Google Fix AMP Reporting in Analytics

Given Google’s intent to make the internet mobile-friendly, the company has been a long time fixing the reporting feature for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) in Analytics.

However, the search engine giant has now announced an AMP filter has been added to Analytics so marketers can test the performance of all AMP pages on mobile devices.

Google did add an AMP filter to its free Search Console Analytics tool back in May. But strangely, the metric did not include the core results. It only reported on the lead stories that appear in the top carousel section.

Reporting on Top Stories only allows publishers to follow news stories, which made reporting on AMP pages practically useless for most marketers. The feature should yield better results now you can filter AMP article results across the board.

ampWhat is AMP?

AMP stands for Accelerated Mobile Pages. It is an initiative led by Google to speed up load times for mobile phones users. Because many mobile handsets are not typically connected to fast internet connections, wait times increase.

One of the reasons a website loads slowly is because it has too much code. Every action, feature and graphic requires a code. These are programmed using either HTML, CSS or Javascript.

Whenever you visit a website, each code has to communicate with a server. So the more codes, the longer the communication takes. Hence, websites with a lot of codes take longer to load. In essence, codes disrupt to the performance of a website and negatively affect the user-experience.

To help avoid these problems, Google initiated the AMP Project which is an open source platform where developers can access stripped down HTML codes that do not require as much communication with servers. The result is faster loading websites.

Why do you need AMP?

Google ranks websites based on a number of metrics. Some of the most important metrics are user-engagement. Therefore, if visitors to your website are not hanging round and exploring your online store, search engines will determine you are not providing a good user-experience and rank you lower in search results.

Google says that over 50% of searches are performed using mobile handsets. This means there is over a 50 per cent chance your website will be performing slowly on mobile devices. And if it is, you compromise your ability to climb search results.

Furthermore, Google plans to introduce a mobile-first search index in the early part of 2017. The new directory will rank websites based on their performance on mobile phones rather than desktop PC’s.

This news is a forewarning to online businesses to ensure your website performs well on mobile handsets. And that includes using AMP codes to ensure your webpages load promptly on mobile handsets.

The switch to a mobile-first world will be disruptive. However, online businesses have little option other than to take prompt action – otherwise you risk losing the search engine standings you have worked so hard to build.

What Does The Penguin 4.0 Update Mean For Websites?

Google recently launched the latest update of Google Penguin 4.0. The week of the launch we noticed a bit of wobble, but that soon stabilised. However, some website owners experienced a dramatic fall.

So why are some websites affected by Penguin when others are not?

The reason for that is simple. Penguin is part of Google’s algorithm that identifies bad links that have been placed around the internet in order to boost search engine rankings for the recipient website.

The problem is that many inbound links have been purchased rather than earned on merit. Attempts to manipulate search results is something Google want to stamp out, and whilst some SEO companies persist with unruly black-hat link building tactics, it is their clients that ultimately suffer.

Now Google has incorporated Penguin as part of their core algorithm, an unnatural number of low-quality links will be penalised immediately. On the upside, sites that are penalised and rectified straight away will also be re-ranked immediately without suffering hammer blows. It would take around two years for brands to recover previously, now it can be pretty much immediately.

What are best practices for Penguin?

It’s been said a million times before, but the only way to rank in search engines is to publish premium content that engages readers. High-quality content will naturally receive inbound links whereby websites will benefit from higher ranking positions together with better trust and authority scores.

The focus of your content marketing strategy should therefore be based around building a brand rather than links. When consumers trust your brand and feel confident about buying products for your online store, they are more inclined to stay loyal. Changing brands carries a risk, and many people are resistant to change because it is a human condition to fear the unknown.

google-penguin-4-0-update-600x310If your content marketing strategy is focused around building inbound links, you will not feel the benefits for very long. Search engines measure trends and can determine the likelihood of a website receiving an average number of links within any given timescale.

Black hat SEO agencies that offer link building services tend to buy four or more links for their clients a month. If a brand was not getting any links, then suddenly starts being tapped four times a month, it’s a red flag to search engines.

The Google algorithm is more sophisticated now than it was three years ago. And since Penguin was released in 2013, thousands of websites have suffered because of poor content strategies. Now, digital marketing agencies will not be given the time to get away with manipulating search rankings and swindling their clients out of money for producing good results.

