Google unpacked a prominent update to its search results page for ads. Google will no longer be listing ADS down the right hand column, for desktop queries like before. The Ads units have been increased from 3 ad blocks per search results page, and the fourth will be at the bottom of the page if Google determines as “highly commercial queries.” Only 2 exceptions to this new rule apply, those are the product listing ads (PLA) boxes and the ads inside the Knowledge Graph.
This is a major change that will affect organic search. In as many ways! Like most moguls, Google is not blind to the upsurge of mobile traffic that has occurred over the last 24 months, in fact its growing faster than the advent of the web. The new layout of desktop search results will look like that of a mobile SERPS, is said to facilitate better accurate mobile search results (aligned to your intent) like Instant Answers and provide better performance for the advertiser’s ads.
What’s not unclear is that Google are the masters of this thing called “intent” and the true nature of search is such: Users actively ask google a question, “what is, where is, how do I?, best recipe etc.” add to this The Knowledge Graph which determines the understanding of the difference between an informational query VS a transactional query.
If a consumer searched to purchase something like an IPad, Google would see it as a bad user experience for that consumer, for if the searcher/consumer had to sift through the organic listings first to only to get to user manuals and other irrelevant listings.
The value proposition is entirely suited to Google’s Programmaticadvertising product AdWords, suited to the mobile consumer, and after years of Matt Cutts from Google stressing about the value of content for ranking purposes, its quite evident now, that this no longer applies.
Already in mobile results we have started seeing that there aren’t any organic listings above the fold! Try searching this from your mobile, “makeup brushes” and you will see that there are now 7 ad spaces, 4 above the organic listings (that are below the fold), and 3 at the bottom of the page. See Below Image.
Mobile search results
The new ad layout model predicts organic SERP genocide, as per the above, excluding the impact that Instant answers will have on search results, we also have to compete with the move on Googles part around local search (most chrome browsers in SA now auto redirect to google.co.za) coupled with a local competitive search result type (Part 3) that will now be positioned after Instant answers, or before that if noinstant answer content exists, and before organic listings. You may feel that the coverage of the screen won’t have a that much of a dramatic impact, but, displaying 4 – 7 ad units on nearly all mobile queries will undoubtedly have an effect on all advertisers.
The key here is not to lose your marbles and throw in the towel, but rather take the time and research what changes have been made to search algorithms, how these will affect your marketing efforts and what the level of importance is, such as the causation for your online business if the search platforms are updating 600 odd times a year, and your online tactics are not. If all else fails, get a reputable SEO to assist you.
In the last part of this article, I will be outlining the last reason you should give up on ranking #1 organically in google search.
There are many articles and info hubs online that offer you all the very best advice on SEO, the on page, the off page, the H1, the user journey, the meta this, meta that, oh, blah blah fish paste!
In reality we are all looking for that hack, right? That “one button fixes it all” thing. The hack that defies the need for you to be a rocket scientist. We want instant gratification. Whilst it may look as though I am defeating the ends of justice here, or that this magician is revealing her dark arts, the fact is that these dirty little hacks are totally within your control. Totally.
So here it is, the low down dirty SEO hack guide:
Content is and always will be king. If you have crap content, nothing on this list is going to serve you in any way. Create valuable, informative, rich content and Google will not penalise your search rankings for low quality content. Research has shown that long form content is working better on desktop than this short snackable formats we have become accustomed to. Title your content with short enticing yet descriptive titles, like this article.
Alt Tabs and Descriptions:
When loading content, make sure that you fill in all the area’s, IE: The name of the piece, the description and the ALT tag, as this allows for content to rank for different keywords and terms, as I’ve mentioned before in previous articles.
If your content is authentic and relevant to your audience, your keywords will naturally populate your content, Google has a myriad of checks in an algorithm, and keyword stuffing falls directly under their radar, so make sure your keywords are only mentioned 3-5 times in a copy.
Tech Stack Compliance:
Now this one is a killer, there are so many web developers out there, all offering the most amaze graphic design and artwork, with no idea about SEO, search visibility, google algorithms, code & language, and how this affects search visibility. What I mean is this, if you go to a building contractor and say “build my shop here”, he is not going to enter into a conversation about foot trade and parking, entrances and exits to the roads is he? No, he is going to build what you tell him to. Same applies for web developers. Make sure your sites technology stack is Google friendly, if not, most of this list is probably obsolete for you.
Hmmm, yes the sitemap is very important, without this guy, Google spiders are lost, and the result is the site is literally “lost” in search results. The sitemap makes sure that all of the links and content on your site are indexed in a manner the bots understand and easy to find and follow, the low down dirty hack here is that it should be at the bottom footer on your website for a prime “crawlable” presence.
It’s not as hard as you think, and it’s not a dark art, it’s a geographical locational listing, called Google My Business. It’s a simple process: Go to your browser, search for Google My Business, and follow the instructions. Google will send you a personal code in the post, you go online to the address given and enter code, VIOLA! You can set up your business on Google.
