Listen to this cry of anguish. It came from someone commenting at the end of a blog post about Penguin 2.0, which (as I will explain) was an update that Google made to its search ranking algorithm.
To paraphrase: "For eight years I have been trying to follow the twists and turns of what Google wants websites to do. Every time I finish making changes, Google changes the rules again. I am trying to make my ecommerce site successful, but I cannot. I have lost my life savings on this business. I am not going to bother changing after this. If Google moves the goalposts again after Penguin 2.0 they can go **** themselves."
That was in May. Later in the summer Google released the Hummingbird update, a change to the algorithm that was an absolute whopper.
While I completely sympathise with the person whose savings had run out, there is a positive aspect to the changes that Google endlessly makes.
Consider these changes over the last ten years, each one given a name rather like the way hurricanes are named:
2003: Florida update penalised websites that were stuffed with spammy key words.
2004: Brandy update penalised too many synonyms (eg wealthy is a synonym of rich).
2005: Bourbon update hit duplicate content; Big Daddy update hit low quality reciprocal links.
2009: Vince update rewarded news authorities and recognised brands.
2010: Mayday update rewarded specialised niche websites.
2011: Panda update tackled “content farm” websites full of SEO-based content. And as well as algorithms, Google used human testers to identify low quality content.
2012: Penguin update further penalised spammy links.
2013: Penguin 2.0 hit spammy links and other SEO deception activities even harder.
Yes, put simply, Google is trying to penalise the tricksters and reward those of us that provide good, honest, high quality content.
Now Hummingbird moves beyond looking at the mere words in a search; it attempts to understand the full meaning of the query, so it can then deliver search results to match. So you can expect websites that answer lots of questions to do well.
The poor guy who spent eight years losing his life savings on an ecommerce website will have known all along that Google would gradually improve its search techniques, but meanwhile he had to compete using the techniques that were delivering the best results that month. Alas there was no easy option for him, even with the benefit of hindsight.
We are now getting to a point where all of us can focus on content that meets the needs of the website user. The Donut websites have done this all along — because our revenue is not advertising-based and so we do not rely on high traffic figures. So ironically we have ended up with better traffic than sites that may have invested huge sums in SEO.
Rory MccGwire is the chief executive of Atom Content Publishing, publishers of the Donut websites.
“Increasingly, the internet has become the place where we live our lives. But in the end, a small group of American companies may unilaterally dictate how billions of people work, play, communicate, and understand the world.”
A lot of our clients are struggling with the speed of change — in social media, in marketing and in customer behaviour. They are also struggling with innovation.
A friend (thanks Alan Boyd) recommended Filter Bubble by Eli Pariser. Boy am I impressed. It is a book that covers the impact of the introduction of personalised search. My search results on “soccer” will be very different than yours — and that has all kinds of consequences.
This book touches on privacy, data, innovation, culture, the role of news, democracy, marketing, selling, tracking and much more.
What this book shows is that Big Brother has arrived and he is called Acxiom (billions of data profiles), Bluecavia (database of every computer, mobile device, piece of hardware), Google and Facebook.
Thanks to this book I have learned lots of new terms and concepts, including: attention crash; click signals; retargeting; advertar; and information obesity. I have also learned some interesting facts — for instance, did you know that:
We are literally becoming what we click. As with food, you are what information you consume (information obesity). The ultimate consequence is the threat of monoculture (1984).
Through manipulation, curation, context and information flow, you can be managed. Imagine a world where Google searches, Facebook likes, your e-mails, your documents (Google docs!), your DNA, your location data from your smartphone, radio frequency identification (RFID) on all the items you bought, the data from cookies on your computer and more are all combined and are then used to: sell, manipulate and influence.
Increasingly, the internet has become the place where we live our lives. But in the end, a small group of American companies may unilaterally dictate how billions of people work, play, communicate, and understand the world. Protecting the early vision of radical connectedness and user control should be an urgent priority for all of us.
The lessons for business; opportunity, threat, be aware, take a position.
Back in February I wrote about the growing fashion to buy up multiple keyword-rich domains — like “big-grey-widgets.com”, “small-grey-widgets.com” etc — in the hope of gaining higher rankings on Google. There was some evidence that this type of domain could indeed rank well, without requiring many inbound links. At the time, though, I cautioned against this approach. Google has a history of acting against such practices by de-emphasising the spammy element and wiping out any benefit gained. Since then, we have seen it do just that with links on article sites.
Now it seems that the big G may indeed be preparing to act against spam in domain names. In March of this year, Google spokesman Matt Cutts slipped the news into one of his popular YouTube videos. You can watch the whole video here.