Google has always been intent on encouraging online businesses to publish premium content. Now they have figured out how to prevent SEO practitioners from cheating the system, end-users should expect to find more quality sites in their search results.

Online businesses on the other hand have no option other than to produce premium quality content in order to rank in search engines. If you want to know more about Websites or Online Marketing check out our service pages.

What is Google’s Core Algorithm?

There was another flurry of activity in the SEO community this week as online businesses witnessed a dramatic twist in their organic search results. Yes, seems as though Google has launched another major update to its core algorithm.

As usual, the search engine giant rolled out another snow ball and as it rolled down the hill it took out some passersby. There are always winners and losers whenever Google update their algorithms.

But given Google is so secretive about how its core algorithm affects search results, recovering a drop in organic rankings is not always straightforward. The best way to avoid being penalised is to understand how the core algorithm works and work with it.

hummingbird4Hummingbird

The bulk of the core algorithm is known as Hummingbird and uses semantic text that understands the concept of content on a page. When Google launched Hummingbird in September 2013, it was the first sign the search engine was moving away from relying on keywords and steering more towards user-intent. Earlier this year, Google announced they added Penguin and Panda to the core algorithm to support Hummingbird.penguin5

Penguin

Penguin upset a lot of web owners when it was first launched, but they only have themselves to blame for trying to manipulate search results with ill-gotten links. Penguin digs our spammy links pointing to your website from third party sites and also broken links or links to unrelated topics. When embedding internal links, do not use exact-match anchor text. Use categories, related topics and hierarchies for anchors.

pandaPanda

The Panda algorithm relates entirely to content, or more specifically high-quality content. If you are publishing content that is well-written and in-depth, you will not be harmed by Panda, but promoted up in the ranks. Pages with thin content, badly written content or content visitors are not engaging with, do not get ranked.

Panda also supports Hummingbird in trying to match user-intent with keyword relevancy. The core algorithm takes keyword searches and looks for text that matches search terms exactly. If there are no exact keyword matches, Hummingbird determines the context of a page and throws up results it thinks should satisfy user intent. To improve that function, the final piece to the algo-puzzle is RankBrain.

google-rankbrainRankBrain

RankBrain is a machine learning piece of the algorithm which considers search terms that have never been used before and tries to determine what the user actually wants. When Hummingbird and Panda can’t meet user-expectation it is hoped that RankBrain will.

But RankBrain is also designed to understand natural speech patterns of humans in order to second-guess what users actually want. Once the algorithm has matured there is a strong possibility the core algorithm will be able to cope with voice search. We are not far off search through speech being the norm.

Understanding how search engine algorithms work gives you a better insight into how your website will perform better in search engines. But as you can see from the core algorithm, visibility in search engines predominantly resolves around high-quality content.

What Ranking Factors Should You Concentrate On To Improve Google SEO?

When Google let it slip the three most important ranking factors are content, links and RankBrain, they didn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know.

At least not on the surface. But there are underlying reasons why these metrics are what website owners should be concentrating on.

Google’s mission is to improve the quality of experience for end-users. The more people that use their search engine over their rivals means more advertising revenue goes into their already deep pockets.

But the search engine giant also has a genuine interest to improve search engine results and deliver content end-users want – especially on mobile devices.

Because mobile is becoming the customary way for users to access the internet, and will continue to do so as mobile technology improves, Google is intent on improving mobile search.

But for it to work properly, the search engine has to rely on publishers to create a user-friendly experience for mobile users. Hence the ranking metrics and subsequent awards of trust and authority scores.

What is RankBrain?

google-rankbrainLast year, Google launched RankBrain, an element of the Hummingbird algorithm that uses machine learning to improve search and rank content in relation to search queries.

But there is a long-term goal in mind: voice search. Because the keyboards on mobile phones are fiddly and take more effort, technology companies are trying to make mobile searches easier by using voice activated services.

But in order for voice assistants in search engines to function well, Google’s artificial intelligence system needs to understand natural speech patterns to determine what the end-user is searching for.

Google has already stated that end-users are still over-thinking search queries so that the machine understands what they want. But Google want end-users to use natural language so that RankBrain can learn what they want.

Although the search engine has not said as much, there is a strong possibility it will rank content that uses natural language over content that uses jargon, lingo or corporate language. Because this is how mobile users will conduct voice search.

