Google launches Firebase Analytics for mobile apps

Google_Firebase Analytics_Dashboard_600

Google has launched Firebase Analytics, a new analytics solution for mobile apps, at this year’s I/O 2016 developer conference.

Firebase was acquired by Google in late 2014 and helps developers build apps for Androids, iOS and the Web. Current features include Realtime Database, User Authentication and Hosting.

However, based on app developer feedback, Firebase is adding more tools to help developers improve app quality and the acquisition and engagement of app users. It is also introducing new monetization tools.

Firebase Analytics

These new tools are all tied together by Firebase Analytics. The analytics platform is free and unlike Google Analytics, it is designed specifically for mobile apps.

That means instead of focusing on page views, impressions or sessions, developers can see what users are doing inside the app, how paid advertising campaigns are performing with cross-network attribution and where users are coming from.

All this can be viewed from a single dashboard.

Audiences

A feature called Audiences allows developers to define groups of users with common attributes. Once defined, these groups can be accessed from other Firebase features. We will come back to Audiences in a bit.

Crash Reporting

Developers will now be able to better understand why an app crashes using Firebase Crash Reporting. This is a set of actionable reports developers can use to diagnose and fix problems on both iOS and Android apps.

The tool is connected to Audiences in Firebase Analytics and will let developers see if users on a particular device, in a specific geography, or in any other custom segment are experiencing elevated crash rates.

Cloud Test Lab, (announced at Google I/O 2015), is now Firebase Test Lab for Android. Test Lab lets developers find problems in their apps before their users do by facilitating automatic and customized app testing on real devices hosted in Google data centers.

Notifications and Dynamic Links

Firebase wants to help developers grow and re-engage app user bases with the following features:

  • Firebase Notifications is a user interface (UI) built on top of the Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM) APIs. It allows notifications to be delivered to users without writing a line of code.
  • Firebase Dynamic Links makes URLs more powerful in two ways. Firstly, links persist across the app install process so users are taken to the right place when they first open the app. Secondly, the destination of a link can be changed based on run-time conditions, such as the type of browser or device. This can be applied to web, email, social media, and physical promotions for insight into growth channels.
  • Firebase Invites allows users to share referral codes or content via SMS or email to their networks. The idea here is to turn customers into advocates.
  • Firebase App Indexing (formerly Google App Indexing), brings new and existing users to an app from Google searches. If the app is already installed, users can launch it directly from the search results. New users have the option to click a link to install the app.
  • AdWords, Google’s advertising platform for user acquisition and engagement, has been integrated into Firebase. That means Firebase can now track AdWords app installs and report lifetime value to the Firebase Analytics dashboard. There are a number of cool things that can be done here. Among them, the Firebase Audiences tool can be used in AdWords to re-engage specific groups of users and in-app events can be defined as conversions in AdWords.

Storage

Google’s cloud-to-device push messaging service Google Cloud Messaging (GCM) is being integrated into Firebase’ s backend and has been renamed as Firebase Cloud Messaging (FCM).

FCM is a free service with unlimited usage and supports messaging on iOS, Android and the Web. James Tamplin, product manager, Firebase, says FCM has been optimized for reliability and battery-efficiency. (It currently sends 170 billion messages per day to two billion devices.)

In response to requests to be able to better store and download images, videos and large files, Firebase has launched Firebase Storage. This feature is powered by Google Cloud Storage.

Firebase Remote Config gives developers instantly updatable variables that they can use to customize apps in real time. Features can be enabled or disabled without having to publish a new version and can be customized for different audiences.

Backend products Firebase Realtime Database, Firebase Hosting and Firebase Authentication have been updated.

Monetization

AdMob has been integrated into Firebase. This tool lets developers choose ad formats, including native ads.

Finally, Firebase has a new home: firebase.google.com.

Here’s a short video explaining some of the new features:

Artificial intelligence the star of Google I/O

google-junglebook

Google I/O was full of announcements about upcoming products and enhancements. The most notable, such as Google Assistant and Google Home, revolved around AI.

We’re in a seminal moment, said Google chief executive (CEO) Sundar Pichai kicking off the company’s annual I/O Conference in San Francisco.

Looking back at the past 17(?!) years, Pichai discussed Google’s evolution to the live audience of 7,000. As technology gets more sophisticated, he sees artificial intelligence (AI) playing a huge role in the company’s next 17 years.

“Leveraging our state-of-the-art capabilities in machine learning and AI, we truly want to take the next step in being more assistive to our user. Today, we are announcing the Google Assistant,” said Pichai, one of the only people in the world who’s allowed to use the “L” word on Search Engine Watch. “We think of it as building each user their own individual Google.”

Right now, 20% of Google searches are queried by voice. Google Assistant is the next step in that, combining voice search with the rest of Google’s AI capabilities. For example, if you were standing in front of that giant bean in Chicago, you could ask, “Who designed this?” without any mention of where you are; Google already knows.

What separates Google Assistant from other digital assistants is its various integrations, including Uber, Fandango and OpenTable. While Siri can tell you what time The Jungle Book is playing, you can’t actually purchase tickets through her.

Another new product is Google Home, the search giant’s answer to the Amazon Echo. Like Alexa, Google Home – which is customizable with different fabrics, materials and colors to match your home aesthetic – can play music and TV shows, and control various aspects of your connected home.

“What makes Google Home really shine is that it has search built in,” added Mario Queiroz, vice president of product management at Google. “It draws on 17 years of innovation to answer questions, which are difficult for other assistants to handle.”

