More online product searches start on Amazon than Google

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Search traffic is of course vital for online retailers, but a new survey finds that more people use Amazon as the first port of call when looking for products.

The second annual State of Amazon study by BloomReach found that 55% of consumers start their online product searches on Amazon, compared to 28% who opt for a search engine.

The survey of 2,000 US consumers found that Amazon’s share of the action was up 11% year on year, and the figures down for search engines and other retailers.

The retailer’s reputation for price-competitiveness, (as well as the fact that it sells just about everything) means it’s the go-to destination for comparison shopping.

  • 90% of consumers will check Amazon even if they’ve found their product elsewhere. 78% of these shoppers do this ‘often’ or ‘always’.
  • It works both ways though, with 70% checking products they’ve found on Amazon on other ecommerce sites.

Mobile shopping habits

The study also looked at shopping habits on mobile devices. Amazon still dominates here, but less so than overall.

  • 50% of mobile shoppers try Amazon first, compared to search engines on 34% and other retailers on 16%.
  • 76% of consumers shop on their smartphone, with 90% saying that they’ve made a purchase on a smartphone.
  • Almost 50% shop on a smartphone weekly.
  • 92% say smartphone shopping can influence a purchase decision, while 52% say smartphone shopping often or always supports a purchase.
  • 88% will use a smartphone to assist shopping in stores.
  • 78% have a retailer mobile app, and 82% of those have a retailer app that isn’t Amazon’s.

These figures will of course be a major concern for competitors, as the risk is that many product searches begin and end on Amazon before they even have a chance to appeal to shoppers.

Jason Seeba, BloomReach head of marketing, says search still has a major part to play:

“While online retailers increasingly feel the pinch, search engines still play an integral part of commerce strategy. This study highlights that just because consumers start on Amazon, that doesn’t mean they ultimately buy from Amazon. Instead, they’re often comparing and researching products on search engines and other retailers.”

How PPC brand protection can increase clicks by 34%

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Brand protection is changing. Are you keeping up?

If you have a brand worth protecting, competitors are already bidding on your brand name. Some bid directly on your name, while others will bid on obvious brand-plus derivatives, such as when GEICO bids on phrases like “Progressive insurance” (and vice versa).

As you can see for the keyword “geico insurance,” AIS, FreeQuotes365 and Mercury Insurance are aggressively buying that keyword, too.

If you have a trademark or brand name that drives search volume, it will be one of your more profitable campaigns. Unfortunately, it is one of the important PPC campaigns for your affiliates, resellers and competitors too.

Larry Kim, CTO of WordStream, discussed this topic in his article on how companies often make deals with each other to avoid bidding on each other’s terms. The article shows how a focus on protecting branded campaigns leads to less competition and lower costs.

I’m going to show you a process (with a case study) of how to protect your brand keywords, cut costs, and drive 34% more clicks.

While it’s a simple process to understand, it requires considerable skill to actually catch advertisers bidding on your brand, prove that it’s happening, and then deal with the brand bidders appropriately.

Your response to competitive brand bidding can take several forms, from fighting back with your own brand bidding, to getting the engines to remove the ad (if it breaks their rules), to legal action. More to come on these responses.

The goal of these actions is clear: prevent competing advertisers from bidding on your keywords and/or limit the number of affiliates and resellers who can buy these keywords. With fewer competitors, you’ll quickly see more clicks, lower CPCs, and lower overall campaign costs.

Let’s dive in to the brand protection process.

Identify brand keyword bidding violators using Google Auction Insights

Auction Insights is a great place to start evaluating your brand keywords and campaigns. For example, I can see who is buying these keywords, how often, and if they are showing up above me.

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If I find a violator, I can contact them directly or show Google my trademark number and ask them to remove this advertiser.

Remember that Google allows other advertisers to bid on your trademarks and use it in their ad’s Display URL. But, they cannot use it in ad copy.

Search keywords without being logged into a Google account

When you are logged into any google property, your search results will be customized to your search history and behavior. It is best practice to evaluate these keywords anonymously, so don’t forget to logout before you check.

In the example below, you can see the manufacturer telling the consumers to buy the original product direct from the manufacturer.

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The ad copy (“Buy the Original Product – From the Actual Manufacturer”) is a very smart approach to differentiate themselves from other people claiming to make this product.

Who has time to constantly monitor brand keywords?

