Google SERPs are Now Wider

What does Google Has Wider SERPs Mean?

It means that the Search Engine Results Pages are now being displayed in a wider format on your computer and tablet. Previously, the view able width of Google SERPs was about 55-60 characters, depending on the actual characters used, as some characters, like w are much wider than others, like i.  The actual increase is best measured in something more fixed, pixel width.  The previous Google SERP display width was 500 pixles and is now 600 pixels.  Google has made up the difference by resizing some other areas on the page.

What Does a Wider SERP Mean to Me?

This wider display format changes some of the recommendations and guidelines regarding the meta data that you should be using on each of your pages.  The immediate conclusion is that you can now include more text content in your meta title tag and in your meta description.  Title length is increased from 10 to 15 characters (before Google adds the … at the end of your title) and description length is increased from 15 to 20 characters.  However, a more significant result may be organic search results currently positioned in about the 4th through 6th spots in the search results.  Guess what, you might now appear on the first screen, without scrolling.  This will happen if some of the multi-line listings end up needing one less line.  That is, descriptions in the current length, that were wrapping over to 3 lines now might fit within 2 lines of text.  If these listings are above you, they will be less tall and your position will shift up on the page.

Should I Re-Write all my Titles and Descriptions to be Longer?

Not necessarily.  First lets deal with meta titles.  Just because you have more space does not mean you need to fill it.  If you have painstakingly worked to craft precise meta titles to fit within 55 characters, then you have done important things.  The first is you have adhered to the old guideline.  The old titles still fit within the new available space so there is no NEED to re-write based on this.  Secondly, good titles are highly focused on the key topic of the page and by keeping a current title in place, you maintain that focus on what’s important.  The temptation will now be to add another keyword variation into the title, or similar thoughts.  Resist the urge to add more to already good titles.

Descriptions on the other hand I would take full advantage of the increased length, especially if an additional two to four words can deliver a more convincing reason for someone to click your search result.  Remember that search engines don’t use meta descriptions as ranking signals, but humans use them to choose what results to click.  Again, don’t spam by stuffing with keywords, but do tell a more convincing story and improve your click through rate, which is a ranking signal.

Where Should I re-Write Meta Titles to be Longer?

There are some places where adding content to the meta titles makes good sense.  First, anywhere you had to abbreviate words you can now write them out.  Secondly, this gives you the opportunity to replace a meta title on a secondary or supporting page with a longer tail version to more accurately target the content of a page.  Thirdly, if you have pages where you have sacrificed branding for SEO efforts, you can now use the extra characters to add your branding to your titles.

Where Should I Re-Write Meta Descriptions to be Longer?

Simple.  Everywhere you can.  As mentioned above, use the longer description display to tell a stronger story and improve your click through rate.  Maybe this is adding a key stat or a key differentiating feature of your product. Review your descriptions with the thought of what one additional piece of information would help convince the user to click your listing?

Page Analysis Tools Will Eventually Catch Up

If you use some sort of SEO software with on-page optimization analysis, you will find that the tools are behind and any scoring factors or recommendations will be based on the old SERP width guidelines.  As a result, your page scoring or page optimization suggestions may not reflect the new SERP width for now.  You will have to consciously ignore those warnings or red flags, knowing that the Google search engine environment is working on a new set of desirable content lengths.  For example, I have written a meta title for this page that is exactly 70 characters long (“Google SERPs are now Wider | Meta Titles and Descriptions can Increase”) and one of my SEO tools says “Warning: Title display in Google is limited to a fixed width, yours is too long.”  Under the 55 character guideline, it would have displayed as “Google SERPs are now Wider | Meta Titles and Descriptions …” The tools simply have not caught up to the new guidelines.  I have a similar warning that my meta page description (“Google has increased the width of their Search Engine Results Page format.  You now have more width, more characters that can be used to grab attention and tell your story.”) is 16 characters too long.