Google Home is meant to be a more intelligent version of AI, able to answer both your generic (“How much fat is an avocado?”) and personal (“What time is my flight on Sunday?”) questions. That same level of personalization will be applied to Allo, a messaging app that will be available this summer.

Allo is a bit like the GIF-heavy Peach app (R.I.P.) with Google’s AI built in. The suggested responses will be, rather than canned replies, based on what your past responses have been, to both text and images.

“The more you use Allo, the better the suggestions become. The suggestions will be unique to you,” said Erik Kay, Google’s engineering director.

Other features include a built-in Google Assistant – which allows you to book a restaurant on OpenTable directly in the app while messaging, for instance – and Whisper and Shout, complementary features that amplify your reaction, making it larger or smaller.

Other highlights from the Google I/O keynote include:

  • An upcoming video calling app, Duo, will includes a live stream of the person calling, allowing you to potentially gauge their mood. For instance, if my boss Graham was calling me with Duo, I’d be able to see if he looked really angry and ready to yell at me for using the word “leverage” earlier.
  • More details of Android N were revealed. Among them are the introduction of the Vulkan graphics API to Google’s mobile platform; a “Clear All” button to simultaneously dismiss all active apps; and split-screen and picture-in-picture modes for multitasking.
  • Google is building a virtual reality (VR) platform, Daydream, on top of Android N. Unlike Cardboard, which works with any smartphone, Daydream will only work on new phones with specially-built sensors and screens. The platform will include VR versions of Google properties such as YouTube, StreetView, and Play Movies, in addition to Netflix and Electronic Arts.
  • Android Wear, Google’s smart watch, will be updated to include a tiny keyboard, the ability to show data from any application, and automatic activity activation. For example, if you start running, an icon will pop up asking if you want to play your workout playlist on Spotify.

“Content is not a conceit or a vanity project, it makes people money”

Content marketing has been one of the industry’s buzz phrases for the last few years, but as the medium rapidly evolves and consumers’ expectations change, are businesses still getting it right?

Amy Nicholson, managing editor at content strategy agency Sticky Content, says it’s time for businesses to install their own great content leaders, who can bring together expertise from every division in their company to create a great content strategy.

ClickZ caught up with Amy to find out more in advance of her talk at this year’s Shift event.

Why is now the time for businesses to install a great content leader?

Because content is bigger, faster and stronger than it’s ever been, and it deserves the respect of its own department. Why? It’s not a conceit or a vanity project – content makes people money. And its value is easier to prove than ever.

Content is everywhere – on dozens of channels that didn’t exist 10 years ago and performing 1,000 functions that cannot be limited to the old marketing and PR pots we’re used to. We’re not just talking about another slew of “10 winter skincare dos and don’ts” either, we’re talking sophisticated personalisation models, heavily optimised transactional processes and gorgeous, immersive video. Content is everything.

Because it’s such a powerful force, it needs a firm hand. It needs someone who can work across these divisions with enough influence to make real changes and enough strategic thinking to see the cumulative impact. It needs someone who can draw the distinction between useful, valuable content and something that adds to the noise.

But unfortunately for a lot of companies – especially the big, old ones – the structure they’re working in doesn’t support this change in thinking.

So they might have someone in digital or even IT looking after the back end of the website, product teams managing product pages, and then SEO, CRM and marketing teams doing a load more work besides, with no one at the top pulling all of these crucial operations together.

Where might an organisation that doesn’t have a dedicated content leader find someone within their company who fits the bill?

Look for people who really know your customers. Sometimes you’ll find great content people in marketing, customer service, or digital. Find someone who can, without bias, balance your customers’ needs with those of your business.

You can outsource a lot of your content strategy, but not all of it. Any organisation that wants to do better at content needs to remember you’ve got to keep some of the work at home – usually the bits that draw directly on your business strategy.

That said, a smart content agency can help on almost every element of the execution – from helping you define and shape your tone of voice, coming up with some brilliant, creative ideas and also helping in distribution and measurement.

But that big, overall direction has to come from you.

What are businesses getting wrong with their content strategies?

They don’t appreciate how wide and deep they need to go. A real content strategy defines everything it touches.

So it’s not an editorial calendar or a CRM plan. It’s not a tone of voice, an attribution model, some templates or guidelines. It’s not just a spreadsheet (no matter how hot the colour coding) or a meeting agenda. It’s the idea that ties all of those things, and plenty more besides, together.

The other thing that tripwires content projects of all kinds is the people. Shooting some video or writing some nice blogs is the easy bit – getting the right people on board first and making sure the strategy actually gets executed is the much more nebulous (but much more valuable) work.

For that, you’ll need someone who can balance creative and commercial needs with a really clear sense of how to get things done.

Good content is always collaborative. We’re not writing novels here, we’re selling things on the internet. You need a varied, skilled and ego-free squad to do that really well.

What trends should content marketers be aware of for 2016?

Content marketers should spend less time worrying about trends and more about figuring out what’s actually going to make their customers’ lives better.

Sort your CRM out, then worry about whether or not you need a better presence on Snapchat, or whether or not VR is A Thing.

Who should attend your session at Shift?

Anyone who’s not sure if they’re taking content seriously enough. And anyone who’s sure they’re not, but isn’t quite sure what to do about it.

Don’t miss Amy’s session ‘7 behaviours of brilliant content leaders’ at ClickZ & SEW’s flagship event Shift, taking place from 24th to 25th May.