Even if you are logged out and searching from different geo-locations, you will never catch all the violators by hand. I recommend using a 3rd-party tool that will automatically report these violators to the search engines.

There are several companies offering tools that help you monitor trademark and brands in PPC, as you can see when you search Google.

protect-your-brand-ppc

By adding your trademark, brand and product keywords into these tools, you get the ad intelligence you need to take appropriate action.

Importantly, you receive a screen shot of the search result, along with the location, time and date of the search. This provides the necessary evidence to contact the violators to take down these ads, or to contact the engines themselves.

Yes, the engines have their own process for receiving violations from brand holders, and taking action. Some of these third-party tools also allow you to submit the violations, with all the proof, directly to the right contact at each engine. This has become the most popular way to deal with violations.

If successful in removing ads, your clicks and profitability will increase

It’s basic PPC economics 101 that with less competition, more people will click on your ads, or at least on your authorized reseller’s ads.

A recent case study showed how a brand holder received a 34% lift in clicks after removing violators from their branded campaigns. Yes please, may I have some more of that!

Case Study: Benefits of PPC brand protection

As promised, here is a detailed case study of how this strategy boosted overall campaign performance for Avery Office Supplies. After removing unwanted competitors from their brand terms, this office supply company quickly realized these gains:

  • Brand CPCs decreased by 64%
  • Clicks increased 34%
  • Total campaign costs dropped by 51%

Can you image getting these results just from eliminating brand bidders?

How to evaluate the issues and laws in your industry

Lori Weiman, CEO of The Search Monitor, has written several articles educating the search marketing industry on the brand bidding problem and outlining the legal implications. Her company has a competitive intelligence and brand compliance tool that monitors ads and helps catch brand-bidding violators.

Their data shows the extent of the problem, that 55% of affiliates are brand bidding and 29% are URL hijackers.

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DEFINITIONS:

Brand bidding occurs when an advertiser bids on a brand keyword, or uses your brand in ad copy. Competitors and Affiliates will use your brand plus keywords which include several long tail keywords you might not be monitoring. Some advertisers allow their affiliates to brand bid on their behalf.

URL hijacking occurs when an unauthorized advertiser uses your URL as the Display URL of the ad (and sometimes changes the ad copy too!), and then directs search traffic through links that you did not approve.

Note that URL Hijackers are also guilty of brand bidding, so they are counted in both the Bidders and Hijackers categories.

Enforcement options

What are your legal responses if you detect unwelcome competition or violators? To enforce compliance against competitors and affiliates, Weiman reports that you have three main options: 1) Search engine complaints; 2) Pacts or agreements; and 3) Lawsuits.

Search engine complaints

Filing a complaint with Google or Bing is the recommended option because it’s cheap (free to file) and easy, especially if you use an ad monitoring platform to automatically detect and file the complaints on your behalf. Before you get super-excited, however, there are some limitations:

  • Protected items: Only registered trademarks are protected.
  • Allowed items: Generally, each engine deals with trademark infringement as follows:
    • Brand bidding: Anyone can bid on your name.
    • Ad copy use: Not allowed(with a few exceptions). Fair use rules allow resellers, affiliates, reviewers and news outlets to use your name in ad copy.
    • Destination URL use: Competitors can use your name as a sub-domain or sub-page. While the engines allow this, it does not mean that the law allows it. The more confusingly similar a URL is to the brand holder’s, the stronger the brand holder’s case becomes from a legal standpoint.
  • Pacts and agreements

    Another method to enforce protection is with agreements. Agreements give you stronger and more reliable legal recourse than just complaining to the engines.

  • Competitive pacts:Some industries have gotten together, and competitors have formed written pacts where they have specifically agreed not to brand bid. These written agreements list in detail the allowed and prohibited activity, as well as enforcement proceedings should they be violated, which typically come with a financial price tag.
  • Affiliate agreements:If you have affiliates or partners, your affiliate agreement should detail the allowed and disallowed brand bidding activity, along with notice rules and financial ramifications for any violations. The swiftness and harshness of your action should match the conduct, which includes:
    • Direct linkers.This harmful advertising practice should be dealt with swiftly, since someone is hijacking your brand outright. Actions should include financial withholding and termination of the relationship.
    • Unauthorized affiliates.Affiliates who brand bid without authorization are mucking up your strategies. Actions should include notice with cure periods, financial ramifications and eventual termination if the behavior is repetitive and material.
    • Authorized affiliates.Super-affiliates should be handled more gently, with kinder notices that build upon themselves and provide cure periods. Financial repercussions and termination should only be used as last resorts.
  • Reseller agreements:If you are a manufacturer, you likely have strict rules regarding sensationalized copy, minimum advertised price (MAP) compliance and brand bidding. Your agreements should detail these rules and the ramifications for not following them.
  • Lawsuits

