Bing Optimisation – Is It Part Of Your SEO Strategy?

Just over a week ago both the Australian and Canadian governments approved a deal to see Bing power Yahoo’s search results. So whilst Google has 87.79% share of search traffic down under, collectively under a Bing/Yahoo arrangement 1 in 10 clicks in Australia would go to a Bing search result. So suddenly this deal combined with the added promotion behind Bing in Australia means that marketers should take note of the important considerations to improve Bing rankings and exposure without comprising Google rankings.

The Core Elements

Overall it seems Bing has bought back some of the key elements that once held significant weighting within Google’s algorithm. However Bing has learnt from the loopholes used by black hat SEOs and improved on it to so ensure spammers don’t benefit from manipulating SERPs.

So what should a Webmaster focus on to rank on Bing?
Content and more content; Bing loves it and some experts recommend pages should contain a minimum of 300 words. In addition Bing seems to be a little anal and favours content which is free of spelling errors giving you an added reason to proof read your content.
It’s not how much you’ve got, it’s what you do with it; Back links do play a key role in optimizing for Bing however quantity is less important than the context of the link. In particular links from sites that are of a similar theme seem to provide the most strength to your Bing SEO efforts.
Keywords Tag – An oldie but a goodie; Bing’s own blog has advised webmasters to ensure they are optimizing keywords within all of the important parts of the code ie in H1 tags, Title Tags and even the keywords tag.
Give Love & Get Love – It seems that unlike Google, part of Bing’s algorithm favours sites that link out to other sites related to a sites theme.

Other Important Considerations

Outside of the core elements there are some other key variables which marketers need to consider to get the most out of their Bing search efforts.

Are you even there?

As stated above Bing’s algorithm does include some of the older Google techniques – but with a stronger monitoring system to detect SPAM and penalize offenders. As a result it seems that Bing is suffering from some teething problems. The Bing search blog seems to be somewhat inundated with webmasters whose sites have disappeared from the index for various reasons. Whilst Bing has similar rules in place to Google which cause sites to be de-indexed, Bing has also stated that as their algorithm changes, sites may disappear from the index completely as they have been incorrectly flagged as Spam.
Thus as a starting point it is important to ensure your site is in the index and if you are experiencing problems follow these instructions.

Bing Search ResultsBing Document Preview Feature

Bing provides a document preview function to allow searchers to instantly see more content on a page without the need to go to a website.

Why is this important? Not only can content help you rank but Bing uses this information to assist searches to find what they are looking for with a try before you buy type function. This means SEOs have direct influence over how search listings are presented, to attract more users to your site.
The examples below for Clive Peeters and Freedom Furniture demonstrate how some of the big retailers of Australia are currently being affected by this feature.

Enhancing the preview function

If you want to ensure that Bing is displaying useful previews, the most important thing is to ensure that site pages include useful content not just images and this content is featured at the top of your site code.

However if you are restricted with your current site, webmasters can also insert the tag within the tags on each HTML page to disable the feature.

There is also a site-wide exclusion, insert the following line in your web server’s HTTP header:
x-robots-tag: nopreview.

Want to learn more?

Bing has released a series of tools and articles to help Webmasters, get the most out of Bing. I have included some of the most useful links below:
Bing’s White Paper For Webmasters

If you have got any top tips to help fellow SEOs optimize for Bing please leave them below.

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Playing a Little Defence On The SEO Court

Google Spam Report, Defensive SEO

When developing and refining a search strategy, many SEOs focus on how to aggressively improve one’s own site rankings. But what many fail to do is consider playing defence when competitors are climbing the rankings at a rapid rate.

After managing the marketing function for a job site in what is considered a very competitive industry in the UK, I realised that it is rarely enough to rely on playing a purely offensive game because you may not get ahead if the other team is not playing by the rules.

And whilst the early days of SEO was rife with black hat SEO, it seems there are still many out there prepared to play the dangerous game of cat and mouse with Google to get ahead.

For those who therefore want to play a little “d” as part of their SEO strategy it is important to analyse the competitor sets strategies, to identify the more unsavoury tactics that may be deployed to outrank your site.

Here I will share 3 techniques that I have seen deployed by 3 different competitors that were in my competitive set.

