Google algorithm updates (2019)

Google algorithm updates 2018

Google’s Algorithm Updates in 2019

You need to be informed about Google’s updates to ensure your site doesn't trigger Google's spam filters. In some cases, you can take advantage of updates to the algorithm and get higher rankings. In this blog, I will walk you through some of the major recent updates to be aware of. And at the end of this blog, I will show you resources for catching wind of new Google Algorithm updates as they are released. Let’s get started.

 

HTTPS update & HTTPS upgrade checklist

HTTPS update

In an age of security scandals, mysterious hacking groups, Government surveillance programs—and celebrities sending nude selfies to each other—it’s easy to understand why Google, Apple, and other tech companies are encouraging everyone to be more secure. Part of this trend is Google’s advocacy for website encryption. On August 26th, 2014, Google publicly confirmed they started using SSL security certificates as a ranking signal.

 

Since Google publicly acknowledged site encryption is a positive ranking factor in its algorithm and stated its intention to strengthen this factor in coming years— it’s probably a good idea to install an SSL security certificate on your site.

 

If that isn’t motivation enough, as of October 2017, Google Chrome started showing security warnings to users visiting sites without SSL-enabled. The security notice shows up in Chrome's address bar, stating that the website is “Not Secure”, with a strong focus on nonSSL sites containing web forms, and when users visit nonSSL sites in Incognito mode.

 

If you’re wondering what the hell I am talking about, you have probably seen website encryption in action when you log in to your Internet banking or Gmail account. When you see a green padlock at the start of the web address and it has HTTPS at the front, this means the connection is encrypted and the site owner has installed a security certificate and verified ownership of the site.

 

Website encryption provides a direct connection between the user and the website server, a bit like a tunnel. Because it’s encrypted if anybody tries to eavesdrop on this connection any information intercepted will look like gibberish. The only parties who can read the information are the web server and the user. Pretty neat, huh?

 

Unfortunately, installing a security certificate isn’t enough to get an extra boost to your rankings. There is a migration process required to ensure Google picks up everything correctly.

 

I’ve listed basic steps below for upgrading your website without any loss in rankings or SEO juice. But this process is more technically involved than weaving a few keywords into the page, you should read the supporting documentation by Google, ask your developer to do this, and maybe even consider using professional SEO help before completing this process.

 

1. Contact your web host or domain registration provider to install a security certificate. Common fees can range from $50 to $500 per year, depending on the type of certificate.

 

2. Make sure both HTTPS and HTTP versions of your site continue to run.

 

3. Upgrade all internal resources and internal links in your HTML code to use relative URLs. This includes references to HTML files, CSS files, Javascript files, images, and all other files referenced in your HTML code. This means instead of referring to internal resources in the website code with an absolute address (e.g. http://www.yourwebsite.com/logo.jpg), it should use a relative address (e.g. ./logo.jpg).

 

4. Update all of your canonical tags to point to the new HTTPS version of your site.

 

5. Upload 301 redirects for all HTTP URLs to point to the new HTTPS secured URLs.

 

6. Verify the new HTTPS version of your site in a new profile in Google Search Console.

 

7. Upload an XML sitemap to the new HTTPS Google Search Console profile. This sitemap should include all of the old HTTP pages from your site and the new HTTPS pages. We are submitting the old pages to encourage Google to crawl the old pages and register the redirects.

 

8. Update all links on your social media accounts and other marketing materials to point to the new URLs.

If you want a downloadable copy of this checklist, the SSL upgrade steps for SEO are covered in the free SEO checklist at the end of the blog.

 

Before working through the SSL upgrade steps, make sure you or your developer read through the support guides by Google on performing this upgrade.

 

Securing your site with HTTPS – Google Search Console Help Secure your site with HTTPS

Site Moves With URL changes – Google Search Console HelpOverview: Site moves with URL changes

 

Doorway Pages

In midMarch 2015, Google announced its intent to release an update targeting doorway pages in just a couple of weeks. Before I go into what doorway pages are, and how this update affects SEO practitioners, let’s look at guidelines announced directly by Google on its webmaster blog. Its wording is somewhat vague, but don’t be overwhelmed, I will explain how to avoid being affected in the following paragraphs.

 

Here are questions to ask of pages that could be seen as doorway pages:

Is the purpose to optimize for search engines and funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site, or are they an integral part of your site’s user experience?

Are the pages intended to rank on generic terms yet the content presented on the page is very specific?

 

Do the pages duplicate useful aggregations of items (locations, products, etc.) that already exist on the site for the purpose of capturing more search traffic?

Are these pages made solely for drawing affiliate traffic and sending users along without creating unique value in content or functionality?

 

Do these pages exist as an island? Are they difficult or impossible to navigate to and from other parts of your site? Are links to such pages from other pages within the site or network of sites created just for search engines?

An Update on Doorway Pages – Google Webmaster Central Blog An update on doorway pages

Doorway pages are low-quality pages created with the sole intention of increasing rankings then funneling users into hidden pages where the real content lives. It’s an old-school, blackhat technique sometimes effective for increasing traffic—until Google puts an end to it.

 

A red flag for this tactic is proactively building pages for search engines but keeping these pages hidden from users on your front-facing website. Another red flag is advertising affiliate offers (a.k.a selling someone else’s product for a commission) without creating real value or content for the user beforehand. Steer clear of these two red flags and you will be unaffected by the doorway pages update.

 

To be clear, if your site has a directory structure with multiple pages for cities or service areas, this is fine as long as the pages offer unique and valuable content for uses, such as; unique content, rich text, and images, maps or videos.

 

Mobile SEO update

Mobile SEO update

In early 2015, Google announced a game-changing update for the SEO industry. As of April 21, 2015, sites with solid mobile support will rank higher in the Google search results for mobile users. Sites with no mobile support will generally rank lower in mobile search results.

 

Whether we like it or not, mobile users are here to stay and Google is driving the mobile revolution. With the largest mobile app store in the world, the largest mobile operating system in the world, and the largest amount of mobile search users, I think it’s safe to say mobile users are a priority for Google.

 

Google is rolling out this update to give webmasters a nudge to make the Internet friendlier for mobile users. If you are not supporting mobile users, it’s time to seriously start thinking about increasing your mobile support, not just for better search engine results, but for better sales and conversions—a very large segment of your traffic are mobile users.

 

If you are concerned about your rankings for searches performed on desktop and laptop machines you have nothing to worry about. Google made it very clear this update only affects search results on mobile devices.

 

What to do about the mobile update.

If you want to increase your support for mobile devices and be more search engine friendly, you have three options:

 

Create a responsive site

Create a responsive site

Responsive sites are the cream of the crop when it comes to sites that support both desktop and mobile devices. With responsive sites, both mobile and desktop users see the same pages and same content, and everything is automatically sized to fit the screen. It’s also becoming more common for WordPress templates and new sites to feature a responsive layout.

 

Dynamically serve different content to mobile and desktop users

You can ask your web developer to detect which devices are accessing your site and automatically deliver a different version of your site catered to the device. This is a more complicated setup, better suited for very large sites with thousands of pages, when a responsive approach is not possible.