    A lawsuit based on trademark infringement should be your last resort. Trademark lawsuits are expensive and challenging to win (as noted earlier). The caveat is if you have a pact or agreement that prohibits brand bidding, and you have proof of the advertising activity through date/time stamped screen shots, then you have a stronger chance for victory.

    Final thoughts on brand protection

    Your branded campaigns are typically your most profitable PPC campaigns and unfortunately your competitors and unscrupulous affiliates know this. They have a strong financial incentive to use them to steal your high-converting clicks and build their own brand.

    If you’re not vigilant to their actions, aggressively protecting this valuable asset with the process and tools I’ve discussed above, you’re basically giving them the green light to continue. Don’t make it this easy for them.

    If you’re already protecting your brand in paid search, please share your strategy, tools, or examples of how brand protection has helped drive PPC profits for you.

    Jamie Smith is the CEO of Campaign Watch and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Jamie on LinkedIn or Twitter.

    Thought leadership as a strategy for innovation and growth

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    The fast pace of business in the digital age means that businesses (and business models) are shifting more rapidly than ever.

    New technologies and innovations can quickly sweep away well established and seeking solid business models within just a few years. There are plenty of such examples from the digital age, Blockbusters and Kodak to name just two.

    In the latter case, Kodak failed to adapt to the growth of digital photography and the concurrent decline of photographic film, and a company which had traded for more than 100 years was forced to file for bankruptcy.

    Blockbuster, which had itself been a disruptive company which saw the growth in home video and build a very successful business around this from the 1980s, failed to see the decline of video and DVD and the potential for online video.

    It failed to adapt to the change and has fallen by the wayside while players like Netflix (which it famously passed up the chance to buy) dominate the same space today.

    To underline the pace of disruption in this digital age, consider this fact: just 12% of the Forbes 500 from 1955 still existed in 2015.

    So how can businesses remain relevant to their customers in these circumstances? The answer is to do what Blockbuster and others failed to do, and to adapt and innovate to survive.

    The impetus, and thought leadership behind this needs to come from executives. They should lead from the front, and encourage their teams to think progressively and kick start innovative thinking within the business.

    This isn’t thought leadership as it’s often understood: a kind of self-promotion practised in guest articles and conferences, but rather actually inspiring people within a business with innovative ideas and practical steps to turn these ideas into reality.

    According to Editor Eye CEO Nick Gregg:

    Thought leadership is a powerful way to inspire people both inside and outside of your company. Telling a credible story around a macro shift in your industry using real-life disruptive examples or insights builds authority and a consistent view across your team – driving innovative thinking and alignment on how the team needs to adapt to meet future client needs.

    The challenge for executives, the Heads of Digital, Marketing Directors, Directors of Strategy and so on is to remain up to date with trends and developments in fast-moving industries when they already have so many demands on their time, stretched budgets and different priorities.

    This has to be overcome for businesses and their executive teams though, as the ability to remain on top of events and how innovation and technological changes have the potential to affect their markets and clients is increasingly important.

    The next stage is how executives can become the thought leaders within their organisations and find and disseminate key information to help them and their stay of top on events.

    How to become the intelligence thought leader for your organisation

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    For executives, keeping up to date with trends and events in your industry is crucial in order to ensure that your business and its strategy remains relevant.

    It can be a major challenge however, with constraints on time and so many sources of information to choose from. It’s easy to see why many senior executives simply don’t have the time to perform the detailed research tasks necessary to make sense of all this information.

    It’s important to overcome this challenge though, as things can move so quickly and being on top of trends is key for executives.

    It’s also very important to ensure that the whole company is also up to date. For this, executives need to become the thought-leaders within their own organisations, disseminating ideas and providing inspiration for ideas to develop.

    Simply distributing updates isn’t enough though, effective thought-leadership is also about engaging people, adding value, and encouraging people to take new perspectives.

