Published on November 7th, 2011 | by Paul Morris0
7 Deadly S(ins)earch Developments
Google has been rather busy of late. Despite earlier this year Google killing of its many failed Google Labs experiments at a rate that resembled a turkey farmer at Christmas; Google is certainly not curtailing its Search innovation. Due to the speed of development and the fact I put this blog together in my spare time I thought I’d put a blanket post together that summarises the major 7 Google search developments that have occurred recently:
Landing Page relevance
One of the most significant amendment to its PPC algorithm in years saw Google increasing the proportion of quality score (QS) weighting that is attributed to landing page relevancy and decreasing the weighting that is attributed to Click Through Rate (CTR). As a result whilst CTR is still majorly important QS factor landing page relevance has become more important and in my opinion will continue to increase its share of the QS pie.
This PPC amendment will reward the intelligent as Ad Rank will improve for those who target specific audience types and serve customers with a super optimised landing page. It will also help those who pre qualify their PPC ad’s – prequalification always hits CTR and thus increases the CPC however this will now happen to a lesser degree with the up weighting of landing page importance.
The result of this development SHOULD lead to closer departmental integration with the PPC departments and the data/ analytics teams (increased in depth analysis of Google Analytics for landing page insight), UX specialists (conversion rate optimisation and text integration) and SEO experts (think keyword/ page optimisation).
With many websites offering poor mobile usability Google is trying to stimulate best practice by offering free optimisation advice with its GOMO Meter. The tool scans your site (is the speed, site images, site text and navigation fit for purpose?) and gives you some overarching advice on what to fix.
Google clearly wants you to invest in mobile due to its vested interests in Android, Motorola and Google mobile ads but to be fair its leadership is completely welcome as it’s about time companies (some need to take more heed than others to be fair though e.g. restaurants and retailers over transatlantic flight providers) started to take mobile seriously.
What I find most interesting though is that here Google is clearly telling us what it deems to be most important and I would not be surprised to see a specific natural search algorithm for mobile devices in the next 12 months. As a result optimising for one Search algorithm will be a thing of the past.
Google has been testing PPC ads at the bottom for the SERPS for months and has finally taken this feature out of beta and is in the process of unleashing these to the masses. According to the mighty G the ads often outperform side ads as they fit “better into the user’s flow” and in my agency life we have also seen some early signs that this is the case with more clicks and lower CPC’s for brand.
Despite Google not planning at present to utilise top, middle and bottom ads (Strike It Lucky anyone!?) together I see this changing after further tests prove top, limited side and a bottom add earns them more money and improves user experience. Watch this space for further test analysis.
Keeping it fresh
A new Google SEO algorithm is being unleashed that could prove bigger than Panda! The update will affect circa 35% of searches and means that recent events or hot topics, regularly occurring events and frequent updates will be more prominent (featured/ higher and more regular) in search results.
A good idea (although Google needs to sort out its Twitter real time relationship) and something that should mean more companies utilise blog and news engagement if they are too stand a chance of being at the top of the SERPS for time sensitive searches. Wikipedia have got to be miffed as this will definitely hit their traffic!
Pay Per Call
Over the coming weeks Google will roll out Pay Per Call ads on computer and tablets (in addition to ‘click to call’ on mobiles).
At present ads are subject to a combination of your ad’s Quality Score and max CPC that determine ad rank. Similarly for bid per call, your max CPC (cost per call in this case) and phone call Quality Score will affect your ad rank too.
Pay Per Call does have some issues e.g. not relevant for all sectors, having to use trackable phone numbers, yet another way of Google making money from you, etc however certainly another way of generating phone leads and sales from the desktop.
Google+ For Business
Google +1 will now increasingly affect businesses as they can now create pages.
Benefits include the ability to create business circles, business hangouts (e.g. dip in and out of video conferencing) and Search & Ripples allows you to see what is being said/ shared about your brand.
This development should lead to more business conversations and for those doing it well might lead to more +1’s that will in turn impact the company’s natural and paid search rankings. I’m still not convinced this will generate real consumer traction but I’m more than willing to be proved wrong!
SEO keyword tracking
Google announced last week that when users are logged in to Google.com they will be automatically sent to the secure (https) version. As a result web analytics tools can no longer track natural clicks for Google.com logged in users clearly causing issues of optimising and justifying SEO activity.
Whilst this is currently only for Google.com logged in users we could see this being rolled out worldwide to none logged in users. If this happens agencies and clients alike will find it more difficult to track and optimise SEO traffic and workarounds such as using webmaster tools (recommended by Google) will simply not do for advanced SEO’ers. Let’s hope the public pressure applied from some senior Search practitioners on Google stops this from going nuclear!