Search Engine Land’s Top 10 News Stories Of 2016: Goodbye right-rail ads, goodbye visible PageRank & more

Our annual year-in-review coverage starts with a look at the most popular news stories we covered in 2016.

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If it feels like the search results changed a lot this year — especially Google’s — you’ve done a good job staying on top of search news. As we look back on the biggest stories of the year, several of them cover changes in SEO and ranking algorithms, and others are about new developments in AdWords and paid search.

In 2016, we said goodbye to those text ads on the right side of Google’s desktop search results and to the visible green PageRank bar. Paid search specialists said goodbye to an outdated AdWords interface. And we’re all in the process of bidding adieu to the idea of a single Google index. What a year it’s been!

Between now and the end of December, we’ll be looking back at the most-read articles and columns we published in 2016. Recaps from our SEO- and PPC-related columns will start to arrive next week, but we begin today with a look at the most popular news stories of the year.

Search Engine Land’s Most Popular News Stories Of 2016

This list is based on page views and includes news stories published between January 1 and December 12, 2016.

1. Confirmed: Google To Stop Showing Ads On Right Side Of Desktop Search Results Worldwide

Matt McGee, February 19: “Google is rolling out a dramatic change that removes ads from the right side of its desktop search results, and places ads only at the top and/or bottom of the page. At the same time, the company says it may show an additional ad — four, not three — above the search results for what it calls ‘highly commercial queries.’”

2. Powerball Numbers? You’ll Be Surprised Which Search Engines Knew Them

Matt McGee, January 10: “So who is showing the winning Powerball numbers in easy view for this popular search term tonight? Would you be surprised to know that both Yahoo and Ask.com are doing so? It’s true — have a look.”

3. Google Search iOS App Adds “I’m Feeling Curious” To 3-D Touch

Barry Schwartz, February 1: “Google has added a small but cute feature to the Google iOS search app that lets users hard press on the app and brings up a “3-D touch menu” for the ‘I’m Feeling Curious’ button. This is to make it faster for searchers to get ‘a fun fact’ from Google.”

4. Now we know: Here are Google’s top 3 search ranking factors

Barry Schwartz, March 24: “We knew last year that RankBrain was said by Google to be the third most important ranking factor, but Google refused to say what the first two were. Yesterday, in a Q&A with Google, Andrey Lipattsev, a Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, said the other two factors were links and content.”

5. RIP Google PageRank score: A retrospective on how it ruined the web

Danny Sullivan, March 9: “Ever gotten a crappy email asking for links? Blame PageRank. Ever had garbage comments with link drops? Blame PageRank. Ever had to ferret out the how and why you should make use of the nofollow attribute on links? Blame PageRank. More appropriately, blame Google for ever making the PageRank score visible.”

6. Google updates Penguin, says it now runs in real time within the core search algorithm

Barry Schwartz, September 23: “Those long delays are now to be a thing of the past, according to Google. With this latest release, Penguin becomes real-time. As Google recrawls and reindexes pages — which happens constantly — those pages will be assessed by the Penguin filter. Pages will be caught and/or freed by Penguin as part of this regular process.”

7. Is a big Google search update happening? Chatter thinks so.

Barry Schwartz, September 2: “To be clear, it seems like there were two updates in the past twenty-four hours. The large update seems to be around core web search, which kicked off earlier this morning or late last night. The second update was likely around local rankings in Google.”

8.) Within months, Google to divide its index, giving mobile users better & fresher content

Barry Schwartz, October 13: “Google is going to create a separate mobile index within months, one that will be the main or ‘primary’ index that the search engine uses to respond to queries. A separate desktop index will be maintained, one that will not be as up-to-date as the mobile index.”

9. FAQ: All About The Changes To Google’s Ad Layout On Desktop Search Results

Ginny Marvin, February 22: “Google has stated that four ads instead of three may show more often on highly commercial queries, but what exactly does that mean? Well, examples from Google include ‘hotels in New York City’ or ‘car insurance.’ And yet, what you deem highly commercial may differ from Google’s definition. Generally speaking, the term is used for queries in which Google perceives an intent to purchase.”

10. Google is completely redesigning AdWords: Offers first peek

Ginny Marvin, March 28: “There are a few things that can be gleaned from the Google-supplied screenshot below (click to enlarge). In the image on the left, the Campaigns and ad groups are shown in the left-hand navigation, as they are now, but clicking on an individual campaign brings up a dashboard view that Google is calling an ‘Overview’ screen. Overviews will be available at the campaign, ad group and ad levels.”

