Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - February 2013
Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, which covers news, tips and advice on effective website marketing techniques and trends.
In the first article this month we look at Google's Search Suggestions feature and how this can be used by search marketers to improve their SEO or PPC / AdWords campaigns. We also review the important distinction between Display and Destination URLs used in the adverts of a Google AdWords campaign and how these can be used most effectively.
Finally for this month, we take a look at Facebook's recent introduction of its new "Graph Search" tool and what implications this will have for users, as well as concerns over privacy issues.
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 for updates.
On to this month's edition...
Making use of Google's Search Suggestions
Since 2008, Google has provided searchers with the 'Search Suggest' option, which aims to predict the search terms that users are typing into the search query box. In 2010, this was combined with Google's Instant Search service, which continuously changes the results list as the users types in their query. The suggested search term function is therefore a valuable tool for users, but also for search marketers.
The drop-down list of search suggestions that appear as users enter a search query on Google will sometimes display up to 10 options, although in most cases, there are 4 suggestions shown, which are continually refined as the query is typed. The aim of Google is to help the user complete their search query faster, by anticipating the search term they might use. These suggestions come from historical data on how people have searched, as well as the content of web pages indexed by Google.
The search popularity is the primary factor in what Google shows as a suggestion, yet the suggestions may also be influenced by a user's previous search history, or by relevancy factors that are calculated by Google's complex algorithms. There is also a "freshness layer", so that if there are terms that suddenly spike in popularity, these can appear as suggestions, even if they haven't gained long-term popularity.
What's important from a search marketing point of view is how these suggestions may influence the results shown on the page, and how this information can be used for a business advantage. Although there are no figures on usage of these suggestions, many people say that they will look at the suggestions being shown and are likely to choose the relevant query to save typing in the full query. As a result, this tool can help to influence the way that people are searching and could increase the times that websites will appear in the rankings for selected search queries.
This is important for search engine optimisation (SEO) and for PPC advertising (Google AdWords). From an SEO perspective, marketers should see what queries are being suggested for the main search terms they are targeting through their optimisation, and then ensure that the relevant suggestions are also being targeted in their site content.
This is also true for Google AdWords, so that by targeting the relevant suggestions for the market – either as a phrase or exact match term - marketers can see how often those terms are being used as a search query, and whether they perform well in their campaign. Targeting these suggestions can also help bid pricing on specific queries, and in addition to this, any suggestions that are shown, but are not relevant, provide good information on negative terms that should be added to the campaign.
If you would like more information about Google's search suggestions and how these can be used for your search marketing activity, contact us now.
Defining Display and Destination URLs in Google AdWords
A common question that often arises amongst AdWords advertisers is "what is the difference between Display and Destination URLs in the adverts?" This is a valid question and it's important to understand how these work and how they should be used to maximise the performance of a paid search campaign.
The difference between the two types of URL shown in the Google AdWords ads are as follows:
- the Display URL is the URL (coloured green) that appears below your ad text when your ad is shown in the search results. This URL is purely a visual identifier on the advert and doesn't function as the link for the website.
- the Destination URL on the other hand, is the specific location within your site where you'd like to take a user that has clicked on your ad (the landing page). This may be a long URL and the Destination URL isn't visible in the ad, so you can use it to direct people to a specific page within your site without cluttering your ad.
Google has guidelines and restrictions on how the Display and Destination URLs are used. The most important consideration is that the Display URL must show the same domain name as the website that the advert links to. The www. part of the domain doesn't need to be included here, although Google will show this in the advert if space allows.
It's important to use the Display URL as part of the marketing content of the advert, to indicate to searchers what they will find on the website and, where possible, to re-emphasise key terms in the advert text, which will appear bold and can help to increase clickthroughs from an advert (such as yourdomain.com.au/Search_Term).
Remember, the text used in the Display URL is not the actual URL link to the website and has no influence on the Destination URL used in the advert. This destination is set up as a link from the ad but hidden from the searcher until they click on the ad and see the website and the landing page URL in their browser. Therefore, in the above example, the Destination URL would be something like: http://www.yourdomain.com.au/category/product/item15.html.
For more information about the use of Display and Destination URLs, including best practice and Google policies, read this. Alternatively, please contact us now for more information.
Facebook Introduces "Graph Search"
In January, Facebook announced their new "Graph Search" tool, which is gradually being rolled out to users of the social networking service. As with many product developments by Facebook, there have been concerns raised about privacy, as the tool now allows greater in-depth searching of the user database.
The launch of the Graph Search function provides a new type of social search that can't be completed through Google or any other existing search tool. It therefore fills a gap in search because, if used regularly, Facebook has a massive amount of social data on users which can now be mined and used for different purposes – giving Facebook an advantage over Google's range of search options.
The search function will now enable users to search for 'people, places or things' with results shown based on your network of friends and the things they have posted, liked or commented on. For example, if you typed "movies my friends like" into Google, it would have no idea what you wanted, whereas Facebook would potentially provide this information, as the new feature allows members to search for this and find results, as long as your friends have posted this type of information in the first place. (If search results are not widely available from your friends network, then Bing will provide results and this search engine is becoming more integrated with Facebook.)
While this data – called the "social graph" by Facebook - has always been on the site, it's not previously been easily accessible. Only advertisers could use this type of data previously, through the targeting options provided, such as showing an ad to only "18-24-year-old males who like video games and live in Australia" for example. This has now changed with the wider access to this "social graph" for all users.
The new Graph Search has been getting a lot of media attention, but not all is good. Facebook often faces privacy concerns when they launch new features and this one is no exception. There was an immediate impact on the company's already battered share price as concerns were raised over how this tool could be used, but Facebook hopes that it will place them in a stronger position for increased usage and, of course, better revenue opportunities.
The privacy concerns revolve around the changing usage and access terms for information posted on Facebook, and from the potential for personal information to be collected by criminals to build profiles of individuals that could then be used to target victims for identity theft. However, users of Facebook also need to be aware of what information they post online and who has access to this through their individual security settings.
For more information about the new Graph Search feature, and the implications for Facebook users (and advertisers), 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.