Google’s Shift to Mobile-First: Mobile Moments That Matter

Google index mobile first

The world has gradually become a mobile-first world. This is evidenced even in our simple routines where the first thing we pick when we wake up is a mobile phone. Many people are using their phones more than they do their computers. Google has seen this trend and has shifted to prioritise mobile results.

Google in November 2016 announced that when it comes to search results index, they will be putting mobile first. This means that the mobile version of your website will be regarded as the primary one for search rankings. Prior to now, to rank your website, Google looked only at the desktop version of your website but now will be looking at the mobile version instead. It will be looking at its content, structure, links and relevance to visitors.

How does this affect you? You might ask.

If you have a website, your site is likely to have a separate mobile version, not have a mobile site at all or be a responsive site that is optimised for both a computer and a mobile device.

For websites that have separate versions, the drawback here is that if the desktop version is the one with better content and structure, Google will not see it. The crawlers will only go through the mobile site and not the desktop one. If your website is like this, you need to update and upgrade the mobile version of your website. It should have the same content and user relevance and experience that the desktop version has to offer.

If your website is desktop only and has no mobile version, it will have lower search engine rankings. The Google crawlers after all search through all websites not just the mobile ones.

For users with responsive websites, the shift mobile first indexing has more or less no effect on them. Such websites are mobile friendly as they already have a content and structure that display and work well on a mobile device

Mobile First Indexing

What should you do?

To ensure that Google’s mobile-first indexing is working to your favour, you should:

  1. Make your website friendly and responsive if it not already
  2. Create content that is best for mobile. If you have both mobile and desktop versions of your website, you do not need to duplicate all the information on the desktop into the mobile version, just get a way to better communicate the same message in a way best suited for mobiles

There are a few other things such as ensuring a good user experience when your website is viewed on a mobile device but doing these two basic things will help your website get the mobile-first advantage.

Twitter Rolls out Automated Direct Message Replies for Businesses

Twitter

On November 1, 2016 Twitter announced the launch of an automated direct message feature for business accounts. Businesses can now send welcome messages to their clients automatically. They can use this feature to create multiple welcome messages, replies, and link clients directly to a particular greeting from tweets, websites, apps etc. A reply can be automatically sent to a direct message from a customer.

This feature was kick started to help businesses create relevant and beneficial communication with their clients without being distracted from the other tasks at hand. The new features are there for increased efficiency and productivity of businesses, while still keeping customers satisfied.

How it works is that once a Twitter user enters a direct message conversation with you (by selecting your account as the recipient of their intended message), an automated welcome message from your business account will be sent to them. This will be sent even if the customer does not send you a message first. When they eventually send the message, the features allows you to automatically send a message back to the user immediately.

With welcome messages and quick replies, businesses can now show the public that they are committed to serving their clients as best as they possibly can. Some of the messages could include a prompt that links the customer directly to your company’s customer support line. The message feature will reduce how long people have to wait before getting a response from you. It will be particularly beneficial in cases where the information needed by the user,such as contact details of your brand is included in the message body.

However, these automated messages should not take the place of you having a conversation with your brand. Customers like to engage with a real person as opposed to engaging with an automated one. This feature should not stop your account manager from personal replying to enquiries from clients.

Brands such as Evernote and Pizza Hut are making use of this feature to increase the level and quality of their interaction with their customers. Your business account can do the same thing. Start by visiting Twitters support settings page so that every personal account user can enjoy this new level of engagement with you.

Twitter Rolls out Automated Direct Message Replies for Businesses

Facebook Changes Page Layouts

Facebook Changes Page Layouts

After testing out new features on a number of pages, all pages on Facebook now have a new layout. The layout does not affect personal accounts and profiles, only Facebook pages. The changes did not totally take out any elements. They were merely moved around.