Sask Galleries SEO Project

We have posted a description of a newly completed SEO project for the Saskatchewan Professional Art Gallery Association at http://www.netnotic.com/portfolio-items/seo-project-sask-galleries/

Another SEO project with excellent results.

Google AdWords Optimization – Keyword Match Types

Once you have had your AdWords campaigns running for a few months, you should have enough data to start optimizing.  Using keyword match types can help you get more (or less) out of your keywords to improve your financial performance.  When you start your campaign and build your ad groups, ads, and keyword lists, I would strongly recommend sticking to the broad match keyword type, which is the default.  This will give you the most exposure and the most data to evaluate your performance.

For the purposes of some fictional examples, we are an online retailer of baseball gloves.  We are using Google AdWords to attract people to our site who want to purchase a new baseball glove.

Broad Match Keyword Type

Google will attempt to match your broad match keyword with as many closely related terms as possible, including synonyms of the words in your keyword phrase, and searches which contain some of your words.  A keyword such as baseball glove could potentially display your add for searches such as softball glove, baseball mitt, baseball gloves, baseball batting gloves, gloves for baseball.  A short keyword phrase, one, two, or even three words, may trigger your ad for the widest possible search terms.  The negative side is your ad may be triggered for searches you really don’t want, potentially costing you pay per click dollars or click through rates.  For example, the same keyword from above, baseball glove, could trigger your add for terms such as history of the baseball glove and how are baseball gloves made.

To use broad match keywords, simply enter the keyword without any other symbols or modifiers (which are used for other keyword match types).

Phrase Match Keyword Type

If you need a little more control, phrase match keyword match type eliminates a lot of terms by requiring that your entire keyword phrase is contained in the search term.  Using our “baseball glove” example, searches such as baseball player gloves, baseball golden glove winners, and gloves for baseball would not trigger your ad while searches such as baseball glove sizes, types of baseball glovesbaseball glove for kids, and leather baseball glove could trigger your ad.  

To specify the Phrase Match keyword type, simply put the double quote symbols at the beginning and end of the phrase, “baseball glove”.

Exact Match Keyword Type

The greatest amount of control is the exact match keyword match type.  It will also deliver, in most cases, the lowest amount of search impressions as it will only consider your ad for searches that exactly match the keyword phrase.  This match type is best used when your audience searches for a specific item, or when your product mix is quite narrowly defined.  Sometimes it can be useful to use the exact keyword match type when you are running a promotion or perhaps you have some specific traffic types that you want to drive to a specific landing page.  In our example, you could be running a promotion for Youth/Kids Baseball Gloves.  In this example, you might set up an Ad Group specifically to drive traffic to a suitable landing page with exact match keywords such as [kids baseball gloves], [baseball gloves for kids], and [youth baseball gloves].  You would not want to drive traffic to this landing page (which is all about Kids Baseball Gloves) for search terms such as professional model baseball gloves, so you would make the keywords very specific.

To specify the Phrase Match keyword type, simply put the square bracket symbols at the beginning and end of the phrase, [baseball glove].

Negative Keywords

Probably the least used keyword match type is negative keywords, but potentially the most valuable.  Negative keywords eliminate your ad from searches that do not have value to you.  In our example, negative keywords such as -used, -cheap, -secondhand, would all keep you from spending money on searchers who are not looking to buy a new baseball glove.  You can set negative keywords at both the campaign level (in the shared library) as well as the ad group level by using the minus sign before the words.

New Sports Trivia Questions

There have been a ton of new sports trivia questions added to www.SportTriviaChallenge.com.  The number of Football trivia questions and Hockey trivia questions has increased significantly.

We build Sport Trivia Challenge so that others could enjoy playing a free game of Sports Trivia, with trivia questions including baseball, hockey, football, basketball, and boxing.  Go Play a Game!

Getting More from Your AdWords Budget

 AdWords Budget Maximization

If you have been running a Google AdWords campaign for over a month there will be enough historical performance data to optimize and maximize your budget dollars.  The key to effectively managing your budget is to start at the top and drill down to the detail.  If you try to start at the detail level, you will spin your wheels in too many places.  I would normally like to see a campaign running for about 3 months before make too many drastic changes.  If your business has high seasonality, you should base your important decisions on data gathered when it matters most.