SEM too competitive? Here are three alternatives for building your customer base

display select keywords

One of the biggest pain points of many small to mid size businesses in digital marketing is the fact that they have to compete against larger, more well-established brands who can afford to throw large budgets into digital marketing and pay higher CPCs to stay at the top of the SERP.

For those with smaller budgets who are trying to maximize efficiency in a competitive landscape, being able to pay for these higher CPCs in paid search just isn’t really an option.

So how can one still capture and convert users while be as efficient as possible in doing so?

We all know that social and display don’t have the same level of high intent as paid search – but it’s important not to completely discredit them.

Although users may not necessarily be actively searching for your product or service, there are a couple of ways you can still get your ad in front of extremely relevant audiences that will have a high chance of converting – while also avoiding the aggressively high CPCs you’ll see in search.

Below are the three ‘next best’ avenues to choose when paid search isn’t an option:

1) Google Display Network: display select keywords

Display select keywords is a targeting type that uses Google’s algorithm and predictive conversion models to show your ad based on a customer’s purchase intent, your keyword selection, and when your customers are likely to convert.

This targeting type is one of the GDN’s most low-risk prospective targeting types. The best strategy to test and launch on DSK is to use your top 15-20 keywords.

This list can be based on your SEO keyword data or on any past SEM campaigns; if you have no prior digital marketing data to use, then select the most relevant terms that show high intent to your product/service.

2) Facebook: lookalike audiences

What better way to get in front of the right audiences then to use a social platform that has thousands of different data points on a user’s behavior, interests, likes, demographics, etc.?

Facebook’s lookalike targeting technology is extremely robust and will use its data and algorithm to get in front of audiences extremely similar to your customer base.

Adverts Manager

However, to really make sure you are as successful as can be with launching on lookalike audiences, you need to smartly segment your customer base into tight-knit audiences and then create lookalikes off of those who matter the most to you or who tend to bring in the most revenue for your company.

For example, rather than providing Facebook with your entire list of customers, select your highest-lifetime value (LTV) customers as a base to create a lookalike audience.

3) Facebook: competitor targeting

So the unfortunate thing about having high competition in your service/industry is that you get stuck with high and perhaps unaffordable CPCs in SEM.

Now it’s time to look at the glass half full – this means you can make the most of your competition by targeting users in Facebook who ‘like’ your competitors.

This is a good way to introduce your brand and offering to users who already shop for or use what you have to offer with another company. By showcasing your various unique value props and perhaps more competitive offering, you can get in front of these highly relevant audiences and convert into becoming your customers.

And even if they don’t convert, but they’re interested enough to click on your site just to learn more about your company, you’ll be able to retarget them later to convince them why your product/service/offering is better!

Although you may have smaller budgets and tighter efficiency goals than your bigger competitors, using the three recommendations above can help you efficiently capture your target audiences without having to pay the hefty CPCs you may find in SEM.

Good luck!

How mobile has changed our present and future search behaviour

google trends skincare

Well, first thing’s first. Mobile search isn’t mobile.

We carry out most of our searches when we are static, on average 70%. Button tapping accuracy is reduced by 30% because we walk vertically. This is one of the reasons why voice search exists in the first place.

Voice search is going to diminish the use of incorrect spellings which will eventually mean that PPC teams will, over the next few years, reduce the number of optimised keywords due to a decrease in incorrect spelling.

Let’s look into the keywords “skin care” with a space and “skincare” without a space to discover this a little deeper.

For the most part, search trends followed similar patterns from 2004 to 2007 for the keyword “skin care” and “skincare” but then in 2007 when the iPhone was launched the trends started to differ. Why?

One of the reasons for this is because the mobile phone market started to explode as well as our use of predictive text and autocorrect. Add on our own personalised dictionary/saved words and this further complicates the problem.

Then in 2011, the search trends started to sync up. We can now surmise that voice search is starting to cause us to correctly use the keyword “skincare.”

What else do we know about mobile?

Mobile is visually the same as desktop, this is even truer when Google removed PPC ads from the right-hand side, and our mobile search behaviour is impacted by many factors, two of which are:

  • The specific device itself (high-end vs lower end handsets)
  • The environment

High-end smartphone searchers have similar behaviour to desktop searchers, such as, query length and query type distribution, for example. Although it is worth noting that mobile search is still evolving and research in this area is in its infancy.

Mobile query length

Historically, we used as few characters as possible when we searched as multiple presses on older handsets required more effort – to get the letter ‘C’ we had to press the number ‘2′ button three times. Then the average number of characters was 16 by the mid noughties.

Today, voice search is now increasing this significantly as we are now talking naturally into our mobiles, in conversational-style queries. Question-answering is now an effective content marketing tactic because of this behaviour.

Mobile query type distribution

In a large EU study, consisting of six million queries from 260,000 search engine users over a week, showed that query categories differed enormously whereby mobile searches contain a lot more adult content compared to desktop searches.

The study also found that 60.4% of mobile queries were navigational and only 29.4% were transactional, leaving 10.2% of the remaining queries for informational queries.

Getting up-to-date research, specifically on voice search is difficult but I will be hunting down a few recent studies and writing more mobile articles over the coming months – watch this space!

Links may die because of mobile

Mobile will one-day significantly reduce the number of backlinks.

Let’s say you are a blogger, sitting on the bus with your smartphone or tablet and you are reading a cool blog post. You are not likely to log into the back end of your blog and create a href= link, are you?