The new things that were changed or moved around in the rollout of Facebook page’s new layout include features such as:

  • A square page profile picture with the dimensions of 160 by 160 pixels.
  • The page’s profile picture no longer sits in a corner of the cover photo. It has its own space now in the left hand column.
  • A page cover photo with dimensions of 828 pixels wide by 315 pixels high for desktops. The dimensions for smartphones are 640 pixels wide and 360 pixels high. The position of the cover photo has also changed; it has been moved to the right.
  • There is a bigger call to action button. The call to action button is now at the right hand column directly under the cover photo and it is bigger and more prominent than it used to be. Calls to action buttons include “Book Now, “Shop Now”, and “Request Appointment”, among others.
  • There is a navigation section that can be customised. The layout has a new navigation from where users can visit the different sections of your page. You can customise this navigation area to show different sections as it suits your business such as upcoming events, videos, posts, and others.
  • The apps most important to you now appear on the right hand column. The page has a long list of apps on the left side under the profile photo, but you can choose three to appear on the right hand side.
  • You now have totally free ad pages. Prior to now, ads use to appear on the right hand side of Facebook pages. With the advent of the new layout, Facebook pages have become ad free.
  • The ‘like’, message and share buttons have also been relocated. They are now placed under the cover photo at the left hand side

firstclickdigital facebook page

Page administrators can enjoy the various options offered with the new layout by going to ‘Settings’and clicking on ‘Edit Page’. The Edit Page section is where users can customise the different sections of their page as it suits them, as well as edit the content therein.

facebook page edit

Bing Ads Releases a New, More Advanced Campaign Setup Process

Bing Ads Advanced Campaign Setup

The second most popular search engine released its much expected upgrade for advertisers to set up their campaigns easily. In recent times, Bing Ads have been advancing rapidly with its new ad extensions, bidding options, targeting improvements, and a better, more optimised platform.

They have made the campaign set up process easier to reflect the qualities and optimisations advertisers need to succeed with Bing Ads.

The following steps show how advertisers can input their campaigns

  • Establish a business goal to direct the creation of your campaign

On the ad platform, it first asks you to select the goal for your new campaign. The options available include “visits to my website”, visits to my business location” and so on. This goal will be used to suggest different features or defaults to start off your campaign on the right note. Regardless of the goal users choose, the campaign will have access to all available features. The goals page also has new shortcuts to other campaign setup tools like File Import, Keyword Planner and Google Import.

  • Copy campaign setting & target particular location

The upgrade allows users to copy settings from a pre-existing campaign. Advertisers can also target specific locations where they want their ads to appear. For instance, users can now manage radius targets in the same view as other locations.

  • Use custom keyword recommendations to target the right searchers

Keyword research can be a handful, especially for long-tail key phrases. Bing now offers tailored keyword suggestions to assist advertisers in prompting the right search results. The keywords have been designed to reflect a URL from your website.

Each suggestion shows the popularity, cost and competitiveness of the keyword. The keywords are also placed in ad groups according to relevance, making it easier to target ad copy and bids to various search queries you want them to show for.

  • Include high-value features for your ads

Features like ad extensions make your ads more captivating and can drive clicks and conversions. There is an available library of ad extensions when you are setting up a campaign, and each ad extension suitable for the campaign goal is highlighted to make selection easier. Unlike before, advertisers are no longer limited to only one ad, but can set up multiple ads and manage them in one page.

  • Use performance estimates to set informed bids

In this last stage, the page has been optimised to enable you set your budget and bidding values. Depending on the campaign features added so far, Bing provides performance projections on what it believes your campaign’s clicks, impressions, ad spend, and average ranking position will be.

Bing Ads Advanced Campaign Setup Process

To get the hang of the new set up process, you can practice without taking the campaign live. Like Google AdWords, Bing Ads is optimised to help advertisers serve ad campaigns to prospective customers searching the internet for services they offer.

The product provides a highly controlled and measurable ad serving process for online advertisers, and will increase use of Bing Ads.

Google AdWords Launches Affiliate Location Extensions

Google AdWords Affiliate Location Extensions

Google has recently launched its affiliate location extensions in the United States. Affiliate extensions will assist manufacturers in driving customers to third-party retail stores that sell their products.

What are affiliate location extensions?

As a business that sells products through retail outlets, affiliate location extensions can help you reach customers the moment they are thinking of what and where to buy. Affiliate extensions help customers find stores in their location that sell your products.

How do they work?

Affiliate extensions can help advertisers reach new customers with the following steps:

  1. Someone searches for a product on Google’s SERP
  2. The business ad shows, along with the affiliate location extension
  3. The ad is served to the searcher on Google as an address or a map
  4. A smartphone user can tap the address/map and get directions to the store
  5. The user navigates their way to the store and purchases the product

When manufacturers can use them

As a manufacturer with products in retail outlets, you can use affiliate location extensions to make your products and the store locations easily visible to potential customers in the area. For your own store, use location extensions instead.