Google Can Find Your Hidden text1. Hidden Text

This technique has been around for a long time but it still props up in various forms. In this particular instance the competing site hid text within the page making it invisible to the naked eye. However if you happened to click on a particular part of the page, the page would extend and the SEO copy would suddenly be revealed.

How can you spot it?

Compare content in the back end code with that on pages within a site. If the content is not visible on the site it could be hidden through the use of white text or by using a similar technique to the one that I have described above.

2. Excessive Link Buying;

Another prominent competitor in the space was engaging in excessive link buying to build artificial rank. Since 2008 Google has frowned upon the use of such a technique given its ease to build PageRank.

How to spot it?

Excessive link building is usually simplified through the use of a link broker. As a result the offending links usually adopt a similar format. Start by reviewing competitor sites utilising Yahoo Site Explorer. Look for links that appear on irrelevant or spammy sites. In addition look at how links appear on sites – are they in a similar format with the same anchor text and are there many of them?

3. Bogus Domains

Yet another competitor was using a technique whereby they registered a large number of domains to create bogus landing pages which were then hosted on different servers. These pages were created to target specific keywords and were used to point towards a master domain to make the site look popular by Google’s standards.

How to spot it?

This one can be a little more difficult to identify. Look for patterns in the types of domains pointing to the site, are they similar in nature? Are the pages just simple landing pages like doorway pages that link through to the master site? Do they provide the user with any value or do they simply look to be set up for the purpose of rankings?

Google Spam Report, Defensive SEOWhat to do about it?

The most important part to a defensive SEO strategy is to report an offending site to Google. Submit your case via the Google SPAM report form and Google will then review it which can lead to downgrading a sites PageRank, impact rankings or if severe can result in Google blacklisting the offending site from the SERPs.

Have you found a competing site that you think might not be playing by the rules? If so please email me at marketing@digitalmarketinglab.com.au and I would be happy to look at it for you.

 

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Google Caffeine – Espresso or Decaf Update

Google Caffeine Update

Google Caffeine AlgorithmLaunched earlier in the week, the new Google caffeine update is causing quite a stir in the search community. And whilst it is said to be the largest update since their Big Daddy change in 2005, is the impact to search rankings a strong espresso or more like a decaf? I’d say it is probably in between.

After some initial poking around of the new index at http://www2.sandbox.google.com/, I do believe at this stage there is a notable impact to search rankings but for most it will not require a search strategy overhaul……. at this stage.
In an interview with Matt Cutts, it was revealed that the underlying purpose for the Google caffeine update is to provide Google with the ability to speed up indexing to create an even larger index of content. Is this Google’s first step towards improving real time search results? The answer in my mind is yes. With the era of content upon us, and the increasing importance of sites like Twitter to break news, Google realises that their existing index was not cutting the mustard. So whilst the purpose of the new architecture is not set to overhaul the algorithm and significantly change how the engine determines relevance, it may be the platform to do so in the future.

Like many others I have spent a few hours comparing the results and have noticed several trends;

1. Prominence of news; Whilst Google news has held prominence since universal search was introduced, it seems that other news sites are definitely favored more heavily in the recent update. This was particularly the case when I searched on the latest topical issues – with some results from the new index delivering 7 / 10 listing from major newspapers versus 5 / 10 in the old index.

2. Universal Search Results; From the searches I conducted it seems that Google images and often videos have either dropped out of the top 10 search results, or moved down in the rankings.

3. Local Search Results; There definitely seems to be some changes within local search results. I conducted several tests, all demonstrating differences in the rankings. Perhaps however the most significant change was for the test I ran for “online marketing agency melbourne” which ranked 4 new sites in the top 10 results. The below screen shots demonstrate changes to the first 6 results on the first page.

Google Sandboxing SampleSandboxing Local Search

 

4. Social Media Prominence; The other major change noticed by several other leading SEO’s is related to the improved ranking of social media pages such as branded Facebook profile pages.

Should you panic? At this stage Google caffeine is still in beta, available for developers and super users to provide feedback. Thus before you go out and change your search strategy be aware that Google may tweak it before final launch. In addition over the coming weeks expect many SEOs to throw their hat into the arena, which will shed a lot more light on the subject and will provide you with knowledge to determine how to react to the changes.