Effective link-building

want40963-1UytrR1469101110We already know that content is king and inbound links are the strongest metric search engines use to determine the trust and authority of a webpage and ultimately a website.

The more inbound links you have pointing towards your content the higher it ranks. But you can also chip away at improving your trust and authority scores through internal link building and embedding outbound links into your content.

Search engines encourage publishers to point outbound links to high authority sites. The fall back to that is mainstream websites will take all the top ranks and leave little room for anybody else – even if they are publishing better quality content.

It is also a good idea to create silos on your website by pointing internal links to your main product or services pages. This is an indication to search engines that these are your main services and will be ranked higher alongside the keywords you have chosen for those pages.

Understanding how search engine metrics work is the first step to improving SEO rankings. So hopefully this article has helped.

Zuckerberg Delivers Small Businesses Another Kick In The Facebook

Restricting organic reach to a measly six per cent is not good enough for Facebook. To be fair, many digital marketers tagged it ages ago, but organic reach on the world’s most popular social media network is now practically down to zero. 

Will it remain the world’s most popular network. Probably not with businesses. Unless you shell out for paid advertising, some are saying that marketing your products and service on FB is a waste of time. The best use businesses will get from this particular social network is an idea of consumer behaviour. And isn’t consumer analysis so much fun!

But there is a method to the madness that is Facebook. And you have to give credit to Zuckerberg for trying to establish the core values of the company.

As Vice President Adam Mosseri succinctly explains in his announcement of the new algorithm changes Facebook put “friends and family” first, but does want to be considered as “a platform for All Ideas.”

How Facebook plan to go about re-evaluating its original brand promise is by tweaking the News Feed algorithm and preventing accounts from becoming a mishmash of marketing videos, memes and ads. Unless you pay to advertise of course. 

Essentially Facebook want to make their service more personal to the user and deliver more posts from friends and family members. The change has been prompted by a lack of sharing, comments and likes given the amount of marketing content users are receiving.

More power to users?

facebook-likeFacebook held a referendum to ask what type of content their users prefer to see. The vote was for more “user-generated” content and less corporate news – which means family and friends get the nod over businesses. 

The key issue for FB users is essentially to remove the clutter they don’t want from their algorithm feed.

This feels a little awkward. When Facebook prevented organic reach based on user-behaviour, they restricted users from getting updates from friends they don’t engage with so often. That looks as though it may change, but we have’t noticed that in our news feeds yet. But it’s early days.

Although it appears certain content will be excluded from Facebook feeds, what happens to articles from publishers users want to read.

Mossier explained that users will be granted more power over content they receive from brands based on independent sharing – content they share directly from the publishers site rather than content that appears unceremoniously in their newsfeed. 

Will this also apply to sponsored ads? It doesn’t seem plausible that Facebook will shoot themselves in the foot, but they do already give users the option to see fewer posts based on certain topics which exclude brand content based on user preferences. 

It has to make you wonder just how well Facebook algorithm actually serves its users. On the one hand the social media wants to share “All Ideas” but does not want users to be inundated with content that is not relevant to them. Surely encouraging users to make their own choices rather than twerking algorithms is the sensible and beneficial approach.

Google’s Mobile Speed Testing Tool

Google’s obsession with mobile-friendly websites saw yet another tool added to the website testing earlier this month, this time with the launch of a new mobile speed testing tool.

Following hot on the heels of Page Speed, Mobile Friendly Testing Tool and the so-called Mobilegeddon algorithm update, the new tool on thinkwithgoogle.com checks your website for mobile friendliness, mobile speed and desktop speed. Scores are marked out of 100 and given merits of good, fair and poor.

The purpose of all these Google-tools is to ensure websites are user-friendly across multiple devices. And given usability issues are used as metrics to rank pages in search engines, the results should not be taken lightly. Google does offer more detailed information if requested.

It is therefore important, that usability is considered your top priority when designing a website; from the user-interface, to navigation and how you lay out content.

As web performance improves, consumers demand websites that are easy to use and feature the information, product or entertainment value they are searching for. So to encourage visitors to explore your online business, engage with your content and become a loyal customer, your website must tick the following boxes:

bsnl-speed-test-meterFast load speeds

It is well documented that web users will only wait up to 10 seconds before they lose patience with a website that is not loading or does not allow them to scroll when the page opens. Slow load times are the quickest way to divert customers to your competitors.