As a mobile user we are more likely to share this on social media. Is this why search engines have their own social media platforms? Does this explain why Yandex has started to drop links from its algorithm? Is this also why Google and Twitter are best friends?

The future of mobile

No one knows for sure where mobile is going but it’s a great conversation to talk about. Let’s do just that.

Soon there will be a linkless world as we adapt to mobile devices. The Internet of Things might make search very granular and even more personable and allow engines to truly become semantic. “Do I have milk left in the fridge to bake a cake tonight?”, for example, may allow engines to communicate with our fridge, work out how much milk we have, and know that baking a cake requires more milk than just having a cup of tea.

Mobiles already have cool pieces of technology in them, such as, sleeping monitors, for instance. Will they soon be able to detect our sweat glands on our hands and feed this information back to the engine so they can better understand our emotions, like anxiety? When we are anxious, we search for a lot more medical information. This is a classic example of how our internal environment can impact our search.

What do you think is the future of mobile search? Tweet us!

Cool readings

  • Deciphering mobile search patterns: a study of Yahoo! mobile search queries.
  • Computers and iPhones and mobile phones, oh my!: a logs-based comparison of search users on different devices.
  • Google Ad 4-pack now shown for 23% of all online search topics.

Nine common content marketing mistakes and how to fix them

content marketing documented

Content marketing is vital to most businesses, with its success affecting many positions that complement each other. How do you ensure however that your strategy is effective?

78% of CMOs see custom content as the future of marketing, and this is only an example of how marketers value the rising focus on content.

However, there are many challenges to deal with until you create a successful content marketing strategy, so it’s time to start improving the chances of reaching the set goals by eliminating any common mistakes.

1. Not documenting content marketing strategy

According to Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs, 48% of B2B marketers don’t have a documented content marketing strategy. Only 35% of them have their strategy documented, which leads to a clear plan regarding their goals and their expectations from their efforts.

A documented content marketing strategy is a commitment that helps you stay focused both in short and long term, while it also gives you a better understanding of the content you’re creating, along with the set strategy.

Source: Content Marketing Institute

Solution

Start by writing down your current strategy and organise your content with a content calendar for your daily and weekly planning, a content audit for the analysis of your content, a description of your audience personas and of course, a formal marketing plan that will explain your set strategy for your business.

If you want to read more about it, Chris Lake shared with us a very useful guide to starting a content strategy from scratch.

2. Content should serve a purpose (CTA)

Content marketing may be a popular term, but still, not everyone creates content with a specific purpose in mind.

Whether it’s lead generation, engagement, or brand awareness, every piece of content should provide a call-to-action (CTA), in order to increase its effectiveness by guiding the readers on what their next click could be.

It’s so easy nowadays to lose a reader’s interest, so why should you make it even easier for them?

Solution

Not every content serves the same purpose, but it certainly should serve one to exist in your brand’s strategy.

Which content aims for an increase of engagement and what should you create to generate new leads?

According to Content Marketing Institute, 84% of marketers consider “brand awareness” the most important goal of content marketing, which means that right after setting the goal, it’s time to experiment with the best way that it can be achieved.

Source: Content Marketing Institute

3. Not spending enough time on content

As obvious as it may sound, marketers don’t always spend the required time on the actual content, as they may focus on different aspects of content marketing while trying to amplify it.

However, no goal can be achieved if the content is not appreciated by the audience. Appreciation could be defined from:

  • Engagement
  • Social recognition
  • Increase of audience
  • Number of clicks

All these require the necessary amount of time spent for each type of content, depending on its length, its purpose, or its chances of being repurposed.

Solution

Focus on the quality of the content, whether it’s a blog post or an infographic, in order to ensure that it will be appealing enough to meet your expectations.

For example, when producing a blog post, or a white paper, here’s what you need to consider:

  • Is the content clear of any grammatical errors?
  • How is the formatting?
  • Have you used relevant and appealing images?
  • Is the content serving its purpose?
  • Have you used a CTA properly?
  • Is the topic right for your audience?
  • How do you manage to hook the readers?

4. Forgetting SEO

Search engine optimisation is the process of improving your content in order to help search engines discover it.

It’s not enough to produce good content if you’re not helping the audience discover it and search engines may be useful on that. As you manage to increase the quality (and quantity) of your content, your ranking will start increasing in the search results and this could lead to an increase of traffic back to your site.

Even if it’s not your actual job to know everything about SEO, you can still help your content improve its “crawlability”.

Solution

Here’s a list of quick tips on how to optimise your posts for SEO and hopefully they can help you understand that quality content and SEO make a great match for every successful content marketing strategy.

5. Ignoring your audience

It’s great to have a documented content marketing strategy full of quality content that’s perfectly optimised for SEO, but this may be useless if your content is not suitable for your audience.

The suitability of the content highly depends on its relevance, as this will be the best metric that will define whether you’re getting closer to your goals.

Content out of context may lead to a waste of time and budget that no business would enjoy, which means that it’s time to learn more about your audience, including the insights to your content strategy.

Solution

Before you start measuring the type of content that works better for your audience, you need to start learning more about the users you’re targeting.

The idea of creating (or updating) your buyer personas is a good start, as this is an opportunity to analyse your target audience and personalise them by creating a deeper connection with their habits and their needs while consuming content.

Except for the buyer personas, it is also useful to learn more about the buyer’s journey and measure how your content can fit into each phase, which will be helpful both for your content’s effectiveness, but also for the new content you’ll be creating from now on.

content-marketing-strategy-to-support-the-buying-cycle

Image source: Adido

A solid understanding of your audience may lead to many useful observations about your strategy and even to surprising insights, so never underestimate this task.

