It’s not about the bid, it’s all about the quality

Every working day I meet or talk with people who still think getting your paid search ads into the top positions on Google is just about how high your bid is.

In reality Google uses a simple system called Ad Rank that decides which ads get to the top of the pile. Ad Rank does indeed use your keyword bid as a key factor in determining your ad’s position. But it also uses a measure called Quality Score.

Quality Score is effectively a measure of the relevance of your keyword, search ad and landing page to the user’s search query. And probably most importantly, it takes into account how likely it is that users will click on your ads.

Now I could spend a fair bit of time trying to explain the ins and outs of Ad Rank and how it works. However there’s no need, as those nice folk at Google have put together this simple video which explains it all far better than I can. Enjoy….

SEO Ranking Factors Survey Announced at MozCon

Every two years, SeoMoz (now just known as Moz) runs a Ranking Factors study to identify which attributes of pages and sites have the strongest association with ranking highly in Google. This study consists of two parts: a survey of professional SEOs and a large correlation study. The first findings were released this week, with a number of interesting take outs, including the observation that despite Google’s Penguin updates, anchor text correlations remain as strong as ever.

In addition, social signals were some of the highest correlated factors, with Google+ edging out Facebook and Twitter, although the survey of professional SEOs suggested that they don’t think that social signals are very important in Google’s overall algorithm. Moz cite this as an area where the correlation may be explainable by other factors such as links, pointing back to 2011, when Moz released their initial social results, showing how Facebook correlations could be explained mostly by links. Moz naturally expect Google to crawl their own Google+ content, and links on Google+ are followed so they pass link juice. Google also crawls and indexes the public pages on Facebook and Twitter.

Professional SEOs believe that links are still the most important part of Google’s algorithm, whilst keyword usage on the page is still fundamental, and other than links is thought to be the most important type of factor.

A breakdown of the survey respondents’ view of how Google’s overall algorithm breaks down is shown below, and you can check out the full Moz story at: http://moz.com/blog/ranking-factors-2013

Moz SEO Ranking Factors 2013

Moz SEO Ranking Factors 2013

SEO: What to expect in the next few months from Google?

In this video Matt Cutts from Google outlines what’s in store in terms of Panda and Penguin updates over the next few months.

Using Bing To Support Your Google PPC Search Marketing

For most people, whether they are website owners or consumers, search begins and ends with Google. As users we Google products, services, people and all manner of topics every single day, while website owners are focussed on using SEO and paid search to maximise the visibiity of their sites in Google’s search results.

In natural search many agencies and freelance SEO professionals will focus their efforts exclusively on Google, particularly when budgets are limited. And more often than not it’s a similar approach when it comes to paid search. However if you’re not using Bing as part of your paid search marketing then it’s probably time to think again.

In the world of PPC it was often argued that the same amount of time should be required to manage similar sized campaigns on different search engines. Therefore managing campaigns on Google would see a much better return on the time invested, given Google’s approximate 90% market share. Whilst it was generally accepted that Bing and Yahoo represented viable opportunities to drive cost effective traffic and sales, the time investment required has often been a barrier to running sucessful campaigns on these platforms.

Recently Google has seen its share of the UK search market fall to its lowest level in five years as competition from rivals, notably Bing, continue to erode its lead. According to figures from Experian, in December 2012 Google held 88.35 percent of the UK search market, down from 91.15 percent in December 2011. In contrast, Bing saw its year-on-year UK share improve by 1.15 percent from 3.84 to 4.99 percent of the market. Yahoo also improved, up to 3.58 percent, a rise of 0.86 percent over twelve months.

Microsoft have made a number of positive steps, with Bing becoming the default search engine on sites such as Facebook, and their team has also been working hard to make it easier for AdWords advertisers to port their campaigns over to Bing Ads.

My advice to clients is to always consider rolling out successful Google campaigns onto Bing, and where necessary invest in the additional costs of managing multiple campaigns across both platforms. The search volumes on Google will enable you to test and optimise your PPC campaigns and potentially transfer a ready optimised campaign, which needs less management time, onto Bing.

Whilst Bing will generate significantly lower traffic levels, it’s not unusual to see strong conversion rates. And whilst sales revenues from Bing may not have a huge impact on your overall business, Bing can contribute significantly to your overall online marketing efforts. One client campaign I work on saw almost £2,000 of sales revenues from Bing last month – from a spend of less than £100. Meanwhile the Google campaign spent around £2,000 to generate sales approaching £10,000. Arguably the small spend on Bing partially subsidises the Google campaign – or could potentially subsidise additional SEO activity. Either way I’d argue that it’s £90+ that’s very well spent.