Direction, direction, direction

Let’s be honest. The convenience the web offers is making us lazy. Consumers can’t be bothered to search for what they want on your website. They expect it to be presented to them.

But online businesses that have a purchasing path also need to direct customers where to go, thus your website has to include stepping stones that make it obvious where to go and what to do next.

Ease of use

From a usability point of view, web designers should think mobile first when fashioning a website. The actions users have to take need to be simple to use on a mobile phone.

That means including large buttons that can be tapped, pages that scroll vertically and images that pinch open so it can be viewed in full screen.

Simple purchasing process

Consumers want to complete tasks in the least amount of time and the least amount of clicks. If the purchasing process is too complicated, users will ditch the transaction before confirming payment.

Screen-Shot-2013-01-03-at-10.02.27-AMWherever possible, keep the amount of information you need to a minimum and offer to save bank details so customers don’t have to type them in every time they buy something.

User-experience is clearly taken very seriously by search engines and consumers –and that means web owners and web designers should be making usability the top priority before launching a website.

If your website is not performing on mobile phones, address the issue asap; especially if the majority of your visitors are mobile users.

Design Tips From the White House!

Being creative director at the White House is one of the most high profile jobs in the design industry. Until just a few weeks ago, the person in charge of the President’s creative output was Ashleigh Axios. Tasked with “conceiving and managing the execution of projects to engage the American public about Obama’s policies – as well as presenting the US President in a favourable light”, this is a job not for the faint hearted.

Make your content engaging

shareIf there’s one thing that governmental design has to be, it’s engaging. The projects that Ashleigh Axios was working on were designed to connect with the public, explain policies and make the American people feel included and involved with the work the President was doing.

When President Obama revolutionised the American healthcare system, the creative team at the White House had him explain the changes and the new system on a popular YouTube show. This made the policy a lot more accessible to everyday people and made the changes seem more human and more relevant than if they’d been announced from a podium in front of the press.

Create a diverse workforce

In order to appeal to a diverse audience, you need to have a diverse workforce. The Obama administration was the first to include interns from the opposing party in its design team. Though they kept these Republicans well away from the Twitter account, this enabled the designers to come up with ideas that would appeal to a wider cross section of the public.

A diverse workforce is also better able to innovate and come up with new and exciting ideas, two things that can make a big difference to the quality and the effectiveness of your output.

Don’t be afraid to have fun

Though many of the design projects carried out by the creative team at the White House are serious and important, they haven’t shied away from poking fun at the President and the administration when appropriate.

Playing with your brand and being brave enough to make fun of your organisation is a great way to show a more human side of your company. It also shows that you have confidence in your business and that you have a strong corporate identity.

Embrace your mistakes

Whether you’re the head of a local design company or the President of the United States, mistakes will happen. Owning up to your errors and learning from the things that didn’t go quite right with help you to grow as a professional and ensure that the decisions you make in the future are the right ones.

For more design tips and ideas, have a look around our site today.

4 Things You Didn’t Know About Your Website

If you own a business, you’re probably online. Which means you have a website. It looks great, maybe performs okay. All in all you’re pretty pleased.

But did your last web designer (or current) tell you anything you would not ordinarily know about your website? If not, we will!

14142288153251886811. You don’t have to register your website with search engines

There are still some web design agencies and SEO companies charging their clients to register their domain with search engines. It used to be the case that websites had to be submitted to search engines for indexing, but algorithms are so sophisticated nowadays webpages are visited by little crawler bots and indexed automatically.

2. You can say what you like

There is an unspoken protocol throughout every industry that commands businesses to be polite and respectful to their customers. As a result every company is nice on the surface and all put a glossy shine over people’s problems. But if it’s your website, you can say what you like! You will attract more customers than you lose by standing up and being brave so dare to be different.

3. Your website communicates to your audience

shareWe covered colour psychology in an earlier post, so if you don’t think your website communicates to people, think again. Design and colour communicate to your audience and evokes emotions. That may effect you customer so much that they decided to share your site on social media bringing even more people to your site.

But even on a basic level, visitors to your website will pass judgement about the way it looks and performs. If you have an out-dated design for example, your business appears old-fashioned and neglected.

If your site is not easy to navigate you appear disorganised and untrustworthy. If your product descriptions are vague you appear lazy and unhelpful. Either way, visitors will leave.