Budget maximization is not only about squeezing dollars.  It should be viewed as finding the right places to spend your advertising budget, which means both increasing and decreasing the amounts spent.

Use Conversion Tracking

By running a campaign, you must have some marketing goal in mind that you want the traffic to your website to accomplish.  In most situations, this is purchasing a product or becoming a lead by filling out a form.  If you have identifiable actions such as these on your site, then you should be using Conversion Tracking.  This feature tracks your visitors arriving to your site through the click of an ad.  If they complete the desired action, they are a Conversion.  Tracking conversions shows how your advertising dollars are generating sales and/or leads and provides a cost factor per conversion.  This will be key data used in the following budget maximization efforts.

AdWords Supplies a Ton of Data

There is enough data in an AdWords account to drown away an entire morning of clicking, sorting, secondary dimensions, more clicking and more detail.  The key to not wasting your time and getting the most from your efforts is knowing how to spot the opportunities.  I am assuming you are running a fairly typical campaign, using the Google search network and Google display network, with text ads and image ads.  Also, within each Ad Group, you have multiple ad variants and a suitable list of keywords.

Begin at the top, at the Ad Group level and compare your performance across the board.  The key metrics will be conversions, cost per conversion, clicks, cost per click (CPC), impressions and click through rate (CTR).  This same set of key metrics and viewed at the campaign, Ad Group, ads, and keywords levels.  A conversion is the highest measure of commitment (an likely value) that a website visitor can make.  So any combination of high high conversions is a positive sign.  As long as the cost per conversion fits within your marketing goals, then the high conversion components of your campaign should be what you view as successes.  For the most part, these top performing assets can be left alone to continue performing well.  Where you want to focus your time is where you see high campaign dollars spent, and few conversions.  These are visitors to your website which are costing you dollars, but not returning value.  Dig deeper in these areas and look for specific ads with high dollars spent low conversions.  Also look for keywords generating high traffic volumes but not resulting in conversions.  Where this is happening, you are taking budget dollars away from other ads and other keywords that may perform better.  By simply pausing the campaign elements costing you money, you can retain the data, but free up the budget.  Don’t delete your low performers, just pause them.

Trading Budget $’s

stretching-adwords-budgetsWhen you set your budgets at the start of the campaigns, you had an idea of where the search traffic would come frsqueezing_cents_from_dollarsom and where your dollars needed to be.  Now that you have actual data, from actual search traffic, let the dollars guide you.  Unless you have other marketing goals not related to ROI, begin shifting dollars from elements that are simply driving cost to those that are generating traffic and conversions.  That should mean both shifting dollars, trading from low performers to high performers, as well as adding dollars.

Be prepared to look out side your AdWords and outside your digital media budget to compare the performance of your AdWords dollars to other marketing expenditures.

Adjusting CPC to the Optimum Level

When you first start your AdWords campaign, I strongly recommend you let AdWords automatically set your max Cost Per Click (Max CPC).  This will give AdWords the flexibility to apply your budgets to where the search traffic is happening.  As you become more familiar with your performance data, you will should see some areas of your campaign that are frequently maxing out their budget allotment.  If you do not have additional budget dollars to apply here, then you ca follow another tactic to attempt to get more clicks and conversions from the same dollars.  Begin to manually turn down the max Cost per Click.  If you are maxing out the spend, then that means there are more clicks to be had, but your budget is running out before the end of the day.  Adjusting the max CPC downward by 5% increments can tweak your way to higher traffic for the same dollars. Make the change, then let it run for a couple of weeks.

If your adjustment leads to higher traffic, be prepared to trim the max CPC by another 5%.  Be patient, don’t try to get there all at once with a 25% reduction or you may under price your way into traffic loss.  Once you reach a point where a 5% reduction no longer gets you more clicks for the same dollars, then adjust back on 5% increment.  You have found the line, go back.

