Web Search & Marketing Newsletter: April 2011
Welcome to the new issue of our monthly newsletter, which looks at the latest news and developments in the field of web search and online marketing.
This month's issue is dominated by recent developments from Google. Firstly, we look at the recent changes that Google has introduced to its ranking algorithm (sometimes referred to as the 'Farmer' update) which is being rolled out from the US and should have a notable impact on some search ranking results. There have also been some new improvements for Google AdWords advertisers, including the introduction of longer headlines for selected adverts, plus some more advanced controls for location targeting in AdWords that can help local search marketers.
You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject. You can also follow our Facebook page for updates during each month, or we will also post news on our Twitter account.
On to this month's edition...
Google makes significant changes to its ranking algorithm
Google has recently implemented a significant change to its ranking algorithm that it has been working on for over a year. This change is initially being introduced on Google.com in the US but is then being rolled out to the other regional versions of Google and is intended to exclude low-quality, 'shallow' and copied "spam" content from its top search results.
Although Google hasn't made any large scale changes to their ranking criteria for several years, this recent one follows growing criticism of the quality of Google's search results, with the increase in duplicated or low grade content sites populating the search results. Since this change was introduced, a number of studies (including one by Sistrix) have indicated a large impact on sites that carry that type of content, with some - such as citytowninfo.com - losing up to 86% of their rankings.
These type of sites have been coined as "Scraper" or "Farmer" sites. The former are those widely defined as not having original content, but instead pull content in from other sources. The latter are content farms that have shallow or low quality content - these sites are typically achieving revenue from affiliate links or Google AdSense links and add little value to the searcher. From initial studies, the change has impacted about 12% of US results and these changes will be rolled out worldwide soon.
Matt Cutts, the head of Google's spam fighting team, recently said: "we'll continue to explore ways to reduce spam, including new ways for users to give more explicit feedback about spammy and low-quality sites".
One of these methods is for Google to target the correct sites through feedback from users of the Google Chrome browser. Cutts says that 84% of the sites that were impacted by the new ranking changes were in the top 50 of the sites that were most reported as spam. He also mentions that none of the data from that tool was used to actually make changes that are part of these latest algorithm changes but explained that "these are sites that people want to go down, and they match our intuition", so Google crafted a ranking algorithm to tackle the "content farm problem" independently of the Chrome spam reporting tool.
In the real world, the difference in the results seem negligible for many companies, as it still seems easy to find plenty of low quality, irrelevant or duplicate content in the US results, but Cutts insists that the changes Google is making does improve results according to its own internal testing methods.
If you'd to know more about how Google's new algorithm could affect the ranking of your website in the future, please contact us now for details.
Google AdWords introduces longer headlines for selected adverts
Google has recently made changes to the way in which sponsored listings (or Google AdWords adverts) are displaying their headlines in the search results. This has been done by merging the original headline with the first line of the advert's description copy, giving a longer and more prominent text link, separated with a hyphen.
Google has done this because it has found that the top placement ads with the longer headlines get a higher clickthrough rate when displayed in the top positions above the main "organic" search results. Highlighting more information in the advert also improves the user experience, according to Google.
In order for the headline and the first line of the descriptive text to be merged, the first line of text needs to be a distinct sentence and end with correct punctuation, as well as being highly relevant to the content in the headline. The merged headlines will only appear in the adverts in the top 1-3 of the listings when they appear at the top of the page and AdWords advertisers can now see how their ads might appear when editing the content in their AdWords account.
There has been some sceptiscm amongst AdWords users who claim that these new ads with longer headlines may make it less easy to distinguish the sponsored listings from the organic results that appear below them, so it will result in yet more revenue for Google as they'll get the revenue from those clicks. It's also likely that the increased competition between advertisers for these new format ads appearing in the top positions may increase the level of bidding for those positions and so will in turn increase Google's revenue in this way.
Google will no doubt benefit from this change, but so should advertisers if it helps to increase visits to their website from relevant, interested searchers. It's certainly worth testing this option if you're running an AdWords campaign, and compare how your advert content is displayed against other advertisers for each search term.
If you'd like more information about how this new format of longer headlines for ads selected by Google can improve the marketing of your business, please contact us now.
Google introduces more advanced controls for location targeting in AdWords
In another development for Google AdWords, the search engine has enhanced the control over the targeting of local adverts. At the end of the month, Google announced that it's now possible to target adverts based upon a user's physical location or the location of interest.
What this change means is that advertisers can now target users by the place where they are actually situated, compared to those that just include a location in a search query. In addition to this, extra options have also been included for advertisers to exclude locations that are not required in their local targeting.
Previously, advertisers who were using a regional or local targeting setting would have their adverts appearing to all users who searched for "restaurants in newcastle" for example, regardless of their physical location. Now the adverts can be set to appear to those searchers who are only in Newcastle, by using the new target physical location option.
It's also now possible to target where the adverts appear by excluding by physical location and search intent. For example, an advertiser with a chain of restaurants throughout NSW but not in Sydney doesn't want his adverts to appear to users that live there, or others that don't but are looking there anyway by including Sydney in the search query. He can now prevent that group of searchers seeing the adverts, but still display the ads to people in the area that should see the ads.
Another feature is the ability to exclude by physical location only, so if he only wants to advertise his restaurant in Newcastle to people who don't live there and are just visiting, this is now possible. Previously, if Newcastle was excluded from the targeting, it would prevent adverts appearing for those living there and those not from there using it in the search query.
So this is a very useful new addition to Google's ever increasing functionality in AdWords. It reflects the recent emphasis that Google has been putting on local search results and will greatly enhance the precision of the targeting of Adwords adverts.
If you'd like more information about how this enhanced AdWords location targeting can help to improve the cost-effective marketing of your business, contact us now.
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Readers of our Web Marketing Blog will have seen that after nearly 4 years and over 460 posts, we decided to end the blog and provide news and updates on the web marketing sector through the social media channels. This reflects the changing nature of the online market for communication and allows us to be more flexible in updating our clients and followers with the latest developments. Therefore if you use Facebook or Twitter, you can now follow our news and updates using these channels:
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We hope you've found this month's newsletter useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.