6. Not testing new ideas

A successful content marketing strategy cannot overlook the testing phase, as it allows marketers to draw useful conclusions about numerous aspects of their strategy, from its planning, to the formatting and the actual implementation of it.

Experimentation may occur in:

  • Email marketing (to improve the effectiveness of a mail campaign)
  • Content calendar (to find the best content schedule)
  • Content types (to test the types of content that work better)
  • Call-to-action (to examine which CTA leads to the desired results)
  • Headlines (to pick the most effective headline for your blog posts)
  • Visual content (to decide on the best visuals for your content)
  • Timing (to test the best times to deliver your content)
  • Engagement (to analyse which content is the most engaging)

Solution

Add testing in the procedures you need to perform regularly and use various types of metrics to analyse what contributes to the success of your content marketing.

For example, in email marketing it’s a good idea to create two versions of an email campaign, testing what leads to an improved click rate and discover what could affect the performance of your campaigns.

what-is-ab-testing-520x251

Image source: Thenextweb

When creating a call-to-action, you can use a different link for each CTA, in order to analyse the effectiveness of the two and decide which one works better for your audience.

In visual content and social media posting, there may be a significant difference from one image to another, depending on the social network, your audience, or the content you’re promoting. Make sure you experiment enough until you decide what’s the best image to use.

7. Not measuring the content’s performance

There’s no need to create content and maintain a content marketing strategy if you’re not able to analyse its performance and keep track of its metrics.

The measurement of your efforts help you understand the best parts of your content marketing strategy, but also what underperforms, which may even be more important, especially if you spot it as early as possible.

content-marketing-cycle

Image source: Ludismedia

Solution

From Google Analytics to social media and email marketing metrics, any measurement is beneficial and they should be carefully examined to help you understand your audience, its behaviour and what contributes to the performance of your content.

A spreadsheet with all the measurements would help you stay organised and consistent with the metrics, so there’s no need to delay this task anymore.

8. Underestimating visual content

Did you know that posts containing at least one image tend to perform better in terms of SEO? Visual content is becoming an important part of a content marketing strategy nowadays, whether it’s used in a blog post, or in the creation of a video for your social networks.

Our love for visual content

Although it’s still complementary to written text, it may affect the engagement of your content, as it manages to evoke the right emotions to grab the audience’s attention.

Solution

It may be challenging to find the right image for every piece of content you’re creating, or even to find the resources to create an infographic, a GIF, or a video, but there are many free tools and sites to discover that will help you to never run out of visual content again.

For example, here are the best sites to find free image resources.

9. Ignoring distribution

The easiest way to see your content marketing strategy fail is to ignore, or underestimate the distribution of your content.

How will the audience discover your content if you don’t promote it properly?

It may not be common to completely refuse to promote your content, but it’s common to perform a basic promotion, or one that’s not tailored for the specific content and your audience, which equally affects the chances of reaching your goals.

Solution

The distribution of your content should rely on multiple channels, with each one serving a different purpose, from engagement to lead generation.

Your marketing efforts are divided among paid, earned and owned media, with all of them being of equal importance, requiring from you to find the perfect balance that will maximise your chances of success.

paid owned earned media

Image source: Business2Community

You don’t have to promote your content to every single platform, but rather to the ones that are relevant to your audience. What’s more, it is vital to understand the importance of repeat promotion, which means that distribution does not end once you’re promoting your content for the first time.

Your metrics may help you discover the best platforms, but also the best times, to promote your content, improving its effectiveness, while forming a complete content marketing strategy.

Takeaway

Content marketing should be a perfect mix between content creation, promotion, engagement, testing and measurement and if you feel you’re left behind in any of these steps, then maybe it’s time to refresh your content marketing strategy, one step at a time.

(Don’t worry, we’ve all been guilty of the above mistakes)

How one small word makes a huge difference on Google SERPs

best and no best results

Recently we’ve had a lot of internal discussions about the importance of keywords and the various combinations, including match type.

This discussion revealed a few interesting nuances that I thought were worth sharing.

The focus will be how the search results page changes with just one additional change to the search query and what the implications of that word mean.

For this article I picked the keyword “best.” This is certainly worth looking into as much as a number of other terms like “near me,” “cheap,” or “men/women/kids,” however “best” also makes all the points I’d like to share.

How does the search results page change?

Let’s start by searching for “HD TVs” and then adding the word “best.”

From a user intent perspective you would assume that this is still pretty high in the funnel. The customer isn’t sure which TV or brand they are looking for. But by adding the word “best” to the query Google makes a few key changes to the search results;

  • In-store only appears on the more generic “HD TV” search. Google makes an assumption that local inventory has a greater level of influence on this type of search.
  • Ranking bubbles are included when the term “best” is included. Google is inferring that some type of ranking is desired by the consumer and uses ratings and reviews as the driver behind these rankings.
  • Star ratings are included for all ads when “best” is included. Similar to the ranking bubbles Google is assuming that consumer feedback will be the most helpful in this situation.

What does the data say?

I also wanted to take a quick look at the data to see how these keywords performed. I pulled a search term report and filtered for keywords containing “best.”

What I found was pretty interesting. In all the metrics “best” keyword metrics were roughly 2X of the average across all keywords. This indicates two things:

  • Consumers are responding at a very high level to these keywords with high interest.
  • Due to this consumer reaction the cost for these queries is also much higher than the norm. This makes sense and is really the beauty of a free market economy.
  • best ctr cpc conv

    What does it mean?