Down to the Keyword Level

Managing your campaign at the Keyword level might meant that you have a lot of spare time.  For a sizable campaign, you might have upwards of 1000 keywords.  Trying to manage too much detail at tool low of level can leave you chasing the data instead of using it to guide you.  At the keyword level, i recommend that you do the following:

  • set the date range to 3 month or more
  • sort the keywords by conversions
  • pause the keywords with high media cost, low click through rate, and zero conversions

Using Google AdWords and Google Analytics Together

We will discuss how to use these two powerful tools together, to gain more insights into your traffic generations campaigns.  This will be found in a future article.

Conclusion

Every campaign has something to gain by reviewing and looking for opportunities to improve the performance.  Use the AdWords performance data to guide you to the elements most needing your attention.

 

No Kill Switch on Awesome

I’ve had this cartoon torn off my Dilbert desktop calendar for over a year.  I just love the “There’s no kill switch on Awesome” line.  I don’t have any real message to add, just wanted to share this one.  It does remind of a few engineers I know!

Feb 29th is the Extra Day of Marketing

Every four years we get an extra day, the leap day. Another 24 hours to make our marketing more effective, to improve our ROI, to drive more online traffic, to gather more leads.

Or Go Fishing!

I’m going fishing.  So while I’m sitting in my ice hut, wood fire burning, jigging a chunk of work on a hook up and down, and enjoying an icy beverage, you should get to work on getting caught up on your online marketing.  Or better yet, take the extra day to become smarter about digital marketing to mobile users.

Digital Marketing to Mobile

Step 1: Turn off your PC.  Practice learning by doing.  Spend your time on your phone, browsing your company website.  Do all the activities you hope your customers/leads are doing.  Read your content, read a few blog articles.  Download your white papers and info graphics.  Complete the contact form and see how long until someone gets in touch to answer your inquiry.

Step 2: Repeat all the above on your competitor websites.  Make a list, or a chart, of which of your competitors is better or worse than you on all the key things you want your website visitors to do.

Step 3: Figure why doing this on mobile is important.  Want a clue, because mobile web access is the fastest growing device / access method.  More and more of your market, your future customers, are carrying their internet in their pocket.  Better figure out what works on your mobile site and what doesn’t.

More Leads From Mobile

Getting more from mobile means you first have to think the way a mobile user thinks.  You have to put mobile first.  when you build your website, when you develop content, think mobile first.  Test everything mobile first, then adapt to larger views of tablet, laptop, desktop.  That means making it convenient and easy for mobile users to intact with you on your website, placing calls to action in easy to access places.

Best Places to Test Mobile

If you really want to act mobile, then get away from your desktop and spend your time viewing the online world the way so many view it, mobile.  so go fishing, play golf, sit at the beach, or on your backyard deck. If you get frustrated with using your site on your mobile phone, then fix it, in March, but first, I’ve got a bite.

How Important is the Meta Description?

How do you use your website’s Meta Descriptions?  I have found three broad categories for answers to that question.

  1. I don’t know how to use it so I don’t
  2. We put our company tagline there for Marketing consistency.
  3. We write a unique description for each page.

If you answered similar to bullet number 3 above, then you are likely using your Meta Descriptions properly.

The Meta Description Marketing Opportunity

I like to approach the use of Meta Descriptions as a Marketing Opportunity, not as an SEO asset.  Search engines do not necessarily use the content of the Meta Description tag in any of their ranking algorithms, instead it is used as display in the Search Results Pages.  So how is this a marketing opportunity?  Think about the Meta Description as your last and best opportunity to convince a Google searcher to click on the link to your website page.  Your page appears in the search results, along with 10 other organic search results, as well as Pay Per Click ads.  The searcher has up to 15 listings to choose from.  The meta description you have carefully and skillfully crafted has the ability to influence and drive traffic to your website.

