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“We are spending our budget smarter with better results for all of our websites because of Nina Hale Inc.’s technical, SEO and PPC expertise. Our programs continue to achieve greater success each month we work with them.” — Heather Hayes, Interactive Marketing Supervisor, Stratasys

Blog Archive

Archive for April, 2012

Google AdWords Conversion Tracking Now Available for Ad Extensions

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Quietly like a ship in the night, Google recently made a slight tweak in Google AdWords reporting that made tracking ad extensions performance just a little bit easier – you can now see conversion data for extensions in Google AdWords. The AdWords blog did not mention this fun little update, but PPC sleuths across the web soon started spreading the news.

While some may point out that this update is not really groundbreaking (you could always infer this data with some Google Analytics finagling), I still say it’s worthy of a blog post or two. Ad extensions are extremely useful facets of Google search ads that can help to drive click-through and conversion rates. Being able to more easily report on the performance of the extensions themselves (rather than just the ads they were associated with, as before) can help us to kick account performance up a notch.

Before I get ahead of myself, here’s how to see the data:  Go to your “Extensions” tab in AdWords and add the column “Conv.” (which wasn’t available on this report before). This layout gives you data for the particular set of extensions you are looking at and reports if your ad received a conversion while the extensions were showing. On a related note, you can further refine the report by segmenting by “click type” to see if the conversion came from a click on the actual extension, or on the headline that was accompanying the extensions.

Google AdWords Extensions Conversion Tracking

So what does this mean? Is this really any different than segmenting your data by click-type and seeing the performance labeled “Sitelinks”? Yes and no.

Yes: You can now see conversion data associated with a specific set of extensions. So, let’s say you are testing two different sets of sitelinks to see which set drives a higher conversion rate. With this update, you can now see the conversion rate associated with a specific set of sitelinks. And you can see this all within the Extensions tab, without digging around for the data elsewhere.

No: You could always dig this up in Google Analytics if you appended your sitelinks destination URLs with UTM parameters. We’ve been doing this on our accounts because we didn’t have access to this data in AdWords. Now it’s just that much easier to optimize based on the conversion data available in AdWords.

A pessimist may say, “Rachel, this is all well and good, but you still can’t see how a specific sitelink performed. You can only see how an entire set of sitelinks performed.” And that pessimist would be right.  Sitelink reporting at the most granular level (each specific link) is still missing from AdWords. So, if you want to see how a specific link did, continue the method of appending UTM parameters to your destination URLs and analyze performance in Google Analytics. But I wouldn’t be surprised if specific extension performance reporting will be available soon.

Happy Reporting!

Simple Content Audits for SEO and Visitor Engagement

Monday, April 9th, 2012

When was the last time you took a good, long look at your website? If you have a blog, do you have any idea how many posts you’ve made over the years? How about a mobile version of your site or older versions that are languishing out there untouched, possibly undermining your latest and greatest business objectives?

A content audit is the first essential step before undertaking any content marketing initiative, and it makes good business sense to review your web presence on a regular basis.

Depending on the tools used to conduct the audit, you can gain a very clear understanding of the amount of content you have to work with, the condition of each page with regard to search engine optimization, and the performance of each page with regard to visitor engagement.

The most useful format for content audits is a spreadsheet, preferably with multiple columns that give you an at-a-glance look at the URL, title, meta description, meta keywords.

There are a number of subscription-based paid tools you can use to “crawl” your website, but if your site is 500 pages or fewer, and you really want to focus on the SEO value of each page, the tool that provides the most comprehensive look at each page is Screaming Frog SEO Spider. (If you have a larger site, you can purchase an annual license, or discounted multiple licenses, from this UK-based company).

Screaming Frog SEO Spider is a great tool to use for content audits.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider

The spreadsheets produced by the Screaming Frog program are chock full of valuable information. Organized by URL, you’ll get the status code for each page, title and character count, the meta description and character count, meta keywords information, canonical details, h1 and h2 heads with character counts, as well as the number of links to and from each page.

Screaming Frog SEO Spider spreadsheet example

Screaming Frog SEO Spider produces comprehensive spreadsheets that can alert you to issues and opportunities in your website or blog content.

With regard to content audits for visitor engagement, Google Analytics is still one of the best ways to gauge the performance of each page in your site.

By looking at page views, time on page, bounce rate and the percentage of people exiting the site, you can easily see which pages are performing well, holding the visitor’s interest, and leading them to other pages before they leave. Pages that aren’t performing well can be singled out for more intense scrutiny, and rewritten, reworked or removed from the site, depending on your needs.