So if you are one of those who bought up a raft of keyword-enhanced domains, now is the time to prepare for their disappearance. If you’ve being considering doing it, don’t bother.
This recurring pattern of action and reaction by website owners and Google does raise an interesting question. What will happen when every ranking factor that could be spammed, has been spammed, and Google has de-emphasised all of them? Theoretically we should end up pretty much back where we started, except that the whole web will be stuffed with spam.
It’s always tempting to look for the magic bullet that will fire you onto the top page of Google, and the potential rewards are obvious. Forty percent of external traffic to websites comes from search (source: Outbrain), and in the UK over ninety percent of that comes from Google. But to build a sustainable online business with rankings that will stand the test of time, you need to provide good quality site content that is useful to your customers; and invest in building a network of links from good quality and relevant sites.
Anything else is vapour.
Read more about SEO here:
Being disruptive pays. Following the pack does not. At least not for most people.
Starbucks was a disruptor as it changed the habits of a generation (as did FaceBook, Google and so on). But what is new today becomes old tomorrow. Today’s revolutionaries are tomorrow’s Old Guard.
A great disruptor doesn’t just do more than interrupt; it can change the face of the landscape. This is particular true of the customer experience.
Starbucks changed how and where we socialise, Amazon changed how we shopped…. So while we can quote the big disruptors I think that we can all disrupt, if only on a smaller stage.
You can zig when they zag. Go against the traffic. Challenge the notion of “that’s how we do it around here”.
Depending on your marketplace, think what would happen if you:
I am sure you get where I am coming from.
Robert Craven is the author of business best-sellers Kick-Start Your Business and Bright Marketing. He runs The Directors' Centre and is described by the Financial Times as "the entrepreneurship guru". Read more here.
When training others in setting up their AdWords campaigns, I have noticed that many will have made identical mistakes. My challenge to you is – how many of these errors can be found in YOUR AdWords campaigns?
1. Using just one advert to match to lots of unrelated keywords
Here’s an example advert that is suffering from this mistake:
temporary staffing, virtual office
registered office, mail forwarding
In this example, the advertiser is attempting to use one advert to advertise many of their products and services. To overcome this mistake, set up multiple ad groups, one for each product or service.
2. Sending people to the homepage
A common mistake is to send all visitors direct to the homepage of your website. You have just a few seconds to get and keep someone’s attention on the web! Don’t risk them leaving immediately as they cannot find what they are looking for – send them directly to the page about that particular product or service.
3. Incorrect capitalisation
Capitalise the first letter of each word in your advert (see the example in point 4 below) – this works by making the advert stand out more and increases the likelihood it will get clicked.
4. Using your company name as the heading for the adverts
This mistake is often replicated by web marketing agencies as well as individual advertisers. Here’s an example:
Bristol Party Hire
Bouncy Castles in Bristol
Great Prices From £45
Your advert is NOT about you – it’s about closely matching what the potential visitor is searching for. The advert heading should match the keywords the visitor has used as closely as possible. For example:
Bristol Bouncy Castles
Bouncy Castles in Bristol
Great Prices From £45
5. Not tracking the results
Make sure you track your results so you can test which keywords work best to generate leads and / or sales. You can do this by using Google’s conversion tracking (found in the Opportunities tab).
6. Leaving the content network on
The content network is a large number of unrelated websites, all running advertising on their website. Visitors to their websites have the opportunity to click on your ad, costing you money. Turn the content network off to avoid these unnecessary clicks.
7. Leaving ads running 24 hours per day
For most products and services, it makes sense to only run adverts at certain times of day. For example, B2B advertisers will benefit from running adverts only during work hours.
8. Not using negative keywords
Negative keywords will prevent irrelevant searches. For example, you will probably want to cut out people seeking “free” things. Ideally build a large negative keyword list to save yourself money.
9. Failing to use broad, phrase and exact match keywords
These are the three different keyword types which all need to be included in your ad groups to cut down on costs. So make sure you include them all.
10. Underutilising the display URL
The display URL can be manipulated to increase Click Through Rate. For example, if advertising bouncy castles – instead of www.bristolpartyhire.co.uk use www.BristolPartyHire.co.uk/BouncyCastles.
Claire Jarrett of MarketingByWeb
Since we launched our small business resource website in April many people have found the Marketing Donut through typing various queries into search engines. When we looked under the bonnet of our website, we found some more curious examples of the search terms people have entered. Either accidentally or intentionally, people found their way to the Marketing Donut by searching the terms from the following list:
If you would like to know more about search engine marketing and optimisation, we have some handy resources available.