Google Launch Enhanced Campaigns For Multiple Devices

Google has announced a new upgrade to their Adwords PPC platform, launching “enhanced campaigns”

Google are calling this a first step to help advertisers manage ad campaigns more easily, and more effectively, in today’s multi-device world.

The announcement today references a recent study of multi-device consumers that found that 90% of users move sequentially between several screens to accomplish a task. With a proliferation of new devices — PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones, hybrid devices, mini-tablets, televisions, and more new digital screens and devices still to come, today’s consumers are constantly connected and moving from one device to another to communicate, shop and stay entertained.

Google highlight the new opportunities this creates for businesses, but also points to the fact that this can make marketing more complex and time-consuming than ever before. They offer the example of a pizza restaurant that wants to show one ad to someone searching for “pizza” at 1pm on their PC at work (perhaps a link to an online order form or menu), and a different ad to someone searching for “pizza” at 8pm on a smartphone a half-mile from the restaurant (perhaps a click-to-call phone number or restaurant locator). This means that key factors such as location, time of day, and the device a consumer is using have become increasingly important in showing them the right ad.

With Google’s new enhanced campaigns, instead of having to cobble together and compare several separate campaigns, reports and ad extensions to do this, the pizza restaurant can easily manage everything in one single place. The new enhanced campaign functionality enables advertisers to reach searchers with the right ads, based on signals such as location, time of day and device type, across all devices without having to set up and manage several separate campaigns.

http://adwords.blogspot.co.uk/

SEO: Back to Basics

More often than not, good search engine optimisation is first and foremost about getting the basics right. Does your site have high quality, relevant and unique content? Is your site (and your content) technically well structured and easily accessible for search engine spiders? And is your content clearly signposted for both search engines and your users?

I still find in many instances, that getting the basics right in terms of on page optimisation can help many sites improve search engine rankings and visibility. An excellent reference point that illustrates these basics superbly well is an SEOmoz blog post from 2009 entitled: Perfecting Keyword Targeting & On-Page Optimization. The original post which uses research data to demonstrate the importance of these basics, also includes a very simple example page layout, copied below, which shows very clearly an ideally optimised page.

If you have the time, I strongly recommend reading the original post. However I’ve summarised some of the most important points here:

SEOmoz-perfectly-optimized-page

1. Page Meta Title.
Quite simply this is the single most important of all the on-page keyword elements. The page meta title should ideally employ the target keyword or search phrase as the first word(s). Not only is this proven to help rankings but also means that the searcher sees the term they searched in the title of the search result snippet.

2. Page Meta Description.
The page meta description is not used for “rankings” by Google, but is still an important place to use the target search term or phrase due to the “bolding” of the words that appear in the visual snippet of the search results, and because it has also been shown to help boost click-through rate.

3. H1 Headline tag
The H1 tag has always been thought to have great importance in on-page optimisation, and although the original post did question this, it still advised the proper use of a single H1 tag as the headline of the page, preferably including the targeted keyword term or phrase.

4. Image Alt Tag Attribute
The SEOmoz study showed that the image alt tag, previously thought to carry little SEO weight, actually had a reasonably robust correlation with high rankings. It is strongly recommended to use a graphic image/photo/illustration on important keyword-targeted pages with the search term or phrase used in the alt tag. It is also suggested to use the keyword term or phrase as the name of the image file.

5. Page URL
SEOmoz found that shorter URLs appear to perform better in the search results and the closer the target keyword is to the domain name, the better.

6. Keyword Location
The advice from SEOmoz was that important keywords should ideally feature in the first few words of a page, preferably the first 50 to 100 words or sooner.

In conclusion, it’s critical to get these basic elements of on page optimisation right – and doing so will give you a sound foundation for your overall SEO strategy.

£125 Of Clicks Free From Bing & Yahoo

Bing and Yahoo are currently offering £125 of free clicks to businesses who sign up as new advertisers between now and 15th July. With Bing search ads now being served across both Bing and Yahoo’s search platforms and networks, we’ve already started to see some great results for clients.

