Google Scraps Sidebar Ads, Adwords Rivalry Intensifies

By | Adwords, Google, SEO | No Comments

Google remains the world’s top search engine, and any change it imposes will substantially affect us and you, our clients, and all those who live and breathe digital marketing. February marked this year’s biggest Google modification – the unveiling of a new SERPs layout on desktops with significant consequences to digital marketers and Adwords clients worldwide.
In a nutshell, the changes are: Ads

  • No more text ads on the right rail of desktop search results
  • Four text ads instead of three to show above organic results
  • Three text ads to show below organic results
  • Text ads on SERPs goes down to seven from about eleven
  • Product listings and Knowledge Panels to show on right sidebar

What to expect from the changes?As we continue to gather and analyse available data concerning recent changes in desktop SERPs, we take note that the following are highly likely:
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Why Facebook surpassed Google in Media Referral Traffic

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1 Google


image source: Parse.ly Quarterly Authority Report

Facebook shoots up

In August, the news that Facebook overtook Google in referral traffic, for the second time in less than a year, exploded among SEO sites. This is according to a report by content analytics service, Parse.ly

Headlines blared:

For Major Publishers, Facebook Referral Traffic Passes Google Again” —Marketing Land

Facebook has taken over from Google as a traffic source for news” —Fortune

Facebook, Not Google, Is Now the Top Referral Source for Digital Publishers” —Adweek

Facebook Passes Google In Referral Traffic” —MediaPost

Facebook is now more important than Google for online publishers” —Business Insider

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Google Search – Is Your Website Mobilegeddon Ready?

By | Blog, Comment, ecommerce, Mobile, Research, SEO, tools | No Comments

Google Algorithm Update

Come 21st of April, Google will roll out its new “Mobile Friendly” algorithm update which will preference search results for web sites that are mobile friendly.

For your websites, this simply means you’ll get left out in mobile search results unless your website is deemed by Google bots to be mobile friendly.

But wait!

How should you know if my site is ready for mobilegeddon? Fortunately Google, being Google, has already foreseen the outcry of website owners if they opted to bring their algorithm guessing game to such an important update so they’ve actually rolled out more than enough tools to help you prepare for this big day.

Without further delay, here are the tools and information you’ll need to be able to do a self-diagnosis of your site in preparation for mobilegeddon:

  1. Mobile-Friendly Test – just simply put in your website URL and hit analyze and you’ll know within seconds if your site is up to speed. Hopefully you’ll get a result like so:Mobile-Friendly Test
  2. Google Webmaster Tools Mobile Usability Report – This is another tool that will help webmasters identify elements of your website that does not fit Google’s mobile friendly standards, because it could be that some NOT ALL your pages have problems. Errors here should be addressed if you want to keep up on mobile search results.Here’s an example result for good measure:Mobile Usability
  3. Mobile Friendly Guidelines – In the case you’ll find yourself in the undesirable side of this update, after using the previously mentioned tools, fret not as here’s all you need to be able to get back in the good light of Google mobile search results.

Remember, this is not just about penalties but also about rewards. A more mobile friendly web site will be rewarded as much as a non-mobile site is penalised.

And as always, if you need help in keeping up with all these changes, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us any time.

Google to Rollout Close Variant Keyword Matching End of September

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When people go to search engines like Google, it’s not all the time that they key in their queries correctly. According to Google, at least 7 percent of all searches on their search engine contain some sort of misspelling, with longer queries more likely to have a typo. Web users don’t have the time to care about such trivial matters, especially in this time and age of shorter attention spans and a continually growing hunger for information. People expect to connect with products, services, and businesses they’re looking for.

For instance, a person trying to find “kid scooters,” “kids scooters,” or “kid’s scooters,” will want to see the most relevant Google ads regardless of these small differences in the search phrase. This is precisely why Google is turning to close variant keyword matching as a means of intuitively connecting search engine users with the people and businesses they’re looking for. The solution will apply to all exact and phrase match keywords.

