Over the years, the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) have changed a lot. Features like news, images, videos and the Knowledge Graph have impacted the display, sorting and order of SERPs, dramatically impacting organic listings.
Recently, Google decided that paid search ads will no longer appear on the right-hand side of search results for desktop users and up to 4 paid search results will appear at the top of the page.
Paid search ads that fall below the 4th rank will appear at the bottom of the page, which has limited visibility to end users, for a total of 7 ads per page max.
This is a big change, but how does it really impact organic search?
Like many companies, Google has seen mobile traffic grow at an accelerated pace over the past two years. This new layout makes the desktop experience very similar to the current mobile SERP. It will allow Google to provide more relevant results for end users and also provide better performance for advertisers
The key here is the fact that Google is very good at understanding intent. Google can distinguish a transactional query from an informational query.
How does this impact organic search?
Now that paid search ads are taking up more organic space, click-through rates for organic search listings, especially in the first two positions will probably decrease because the organic results have been pushed farther down the page.
Since the organic search results will be relegated to further down the list, this will cause more advertisers to get more visibility from the top paid search ads, but it comes at a high cost.
If brands really want to get the most out of search, they will need to create an integrated organic and paid search strategy with focus on top rankings and paid ads to maintain visibility and be in front of their target audiences.
With more paid listings appearing you will need to focus paid landing pages towards searchers in the buying/decision-making stages, whereas your organic landing pages should be better positioned (and possibly expanded) to gain visitors in the research/tought stages.
In summary, it will be more important to rank in the first two organic positions to capture the most clicks and visibility from organic search.
Since the organic results are getting pushed further down the page, both paid and SEO must work together to gain the best results.
The SERPs will continue to evolve as Google looks for new and innovative ways to make the desktop experience similar to the current mobile SERP and provide the most relevant results for end users.
Agencies and brands must adapt and put together results-driven strategies and tactics using both paid and organic search together to maximize ROI, capture more conversions and provide end users with relevant content in their moment of need.
What is an SSL used for?
The primary purpose of an SSL is to keep the information between a website and its users encrypted so only they are able to read it. This is important because when information is transmitted across the internet it passes through many different computers all of which can read and record it.
That means that any computer between you and the website can read credit card details, usernames and passwords. When an SSL is this information becomes unreadable to those computers.
In addition to this encryption an SSL also provides authentication ensuring that a user is sending information to your website and not that belonging to a criminal. Again, because information passes through many computers without an SSL any of these could impersonate your website and trick users into sending their personal details.
Why is an SSL needed on my website?
Ecommerce sites are required to transmit and receive sensitive information including credit card and contact details. Most websites provide administrators with the ability to edit content through a log-in area that requires a username and password to access. In both cases if an SSL is not used that information can be stolen by a third party and be used for criminal means.
Do I need an SSL if I don’t run an ecommerce shop?
There are numerous reasons why an SSL is beneficial even if your website is not ecommerce and does not have a log-in/administration area.
Google stated in 2015 that they are using the presence of an SSL on a website as a ranking signal. That is, a website with an SSL will rank above a website without all things being equal. Continuing into 2016 Google will place more and more emphasis on an SSL as a factor. Furthermore Google has plans to alter its chrome browser to show websites without an SSL as “insecure” which could serve as scare tactics pushing potential customers to a rival.
Integrity of the content you are serving on your website
Once you secure your website with an SSL certificate a third party cannot alter the content that is going to be received by the end user. Here you can assure your website visitors that the content they are viewing is the same as you are publishing. Without an SSL a third party can alter the content of your website before it is received by adding adverts or more dangerous content such as viruses.
Authentication of the Website and its content
An SSL verifies that you are who you say you are. A website secured by an SSL and verified by certificate authority means your customer can easily recognize that the information is genuine and not from someone else. This is especially important if your website contains content such as technical specifications, health, finance or other information of this nature.
A signal of trust to the user
Web browsers give a visual indicator when a site uses an SSL. While they may not be aware of exactly how it functions users know that the padlock logo that appears on an SSL enabled site is “good”. The use of an SSL tells users of your website that you consider their security and privacy to be important.
For further information please contact Wave White on 0121 766 8087 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Let’s face it: Customers aren’t reading your testimonials page. So what can you put in its place?