Have a look for yourself
For those wishing to check out the new engine visit, http://www2.sandbox.google.com/. I would be interested to see what others think about the potential impact.

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What Have The Search Juggernaughts Got In Store For Us?

Search Engine Marketing

As the battle of the search giants continues, R&D rolls on. Google and Microsoft have taken the war from search engines to our desktops, to our mobiles and into our marketing budgets with one prime objective – DOMINATION.

So whilst we all feel a bit violated by how far these brands are prepared to invade our privacy – as marketers we are all benefiting from a range of free tools and their innovation is also creating a wealth of new opportunities to connect and collaborate with our intended audience.

So what are some of the latest innovations and how will these change the marketing landscape?

Google Wave

Google WaveGoogle wave is in marketing speak a communications and collaborations tool but to simplify it, wave is email and instant messaging on steroids. Google Wave, which was produced by the same engineers as Google Maps, offers functionality like email playback, image sharing features, real time IM and a suite of other interesting functions. With a release date set for sometime in September, Google Wave may, if widely embraced, change the way email is as we know it.

How will this change the landscape?

Wave could transform the traditional email marketing campaign and this could be an exciting prospect for the email industry. Wave does have some very funky tools that will enable email to become more social thus it could mark the start of a new era in email tools. To preview the platform click here – note the video is 1 hour 20 minutes long but after 20 minutes you will get the jist.

Bing Vertical Search

With the introduction of its new search engine, Bing wants to do more than provide search results. As its positioning states, Bing is a decision engine, as it aims to help users to make decisions related to key problems. As a result Bing is investing heavily within its vertical search categories such as travel, shopping, medical and news (view Bing US to see what Microsoft is creating). Bing sees the future of search in aggregating content from various sources into one rich experience that is easy to navigate. Thus although Google is already doing it through universal search, the information is not structured logically to support a users decision process and this is where Bing could gain a significant advantage.

But with the Bing launch now old news, I am probably not telling you much more than you already know. So the question is where is this going? While this is largely speculative, it is believed that Microsoft will expand its vertical search by up to 12 separate channels. My guess is that Bing will build verticals across jobs/careers, education, property and finance at a minimum. So whilst Bing has its sights set on vertical search it seems Google has similar ideas. Google has already begun entering the vertical arena with Google Real Estate and also Google City Tour. And whilst at this stage it is difficult to tell how successful their vertical search strategies will be, I feel if Bing stays on route with aggregating content and steering clear of white labelling third party supplier products, they might have one up on industry leader.

How will this change the landscape?

Bing vertical search expansion to our shores will largely depend on the uptake of the Bing search engine as a whole. If the uptake is not there, we may not see the vertical search channels evolve locally, however I still expect to see Google rise to the challenge and focus even more heavily on this space. Thus with Bing now powering Yahoo, and plans for expansion into vertical search, along with Google’s progression in the area, vertical search engines – such as product comparison sites may decrease in popularity as search engines start to win back vertical search categories.

Want to know more about Bing? View this 2 minute overview

What else are these giants getting up to?

Google AnalyticsHere are some of the other tools that have recently been released or are in the pipeline;

Google Natural Search Ranking; Launched earlier in the year, but somewhat under the radar Google now provides the ability for Google Analytics users to not only view organic keywords which bought traffic to a site but to determine how those keywords ranked. As personal and local search has made ranking measurement tools less accurate, this provides SEOs with added intelligence to improve for their organic search strategies. For more information on Google Natural search rankings click here

Google Voice; Whilst in beta for a number of years, Google voice lets users manage their voice services online. With a single phone number, users can manage their voice services online – and the beauty of the tool is that the number is tied to the individual not a location like a home phone number or a device like a mobile. At this stage Google Voice is a free service, but is only available in the US. It is unclear when Google voice could make its way to our shores – but if it does one thing is for sure – Google need to find a way to monetise this product so no doubt there could be some interesting advertising models surfacing here.

Bing Tweets Results; Real time search has received a lot of attention over the past few months because of Twitters rise to fame. In early July Bing announced its first steps towards integrating real time tweet from prominent individuals into their search results. In addition Bing has announced that this is the first way they are dipping their toe into the water. Thus there is no doubt that this is one of the areas they will continue to innovate within in the coming months.