Since its introduction in 2012, advertisers on Google’s AdWords program have enjoyed varying degrees of success. The company notes that the majority of advertisers are already matching to close keyword variations, garnering an average of 7 percent more exact and phrase match clicks with similar conversion and clickthrough rates. Besides this growth in keyword coverage, these incremental clicks directly translate to potentially crucial opportunities missed by low search volume keywords, a common occurrence when misspellings and abbreviations are concerned.

Widen your Reach

Beginning late September, Google will be rolling out close variant keyword matching to all phrase match and exact match keywords. It’s worth noting that close variant matching was already “switched on” by default in the campaign settings, so many advertisers won’t even notice any change in their keyword matching activity.

However, advertisers that opted out will notice the option to disable close variants disappear sometime around the last week of September. All exact and phrase match keywords will then connect to close keyword variations, allowing you to broaden your reach towards more potential customers with the most relevant ads, while at the same time, trying to lower your cost per click (CPC) and improve your clickthrough rate (CTR).

widen reach


What Does this Mean?

There’s always some level of anxiety present when Google makes changes to its search engine protocols and paid advertising program, as even the smallest changes can have huge effects on a company’s SEO and PPC campaigns, undoing several hours of work.

However, we at Enform actually see this update as helpful to our clients, as it cuts out the complexities of matching several lists with abbreviated, misspelled, and slight variations of your keywords just to get the coverage you want.

This time around, all you need to focus on is adding close variants of keywords that you don’t want to trigger your ads, to your negative keywords list. This is a far quicker way of shaping your traffic and reducing costs per click; it doesn’t hurt that this also offers a better ad experience to your potential customers.

It’s worth pointing out that Google AdWords tends to trigger ads with keywords that are most identical to search queries, so that doesn’t mean misspelled, abbreviated, and other close variations of your keywords are useless. Try to look how these close variants perform, they just might be able to stand independently as separate keywords with their appropriate bids.

A Different Point Of View

This mandatory change may have larger implications that mark a loss of control which is bad news for SEM (search engine marketing) professionals.

With this release we are heading towards a “keywordless” world where Google dictates when your ads appear and for what search terms.

With Google recent release of Shopping Campaigns, ads are generated using Google Merchant Account inventory feeds instead of keywords. Google is gaining more and more control of ads and advertisers may not be able to even control the outcome or put up a fight.

As long as AdWords keeps delivering results advertisers want, there won’t be many people complaining. Product Listing Ads are getting advertisers more results, and generally so will close variant matching, so it can’t be that bad…right.


However, it’s time for the negative keywords to the rescue, that is for advertisers who feel very strongly about exact match terms, there is still the option to use negative keywords to weed out irrelevant queries.


HTTPS and Website Encryption Will Now Influence Google Search Rankings

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In an effort to promote a more secure web and better reflect relevant search results, Google recently announced that it would now take into consideration website encryption, also known as HTTPS, when ranking sites on their search engine results pages (SERPs).

It’s a move that should wake up web developers who have procrastinated over their implementation of security measures, or site owners who may have wondered if their sites were “important enough” to need encryption.

According to Google, HTTPS will initially be a minor search rank signal, affecting less than 1 percent of all queries around the world.  So, that means it won’t immediately have as immediate an impact as other ranking factors—like the quality of content in a web page for instance—as Google wants to give webmasters enough time to switch over to HTTPS.


Still, that doesn’t mean you can drag your feet with your site’s security, as encryption is bound to have a major effect on search ranking, what with Google being a staunch advocate of website security. It’s best to start as early as possible, and with the potential bonus of higher search rankings, there’s no better time than now.

Best Practices

To facilitate the switch to a more secure web, the company is looking to publish a series of guidelines around HTTPS, helping website developers better understand what needs to be done in properly encrypting their websites, as well as how to avoid common mistakes. Google adds that these tips will include best practices on things ranging from the type of certification needed, the proper use of relative URLs for resources under the same secure domain, allowing site indexing, and many more.

Furthermore, Google recommends website developers to test their HTTPS-encrypted websites through the Qualys Lab tool, while further questions on encryption and its relation to search ranking can be sent to Google’s Webmaster Help Forums where the company actively interacts with a larger community of site owners and developers.

