikes, preferences, etc.. This in turn makes for a more meaningful, robust relationship and digital enables this thankfully in spades.

Just a word of warning here however, what content marketing is not is excessive promotional messaging. Instead it should be relevant, meaningful communication with your customer base – a short video piece, a personalised landing page, an engaging blog – that sets you apart as a brand and connects with your audience …

Things are about to become equally challenging and interesting for hotel marketers.

About David Collins: David draws his expertise from an intimate knowledge of the Irish and UK hotel industry with a proven track record of over 25 years in brand development, digital distribution and channel marketing. David’s work is well known in both Ireland and the U.K. where he has been instrumental in building some of the largest hotel brands, most recently the Great National Hotels and Resorts Group, currently one of the fastest growing hospitality groups in Europe.

Source : http://www.hotel-industry.co.uk/2016/08/googles-serp-changes-a-watershed-moment-for-hotel-brands/

Categorized in Search Engine

Google is now showing images in the mobile search results for product-like queries. Do you like the new mobile search snippets?

Google is now showing image thumbnails in the mobile search results for select queries. The queries seem to be product-based queries where the user might find an image of the product useful. Google was actually testing this back in August 2016 and also earlier in December 2014, and it now seems to be showing for all mobile searchers.

I was personally able to replicate it and had them come up for me for searches from [door locks] to [wine glasses] to searches on types of cars or color of cars. Here are some screen shots of how they look in the mobile search results.

google-mobile-thumbnails-images-snippets

 

 

google-mobile-thumbnails-images-snippets2

 

We asked Google for a comment about this yesterday but did not hear back by the time we published this story.

Source: http://searchengineland.com 

Categorized in Online Research

Advertisers have seen many big updates from Google over the past year, but columnist Andy Taylor makes the case that the most impactful updates may well have been the least publicized.

Expanded text ads. The removal of right-rail ads and the addition of a fourth text ad at the top of desktop searches. Customer Match.

These are just a few of the “major” Google announcements made over the past year that caused big reactions across the search industry. Analysts, myself included, have been scrambling to report on how these updates are impacting brands and to come up with best practices in light of the results.

Analyzing the paid search landscape, however, I find that it’s often the silent, unannounced updates that have the largest impact on performance.

Of course, all paid search managers would love to think that the success or failure of their programs hinges on their hard work and brilliant strategies, but sometimes the most significant factors happen behind the scenes.

That’s not to say that there aren’t smarter ways than others to respond to these unannounced developments, and it can pay to be able to figure out they’re happening in the first place.

To illustrate my point, I’ll discuss a few recent updates that have received a lot of coverage and a few that are less well publicized, then explain how each update stands to impact performance.

Well-known but less impactful updates

Expanded text ads

Google’s new expanded text ad (ETA) format offers significantly more characters for advertisers to work with and was touted by Google itself as increasing click-through rate (CTR) by 2X for some advertisers.

I wrote extensively on the early performance comparisons between ETA and older text ads here a month ago, explaining that when the data is segmented properly, non-brand ads at the top of the page see almost no difference in performance. ETAs for brand terms at the top of the page actually had slightly lower CTR than the older ad format.

I explained in my prior post why it’s likely that some case studies that have been published show much better results with ETA, and you should go read that if you’re interested in understanding more about how ETAs are really performing.

To the point of this post, our outlook is that ETAs will likely have a much smaller impact on ad spend than the reactions it has garnered might indicate.

Customer Match

Hailed as the beginning of futuristic search targeting, Customer Match provides advertisers the ability to create audiences out of email lists in order to adjust bidding and messaging for those users when they search.

Using information about users in Customer Match audiences, such as past order history, advertisers would then be able to “personalize” the ad experience in order to drive greater value out of paid search.

Across Merkle advertisers actively deploying Customer Match audiences, only about two percent of Google search spend is being attributed to them, largely due to the limited share of emails Google can match to searchers and the restriction that all emails used in these audiences must be obtained firsthand by each advertiser.

The share of orders is higher (as these users are typically very high-value and more likely than an average searcher to convert), but still small.

There are certainly possibilities on the horizon that could help to increase spend and order share, some of which I’ll be speaking to in an upcoming SMX East session devoted entirely to Customer Match.

However, the current reality and short-term outlook is that while Customer Match does allow for some unique targeting options in crafting catered experiences to users that a brand has interacted with previously, it’s not able to reach a large share of searchers in general.

Tablet bidding controls

Google recently announced that advertisers will be able to set bids for desktop and tablet devices separately, eliminating one of the more annoying aspects of Enhanced Campaigns to date.

I myself was pretty pumped for the update. I can’t deny that.

But digging into what the real impact on ad spend will be, it’s likely pretty small.