Those are the most-read news stories of the year on Search Engine Land. In case you missed it earlier this week, we already published the top 10 news stories of 2016 on Marketing Land, and a similar list for MarTech Today is coming soon. Next week, we’ll begin posting a daily look back at the top columns that we published here on Search Engine Land throughout the year.

Thanks for reading us during 2016. Happy holidays to you and best wishes for 2017!

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Top 10 FREE SEO Tools & Plug-ins You (Literally) Couldn’t Live Without

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You can find inspiration in the strangest of places.

I happened to find my ray of light whilst re-organising my SEO related bookmarks. Yes, they may have been messy and a clean out might have been overdue, but if I didn’t do it today, the day I happened to be thinking about what to blog about then we would have never arrived here, would we?

Trying to structure my bookmarks made me very aware of what was current and what was out of date. It made me realise what tools I could, and couldn’t live without. What blogs I could and couldn’t stop reading. And most importantly, what people I could and couldn’t stop listening too. The top blogs and people are another post altogether so you will just have settle for the most valuable tools and stay tuned for the rest of the series. So without further ado, here we go, the top ten SEO tools and plug-ins you literally couldn’t live without:

SEO Quake

This powerful tool is compatible with a range of browsers and gives a user a wide range of SEO parameters. It saves you so much time it must be similar to hiring a personal assistant, without the tea making ability. You can utilise it to see a quick overview of number of links to page and domain, number of internal & external links from individual pages, age of domain, keyword density and other important SEO factors of a page. Go see for yourself.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3036

Open Site Explorer

This is one of the best link analysis tools around (without paying) Essential for any link building campaign , it will show you up to 10,000 links to a page or site based on Page Authority OR Domain Authority. You can even see the anchor text used, compare two domains side by side, and which content is drawing the most links on your competitor’s website. AND if that wasn’t enough they even offer a good sorting and filtering option for reports and can be exported to CSV for further analysis. How considerate of them.

http://www.opensiteexplorer.org

Redirect Checker

This tool lets you check what type of redirect is in place for any individual page. A programmer’s nightmare as we are now able to see very quickly just how lazy they have been by implementing 302’s instead of 301’s.

http://www.internetofficer.com/seo-tool/redirect-check/

SEO Book Tool Bar

Where would a workman be without his toolkit? This is another great toolbar which contains a lot of valuable and essential tools of the trade. It has many of the same features as SEO Quake but also a few more hidden up its sleeve. You can compare up to 5 different sites which is great for link analysis for competitor research and another great gem is an easy no follow link highlighter.

http://tools.seobook.com/seo-toolbar/

FireBug

I recently read Kelvin Newman’s “Are we ignoring the Golden Age of SEO” post here, and I agree, technical knowledge is important within the field of SEO and can’t be ignored. Firebug goes someway to addressing these concerns by putting a wealth of development tools at your fingertips. You can monitor CSS, view HTML, and JavaScript live in any web page and it can even help you see how long pages take to load and what may be causing the slow loading times. Absolutely essential for web developers and very handy for knowledge hungry SEO’s.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/1843/

Spider Test

Ever wondered what a spider sees when it crawls your page? Is it giving you endless sleepless nights? Then worry no more with our star prize this week. This spider simulator tool displays shows the source code of a page, and identifies all outbound links on the page, provides cached copies of the page, the number of indexed pages in major search engines, and common words and phrases found in the page copy.

http://tools.seobook.com/general/spider-test/

XML Sitemap Generator

Creating XML sitemaps is a key part of technical SEO. It helps you monitor broken links and is particularly useful if your site has dynamic content or has a large archive of content pages that are not well linked to.
This tool lets you enter your full website URL and some optional parameters and then provides a detailed sitemap page, including the number of pages, broken links list, XML file content and a link to a compressed sitemap. It is FREE up to a maximum of 500 pages and you can manually or automatically adjust the priority of pages.

http://www.xml-sitemaps.com/

Whois

Great for domain ‘who dunnit’ mysteries and snooping around online. You can check important server and hosting details via this tool.

http://whois.domaintools.com/

Google Webmaster Tools:

I had to have one Google based tool in here. Webmaster tools let’s you see an overview of your site, including broken links, http error pages, Geo Targeting and the option of resubmitting of sitemaps. Two of the more recent additions is the search query feature, which lets you see  the number of impressions for search queries, the CTR you are achieving for it and an average ranking position. Another addition is the subscriber stats for your site. Go have a look and boost you ego.

http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools

SEOmoz GeoTarget

As explained from the horse’s mouth “this tool determines how well a site is targeted to region-specific search engines”. This tool is great for small local businesses as it helps you understand where search engines think you website is located, and how this may be affecting targeting a specific audience. It also highlights your local online presence by providing a list of local search results for the 3 major search engines for your brand name and website.

http://www.seomoz.org/geotarget

10 factors that may be impacting your organic traffic

Experiencing fluctuations in organic traffic and rankings? Columnist Stephanie LeVonne has a list of factors to check and how to address them.

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Whether you’re a seasoned SEO or someone who runs your own business, you know there are fluctuations in your organic traffic, but you may struggle to pinpoint the root cause.

Organic search, unlike its paid counterpart, comes with a unique set of challenges in diagnosing a decline in traffic and conversions. There are some obvious places you can mine for insights (Google Analytics, Google Search Console), but other factors at play can be harder to quantify.

From basic issues to advanced issues to factors that are largely out of your control, following is a list of things to check for when diagnosing major fluctuations in organic traffic or search engine rankings. By examining both internal and external factors, you can start to piece together the puzzle.

Basic issues

1. Your pages aren’t indexed

Conduct a quick Google search using “site:yourwebsite.com” to make sure your pages are actually indexed. If you’re noticing that critical pages aren’t appearing in the SERPs, you’ve likely found the culprit. Check your robots.txt file to make sure you haven’t blocked important pages or directories. If that looks good, check individual pages for a noindex tag.

2. Bot filters

Are you currently excluding all known bots and spiders in Google Analytics? If not, you may be experiencing inflated traffic metrics and not even know it. Typically, bots enter through the home page and cascade down throughout your site navigation, mimicking real user behavior. One telltale sign of bot traffic is a highly trafficked page with a high bounce rate, low conversions and a low average time on page.

While it’s best to create a custom dimension for filtering out bots, applying the generic bot filter is a good place to start. It’s important to note that filters cannot be applied retroactively, so if you’ve recently turned on this feature, you should be receiving less traffic. Additionally, double-check that you are filtering out your own traffic and IP address.

3. Recent site updates

If you’ve recently modified your on-page copy, undergone a site overhaul (removing pages, reordering the navigation) or migrated your site sans redirects, it’s reasonable to expect a decline in traffic. After reworking your site content, Google must re-crawl and then re-index these pages. It’s not uncommon to experience unstable rankings for up to a few weeks afterwards.

If you’ve changed your URL structure or removed pages from your site, it’s important to have a 301-redirect strategy in place to preserve link equity and avoid a loss of rankings/traffic.

4. URL confusion

Do you have a content strategy in place, or are your efforts more “off the cuff?” Not having a clearly defined keyword map can spell trouble — especially if two or more pages are optimized for the same keyword. In practice, this will cause pages to compete against each other in the SERPs, potentially reducing the rankings of these pages. Here is an example of what this might look like:

Fortunately, if you have access to a keyword tracking tool, you should be able to see a day-by-day breakdown of which URLs Google chooses to rank for that particular keyword. With a little time and effort, you should be able to remedy the situation.

Advanced issues

5. Structured data markup

Implementing structured data markup (such as that from schema.org) might seem like a one-time project, but that “set it and forget it” mentality can land you in hot water. You should be monitoring the appearance of your rich snippets on a regular basis to ensure they are pulling in the correct information. As you change the content on your website, this can alter the markup without warning.

Likewise, depending on your back-end merchandising setup, products could be triggered to show “out of stock” schema if one color variation goes out of stock. As you can imagine, this can wreak havoc on your click-through rates and lead users to purchase from your resellers — or worse, your competitors!

6. Promotional cadence & the “Sale Hangover Effect”

Did you run a big promotion last year, such as a sample or flash sale? Did it coincide with the same week this year? If not, your year-on-year comparison will be skewed.

If so, were your past promotions equally enticing? Did your brand launch a new product line or offer limited-time products? These factors alone are difficult to measure, and we’re not even accounting for PR efforts, which will also impact your organic metrics.

There is also significant evidence to suggest that the “Sale Hangover Effect” is not just a phenomenon. It deals with two factors: share of mind and share of wallet.