    It’s also important to consider the best channels to distribute information to achieve the greatest effect and to encourage people to share and discuss.

    Nick Gregg, CEO of EditorEye, on the best approaches:

    “Two approaches work in organisations, email and collaboration. Email is still the most effective channel to reach your audience, using mobile-friendly curated briefings but keeping this to just a few key stories, and being careful to avoid overload.

    “Collaboration is also key. At its simplest this means making it easy to share articles or alternatively central applications or apps for posting and commenting on content. Either way, getting to the right insights is vital.”

    Ensuring that the right processes are in place within an organisation matters here. Emails are useful but can also be easily overlooked in busy inboxes. This is why it’s important to ensure that the collaboration happens, and that ideas sent through in emails are digested and discussed.

    This is another important role that the thought leader has to play. It’s not just about disseminating ideas but also about ensuring that real debate takes place around these themes and that, ultimately, information is translated into ideas and actions.

    Seven ways to future-proof your digital strategy

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    Nurcin Erdogan Loeffler, head of strategy and innovation, Vizeum China, outlines the seven ways businesses can future proof their digital strategies.

    With more than two years in China and a background in strategy, Nurcin Erdogan Loeffler shared her thoughts on future proofing a business strategy with the audience at ClickZ Live Shanghai.

    While the future for many of us is seen as something unpredictable and scary, the definition on Wikipedia is quite simple: “The Future” is the time after the present.

    But what does that actually mean?

    “When we look at the reality, especially in our industry, the future is now. We are already used to seeing science fiction as science fact,” says Erdogan Loeffler.

    To understand the three stages of time, Erdogan Loeffler quoted from Steve Case’s book: The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future.

    The first wave: The first wave is the past. This was a period of infrastructure building to bring the technology to the people. Think Microsoft and Cisco.

    The second wave: The second wave is the present. This is about the software. “It’s about all those smart kids in their parents garages with a good idea that changed the world. It was about being agile, disruptive and empowering,” says Erdogan Loeffler.

    The third wave: The third wave is the future which is already here. This will not be disruptive but constructive, says Erdogan Loeffler. “It will be different in terms of changing the world in terms of partnering up and growing further with existing partners.”

    The futurist Gerd Leonhard, sums up how “change” itself will be disrupted in the future in this short video.

    Digital transformation: are you ready for exponential change? Futurist Gerd Leonhard, TFAStudios

    Here are Erdogan Loeffler’s seven tips for future proofing your business strategy.

    1. Don’t have a digital strategy

    It is very important at this moment in time where we are speaking about where we are in the future, that having a digital strategy doesn’t make sense, says Erdogan Loeffler.

    Having a business strategy that is built for the digital world on the other hand, is the future.

    At the World Economic Forum in 2015, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google (now Alphabet), caused a stir when he said the Internet would disappear.

    “What he really meant is the Internet will become like air. The Internet will become everywhere. Today, when we talk about digital, we see it as medium, as a part of our marketing mix. But tomorrow, CEOs will become the head of digital… or vice versa,” says Erdogan Loeffler.

    Once we start to accept that digital will be everywhere we will start to understand why it is not relevant to have a digital strategy.

    “Having a digital strategy will be as absurd as having an electricity-enabled fridge. The Internet of things is almost over. The Internet of everywhere will become a reality very soon,” she adds.

    2. People and their needs FIRST

    Another of Erdogan Loeffler’s favorite writers is James Harris and his book, Think More Analogue, Be More Digital. In it, Harris underlines five global human needs that drive all digital behavior.

    These are:

    • Distraction
    • Learning
    • Recognition
    • Relationships
    • Progression

    To confirm whether China fits into this global stereotype, Vizeum looked at annual Chinese consumer research involving the surveying of 70,000 people across the country. And the China results are not so dissimilar to global digital behavior.

    The top three reasons for spending time online for Chinese consumers are:

    • They want to be kept updated with trends (64.4%)
    • It’s a good source of learning (61%)
    • It puts me in a good mood (60%)

    *Source: Vizeum / CCS 2015

    The big difference however is that the sophisticated Chinese consumer has one key motivation – to stand out.

    • Almost 50% of Chinese adults what to stand out as an individual.
    • Almost 50% like to buy products that stand out as being different.
    • 80% of millennials believe that to be successful it is worth expressing my true opinion in front of others.