Have you come across any other key innovations by the search giants? If so add them below.

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Mobile Search – It’s Just Different

Search Engines

In March 2009, Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, stated that mobile search will surpass PC search in years NOT decades. So whilst mobile still has a long way to go, it is definitely becoming another important channel for marketers to consider. Mobile search is just one of the many areas which will start to receive significant attention over the next 12 months, so I have collated some of the most interesting mobile search trends I have come across to date;

1. Search query length; According to a recent report published by several of Google’s researchers, the average users search query on a mobile phone is 15.89 characters. This is 18% fewer characters than the average length of a user search query on a desktop. In addition the average number of words per query is 2.44 on a mobile phone, which is 20% lower than search queries on a desktop. As a result, it is important to understand how users search on mobile by conducting specific mobile keyword research.

2. Type of queries; MobiThinking stated in their recent SEO Best Practice Guide that it takes users approximately 40 seconds and 30 key strokes to enter a short URL / search query. As a result predictive search queries presented by search engines play a big role in simplifying the mobile search experience. Thus from a mobile SEO perspective, it is important to place your site in the most common predictive search phrases related to your product or service offering.

Local Search Query3. Local Query Searches; As is widely published, mobile searches will often contain location based queries, however it is also important to note that users are not only searching for this content via search engines. Mobile applications have to date achieved much success, which is partly due to the effective presentation of information within these applications. Thus it is important to understand that optimisation for location based queries may not be enough. Consider how key applications related to your industry are gathering results from search engines and how your mobile site can deliver content in the format required to be featured within these applications.

4. Voice Based Mobile Search; Despite however the current trends in user behaviour, there is a significant advancement which is and will continue to revolutionise the industry and will turn what we know today on its head. This is the introduction of voice based search for mobile phones. Whilst Yahoo & Google developed applications for voice based search in late 2008, widespread adoption is yet to take hold and as Google continues to innovate in this area it will be an important space to watch. Voice based search for mobile will eradicate many of the time and keystroke related issues experienced by mobile users when searching. And although tt is obviously very earlier days on the voice search based front once widespread, mobile SEO will change considerably as “voice search queries” will differ considerably from “text based search” as users are not restricted by small keypads and screens.

Share any trends you have come across regarding the mobile search below;

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The Unloved Component of SEO – Internal Linking

Internal Linking SEO

Whilst part 1 of my “Taking Your SEO Knowledge Up A Notch” article covered external linking, part 2 covers my key tips for the lesser known linking concepts by client side marketers, known as internal linking. Below I have detailed 9 tips to round out my 20 linking tips.

1) Link Juice Flow; External link building helps to generate link juice to your site, however your internal linking structure is what helps to distribute it. As a sites homepage usually has the highest PageRank, it is important to develop a well thought out linking structure to distribute page rank to other pages in need of link juice within the site.

2) Tell it as it is; When creating internal links within your site, use descriptive text to describe your links to enable Google to understand the context of the links. Websites often use “Click Here” which does not provide Google with any clues as to the type of content that a particular page is linking to.

3) Map it out; Site maps are not only useful for users but can assist sites, particularly large ones, to have their pages easily indexed by spiders. This is because site maps provide one central directory of pages on a site, making it easy for search engines to crawl and index the pages on your site. There are 2 types of site maps needed these are HTML and XML. HTML site maps are loaded onto sites for users, whilst XML site maps can be loaded into the Google Webmaster tool and are indexable by other search engines.

Breadcrumbs in Web Design4) Leave a trail of breadcrumbs; Not only is breadcrumb navigation helpful for users to navigate a site, but by nature breadcrumb navigation are links, thus these can improve a sites internal linking. In addition if breadcrumb navigation contains relevant descriptive keywords it can add more value to your internal linking strategy.

5) Don’t build a monstrosity; It is important to consider the depth of your site. If a link is more than 3 clicks from the home page, it will drastically decrease the chance of Google being able to index it, especially if the page has no external links. Thus if your site is deeper than 3 clicks, consider how secondary level pages can be linked to those pages deep within the site.