 

Host your mobile content on a separate subdomain e.g. Test Page for the Nginx HTTP Server on the Amazon Linux AMI

While Google has stated they support this implementation, I recommend against it. You need a lot of redirects in place, and must jump through giant hoops to ensure search engines are recognizing your special mobile subdomain as a copy of your main site. Responsive sites are popular for good reason: it’s much easier and cheaper to maintain one site rather than additionally maintaining a mobile copy of your site on a mobile subdomain.

 

Google has stated that this mobile update is fairly straightforward, either your site supports mobile devices or it doesn’t. Google will not reward sites with better mobile support with higher rankings over sites with average mobile support —for now. If your site supports mobile devices, you can rest assured you will most likely be fine with this update. Run your site through the below tool quickly and see if your site supports mobile devices in Google’s eyes.

 

Mobile Friendly Test Tool

Mobile Friendly Test Tool

mobile-friendly Test Google Search Console

The technical details of building a responsive site are beyond the scope of this blog and could fill an entire blog. That said, mobile SEO can be ridiculously simple. If you have a responsive site that delivers the same content to mobile and desktop users, automatically resizes content to the screen, is fast and is user friendly, all you have to do is follow the SEO recommendations in this blog, and your mobile results will be top notch from an SEO perspective.

 

For guidelines direct from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, you can read Google’s mobile support documentation for webmasters and web developers.

 

Mobile Friendly Sites

Finding More Mobile Friendly Search Results Finding more mobilefriendly search results

 

Google Phantom II/Quality update

Google Phantom Quality update

At the beginning of May 2015, many webmasters and SEO professionals noticed a shakeup in the search results, which has been labeled the Phantom II update or Quality Update. What they saw was a noticeable dropoff, or increase, in large websites, or anywhere up to 1020% in traffic.

 

While Google initially denied any changes, the SEO community dug around and confirmed the update with Google and that it affected large sites with significant page quality problems. Specifically, the update was a change to how Google assesses the quality of pages, and then subsequently lowers or increases their rankings accordingly.

 

If this sounds overwhelming, don’t be worried—small businesses and blogs were largely unaffected. This website targeted large sites with significant amounts of user-generated content, aggregated content, and aggressive advertising techniques. Examples include how to type websites, large directories, clickbait type sites or social media sites.

 

Among sites negatively affected, there’s a surprisingly small list of quality issues they have in common:

  • Aggressive ads occupying the majority of screen real estate, above the fold.
  • Duplicate content or pages, containing information lifted from other websites.
  • Thin or light content, such as pages with only a few sentences.
  • Poor quality content, such as pages littered with spelling mistakes and poor legibility.
  • Pages with large amounts of low quality, spammy user-submitted comments.

 

With this update, we can see the quality is continuing to be a high priority for Google and we should be providing a high quality user experience for all visitors. Provide legible, unique, and good quality content, and you are unlikely to run afoul of a Google quality update.

 

Panda 4.2 refresh

Panda refresh

Late July 2015, Google confirmed a Panda refresh slowly rolling out over several months. Wondering what Panda is? Panda is Google’s spam detection technology that analyses the content, design, and code of web pages—everything that’s on the page—to assess whether or not the website owner is using spammy tactics and trying to unfairly game the system.

 

Both the SEO community and Google were tightlipped about Panda 4.2. This is due to Google’s slow rollout of this change, Google released this update in increments spanning several months, making it extremely difficult to pick up exact changes to the algorithm.

 

Panda 4.2 is a refresh, not an update

The exact terminology Google is using for Panda 4.2 is that it is a refresh, not an update. This means Google is only making small tweaks to the Panda part of the algorithm that picks up web pages with low-quality content. It also means sites previously hit with a Panda penalty will likely have the penalty lifted if they have removed the cause of the penalty (with typically thin or low-quality content being common causes of a Panda penalty).

 

Sites affected by Panda 4.2

This refresh only affected about 23% of searches, only a fraction of sites compared to previous Panda updates.

If your site is a large directory, an e-commerce retailer, publisher, affiliate site or blog affected around this time, it may be a good idea to look over your content quality and templates for any obvious Panda penalty triggers.

Examples include

  • Duplicate pages or content.
  • Scraped content.
  • Pages with thin or low-quality content.
  • Aggressive ads above the fold or ads are hidden in content.
  • Aggressive popups or deceptive user redirects.

 

If you don’t have any obvious content quality issues, it’s likely you won’t be affected by Panda 4.2. As mentioned, Panda 4.2 is a refresh, not an update, meaning only small changes will be witnessed, and you should only concern yourself with Panda 4.2 if you are guilty of any of the above techniques in your site.

 

Google’s rank braid & machine learning announcement

Google’s RankBrain

In late October 2015, Google announced that its machine learning artificial intelligence technology titled RankBrain had been secretly influencing the search results. Does this mean sinister superintelligent robots created by the genius minds at Google are slowly taking over our search results? Not really.

 

Over 15% of Google’s daily searches have never been searched before. On these never before seen types of searches, Google doesn’t have any historic user engagement data to ensure it is delivering the right answer. Understandably, Google needs a strong capability to understand the actual meaning behind a user’s search query as they type it into the search box.

 

Enter RankBrain, RankBrain forms connections between clusters of words to get a better understanding of what a searcher really wants, even if the searcher only gives Google a small amount of information. It then delivers a relevant answer to the searcher’s query, even if the results with the best answers don’t necessarily use the exact words as the user.

 

RankBrain is also a machine learning technology, which means it progressively learns from analyzing old searches, so it gets better over time.

 

In the above example, simply by searching “When was Hillary’s husband born”, the first search result lists Bill Clinton’s birth date at the top of the search results. That’s some solid guesswork from Google! We can see Google’s strong capability at inferring the actual meaning behind our search, even though I only hinted at the person I am searching about.

 

This is Google’s rank braid technology at work, forming connections behind the scenes. As popular trends come and go, presumably, this matching technology is automatically applied in new searches and organically changes to adapt with the times.

 

You may be wondering about the impact on professional SEO. The impact is very little. As yet, there have been no disadvantages or advantages reported by SEO professionals, except, it’s as important as ever to ensure your page contains related keywords in addition to your targeted keywords.

 

Always ensure Google has enough information as possible to understand the topic of your page because now it’s possible Google will deliver your page for even more search results.

 

While the implications on applied SEO is very little, if you want to read further the below articles cover this new technology in great detail.

What is Google RankBrain and Why Does it Matter? What Is Google RankBrain And Why Does It Matter?

FAQ: All About The New Google RankBrain Algorithm FAQ: All about the Google RankBrain algorithm Search Engine Land

HTTP/2—The powerful technology that can double your load speed.

 

The nice folk at Google, Facebook, Firefox and Chrome covertly worked in an underground cave for several years, developing a secret technology that can almost triple the load speed of most web pages. I’m joking about the cave but the technology is very real and now you can use it on your website, too!