    “What is important for future proofing your business strategy, is that behind every device is a human. They don’t really remember what you are saying or what you are doing. They only remember how you make them feel. So emotional connections will always mean a better return on investment,” says Erdogan Loeffler.

    3. Turn data into actionable insights

    Data is like a jungle – it’s dangerous and it’s so big you can get lost in it, says Erdogan Loeffler.

    “And unless you know your route and which animal you want to hunt, you have to be very careful or data can hunt you.”

    Data is only meaningful when it can really be used and leveraged as an actionable human insight, she says.

    Here’s a case study of how Vizeum worked with Marina Bay Sands to close the loop within the digital network.

    Marina Bay Sands / Vizeum APAC

    4. Content is the king

    In 1996, Bill Gates first used the slogan, “Content is King” and it’s a strategy still being used today – 20 years on.

    Erdogan Loeffler says the global rule for creating content that works is content that:

    • Lets you love
    • Makes you cry
    • Stimulates some desire

    nurcin-erdogan-loeffler_content-is-king_600

    *Source: Vizeum

    Here’s how SK-II’s emotional “left over women” campaign brought many viewers in China to tears.

    Good content, inspired by good insight always works, she says.

    5. Context is the queen

    Every king needs a queen.

    “It’s not enough to have great content – it needs to deliver the right message to the right person, in the right medium at the right place and the right time – and this is what we call context marketing,” says Erdogan Loeffler.

    With the average attention span of a person now at about three seconds, advertisers have a small window to ‘catch’ the consumer. Therefore, it’s very important to have the right content mixed and married with the right context, she says.

    Here’s how Vizeum worked with BBC Earth to launch in Asia, using behavioral and contextual data.

    BBC Earth / Vizeum APAC

    6. Watch your body language

    A large part of human interaction is non-verbal – 60%. And it’s no different for brand marketing, says Erdogan Loeffler.

    “As brands we are saying we are amazing but behind that are you lying? Through social media the consumer can really understand a brand’s body language.”

    She cites KLM’s brilliant use of ‘body language’ through its digital customer service channels.

    “KLM is openly talking. It creates a profile beyond the brand, being helpful, being reactive. Ask them a question and within one hour they will reply.”

    (Read a case study on KLM’s use of WeChat for customer service in China here.)

    7. Close the loop (or somebody else will close it for you)

    In China, ecommerce, social commerce, m-commerce and brand commerce are well established.

    Path to purchase used to be quite simple whereas now it’s quite complicated, says Erdogan Loeffler. Gone are the days of a direct route, today’s marketer never knows when the transaction will happen so it’s important that every interaction has the potential to close the loop.

    nurcin-erdogan-loeffler_the-path-to-purchase-is-no-longer-linear_600

    Concluding her presentation, Erdogan Loeffler left the audience with one final piece of advice.

    “I believe all of theses points are very important but one key takeaway is to remember that people are not cookies or devices or audiences or consumers. People are people.”

    Reliable search volume data: a glimmer of hope

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    While poking around in the Google AdWords keyword research tool recently, I noticed something that made me do a double take.

    I refreshed my browser and re-inputted the same keywords as before. Same result.

    Something had changed, and I think it’s for the better.

    First, some background

    For the past couple months, I’ve struggled to see the value of Google’s update to the Keyword Planner which now shows aggregated search volume for keywords and close search variants. There have been a number of write-ups about this if you’re curious about how searchies have reacted to this change.

    Spoiler alert: not super well.

    The logic behind the update is sound: someone searching for “doghouse” is looking for the same thing as someone searching for “dog house.” As such, these terms should be considered a single concept and the reported search volume should reflect this.

    However, the logic is only as good as the data that obeys it. While Google seems to understand that “doghouse” and “dog house” are the same thing, other terms that should follow this logic just don’t.

    For example, Google still shows drastically different volume numbers for “best multivitamin for women” and “best multi vitamin for women.”

    So, what’s the big change?

    While these glitches (or, shall we say, opportunities for improvement) are still plentiful, I noticed a new change: when you search for terms that Google now qualifies as close variants, only one term will show up in the data table:

    keyword-planner

    Google had previously shown both terms with the same volume. In this instance, the tool used to show:

    • masters of business administration – 550,000 avg. monthly searches
    • mba – 550,000 avg. monthly searches

    This was a real kick in the shins for those of us who exported AdWords data into Excel for further keyword analysis. It required manually removing keywords that were – or at least appeared to be – duplicates in order to accurately understand the popularity of a search term.