4. Web maintenance is easier than you think

The majority of website updates are fairly simple and only take about 30 minutes to perform. To be fair, your website has to be constructed well in the first place otherwise you will run into complications.

But for most professional web agencies, it’s a relatively straight forward task – so easy in fact you could probably do it yourself through your content management system.

So there you go, four things you didn’t know about your website, but now you do!

5 Web Design Lessons we can learn from the Biggest Sites around

Though it is constantly evolving and adapting to fit our changing needs, there are some principals of web design that hold true no matter what the content, style and purpose of a website is.

If you’re thinking about redesigning your site or are already in the process of giving it a facelift, check out these web design lessons that we can all learn from the biggest web giants out there.

facebook1. Facebook

Facebook has undergone regular updates over the years with each altering the layout and look and the social network.

One of the main lessons we can take from Facebook comes from its layout. Take a look at your homepage and you’ll see that all of the links you need to post, comment, search and message are right there in front of you. Visitors who want to look at more posts from friends and groups can scroll down their news feed at their leisure.

 

2. AirbnbScreen Shot 2016-04-19 at 16.40.31

For such a complex business, the Airbnb site is incredibly simple and easy to use. The main homepage is dominated by a full size video, while the copy of the site is limited to essential information only.

One aspect of the Airbnb site that’s especially impressive is the way they’ve placed the focus on credibility, using their star system and reviews to help reassure users that hosts are trustworthy and reliable.

wiki-logo

3. Wikipedia

The Wikipedia site offers a master class in how to keep web design simple. Containing almost no colour, no unnecessary links, no advertising and no gimmicks, Wikipedia is a great example of a content focused site that’s designed with the user in mind.

 

 

4. Google1414228815325188681

Like Wikipedia, the Google homepage keeps things simple. Though it’s one of the most used and most visited sites on the web, the Google main page is made up of large areas of white space, helping visitors to focus on the search bar and the task in hand.

 

instagram-logo5. Instagram

Instagram is a great example of placing the most important content on a site front and centre. Users’ photos are very much the star attraction on the site, with all other content kept to a minimum.

The site is also incredibly easy to use, with the accompanying app helping amateur photographers enhance their snaps and create works of art.

 

 

If there’s one thing we can learn from these titanic sites, it’s that less is more. Keeping it simple, focusing on usability and ensuring the most important content is clear and easy to find will help you to create an eye-catching site that’s stylish and practical

Get in touch with a member of our team to find out more.

Changes to Google Adwords and Other SEO Updates

At the end of February, Google announced that it was getting rid of its right hand ads bar for good. Users browsing the web from a desktop or laptop computer would no longer see a dedicated advertising column on the right hand side of their search engine results page, instead, ads will be incorporated into the main part of the results listings.

Though this may not sound like a groundbreaking change, it will affect both the user experience and the way that companies use Adwords and other SEO techniques. Understanding exactly what these changes mean for business will help you steer your SEO in the right direction and ensure your company isn’t left behind be the updates.

Why change?

Whenever Google updates its algorithms, working practices, logo or layout, there’s always a reason behind the change. One of the main factors motivating this change is the fact that Google believed the right hand ad bar simply didn’t work.

The tech giant started playing around with the right hand side bar a few months ago, removing it from certain searches and placing more paid ads in the results column. Google carried out a number of studies, including research that involved tracking eye movement, and found that users are much more likely to click on an add if it appears more naturally on the results page.

What does this mean for paid ads?

 

The number of ads shown on a search engine results page will shrink from around eleven to a maximum of seven. This means that competition for high value search terms will sky rocket and that Google will be able to ask a higher price for their Adwords.

Competition for places on the first page of the results listings is likely to become even fiercer, forcing paid advertisers to invest even more in their SEO marketing.

Is that the end for organic results?

With up to four paid ads at the top of the SERP and three at the bottom, the number of organic results on a page will be limited. What’s more, the paid ads at the top of the page will push organic ads ‘below the fold’ so users will have to scroll down to see results that have appeared organically.

This means that businesses that still want to appear on page one of Google – or to maintain their position wherever they currently appear in the listings – will need to put a lot of effort into ensuring their SEO is as good as possible.

If your company website needs a little TLC to bring it fully up to date, or you’d like to find out more about improving your SEO, get in touch with us or have a look around our website.

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