Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - August 2014
Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search marketing techniques and trends.
In the first article this month, we take a look at the Google AdWords location targeting options and how the limitations in this may impact the ways that you can market your business through search advertising. Next, we look at what the recent changes to Facebook Reach mean and how this signifies the end of brand marketing through business pages and community groups with organic reach. In the final article this month we review the SEO impact of Panda 4.0 and how this affects approximately 7.5% of English-language queries.
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 us on Twitter for the latest developments during the month, or follow our Facebook page or Google+ page for updates.
On to this month's edition...
Google AdWords Location Targeting Options
Location targeting of ads through Google AdWords has been one of the best features for many years, allowing advertisers to target a specific country, state, city or even suburb. Targeting by geographic location is an essential tool for advertisers to help improve relevancy and control spend, however, whilst the location targeting settings in AdWords are predominantly accurate, several limitations exist.
Advertisers using Google AdWords can set location targeting options at the campaign level, either with a single location setting or with multiple locations being targeted within the campaign. Within these settings there are also some advanced options whereby advertisers can choose to include or exclude people based on where they're likely to be physically located or the places that they're interested in (i.e. using the location term in their search query). Targeting by search query location is usually good for relevancy, but many searchers will not use a location term in their query and so that's where the advertiser is reliant on Google's ability to identify the current location of that searcher.
The AdWords system uses several factors to determine the physical location of the searcher, using either the identified location of the person's computer or from a mobile device location. An IP (Internet Protocol) address is therefore the most common way that Google uses to identify location - this IP is a unique number assigned by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to each computer connected to the Internet. With mobile devices using Wi-Fi, Google may detect the mobile device's IP address to determine physical location or, if it's connected to a mobile carrier's proxy server, then the carrier IP is used to determine the device's location. This is generally the best option for Google to include users within the defined geo-targeted area, but it's not 100% accurate.
IP address targeting has certainly improved over the past 10 years but can still be limited by accuracy if, for example, the IP address is associated with the wrong location or if the address is associated with a very broad geographic location. In large corporates with offices across multiple locations may also provide incorrect information to Google as the main server or Intranet connection will incorrectly identify the city location for some searchers. One quick way of testing your own location identified by Google is to click on the 'Search Tools' menu when searching and then in the sub-menu below that, the final option shows the location Google has identified for you as a searcher. If this is wrong, then it is possible to change this setting on your device.
If searchers are using a mobile device - which is increasingly common - then the geo-targeting can be more accurate as long as users have enabled precise location sharing on their mobile device. Google looks for a number of signals in this instance, such as GPS location, Wi-Fi location, or Google's cell ID (cell tower) location database (in the US). In many cases the GPS location can be used and provides good targeting accuracy which is ideal for local search marketers.
In general, location targeting in Google AdWords works best down to city level, and although there is sometimes the option to select pre-defined regions within a city, or to use more specific location or radius targeting, the smaller the area becomes the less effective it will tend to be, particularly if the main city centre / location is not included. In these cases the advertiser should supplement their activity with a campaign targeting a wider geographic area, but limiting the search terms to only include ones with location words included in the query. Once the geo-targeting has been set up, Google then provides a number of different reports to help advertisers review activity by user locations.
If you would like more information about how location targeting can help your AdWords campaign, please contact us now.
What Changes To Facebook Reach Mean
At the end of 2013, Facebook quietly changed its rules for 'organic reach' which has effectively ended the option for 'free advertising' used by many companies. It's a move driven by revenue targets which will force more advertisers to now rethink their brand strategies on social media and put more money behind advertising, especially with 'promoted posts'.
One of the main techniques used by companies on Facebook has been to promote "likes" of their business pages to build a large and tailored audience, which can then be marketed to, either directly or subtly through news feed posts. However, the recent changes to Facebook's algorithm means that this content being posted by companies is now much less likely to appear in their followers news feeds - it's estimated that only 5% of followers will see this content compared to around 15% last year.
Therefore the end of this 'organic reach' - which allows a post from a company to be seen, without them having to spend money on it - means that the value of these posts will be reduced in terms of visibility and impact, unless the content generates good engagement from the followers (likes, shares, comments etc). The alternative is that companies will now need to spend money on promoting these posts to ensure wider coverage of their target audience.
Facebook has said that the reduction in organic reach was due to the huge increase in published content on the network and so was designed to promote relevant content rather than push companies into paid advertisements. However, it's also a convenient way to increase revenue whilst also putting a higher value on the role of Facebook as a business marketing tool. Companies must now decide whether to spend more in this sector or to pull back and do less if it's not as effective as other channels.
Depending on your product or service, Facebook can still be an attractive marketing tool with a good range of targeting options and advertising tools. It also has a huge reach and is regularly used, particularly on mobile devices, but it certainly won't work for every business, or the positive impact will slowly build over time, which is hard to measure if advertising spend increases.
If you'd like more details about how the changes to Facebook reach may impact your business, contact us now.
The SEO Impact of Panda 4.0
In Google's continuous effort to clean up the quality of their search results, they introduced a significant algorithm change in 2011 which became known as the 'Panda' update. At the end of May this year, another notable change to the settings was announced, called Panda 4.0, which is thought to affect around 7.5% of English-language search queries. The aim of this new update is to remove or reduce the rankings of sites that contain poor, duplicated or irrelevant content, but there should have been no impact on well written and optimised sites.
Panda 4.0 was the first update to the Panda algorithm in over a year and seems to focus on penalising duplicate content sites, ensuring authoritative sites with original content continue to rank well. Websites that have been the victim of copyright theft and have had valuable original content stolen are now seeing a return in traffic. Websites that have blatantly plagiarised original content from other websites are now receiving penalties and reduced ranking positions. These latest Panda updates - the details of which are always kept confidential by Google - are once again increasing search result quality, ensuring that users are directed to websites with the best quality content.
It appears that certain search queries and niches have been hit hard by the latest update, with terms such as 'pay day loans' seeing major changes in search results due to harsh penalties handed out to poor content websites that were previously ranking well. In contrast, the initial findings across leading digital communities has been an increase in traffic for authoritative websites, which are well recognised for producing valuable original content. Some large sites with substantial link building strengths and resources but offering little value in content have also been hit hard - it's been reported that Ebay has seen substantial drops in rankings for major queries, which may or may not be the correct way that Google intends the ranking to work, but there is likely to be an 'adjustment' period with further revisions after this main update.
Hopefully your website has not been affected by these latest changes, but if you'd like to know more about the Panda 4.0 algorithm change and it's impact on the search results, please contact us for details.
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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.