Search Engine Result Pages


Like most Google announcements involving its search ranking algorithms, it has drawn plenty of feedback from website owners and developers, as well as those in the SEO industry. Google’s blog post on the subject has more than 1,500 comments as of this writing. Reactions are mostly in favour of the change, with many seemingly expecting that such a development was going to happen sooner or later. One commenter opined, “So, it’s not often that you’ll get SEO tips directly from Google — but here’s one that I’m proud to be associated with: HTTPS is now being used as a ranking signal.”

Google’s announcement is consistent with its efforts to better secure its own traffic, which included encrypting traffic between its servers. Gmail now uses an encrypted HTTPS connection by default, preventing mail from being snooped when moving between users and Google’s servers.

In a time when paranoia over government cyber spying is at a frenzy, tech companies are scrambling to beef up their own security measures. In November last year, Yahoo! also announced plans to encrypt its own data centre traffic.


At Enform, we’ve long seen encryption and HTTPS as fundamental measures for improving a site’s security, no matter how small it may be. This time around, Google’s efforts only provide another incentive for webmasters to make the switch.

Amazon Outs Online Marketing Platform to Rival Google AdWords

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Several reports claim that the company is aiming to give Google some competition in the highly lucrative online marketing landscape with their proprietary ad platform. Word is that Amazon’s advertising product will be similar to Google AdWords in how it works, and will replace its own online ads and compete for ad share.

If successful, Amazon could very well shrink Google’s monopoly on online share once they replace their ads with their own. And the market is tempting for any tech company out there, what with more than $50 billion in sales a year.

Amazon’s new project will be called Amazon Sponsored Links, with no confirmation yet on when publishers and advertisers can try the platform out.

Furthermore, Amazon is busy developing a bulk-buying program for advertisers, which would enable the online retail giant to place ads on third party sites more easily. Reports by the Wall Street Journal indicate that Amazon’s online marketing system will roll out to users before the year ends, with the company already pitching ideas to prospective clients.

Needless to say, Amazon has their work cut out for them, should they choose to push through with their own platform against Google. The search engine giant didn’t just dominate the online marketing space overnight. It built its way from the ground up, boasting of more than 14 years of experience and along the way, amassing millions of advertisers and publishers vying for the limited ad space available to their respective niches.

This level of competition has not surprisingly sent prices for ad space soaring, which also means publishers are likely to stick with Google over another online marketing firm.

Although Google has yet to see another online marketing platform capable of toppling them from the top spot, Amazon certainly has a chance of being the company to do it. With the company’s strong experience and leadership in the online retail industry, Amazon has firsthand knowledge about the purchasing habits and behaviour of online shoppers—it’s this area where Google is at a potential disadvantage.

Moreover, Amazon apparently already has more than 250 million users actively using their platform, potentially giving the company plenty of data they could use to push their online marketing platform and rival Googles AdWords program. If the company makes the right moves, we at Enform could see a new player entering the online marketing space.

Of course, we’ve seen many companies out there introduce their own online marketing platforms as an alternative to AdWords with varying degrees of success. All of them, however, have fallen short to knocking Google off their perch.

We’ll have to wait and see if Amazon has the goods to make a strong entry into the online marketing scene. Anything less than spectacular might only result in failure.

Google Analytics reports UX specialists should pay attention to

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image1 (4)

Contrary to popular belief, Google Analytics doesn’t just provide information about website traffic, it also provides useful data to UX strategists, helping them set goals, and create strategies and concepts for a sound web design.

Of the 95 reports Google Analytics provides, a few offer incredible useful information ranging from how visitors interact with your website, where visitors came from, to the best channels to use for your goals. Ironically, Google Analytics suffers from a lack of web usability—it can be confusing to navigate your way through the service. Worse, finding which report can help you with your usability goals can be a nightmare.

Usability experts the Nielsen/Norman Group compiled a list of the Analytics reports you can turn to for UX applications.