Setting up affiliate location extension

To setup affiliate location extensions, add the extension and indicate the retail stores that sell your products. Unlike ordinary location extensions, affiliate location extensions don’t need a Google My Business link.

Affiliate location extensions can be set at account, campaign and ad group levels of your Google AdWords account.

  1. Sign in to AdWords account
  2. Click the Campaigns (or Ad groups) tab and pick an existing campaign (or ad groups). Proceed from All campaigns for account-level affiliate location extensions.
  3. Select the Ad extensions label
  4. Click “affiliate location extensions”
  5. Indicate the retail outlets selling your products
  6. Save your settings.

This new service will go a long way in improving manufacturer-retailer relations and can be thought of as a push campaign to drive footfall into the stores.

Google AdWords Affiliate Location Extensions

The categories

Affiliate location extensions are in 3 categories; ‘Relationship type’, ‘Country’ and ‘Chains’. Depending on your business location, the ‘Relationship type’ and ‘Country’ are pre-defined. For example, if you are a big brand in Sussex, it will be listed as ‘general retailers’ and ‘UK’ respectively. ‘Chains’ is the section you can select from.

“Location Extension”; Origins from 2009

It will be remembered that Google introduced the “location extensions” back in 2009 to help businesses advertise and drive more foot traffic to their locations straight from the search ads.

Affiliate location extension comes as a specialised spinoff for manufacturers and retailers who will benefit from the service.

It is said that 75% of consumers who perform a local search on their phones visit the store within 24 hours. Once again, Google emphasises the importance of grabbing customer attention at the moment when they are seeking a product.

The customer journey is about proactivity; being in the right place at the right time, and affiliate location extension addresses this need sufficiently.

Google Search Switching to Mobile First Index from Desktop Index: Desktop Index as Secondary

Google Mobile Index

The way Google ranks web pages is about to change. While we may not know when this change will begin, it’s important that website owners know exactly what to expect.

Previously, Google considered the quality of a web page by crawling across the desktop version of that page, and then using data from the desktop page to rank its mobile version. This was its first index and the ultimate means of checking for content quality.

Mobile Users Versus Desktop Users

But shouldn’t the mobile version of a website be considered first since there are far more mobile users than there are desktop users? Gary Illyes at Pubcon was in tandem with this thought, noting that 85% of search results are mobile-friendly already and more than half of the search queries are from mobile devices”, so he announced that Google was switching to a mobile first index.

It has been understood that even before this revelation, the search engine had been musing over the intention to separate its desktop index from mobile index early last year at SMX. The news may be celebratory to some and a scare to others, but SEOs and website owners need to start thinking about steps to maintaining  top ranking on Google search index or at least not fall of the ladder completely.

Steps to Maintaining Top Ranking

  • Build a responsive website. A responsive website makes all of the content on a website look good across devices, whether it’s on a desktop or mobile. Website owners usually reduce the content on their mobile site to allow for faster loading, thus having a desktop page that is separate from the mobile page. However, with the current news, this would no longer be necessary. Every page, then, must be responsive.
  • Do not compromise content on the desktop page: While website owners and SEOs may want to focus more attention on maintaining a top quality mobile page, they may want to digest Illyes’ announcement a bit more. The company does not intend to phase out its desktop index, but has decided to make it a secondary index.
  • Load structured data on mobile page: Website owners need to find a way to include structured data on their mobile page. The problem users of mobile version faced was the inability to view highly organised, rich data. For example, if a user wanted to view the legal records of a mortgage company they wish to do business with, the user would have to turn to the desktop version for this. This was clumsy, so making structured data visible on lite version becomes necessary. However, the downside to this may mean slower load time, and it could even get worse in countries where the Internet connection is poor.
  • Do not over use links on mobile pages: Google has yet to announce that it will index links on the mobile pages of websites, so suffusing a mobile page with links may not yield good ranking results.

Mobile Search Index

Although the company has not set a date when its mobile first index will begin, they have forewarned site owners and SEOs of the upcoming change. Meanwhile, the search engine is in the process of “launching an experiment where they take a big chunk of the index and they do something to that part,” blogged Lisa Barone.

Google Says Penguin 4.0 Rollout Now Complete

Google Penguin 4.0 Update

A tweet from Gary Illyes confirmed that Penguin 4.0 from Google is completely rolled out. The algorithm is the latest one in the pool of 200 unique signals the company uses to determine the quality of a page.