    Otherwise your analysis would assume that a concept like “mba” was twice as popular in search as it truly is.

    Minor, but Momentous

    While this update hasn’t yet been applied to the majority of close search variants like the multivitamin example above, it demonstrates a step in the right direction.

    We now have greater visibility (read: proof?) into what words are considered variants of each other.

    As Google continues to refine keyword data, we should see less of this:

    keyword-data

    …especially when Google explicitly tells us that it considers these two queries synonymous.

    synonym search

    With better data, we’ll eventually be able to identify keyword variants that seem similar but show unique volume numbers. This may hint at similar terms that actually have different intents and should be addressed with unique content.

    keyword-data

    Although these two terms may seem the same, the user’s mindset could be vastly different when conducting these searches.

    A search for “international shipping” might skew towards listings for companies that provide this service (Consideration phase), while a search for “shipping internationally” might emphasize more informational resources (Interest phase) – what instructions and tips would be helpful for a user to know about shipping something internationally?

    Do better, Google

    While still inconsistent and admittedly a bit unsettling, the AdWords data shakeup is the latest overhaul illustrating how search is evolving from a database of words to a system of concepts.

    In addition to good, old-fashioned data cleanup, this seems like an ideal time for some internal data sharing between product teams at Google.

    After all, one of the inputs needed to clean up AdWords data – synonyms and typos – is the specialty of another team right down the proverbial hallway. Perhaps a conversation over a plate of peanutbutter – I mean peanut butter – cookies is a good place to start.

    Laurel Marcus is Sr. Manager of SEO & Digital Experience at Tank Design. You can follow Laurel on Twitter.

    Five Google Shopping tips to help nail your Q4 ROI

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    We all know Q4 is the biggest time of the year when it comes to ecommerce.

    Google Shopping tends to be a strong revenue driver for businesses investing in digital marketing. So how do you make sure you are being as efficient and effective as possible on Google shopping?

    Below are some key tips to make sure you are capitalizing on the holiday opportunity:

    1) Optimize the product titles in your feed

    Titles in the feed make the biggest difference in capturing more traffic. When optimizing your feed, remember that the titles play a significantly larger role in capturing traffic than descriptions.

    You still want to have a proper description, but you absolutely must invest the right amount of time in optimizing titles.

    Use your top-performing and top-volume search queries in your titles, and remember to be as descriptive about the actual product to ensure relevance to the query. As with most ad elements, we recommend that you test different titles to see what impact each variation may make.

    2) Use smart segmentation

    If you have significant volume coming in on brand terms, segment out your campaigns by brand and non-brand to ensure you are maximizing impression share on your branded terms while also ensuring you aren’t overpaying for them.

    You can find a more detailed description of this here.

    3) Group similar products to get usable data

    Identifying negative keywords to add to your shopping campaigns can often be a challenge due to lack of significant data.

    One trick you can use is determine key tokens shared across a number of products – roll up the data to get more volume and then determine if they are poor performers.

    For example, let’s say you are selling hats and you are finding queries that don’t perform such as “Nordstrom hats”, “black hats Nordstrom”, “Nordstrom caps”, etc. Although each query may not have a lot of volume, if you roll up Nordstrom queries it may show that negging out Nordstrom from your list would be the right thing to do.

    4) Use Merchant Promotions

    When you build out ad campaigns for your holiday sales, you absolutely must take advantage of Google’s Merchant Promotions. This is beneficial because it makes your product stand out by showing a special offer – and it speaks directly to consumers looking for a deal.

    Below is an example of a merchant promotion. Overall, this helps with increasing CTRs and driving traffic to your site.

    merchant-promotions

    5) Go granular with ad groups

    Lastly, if you have a smaller number of products (less than 100), you may want to consider creating single-product ad groups.

    When you have ad groups with multiple products, you won’t be able to tell what queries match to what exact products within the ad groups. Often, certain terms will perform well for certain products and horribly for others.

    By separating the terms into single-product ad groups, you can truly understand the performance of terms to products and add negatives and adjust bidding accordingly.

    Google Shopping has become more and more competitive over the years, so CPCs are sure to be higher this season. Make sure your fundamentals are solid so you’re doing more than holding your own, and watch the revenue roll in. Good luck!