2015 was an insane year for Local Search — especially in the latter half. We lost the 7-pack, and now the recent Google Plus update has removed all location information from business pages. Until Google rolls out another update to Local, your business listing is effectively your Knowledge Box and your listing on Google Maps. Reviews have always been important, and while they’ve lost a bit of the strength they used to carry in the Local algorithm, they’re still incredibly important to potential customers. Reviews started showing in isolated pop-ups back in 2013, but now that’s the only place you can see them. Now, I’m not going to start spouting off stats about how people trust reviews from strangers or how bad reviews will hurt your business. You’re here on Search Engine Land, so you’re likely already familiar with such information. Now that location info has been pulled from Google Plus, your reviews area is a much bigger piece of the local info pie. There’s no more business description, or photos, or categories, or anything else to distract users — they’ll only see your business name, address and phone number… and your reviews. If you’ve read any of my previous posts here, you know that I typically base my posts on recent conversations with businesses and clients. This time around, I’m jumping back on a soapbox.
Your Testimonials Page Does Nothing For You
Yep. I said it — and it’s true. And yes, I’m sure a lot of you are freaking out right now. For some reason, I’m seeing more and more testimonial pages on sites lately. Yes, reviews are important. And yes, your customers want to read your reviews. But they don’t want to read them on your site. Check your Google Analytics and see for yourself. It’s likely that the only traffic your testimonials page sees is from your own staff. If you’ve got a filter set up to remove your own internal traffic, it’s even easier to see. Customers want to read honest, unbiased reviews on third-party sites. They simply don’t care about (or trust) the reviews on your testimonials page. Still don’t believe me? I’ll prove it to you. If I came to your place of business and had a bad experience, then decided to write a scathing one-star review, would you post that at the top of your testimonials page? Of course not — and people know that. Everyone knows that a testimonials page only lists the best of the best five-star reviews, so they’re not going to read them. They’re checking out your reviews to see if there are any bad reviews… and to see how you respond to the bad reviews. Even if you post every review to your testimonials page (the good and the bad), the general public will always assume that your page only includes awesome reviews. They’ll skip the page just like everyone else.
Instead Of Testimonials, Link To Off-Site Reviews
Since customers will ignore your testimonials, you should instead create a “reviews” page that links to the various websites where customers can read the reviews they’re looking for. You’ll obviously want Google at the top of the list, since Google reviews are the most visible. Make sure to include any vertical directories that customers might frequent, as well. Include some messaging at the top of the page that lets users know that you’d like them to read what past customers have said, just like you’d include on a standard testimonials page. When you list the various links, make sure that you include target=”_blank” so that the links will open in a new browser tab — that way, your customers won’t have to navigate back to your site. Don’t forget that it’s a bad idea to link to your Yelp listing, since that’s discouraged by Yelp. Instead, do a Google search for “[your business] Yelp” and copy the resulting URL. Use the SERP link as your link to Yelp, so people will click the link, see your Yelp listing as the #1 result, and then click on it. Customers still end up on your Yelp page, but Yelp sees the visit as coming from an organic search. Instead of a testimonials page that no one reads, you’ll have a reviews page that customers find incredibly useful. If you pair the page with a postcard that you hand out to customers (like I wrote about back in 2014), it can even help you get more positive reviews from your customers.
Google Become Alphabet in a Huge Restructure
Recently, Google announced that they would no longer be functioning under the well-known brand, but restructuring as ‘Alphabet’. This will be the overriding holding company, with Google becoming a subsidiary of this.
The whole shake-up has emerged from the top, with Google’s co-founders, Larry Page & Sergey Brin, stating that the entire company will be changing, with big alterations to the structure and management; the biggest change being that Sundar Puchai will now oversee the search engine, Google.
This restructure comes as part of an initiative to give investors chance to see where their money is going and exactly what it’s being spent on. With the huge success of the search engine, it’s clear that Google, or ‘Alphabet’, can play its hand elsewhere.
The new company, Alphabet, will preside over a collection of companies, the largest of which will be Google.
All shares of Google will automatically convert into corresponding shares of Alphabet, which will continue to trade under the stock ticker symbols GOOG and GOOGL. Shares in Google soared 5% in after hours trading. The new structure is said to be similar to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, which wholly owns a number of diverse holdings and has stakes in several others.
It seems that Google will continue to push the main Internet products that the business has to offer, but Alphabet will expand and increase the growing need for other products and business sectors. Statements suggest that the separation of the companies will enable them to independently market items that aren’t entirely related.
It remains to be seen whether Google will simply continue to tell shareholders to be content with their profits when it comes to some major business segments.
As you are probably aware Google are rolling out an update on the 21st April 2015 to penalise websites which aren’t mobile friendly.