    The keys to consider here are less about the inclusion of the keyword and more about how you support a robust search listing and how you use the data:

    1) Robust listings

    It is important not only that your product listing ads are included, but also that your local inventory and ratings are robust.

    You can see that between these two queries not only are those 3 factors different in the results, but there is not a single repeat product shown between the two, although the same brands appear. This means that having multiple options and a deep product set available for Google to rank is key to getting displayed for these impressions.

    2) Data use

    Just because a keyword has a high CTR or CPC, it doesn’t mean that it is valuable or not unless those are your key performance metrics.

    Even the lower conversion % for keywords containing best doesn’t mean that they are bad. You have to look at attribution, or their additive incremental impact your campaigns. Understand what metrics move your business and look at the problem through multiple lenses.

    For example, does this keyword introduce you to new customers and therefore a higher CPC and lower conversion rate is worth the traffic? Only you know that answer for your business, but there is plenty of data to help make that decision.

    How do I make sure my site is mobile friendly? A checklist

    A screenshot of the meta tags for Search Engine Watch, including a section entitled "mobile meta (hooray!)" which has a correctly configured viewport meta tag.

    As we reported in our SEM news round-up on Friday, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed that the latest wave of changes to Google’s mobile-friendly ranking signal has now finished rolling out.

    Ever since the initial ‘Mobilegeddon’ update which debuted on 21st April 2015, mobile-friendliness has been a significant ranking factor in Google search results. In its blog post foreshadowing the algorithm changes two months before, Google said it wanted users to “find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimised for their [mobile] devices”.

    Google has affirmed and re-affirmed its commitment to mobile-friendliness over the years, implementing a ‘mobile friendly’ label to distinguish websites that are adapted for mobile, making changes to the mobile search results page including user-friendly URLs and expanded sitelinks, and launching Accelerated Mobile Pages to provide an ultra-fast mobile experience.

    Now, with this latest update, Google has strengthened its mobile-friendly ranking signal even further, making it all the more important for webmasters to have a site which meets Google’s standards.

    With that in mind, how can you make sure that your site comes up to scratch? We’ve put together a handy checklist of things you should do (or not do) in order to get the cleanest bill of mobile health possible from Google.

    Don’t use Flash

    Most mobile browsers can’t render Flash content, so one clear-cut rule of thumb in creating a mobile-friendly site is: don’t use Flash. Google’s mobile usability report sassily recommends that you use “modern web technologies” to display your page content, animations and navigation instead. Ouch!

    Make sure your viewport is set properly

    A viewport is a type of meta tag that gives the browser instructions on how to adjust the page dimensions and scaling to different device widths. This should appear in the head of your webpage.

    If there is no viewport tag, mobile browsers will default to rendering the page at the width of a desktop screen. Google has a tutorial on how to set the viewport for your page and make sure it’s accessible.

    What not to do: set your viewport to a fixed width. Some developers will define the viewport to a fixed pixel width to suit common mobile screen sizes, but this still won’t be suitable for every kind of device, and so Google doesn’t judge it to be mobile-friendly.

    If you follow the instructions in Google’s tutorial and use the viewport value width=device-width, this will allow your page to match the width of whatever device your visitors are using.

    Adding the attribute initial-scale=1 will also allow your page to fill the screen whether the device is portrait or landscape, and so take advantage of the full width of the screen.

    Finally, make sure that your content is sized to the viewport. If you set absolute CSS widths for page elements like images and videos, this can cause a problem for devices that are narrower than the width you’ve specified. You can get around this by using relative width values, such as width: 100%, in your CSS.

    Use large font

    If you’ve configured your viewport properly, font sizes will be scaled according to the user’s device, but Google makes some additional recommendations for font on top of that.

    It recommends using a base font size of 16 pixels, with any other font sizes (such as small and large) defined relative to that baseline. The vertical space between lines should be set at 1.2em.

    Try to also avoid using too many different fonts and font sizes, which leads to messy and complicated page layouts.

    Space out links and buttons

    Links and buttons, also called “tap targets” by Google, are harder to press on a mobile device than on a desktop browser, because fingers are wider and generally less accurate than a mouse cursor.

    Google will penalise any pages where the tap targets are too small and close together to press accurately.

    Image by fancycrave1, CC0 public domain image

    The average adult finger pad is about 10mm wide, so Google recommends a minimum tap target size of about 7mm, or 48 pixels wide – at least for the most important tap targets, like frequently used buttons, navigational links, search bars and form fields.

    Less frequently used targets can be smaller, but should still be spaced far enough apart that a user trying to press one won’t accidentally hit another target instead. The recommended space around smaller tap targets is at least 5mm.

    Don’t use full-screen pop-ups

    Large or full-screen pop-ups and overlays, also called “interstitials”, such as a mailing list sign-up form or app promotion, can be extra disruptive on a mobile device.

    While a big, attention-grabbing pop-up might seem like a good idea from a business’ point of view, Google recognises that these interfere with the experience of browsing a site on mobile and will penalise sites that use them.

    A simple graphic depicting a computer pop-up window, with a blue bar across the top, an X to close in the right-hand corner, and black lines representing text.
    Image by OpenClipartVectors, CC0 public domain image

    Instead of a full-screen pop-up, Google recommends using a banner, or implementing app indexing, which will allow content from within your app to appear in search results, making it a very effective method of promotion.

