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Updated: 21 hours 7 min ago

Major Shifts on Smartphones Led the Way in Q2 of 2014

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 11:01

Today we’ve released our quarterly state of paid search report for Q2 2014, and the data demonstrates solid growth across devices and search engines. Total clicks grew 36%, spend increased 22%, CTR jumped 58%, and CPCs fell 10%.

Much of the growth can be attributed to increased advertiser focus on mobile devices, including both tablets and smartphones. Spend share on mobile devices continues to climb on a quarter-over-quarter basis, with overall mobile spend share reaching 29%.

Mobile growth can be attributed in large part to smartphones, which are gradually becoming a “search anytime” device. Data on mobile impressions across the day and across the week demonstrate that users are increasingly using smartphones consistently throughout the day, no longer reserving smartphones for the evenings and weekends.

The increased usage of smartphones also becomes apparent with the large jump in smartphone click share on Google Product Listing Ads (PLAs)—in Q2 of this year, smartphones accounted for 12.7% of all PLA clicks. This indicates that consumers are becoming increasingly comfortable using smartphones as shopping devices.

Check out the full State of Paid Search Report for Q2 of 2014 for more graphs and analysis on the latest trends.


Domino’s Has No Excuse Not To Be Prepared During the World Cup

Wed, 07/02/2014 - 13:55

Watching overtime of the World Cup match between USA and Belgium yesterday afternoon was perhaps the only thing more stressful than the hour and a half wait our entire LA office endured for our order from Domino’s pizza.

There we were, 43 minutes into the match and 50 very hungry Americans. How did this happen? Ask Domino’s.  Apparently Domino’s didn’t plan ahead for the demand during a rather popular sporting event such as, oh I don’t know, the World Cup, and a match that just happened to coincide with lunch time (1PM). How could you not know? How could you not at least factor in a good response or backup plan if you absolutely get inundated with requests for pizza and wings?

Let’s set the stage; we knew on Monday afternoon that we would be hosting a work/watch party at the office. We called to place the order late Monday afternoon, then called again Tuesday morning to confirm the order and its delivery time of 12:30PM.

We called at 1PM to see what the status was.

We called at 1:30 to get an ETA on the driver delivery.

We called at 2PM to try to speak to the manager.

Finally, at 2:15PM pizza arrives. Is it the correct order? Who cares?

We know Americans love their pizza.

Far be it for me to know the inner workings of Domino’s but, as a marketer, wouldn’t it have been better to anticipate a large volume of orders in line with a popular sporting event? Based on interest over time* from Google Trends, Domino’s showed (4), pizza (21), world cup (100) which means that today, the search term “world cup” garnered at least 10% of search interest.  Look at “pizza” over time, the term only continues to slowly rise and maintain popularity.

Now, what if you overlay this with another live, prominent sporting event like “super bowl”. Here’s what you get:

Now try the search term “olympics”. More search blips:

The point is, there are always major sporting events and there will always be pizza. There is no excuse not to be ready, no reason not to plan your advertising and search marketing campaigns accordingly with major real time events.  Hockey has the Stanley Cup, baseball has the World Series, and soccer has the World Cup going on right now!  You’re missing the mark if you’re a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) or pizza delivery business, Domino’s, that offers delivery and you’re not capitalizing on the search opportunity.

*Interest over time Numbers represent search interest relative to the highest point on the chart. If at most 10% of searches for the given region and time frame were for “pizza,” we’d consider this 100. This doesn’t convey absolute search volume.


Today: Canadian Legislation Attempts to Limit Online Spam

Tue, 07/01/2014 - 09:59

(Caveat: I am not a lawyer, nor have I played one on TV. However, I am a law graduate and have passed a bar exam once upon a time, so my reading of the law is based on that background. Please consult with a media regulatory lawyer for any compliance issues or questions with this law).

The Canada Anti-Spam Legislation, or CASL, goes into effect today, July 1, 2014. It is Canada’s attempt at limiting the amount of online spam people in Canada receive. CASL affects any advertising done over SMS, text messaging, email, or voicemail to anyone in Canada. The penalties for failing to follow the law are steep – up to $1 million in fines for individuals and $10 million for other persons – and any company wishing to advertise to someone in Canada will be impacted, even if you are based in the US.

What do you need to do to be in compliance?

  1. You must have implied or expressed consent from the consumer to advertise to them.
  2. You must clearly identify yourself and anyone else on behalf of whom the message is sent.
  3. In every message you send, you must provide a way for the recipients to unsubscribe from receiving messages in the future.