    Guide to Google ranking signals – Part 4: content freshness

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    Last week we published the third instalment of our complete guide to Google ranking signals.

    It concentrated on the rather nebulous term ‘quality content’ and the practical signals you can provide Google to prove the text on your webpage is worthwhile.

    This week we continue diving into on-page content factors, with content freshness.

    Freshness

    How recently your webpage was published is a ranking signal. However different searches have different freshness needs. (Source: Google Inside search post)

    Google checks content for freshness by monitoring the following types of searches…

    • Recent events or hot topics: Anything that begins trending on the web, that searchers want to find the latest information on immediately.
    • Regularly recurring events: These are events that take place on a regular basis, such as annual conferences or presidential elections. Without a specific qualifier, you probably expect to see information on the most recent event, and not one from years ago.
    • Frequent updates: These are searches for information that changes often, but isn’t a recent or regularly occurring event. These tend to be searches for frequently updated tech products or car brands.

    Google will then check for spikes around search volume, whether news publishers and blogs have begun writing about the subject as well as social media mentions.

    So if your content manages to ride the crest of the above, you may see a rankings boost for being first on the scene, or by regularly updating your content to remain fresh.

    Moz recently looked at whether content freshness is a factor and went into further detail on all the possible ways Google determines content freshness. The following insights come from Moz’s research by Cyrus Shepard, so click on the link for more information.

    1) Freshness by inception date

    A web page can be given an immediate freshness score based on its publication date, which decays over time as the content becomes older.

    2) Regular updates to content

    Google scores ‘fresh content’ that’s updated regularly in a different way to a news article that doesn’t change.

    3) Changes to a webpage’s core content matters more than other areas

    Changes made in the main body of the article are far more important than other areas, such as Javascript, comments, navigation, etc.

    4) How often the content changes

    Content that changes more often is scored differently than content that only changes every few years.

    5) New page creation

    Websites or blogs that publish new webpages more frequently will earn a higher freshness score than those who only publish once in a while.

    6) Rate of new link growth may signal freshness

    If a webpage sees has an increase in the number of external sites linking to it, this could be seen as a sign of relevance to Google.

    7) Links from sites rated ‘fresh’ will pass freshness on to you

    Links from sites determined to have a high freshness score can raise your own freshness level.

    8) Traffic and engagement metrics may signal freshness

    Standard engagement behaviours on SERP results, such as click-throughs and time on page, can be an indicator of freshness and relevance.

    9) Changes in anchor text pointing towards your site may devalue older links

    If your website or webpage suddenly or gradually changes focus over time (say from a carpentry guide to a best practice SEO guide – sounds unlikely, but you never know), then anchor text pointing to you will likely change in line with the different topic.

    Google may then decide that your page has changed so much that the old anchor text is no longer fresh and devalue those older links.

    10) Older is often better

    The newest result isn’t always the best. For older, less news-worthy topics, an in-depth, authoritative result that’s been around a long while may rank highest.

    Google News

    11) Of course you can ensure that Google recognises that your content is fresh, and may immediately place you on the first SERP in its News section (or Top Stories on mobile), if you have successfully submitted your site to Google News.

    You can check the guidelines for Google News submission here.

    Six most important search marketing news stories of the week

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    penguins marching to war

    Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from around the world of search marketing and beyond.

    This week we have Google unleashing Penguin 4.0, AMP coming to organic mobile SERPs, Twitter making some changes for the better and the introduction of Google’s own personal messenger service, Allo.

    Penguin 4.0 is finally rolled out

    As I reported earlier today, Google has finally confirmed that its Penguin algorithm update is now rolling out in all languages.

    The spammy-link killing update will feature the following improvements…

    Penguin is now real-time

    Penguin data is refreshed in real time, so any changes will be made as soon as the affected page has been recrawled and reindexed.

    Previously affected webmasters would have to wait for the next update before any penalties could be cleared.

    Penguin is now more granular

    Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals, rather than affecting ranking of the whole site.

    This means the specific page will be penalised, rather than the entire website.

    Google AMP is coming to organic search results by the end of the year – confirmed

    Google’s Rudy Galfi, Google’s lead product manager for AMP, revealed this week that the global rollout of AMP in mobile organic search would be complete by the end of the year.

    A screenshot of a mobile search results page for 'Finding Dory review', featuring an AMP result from The Guardian in the middle.