Site Speed & Mobile Readiness
Google are issuing a bright red “SLOW” tag to all sites that are too slow to load, this is very visible from search results especially from a mobile search. As you probably suspect this is in aid of mobile search, dominating search globally, so make sure your site loads fast and that it is either responsive, mobile or you have a mobi version. The dirty on this one is, make sure your site loads in milliseconds, and Google bots wont penalise your site in desktop or mobile search results.
These are what we call Accelerated Mobile Pages and these are pages that are designed to the mobile page’s load much faster, and now with the emphasis on speed and user experience, AMP’s will definitely have an influence on search results. If you’re a WordPress user, there is a plugin for AMP, check it out.
Internal Search Data
This is a wealth of juicy data, the pot of gold, that will allow you to craft the content related to the user’s actual search terms on your site. Need I say more?
Social search is taking the globe by storm, and as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, Tweets can now be found in search results by adding a # to your search term. In Facebook the same applies, if you add a # to a term and a reader click’s on that, that user is taken to all the hash tagged content in that category and or topic! So use your social media platforms to generate site traffic and SERP’s, by staying on top of social media like Twitter, and having valuable share worthy content, you would have achieved what most hope for in search visibility.
As we can divulge, there really is no quick fix to SEO, no low down hacks, but there definitely are simple and effective processes one can do to have a positive effect on your SEO.
Google have not revealed or admitted anything yet, but from I am able to understand, this update is a real issue. About.com, answers.com and wikihow.com all took serious knocks in traffic, a side effect that couldn’t have been predicted, attacking the quality of their content amongst other things, thus leaving devastation for these massive iconic sites. SEO is now more needed than ever.
Google Gods are at war withSpam, and by that I mean the following:
If Google can assess the quality of the ad inventory of the site ( yes its a scary unsettling thought, but they can!) then the requirement to understand comes now, from what I cant ascertain Google is now checking to see weather or not your ad inventory is Spammy, by:
Determining if your ad on the said page is aligned to the content on that said page
Determining if the content is aligned to the audience, based on your description of your site (META)
For example lets look at a poorly matched article on a motoring site that compares vehicles, in an attempt to create organic traffic a content piece like Hijack Safety For Women, would seem logical to the untrained as they would think it applies to all women on their site, one would assume that by the nature of the category it is 100% aligned, however the KEY here is the context. The site is not about safety for women but rather the motoring capabilities of each vehicle. So the correct content piece would be, ” The 3 safest vehicles for women ” Therefore aligned with the context and nature of the motoring site.
Below is a breakdown of the 6 ways this new update will affect all sites.
With the arrival of the search wars and the algorithm updates to Twitter, Facebook and Google, not to mention the Instagram and Pinterest updates, I think it’s fair to say that the search wars have officially begun. Each of these above mentioned, are search engines, and social search is moving to be the most powerful form of search….
What does this mean for us in the digital marketing game, or publishers that depend on social as a great traffic referral engine? Well it means that we have to start changing our game, as each of these updates is indicated to directly affect brands. Some good, some not. Some of my new clients have experienced some issues in their ability to track and bill for “Social Posts”, if you have these issues, I hope this helps.
Facebook EdgeRank 2015 will only show 10% of all over promotional brand posts to their audience, their little trick is a drop down menu that allows you to stop following the brand but still be friends or like the page, and that means that although it looks as though you have that audience, your penetration is far from that. As per Facebook, all over-promotional posts will be penalised. No click baiting whatsoever, no call to action that takes the user outside of Facebook, the list goes on. We also need to understand that operating a brand page under an individuals persona will also lead to loss in reach and penetration and the ability to prove anything.
Twitter however have come in and updated their algorithm that appears to be the hand brands now need after the FB update. With the ability to track everything from impressions. Total impressions on a Tweet, an hour-by-hour breakdown for the first day of that Tweet. You also get insight into total impressions for all your Tweets over a 28-day period to say the least. Twitter now allows direct message marketing which will allow for better traction with your audience, provided you know your audience.
Google Mobile Update ensures that the large mass of online people who access via their mobile devices will not see your site if it is not 1: responsive or mobile friendly, 2: takes too long to load. The penalties will be that your site does not appear in a mobile search, which is scary because at least 65% of the population access via their mobile devices. You will also be issued with a bright red SLOW tag next to your search listing.
How do these all these tie in together? Brands can no longer assume that by the CTR they will penetrate that percentage of the market, it means brands need to engage with their audience and not talk at them, understand the users intent and cater for that accordingly. Its not about attracting an audience, its about amplifying that audience to attract more like them, its about attracting that qualified audience.
Again I cant stress enough, know your audience, how do they access, what times do they engage, what do they engage with, where do they come from, most importantly, how long do they stay, how many pages deep do they go, what’s the exit rate vs. bounce? Its not all analytics though, you have to know more than that, you have to know their user intent.
Social Search has new algorithms that show their intent to take social marketing on, as they know full well that we charge for posts. The table has turned and now we have to pay to get the same results, that means that our pricing models need to be adjusted aswell.