Tim Kilroy, co-founder of AdChemix, explains this anomaly:

Consumers only have so much attention and so much money — and for each, they set a “budget” for how much they want to spend with the brands that are important to them. Consumers invest their attention and money into big promotions. Typically, big promos have big results for the retailer, but the flip side is that the promo has emptied the consumers’ budget for attention and money. If the promo is big enough, it even entices some consumers to overspend a little bit (or a lot). When consumers have expended or exceeded their budget, they tend to engage with your brand less. They become immune to marketing messages and spend fewer dollars.

7. Price point & product depth

As a savvy digital marketer, you’ve inevitably nailed the four Ps: price, product, promotion and place. However, a well-planned strategy means nothing without the fifth P: people.

Here is a common narrative that many e-tailers can relate to: You identified your “sweet spot” in the marketplace and know that charging above this threshold leads to price sensitivity. Your core products drive volume — which allows you to achieve amazing growth. Then, one day, your focus shifted. Maybe you stopped churning out iterations of your best sellers, or maybe you tried to focus on your higher-revenue products — all the while alienating the people who liked your previous offerings.

This quickly turns into a “chicken-and-egg” situation. Are fewer people coming to your site due to poor visibility in the SERPs? Or have you shifted your product focus, and is that why consumers are no longer interested in your brand? For a quick check, look at Google Search Console data, and pull positions and clicks by page. If position is staying relatively stagnant, this means your brand is not losing visibility in the SERPs, and there may be a bigger issue at play.

Uncontrollable factors

8. Being outranked by resellers & affiliates

For maximum exposure, you may have launched an affiliate program or have several resellers under your belt. This is typically a non-issue — until, of course, your resellers start to outrank you for branded keywords. While this might not derail your revenue goals, it’s a sure bet you’re losing traffic to these sites.

9. New Google ad placement

With Google killing off right-hand rail ads, many brands may be seeing more of their direct traffic being cannibalized by paid search ads. It will be some time before we’re able to quantify the full effect, but you should be mindful of this.

10. Industry trends & waning brand interest

With the exception of crude oil and Picassos, very few industries are “recession-proof” and experience an inelastic product demand. Look at how your competitors are faring, and see if they’re experiencing the same problems. While you should take Google Trends data with a grain of salt, looking at the bigger picture may help provide some clarity. I’d suggest taking this a step further by conducting trends research and reading industry reports.

Brands hold a wealth of customer information that may often not seem applicable to SEO — and many times, it’s not. However, if you’re working with an SEO agency, sometimes sharing this knowledge can provide the missing piece to the puzzle. Knowing something as simple as “Consumer preferences are shifting around the color black” could help explain why your traffic is down if your products are often paired with black shoes. Sometimes it’s as easy as connecting the dots.

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Mobile marketing AMPlification: Content, performance and measurement

What’s the deal with Accelerated Mobile Pages, and how do they relate to micro-moments? Columnist Jim Yu discusses the connection and explains what brands need to know to stay ahead of the curve.

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The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project was created  to improve the mobile web experience; pages built with AMP HTML load instantly on mobile devices, allowing publishers to quickly serve users in their moments of need.

Though originally created with publishers in mind, AMP has begun to spread to other types of sites as well. At the end of June, eBay announced that they had enabled AMP on eight million of their pages (They were the first major non-news site to do so). It has been widely anticipated that AMP capabilities will spread beyond news publishers, and this was a major step in this direction.

These developments mean that more brands need to pay attention. As AMP spreads, webmasters will need to optimize their content so that they can provide the desired high-speed responses to the micro-moments of their prospects.

Keeping mobile strategy in line with customer expectations

Customers expect pages to load quickly. Even as far back as 2009, Forrester found that around 40 percent of consumers would abandon a page that does not load in three seconds. And that was long before the age of ubiquitous smartphones!

Your mobile strategy needs to address the needs of these customers and create a mobile experience that will satisfy their content needs while also being fast.

AMP-enabled content can help brands meet customers during “micro-moments,” which occur when a person reflexively turns to an internet-capable device (typically a smartphone) for answers to fill an immediate need. These include I-want-to-know moments, I-want-to-go moments, I-want-to-do moments and I want-to-buy moments.

News stories, for example, serve the I-want-to-know moments. E-commerce sites (like eBay) serve consumers in the I-want-to-buy moments.

As AMP content expands, the needs of customers across the micro-moment spectrum will be met.