6) Share the love; Outbound linking from your site is obviously a contentious issue because it channels valuable link juice away from your site. Some SEO experts however claim that linking out can contribute positively to your sites ranking. How? Amongst many other variables in the Google algorithm, it is believed Google analyses the quality of outbound links from a site as this provides an indication of if the site is a quality source of content. In addition linking out can increase the number of links pointing back to your site, as it creates a signal that your company is prepared to engage in the natural linking process of the web.

7) Don’t Pussy Foot Around; Footers are becoming more well known for containing content specifically crafted for search engines. Whilst footers provide a useful way to link to important pages from the home page, excessive use of them could negatively impact the flow of page rank as Google may penalise such behaviour. Thus it is important to consider how your site architecture can best support your SEO efforts from the get go. In the first instance consider how best a site’s navigation and internal linking efforts can effectively distribute pageRank without sole reliance on the footer navigation.

8) Don’t over do it; Before you start to cross link every page think about the impact on your user base. Whilst internal linking provides SEO benefits it can confuse the user and drive the user away from your site. SEO is the art of driving traffic from search engines and converting it – ranking in search engines is only half the job.

9) Just do it; Webmasters and marketers alike are fortunate to control on-page optimisation, thus it is so surprising that internal linking is so under-utilised compared with techniques such as copy optimisation. Before however diving in, invest the time to develop a structured linking plan rather than using a scatter gun approach. My final piece of advice is do it (internal linking) and do it well and it will probably give you an edge over many of your competitors.

Review the first 11 external linking tips here.

If you have any other internal linking tips, please add them below

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Linking – Take Your SEO Knowledge Up A Notch

External Linking

After interviewing for my replacement, I realised that whilst many client side marketers claim they have experience in SEO, usually their experience doesn’t extend beyond the basics. In particular most seem to think that SEO is no more than onsite copy optimisation.

Yes as client side marketers we can’t be experts at everything but I strongly believe you cannot manage something if you don’t understand it. Thus it is time for client side marketers to move their SEO knowledge up a notch and understand one of the other core SEO strategies – LINKING.

In this 2 part series, I will detail 20 of the most important things you need to know about linking:

1. It’s a 2 sided affair; There are 2 sides to linking strategies – internal and external (back links) and both are important. Part 1 of this series will cover some of the most important considerations for external link building.

External Linking

2. PR is not the only way; There are many different techniques to build links outside of PR some of the most widely utilised include;
* Article Sites
* Free Directories (said to be decreasing in importance but still valuable)
* Social Media Campaigns
* Blogs
* Paid Directories (use sparingly but Yahoo Directory is a must)
* Partner sites
* Institutions / Industry Bodies / Government Sites

3. Not all links were created equal; A key part of Google’s algorithm is based on its PageRank calculation which determines the popularity of a site based on a number of factors. PageRank isn’t just about the total number of inbound links your site has, some links will hold more value than others. Thus when identifying suitable sites for back linking purposes, look for those that possess a Google page rank of 3 or above.

SEO and Content Strategy4. Deep links are important; External back linking strategies should aim to build deep links into a site, not just link to a sites home page.

5. It’s not what you link, it is how you do it; Link context and position on an external site is as important as the link itself. When obtaining a link try to ensure your link is coded with descriptive text. In addition it is important to consider the number of other links on the page. Back links will receive their share of influence based on this information so a listing on a high ranking website will still have little effect if there are dozens of other links listed.

6. Beware of the no follow tag Many sites particularly the popular ones ie Wikipedia don’t pass page rank as the sites links are tagged with what is called the no follow tag. To identify if a site is using the no follow tag use the Firefox Search Status plug in

7. Don’t pay the price; Extensive paid links can result in your site being penalised by Google. Refer to the Matt Cutts comments in late 07 on the issue

8. Socially aware; Social media sites don’t pass rage rank. But this doesn’t mean they are not a useful source of link creation as the collaborative web allows content to be distributed and syndicated onto third party sites. Thus social media can provide a less labour intensive tactic to build back links for SEO purposes.