 

HTTP/2 is a technology that significantly improves how servers communicate with web browsers, resulting in dramatic speed increases. On February 11th, 2016 the Google Chrome Developers Blog announced the Google Chrome browser’s support of this new technology, while deprecating a similar technology called SPDY. SPDY, the older technology for improving browsing speed, was originally created by Google, so for them to decommission SPDY in favor of HTTP/2 might give you an idea of what Google thinks about this new technology…they love it!

 

If you’re not already familiar with HTTP/2 and wondering what I’m rattling on about, HTTP is the technology that all web servers use to transmit files between web servers and web browsers. The old HTTP standard has been used for about 25 years, but is quite old, it wasn’t really designed for the high demands of modern web users.

 

The way it sends files is a bit like doing your grocery shopping by purchasing one item individually, packing it in your car, and then returning to the store to purchase the next item, and continuing this way until finished. When you make a request to load a page from the server, your computer needs to open and close a new connection for each file needed to load the page, and can only have a maximum of 6 concurrent connections per web server.

 

Well HTTP/2 completely revolutionizes the way computers communicate with servers. When your browser contacts the server, the server compresses all the files you need and sends them over in one tiny little package. The end result is dramatically decreased loading times for all web users, or dramatically increased load speeds—however you want to look at it. Needless to say, with Google’s strong ranking advantages associated with fast loading websites, this is a solid technique to have in your SEO toolbox.

 

Feeling skeptical? Check out the below resource comparing HTTP and HTTP/2 speed differences side-by-side. You might be surprised by the difference.

 

HTTP/2 technology demo

HTTP/2 technology demo

While a great technology, there are a few caveats. Web browsers only widely support HTTP/2 on websites secured with encryption and security certificates, so you’ll need one of those to get started.

 

HTTP/2 is supported by most browsers and web servers, but it can be a little tricky to setup on your web server, and something that should only be performed by a professional web developer or server administrator.

 

If you want to get started with HTTP/2, the best starting point is to contact your web developer and web hosting company to see if HTTP/2 is supported on your server.

 

I'm going to make a shout out to the smart guys over at Shopify—would you kindly consider enabling HTTP/2 on your servers? Hundreds of thousands of online retailers are missing out on this load speed advantage, significant sales increases, and millions of shoppers are being delivered slow websites as a result of not having HTTP/2 fully enabled… Apologies for the digression, I’ll get off my high horse now.

 

Describing how to install HTTP/2 is well beyond the scope of this blog, with the infinite amount of web server configurations often requiring different installation methods, but the below resources can be a good starting point for technical information on enabling it on popular web servers, if you’re not technically inclined, send them over to your web developer.

 

HTTP/2 Frequently Asked Questions

HTTP/2 Frequently Asked Questions

 

How to setup HTTP/2 support in Apache How to setup HTTP/2 support in Apache and Moving to HTTP/2 with NGINX HTTP/2 Supported in Open Source NGINX 1.9.5 | NGINX

 

In late February 2016, many webmasters reported a significant change in Google’s desktop search results. AdWords ads started disappearing from the right column next to the search results, and instead replaced with 4 ad positions at the top of the results and 3 ad units appearing at the bottom of the search results.

 

Google soon publicly confirmed on February 22, 2016, pay per click ads would no longer appear in an additional column to the right of the organic search results, with the exception of product listing ads for some searches. And for searches with a clear intent to purchase something, the results would show more ad units at the top and bottom of the results.

 

No one knows exactly why Google rolled out this change, but it could boil down to a couple of reasons. An eye-tracking survey released in September 2014 by a firm called Mediative revealed that desktop users are primarily browsing the search results vertically, from top to bottom.

 

Whereas previous eye-tracking surveys performed by the same firm in 2005 showed users browsing the results horizontally, from left to right, and then progressing down the page. Further, mobile users are only presented with vertical search results and ad units.

 

It looks like a move by Google to shape the search results closer to actual user behavior, unify the results between desktop and mobile, and increase high opportunity ad units for advertisers, effectively maximizing revenue for both advertisers and Google in one fell swoop.

 

Initially, both SEO professionals and PPC advertisers were resistant to this change. SEO professionals were concerned organic results were being pushed further down the page while decreasing organic traffic levels. And PPC advertisers were concerned it would increase competition for ad placements while driving up and costs. Actual impacts have been very little, with only minor impacts on ad costs and organic traffic being reported in the community.

 

Perhaps the most remarkable outcome from this update is Internet users’ complete acceptance of additional pay per click ad units occupying a greater portion of the top of the search results, making it as important as ever for SEO professionals to ensure meta title and meta description tags are well crafted and click-worthy for potential visitors.

 

Mobile update part 2

Mobile update

On March 16th, 2016 Google announced new updates would be rolled out at the beginning of May 2016, that would increase the effect of the ranking signal that helps match mobile users with mobile-friendly search results.

 

In the announcement, Google states, “Beginning in May, we’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that increase the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.” The announcement also states, “If you’ve already made your site mobile friendly, you will not be impacted by this update.”

 

On May 12, 2016, this update was rolled out by Google, with websites not supporting mobile being pushed down the results, while websites already having full mobile support being largely unaffected, if not receiving a boost from competitors falling by the wayside.

 

This update, and many others is part of a long-term initiative from Google to encourage mobile support that has spanned several years. If you haven’t already improved your mobile support, it’s going to be increasingly difficult to market your website in the search engines. Read the mobile update advice earlier in this blog on getting started, and you can also read the latest announcement by Google below, for finer details on this update.

 

Continuing to Make the Web More Mobile Friendly Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly

 

Google’s Interstitial update – A.K.A “Death to mobile popups.”

In August 2016 Google announced that on January 10, 2017, websites displaying obtrusive “interstitials” to mobile users wouldn’t rank as highly in the search results, and they would banish this type of advertising behavior from the cosmos! If you’re wondering what “interstitial” means, it’s Silicon Valley techspeak for a popup ad.

Let’s have a quick read over the announcement from the team at Google and then look at what this update means for businesses:

“Here are some examples of techniques that make content less accessible to a user:

 

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.

 

  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.

 

  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.” Helping Users Easily Access Content On Mobile Helping users easily access content on mobile

 

In other words, with the exception of cookie verifications and legal notices, age verifications, and app install banners, all other popups will lead to poor performance in the mobile search results.

 

I’m on the fence on this update, I know from experience a lot of website owners and business owners achieve significant sales from subscribers that sign up to their popups. Dictating the marketing of website owners to such a degree could be considered an overreach from Google.

 

By making it more difficult for site owners to maximize the sales of their website visitors, are Google encouraging site owners to spend more money on AdWords and remarketing campaigns to encourage more customers to return to their site?... I’ll let you decide.

 

On the other hand, a significant number of websites load unnecessarily slow and make mobile web browsing a clunky, slow and unreliable experience. Quite often, the cause of the slow loading is the site owner clogging up their website with complicated scripts and files that power the popup advertisements—sorry, I mean interstitials.