How to measure your mobile and AMP success

To remain competitive in mobile marketing, brands need to be able to measure how well they are helping prospects complete their desired actions. There are four key areas that you will want to examine: traffic, engagement, conversions and revenue.

  • Traffic: Track the number of people who view your content once you implement Accelerated Mobile Pages.
  • Engagement: Engagement will tell you how well you are able to attract the attention of your prospects, serve them and convince them that you are a brand worth investigating. It can also be helpful to look at the bounce rates, social shares and similar interactions with the content.
  • Conversions: Track the frequency and monetary value of the conversions, but also look at the devices that people are converting on, where they are physically located and the micro-moment category where they likely fall.
  • Revenue: Create charts that will show you how your sales, ROI and growth-related outcomes correlate with your AMP and micro-moment optimization efforts. Without looking at growth-related metrics, you may be missing the full picture of how your mobile is performing. You might miss mobile success if customers research on desktop and convert on mobile; it might be hard to see behavior that goes between one device and another.

Mobile marketing is now not just about the device — it is a lifestyle. It offers people a new way to access information and changes how they perform tasks, interact with brands and businesses, and even learn new information.

The result of this mobile revolution is that new frameworks will need to be built to properly manage the impact of mobile optimization efforts (such as AMP) on your ability to attract the on-the-go customer. This is likely to be a large experimentation trend through 2017 as the leading brands become more sophisticated in their ability to measure mobile progress and growth.

How can brands remain ahead with the growing importance of the micro-moment and AMP?

  1. Track and report on keyword trends and search engine results pages (SERPs) across different devices. Make sure you are familiar with the differences in keyword popularity between mobile and desktop, keeping micro-moment keywords in mind.
  2. Measure your brand’s actual position in the SERPs by device in Universal Search, taking into account images, videos, social, featured snippets and the local 3-pack.
  3. Measure local search performance by keywords and keyword groups across cities. An estimated 88 percent of smartphone owners and 84 percent of tablet owners use their devices to conduct local searches.
  4. Understand your brand’s mobile readiness with a mobile site audit. Mobile audits will let you know if your material is AMP-ready and if your pages are properly optimized for the mobile experience.
  5. Optimize and understand your actual mobile performance. You want to have a close look at your mobile performance using the criteria described above as a means of understanding your progress in the AMP and micro-moments area.
  6. Understand the competitive organic landscape for your brand across mobile devices. This is often overlooked by marketers, but it is a critical means of understanding how you perform compared to competitors.

AMP is helping brands provide faster, more efficient websites that get users the information they need quickly, answering their needs in the micro-moment.

As the capabilities of AMP begin to move beyond news sites, brands will need to pay attention to how they can use this new system to better serve their own mobile audience, growing their mobile visibility, conversions and revenue.

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How to prepare for AdWords’ expanded text ads and device-based bidding

Columnist Matt Umbro provides some advice for advertisers who want to be ahead of the game when Google’s recently announced AdWords changes go live.

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By now, you’ve heard about all of the latest Google AdWords and Google Analytics updates announced at Google’s Performance Summit. The two main changes coming to AdWords includeexpanded text ads and the ability to bid by device. Many articles have been written about what these updates mean for advertisers, but today I want to focus on how you can prepare for these changes.

Before I begin, I want to emphasize that the strategies outlined are theory-based, rather than tried-and-true methods. Similar to when Enhanced Campaigns rolled out, advertisers face a certain unknown.

Based on what we know of AdWords and our experience, these strategies are logical, but we won’t know the true impact until all updates are fully rolled out.

Expanded text ads

With the move to double headlines and longer descriptions, the way text ads will need to be written has changed. In fact, every text ad in all campaigns will eventually need to be written utilizing the new format. Needless to say, advertisers will be spending a significant amount of time this summer writing new copy.

Having experienced what’s ahead, advertisers who are already making use of extended headlines (where description line 1 is combined with the headline) will have less work. Instead of having to write two headlines, the existing headline and first description line can be recycled as the new double headline.

Let’s take, for example, an extended headline ad as it stands today. Here’s an ad for “oval coffee tables.”

Image of extended headline ad

In this example, the headline is 18 characters, while description line 1 is 31. In the new format, each headline is allowed 30 characters. Thus, our first headline of “oval coffee tables” can be used again, but we’re 1 character over for the second headline. Not to worry, though, as we can adjust the messaging in the second headline to be under the limit.

