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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - November 2015

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, featuring 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 look at Google's recent announcement that they will now be targeting hacked sites in the search results with changes to the algorithms, so that identified sites will be removed from the ranking results to protect searchers and improve the quality of the results.

We also look at the new Facebook M service which has recently been announced, which is designed to be an advanced digital personal assistant, combining artificial intelligence and real people to help users complete tasks. Finally we look at the latest enhancements to the Google AdWords Display Network service, that can help advertisers improve the cost-effectiveness of their campaigns.

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 Facebook or LinkedIn, as well as our occasional updates on Twitter.

On to this month's edition...

Google Search Results Filtering Hacked Sites

As a follow up to our article in September about avoiding getting your website hacked, Google announced in October that they are introducing a series of algorithmic changes that aim to tackle hacked spam in the search results. This makes it ever more important to ensure that your website is not affected by this problem.

There has been an increasing number of legitimate sites being hacked by spammers and used to engage in abusive behaviour, such as malware downloads, promotion of traffic to low quality sites, porn, and marketing of counterfeit goods or illegal pharmaceutical drugs. This is a significant issue for the website owners - who may not be aware of the issue and for Google, which monitors impacted sites in their search results to try to prevent unwitting searchers coming across these bad sites.

Website owners that don't implement standard best practices for security can leave their websites vulnerable to being easily hacked, so that spammers and cyber-criminals purposely seek out those sites and inject pages with malicious content in an attempt to gain rank and traffic in search engines. Google has recently posted a series of webmaster blog articles with tips and advice to try to avoid this happening and they are now aggressively targeting hacked spam in order to protect users and webmasters.

These latest algorithmic changes that have been reported will eventually impact an estimated 5% of queries, depending on the language. Google says that as they roll out the new algorithms, searchers might notice that for certain queries, only the most relevant results are shown, reducing the number of results shown on a page. This is due to the large amount of hacked spam being removed, and should improve in the near future.

So Google is taking steps to weed out the bad content whilst retaining the organic, legitimate results. From a webmaster perspective, following the recommended best practices that we recently outlined is a good strategy, and having a Google Search Console account to also monitor potential issues that Google has picked up is also advised.

If you'd like to know more about these new ranking changes and how to avoid your site getting hacked, please contact us for more information.


Facebook M a personal digital assistant

At the end of August, Facebook announced that they were testing a new service called M. This is a personal digital assistant inside the Messenger app, that completes tasks and finds information on the user's behalf, being powered by artificial intelligence that's trained and supervised by people.

M appears to be a significant project for Facebook and one that they are investing in with a long term strategy to become a leading service that can effectively complete tasks on your behalf such as purchase items, get gifts delivered, book restaurants, travel arrangements, appointments and more. It is intended to compete and perform much better than Apple's Siri and Microsoft's Cortana.

The difference with Facebook's M is that it's currently a hybrid service that uses artificial intelligence combined with a group of Facebook employees who will make sure that every request is answered. If M can provide a more efficient service than its competitors, Facebook hopes to boost the number of people using it on mobile, which will in turn lead to increased revenue from their transactions.

Once a user gets access to M through Messenger (which will be free), they can send a note to M, which will be interpreted by the software as a natural language query and then ask follow up questions in the message thread, if required, and send updates as the task is completed. Users won't necessarily know whether a computer or a person has helped them.

The unique aspect of this service is that Facebook's M 'trainers' have customer service backgrounds and so they will make judgments and perform tasks that the software can't. As the service is used more and more, the intention is that the software will then learn from human behaviour and eventually become sophisticated enough to process requests correctly itself. This may be sometime off and could represent a significant financial investment by Facebook, but they are taking the long term view that this will become a powerful market-leading tool in the future.

If you'd like to know more about Facebook M, please get in touch.


Google adds new features to the AdWords Display Network

Over the past few years, the Display Network part of Google AdWords has seen a range of improvements in targeting and ad formats, to reflect the increasing role of this feature for advertisers to reach potential customers on all devices. Google has recently introduced some additional new features that enhances the functionality of this service.

Firstly, Audience Insights have been added directly in AdWords to help advertisers find out more about their target market and to improve the targeting options by such aspects as age, location, and interests. These insights provide aggregate information about people in your remarketing lists, so that advertisers can quickly and easily take action through improved targeting. For example, if most people who converted on your site are cycling enthusiasts, you may wish to add this affinity audience to your campaign. Or, if many of your customers are females between the ages of 25 and 34, you might want to customize your ad creative to appeal to this demographic.

The second enhancement is that the display ads will now only be charged on a cost per thousand (CPM) basis if the ad is viewable on the screen. Google says that most display ads (around 56%) never had a chance to be viewed because they were 'below the fold', or in a background tab, so that although an impression may be generated, the ad wasn't viewed. Therefore Google is changing their system to only bill advertisers when the ad impression is viewable, so that over the next few months, all campaigns that buy on a CPM basis will be upgraded to be viewable CPM (vCPM).

The third new enhancement affects dynamic remarketing ads, which will now become more flexible and automatically re-shaped and re-sized to fit all device types. These ads are linked to a Merchant Centre feed for ecommerce retailers and the design layouts will also be touched up to look great on any mobile or desktop site, or app.

These are all welcome additions and should help display advertisers see better results from their campaigns if you'd like to know more, please contact us now.


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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