If you’ve not used Bing before, and don’t know where to start then please give me a call. Alternatively, just check out the deal for yourself at: http://advertising.microsoft.com/uk/small-business/bing-and-get-noticed-online-now

Spend 10 Minutes A Day On Your AdWords Account

This is a really useful video showing how you can take just 10 minutes to optimise your AdWords campaigns. It’s targeted at smaller businesses and Adwords accounts, but the principles are absolutely spot on for all campaigns.

Here is a brief summary of the main tips:

Update your keywords
AdWords uses your keywords to determine who sees your ad. The more relevant your keywords are, the more likely it is that anyone who sees your ad may be interested in your products or services.

Monitor your clickthrough rate (CTR)
If your CTR is less than 1%, your keywords may be too general or too specific. Consider editing, pausing or deleting keywords with a low CTR.

Use 2-3 word phrases
Keywords that consist of two or more words tend to be more specific and therefore may better speak to what a potential customer is searching for. Example: Instead of “boots”, a more relevant keyword may be “men’s leather boots”.

Try Google’s Keyword Tool
Use the Keyword Tool at adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal to find new keywords for your products or services.

Manage your bids and costs
Keep an eye on your bids and budget to make sure your ads stay competitive. Get more clicks and customers with AdWords by setting aside a few minutes each week to review and manage your keywords, bids and ads. You may not need to make changes every week, but keeping an eye on your results is ultimately the key to success.

Invest in high-performing keywords
Devote a greater percentage of your budget to keywords that deliver a greater number of customers to your website. Increase bids on your best-performing keywords and lower bids on lower-performing keywords. By doing this, you can get more customers without spending more.

Ensure your bids are competitive
Take a look at your keywords’ average position. If an average position is below eight, your ad may not appear on the first page of Google’s search results when someone searches for that word or phrase — and therefore it won’t be visible to many potential customers. To increase your ad’s position, consider increasing your keyword bid – or take a look at how you can automate bid changes based on position in the keywords tab.

Improve your ads
Take a look at your ads. Are some ads performing better than others? Are all your offers or promotions up to date? Did you include a call to action? Here are tips for improving your ads.

1. Attractive, relevant headlines
Get noticed with a short, simple headline that describes your product or service and includes your most important keywords.

2. Descriptive text with keywords
Why would someone choose your business over another? Focus on the details that make potential customers search for your product or service and remember to include relevant keywords.

3. Strong call to action
Ask for the sale. Drive business to your site with a call to action like “Shop now,” or special offers.

These tips should help you to improve your Adwords campaigns, but if you feel you need more help to improve your online marketing, particularly PPC search and online media, then I can provide search marketing training and offer bespoke online marketing workshops – please feel free to get in touch.

Advertising In Local Hospitals

Recently I’ve been working on the launch of a new hospital advertising service that enables small businesses such as Care Homes, Local Taxis, Mobility Providers and other relevant organisations to advertise on the bedside screens in their local hospital.

Until recently advertising in hospitals was limited to placing posters and leaflets, or ads on hospital radio. But now www.LocalHospitalAds.co.uk gives local firms the chance to put themselves right in front of patients by placing ads on the bedside screens that patients use to watch TV, access the internet, listen to the radio, and even order their food!

Across the UK there is a potential annual audience of over 10million patients, and ads can also be seen by up to 5 million visitors and 500,000 NHS staff. Of course, if an advertiser just targets their local hospital, then these numbers are somewhat lower. LocalHospitalads.co.uk provides a highly engaging and great value advertising opportunity for small businesses. Patients can click straight through to a website from an ad, but can also pick up the phone to call right there and then. And with packages starting at just £40 per hospital per month, pricing is highly competitive in comparison to local newspapers and other local media.

If you’re interested in knowing more about Local Hospital Advertising please feel free to call me on 07827 806722 or email mike@mikegroves.co.uk

EU Cookie Law: Are You Ready?

On 26th May last year the EU Cookie directive came into force, with the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) offering a one year grace period before starting to enforce it. Almost 10 months later very few, if any, sites seemed to have actually taken any action, or started to seek permission to drop cookies, other than the ICO website itself – though according to many observers even their approach doesn’t meet the regulations.

It appears many people are either blissfully ignorant of the change in the law, or don’t believe it impacts them. However, if you use Google Analytics to track your site, or Google Adwords conversion tracking it almost certainly affects you. Check out the video below for a useful overview:

If you want to know more about the directive and it’s potential impact then I suggest you contact the Information Commissioner’s Office or consult your legal advisers.