Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - July 2016
Welcome to the latest monthly issue of our regular newsletter which features news, tips and advice on effective website marketing, with a particular focus on search engine marketing techniques and trends.
In the first article this month we look at Google's recent announcement of the largest change to AdWords in years with Expanded Text Ads, which will allow search marketers to promote their products or USPs in more detail.
We also look at how caution should be taken when receiving emails about link schemes that could improve a website's organic rankings - both from the recipients perspective and for prospective link builders. Finally, we look at how Microsoft is to buy LinkedIn for US$26bn and what it means for the shareholders of both companies, as well as the market as a whole.
On a separate matter this month, we're delighted to announce that we have just been given the status of a Premier Google AdWords Partner, which recognises Web Marketing Workshop as 'one of their most valued agencies'. Google says that this new badge is designed to recognize Partners who manage a substantial portfolio of Google advertising campaigns and deliver great results for their customers. Premier Partners will be required to maintain additional certification requirements and will receive increased support from Google.
On to this month's edition...
Google AdWords Rolls Out Expanded Text Ads
Google recently announced the largest change to AdWords in years - the format of text ads is changing. According to Google, this new format - known as Expanded Text Ads - has delivered clickthrough rates up to 20% higher compared to existing test ads, during their tests.
The most prominent feature of the change is an increased character length in the headline from 25 to 60, over two headlines. This will enable advertisers to maximise the space on mobile, desktop and tablet devices to promote products and services. The description lines, which currently consist of two lines of 35 characters each, will be merged into one, with 80 characters (inc. spaces). This increase from 95 characters to 140 characters in the headline and description combined is a significant one, with almost a 50% increase.
This new ad format reflects the recent change where Google moved all AdWords ads in line with the organic search results (with no ads being shown in a right hand column any more) and therefore Google wants to display the ads in a way that look more like the traditional organic results. The roll-out of this new format is currently limited but is expected to appear as standard ads on Google.com (USA) from the end of July, and globally by the end of October this year, when the current ad format will be discontinued.
AdWords campaign managers therefore need to ensure that the testing and rollout of Expanded Text Ads is included as a top priority over the next few months. Google recommends that advertisers need to rethink their entire creative by trying not to tack copy onto existing ads and initial tests have shown that advertisers who completely rethink and rewrite their ads for the new format see better performance.
The benefits for advertisers include more direct control over headlines, without having to hope that Google would automatically carry up correctly punctuated portions of description line 1 into it, which it only did randomly and not all the time. There will also be room to fit in more product specific information or unique selling propositions.
We'll be testing these new format ads over the next few months and if you want to know more about how ETAs could improve your business's advertising, please contact us now.
Caution About Link Schemes From Black Hat SEOs
In the early days of SEO, 'black-hat' techniques such as hidden 'keyword stuffing' and 'link farms' were prevalent. Thankfully, things have progressed significantly since then with Google's enhancements through the Panda/Penguin algorithms penalising such unscrupulous techniques. However, there are still some shady link schemes so it's necessary to be cautious about emails that offer to put strong links to your site upon reputable, powerful ones, as these offers are usually too good to be true!
These type of offers violate Google's quality guidelines and can harm your site rankings. Such 'spammy' link-building tactics, defined by Google as 'link schemes' are, buying or selling links that pass PageRank (which includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links); exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a "free" product in exchange for them writing about it in a blog, for example, and including a link.
Google considers these schemes to be an attempt to fool the search engine algorithms. If lower-quality content can rank high just because it has amassed a high quantity of backlinks, that is not a great experience for the searcher. So Google strives to rank quality content that will meet user needs.
When it comes to spammy link building techniques, there are two types of penalties that can impact your site: algorithmic and manual. An algorithmic penalty occurs when your site loses rankings as a result of an algorithm update - in this case, Penguin. Webmasters may be able to restore rankings by getting rid of spammy backlinks before the next Penguin update, but that is not a guarantee. In any event, steps should be taken to remove or disavow spammy backlinks.
An algorithmic ranking demotion is bad, but it is not as devastating as a manual penalty, which can cause a site (or some of its pages) to be removed from Google's index entirely. Essentially, the Google 'Spam' team manually reviews your backlink profile and places a penalty on the site. To remove a manual penalty, you must work to remove or disavow spammy backlinks and then file a reconsideration request, which is a process that can take weeks or months.
Ideally, all links to a site would be earned naturally, rather than acquired through deliberate link-building efforts. To gain natural inbound links, webmasters and SEOs should build content that is engaging, shareable and easily linkable. So, when receiving emails from SEO practitioners, make sure that you follow these guidelines:
- Ignore offers of paid link-building or link schemes;
- If the email states the person is from a reputable organisation, they would use the email address of that company, not a generic one, such as from Gmail;
- Punctuation and spelling errors in the email should also ring alarm bells!
It's certainly beneficial to remain cautious and ideally stay away from link-building offers that do sound too good to be true, as doing that will help to avoid link penalties, which can severely damage a sites rankings, traffic and consequential conversions.
If you want more information about how unscrupulous link-building prospecting, or black-hat SEO techniques can impact your business, contact us now.
Microsoft to Buy LinkedIn For US$26bn
In June it was announced that Microsoft will pay $196 a share for LinkedIn - valuing it at US$26bn - which is a deal that Microsoft hopes will help it to boost sales of its business and email software. It will also give it access to the world's biggest professional social network with more than 430 million members worldwide.
It's possible that LinkedIn will be integrated with a number of Microsoft assets such as Office 365, Exchange and Outlook, but how deeply integrated it will be isn't specified at this stage. Microsoft emphasised however, that LinkedIn would continue to operate as an independent business and there will be a different approach to previous integrations, to preserve LinkedIn's "distinct brand, culture and independence".
Microsoft has to be cautious about such purchases, as the entire US$7.2bn value of the Nokia's mobile phones division, which it bought in 2013, was written off just a year later. So Microsoft's investors may look at that $26bn price tag nervously, while anyone with a few LinkedIn shares would be pleased with the 50% premium (on the Friday before the deal) closing share price to buy LinkedIn. That price amounts to US$250 for every active user.
Shares in LinkedIn, which floated in May 2011, have fallen by more than 40% this year. The stock plunged by a quarter in February after the company issued a profit warning for the first quarter and reported an annual loss of US$166m. However, shares soared 47% following the announcement of the deal, whereas shares in Microsoft have fallen by 2.6%, bringing the decline this year to almost 10%. The takeover is by far the biggest acquisition made by Microsoft, which paid $8.5bn for Skype in 2011 and it eclipses the $19bn that Facebook paid for WhatsApp in 2014.
If you'd like to know more about this move by Microsoft, and the possible impact on LinkedIn, please contact us.
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.
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