 

Google has played a significant role in nudging website owners to update their technology and make browsing the web an effortless and usable experience, which is good for the Internet community as a whole.

 

Whatever your feelings about this update, this is going to be a positive change for users. The way we browse the web on our phones will become faster and more reliable as a result. Just ensure you disable mobile popups or you will likely see some dropoffs in your mobile search visitors. Death to popups, long lives browser notifications!

 

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Have you ever asked yourself, “What are Accelerated Mobile Pages all about, exactly?” If you haven’t, then maybe you should, because the behemoth open source project known as Accelerated Mobile Pages can help sites get a major boost in the search results.

 

So much so, the Google team announced on September 12, 2016 on the Google Webmaster Central Blog that sites equipped with the Accelerated Mobile Pages technology are going to be rewarded with “expanded exposure”. The descriptions are noticeably vague, like most statements from Google, but before jumping to conclusions let’s look at what Accelerated Mobile Pages are all about, exactly.

 

Accelerated Mobile Pages is a collaborative effort between Google, and a gazillion notable publishing companies around the globe, such as Mashable, The Guardian, The New York Times, and many others. The development teams of these organizations have been working together to craft a new technology making mobile web browsing faster, to a significant degree.

 

To their credit, pages enabled with the Accelerated Mobile Pages technology are noticeably fast, snappy and responsive when you view them on your phone.

 

Specifically, Accelerated Mobile Pages is a framework, or a set of tools and guidelines, enabling web developers to build web pages that load blazingly fast. The core elements of AMP involve a specific approach to coding HTML, a JavaScript library that speeds up the delivery of files, and a caching network provided by Google that ensures speedier delivery of the files.

 

Some examples of techniques AMP employs to make mobile web browsing superfast include:

 

1) Only allowing asynchronous scripts. Quite often websites won’t load the page until particular scripts have been downloading in full, with this new restriction it will only accept scripts that load in the background and don’t block the loading on the page.

 

2) Only running GPU-accelerated animations. Believe it or not, some web pages use unreasonably complicated scripts causing your mobile’s processor to slow down, with this restriction the AMP creators are forcing simpler calculations on websites that can be processed quickly by the graphics processor on your phone.

 

3) Prerendering, A.K.A. loading pages in advance. Another powerful technique, pretending intelligently loads pages you are likely to visit in the background so that when you get around to visiting them there’s no need to wait for it to download.

 

The above examples are only a few of the many techniques the authors of AMP use to make websites load significantly faster on mobile phones. If you want to check out which platforms support this technology, the folks over at the AMP project have created a list of websites currently providing AMP capability.

 

Supported Platforms, Vendors & Partners Supported Platforms, Vendors and Partners

 

Getting Started with AMP

Getting Started with AMP

While AMP provides a significant boost in speed and benefits for site owners and their users, to be honest, there is a solid amount of work required to enable it on your site. Its likely AMP may not even fit in with your current design or templates, requiring retooling your website layouts and elements to fit in with AMP’s guidelines. The speed boosts are significant, however, so it may be worth considering implementing on your site.

 

Coding with AMP technology is well beyond the scope of this blog, however, the folks over at Google and AMP have put together all-encompassing guides that are updated regularly, making it easier for yourself or your developer to put this technology to work. Have a browse or send the following resources to your developer, and you can get AMP technology running on your site.

 

Accelerated Mobile Pages Project – Project Overview Accelerated Mobile Pages Project

This home page provides a general overview of the AMP Project, written in a conversational style that should be understandable to both technical and nontechnical readers alike.

 

Accelerated Mobile Pages What Is Amp What is AMP AMP

This technical guide provides a more detailed overview of the inner workings of the Accelerated Mobile Pages project, including tutorials on how to implement it on your website.

 

Accelerated Mobile Pages GitHub Repository ampproject/amphtml

For super smart technical types, the AMP Project GitHub Repository has all the updated files and resources needed to get your website running with AMP, as well as all of the source code which is open source so you can bask in its transparent wonderfulness.

 

Google’s Possum update

Google’s Possum update

On September 1, 2016, webmasters reported seeing what looked like one of the biggest updates to Google's local search results in several years. With this being another “tightlipped” update from Google, webmasters were left to form their own conclusions about what changes were made. While online reports vary, three major changes are witnessed by most searches and consistent among reports:

 

  • Businesses just on the outskirts of the city starting to rank higher for local searches.
  • Multiple listings in the same category using the same address being hidden from the results.
  • The physical location of the searcher having a greater influence on the results.

 

The second update is the most notable. Businesses in the same category using the same business address are starting to be filtered from the results, with only the most notable business showing up in the results. This change could pose difficulties for businesses without a physical headquarters using a virtual address service.

 

These changes, while appearing to be minor, would likely require a significant amount of work and testing from Google's local search team, before being distributed to the public. The release of several changes at once might indicate these changes as an annual or biannual release of changes from their local search team.

 

Fortunately, the Google Possum update should only affect a fairly small subset of businesses. If you have a local business and you noticed any changes to traffic around September 1, 2016, then the following article provides a comprehensive guide to this update.

Everything You Need to Know About The Possum Update Everything you need to know about Google's 'Possum' algorithm update Search Engine Land

 

Penguin 4.0—Penguin goes real-time

 Penguin 4.0—Penguin goes real time

On September 23, 2016, a representative from Google reported breaking news on their Google Webmaster Central Blog that the much anticipated Penguin 4.0 update had been released. If you’re wondering what Penguin is, Penguin is Google’s spam detection technology that assesses a website’s offsite behavior— backlinks in other words—and detects high amounts of low quality links, suspicious amounts of anchor text using the same keyword, and other spammy practices related to how the website approaches getting links to their site.

 

At long last, Google completely overhauled their Penguin technology so it no longer functions like a filter added as an afterthought, detecting and removing spammy websites from the results every few months or so. Google’s Penguin technology is now alive part of the core algorithm, updating in almost real-time. To get a clearer idea of what the announcement entails, let’s look at two major aspects of this update mentioned in the announcement:

 

“Penguin is now real-time. Historically, the list of sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a webmaster considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, many of Google's algorithms would take that into consideration very fast, but others, like Penguin, needed to be refreshed.

 

With this change, Penguin's data is refreshed in real time, so changes will be visible much faster, typically taking effect shortly after we re-crawl and reindex a page. It also means we're not going to comment on future refreshes.”

 

“Penguin is now more granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting the ranking of the whole site.”

 

This update going real time is big news for webmasters. Previously, Penguin updates were released every few months and sometimes longer. As a result, webmasters getting penalized by the Penguin filter would get their whole website blacklisted from Google, and they would have to wait several months for Google to remove the penalty after rectifying the spammy behavior.

 

Now with Google’s major spam technology updating in real-time, website owners who run afoul of Google’s spam filtering can get themselves out of hot water much more quickly, while Google’s search results will become even more relevant and update for users, so it’s a win-win.