9. There is more to linking than page rank; Many SEOs lose sight of the other benefits of linking. Whilst some sites may not pass the valuable link juice there is still a significant benefit to external site links. For instance if you can obtain a link on a third party site which ranks well within search engines, this can provide an opportunity to dominate search results and increase traffic to your site.

10. Maintain Control; If you are outsourcing your linking strategy to an SEO agency ensure you know the potential back links sources. Many organisations do not know which sites are being used for external linking strategies and it is not uncommon to hear of brands whose links have ended up on spammy sites or worse on those with adult content.

11. The future is real; Whilst the past few years have been dominated by artificial linking efforts, the future will see Google place higher importance on real popularity gained through social media.

Have you got any tips for external link building, if so add them here.

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Local Search – Why & How

Evolving Local Search Strategy

Why is it important?

Those who read my blog regularly will know, there is rarely an article that does not contain statistics. So to start you off here are some statistics which justify the importance of local search;

Local Search Growth – According to a study by ComScore, local search volume has grown at a faster pace than regular web searches. Year on year, local search volume grew by 58% (vs. 21% for regular search) and now represents 12% of all user searches. In the Australian market this therefore equates to approx 1.3 million local searches per year.

Mobile Internet Growth – According to a recent report from Nielsen, 68% of all Australian mobile devices have mobile internet access, and 44% of those utilised their mobile device to access the internet. As mobile internet provides GPS tracking, it opens up many opportunities for the delivery of local search results.

Google’s Focus On Local Search; For sometime Google has been working on the delivery of more local search results for its users. One of their latest blog articles, covers the wider spread use of maps to deliver local search results even when a location has not been entered with the search term. This targeting is executed through the use of IP targeting.

How to go Local?

Local Domain Extensions1. Domain Extension; If you are yet to register your domain, consider the use of a .com.au domain especially if you have a local business. Whilst a .com domain can be appealing from a cost perspective, it is outweighed by the lost opportunity from an SEO perspective.

2. Local Host Provider;
One way Google determines if a site is local to a country is by the location of a sites server. It is not enough to host your site with a local provider as even though their offices are located in Australia their servers may be hosted overseas. Refer to http://www.whois.sc/ to determine where your hosting provider is located.

3. Google Local Business Listing;
Secure your local business listing through the Google local business centre at www.google.com/local/add. It isn’t however enough just to claim the listing, ensure that you provide comprehensive information which products and services, office hours, images and even user reviews and discount vouchers.
As an extra tip if your organisation covers several locations register your business in the separate localities. To do so you will need a physical address which can be achieved through acquiring a PO box in each additional location.

So now you know why to optimise for local search here are 8 tips to do so:


4. Contact Us / About Us Address Optimisation
– Google is aware that address / location information for a business is usually held within the about us or contact details section of a site, thus ensure that you have your full business address/es listed on the relevant pages even if it is not crucial for your customers to know your physical office location.

Local Directory Listing5. Local Directory Listings
– Whilst directory listings have lost some of their value from a “link juice” perspective, listings detailing location details, can assist Google to determine your location. Maintain your listings on yellowpages.com.au, truelocal.com.au and any of the other prominent Australian directories.

6. Content Optimisation – It is important to also make your location prominent throughout your site. Where relevant optimise your content to include location details (ie within meta tags, and within copy). Don’t make the mistake of stuffing your content with location keywords – remember it needs to make sense for your users.

7. Local Speech Optimisation
– If your product or service location is usually referred to with a nickname – also try optimising your site for this location as well ie Chaddy vs Chadstone.

8. Google Webmaster Location
– Within the Google Webmaster Tool, there is now a setting to select your Geographic location. If you are not familiar with the Google Webmaster tool visit www.google.com/webmasters/tools/

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Your Business Case For Search – Aussie Trends & Statistics

Social Networking Trends

Whether you are starting out in search, have an existing strategy you want to expand or are trying to sell search marketing to your clients, a good business case is essential. Australian statistics and trends to do this are essential but often difficult and very time consuming to come by.

I know that scouring the internet to find this information is not effective use of your time so I have done it for you. In this latest post I have also included some commentary on what impact these statistics have on your search strategy.