The reason for this is Google are looking to improve the experience that website visitors receive when going to websites that are recommended by Google in the search results. Google feel that if they don’t provide their users with websites that are mobile friendly and provide the user with a good experience, then these users may use a different search engine to find the content that they are looking for.
Google are simply trying to ensure that their users have an optimal experience no matter what device they are using. Remember this is an opportunity to not just improve your website to meet Google Guidelines but to also bring your website up to date and provide a great user experience for potential customers that may be viewing your website.
There are more than 1.5 billion mobile Internet users worldwide and roughly 80 percent of Internet users own a smartphone and over 55% of searches on Google.com come from Mobile or Tablet Devices.
For more information about how this update can affect your website contact us on 0121 766 8087 or email your account manager.
According to Rap Genius they are no longer have an unnatural links penalty from Google after the search engine helpfully gave them assistance to correct their SEO tactics. During the last ten days after the penalty was applied the website couldn’t be found on the first few pages of search results even when their brand name was part of the query. Now they once again appear at the top of search results for their band name although their traffic has not returned to the levels they once enjoyed.
While it is great for Rap Genius to have their penalty lifted the actions of Google arguably show that there is one rule for big brands and another for smaller companies. A ten day manual penalty is a much shorter period of time than a small business could be expected to wait to see a return to search results.
Rap Genius didn’t find the best present from Santa in their stocking when they received a penalty from Google for using link schemes to boost their search rankings. This has resulted in their website not being found on the first page of results for even their own brand name. Instead news stories reporting this and their social media accounts are displayed. A site that saw over half a million unique visits a day has now been reduced to 10% of that showing the enormous power that Google hold in making an online business successful.
The link scheme they were penalised for was asking bloggers to join and affiliate scheme by adding a link to their website in exchange for a ‘thank you’ tweet from Rap Genius. In Google’s eyes even agreeing to exchange a tweet for a link back to a website is considered ‘paying’ for it and falls under “exchanging goods or services for links” which can result in a penalty. A link in a tweet may not have the same value to Google as a link on a website but social media still has an influence on search rankings. For Google this is about the credibility of the search results they provide and need to have these highly visible targets to penalise so as to not encourage link buying behaviour.
Critics argue that the manual penalties that Google applies are not done in a fair way as there are plenty of sites that buy links yet do not get penalised. The consensus is that Google would not be so vocal and stringent about the buying of back links if it didn’t actually work and wasn’t the easiest method to get a higher ranking.
It can be frustrating that behaviour of competitors is overlooked or even tolerated. When your competition is clearly buying links in order to improve their rankings yet do not receive a penalty and you follow Googles best practices and still get a lower position on search results it can be very tempting to follow suite. This is why gaming their SEO would have been a strategy that was seriously considered.
Most agree that Rap Genius has, in their market, the best content and is perceived to be the least spam driven lyrics site on the web. However others suggest that they couldn’t rely upon this to continue having good rankings. While they may have offered a better user experience they didn’t have the number of lyrics that other sites did. In addition while they may have built up an on-site community this would not be as important to ranking in Google as just providing the basic information people look for.
Will Rap Genius be able to return to the top of rankings by cleaning up their site and disavowing those links and will Google be seen to apply their penalties in a fairer way? We will await that news.
As ludicrous as it sounds, there are only 106 days left until Christmas and whilst the sane amongst us are still hanging desperately onto barbeque season and flip flops, the retailers amongst us know that now is the time to get ready for the festive season. The mince pies are in the supermarkets, the incidence of toy adverts on the television is steadily increasing and consumers, whether they know it or not, are being subtly herded towards the bright lights and ringing tills of Christmas shopping.
Now is the time to make sure your website is ready for the approaching season of madness, take stock, decide on any strategies or special offers and make sure your web development company has details of any changes you want to make sooner rather than later. Christmas 2013 is going to be tough for retailers but with a slight upward trend in the amount of consumer spending, for the well-prepared things are looking up. So, what to do to get your website ready?
1. Freshen up.
Have a good check through your content. It is always a good idea to change or add to your website, keeping your content fresh not only gives you Google points, but it keeps your customers interested too. If your site has a featured products section, start adding in your best-sellers or any new ranges. Make sure any photography is professional and shows off your products to their best advantage.
2. Special Offers.
Consider running some seasonal offers. Online purchasers love little extras like free delivery and that can make the difference between them choosing your site and someone else’s for their gifts. Most modern ecommerce systems will allow you to display linked products (customers who bought this also bought that). Alternatively a good old-fashioned BOGOF always goes down a treat.
