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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - October 2017

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter which focuses on news, tips and advice for effective website marketing, with particular attention on Google and best practice search engine marketing techniques, plus current trends in the market.

In our first article this month we take a look at Google's increasing focus on website connection security and how it intends to eventually show the "Not secure" warning for all HTTP pages through the Google Chrome browser.

We also look at two recent announcements from Google AdWords, with the reduction of the ad rotation options, and secondly, the way that Google tracks AdWords conversions through Google Analytics. We look at the implications of these changes for advertisers.

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, Google+ or LinkedIn, as well as our occasional updates on Twitter.

On to this month's edition...

 

Google's Focus on Website Connection Security

In January 2017 Google's Chrome Web browser began to indicate connection security with an information icon in the address bar. Historically, Chrome had not explicitly labelled HTTP connections as non-secure, but since then any HTTP pages that collect passwords or credit cards have been marked non-secure, as part of a long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure and to encourage increased web security.

Chrome previously marked HTTP connections with a neutral indicator, which didn't reflect the true lack of security for HTTP connections, because when a website is loaded over HTTP someone else on the network can look at, or modify the site before it gets to you. Studies showed that users do not perceive the lack of a "secure" icon as a warning, but also that they become blind to warnings that occur too frequently. As a result, Google's plan has been to take in gradual steps to label HTTP sites more clearly and accurately as non-secure.

Since that change in January, there has been a 23% reduction in navigations to HTTP pages with password or credit card forms on desktop, so Google has decided to take the next steps they see as necessary. Beginning in October 2017, Chrome will show the "Not secure" warning in two additional situations: when users enter data on an HTTP page, and on all HTTP pages visited in Incognito mode.

Passwords and credit cards are not the only types of data that should be private. Any type of data that users type into websites should not be accessible to others on the network, so starting in Chrome version 62, it will show the "Not secure" warning when users type data into HTTP sites.

When users browse Chrome with Incognito mode, they likely have increased expectations of privacy. However, HTTP browsing is not private to others on the network so in v62, Chrome will also warn users when visiting an HTTP page in Incognito mode.

Eventually, the "Not secure" warning will be shown for all HTTP pages, even outside Incognito mode. Google will publish updates as future releases are developed, but they highly recommend switching websites to HTTPS as it's easier and cheaper than ever before and it enables both the best performance the web offers and powerful new features that are too sensitive for HTTP.

It can also provide an advantage in search rankings (particularly for mobile results) against the sites that haven't yet transitioned. So if this hasn't already been done, it's best to do it sooner rather than later.

If you want to know more about how website connection security can help to improve your business, contact us now.

 

Google "Simplifies" AdWords Ad Rotation Settings

Ad rotation is the way that Google delivers ads on both the Search Network and the Display Network. If there are multiple ads within an adgroup the ads will rotate, because no more than one ad from the account can show at a time. The ad rotation setting is therefore used to specify how often the ads in the adgroup are to be served relative to one another.

On 25th September 2017, three updates were made to simplify and improve ad rotation:

1. There will only be two ad rotation settings:

Now that this change has taken place, the previous "optimise for conversions" and "rotate evenly" settings will be greyed out in the AdWords interface. This means:

2. Campaigns using Smart Bidding will use "optimise" regardless of their ad rotation setting.

3. Ad rotation settings will now be available at the adgroup level, rather than at campaign level. This enables the use of multiple rotation settings across a single campaign.

It's not critical to take any immediate action but Google states that to continue optimising for conversions, the use of Smart Bidding is "recommended" (and there is no other way to do it). This helps to tailor bids based on the likelihood of a conversion, and chooses the ad most likely to drive that conversion, although the results will be dependent on Google's automated system and the more conversions there are, the more effective this is likely to be.

Google states this change is to simplify the settings, but the fact that the previous "rotate evenly" option will now automatically optimise for clicks encourages a more cynical view, and the reversal of these options comes after the numerous complaints made some years ago when the choice of rotation was originally changed. Furthermore, Smart Bidding using Google's machine learning has yet to be proven to be highly effective at increasing conversions and lowering the average Cost Per Acquisition, since it's still relatively early days for that technology and advertisers should review the changes after this change and decide which rotation setting to use.

It'll be interesting to see if Google ever back-flips on this decision due to more industry dissatisfaction at there being less control (as has happened previously with device bid modifiers). In an attempt to appease a similar outcry, Google is still thankfully providing the option for ads to "rotate indefinitely". AdWords managers who prefer more control with an even rotation can still do that to split test the ads without any automated optimisation input from Google, although it will require more monitoring and changes to ensure the best results. That will, according to them "be the sole option for an even rotation going forward", but how long that possibly unpopular decision stays in place remains to be seen.

You can read more about simpler ad rotation or contact us now for more information.

 

Changes to AdWords Conversion Measurement

In another recent change to AdWords, Google recently emailed all advertisers with details of adjustments that would be made to the way conversions are measured. Most advertisers won't need to take action but should be aware of the reasons and implications of these changes.

The announcement in September resulted from changes that Apple are introducing with their Safari browser, using a new feature called Intelligent Tracking Prevention. This is designed to stop the use of cookies and other tracking data operating across more than one website and the implications are that it may affect the accuracy of AdWords website conversion tracking through Safari, and therefore in particular on iPhones.

Google has therefore made changes to help ensure that conversions are reported as accurately as possible in AdWords, by making three changes which are consistent with Apple's own recommendations for ad attribution:

Google has started to use the ad click information stored in the new Google Analytics cookie from September, although it may take a few days before these conversions appear in the AdWords reports. Advertisers can turn this off by updating their Google Analytics tag, but this would not be recommended.

Google does recommend that if an advertiser hasn't yet linked their AdWords and Google Analytics accounts, this should be done to better measure conversions in AdWords. They also recommend that the conversion data is monitored over the next few months to see if there are any notable changes to previous trends with the data tracking.

If you would like more information about this change, or help with linking your AdWords and Analytics accounts together, please get in touch.

 

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