Search Market Share in Australia

1) Google – 91%
2) Ninemsn / Live – 3.9%
3) Yahoo – 3.15%
(Source: Hitwise Australia, April 09)

What does this mean? It is obvious that your SEO efforts should concentrate on ranking in Google, however do not discount Ninemsn & Yahoo for PPC as they can be a good low cost/competition channel for PPC advertising.

Searches Per Month
ComScore data released in September 2008 demonstrates how Australians search volume compares to our AsiaPacific counterparts. Every month nearly 10,000,000 Australian searches are conducted, which is 115 searches per user – the highest in the entire Asia Pacific region. This demonstrates the dependence Australians have on search engines as a gateway to the internet.

Search Growth
Many brands have still been slow to adopt Digital and continue to plough marketing expenditure into offline activities. Australians increasing reliance on search engines to research purchase decisions is evident in the growth in search volume overall and across key sectors.

Key Statistics Overall

Australian research by Outrider Australia released in December 2009 showed 80% of consumers use online research to inform their purchase decision.

Whilst Google announced January 2008 to January 2009 experienced a 20% growth in overall search traffic in Australia.

Sectors in Detail

Travel PlanningFinancial Services
Online Research Dependence;
45% of insurance purchases, and 44% of finance decisions are researched online.
12 month increase in Search Volume;
– 74% increase in banks and financial services (Nov 07 – Nov 08)
– 24% rise in credit card searches (Dec 07 – Dec 08)

Travel
Online Research Dependence;
Of those researching a travel decision 79% used online channels to do so.
12 month increase in Search Volume; 37% increase in travel related searches (Dec 07 – Dec 08)

Retail
Online Research Dependence;
Monash’s Australian Centre for Retail Studies has found that 50 per cent of Australian shoppers research their retail purchases online before they get to the store to buy.

Automotive
Online Research Dependence;
46% of potential car buyers head to the internet to conduct research related to their purchase decisions.
12 month increase in Search Volume “Automotive deals” achieved a 24% increase in search traffic (Dec 07 – Dec 08)

Real Estate
Online Research Dependence;
Nielsen online research in 2008 demonstrated just under 9 in 10 property buyers head to the internet for research & 85% for renters.
12 month increase in Search Volume: 41% increase in real estate related search volumes (Dec 07 – Dec 08)

Keyword Searches

At what stage of the purchase cycle are users searching;
Outrider Australia research showed overall search engines are used throughout the consumer research process with 27% conducting keyword searches midway through, and 9% search just prior to purchase.

In addition, research also found that the majority of those using a search engine first conducted a generic (or unbranded) keyword search.

What does this mean? It demonstrates the need to be within the users decision set early on, as searches diminish closer to purchase. It is important to rank for the 2 and 3 phrase terms not just those in the long tail – as longer tail terms are usually within the latter phases of the search cycle. The research also demonstrates the need for big brands to ensure that they are within the decision set – as relying on awareness alone will not guarantee a sale.

Click Share In Australia it is believed that approximately 18% of clicks go to paid search, whilst 82% goes to natural search. Enough said about why both PPC & SEO are important to be used in combination.

It’s in the long-tail Identifying Australian statistics for growth in search length has been difficult thus US statistics are detailed below. Industry experts have indicated that Australia is following the global trend of users adopting longer search terms to source the information they are looking for.

What does this mean? The long tail growth demonstrates the need for an integrated PPC & SEO program. Some organisations adopt an either/or approach however the 2 strategies should work in combination. It is too costly to optimise your site for all long tail search terms thus it is important to adopt a comprehensive PPC strategy.

Browser Searching

Browser SearchWeb users are adopting the Google search box as a browser and this is evident in the top global searches for 2008, all of which were brand names.

The top global search terms for the year of 2008 were;
myspace
craigslist
ebay
youtube and
myspace.com

What does this mean? As users become lazier it is important that you are bidding on your own brand to ensure you are not losing traffic to competitors. Whilst organisations can not bid on trademark brand names, they can bid on non trademarked brand names and other brand related terms.

Search Types

Local Searches Are Now 12% of All Searches,
According to a study by ComScore, local searches are growing at a faster pace than regular Web searches. Year over year, local search volume grew by 58% (vs. 21% for regular search) for a total of 15.7 billion searches. This represents 12% of all searches at the top 5 search portals.”