3. Keep things simple.
Making your website hassle-free is one major way of improving your customer commitment. Look at how smoothly your search function works, and how easy it is for customers to checkout. Keep things simple and give good customer service and people will come back.
4. Don’t go mad on the tinsel.
Although you want to get ready for the festive market, don’t over-do the Christmas vibe. Gradually introduce changes to the site to get ready for the bells and whistles of December, but don’t go for it too early.
If you need to discuss any promotional changes to your website, or would like further information on website design, get in touch with eSterling today. We offer full design and development services to ensure your website is at the heart of your business.
Anyone who pays any attention whatsoever to the world of web design will by now be very familiar with mobile sites and the concept of responsive design (and if you aren’t, you can read more here).
Well, now there’s another reason to perfect your mobile presence – Google have now decided to take the smartphone-friendliness of a website into consideration when determining where a site ranks in its SERPS – meaning if your site can’t strut it’s stuff on the small screen, you could be losing even more traffic than before.
Google have announced in a recent blog post that they are planning to roll out algorithm updates that will penalise websites that are incorrectly configured for mobile browsing.
Here are a few of the most common errors made in mobile sites, and our advice for avoiding them:
Correct Your Redirect
A common strategy for providing a mobile site alongside your desktop website is to use different URLs to serve different pages. This tactic can work very well, as it allows you to lay out the content on your pages in a different format that is better suited for smaller screens and touch-based interaction. However, these redirects must be handled correctly in order to provide a consistent experience for the user with minimal frustration.
A mistake that often crops up with this sort of configuration is directing smartphone users to a set page (most often the home page), no matter which desktop page they are trying to access – requiring extra work from the user in order to navigate back to the page they originally attempted to visit in the first place! Naturally, this can be a source of annoyance for the user, and can result in them leaving your site in search of something less tedious to find their way around.
The solution for this issue is simple – make sure each page redirects to its own respective mobile-friendly page. If the content is not available in mobile form, then directing the user to the home page or other related page is preferable to serving a 404 page – but still not really ideal.
The difficulty that mobile platforms have with video content is well documented, and a topic for lengthy discussion in its own right. However, if you’re serving unplayable video content to your mobile users, pretty soon you can expect to see a drop in your search rankings.
The solution for this problem is (perhaps unsurprisingly) to avoid Flash content on mobile sites in general, as it is unsupported in iOS and Android version 4.1 and higher. To include video content, it is possible to use the new HTML5 markup
<video> tag, which should work without a hitch on all mobile platforms.
If you also provide a mobile app, it would seem only logical to promote this app to users browsing on a mobile device – and this can seem like a perfectly user-friendly move too, as your app may provide a better interface for your users to interact with similar content. However, advertising your app through interstitials or other methods which disrupt the conventional user experience of your site will soon start to have a negative impact on your site’s rankings, as well as annoying your users.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t try to entice mobile users with your shiny new app – as long as it is done tastefully. Google recommends using a “simple banner” displayed inline, alongside the rest of your website’s content. This can mean either a standard HTML image banner or utilising the support offered by the device’s native browser and operating system – for example Smart App Banners for Safari on iOS6.
More Speed, Less Haste
On top of these new rules concerning content, Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts has alluded to a site speed penalty for mobile sites, similar to the penalty imposed on slow loading desktop sites. Whilst not much information has been disclosed at the minute, it’s fairly safe to assume that as mobile users are often connected to the internet via low-speed cellular connections, the load time that must be achieved will probably be significantly faster than in the desktop speed test.
As is usually the case with Google’s algorithm updates, these new guidelines will help to make the web a better place – both for webmasters and users themselves. Here at eSterling, we welcome them with open arms, and look forward to the mobile web becoming more user-centric and streamlined.
If you’d like to read more on the issues which may cause your mobile site to lose rankings, Google has helpfully compiled a list of common mistakes in smartphone sites to help you out.
As always, if there’s anything in this post which you wish to discuss or would like some more information on, please leave us a message in the comments or email us here.
Little more than a year ago, Google introduced what was then one of the biggest updates to its search algorithm. Originally dubbed the “Webspam Update”, it rocked the SERPs, knocking a considerable amount of websites reeling, causing their rankings to drop faster than you can say “p-p-pick up a Penguin”. This was obviously serious news for us here at eSterling, as we pride ourselves in our ability to consistently achieve and maintain good results in Google for our clients using strictly white-hat techniques. However, despite our dedication to good practice in our optimisation work, we still saw the websites of a few clients suffer.