Let’s break point 1 down. The consumer must consent to the form of advertising, meaning the consumer must choose to receive it. You can’t have a checkbox saying ‘yes, please send me the latest information’ checked by default on your site; the consumer must choose to check the box themselves. And, you can’t fool the consumer into consenting to advertising by sending it bundled with other consent requests – each consent request for a different purpose must be sent separately.

The tricky part of the consent section of the law comes into play with ‘the installation of computer software programs.’ The law states that a consumer is considered to have expressly consented to the installation of a cookie, html code, or JavaScript code, if the consumer’s conduct suggests a ‘reasonable belief’ that that they consented to the program’s installation. Putting that in layman’s terms, the consumer is OK with getting “cookied” if their behavior suggests that they are. How businesses are supposed to determine this ‘reasonable belief’ standard is not yet clear in the law and most likely will be determined as the law is applied against businesses and individuals. However, this section of the law goes into effect on January 15, 2015, so there is still a little time to get clarity on this point from your friendly media lawyer.

Points 2 and 3 for compliance are pretty straightforward – you need to include valid contact information in anything you send and you must give the consumer a way to withdraw from receiving that advertising, whether by providing an email address or a web link where they can indicate their desire to opt out. For both of these, the information you provide must be valid for 60 days after you send the advertising to the consumer.

Basically, what you really need to know is that the law is changing for advertising online to consumers in Canada, and you need to be prepared. Or be prepared to pay a hefty fine.

For a look at the legal jargon, you can find the law here. If you need more guidance, the CRTC is another helpful source.


Travel Websites Lagging it on Mobile

Wed, 06/25/2014 - 09:22

Today, we released the latest edition of our Mobile Experience Scorecard report on the 100 most visited travel destination and accommodation websites based on data from Hitwise. The results reveal that a lot of travel sites are still failing to optimize for smartphone devices. Only 8 of the 100 sites used responsive web design, compared to 67 that served dedicated mobile sites and the remaining 25 that continued to serve the desktop version of their sites.

The average load time for the 100 travel sites was 2.64 seconds, exceeding Google’s recommended time of 1 second. However, load times varied widely depending on the type of site format used, with dedicated mobile sites loading significantly faster than both desktop and responsive web design sites.

To come up with a score for each site, we evaluated each mobile homepage on a variety of features that improve the mobile experience. These included a search function, click-to-call, sign in, social media buttons, and app download buttons. While these elements require minimal effort to set up on a site, many of the sites failed to include them on their mobile pages.

Download the full report to see more data on the mobile sites of the top 100 most visited travel sites in the United States.

Faulty Redirects AKA “Fault Me” Redirects

Mon, 06/09/2014 - 10:13

If you have faulty redirects appearing in Google Webmaster Tools (GWT), now is the time to fix them! Faulty redirects DO impact rankings and now they’ll also impact CTR.

Google just released an update to their SERPs which will notify users that they might be redirected to a page they didn’t intend to go to.

What exactly is a faulty redirect, you ask? It is when you re-route mobile traffic headed to a non-mobile optimized page to your mobile-optimized home page. This often occurs when only the home page and a select few highly valuable pages are mobile-optimized, usually due to lack of immediate resources. How might this have happened? Your analytics probably demonstrated that a significant amount of mobile traffic visited your desktop-optimized website only to quickly bounce off or have low engagement compared to your desktop-device users. You realize something should be done to stop the bleeding, but instead of fixing the problem the right way, you select only a handful of pages to optimize due to lack of resources instead of optimizing the whole site.

Yep. So while everyone is jumping on the mobile bandwagon, you, for whatever reason, think mobile is just a fad that will soon go away (hint: mobile is here to stay). You still need to appease those demanding C-Level Execs as well as your mobile-savvy visitors so you decide that, instead of creating a mobile-friendly experience for your entire site, you’ll take a shortcut and only optimize the homepage, redirecting all mobile traffic to that one page.

Here’s essentially what you’re saying:

“Hello there, mobile user! I see you’re looking for a page on my site. I’d love to give you EXACTLY what you’re looking for but since I’m lazy and haven’t taken the time to implement a mobile-ready site, I’ll just simply redirect you to my homepage which is mobile-ready – cool shortcut ey?”

NOT! Why would you FORCE a potential customer back to the beginning of the conversion funnel? Why would you not give the best experience to your potential customer? You are trying to make money here, right?