What does this mean? Is your site optimised for local search? Is your site submitted to the Google Local business centre. Local search will continue to increase as the adoption of mobile internet grows. Google is heavily investing in serving users with local results – demonstrated by its latest change in local maps which serves users information based on IPs so it is important that you understand local search and adapt your site/content accordingly.

If you have any other market information to share please do so by commenting below.

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Google’s Marketing Toolbox – 20 Free (OR Nearly Free) Google Marketing Products

Blogger Website

In their quest to dominate our entire internet experience, it is no wonder that Google wants to be a 1 stop shop for marketers – given that we pay the bills.

Digital Marketing Lab has summarised the Google tools that we know are out there for marketers to use. If we have missed any please add them below.

Site Resources & Tools

Site Resource and ToolsGoogle Analyticswww.google.com/analytics/

Google Analytics provides a complete website analysis tool to track site performance. Over the years Google has built on the basics to provide a sophisticated web analytics tools which offers conversion analysis, site overlay analysis, custom reporting creation tools and benchmarking along with all of the standard reporting metrics to measure site performance.

Website Optimiserwww.google.com/websiteoptimizer

Website optimizer provides a tool to conduct A/B and multi-variant testing on your website to improve conversion of landing pages. The website optimiser has been built with in-depth but visual/easy to read reporting to make informed decisions based on tests results.

Google Site Searchhttp://www.google.com/sitesearch/

Google site search provides web owners with the ability to create a simple onsite search function to enable users to search onsite content. This is one of the Google products which incurs a charge – however pricing starts from as low as $100 per year.

Google Custom Searchhttp://www.google.com/coop/cse/

Google custom search is a more sophisticated search function which enables websites to aggregate search results from a variety of other sites/sources. This function is free however search results will also appear with paid ads included, however for a fee of $100 per year search results will appear with no ads.

Google Maps Site ResourceGoogle Mapswww.code.google.com/apis/maps/

The Google API for Google Maps allows organisations to plug Google Maps into their websites. The API allows you to customise maps to feature a range of content/information to enhance your users experience.

Google AdSensehttps://www.google.com/adsense

Google AdSense enables website owners to publish relevant advertising content on sites and earn revenue from Google by doing so. The sites added to AdSense are part of the Google Content Network.

Search Tools

Google Toolbarwww.toolbar.google.com/

The Google Toolbar is a browser application which displays the PageRank of the particular page a user is viewing on a site.

Google Webmaster Toolwww.google.com/webmasters/tools/

The Google Webmaster Tool provides you with the ability to view detailed information as to see how Google perceives your site to be performing. The kind of data available includes site errors, top performing keywords your site is ranking for in SERPs and actual positions, internal/external linking data, along with the ability to upload an XML site map.

Google Trend Site ResourceGoogle Trendswww.google.com/trends

Google Trends provides “hot trends” for the top 100 terms searched in the US (so not that useful for Aussies) but it can also provide trends for particular websites across the world. With the tool you can view the growth of Twitter over the past few years and identify similar sites in that category which can lead to new marketing opportunities.

Google Keyword Researchhttps://adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal

The Google Adwords Keyword Tool provides you with a keyword research tool for both SEO and PPC campaign research. The tool provides keyword volumes for the previous month, plus graphical representation of keyword traffic over the past 12 months.

Google Insights – www.google.com/insights/search

Google Insights provides a tool to gauge keyword trends, determine where the search volumes are more/less prevalent across a given country, the type of content search being conducted ie image / video, local etc and a host of other information.

AdWords Editorwww.google.com/intl/en/adwordseditor/

Whilst the Google AdWords program is a paid resource, the AdWords editor provides an offline campaign tool which makes the creation of PPC campaigns, light work. Once completed the data can be uploaded into your Google AdWords account.

Social Media Tools

Blogger WebsiteBloggerwww.blogger.com

Bought by Google in 2003, Blogger is one of the leading free blogging tools on the market. Blogger provides the ability to upload everything from text to images and videos and even the ability to blog via your mobile phone.

Google Alertswww.google.com/alerts

Google Alerts provides an email alert service based on a query or topic. The alert service can be utilised to identify online reputation issues, track community discussions and even track competitor activity.

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