Mobile Access Growth

This information is key when trying to figure out whether or not your site should also be friendly to mobile devices. How much should you invest in an adaptive web design? What kind of priority level should your mobile initiatives receive?

To compare the quantity of mobile traffic between two similar periods, say February 2014 against 2013, turn to Google Analytics’ date comparison feature, and combine it with some easy calculations offline.

Report: Audience Overview

  1. Go to Audience > Mobile > Overview
  2. Choose a date range, then add  comparison date range
  3. This report’s % Change line represents the change in percentage of absolute mobile visits for the specified date ranges. This is not the information you’re looking for, so ignore this
  4. To find the growth rate in percentage of mobile visits, perform a simple calculation by taking the number of mobile visits, dividing it with the number of total visits, finally calculating the rate of change.

Social Network Impact

Google Analytics also provides a useful report if you want to find out just how much your social network activities impact your goals, particularly when it comes to your content strategies (e.g. what content is shared most often and where it’s shared).

Report: Network Referral

  1. Go to Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals
  2. The report gives a detailed view on referral traffic coming from social networks. You can even click on the indicated networks to see which specific content people are sharing on that social channel.


This report offers granular information on the way certain channels add to acquisition, how users originating from these channels act on your site, as well as how these channels contributed towards reaching your goals defined on Google Analytics.

Report: Goals Overview
1) Go to Conversions > Goals > Overview
2) Choose Source/Medium
3) Click on ‘View full report’

4) Upon reaching the full report screen, choose your ‘Source’ and then choose the goals you want to filter.

Number of Visits Prior to Conversion

When assessing and conceptualizing website usability, many UX teams like to build customer-journey maps designed for their target personas. These maps indicate interactions prospects are most likely to take before a conversion (before they become a customer).

Report: Path Length

  1. Conversions > Multi-channel funnels > Path length.
  2. Choose your desired goals to filter

The Path Length report provides a good idea on the number of visits to your websites before users convert or move on to other desirable actions (which you will define in your Analytics account).

Knowing the right reports to base your UX decisions of is the first step towards improving the usability of your website. Google Analytics is a powerful tool, so it is very important to know how to wield it.

Effective Use of Analytics to Enhance User Experience

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Google Analytics SEO SEM results search

Making Effective Use of Analytics to Enhance the User Experience

For a long time, the primary use of analytics systems was to help marketers develop marketing strategies, providing important statistics on everything from page views, clickthrough rates, impressions, and more. However, we now see this source of quantitative data helping user experience (UX) professionals improve the usability design of websites.

The value of analytics is sometimes lost to us, having a tendency of becoming a black hole of data, which although useful, provides no real value to the uninformed webmaster. At the very least, this useful data is left untouched and subscribing to the analytics service becomes a waste of money. At the worst, analytics systems lead to costly expenditures in areas not as productive as others are.

Analytics systems can become a distraction, turning from something that helps you in your work to something you need to spend time understanding and getting to work. For UX professionals, it’s important to take one step back and think of how analytics data can help in enhancing current usability techniques.

Web usability experts the Nielsen Norman Group surveyed several UX teams to find out how they used their analytics data, coming up with some interesting findings.

1.       Issue Indication

NN/g found that a number of UX teams collaborated with optimisation experts while designing a site and launching new features, creating what they referred to as a measurement plan. UX teams receive regular reports to keep track of the site’s ability to meet usability goals, turning to the analytics system to diagnose issues.

A measurement plan normally consists of:

  • Goals, or macro conversions, which refer to large-scale actions that users perform on the site for it to convert to success. Think purchase completions or lead submissions.
  • Desirable actions, or micro conversions, which as the name suggests, pertain to smaller actions that often lead to a larger goal. This can be something from visiting page, click on a link, or keying in user data on a form.
  • Metrics, or web analytics data, show quantitative data on the frequency/number of these actions.


2.       Investigation

This mode sees UX teams formulating hypotheses on issues around macro conversions, using analytics to prove or disprove their theories. The investigation tackles issues categorised into: traffic, technical issues, content, visual design, and navigation.

