Is Twitter dying? Insight and opinion from #ClickZChat

It’s fair to say Twitter has had a fairly rough time of it in the recent past. The platform has struggled to grow its audience and, despite huge brand recognition, mainstream usage has proven elusive.

So, can Twitter survive, or is it set to join the likes of MySpace in social network purgatory?

We decided to take to (where else?) Twitter for this week’s #ClickZChat to ask our network of marketers for their thoughts.

Alright everyone, welcome to #ClickZChat: We’ll be live for one hour and today’s topic is… The ‘Death of Twitter’ pic.twitter.com/5UbyNgpu09

— ClickZ (@ClickZ) April 6, 2016

Let’s start with the elephant in the room:

Q1: Is Twitter dying?

Lack of growth is often seen as big problem in the tech world. Does stalling = failing?

Q1: Is Twitter dying? Let us know what you think #ClickZChat pic.twitter.com/MG4jj3BGK3

— ClickZ (@ClickZ) April 6, 2016

Many people thought that Twitter was plateauing, but did not see this as a cause for concern:

@ClickZ @sewatch No, may have reached a plateau…..

— Brian Smith (@SmithDriverguy7) April 6, 2016

Maturation and evolution were clearly hot topics for users, with Twitters recent acquisition of NFL streaming rights showing that the business may be undergoing some fundamental changes, but shouldn’t be counted out:

@ClickZ Getting the NFL streaming rights should be a big deal if Twitter wants to people to really think of it as Live Event social

— eContext (@eContext) April 6, 2016

@ClickZ @sewatch no, not with the announcement they just made re: a deal with the NFL to live stream Thursday night games #ClickZchat

— Kevin Luchansky (@kpLUCH) April 6, 2016

The onboarding process was a point of concern however. Many of you felt that Twitter was not as immediately intuitive as other platforms.

An issue that had allowed SnapChat and Instagram to pull ahead in the media stakes, but Twitter may be able to keep this market share if it concentrates on it’s core value: Realtime social updates.

@ClickZ No, not dying. At the same time, provides less social feedback, i.e. less user friendly than FB and others. #measure

— Scott Jones (@scottchjones) April 6, 2016

A1: Twitter is dwindling as a result of their inability to be innovative and compete with other platforms such as Snapchat. #ClickZChat

— Jasmine S. Kyles (@jskyles) April 6, 2016

It was also interesting to consider how these newer platforms are often leveraged to drive Twitter by users. In many ways, Twitter has become a hub network for updates.

Q2: Is Twitter still valuable for marketers?

With all this extra noise however, it can be difficult to find an audience. With so many outlets simply pushing content rather than engaging, is Twitter still a viable (and valuable) marketing channel?

Q2: Is Twitter still a valuable marketing channel (even if you don’t have budget)? #ClickZChat pic.twitter.com/IWVvxJE8s8

— ClickZ (@ClickZ) April 6, 2016

Opinion was quite clearly split here. From a publishing perspective it was clear that many had seen a drop in value, with more broadcast and less response from followers:

@ClickZ As a publisher with a new site it feels like a total waste of time & energy, provides little traffic, difficult to pick up followers

— christopher ratcliff (@Christophe_Rock) April 6, 2016

But felt that this simply required more time and thought behind content strategy on Twitter:

@ClickZ A2 Yes, but leads require a lot more massaging than before. Keep generating good content so you can convert when you ask #clickzchat

— Odem Global (@odemglobal) April 6, 2016

@ClickZ Nothing turns a consumer off more than going to a twitter page and seeing links, promotions, and product being hocked off the bat.

— Odem Global (@odemglobal) April 6, 2016

A2: Has the potential to be – without budget, the right tone for brand ‘personality’ is crucial #ClickZChat https://t.co/CO63Ck6uB0

— Chris Williams (@christentive) April 6, 2016

However, Twitter was still seen as one of the most useful ways to contact brands directly.

@ClickZ A2 Yeah, it still seems like the most direct platform for engagement. Brands seems to respond faster. #ClickZChat

— Steve (@likebuilder) April 6, 2016

Indeed, recent figures show that around XX of brands reply to users on Twitter, compared to just XX% over on Facebook. Perhaps Twitter may ultimately have more value for businesses as a customer service channel than from content marketing?

Privacy and a shift from public social posts, to private messaging is a clear #ClickZChat topic to discuss (1 of 2) https://t.co/bUhXmQ2c2f

— Keith Hanks (@keithhanks) April 6, 2016

Q3: How could Twitter improve?

Of course, it’s easy for us to criticise, but what can be done to improve Twitter for users?

Q3: What ONE thing would you do to make #Twitter better? #ClickZChat pic.twitter.com/sjrRRVOhxg

— ClickZ (@ClickZ) April 6, 2016

1: Better search

A number of people thought that findability needed improvement. While Advanced Search is useful, it should be more integrated into the core experience:

@ClickZ Facilitate searching within notifications, favourites, etc more easily.