 

The other point the Google team noted in their announcement is the update has a more granular approach, now updating rankings based on spam signals, as opposed to devaluing whole sites. This is a reasonable update by Google, by focusing on penalizing particular rankings and pages, as opposed to whole sites, the outcome is a more finetuned set of search results.

 

There will also be less backlash and negative fallout associated with unfortunate website owners having their whole website delisted. Another positive change for webmasters.

 

This is a fairly positive update overall, but there is one aspect to the announcement that makes me a little concerned, “It also means we’re no longer going to comment on future refreshes.” In this comment, it does appear Google is giving themselves a hall pass from providing future comments on their spam filtering technology, meaning we’re going to get much less specific information on link building strategies that Google considers “spammy”.

 

If you have experienced any fluctuations in rankings surrounding this update, it would be prudent to have a look over your link building. The following areas are common red flags that could potentially trigger a Penguin penalty:

  • Links from private blog networks or paid link schemes.
  • Spammy overoptimized anchor texts.
  • Unnatural amounts of links acquired from similar sources.
  • Large amounts of links from spammy websites.
  • Lack of stop words or branded keywords in the links pointing to your website.

 

Just don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and start overhauling your links unless you are completely confident you know what you are doing. The best approach is to keep a cool head, avoid using spammy link building techniques, and follow “white hat” approaches to link building at all times.

 

Google FRED—Diagnosis and recovery

Google FRED—Diagnosis and recovery

Around March 8, 2017, murmurs of a Google update echoed around the blogosphere. Prominent Google staff member, Garry Illyes previously joked that all future updates should be named "Fred", so the SEO community obliged and labeled this newest update Fred.

 

While many professionals initially debated the significance and exact focus of the update, industry stalwarts Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Land and Juan Gonzalez from Sistrix put their heads down and analyzed hundreds of sites that lost massive amounts of traffic, up to 90% in some cases, and they found something interesting.

 

Sites affected were guilty of a surprisingly small set of possible infringements, two in fact, which could be witnessed on affected sites.

Common Attributes of Google FRED Affected Sites.

 

1) Sites affected showed a strong commercial focus over providing real value for users. This means sites with large amounts of pages filled with low-quality content in an effort to generate ad revenue.

2) Sites affected generally feature aggressive ad placements, taking up a large amount of screen real estate "above the fold" or hidden in the content in a way that confuses users.

 

Google FRED Recovery Steps

The update is clearly focused on content quality, much like previous Panda updates, thus the solution is fairly straightforward for victims of this update— improve your content and take it easy on the ads. In many cases, site owners hit by the update made a complete recovery simply by dialing down their ad placements above the fold.

 

If you think you were hit by this update, take a look at the following recovery steps. As with all updates, you should only complete the following steps if you are confident you were definitely affected by the penalty.

 

1. Look over your rankings and traffic around the 8th of March, 2017. If you experienced a drop off in both rankings and traffic on this day, and the drop off is significant (i.e. it looks like your rankings and traffic fell off a cliff) then it's likely you've been hit by Google FRED.

 

2. Next look at your content and advertisement strategy on your site. Does your website create a lot of low-quality articles to drive ad revenue, or does it feature aggressive ad placements to drive ad revenue? If you're guilty of either of these, and you saw the clear drop off in traffic then it's almost certain you've been hit by FRED.

 

3. If you're guilty of aggressive ad placement above the fold, you want to try modifying your ad placement strategy. This includes reducing your amount of above the fold ads and also spacing out your ads so they are not deceptively mixed in with content.

 

4. If you're guilty of having large numbers of low-quality pages, you either want to improve the content or take low-quality pages down. Improving content is the better option, if you make a recovery you will recover more traffic than deleting offending pages.

 

5. When finished, update your sitemap and resubmit to Google in Google Search Console. This step will encourage Googlebot to visit your website and pick up the changes.

 

6. Monitor Google Analytics and any rankings tracking software you use. Rinse and repeat if necessary.

 

Google's Hawk update and its impact on local SEO

Google update

On August 22, 2017, local SEO industry analyst Joy Hawkins, founder of Sterling Sky consulting, and occasional contributor to Search Engine Land, broke the news of a significant update to the local SEO algorithm, subsequently dubbed the “Hawk” update.

 

She discovered that Google rolled back, or at least fixed, some of the changes to the Possum local SEO update that shook up the local SEO results way back in September 2016.

 

The previous Possum update had some bugs that would inadvertently filter out individual businesses in close proximity to each other. For example, if your businesses occupied the same building with a competitor in the same industry, or even down the same street, you could potentially completely fall off the local rankings—if your competitor had stronger local signals than you.

 

After the Hawk update, Google loosened their proximity filter up a little bit, so local businesses within close proximity, unfairly affected by the Possum update, are given a fairer chance in the results.

 

Businesses still affected by the Possum update, or the “close proximity filter” Google use in their local algorithm, includes businesses in the same industry using the same “virtual addresses”, businesses in the same industry occupying the same building, and even businesses in different buildings up to 50 feet away from their competitor—now still often filtered out from the local search results.

 

So, if you're looking at opening up a new business, better make sure you don't choose the same building (or virtual address) as your competitor, or you might find yourself fighting an impossible battle trying to work your way into the local search results.

 

Google Becoming Apple's Default Search Provider for Siri, iOS, and Spotlight on Mac OS

On September 25, 2017, Apple announced they made the switch from Bing to Google as their default search provider for Siri, iOS search, and Spotlight search on Mac OS—a big news event in 2017 for everyone living in search engine universe.

 

The reason for the switch, stated by Apple, was Apple wants users to have a consistent search experience for users across all their apps and devices.

 

Google's state-of-the-art search technology likely took part in this decision... And, possibly, just a guess, the $3 billion annual contract Google is now paying Apple to remain Apple's default search provider on iOS devices—I'll let you form your own opinion on whatever the final deciding factor was but moving on...

 

Part of the agreement requires all searches through Apple to be encrypted and anonymized, to ensure Apple's enduring stance on safeguarding privacy for users. Good news for Apple users.

 

You might be wondering what this means for the average user or business? Well first up, with close to a billion iPhones in active circulation worldwide—it's certainly going to lead to more traffic and customers for businesses performing well in the Google search results.

 

Secondly, well, we're not really sure what the other impacts may be. With increasing voice search popularity, including Siri, it might become more important for business owners to ensure their business names are easy to pronounce...

 

So, if you were thinking of naming your new Indian restaurant “Patek’s Delicious and Delectable Culinary Indian Delights” you might want to make your business name something more pronounceable, like “Patek’s Indian Restaurant Los Angeles”, and make it a little bit easier on Siri... Poor Siri...

Either way, it's blue skies from here for site owners performing well in the Google search results—more users mean more customers and more sales.

 

Google's MobileFirst Index coming up in 2018

Google's Mobile

At a crowded symposium at SMX Advanced in Seattle, on June 13, 2017, Gary Illyes, Google's Webmaster Trends Analyst, discussed a significant upcoming update titled the MobileFirst Index, saying after initial delays, it is likely to be released sometime early 2018.