NNG provides some examples below.

a.       Traffic

Google SEO SEM Analytics

Google Analytics Pages

If you want to find out which traffic source is the cause of a drop in page visitors, use Google Analytics’ Pages and Source as a Secondary Dimension to get traffic data. Google allows you to get specific reports on a web page’s sources, be it search engines like Google, Yahoo!, or Bing; email campaigns, or direct.

b.      Technical Problems

Google Analytics Event SEO SEM

Google Analytics Event Pages

UX teams can investigate issues like pages failing to load properly by looking at Event Pages, which provides a report on all pages being tracked. It’s as simple as choosing a specific page to get your metrics on events and anomalies, if any.    

c.       Content and

d.      Visual-Design

Google Analytics SEO SEM

In-Page Analytics

With Google Analytics, UX teams can also find out if certain keywords and phrases fail to encourage web users to perform specific actions. It also allows professionals to determine if certain typography, images, and colors impede the success of calls to action. In-Page Analytics is the tool to use for both issues.

e.      Navigation

Google Analytics SEO SEM

Google Analytics Pages with Navigation Summary

 If a UX professional wants to look into ineffective site links and buttons, Google Analytics Pages, filtered by the page URL and choosing the navigation summary tab provides details on in-links, or which specific pages users came from before going to a page of interest, and where they went afterwards.

3.       Triangulation

This mode sees UX teams pinpointing a site issue by combining quantitative data with the qualitative information gleaned from usability testing to find more clues and figure out a solution to the problem. Usability tests are not perfect, especially tests that are quick and involve a limited number of users. It’s here where analytics reports can come in, monitoring potential problematic spots usability tests may have gotten wrong.

NN/g provides a scenario where participants in a test can’t find information about a certain topic because the keyword used on the site is different from the one they’re searching for.

To determine if people are actually using these keywords the participants in the study used, UX teams can look at Google Analytics’ Search Terms, which provides lists on the words and phrases users key into the website’s search box.

Google Analytics SEO SEM results

Google Analytics Search Terms

At Enform, we believe that the quantitative data analytics systems provide is a crucial component to developing a sound user experience on a website. However, this also means that usability and UX specialists have to become familiar with these systems, as well as the information they offer, which for a while, has been the domain of optimisation experts. The fact that analytics allows us to catch issues early on before affecting conversions, and helps in investigating suspicions on usability problems, is enough reason to learn these systems, even if they’re built for marketing, not usability.

Google Deploys New Search Algorithm

By | Announcements, tools | One Comment

Google new search algorithm SEO SEM strategies

Google Hummingbird Update Topples Current SEO Strategies

For those of you busy with your online marketing campaigns, it’s likely you missed Google’s announcement of their latest update to their volatile search engine algorithm. And not surprisingly, the update has been with some backlash from SEOs to say the least.

A few hours before their 15th anniversary, the tech giant unveiled Hummingbird, arguably the company’s most sweeping search update in the last 13 years. Like its recent Panda updates, Hummingbird was apparently designed to weed out content created for the purpose of SEO, and not so much providing better and higher quality search results for humans and users.

How Does Hummingbird Work?

Hummingbird works by dispensing with traditional keyword searches and using searches of a more conversational nature to provide search results that are more “aligned” with what users are searching for.

Google says the update places stock in providing answers to users instead of just results. While this may not seem like a big deal, many experts now see phrases like “how to” and “how do I,” which used to have no real value, as now beingimportant.

We agree with many search experts in the industry who see this update as a sign of Google’s desire to keep results in tune with what users search more for on the Web. Conversational search has been a growing driver of a specific type of search users search for—Hummingbird is simply a shift to accommodate these searches.

What this means is that Hummingbird will accommodate longer searches, shifting from traditional single keyword searches like, “iPhone 5s” to longer phrases such as, “cheapest iPhone 5s in (insert area or city),” focusing more on intent instead of just keywords.

How Does Hummingbird Affect your Business?

Google’s algorithm updates usually have immediate results on the campaigns of marketers and webmasters, but Hummingbird seems to be different. According to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, they’ve yet to hear of sweeping losses in traffic after the algorithm change. Google’s Panda update in 2011 for example, which focused on removing “low-quality sites,” decimated the traffic of several thousand sites on the Internet. In contrast, Hummingbird’s been pretty quiet.