    Run a check with Google’s tools

    The easiest way to double-check whether your site is hitting all of the right targets for mobile-friendliness is to use the tools Google has provided to run a check.

    Google’s Search Console, formerly known as Webmaster Tools, has a ‘mobile usability’ section that will diagnose any lingering issues with your site, usually one of the errors listed above.

    You can also check the mobile health of individual webpages by pasting the URL into Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. And Google Developers has a section listing common mistakes made when designing for mobile, which has some additional detail on things like unplayable content, faulty redirects and 404s and how to fix them.

    A Google mobile-friendly test for a website. At the top is a red bar reading "not mobile friendly", with issues listed on the left. In the middle is an image of a mobile device showing "How Googlebot sees this page". On the right you can select from options about how the page was created, in order to start improving it.

    The need for speed

    In its recommendations for working with a developer to build a mobile-friendly site (if you aren’t able to make the necessary changes to their website yourself), Google suggests asking your developer to “make a commitment to speed”.

    While Google doesn’t include a slow loading speed as one of its ‘must correct’ mobile friendliness issues, we know that speed is a ranking factor, and statistics show that slow loading speed can frequently cause users to abandon web pages.

    So if you want to provide the best user experience and also give your mobile-friendly site the best chance of a higher ranking, consider speeding it up as much as possible.

    A picture of a girl with short, dark hair and glowing white headphones, wearing a skintight metallic body suit and white gloves. She is flying through the air and punching ahead of her with one fist, speed lines indicating her fast motion.Image by Alan9187, CC0 public domain image

    Google’s PageSpeed Insights has a ‘mobile’ tab which will give your page a mobile speed rating out of 100, with advice on how to fix the elements that might be slowing it down.

    It will also give your mobile page a user experience ranking out of 100, and flag up any mobile-friendliness issues in the same way as Google’s other tools.

    There’s also Accelerated Mobile Pages, Google’s ultra-fast mobile web pages which run on a reinvented version of HTML. Building an AMP version of your site for mobile is another way to be sure it’s fast and mobile-friendly, though many SEOs are still holding back on implementing AMP for a number of reasons. It’s an option, but not a necessity for having a fast and Google-friendly mobile site.

    BBC Food website closure: what have we lost and who stands to benefit?

    bbc recipes

    Today it was announced that the BBC Food recipe website is to close, or at least mothballed in some way.

    It contains more than 11,000 recipes, many taken from the BBC’s food programming over the years and written by Rick Stein, Nigella Lawson and among others.

    In short, it’s an excellent resource for home cooks which would seem to perfectly fit with Lord Reith’s original mission statement for the BBC: to ‘inform, educate and entertain’.

    It seems that this decision is linked to the recent government white paper on the BBC, and the accompanying view that the corporation is over-reaching and competing with newspapers.

    I’m not going to get into the politics, but I’m not convinced newspapers will benefit from the lack of a BBC recipe site.

    What will happen to the BBC Food site?

    Reports have suggested that the site will be closed, and that new recipes from recent TV shows will only be online for 30 days.

    However, it seems more complicated than that. Instead, the BBC will not link to it, but the recipes will still be online.

    2/3 Food site won’t be updated & won’t be linked to – but if you know URL for a recipe you could still go to it #bbcrecipes

    — BBC Press Office (@bbcpress) May 17, 2016

    This means that the recipe search feature will be offline. Indeed, it seems to be right now, as I get a 503 page when trying to search by ingredient.

    Indeed, the BBC has already used the robots tag to nobble the recipe search function:

    bbc robots

    This alone makes the recipe site far less useful, but the results will soon vanish from the search engines. I imagine we’ll see the same tags for the 11,000 or more pages in the site very soon.

    BBC recipes and SEO performance

    This will be welcome news to other sites looking to rank for recipes and related terms.

    The BBC recipe site performs very well from an SEO perspective. These are the most visible sites across a range of recipe keywords.

    The BBC Good Food site is run by BBC Worldwide (the beeb’s commercial arm) and is the best performing site. The BBC recipe site comes fourth after Jamie Oliver and allrecipes.co.uk.

    BBC seo performance

    The BBC is effective though (you can see a chart showing the terms it ranks for here) and ranks consistently well for a number of terms.

    consistent performance

    This is the result of an effective internal linking strategy, in which the BBC has been linking to hub/category pages.

    You can see how this strategy works from the way searches are returning category pages like this rather than individual recipes. (Check out this article to see how Mail Online has implemented a similar hub page strategy).

    This means that: a) visitors can/could see a range of cake recipes to choose from, which is more useful and b) link equity is distributed more equally and individual pages aren’t competing against each other in Google.

    Cake

    As for which sites will benefit, it doesn’t look to be newspapers, but rather the commercial recipe sites.

    The BBC Good Food site will still dominate for now, but jamieoliver.com, allrecipes.co.uk should all be that little bit more visible. There’s also an opportunity here for the supermarkets, any of which have recipe databases.

    Comparison recipes

    I can’t see this benefitting newspaper’s sites so much, though The Guardian does feature in many searches. In part this is because they’re not so organised. For example, the Guardian recipe section contains a wide variety of excellent recipes, but isn’t searchable and is therefore less useful.

    In summary

    Whatever the reasons for and the politics behind this decision, it seems very wasteful to simply abandon such a useful resource by just de-indexing it.

    As Sam Silverwood-Cope from PI Datametrics:

    “People would bite your hand off (there’s probably not a recipe for that) for this depth and type of content, with all the links and page views, entire businesses have been formed on less. It would be a great shame if all these pages were just de-indexed. At least a redirect back to the main bulk of the site or to other similar pages on commercial sites would be preferable in my view.”

