Thursday, 28 October 2010

Google Place Search changes results

Google has made a significant change to its local search results with the introduction of Place Search announced yesterday. Whereas previously, a localised search term (such as 'plumbers in sydney') would display a map at the top of Google's search result, with up to 10 companies listed alongside. The layout and presentation of these type of results have no changed, with more emphasis being placed on companies listed in Google Places (Maps).

Google has clustered search results around specific locations to enable searchers to make comparisons and decide which businesses to contact or visit. The new results have moved the map to the top right of the results and listing are marked with red pins. The main search results include more information for each of these local business listings, as well as links from across the web, including reviews.

Place Search results will begin appearing automatically on Google when the search engine predicts that the user is searching for local information. In addition, there is also a new link for 'Places' in the left-hand panel of the search results page where users will also now see their location listed and have the option to change this to another location if required.

Google says that they have made these new Places results possible by developing technology to better understand places ad user locations. With Place Search, Google is dynamically connecting hundreds of millions of websites with more than 50 million real-world locations. They automatically identify when sites are talking about physical places and cluster links even when they don’t provide addresses and use different names.

Google's new local search results layout includes more relevant links on a single results page, with sometimes up to 30 or 40. So, they say that instead of doing 8-10 searches, users should find the results they want much quicker - in testing, they say that Place Search saves people an average of two seconds on searches for local information.

This change places more emphasis on the need for companies to get control of their Places business listing and to optimise this content as much as possible to achieve high rankings for relevant searches. It's another way to achieve visibility in the search listings and coincides with Google's attempt to clamp down on the content and format of listings that some companies have added.

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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Google introduces Boost for local advertisers

In another new product announcement from Google, local advertisers in parts of the US have the opportunity to test Google Boost, which enables business owners to easily create online search ads from directly within their Google Places account. No ongoing management is needed after the initial set up, and this beta is currently available to select local businesses in San Francisco, Houston and Chicago.

Boost ads are eligible to appear in the 'Sponsored Links' section of Google.com and Google Maps search results. Beyond the basics like company name, address, phone number and website, the advert may also include the number of reviews received by the business, an average star rating and a link to the Place page to help potential customers find additional useful information about the advertiser's business. When a map appears alongside the results, a blue pin will help searchers quickly find the business location on the map.

To create an advert, local advertisers will need a short business description, a web or Place page, some business categories and a monthly budget. From there, Google will automatically set up an advert campaign, figuring out the relevant keywords that will trigger the ad to appear on Google and Google Maps, and how to get the most out of the budget allocated. A full AdWords campaign isn't required but Boost works in the same way so that local advertisers only pay when a potential customer actually clicks on the ad. Basic ad performance data is available from the Google Places dashboard.

Boost does not affect the ranking of the free, organic business listings in any way. Google also says they will review the data and effectiveness of this trial and may make changes before making decisions about any future expansion.

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Thursday, 21 October 2010

Google improves Bid Simulator tool in AdWords

Google has recently made a number of changes in AdWords to provide advertisers with estimates about the impact of bid level changes. Previously this included the ability to see the estimated number of impressions with the highest bid level, and a new blog post reports on another change whereby advertisers can view bid simulations across all keywords in an ad group at once.

This new adgroup level bid simulator provides simulations for two types of changes - applying a single bid to all the keywords in the ad group, and updating the adgroup default bid. Google says that, for some advertisers who manage bids at the keyword-level, they could achieve similar or better results by managing bids by using a single adgroup default Max CPC bid.

Google provides some examples of ways to use the bid simulator in the blog post and the intention of this tool is for advertisers to see ways of making bidding decisions across keywords in aggregate. They suggest checking the adgroup level simulations to find out if using a single bid for all the keywords in the adgroup could save time and money. In addition, low traffic keywords could be managed in aggregate by using the adgroup default bid for them by deleting their keyword level bids.