Other Updates

Another update that’s likely to throw a spanner in the campaigns of many is Google’s move to encrypt keyword data and hiding it from site owners and marketers. Google has finally switched all searches to encrypted searches with the use of HTTPS, with no data passed on to site owners. This means no tracking and lumping of users together with their keyword searches. We’ve seen a rise in “(not provide)” in our analytics data since Panda rolled out, and now we can expect to see this figure grow.

Enform will be providing more guidance on this aspect in future updates.

The Bottom Line

Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is delivering dramatic changes in the SEO landscape but site owners and marketers should embrace the change as it is biased toward good quality marketing practice optimised for human search.

The key is, as always, to adapt to algorithm changes and understand what your users are searching for. Hummingbird simply cements the importance of providing genuine and high quality content that answers questions. Rethink how your customers use the Internet to search for your products and services, and make adjustments accordingly to your findings.

Enform has always stressed the importance of proper SEO research and audits to make sure that their customers are offering answers to their customers search questions. Hummingbird makes this even more critical.

Nielsen Norman Research Group Reveals Growing Internet Search Idiosyncrasies

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When one needs to know more about a particular product, company or service, mostinternet users merely “Google” it and the first page of the search results come on display….but do they really get the most appropriate information?  With mostly “search-dependent” users in the internet, there is not much accurate data and most users are not even able to decipher even halfway complex concerns with search. This goes on to say that most users depend on the power of SEARCH, but do not exactly know how to use it effectively, hence, they are not able to take hold of what they really need in the first place. In fact, search practices have just gotten bad to worse over time, coming close to descriptions like “pathetic”, “useless” and incompetent.

Ironically, just when the internet has been the “know-it-all” resource, still there is not much accuracy and precision on the actual information gathered due to search idiosyncrasies.

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, a firm that focuses in computer user interface development and user experience recently released a study on the growing internet search discrepancies among internet users. The accuracy of data is not achieved because of incompetent search skills. Not finding what is being specifically searched after several tries, is perhaps the most frustrating user experience.

The Simpler the Search, the Better– In the study, it further revealed, searchers depend on search, but they do not know how to use it. People these days have been bombarded with new terminologies leading to queries that do not get them anywhere.  A well-designed search facility, a simpler and specific search method and more improved users’ search capabilities can pretty much make a difference. This was revealed in a test conducted on e-commerce sites showing an overall success rate with search at 74%, a more acceptable figure than the first attempt resulting to 64%. It further showed the level of difficulty on the search problems could greatly affect the success of the search. In essence, the probability of the search success drops from 64% to as low as 28% varying from simple and easy searches to the more complex ones.

Responsible Website Designing For Great Searches– Apart from the users’ reliance on their searching skills, search suggestions in the internet could prove helpful but could also be limiting. Most often, when some terms are not included in the search suggestions, users may not take time out to search for it even when it can provide otherwise. Businesses should be able to take upon themselves to present their website in a manner that it could guarantee a search-friendly approach, one that is effective, specific and accurate. If users are able to get what they asked for, those are exactly what they want, then they are happy and satisfied with the results of the search. In the study on Costco’s website, one user tried to search for a TV set and quickly searched for “television”. The search results page showed a specific category page for TV sets which highly include relevant features, brands, resolution, screen size and facets like plasma and LCD.

As far as the Costco search study was concerned, users were happy and satisfied – they got what they asked for in their search! Enform believes that only when users start having a good grasp on what effective searching really is and when businesses also improve their site’s interface, only then, can there be improved and successful online enterprise.

Regardless of the increasing sophistication of using search with the help of search engines, many irrelevant web pages are still produced. Along with all the other search engines, the typical approach to search still requires accuracy, skills and improved user interface.

“The ultimate search engine would basically understand everything in the world, and it would always give you the right thing. And we’re a long, long ways from that.”

–       Larry Page

Follow the link for more information on SEO and Google Adwords.