Before undertaking a full scale audit of your content, these simple content audits can reveal quite a bit about the overall health of your site or blog, and the content it contains. You may be able to better gauge the resources you’ll need to undertake an in-depth content inventory and analysis. You may also be able to determine whether you have the resources you’ll need in-house, or if it makes more sense to outsource this first, most important step in any content marketing project.

Google’s Project Glass: Too Tempting of an Idea to Resist

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Google Glasses are stylish!The dystopian possibilities of Project Glass are not enough to discourage innovation. Here comes your heads up display and real time video feed, possibly followed by large scale social behavior implications.

I’m still on the fence as to whether Project Glass is an April Fools hoax, but after considering the possibilities, I’ve come to the conclusion that even if it is a joke now, they are an inevitable innovation, and things aren’t going to be the same. Here they are:

 

Here’s a video that explains the dream. Heads up display, with a phone, video capabilities, voice commands and Google services integrated.

Here’s a photo of one of the Google founders (supposedly) wearing them.

Google Glasses on some Google guy

They are definitely an evolution from what one traditionally associates with virtual reality.

Helmet

The concept is mind boggling. Gawker calls them “the creepiest tech of the millennium,” and Forbes observes that Google Glasses “make a persistent, pervasive surveillance state inevitable.” You don’t have to think hard to consider abuse. The locker room. Bars. Dating. Job interviews. These things would never be the same. Enough said.

I keep thinking this has to be a hoax. Then I see this mashup. The advertising possibilities being mocked in conjunction with the novelty of mapping, streaming video and local services make this seem simply inevitable.

So, let’s imagine that these could be coming soon. We consider that they could lead to a dystopian police state. Also, inevitably, one will be marketed to in real time.

One would think it’s impossible until you consider the applications. Streaming stats at sports events, integration with Snaptags at conferences, real estate shopping with augmented reality. It’s too interesting of an idea for technologists and consumers to resist, whatever the privacy concerns. I’m not a cynic, but I’m a realist.

How could they not be real?

Google +1′s Still Affecting Rankings

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

For all the hard work Google puts into minimizing the affect of black-hat SEO tactics on search rankings, it’s curious that they still provide one of the most easily abused tools out there: the Google +1 Button. For a mere 50 cents or less, anyone can buy a unique +1 from companies like  Plussem.com.  500 +1s– $160. With a little budget, anyone could have all the Google Plusones they want. So we asked, does the +1 still work as well as it did when Google+ first rolled out? We think they might not be as effective.

One of our tests involved a particularly bad recipe on one of the most unloved recipe sites on the internet. Easy-recipe.net. This site hasn’t ranked for anything since 2008– and even then it was on a different domain– so really, easy-recipe.net had nothing going for it. UNTIL the Google +1!

We purchased a fresh batch of +1s for the recipe “Fat-Free Apple Crisp”– which as no surprise did not rank in the top 200 results for “fat free apple crisp”. With +1s in place, the intrepid recipe started to climb! Aspiring for the number one spot, the recipe stalled at 11 and stayed there for several weeks.

Now, since the April 3rd algorithm changes we have seen that poor recipe slip and are now finding it as far down in Google Results as the middle of page three.

It could be the timing of the drop in rank with the most recent algorithm changes is just a coincidence and that the +1 has a limited lifespan. Or could it be that Google Algorithm changes did diminish the importance of +1s in search rankings.  We aren’t sure.

So… we’ll continue to test and will report what we find.

Search Engine Use in 2012

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a new study on Internet usage last month. It’s a daunting read – 42 printed pages! (for those who like paper) – but very insightful and worth the read to better understand today’s search engine user.

One of the main takeaways from the in-depth study is that search engines are more popular than ever. We’re not surprised, but the stats back up the assumptions. Pew says “in January 2002, 52 percent of all Americans used search engines. In February 2012 that figure grew to 73% of all Americans.”

The report goes on to explain that on any given day so far in 2012, nearly 60 percent of adults using the Internet use a search engine. And by “a search engine,” they basically mean Google, as 83% of people use it over other engines these days (compared to 47% in 2004).

While Google is the current reigning king of search engines, the report does highlight that many Internet searchers are “anxious about the collection of personal information by search engines and other websites and they do not like the idea of personalized search results… .”

It’ll be interesting to see how Google’s introduction of “Search+ Your World” affects these already-weary users. In fact, 73% of survey respondents said they thought personalized search results were a bad thing, “because it may limit the information you get online and what search results you see.”

Despite the reluctance to get on board with personalized search, the report clearly illustrates that the reliance on search engines isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, there’s also a lot of data around the increase of mobile search. And that was a new thing not that long ago, as well.

To geek out with us, read the whopper Search Engine Use in 2012 report and let us know of any surprises!