Friday, March 25, 2016

Google Changes the SERP

- Google changes the SERP
- Google Accelerated Mobile Pages
- Influencer influencing
- Digital and bad pizza
- Snap Vision
- B2B online

Special Bonus: Scott Galloway talks about the 4 horsemen

Google changes the SERP
The biggest news of this month actually happened last month but I wanted to see it in action a little bit before reporting on it so I could give you some good insight.

You may have noticed a pretty major change to Google's Search Engine Results Pages 9which search people call SERPs) Since February 18th. Paid search ads have disappeared from the right column They're just gone. And there are now up to 4 paid search ads at the top of the page above the organic results (There won't be 4 on every search, only on 'highly commercial queries' which are the most valuable search queries, including car insurance, mortgage rates, home equity line of credit. This is about 36% of searches) Finally, there will still be 3 more paid keyword ads at the bottom of the page. For a total of 7 ads.

Wow, huh?

I'm going to spend some time on this because 1. Any major changes to Google are important because they have the potential to change the face of digital marketing which will effect our business and 2. Because It also gives me an opportunity to spend some time on user experience and content quality, which as you know, are two subjects that are very close to my heart.

There's been a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth about this because with 7 ads on the page instead of 12, lot's of experts predict that cost per click will inevitably increase, maybe drastically because of lower supply of space and the higher Clickthrough rates of the ads. But that hasn't seemed to happen yet. Why?

Well, according to Wordstream data, only 14 and a half % of all clicks go to ads on the side or bottom-of-the-page. And the change only applies to Desktop, which is less than half of all searches. So only about 7% of queries are effected. And really less than that since Paid Keyword results at the bottom of the page will still be there.

Google says the change improves the User Experience and makes the experience more consistent from Desktop to Mobile, where the majority of searches now happen. Their data showed less visitors were clicking on the side rail so it's been eliminated. The 4 ads above the organic results at the top will have access to all the ad extensions, like Ratings, types, sub pages, addresses, phone numbers. And each extension makes the ads bigger. So those top 4 ads should be richer and therefore get more clicks. The other effect of these larger ads will be to push the organic results down the page even further. In most cases, and especially on mobile, searchers will have to scroll to see ANY organic results at all.

In addition, the new layout makes the ads look much more like organic results, so even though they're carry that little yellow 'Ad' label, 45% of consumers still don't realize they're clicking on and ad when they click the top links.

The right column now hosts knowledge graph content. This is when Google provides its own deeper information about a query beyond the links. For instance, if you search the name of a movie, the knowledge graph in the right column will show you the movie poster, the year it was made, who directed and starred in it, and links to movie reviews. Or if you search for a restaurant, the graph will show you a map, pictures of the restaurant, the address and phone number, type of food, zagat review, etc.

The only other thing that the right column will be used for is Product Listing Ads. Yes, ads, which are delivered as a carousel of vendor choices with pictures and pricing on searches for specific products. These used to appear in the center, but now have moved to the right where they'll stand out more.

So there will be more competition for the fewer paid search spots on the SERP. One way to win in this more competitive environment will be to pay more, but another way will be to have higher quality content in your ads. If CPC goes up. some companies will be squeezed out of the paid search market for the highest value keywords. That will mean more concentration on SEO, which for me will be a good thing. SEO is also about quality, relevant, customer-oriented content. And we need to get more consistently good at this because more than half of our Web traffic, both from Desktop and Mobile, comes from organic searches. So failure is not an option for us.

The big lesson, as always, is: know what your customers are looking for and provide valuable content to answer that need. Whether in paid or organic, that's what's going to get you to the top of the SERP.

How do we know what our customers are looking for? Come talk to us about it. The North America Digital Team is working with many of our brands to do Deep Keyword research which we call Customer Intent Modeling or CIM as well as Social Listening. These tell us what our customers are thinking about and talking about. what their challenges and needs are, what ideas they have and the words they use to describe them and search for solutions. That tells us what content we need to create. It also tells us where customers are finding their solutions, where these conversations are taking place and who is leading them.

There's lots more to say about this and I'll be expanding on this thread over the months ahead.