— Manley (@LordManley) April 6, 2016

2: More focus on pro user needs

Similarly, it was felt that core users and social media managers could be helped with a few simple tweaks:

The ability to make multiple accounts with the same email address. #ClickZChat https://t.co/3gFBE47Vpc

— Anastasia Yates (@AniAreYouOkay) April 6, 2016

3: Death to bots

Spam is a continuing issue for Twitter, and many users would like to see Twitter deal with this more effectively:

@ClickZ Remove bot accounts and fake followers #ClickZChat pic.twitter.com/lZRQgbwgA1

— Tereza Litsa (@terezalitsa) April 6, 2016

@ClickZ A3: Actively removing inactive accounts. Vanity holds a lot of value for some. No handle? Then I won’t sign up. #ClickZChat

— Odem Global (@odemglobal) April 6, 2016

Require an [X] day probation period before someone can send a direct message. #StopAutoDMs #ClickZChat https://t.co/HTcKCJ7W3y

— Steven David Kluber (@sdkluber) April 6, 2016

4: Being able to hide our spelling mistakes…

And finally, one small change that users have been demanding for a long time:

A3: EDIT TWEET BUTTON PLS. #ClickZChat https://t.co/IFHKkU7Pma

— Matt Owen (@lexx2099) April 6, 2016

@lexx2099 yes – even if they time-limited it to (say) 30 seconds to click ‘edit’ it would be useful. #ClickZChat

— dan barker (@danbarker) April 6, 2016

SECONDED OMG

so many mistakes, can never delete fast enough #ClickZChat https://t.co/z64vP3pHcX

— Bex Sentance (@rainbowbex) April 6, 2016

Key takeaways

Annnnd… we’re done! Thanks for another brilliant #ClickZChat everyone who joined in today! pic.twitter.com/ZBKszJRYSw

— ClickZ (@ClickZ) April 6, 2016

Overall it seems that there’s a long way to go before anyone can really say that twitter has ‘failed’, but businesses in particular need to get their acts together, with less push content and more focus on service. Oh, and if you’re running an auto-retweet bot of some kind, you’d make followers a lot happier by turning it off.

As always a huge thanks to everyone who took part. Our next #ClickZChat will take place at Noon EST of Wednesday 13th April – please do join us on Twitter.

Want to know more about Twitter’s wavering fortunes? Make sure you check out these 24 slightly depressing statistics about Twitter, and the 17 things Twitter could do to revive its fortunes.

Google Accelerated Mobile Pages and content: the need for speed

AMP bbc

When Google launched the mobile update in April 2015, it was intended to reward brands with mobile-friendly websites. Even without the update, however, marketers can not ignore the increasing importance of mobile.

More searches are now performed on mobile compared to desktop and m-commerce grew three times faster than ecommerce in 2015.

Even aside from purchases made on the devices themselves, mobile is also having a tremendous impact on in-store purchases. According to Deloitte, mobile has an impact of $970 billion on offline purchases.

These changes force brands to have a mindset shift. Instead of just being mobile-compatible, they need to be mobile-optimized. Sites need to think specifically about what mobile customers want to see and create sites and online experiences that are tailored to them.

One of the most important factors in the mobile experience is speed. About 40% of visitors will abandon a site if it does not load in 3 seconds. This means that companies are potentially experiencing massive losses in traffic and revenue if their sites do not meet the needs of customers.

Google’s solution to this problem has been the launch of AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages.

What is AMP?

Accelerated Mobile Pages is a stripped-down version of the mobile web which runs on a reinvented version of the language used to create web pages: HTML.

AMP has the potential to help brands to speed up their sites. Google claims that there is a 58% drop off when pages take 10 or more seconds to load. Using AMP, however can improve load time by as much as 15 to 85%.

AMP accomplishes this by stripping away everything that is ‘extra’ on the page so that the site loads faster. This means features, such as lead capture forms and on-page comment sections, will be disabled.

Regarding your content, the following rules will also apply:

  • AMP HTML will limit existing styles and tags
  • AMP .JS will asynchronously load external resources and will stop any external scripts that are preventing page renderings
  • AMP CDN is an optional content delivering network that will cache your pages that have been AMP-enabled so that they can be instantly accessible on mobile.

It is also important to use the available schema markups to make the different aspects of your site clearer to the search engine.

How SEO and content can keep pace

Site

Even for sites that are not using the AMP features, fast load times remain a necessity.

Although AMP itself is not specifically a factor in the current Google algorithm, load time is. Also, as AMP becomes more popular, customers will become accustomed to fast loading pages.

This makes them even more likely to click off of slow pages. If you are not using AMP, lower your load times by minimizing features such as large images and reduce your use of cookies.

Content

Mobile optimization also requires content that is on point. This means it adds immediate value to the user and that it takes into account what mobile users want to see.

If your mobile users regularly search your site for your physical address, make it easier to find to improve the user experience.

For example, the BBC has been quick to adopt AMP across all of its news content – creating content for desktop search and for AMP search.

Search

Organic

It is likely that AMP will also have a tremendous impact on organic search.