 

The MobileFirst Index has been a long-term initiative by Google to improve mobile search, to ensure users are delivered with fast and usable websites. Illyes stated the longstanding goal for Google is, eventually, over several years, the mobile-first index will only deliver sites that fully support mobile.

 

But the plan is to initially roll out the update in a way that doesn't affect nonmobile friendly sites too much, in other words, sites that only support desktop won't drop off the mobile search results completely. But one direct quote from

 

Illyes is rather striking, "Mobile first means mobile first. It only means that we'll look for mobile content first."

Probable outcomes and action steps for site owners.

 

If your website doesn't cater to mobile users, then it's likely it will get pushed down even further in the results when Google releases the mobile first update in 2018.

 

If you haven't jumped on the mobile bandwagon by now, with mobile traffic currently making up around 65%75% of traffic for a lot of sites, you are missing out on traffic right this very second, and it's a possibility you will eventually completely fall off the mobile search results.

 

Fortunately, there's an elegant solution already discussed in the mobile SEO update section earlier in this blog, but I'll let Illyes take the reins with a direct quote...

 

"If you have a responsive site, then you're pretty much good to go. Why? Because the content on your desktop site will be pretty much the same on your responsive site. The structured data on your desktop site will be the same.”

 

In other words, if your site is already responsive and supporting mobile users, you can lie back and enjoy a Piña Colada, knowing your desktop-only competitors will eventually fall to the wayside, while you bask in the glory of a mobile-first paradise for users.

 

Keeping up to date with Google's updates

Keeping up-to-date with Google's updates

As of the last couple of years, Google updates have become progressively frequent. While I understand the constant changes by Google might make you feel like banging your head against the wall and doing a nudie run through the office, don’t be disheartened. It can be easy to keep up and the resources below are great for staying updated. If there’s a significant update to Google's algorithm, it will be covered on at least one of the following pages.

 

 

You don’t need a crystal ball or secret informer at Google to get a general sense of what’s on the horizon. After reviewing decades of updates made to Google’s search algorithm, or just previous months, it’s easy to get a general idea of what changes Google is likely to make.

 

Before looking at what’s coming up, let’s look at what previous Google updates have in common. Almost all previous updates can give us insights into upcoming updates. Previous updates generally focus on two things; 1) filtering out spam and low quality websites, and 2) making the Internet and Google a better user experience.

 

To figure out what Google may be working on, we should look at possible improvements with these qualities, and also updates Google has publicly acknowledged as being on their agenda.

 

Security

Security

Google has already publicly admitted user privacy and security a strong area of focus. After the HTTPS update rewarding websites secured with SSL certificates in 2014, and Google Chrome’s security warnings on nonSSL secured websites in 2017, Google will continue this trend, increasing the strength of SSL-secured sites in the results, and possibly eventually even penalizing websites that are not SSL-secured.

 

 Quality

Penguin updates are generally those made by Google focused on link quality. Panda updates are typically focused on content quality. A solid update or refresh for each of these areas usually happens once or twice every year. While Google is remaining tightlipped on these updates, it’s likely Google will improve its accuracy in finding low-quality, nonrelevant spammy type links. Google may also make further updates devaluing websites with low-quality content, scraped content, over aggressive ads, or providing a low-quality experience for users overall.

 

Trust

As more traditional businesses move online, leading to increased pressure on Google from commercial advertisers, we may begin to see fewer results for sites perceived as part of a bad neighborhood showing up in search, and businesses performing dubious business practices.

 

This includes sites such as those streaming illegal versions of TV shows and movies, sites with unethical or illegal content, sites using shady marketing practices such as private blog networks, or even sites being mysterious or vague about who actually owns and operates the site. Authoritative brands with large social audiences and brand recognition will likely continue to be rewarded with higher positions.

 

Mobile

While we are already aware of the upcoming MobileFirst Index, and its progressive rollout to minimize initial harm on desktop-only sites, Google will continue working on this area, likely further working mobile user activity into their ranking signals.

 

An astute observation by Searchmetrics in their Ranking Factors Survey provides a good insight into this longterm trend and what to expect from Google in coming years, “Links are becoming ever less important with the continuing proliferation of smartphones, as content that is consumed on the move is rarely linked but rather shared with friends.”

 

Search result layout changes

Search result layout changes

Google continually makes small adjustments to how its search results appear to make Google more useful. Potential layout changes to include improvements to listings for local businesses, better support for listings using structured data markup such as http://schema.org. We may also see more improvements on how Google presents information for mobile users needing information on the go.

 

Increased focus on voice search

In August 14, 2017, Google announced they added support for 30 new languages for voice search, backed by an impressive machine learning project with native speakers to improve the accuracy of the speech recognition software. Voice search and speech recognition technology has become increasingly popular, and Google is likely to continue working on this area to maintain their stance as a market leader in search.

 

That covers probable areas of focus for Google over the next 12 months, based on current trends, and what many industry insiders believe are areas of focus for Google.

Increased focus on voice search

I am not a psychic and I cannot see into the future—the above are just educated guesses. Don’t run out and change your whole business based on speculation. That said, keep these areas in the back of your mind, so you don’t get caught with your pants down from a Google update.

 

Focus on improving the quality of your site, provide good mobile support, earn good quality backlinks, improve your security for users and increase the social media activity associated with your site. If you focus on these areas it’s unlikely you will run into any major problems, and you will increase your online performance at the same time.

 

Bonus blog 2: The quick and dirty guide to pay per click advertising with Google AdWords.

Why bother with pay per click advertising?

 

You would have to be as crazy as a box of weasels to pay each time someone visits your site with pay per click advertising when you can rank high in Google for free, right?

 

Not necessarily. pay per click advertising has some advantages over SEO, with PPC campaigns you can

PPC campaigns you can

Send customers to your site within hours, not the months it sometimes takes for solid SEO results.

 

Track results down to the penny, and get very clear insights into the financial performance of your advertising. Simply set up conversion tracking with the instructions provided by Google, or whichever pay per click provider you choose.

 

Achieve a much larger overall number of customers to your site by running pay per click in tandem with your other marketing efforts.

 

In most cases, achieve a positive financial return on your marketing spend and keep on selling to these customers in the future.

 

There is one caveat to the last point. If you are a small fish trying to enter an extremely competitive market, such as house loans, insurance or international plane flights, it's likely the big players in the market are buying a large amount of advertising, forcing the average cost per click to astronomical prices, and making it difficult for new players to get a profitable return.

 

If you're selling pizza delivery in New York, pool cleaning in Los Angeles, or cheap baseball jackets... In other words, if you're selling a common local trade, service, or product online, it's likely you can receive a profitable return on your advertising spend.

 

While pay per click marketing really deserves its own blog, this is a quick and dirty bonus blog, jam-packed with just enough information to get a pay per click campaign setup, avoid common mistakes, and send more customers and sales to your business.

 

If you want to delve deeper into the science of pay per click advertising, I've included some great resources on AdWords at the end of the blog. Sound good? Let's get started.

 

Which is the best PPC provider to start with

There are much pay per click providers out there, Google AdWords and Bing Ads are just two.