    The sheer quality and size of the archive means we’ll see various mirror sites using this content for their own purposes. The British Library plans to archive the recipes, but they’ll also be appearing elsewhere no doubt.

    Looking at the search performance, the lack of recipes pages from bbc.co.uk presents an opportunity for others. Those sites which are already established (Jamie Oliver, recipes.co.uk etc) should see their rankings and search traffic improve, while I’d expect to see more results from supermarkets for recipe searches.

    That said, any recipe website with an SEO budget can learn from the things that BBC recipes did well, and benefit from its disappearance.

    Google doubles down on native app experiences with Gboard, Chirp and Translate

    mobile search stats

    Google puts high value in mobile user experience.

    The truthfulness of that statement can be tracked back as far Google’s first .mobi website 10 years ago, or when it launched the first iteration of its Android operating system in 2008.

    But 2016 marks a year of Google making even greater strides in expanding upon this philosophy.

    Between Google AMP rolling out in February and the recent announcement of an update to its mobile-friendly algorithm for May, the company’s overarching goal seems to be to deliver more relevant content at a faster rate in as many places as possible.

    It’s not a mobile-first strategy, it’s a Google-everywhere strategy.

    Over the last few days alone, the company made a trio of announcements that will likely shake up the mobile landscape and help increase Google’s mobile market share.

    They were the release of Gboard, the announcement of Chirp, and functionality updates for Google Translate.

    Gboard: How Google found its way back into iOS

    On May 12, Google introduced Gboard, which is a Google-branded keyboard for Apple products. It offers additional functionality that the default iOS keyboard does not– including drag/swipe-to-text (a la SwiftKey and Swype) and a native search function. The latter is a very big deal.

    In 2013, Google’s contract to be the default search provider for Apple devices expired, and Bing was the resulting beneficiary, powering both Siri and Safari results. Sure enough, Google’s mobile search engine market share dropped significantly that year, and only recently returned to the 90% mark in the US (in November 2015):

    But with GBoard, Google bypasses default search engine settings entirely, allowing users to perform searches without ever leaving the text box. Consider it Google’s Trojan horse back into Apple Devices, without all the negative connotations.

    After testing GBoard for the majority of the day, I was hooked. It’s highly functional and removes the need to switch apps in order to Google something.

    For example, if I’m planning dinner in WhatsApp, I can hit the Google icon, perform a search for a restaurant name, and then paste the local result directly into the text box (either as text or as a location card). All of this is done without leaving the messaging app. You can also search GIFs and emojis, so it’s not all business.

    An example of how it works from Google’s blog:

    The implications on search marketing and user behaviors are significant.

    Gboard completely changes the role that mobile search plays in text-based conversations. Much like Android devices that feature a search box front and center, Gboard now integrates search into almost all app experiences on iOS. Anywhere you can type, you can also search.

    At the moment, it’s unclear how these impressions and shares will be calculated (if at all). But I imagine with enough adoption, this can take a chunk out of Bing mobile searches on iOS as well as Google.com mobile impressions/clicks.

    Furthermore, this drives home the need for brands and websites to have mobile-optimized experiences. Combined with the May 2016 mobile algorithm update, ranking #1 on mobile is more important than ever.

    Of course, since this is Google we’re talking about, this is also an opportunity for paid search placements and location-based ads. If Google goes that route, they will have to toe a fine line between user experience and monetization.

    The power of Voice

    Speaking of analytics, Google’s John Mueller recently intimated that voice searches may soon become an available metric in Google Search Console.

    With the wide adoption of virtual/AI assistants (like Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and most recently, Viv), it makes sense that voice searches are on the rise.

    Google’s Hummingbird update in 2013 placed a focus on “conversational” queries, evidence of the shift in how users search on mobile. Not quantifying voice searches would leave a big hole in the consumer journey, as 90% of people move between devices to accomplish a task, a stat reported by Google themselves.

    It’s probably also no coincidence that a few days later, Google announced that it was working a competitor to Amazon Echo, codenamed Chirp. This isn’t Google’s first foray into the connected home space (they purchased Nest, after all), but this is their first hardware solution dedicated to search (if you don’t count the ill-fated experiment that was Google Glass).

    Ultimately, Google has the most robust search data and arguably the best algorithm for user experience, so they’re poised to gain market share within the connected home and voice search fields, even if they’re second to market.

    Google Translate anywhere (for Android)

    The third recent announcement was expanded functionality for Google Translate in Android devices. Similar to Gboard functionality, users no longer have to switch over to the Google Translate app to figure out what something means, or how to say something in a different language.

    The most recent update includes a floating “Tap to Translate” button that allows users to bring up Translate functionality in any Android app.

    With 65% market share worldwide, Google is wise to cater to that growing international audience.

    global stats

    In the same update, Google also announced offline mode for iOS as well as an augmented reality visual translation, making it an indispensable tool for travelers. Even without internet access, Google is providing value with its apps.

    In summary

    These three announcements by themselves are big news, but when you pull back and look at the bigger picture, it really tells the story of Google’s mobile end goal – to integrate their services with all aspects of daily life.

    Gboard brings search into mobile conversations. Chirp will potentially bring Google into the home. And Translate will allow people from all over the world to better communicate.

    Google is devoting a lot of resources into positioning itself as a native part of the mobile experience, rather than just an add-on. And so far, they have a pretty solid roadmap.