Have you ever called a customer service line (remember, these lines are there to serve the customer, much like your site) and after selecting your option, are dropped from the call? I know! It’s like, WHAT just happened?

So what are your options? You can do one the following:

  1. Best Option – Create a fully mobile optimized website, preferably using responsive web design. This method serves the same content for desktop and mobile users on the same URL.
  2. Lazy Option – Just remove the redirects to the homepage and serve users the same content they would see on the desktop.
  3. Even-Lazier Option – Do nothing. Faulty redirects will continue to impact your rankings and will now have a lower CTR due to this hideous warning notification.

Think about this when deciding which one is best for you:

Are you still using a dot matrix printer?

Are you still living in your parents’ basement?

Are you still using that old Motorolla?

Yeah…neither is the rest of the world. This isn’t just a strong hint – it’s a huge push from Google to get your site in order and be mobile ready…NOW!

Need more information? Check out our white paper on Optimization Strategies for the Mobile Web. If you want to learn how to get your site to be responsive, read our white paper on Implementing Responsive Web Design. And if you need some real world examples of companies doing mobile right (and wrong), check out our Mobile Experience Scorecard research series.

4 Ways SEO has NOT Changed

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 15:22

Recently, Search Engine Journal published an article about how SEO has drastically changed. The article hits some very relevant points on what SEO looks like today. There’s no denying that search engine optimization has changed over the years, but one thing that people tend to dilute when they’re waxing poetically about the death, decay or evolution of SEO is that in many ways SEO hasn’t changed.

Now that you’ve read my obligatory intro paragraph, here are 4 ways SEO has not changed.

Website Crawlability is Key

If search engines can’t crawl and index your website, it will rank for nothing. All the content marketing, PR efforts, infographic creation and authorship markup will be a huge waste of time if search engines can’t crawl your website. It always amazes me how many websites still struggle with maintaining a crawlable website. They either inadvertently orphan 50% of their content or somehow block their entire site from being crawled in their robots.txt file. It’s true that PR and content marketing are what typically move the organic needle, but having a crawlable website will always be step 1 in SEO.

Tips on Ensuring Website Crawlability:

  • Consistently check your robots.txt file
  • Run a spider tool on your website at least once a month
  • Verify your website using Google Webmaster Tools AND LOOK AT THE DATA (at least weekly)!!

On-page Content Counts

More and more I see people paying less and less attention to the mechanical details of on-page content. This worries me. Of course keyword stuffing doesn’t work anymore and quality of content outweighs quantity of on-page content, but you shouldn’t assume that just because a web page was written by an in-house copywriter or brand manager that all is well with the content. Great content can work against you if it’s not structured in an optimal way. Elements like alt text, image and video summaries, above-the-fold content and headers should be present and checked. Don’t abandon simple on-page optimization checks just because everyone’s talking about content marketing (it could be nothing but hype).

On-page Content Elements to Check:

  • Alt tags: check that they’re filled out
  • Image and video summaries: do you even have them?
  • Above-the-fold content: make sure your content isn’t buried by banner ads, cross promoted articles and unnecessarily large images
  • Header tags: use them where possible

Meta Data Matters

For us old timers, we’ve seen the death of a few meta tags as ranking factors. First the meta keywords tag; then the meta description. But just because meta tags aren’t as gameable as they once were, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Meta tags still have an effect on organic search performance. Meta descriptions can still influence click-through rate. Meta keywords have been replaced by meta news keywords (something specific to those accepted into Google News). Title tags (although technically not a meta tag) are still a ranking factor. So don’t forget to check your meta data!

Meta Data Checks:

  • Title tags: Should be unique and specific to each page; no longer than 66 characters (or it may get cut off in Google SERPs)
  • Meta Description: Need to be unique and specific to each page; no longer than 156 characters (or it may get cut off in Google SERPs)
  • Meta Keywords: If you still have them on your pages, make sure they don’t appear to be keyword stuffed.
  • Meta News Keywords: If your site has been accepted into Google News, use them (but don’t abuse them)!

Organic Search Success Takes Time

One of the challenges with website optimization is that the results are never instantaneous. Although Google is much quicker at identifying website changes and making updates to its index, because of the drastic change in ranking factors and various Google updates, it still takes a significant amount of time to see the fruits of your SEO labor. SEO is a journey, not a potato sack race. If you want to see instantaneous results, go signup for Google AdWords.