 

Google AdWords is generally the best starting point. You can sell anything on Google AdWords if you have money to spend because the user base is so large.

 

If you're looking to jump into pay per click advertising, get started with Google AdWords. Move on to the other pay per click networks after you have some experience under your belt.

 

Here’s why I think AdWords is usually the best choice for a first venture into pay per click advertising:

 

With Google's search engine market share at 67%, and Bing at 18.7%, you can reach out to the largest potential amount of customers with Google.

 

Fast and instant results. Send new customers to your site within a couple of hours.

Advanced targeting technology. Target users based on where they are located, or what browser or device they are using. Google's ad targeting technology is among the best in the world.

 

Due to the popularity of AdWords, there's a wealth of knowledge on running AdWords campaigns successfully.

 

Ensuring success with research and a plan

Ensuring success with research and a plan

Like all marketing projects, for an AdWords campaign to be successful, you need to start with research and a solid plan. Without first defining your goals, and designing a robust strategy to achieve them, it's impossible to create a successful marketing campaign—you'll have no way of determining if the outcome is successful!

 

Here are some important questions to ask yourself before you get started:

  • What is the objective of the campaign? Sales, web inquiries, signups, or branding?
  • What is the maximum monthly budget you can afford?

 

What is the maximum cost per inquiry, or cost per sale you can afford? For example, if you are selling snow jackets for $100, and your profit margin is 20%, you really can't afford to spend much more than $20 on each customer you acquire. Write this figure down, and review it later. You may need to first run a small test campaign to determine if pay per click is profitable, and the right tool for marketing your business.

 

What are the most common characteristics of your customers? For example, if you're selling late night pizza delivery in New York, you don't want to be paying for the lovely folk in Idaho searching for late-night pizza delivery. Write down your customers’ common characteristics, and later in the settings recommendations, if there's an option to target these customers, I'll tell you how to target them.

 

How to choose the right kind of keywords

It's the moment you've been waiting for. The keywords! Precious keywords.

Just like SEO, getting your keywords right with AdWords is critical if you want a successful campaign.

Unlike SEO, with AdWords, there are different types of keywords called keyword match types. I've listed the main keyword match types below.

 

Broad match keywords

Broad match keywords

The default type of keywords all AdWords campaign use—if you don't change any settings—are broad match keywords. With broad match keywords, Google will take any word out of your phrase, and serve up ads for searches hardly related to your phrase.

 

Needless to say, almost all new campaigns should NOT be using broad match keywords to start with. Have a look at the example below.

  • keyword:
  • tennis shoes
  • will trigger ads for:
  • designer shoes
  • dress shoes
  • basketball shoes
  • tennis bags
  • tennis equipment

 

Phrase match keywords

Phrase match keywords will only show your ad for searches containing your core phrase. With phrase match keywords, you can exercise a higher level of control and purchase traffic from more relevant customers. And higher relevancy usually means more sales.

 

To enter a phrase match keyword, when adding keywords to your account, wrap the keywords with "" quotation marks and these keywords will become broad match keywords.

  • keyword:
  • "tennis shoes"
  • will trigger ads for:
  • tennis shoes
  • best tennis shoes
  • tennis shoes online

 

Exact match keywords

Exact match keywords will only trigger ads for the exact phrase you enter. Needless to say, with exact match keywords in your campaign, you can have a high level of accuracy, and achieve more sales. Exact match keywords are indispensable for every AdWords campaign.

To enter exact match keywords, wrap the keywords with [] brackets when adding keywords to your account, they will become exact match keywords.

  • keyword:
  • [tennis shoes]
  • will trigger ads for:
  • tennis shoes
  • will not match for:
  • tennis shoe
  • tennis shoes online
  • best tennis shoes

 

Broad match modified keywords

Broad match modified keywords are special keywords allowing you to have both accuracy and a large amount of exposure. With broad match modified keywords, you will trigger ads that include a combination of all of the words in your phrase. To create broad match modified keywords, add a + sign to the keywords when adding them to your account.

 

One of the most important, but easily overlooked keywords is negative keywords. Negative keywords will prevent your ads from showing for searches that include your negative keyword.

 

If you are using phrase match or any kind of broad match keyword, you should be using negative keywords. Negative keywords are vital for ensuring you are not paying for advertising for irrelevant searches.

 

Enter negative keywords in your campaign by adding a minus sign in front of your keywords when adding keywords, or going to the shared library on the left-hand column in your AdWords account, and you can apply negative keywords across your entire account, a great timesaving tip.

keywords:

+car +service

guide

manual

 

When choosing keywords, you need a balance between keywords with a high level of accuracy, such as exact match keywords, and keywords with a larger amount of reach, such as phrase match or broad match modified keywords.

 

Use a mix of the above keywords in your campaign, then review the performance of different keyword types after your campaign has been running, when you have some data.

 

Structuring your campaign with ad groups

Structuring your campaign with ad groups

 

AdWords offer an excellent way of organizing your keywords called ad groups.

If you organize your campaign correctly with ad groups, you can quickly see which areas of your campaign are profitable and not so profitable.

 

Let's say you have a Harley Davidson dealership, with a wide range of HD gear from bikes to accessories and clothing, below is an example of ad groups you might create.

  • Harley Davidson motorbikes
  • Harley Davidson parts
  • Harley Davidson accessories
  • Harley Davidson jackets

 

With ad groups you can:

  •  Create multiple, and separate ads for each product line. Great for testing.
  •  Have a select range of keywords, specific to the ad group.
  • Set a specific bid for the ad group. Great if you have higher priced products or services you're willing to pay more for.
  •  Get detailed data on the performance of your ad groups and different products.

 

Structure your campaign with ad groups with a very clear and simple sense of organization when you set up your campaign. You'll get clearer performance insights, and it will make your life easier when you want to make improvements later on down the track.

 

How to crush the competition with killer AdWords ads

Writing a killer AdWords ad is essential to the success of your campaign. Poorly written AdWords ads can increase the overall costs of your campaign, sending less traffic to your site for more money. We don't want that.

 

With your AdWords ads, you want to:

  • Attract clicks from interested customers, not tire kickers
  • Include keywords related to what the user searched for
  • Encourage a clear call to action and benefit for the user
  • AdWords ads are made up of the following components

 

1. Headline. Your headline has a maximum of 25 characters. With your headline, you should include the keyword the user is searching for, or capture the user's curiosity.

 

2. Description lines. You have two description lines at a maximum of 35 characters each. Your description lines should make it crystal clear what you are selling, the benefits of clicking through to your site and a call to action.

 

3. Display URL. You have 35 characters for a custom URL that will be displayed to users in the search results. Display URLs are great as you can actually display a different URL to the users than the URL of the page they will arrive on. You can take advantage of this to encourage more users to arrive on your site.

 

An interesting headline. Each ad captures the curiosity of the user, through use of special characters, asking a question or posting a competitive offer right in the headline.