Fast forward 12 months to where we are now, and the Big G is at it again. Matt Cutts (Google’s guru on all things search) announced last Friday that “Penguin 2.0” is on the way. We know a few things about this update – the most important being that it’s coming soon, and it’s going to be big. Big enough to disrupt the SERPs again, probably on a much larger scale than last time. Whilst the guys over at Google like to portray the penguin updates as cute, wide-eyed little penguin characters, here at eSterling we like to think of them as being more similar to Danny Devito as “the Penguin” from Batman Returns:
But never fear! As always, our SEO team of caped crusaders are here to bring justice to the search engine results pages with our words of wisdom and cutting edge strategies. Here’s our rundown of the information we have gathered so far concerning the new update:
1. It’s Just Around The Corner
In typical Google fashion, we don’t have a date for the implementation of the new update, but head of all things search at Google HQ, Matt Cutts, has helpfully informed us that it will be “sometime in the next few weeks.” Thanks Matt!
“Advertorial” creation (or native advertising) is an advertising method which disguises paid adverts and links as part of a site’s content, and passes link juice (and PageRank) on to the site being advertised. Google is clamping down on this, as it is a violation of their “quality guidelines” – attempting to hide the adverts and also passing on link juice to the advertised site. As we already know, Google doesn’t take kindly to paid links of any kind, but Matt Cutts is keen to mention that there is no harm in advertorials or native advertising, provided that the advertorial carries a clear disclaimer and there is no link juice being passed on (i.e. the link has a “nofollow” attribute).
3. Spammy Search Queries
For as long as people have been using SEO techniques to maximise their rankings, there have been certain niches which have been plagued by webspam from SEO practitioners using unscrupulous tactics such as keyword stuffing, doorway sites and hidden links. Some of these niches include “payday loans” and various adult-orientated areas, such as pornography and adult dating sites. Whilst this doesn’t apply to any of our clients, it’s nice to see that the Big G is starting to clamp down on these webspammers, as the advancements that are made in this area are sure to trickle down into the more above-board SERPs, helping to combat webspam across the whole internet.
4. Link Spam
Furthering their efforts to clamp down on webspammers, the new update will see Google once again penalising sites who have built unnatural links portfolios that comprise of paid links, links from sites with the sole intent of manipulating rankings (such as doorway sites) and any other dodgy link building or traffic boosting tactics. Think of this as the real “2.0” part of Penguin – this is basically what the last Penguin update did, but on a larger scale.
5. Rolling Out A System For More Advanced Link Analysis
Penguin 2.0 will introduce a more comprehensive link analysis procedure. Matt mentions this is still in early days, but this could potentially turn the SEO industry on its head if Google makes large changes to their link analysis algorithm.
6. Looking To Improve Communication With Webmasters
This is an almost out of character (albeit very welcome) move from Google: we are told that they will be increasing their efforts to provide useful support and information to webmasters, especially concerning hacked sites. If all goes according to plan, Google will be providing us with a “one-stop shop” to diagnosing hacked sites, providing useful information to webmasters straight from Webmaster Tools.
7. Looking To Reward Authority Sites In Niche Directories
Authority sites (sites which are deemed to be the best source of information in their specific niche) have become an important part of Google’s search algorithm. The new update will introduce new systems to identify these authority sites in a more appropriate way, and make it slightly easier to become an authoritative site if your site is exhibiting the requisite characteristics by “blurring the edges” of what makes a site authoritative.
8. Looking To Minimise “Domain Clusters” In SERPs
“Domain clusters” are a phenomenon of search in which a group of results from the same domain will be “clumped” together on the search results pages. This obviously occupies a considerable chunk of SERP real estate, pushing other domains further down the page. As the domains that tend to create this kind of “cluster” tend to be the big boys of the internet (Amazon, eBay etc), Google’s action to minimize these groups of results is good news for small to medium businesses, as it gives them more of a chance of squeezing into the first few results pages.
Obviously, as we exclusively employ white hat tactics here at eSterling, the majority of our client’s sites should see no negative repercussions from these updates – in fact, you may notice a positive outcome as competitors who have used less legitimate SEO agencies get stung by the update and their rankings drop. However, the inevitable truth is that some sites will be undeservedly penalised, as has happened with previous algorithm updates, but rest assured we will be keeping a close watch on all client’s rankings over the coming months and striving to continue to provide all of our clients with our usual first-rate SEO services.
Well, that was a pretty gloomy blog post! In the interest of brightening things up a bit, here’s a little something you can try in Google image search:
1. Go to Google image search
2. Type in “Atari Breakout”
3. Hit search
4. Play the Atari classic “Breakout” with your image search results!
See if you can beat our office high score!