While each algorithm performs a specific task, Penguin mostly looks at the link source of a web page and determines whether the source is high in quality or not.

Recall that Penguin Update was first started on September 23, 2016, and we got Illyes explain how exactly the algorithm would work.

Gary Illyes on Penguin Update

  • Penguin gets real-time update. Most of the other algorithm worked in real-time; that means they were updated immediately they received information from a webmaster. Penguin didn’t work in this fashion – it was refreshed periodically. However, an update would see Penguin work in real-time, which means that webmasters, whose sites are affected by Penguin after the update, would see changes made to their ranking much faster when they relink their pages to quality material.
  • Penguin becomes more granular. Illyes also revealed that Penguin would become more granular, meaning that the algorithm would only devalue spammy pages and not the whole site.

Now with Penguin 4.0 finally on the table, webmasters, whose sites were penalised during the roll out of previous versions, should start seeing changes to their rankings, supposing they had taken steps to get their links cleaned up.

What Getting Cleaned up Means

Here are a few things website owners should do to clean up their spammy link sources or stay out of trouble from Penguin Update altogether.

  • Avoid linking to poor blog network.A link to a guest blog that contains poor quality content will be penalised by Penguin. A guest blog is content written for a blog site with the intention of getting backlinks to the writer. Writing a top quality post is ok, but when Penguin discovers that a guest blog is linked to a poor blog network, it devalues that link.
  • Do not manipulate directories. If a web user wanted to get authoritative information on a brand, he usually visited a directory.However, overtime, many listings within online directories became paid-for inclusions, with the sole purpose of driving traffic to their sites, which lacked relevance and value. Google frowns at this tactic, and wants SEOs to avoid it.
  • Avoid excessive link exchanges. It was a natural concept for websites to exchange links for the purpose of driving traffic back and forth, but once the links became obviously out of proportion, Google clamped down on it. One type of excessive link building involves stuffing a page with anchor text links. Bottom line is creating content that adds value, and your site would definitely be scaled high on Google SERP.
  • Control comment spam. Getting a lot of comments on a great article does not necessarily increase the article’s page’s ranking because some comments are spewed out with backlinks to irrelevant or downright unworthy content. Getting a spam checker to block unwanted comments will definitely prevent quality web pages from being attacked by Penguin.

Google Penguin 4.0 Update

There are other link building schemes website owners must avoid to escape Penguin Update penalties, but should your page be penalised, remember that Penguin 4.0 works in real-time. All it will take is a proper link source cleaning, and you should see your page up again.

Keeping Up-to-Date with Google’s Latest AdWords Changes

Google Adwords

Google lately announced a number of important changes it made to AdWords at its last Performance summit in San Francisco. The modifications (6 of them) will allow advertisers close the divide between the digital and the real world.

Mobile was the main topic during the announcement, seeing as more than 50 percent of Google search occurs on a mobile device.

Not surprisingly, Google’s previous launches earlier in the year such as the Accelerated Mobile Pages was also focus on improving search on mobile. Others include removing the right-side ads on desktop search engine results and testing text advertisements with expanded fonts

Google’s 6 AdWords Updates are:

  1. Expanded search text ads

In the first quarter of this year, Google tried this feature with some marketers and observed a 20 percent increase in click-through rates where it was applied. The new ad characters are created to fit the screen size of popular smartphones, and provide more advertising space for brands to display more detailed product information.

  1. Mobile-responsive adverts for Google Display Network

AdWords native ad units will now easily be fit into different content types across the over 2 million publisher websites and apps. Pay-per-Click marketers only have to provide headlines, description of ad, photo and URL. Google will automatically enhance the ads to be offered as native ad components.

  1. Remarketing campaigns getting modified

AdWords will now allow you increase the reach of your Google Display Network remarketing campaigns by giving access to inter-change inventory. The ads will release new native inventory in apps and mobile sites on the content network. This is a boost for ads that have been depending on third-party networks to serve their native ads.

  1. Location search ads to be available on Google.com and Google maps

Although this new feature is still in the testing stage, these ads will help increase the in-store traffic of retailers. Almost a third of all mobile searches are from locations. This ad format will include promoted points for nearby businesses, and a new look for local business webpages.

  1. AdWords bid adjustments for specific devices

Google will offer the brands the ability to place individual bid adjustments for specific devices such as laptops, desktops, mobile and tablet. Advertisers will now be able to set keyword bids according to the devices their ads are displayed on. The feature will increase the level of control advertisers have for each product with respect to device promotion strategy.