 

Clear benefits. Each ad has a compelling offer in addition to the core product or service being sold, making the ad stand out from the search results, such as a no risk, money back guarantee, same day delivery, or a free evaluation.

 

A clear call to action. The first two ads make it clear what the next step should be. In the third ad, the call to action is not explicit, but it is obvious. By having “Online $19.99” in the headline, and “Delivered Today”, it is clear the user can order flowers online to be delivered the same day.

 

If you want more examples of successful AdWords ads and why they crush the competition, the article below is a good starting point: successful ads and why they crush the competition http://blog.crazyegg.com/2012/03/26/successfuladwordsads/

 

How much to pay for keywords

How much to pay for keywords

A burning question for AdWords newbies is, how much should I bid on my keywords?

There is no clear answer for finding your ideal bid price. You should only pay for what you can afford. You can find out how much you can afford by doing some simple math.

 

For example, let’s look at an example scenario:

  • You're selling video courses for $200.
  •  For every 100 visitors, 3 turn into customers. This is a conversion rate of 3%.
  • If you bought 100 visitors at a cost per click of $3, this would cost $300.
  • With your 3% conversion rate, you will have made $600 in sales, and a profit of $300

 

So to calculate your ideal CPC, I’m sorry to say, you do need to sit down and do some math and figure it out. It cannot be avoided. But to keep it simple, you should only pay what you can afford—otherwise, you should be spending your marketing dollars elsewhere.

 

Here's the catch, you can only find out what your cost per click is after running your campaign for a while when you have accumulated some data. So, run a small test campaign, to begin with, to collect data. Use the information to make projections, and only pay what you can afford in a larger, more serious campaign.

 

In case you’re wondering how prices get calculated, the Google AdWords cost per click network uses a bidding system, which means you are taking place in an auction with competing advertisers. By increasing bids, your ad position increases, leading to more traffic or customers to your site.

 

Here is where it gets interesting. Google awards an advantage to advertisers showing ads with high quality and high relevancy. This is Google's Quality Score technology. Ads with a higher number of clicks and relevancy are awarded a higher Quality Score, and subsequently, receive increased ad positions and cheaper prices!

 

Keep this in mind when writing ads and choosing your keywords. Your ads should be relevant to achieve the highest Quality Score possible, so you can receive the cheapest cost per click.

 

AdWords settings for getting started

AdWords settings for getting started

The single most important factor to ensure your campaign is successful is to fill out all of the settings when you set up your campaign. Whatever you do, do not rush through the campaign settings, otherwise, you will end up paying for advertising to people who have no interest in what you're selling.

 

I've listed recommended AdWords settings below for reference, but if you are not setting up your AdWords campaign right now, feel free to skip to the end of this blog for closing recommendations on reviewing AdWords campaigns for longterm success.

 

1. If you haven't done so already, create an account at http://adwords.google.com. When signing up, enter your Google account, or let the tool create one for you if you don't already have one.

 

2. Once fully signed in, click on the big button “Create your first campaign”.

 

3. Campaign name:

Enter a descriptive name for your campaign.

 

4. Type:

Choose “search network only” from the drop-down. This is important. Make sure you select this option, unless you know what you are doing, otherwise you will also end up buying advertising on less relevant sites.

 

Select “All features All options for the Search Network, with Display Select”. Why would we want to restrict ourselves and give ourselves fewer options and features? Choose it, the features are awesome. Trust me.

 

5. Networks:

Unselect “include search partners”. We want to advertise on Google, not other smaller, potentially less relevant sites.

 

6. Locations:

If you are targeting customers from a specific area, country, state or city, enter the most relevant setting for your customers here. Whatever you do, don't forget about this setting, otherwise, if you're a local business you'll end up buying advertising halfway around the world!

 

7. Bid strategy:

Choose “I'll manually set my bids for clicks”. This allows you to make sure you are only setting cost per click bids you can afford. More on setting bids later.

 

8. Default bid:

Enter any number here, we are going to change it later.

 

9. Budget:

Enter your daily budget.

 

10. Ad Extensions:

Ad Extensions, otherwise known as site links, are a great way to encourage more clicks to your site. Enter as many relevant entries as you can, if you have an office address and phone number, use it.

 

11. Schedule:

If you are only open during certain business hours, enter the hours you want to be running ads here. For some businesses, it's OK to run your campaign 24/7, because some customers will send an online inquiry if they arrive at your site outside of business hours. If you are selling something like a local food, such as a pizza shop, you might want to restrict your campaigns to only run during your opening hours.

 

12. Ad delivery:

Choose “Rotate indefinitely. Show lower performing ads more evenly with higher performing ads, and do not optimize”.

Why would you want to choose this, you might wonder? You want to run your ads evenly, so you have reliable data when you review your ads, and can objectively see which ads are performing better for your goals.

 

You can leave the rest of settings, for now, hit “save and continue”, and you're good to go with setting up the rest of your campaign.

Optimization tips for tweaking your campaign for better profit.

 

I've touched on a handful of secrets of successful pay per click campaigns, but I'm going to cover the most important technique for pay per click success.

 

Review your campaign regularly

Leaving an AdWords campaign running without keeping your head around the performance is like leaving a freight train running without a driver.

 

Regularly review your ad, ad group, keyword, cost per click, and cost per conversion performance. This will allow you to back the winning horses of your campaign and swiftly cut the losers.

 

Fortunately, the AdWords platform offers endless opportunities for deep insights into the performance of your campaign.

As a starting point, below are example areas in your campaign to regularly look over:

 

Ad group performance. Review click-through rates, cost per click, and cost per conversion. Allocate more funds from your campaign to winning ad groups, and decrease funds or pause losing ad groups if you see any obvious trends.

 

Ad performance. Look for winning ads with higher click-through rates, lower cost per clicks, and lower cost per conversion. Pause expensive ads, and create new ads to most split based on your winners. Progressively build up new ads with higher click-through rates into your campaign over time.

 

Keyword performance. Review which keywords are running at a higher cost, which keywords have low-quality scores, and see if you can pause any overly budget-draining keywords with low conversions.

 

Using Accelerated Mobile Pages in AdWords campaigns to accelerate your sales

Late September 2017, Google rolled out Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) support for AdWords campaigns. Why is this important? AMP significantly increases the load speed for mobile users. Faster load times equals higher conversion rates, and higher conversion rates mean more sales. In fact, the smart lads over at Google's AMP team reported increases up to 80% in mobile conversion rates, and a 31% drop in bounce rates, in initial tests with a select few e-commerce retailers. If you're running a medium to large sized AdWords campaign, it's worth taking a look.

 

To say implementing AMP is extremely technically involved would be an understatement—it's something that should only be handled by the deft hands of a highly skilled web developer, and beyond the scope of this blog. But the potential upside in sales makes it worth a look for medium to large campaigns. You can forward the official documentation by Google below to your web developer to see if it can be done, and read up on Accelerated Mobile Pages, in the “Google's Algorithm Updates” bonus blog later in this blog. 

Using AMP for your AdWords Landing Pages Google AdWords https://developers.google.com/adwords/amp/landingpages