    In further remarks posted on Search Engine Land, Galfi clarified that AMP still isn’t a ranking signal. And although Galfi wouldn’t share specific user-response data, he did state, “We’re seeing great user response.” He also said that Google has been “humbled” by the industry’s adoption of AMP.

    The Coalition for Better Ads to make digital ads great again

    As Al Roberts reported this week, a new organization called The Coalition for Better Ads, has been launched to “leverage consumer insights and cross-industry expertise to develop and implement new global standards for online advertising that address consumer expectations.”

    This basically means that the coalition will identify new standards that can improve the digital ad experience, implement the technologies needed for these standards, and promote the standards so that they’re put into use.

    Worth switching your adblocker off for? We’ll see.

    Twitter makes a few changes – good ones too!

    Although Twitter has threatened various unpopular changes over the last 12 months – introducing verification for non-celebrities (celebrities hate this, and by celebrities I mean, Pewdiepie), killing share counts, a 10,000 character increase – here’s one that we’ve been crying out for…

    Actually, why tell you via this article, when I can show in embedded tweet form.

    Very Important News everyone… You can now ramble for an entire 140 characters in tweets and still have room for this sweet Gif. What a day pic.twitter.com/QxDy1jOld5

    — christopher ratcliff (@Christophe_Rock) September 20, 2016

    Same goes for images too. Annoyingly links and @mentions still take up characters though.

    Still, we got our sweet gifs though, huh gang?

    Google launches its ‘private’ messenger service Allo

    Because all the kids are leaving social in droves because they like private messenger apps and not being spied on, Google has realised it wants a piece of that action.

    So say allo to Allo – another channel to be pinged on by one or two early adopters while desperately trying to keep up with your WhatsApps, Facebook Messages, texts, emails and all the notices on the office fridge to stop eating all the humous.

    Yeah. Let’s escape to the mountains together. Come on, I’ll pack some sandwiches, you bring a torch.

    Here’s what Allo will look like…

    blog-image-screens-6

    Cute, although a few sloth emojis won’t persuade Edward Snowden to use it anytime soon.

    Google will continue to display Quality Score data until October 10

    As reported by Matt Southern on Search Engine Journal, Google claimed it would be returning null quality scores for new and underperforming keywords in AdWords as of September 12th.

    However as Matt points out, if you’ve logged in to your AdWords account lately you may have noticed you still have quality score information for new and underperforming keywords.

    This is because Google has pushed the date back to October 10th, in order to “give advertisers more time to review their reports, filters, rules, and scripts that rely on Quality Scores, null Quality Scores will now roll out the week of October 10th, 2016.”

    Penguin 4.0 is finally here, Google confirms

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    After a couple of years waiting, and various algorithm fluctuations described as ‘normal turbulence’, Google has finally confirmed today that it’s Penguin algorithm update is rolling out in all languages.

    The last update in 2014 – Penguin 3.0 – may have only affected less than 1% of US/UK searches, but that ultimately translates to 12 billion queries.

    Here we’ll detail all the changes you can expect from Penguin 4.0 according to Google’s blog post. But first a little refresher…

    What is Penguin?

    According to Adam Stetzer in his post on the delayed Penguin update, Google first launched the Penguin update in April 2012 to catch sites spamming the search results. Specifically the ones who used link schemes to manipulate search rankings.

    Penguin basically hunts down inorganic links; the ones bought or placed solely for the sake of improving search rankings.

    Before Penguin, bad links were simply devalued and needed to be replaced in order to recover search rankings.

    But according to Chuck Price, after Penguin, bad links became ‘toxic’, requiring a link audit and removal or disavow of spammy links and a Penguin refresh was usually required before one could see any signs of recovery. This could take a while.

    Thankfully this one of the things addressed in today’s update…

    What to expect from Penguin 4.0

    The following improvements were among webmasters’ top requests to Google:

    Penguin is now real-time

    As we stated earlier, the list of sites affected by Penguin was only periodically refreshed at the same time.

    According to Google..

    “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.”

    But now, Penguin data is refreshed in real time, so any changes will be made as soon as the affected page has been recrawled and reindexed.

    Google also states that it 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 ranking of the whole site.

    So any penalties will be delivered to a specific page rather than an entire domain, which seems much fairer in the long run.

    We’ll bring you more information and follow-up stories on the update as soon as we have more insight.

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