Image of double headline ad

Even though we had to adjust the second headline, our messaging is similar between the current and new ad formats. In many cases, it will be less time-consuming to adjust the extended headlines you are already using instead of creating new double headlines. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t test new double headlines, but you’ll save time by working with your existing copy.

The second part of the new ad format is the extended description, now up to 80 characters. For a long time, I haven’t put as much emphasis on description line 2 (since it can’t show in the headline). Between the extended headline and the vast amount of ad extensions, the description can get buried. Thus, even though the description has been extended, my philosophy hasn’t changed. I like to think of the extended description similar to an organic meta description. It’s nice to have the content, but ultimately, searchers are drawn by the headline.

When you write the new descriptions, don’t obsess about making them perfect. You’ll still want to make sure you utilize the targeted keyword(s) and see that the description is accurate to the product/service, but you should spend more time with your double headlines and ad extensions. In some cases, I’ve actually copied on-page content to use for the description.

The other caveat is your call to action (CTA). With this new format, more advertisers will be making use of the CTA in the double headline. However, if the double headline doesn’t have the CTA, make sure it’s present in the description.

Rolling out the new ads

Even if you don’t yet have the option to create expanded text ads in your account, you should create an Excel template with the new fields. The template should include all of this information:

  • Ad State (active or paused)
  • Customer ID
  • Campaign
  • Ad Group
  • Headline 1
  • Headline 2
  • Description
  • URL Path 1 (if applicable)
  • URL Path 2 (if applicable)
  • Final URL
  • Mobile Final URL (if applicable)
  • Tracking Template (if applicable)
  • Custom Parameter (if applicable)

You should begin writing expanded text ads in your campaigns and ad groups seeing the highest volume of traffic. This way, you’ll begin showing your ads first for keywords with high traffic. Then begin to move down the line.

You are still writing new ads for every ad group, but at least you are focusing on the higher-impact ads first. I would also recommend writing at least two different pieces of ad copy per each ad group, as you always want to be testing.

Ad copy is a good segue into the second update, the ability to bid by device. With the new ad format, mobile preferred ads have been removed, thus facilitating the need for advertisers to review campaign targeting by device.

Bid by device

For the first time since the release of Enhanced Campaigns, advertisers can now bid by device, including tablet. Bid multipliers will still be in place, but advertisers can choose the campaign base device.

For example, advertisers can create mobile campaigns with a -50-percent multiplier on desktops and -70-percent on tablets. Or campaigns can once again be segmented by device, where bids are only for the particular platform (though the other two platforms will need to have the bid multipliers set at -100 percent).

Aside from device specific bidding, the extra incentive to create device-based campaigns is your ad copy. Since we can’t tell Google anymore to show mobile-specific ads in a campaign targeting all three devices, it makes sense to break out campaigns. That said, you should take a hybrid approach to device-specific campaigns. Enhanced Campaigns may have gone overboard with no tablet bid multipliers, but the idea of making management easier is still relevant.

First off, I wouldn’t create tablet-specific campaigns unless you have compelling evidence to do so. For example, a campaign that sees half the cost per conversion of what’s seen on desktops may make sense. But even then, you could raise the tablet multiplier. Your ad copy is already the same as desktop, so writing tablet-specific copy wouldn’t necessarily improve results. It’s more likely that within desktop campaigns, you will lower your tablet multiplier or set it at -100 percent.

The challenge becomes separating your mobile campaigns from desktop. If you have a campaign seeing strong mobile performance that has mobile-preferred ad copy, you’ll want to continue utilizing this mobile messaging. You can keep everything as is, but again, you lose your ability to write different copy per device. Let’s look at a campaign with significantly better mobile performance where the mobile multiplier is -25 percent.

Image of device performance

Mobile sees more conversions and converts at half the cost of desktop. Instead of creating a new, mobile-specific campaign, we’ll want to utilize the history already present in this campaign (so we won’t have to start over). I would suggest keeping this campaign as the “mobile” campaign.

To keep the same -25-percent bid modifier, just multiply all bids by .75. You’ll then want to adjust the ad copy for the expanded format. I would replicate your mobile-preferred messaging as best you can within the restraints of the new format. For example, you may put “order from your phone” in one of the double headline fields.

The next step is to duplicate the campaign for desktop while setting a -100-percent mobile bid multiplier. It’s true that you are losing your desktop traffic history, but the impact will be much less compared to mobile.