Accelerated Mobile Pages

Has anyone heard of the AMP project? This was started last October as an open source project by Google and Twitter to make Web pages load much faster to improve the Mobile user experience. It's just starting to be rolled out now, mostly by news organizations. It's kind of an open source equivalent to Facebook Instant News pages. AMP is a stripped down form of HTML. No Forms, limited very structured CSS, only a few standardized Javascript components, etc And it's designed to be light and cacheable. In fact, when Google indexes these pages, it will cache them for quicker delivery and it's expected that others will create cashing archives as well. The practice is intended for Moble pages as the name suggests, but it also works on desktop pages and I think we should start considering using AMP as we work on redesigns of our site. It's an easy way to do responsive design and it brings an elegant simplicity to pages on the desktop as well as quicker load times, which, combined with good content can also mean higher authority and search ranking.

Influencing Influencers

Some of you may have seen a note from Blake Cahill asking us to be vigilant about paying for influencers or native content. Lord and Taylor just received a costly and precedent-setting smack for what the FTC decided was misleading content around their 'Design Lab' campaign which featured both paid influencers and native published advertising content that looked like independent editorial. The company tried to make the case that it was using #designlab to indicated that this was part of a campaign. But the FTC wasn't buying and slapped them with a hefty fine. The lesson is that whether you're talking about an influencer or a publication that you're paying to represent you. The FTC rules state that
They have to give a truthful opinion,
They have to clearly disclose their affiliation/compensation
The brand has an obligation to monitor the 3rd party's activities to make sure they're complying
And if they're not, the brand has to make them correct or take down the non-compliant content.
In addition, for native advertising, Advertising messages not identifiable as advertising (based on the net impression to a reasonable consumer) are deceptive.

Digital and Bad pizza

In a disturbing development, pizza has become a harbinger of digital disruption in a bad way. The first ecommerce transaction happened in 1994 with an order for a pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut. And now, according to L2, local pizzarias have lost 21% of their market share in the last 5 years to the well known purveyor of bad pizza, Dominos. Online ordering has grown 300% faster than dine-in. And DOminoes is the winner. I'm sad that if this trend continues a generation of kids will never know the wonder of watching a master toss a spinning pizza into the air and catch it on his fists to stretch it out the last few inches. As a New Yorker, I'm an avowed Pizza snob, like Jon Stewart, I don't recognize Chicago Pizza as actual pizza and I'm suspicious of anything that has pineapples on it, has a stuffed crust, or is made outside the safe borders of the NY Metropolitan area. But Dominos and Pizza Hut are the worst, like a virus which has crept into our world while we were sleeping. Their only resemblance to pizza is their overall shape. New York local pizza places need to step up their digital game

SnapChat's Vision

I mentioned on our last call that Snapchat recently caught up to Facebook in Video views. Which is a really impressive feat given that they did it in less than 2 years. One reason is that they've streamlined the process of capturing video in their mobile app. You tap the button to take a pic and just hold it to capture video. Nice, right? As a result, it's now the go-to app for capturing socialvideo which is moving it towards being the go to social media app period. So what else can they do to make their app easier to use? How about not having to take your phone out of your pocket?

SnapChat has never produced a physical product, except branded merchandise, but they launched SnapChat Research division in February of last year and they've been recruiting hardware experts, including about a dozen wearable tech vets, for a secret project. A hint? SnapChat bought Vergence labs at the end of 2014. Until they were acquired, Vergence manufactured and sold Epiphany Eyewear, a cooler-looking Google Glass clone that recorded video of what the Wearer sees, and 5 of their top people are still with Snapchat. They also have an eye-tracking expert, a glasses designer. So there are indications that we might see hands-free instant social video from snapchat soon.


In the B2B space, we often hear that B2B ecommerce doesn't work either because of the long sales cycles or the high ticket items. So I was interested to see a new report from Accenture that finds 59% of B2B organizations see a third of customers transactions happening online. 86% allow customers to make purchases on their site. Only 14% offer no online purchasing options. And 92% say email marketing is the most prevalent B2B tactic. But we already knew that, right?