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Monday, 18 October 2010

Google introduces In-Page Analytics

A new feature within Google Analytics has been announced in their blog - In-Page Analytics provides users with a method of viewing the Analytics data superimposed onto their website for the relevant stats on page usage and content. Google says that they have introduced this in response to user comments, to help website owners and marketers visualize how their site visitors navigate on a given website page.

This new feature is similar to the Site Overlay report, which Google admits hasn’t worked as well it could due to issues with different site designs and functionality. In-Page Analytics is still in beta and more features are expected to be added soon.

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Thursday, 14 October 2010

New link data in Google Webmaster Tools

The Google Webmaster blog has announced the introduction of new information within the "Links to your site" feature. The updated content now shows a summary of which domains link the most to the website, the pages on the website with the most links, and a sample of the anchor text that external sites are using when they link to the website.

This is an excellent new addition to the array of data provided for website owners, and in particular the knowledge about inbound links can be a key factor in the marketing and traffic volumes coming to the site.

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Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Yahoo launches new search interface

Yahoo has announced a revised look to its search engine, with a graphical interface that it hopes will attract more users. The change has been covered widely, including by Advertising Age, which reports that Yahoo's new design allows for more display-like advertising placements. This coincides with Yahoo's move to integrate Bing's search engine into these new look listings.

The changes are going to be introduced gradually so that whilst most searches conducted across the site won't be affected immediately, a search for musical artists, movies, Hollywood personalities or trending news topics will appear in a new format called the "accordion module." With the new layout, a window of information, called an "overview," loads at the top of the page that breaks up results into regular links, images, videos, events and even results from Twitter.

The idea from Yahoo is to "entertain" the user, as well as to provide relevant search results. Whereas Google's approach has always been to move searchers off their site as soon as possible by presenting them with the most relevant results, quickly, in contrast Yahoo's new search page appears to be designed to keep users on the page.

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Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Local searches dominated by mobile and social

A report by MediaPost claims that 45% of consumers in the US don't have a specific business in mind when conducting a local search online. According to recent research by 15miles, more local business searchers begin with general keyword terms in search queries. They have products and services in mind, but they are not sure where to make the purchase.

On the other hand, 56% of social and 60% of mobile users are more likely to search with specific businesses in mind because they are already outside the home looking for a nearby business to fill a need. As a result of this activity, the study points to a lack of sophisticated search functions in social networks for the differences in behaviour.

Additional research by comScore identified the power of local, mobile and social search among consumers, with 70% of survey respondents using search engines, online Yellow Pages or social networks as their primary sources of local business information. Local search engine queries continued to increase at a strong rate with 9% year-over-year growth.

By measuring consumer behavior and the impact on decisions, the study reveals insights that are necessary to influence marketers' search strategies. Key factors included:
* Online search is the preferred method for information about local businesses, with 70% of consumers citing online sites as their primary source.
* Search engines are most popular, but they are not growing as fast as other media.
* Local searchers are more apt to buy.
* Print is declining, but it still holds value for today's consumers as a secondary source.
* With emerging media on the rise, a diverse media mix must now include social and mobile marketing.

Consumers who use social networks and mobile smartphones are more likely to use and write reviews. More than 40% have submitted between 2-5 reviews in the past 30 days. In addition, 78% of social networkers and 71% of mobile users consider consumer ratings and reviews important in making their purchase selections.

Of those participating in the survey, 81% believe it's important for local businesses to respond to questions and complaints on social sites; 78% want special offers, promotions and information about events; and 66% believe that company photos are important.

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Friday, 1 October 2010

Web marketing newsletter published for October

The latest issue of our monthly Web Search & Marketing newsletter has been published for October.

Following on from last month's issue which looked at 10 common questions about Search Engine Optimisation and link building, this month's issue focuses on Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising and how this can work for an online business. You can read 10 of the most common questions asked about PPC and Google AdWords.

Next month the newsletter will continue this special focus with some questions and answers about website analytics and Google Analytics, and then complete this series with a look at the more recent trends in Social Media Marketing.

If you want to sign up for future issues of this newsletter, please do so by using the form at the bottom of this page. To view back issues of this regular newsletter you can see the archive by date or by subject.

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