When performance difference isn’t as staggering between devices, it’s a judgment call as to which device gets the new campaign. I would most likely create a new campaign based upon which device sees lower traffic numbers. As an example, if desktop and mobile convert at the same rate, but desktop traffic is 80 percent of overall traffic, I would keep this campaign as desktop only.

You may decide that you want to keep some campaigns as is, even without mobile-specific ads. It’s worth testing, but pay close attention and be willing to set up new campaigns if performance on one device decreases significantly.

Final thoughts

These new AdWords updates are exciting for advertisers, as they allow for greater paid search real estate and a return to campaign-level device control.

With these updates come account restructure initiatives that we haven’t had to deal with since Enhanced Campaigns. That’s why it’s crucial to begin crafting your strategy now, while starting the process of creating your new ads.

Author : 

Google drove 95 percent of US smartphone paid search clicks in Q1 [Merkle]

Product listing ads continue to drive growth with added exposure on mobile and search partners.

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If there’s one theme to be taken from Merkle’s Q1 Digital Marketing Report, it’s that Google is miles ahead of Bing and Yahoo in driving and monetizing mobile search traffic.

Driven almost entirely by Google, mobile paid search continues to grow, with smartphone click share rising from 33 percent in Q4 2015 to 39 percent in Q1 2016 overall. On Google, 57 percent of paid search clicks came from mobile in Q1. Overall, desktop paid search clicks were flat and tablet clicks were off five percent year over year, compared to 101-percent growth for smartphone clicks.

Google paid search saw solid growth in Q1 among Merkle’s client base, with spend rising 25 percent year over year as click volume increased 33 percent. Overall, CPCs fell six percent as mobile click share continued to rise. Non-brand search ad clicks grew 42 percent, and spend on non-brand keywords rose 24 percent, the highest growth rate seen in six quarters.

Combined spend across Bing Ads and Yahoo Gemini fell 10 percent year over year. Clicks were off 14 percent, though CPCs rose four percent.

Google increasingly dominates mobile paid search

Among Merkle’s client base, 95 percent of all paid search clicks that came from phones were generated by Google in Q1, up from 86 percent a year ago. Bing Ads held 19 percent of desktop clicks, 13 percent of tablet clicks and just three percent of all US smartphone clicks. Yahoo Gemini generated three percent of all desktop and tablet ad clicks and just one percent of all smartphone ad clicks.

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PLA details

Merkle’s customer base skews large US retailer, which makes these quarterly reports something of a bellwether of PLA trends in the US. In Q1, PLA spend rose 41 percent year over year compared to 13 percent growth from text ads.

PLAs accounted for 43 percent of Merkle’s retail clients’ overall search ad clicks from Google and a whopping 70 percent of non-brand clicks. PLAs are generating a greater share of clicks for larger retailers than smaller, but the median retailer generated 37 percent of overall Google clicks from PLAs.

Clicks from search partners (which include third-party retail sites and, somewhat oddly, Google image search) rose 545 percent year over year and contributed six percent of the total PLA click growth.

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More on Bing Ads and Gemini

In contrast to Google’s ongoing ability to monetize PLAs from mobile and search partners, Bing saw spending growth from Product Ads slow to just 21 percent in Q1, down from 98 percent a year ago.

Non-brand clicks across both engines fell 12 percent in Q1 as spend on non-brand keywords fell 10 percent. Non-brand CPCs rose two percent.

Yahoo Gemini’s share of combined clicks across Bing and Yahoo has held relatively steady since August 2015, when it pushed migration from Bing Ads. In Q1, Gemini’s click share was just under 17 percent.

On smartphones, overall clicks from both engines were down nine percent compared to the previous year. Notably, Merkle points out, “Though originally launched as a mobile platform, 56 percent of Gemini clicks were on desktop in Q1.”

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Effect of Google removing right rail text ads

Merkle says there has been relatively little impact on both paid and organic trends from Google’s most substantial paid search change of Q1, namely removing text ads from the right rail on desktop. However, PLAs appear to have received a slight boost in click volume, as Google seems to be showing PLAs in the mainline with greater frequency, and there is less visual competition when they appear in the right rail.

The full report is available for download here.

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Google now handles at least 2 trillion searches per year

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The search giant won’t say exactly how many trillions of queries it processes, other than it’s now two or more. It last claimed 1.2 trillion in 2012.