The SEO Value of Meta Description

Many reports and SEO experts indicate that the content of the meta description tag on your website pages is not used by Google or other search engines in their ranking formulas, so the content may be considered to little or no SEO value.  However, and this is important, click through rates on search engines are reported to be a ranking signal, on Google, and on Bing, perhaps on others as well.  An influential meta description therefore, which leads to higher click through rates, does actually contribute to SEO results.

Characteristics of Great Meta Tags

  • unique, each page on your website should have a meta description written specifically for that page
  • contains keywords early, words that match the search term will be bolded, if they appear early in the text, they will be more noticeable
  • 140 to 160 characters, the max visible characters depend on the character  width.  Keeping to 155 is a safe description length.
  • helpful, tell the searcher what they will find on the page

Sample Meta Tag Suggestions

Let’s say you advertise your prices on your webpages.  Include your price and product name in the meta tag, especially if you have a sale price.  If your price is competitive, you will get more clicks than descriptions without prices.

Do you have key industry stats on your page, include one in the description.  Stats drive interest, and curiosity, and clicks.

Does your page include pictures or information about famous brands or people?  Make sure to include this early in the description.  People are drawn to familiarity.

DO NOT try to make this a branding effort by including your company mission statement or other “company speak”.  “We are company MLK, the world’s leading industrial, commercial, residential high quality suppliers of gizmo style gadget for use with gadget MNO”.  The preceding sentence is 145 characters (yes, spaces count) of useless drivel.

EVEN WORSE: “Please visit the Home Page of Company MLK where you will find information all about our company, our products, and more information about our great staff.”  While this hits the 155 characters on the head, there is nothing (other than company name) that would match up to a good search term.

Meta Description is an Ad

The description tag is a marketing opportunity.  Treat it as a 155 character ad for the page to follow.  What can you say in 155 characters that would be thoughtful, informative and compelling?  Go put that in your meta description!

Sport Trivia Challenge, a new Mobile Website

Sports Trivia has a new Mobile Website home, www.sporttriviachallenge.com.

We just launched this new mobile optimized game for all sports fans.  Test your skill in a game of Sports Trivia or take on your friends in a Challenge.

 

What Year Does Your Footer Say?

Following up on our Website Resolutions post from a few days ago, we have another resolution, update your footer copyright message to the current year. I was looking at a friend’s website yesterday, he’s in the financial services business, and the footer copyright still had 2013.  Would you take advice from 3 years ago?

So go and update your footer.  There are the quick and easy ways, manual, guaranteeing you will forget sometime in the future.  Then there are programming solutions that will take care of it once and forever.  Choose the right one for your website.

Manual Update

The quickest way, for right now, is just to go in and make a manual edit.  If you are using WordPress, your theme likely has an option for this, either a footer widget, or a copyright field under Appearance.  Just change 2015 to 2016 and save the change.  Then set reminders in your calendar to go and do it again at the stroke of midnight every New Year’s Eve.  Got something better to do on New Year’s Eve?  Then we suggest you see the suggestions below to add a little website programming to auto update the year.

PHP  Method

Many websites are built using the PHP website programming language.  If you purchased the code for the site layout, then likely you have a footer function or a template that contain the header, navigation, and footer for your site.  Simply add this code to the footer section in template or function to replace the hard coded copyright date:

Copyright &copy; <?php echo date(‘Y’);  ?> Your Company Name

If you only want to replace the year, just put this:  <?php echo date(“Y”); ?> where 2015 currently is.

If you are using WordPress, you can usually find the copyright notice in the footer.php file.

PHP is a server side scripting language so the date is going to be based on the location of the server.  It is possible to adjust the date formatting to allow for your timezone, but that is more complicated than we care to cover in this post.

JavaScript Method

Similar to using the PHP code above, copy and paste this code to where you want the copyright notice, along with the date automatically updating.

Copyright &copy;<script type=”text/javascript”>document.write(new Date().getFullYear());</script> Your Company Name

JavaScript is a client side scripting language so the date is going to be based on the location of the user, and the date setting on their device..