While most advertisers will likely quickly move to bid tablets down relative to desktop due to lower conversion rates on tablets (tablet revenue per click was 30 percent lower than that of desktop for Merkle advertisers in Q2), tablet paid search traffic share is declining.

In fact, it’s been declining for the past several quarters, and was down to 14 percent in Q2 2016, compared to its high point of 18 percent in Q1 of 2015.

Sales numbers verify the waning popularity of tablet devices, and as smartphones get larger and more sophisticated, it is possible tablets continue to shrink as a share of paid search traffic.

At present, decreasing tablet devices in a vacuum by 30 percent in and of itself has the potential to decrease total paid search investment by perhaps four percentage points for our advertisers, with that impact becoming smaller if tablets continue to decline in importance.

However, decreases in tablet bids should accompany increases in desktop bids, as the value of desktop traffic should warrant higher bids than the combined value of desktop and tablet traffic. If all desktop bids increased properly, given the relative revenue per click of desktop versus tablet we observe for our advertisers, this has the potential to result in about a three- to four-percentage point bump in total paid search spend taken in a vacuum.

And assuming that most advertisers will move similarly to take advantage of the new bidding controls, the overall competitive landscape on these devices shouldn’t shift too much.

The overall difference in spend, then, is likely to be pretty small.

There are, of course, industries in which advertisers might see better performance on tablets, such as gaming apps. But again, it’s likely that all of the players in these industries will react similarly to the changes, and the bid adjustments made to desktop and tablet will impact spend on these device types in opposing ways much like for advertisers that see worse performance with tablets.

More than anything, the device split feels like a moral victory for advertisers who have been clamoring for these controls since the beginning of Enhanced Campaigns. Google waited until tablets were on the decline to hand over control, however, and the overall impact could be pretty small.

Important changes that haven’t been well publicized

Google adds third (and fourth) text ad on phones

In mid-2015, Google silently released a third text ad above the organic links on phones, formally admitting to the change in late August after a post of mine reported on the impact of the change. The third text ad has been a significant driver of paid search spend growth ever since.

One year after the addition of the third text ad, Google moved to add a fourth text ad to some queries, again with no formal announcement and also no real confirmation.

This has significantly driven up the share of phone traffic coming from the fourth ad position on phones, from close to zero in early June to about three percent now.

The third text ad increased the maximum number of text ads above organic links on phones by 50 percent. The fourth text ad increased it by 33 percent.

As such, it’s no wonder why organic traffic growth on phones has been in decline over the past year.

Google rapidly expands Product Listing Ad (PLA) impressions on google.com

The graph below features the change in Google Shopping impressions relative to January 2015 over the past 19 months.

As you can see, Merkle advertisers saw more Google Shopping/PLA impressions in Q1 of 2016 than they did during the busy holiday season of 2015 (by far the busiest season for the vast majority of our advertisers). Looking at a Y/Y comparison, January 2016 saw 202 percent more phone PLA impressions than January 2015.

Further, PLA impressions have continued to increase throughout 2016, particularly on phones.

In turn, PLA spend growth on phones has been rather incredible, with a Y/Y increase of 135 percent in Q2 for Merkle retailers.

No formal announcements explain these trends, and this is just for Google.com.

Quiet expansion of the PLA search partner network

PLA search partner traffic share has exploded over the past few quarters, and it now accounts for 14 percent of all desktop PLA traffic.

This rise can be attributed to a few changes.

One is Google’s move in December of last year to begin showing PLAs in Google image search, a move which Google only formally announced six months later.

Another is Yahoo’s apparent shift to increasingly showing Google PLAs in its results, as opposed to Bing Ads or Gemini Product Ads.

 

The rekindling of the Yahoo–Google relationship was formally announced last October, and Yahoo has spoken of their efforts to choose the best ads from AdWords, Bing Ads and Gemini in recent quarterly earnings calls. Still, the expansion of Google PLAs on Yahoo.com seems to be garnering little attention from many in the SEM industry.

Conclusion

In the case of two-sided businesses like Google that have to serve not only the public but also advertisers, it can be necessary to be very vocal about some updates, while offering no public acknowledgment whatsoever of others.

In most circumstances where they remain mum, I imagine Google’s reasoning usually has to do with there being no obvious positive outcome of a formal announcement.

Judging by how the search industry reacts to the announcements that are publicly made, we tend to jump on Google’s statements with a pretty critical spotlight, so it’s not shocking that they’d want to avoid controversy when possible. Not every decision can make every party happy.

However, Google’s silent updates have been steadily impacting our advertisers’ performance far more than the most publicized changes. This is something to keep in mind when analyzing paid search performance and attempting to explain shifts.

Source : http://searchengineland.com

Categorized in Search Engine

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