How many searches per year happen on Google? After nearly four years, the company has finally released an updated figure today of “trillions” per year. How many trillions, exactly, Google wouldn’t say. Consider two trillion the starting point.

At least 2 trillion and less than a quadrillion

Google did confirm to Search Engine Land that because it said it handles “trillions” of searches per year worldwide, the figure could be safely assumed to be two trillion or above. After all, you can’t do trillions of searches — plural — unless it’s two or more.

But is it more than two trillion? Google could be doing five trillion searches per year. Or 10 trillion. Or 100 trillion. Or presumably up to 999 trillion, because if it were 1,000 trillion, you’d expect Google would announce that it does a quadrillion searches per year (Yes, that’s the name for 1,000 trillion — I had to look it up!).

Google’s searches per year, over time

The actual trillions figure is probably close to the single or low double-digits. This assumption comes from what Google has claimed in the past. To understand that, let’s go through the history of what Google itself has said it handles in terms of searches per year.

An important note here: All the numbers below are those that Google itself claimed, not those from third parties. Also important: it’s easy to find sites claiming to show a year-by-year progression based on Google’s own figures on how Google’s searches have increased over time. Those claims aren’t valid, as Google has often skipped self-reporting searches, as you’ll see below.

  • 1999: one billion per year (based on three million searches per day in August 1999, as reported by John Battelle in his great book, The Search. The figures, I’m fairly certain, came directly from Google, which was more open back then when needing to prove its growth story)
  • 2000: 14 billion (based on 18 million searches per day for the first half of 2000 and 60 million for the second half, from figures reported by Battelle. It’s not a perfect estimate, but it’s the best I can figure)
  • 2001–2003: 55 billion+ (based on reports by Google for its Zeitgeist in 2001, 2002 and 2003)
  • 2004–2008: 73 billion (based on Google saying it was doing 200 million searches per day in 2004. After that, it said only “billions” in Google Zeitgeist for 2005 and 2007, with nothing said for 2006 or 2008)
  • 2009: 365 billion+ (A Google blog post in 2009 said Google was doing more than one billion searches per day, then silence for 2010 and 2011)
  • 2012–2015: 1.2 trillion (based on a 100-billion-per-month figure Google released during a special press briefing on search in 2012. Google repeated this figure in 2015, when expressing it as three billion searches per day)
  • 2016: two trillion+ (based on this story that you’re reading now!)

The difficulty in estimating beyond 2 trillion

As you can see, Google’s claiming to do at least roughly double the searches in 2016 that it did in 2012. That seems reasonable to believe. But could it be doing more?

The best way I know to estimate is to repeat what I’ve done before. You look at what comScore, a third-party ratings service, reported Google handling in 2012. You then compare that to 2016, to get comScore’s growth rate for Google. Then, that rate can be applied to Google’s own figures.

This is not perfect for several reasons. First, comScore only measures searches in the United States, not worldwide. Globally, growth might be much different. Second, comScore only measures desktop searches, missing the more than half of searches now happening on mobile with Google. Finally, comScore ultimately is an educated guess at what Google’s really processing. Only Google knows for sure.

With those caveats in mind, comScore’s most recent estimates put Google at handling 10.4 billion searches last month. Comparing that to three years ago, comScore put Google at 11.4 billion searches per month. Uh oh! That’s a nine-percent decline. This rate applied to Google’s latest figures would suggest that Google should have dipped down to about one trillion searches, not risen up to two trillion or more.

Back to those caveats. Again, comScore only measures desktop search activity, which has beendropping consistently since 2013, as people turn to mobile devices. This means comScore’s entirely missing the growth story in search, making any estimates off its figures fairly useless.

Searches per second, minute, day & month

The bottom line: Without Google itself providing more details, assuming two trillion or more searches per year is the safest bet, for those who want to cite an actual figure rather than say “trillions.”

Those who cite figures also often like to cite them per month, day, or even to the second. If you go with two trillion per year with Google, then the breakdown is like this, in rounded figures:

  • Searches per second: 63,000
  • Searches per minute: 3.8 million
  • Searches per hour: 228 million
  • Searches per day: 5.5 billion
  • Searches per month: 167 billion
  • Searches per year: 2 trillion

Again, a caveat. Read all those figures with “at least” in mind. Google’s doing at least two trillion searches, it says, but it could be more. That similarly means it’s doing at least 63,000 searches per second, but maybe more, at least 5.5 billion searches per month, but maybe more, and so on.

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