  1. AdWords interface design

Adwords Redesign

The last update is a redesigned AdWords interface that will be launched in 2017. The interface is a minimalist, user-friendly platform that will be visible at the campaign, ad group and ad level categories.

Google Roll out the Elusive Penguin Real Time Update

Google Penguin Real Time

The much-anticipated Google Penguin 4.0/Penguin Real time update has been officially announced by Google (as released today, 23rd of September). It was originally expected to be released at the end of 2015 but it never happened and website owners, SEOs and Agencies have been patiently waiting for it ever since.

Key Points to note:

Penguin now updates in real time – This marks the end of the official Penguin updates. From now on, website owners won’t have to wait for an ‘update’ to occur. Changes to your link profile will be taken into account upon the next spider crawl from Google.

More Granular – Penguin is now more granular and instead of penalising a whole website due to spammy in bound links, the bad links in question will be ‘devalued’ based on specific spam signals, thus indirectly affecting a websites SEO profile.

What this means for website owners:

  • You may notice a fluctuation in your keyword rankings across the Google SERPs
  • You may notice an increase or decrease in organic traffic coming to your website
  • You may receive a manual penalty notice in your Google Search Console/Web master Tools account IF you have been engaged in spammy SEO practices.

If you haven’t been engaged in un-natural organic optimisation then this update shouldn’t worry you. On the whole, this new Penguin Real time update will be beneficial to website owners by allowing them to see the effect of changes in real time, rather than having to wait 12-18 months for an official Google Penguin update.

HTTPS Websites Now Make Up a Third of Google Search Results

https Google Search Results

When Google proclaimed HTTPS a ranking factor in August 2014, some website owners—those that are SEO conscious—didn’t hesitate to eschew HTTP while some others believed the development had little or no benefit to warrant making a switch.

It was always a matter of time before the impact of the announcement revealed itself.

How the Update Has Played Out So Far.

Data provided by Dr. Pete Meyers of Moz showed that,before the announcement, about 7% of websites listed on the first page of Google search results used HTTPS. The number moved up by only 1% after a week of the announcement and didn’t show much improvement even after two weeks. This was possibly why many website owners didn’t assign much importance to the update and thus didn’t bother switching to HTTPS.

But then by June 2016, data from Moz showed that Google means business—32.5% of websites listed on Google results’ first pages now use HTTPS. This number was confirmed by Google’s webmaster trends analyst, Gary Illyes, in a tweet to @rustybrick, saying, “…Didn’t I say ‘about 30%’ and referenced @dr_pete?”

This Could Mean One of Three Things

  • Google has, since the announcement, made updates to its algorithm, rewarding the use of HTTPS. If so, then the percentage of sites using HTTPS that feature on Google search results will progress gradually over the coming months.
  • Website owners are adopting the ‘https:’ protocol for reasons best known to them.
  • Or it could be that Google has simply manipulated people into believing that their websites will be rewarded with higher rankings if they switched to HTTPS.

What The Data Means for Google

  • Google needs to find an even ground. Rewarding the use of HTTPS now that sites that have adopted it are the minority could mean devaluing great websites that haven’t made the switch. Alternatively, waiting for sites using HTTPS to become the majority would only render the reward obsolete.
  • Google also can’t afford to set the reward for the use of HTTPS too high. Otherwise, it might become an invitation to sites looking to manipulate the system. On the other hand, the reward can’t be too low—or people will ignore the prompt to switch.
  • Thebest time for Google to instruct its algorithm to start rewarding sites using HTTPS is when at least a half of all websites have adopted HTTPS. Also, for its HTTPS campaign to be successful, Google may need most major trusted websites to make the adoption. Once the top players are on board, smaller sites will be more compelled to switch.

Risks

Big changes to URLs don’t only threaten your site’s SEO and daily hits, but can consume time and money too. This is especially true for heavy websites. You have to weigh the risks against the unverified boost Google’s algorithm will give your website if you switched to HTTPS.

Google ssl https secure

Take a look at the problems Wired.com encountered while switch to HTTPS. It will give you a broader view of what to expect as you plan your move.

If you haven’t switched to HTTPS yet, you might want to keep an eye on the number of sites in your niche that are adopting it. Also, watch out for another update, pertaining to HTTPS, to Google’s algorithm within the next one year.

That way, you will be ready to make your switch as soon as the need arises.