Things to Keep in Mind

  • Any challenges with crawling your website will delay your changes from being seen in Google.
  • You’re fighting a constant and ever changing battle (new competitors, algorithm updates, etc.).
  • Having a strong SEO foundation is necessary for success, but only the beginning of achieving true organic search success.

It is true that SEO has drastically changed. It takes much more to get on the first page. However, if you only focus on what’s changed and disregard what hasn’t, you’ll be missing a big piece of the SEO puzzle.

Amazon and Twitter Partner Up with #AmazonCart

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 16:12

Today, Amazon and Twitter announced a partnership that would allow Twitter users to place products directly into their Amazon shopping carts while remaining within the Twitter ecosystem. How it works: Twitter users connect their Twitter accounts to their Amazon accounts. Then, whenever they see a tweet containing an Amazon product link, users hit reply followed by the hashtag #AmazonCart, and the product will automatically appear in their Amazon carts. This gives users the chance to save the item and check out later when it’s more convenient, without having to switch between apps or enter new user logins.

This unexpected new partnership poses a couple of benefits for both Twitter and Amazon. It makes it easier for Amazon customers to immediately respond to products they view on Twitter by eliminating a few extra clicks on the path to conversion. For Twitter, the deal enables users to remain on Twitter’s platform without switching over to Amazon.

The potential is there, but will this new partnership pan out for both Twitter and Amazon? David Waterman, Director of SEO & Content Development, thinks it might:

“I could see loyal Amazon customers using this. I can’t see this new partnership significantly increasing Amazon’s user base but I can see it increasing the average order size of loyal Amazon customers who are also loyal Twitter users. I’m guessing Amazon did the research and saw that they are receiving a significant amount of referral traffic from Twitter, but a small number of items added to the cart.

I believe the keys to making this a success are:

1) If Amazon started to significantly push more product content through Twitter via their category specific Amazon Twitter profiles (and possibly expanding them)

2) And if other brands pushed their Amazon hosted product pages, with links to Amazon products.”

This partnership might make brands on Twitter more inclined to tweet their products with Amazon product links, driving more purchases to Amazon’s site over other merchant sites, and simultaneously driving more revenue for Amazon.

But Twitter has a lot to gain from this new relationship as well – the move might be a way for Twitter to more directly demonstrate the ROI of promoted tweets, thereby getting more brands to invest in them. If a company sends out a promoted tweet of an Amazon product, and a Twitter user retweets it with #AmazonCart, that product goes directly into their Amazon cart, and Twitter can directly attribute that the promoted tweet led to that product entering a cart. This new connection forged between the Twitter and Amazon empires might just make it easier to track conversions across platforms, from the social media stream into the shopping bag.

While this new partnership is certainly innovative and full of possibility, it remains to be seen if Twitter/Amazon users actually end up using it! Without user engagement, it’s nothing more than an interesting idea.

Large Gains for Bing in Q1

Thu, 04/17/2014 - 09:39

Q1 of 2014 was a success for the Bing Network – yesterday, we published our quarterly State of Paid Search report for Q1 of 2014, and we found that the Bing Network experienced more substantial growth than Google over the same period.

While spend increased year-over-year for both Google and Bing, spend on Bing increased 60%, far more than Google’s 29%. This enabled Bing to steal some market share from Google, increasing its spend share to 24.1%.

Bing’s CTR also continued to rise, increasing a whopping 85% YoY, while Google’s CTR declined from the previous year.

Bing’s increasing CTR, when coupled with declining CPCs, likely made Bing an attractive option for advertisers.

Download the full report to gain more insight into the latest search marketing trends.

Solid Year-Over-Year Growth for Q1 of 2014

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 09:09

Today we released our State of Paid Search Report for Q1 of 2014, and our results demonstrate solid year-over-year growth for the first quarter of the year, with total spend increasing 35%.

 Click-through rate (CTR) also grew 9.5% YoY and 35.8% QoQ, driven by CTR growth on both Google and Bing.  This increase in CTR repeats a seasonal trend of CTR peaking in the first quarter of each year, unwinding from the highly competitive fourth quarter. The rise in CTR can primarily be attributed to desktops, which make up a significant majority of spend share.

CPCs grew 4.6% YoY but dipped from the previous quarter. While desktop and tablet CPCs have mostly converged following Google’s switch to enhanced campaigns, smartphone CPCs continue to be lower.

Check out the full report to gain more insight into the trends from Q1. Tune back into the blog tomorrow to see how the Google and Bing networks stacked up against each other.