Since AMP sites will be at the top of the SERP on certain mobile searches, they will push everything else down. When this is combined with the paid search options also taking up space above the fold, organic search will become fiercely competitive.

Brands need to make sure they capitalize on every opportunity to improve their rankings– including content quality, distribution and optimization.

Paid

The fast load times may mean that customers will view more pages. This will increase the opportunities for ads to display.

Google has said that mobile ads now need to focus on the following:

  • Loading as fast as AMP sites
  • Being well-crafted and visually pleasing
  • Being safe– ie using HTTPS
  • Integrating across industries

Measuring

As you move forward with your new content strategy, it is important to remember that measuring success in the age of mobile does not just mean looking at site speed– you also need to understand how the content is performing.

It is vital to ensure that you follow mobile best practice steps and methodologies to stay mobile friendly.

Speed is one factor but you still need to have separate metrics where you track the engagement and conversion rates on your mobile site to see how well customers are responding to your content when they are on their phones or tablets.

Mobile is quickly becoming a dominate player in the world of marketing and AMP is changing customer expectations and the user experience.

Rather than looking at mobile marketing as a requirement to check off, focus instead on mobile optimization and see what you can accomplish with your on-the-go visitors.

Does the web really need any more content recommendations?

crap ad

It has now become almost impossible to read news online without encountering recommendations for related content.

In the main, it’s garbage. Clickbait articles which will lead your viewers to some very low quality sites. News I noticed this week suggests it may become worse.

The Taboola and Disqus deal

Disqus, which provides the comments functionality on this and many other websites has signed a deal with Taboola to bring content recommendations to Disqus users.

As the release states:

Partnering with Disqus allows Taboola’s platform to reach long tail sites that up until now could not have leveraged Taboola’s capabilities. The Disqus platform extends to more than 3.5 million publisher sites globally in over 190 countries.

In short, more sites will now show these related content recommendations. What wonderful news that is.

It also seems that this will be opt-out rather than opt-in for publishers, so this will appear unless site owners remove it.

In a similar way, Disqus recently started displaying ads like this underneath comments on ClickZ:

I disabled it as soon as I figured out how to, but I wasn’t impressed with the fact that these ads were implemented without any warning. So heres a warning to look out for this.

Content recommendations, it’s not all bad

Now there’s nothing wrong with the concept content recommendation in itself. Indeed, you’ll see some at the foot of this article.

Hopefully, they’ll be relevant, some people will click on them, and spend a bit more time on this site. (And reduce our bounce rates).

This, to me, is how content recommendation should be done. I.e. related content relevant to the page the user is on. It should be a tool for publishers to increase their sites’ ‘stickiness’ and help to surface useful content for readers.

However, the way it has been implemented by Taboola, Outbrain and others leaves a lot to be desired, and it isn’t making the internet a better place. Far from it.

Why content recommendations (mainly) suck

The result of the popularity of content recommendation tools is that many publishers have just decided to show their readers this kind of garbage (this is from an NY Post article on The Ramones:

Now, the more sensible web user will know better than to click these things, but people obviously do, or else publishers would have stopped using these things.

Let’s click on the Happy Days article, I’d love to know what The Fonz doesn’t want me to know (apparently Mickey Dolenz was initially up for the role).

Well, we enter into the kind of web page you’d normally run a mile from:

happy days

The article, even if it was interesting or entertaining, is virtually unreadable as it’s 90% ads / 10% content. Oh, and it’s split over 15 pages, which is just great for the reader.

If we follow the trail, we then have even more recommendations (17 Celebs Who Said No To Thigh Gaps and more). Very soon, by following these links, you’re in some of the worst parts of the internet with many pop-ups, autoplaying audio ads, rollovers etc covering your screen. Not to mention the low quality of the content on offer.

Now, this example was from the New York Post, but publishers which would consider themselves more upmarket – Bloomberg, Guardian, The Atlantic etc – still use these things. The New York Times, to its credit, doesn’t.

The recommendations on these sites are slightly less salacious than on others, but still stick out like a sore thumb in the context of the content.

These are the recommendations shown at the foot of an article on Vladimir Putin in The Atlantic.

atlantic

They’re not especially relevant to the article, and I think such links aren’t great for such sites’ reputations.

There’s also the fact that these publishers seem to be recommending this content in the eyes of readers, thus giving low quality sites more credibility than they deserve. As this article explores, sites like Bloomberg are hosting related content which leads to some fairly shady products.

Why content recommendation tools don’t work so well

The theory behind such tools is sound enough. The recommendation engines learn from the content and sites which users click on and show more of them, less of the rest.

This could produce content recommendations which are relevant to the site hosting them and the articles they appear beneath. In practice, it doesn’t work like that.

What this produces is a race to the bottom. The articles that attract traffic are pure clickbait, the sites hosting such clickbait are low-quality, normally celebrity gossip, sales pitches, and flesh.

It works for the recommendation engines as they’re making money. The publishers hosting the clickbait get more traffic so they’re happy, and the publishers displaying the related content get paid too.

In summary

Publishing online is not an easy business, and I understand the pressures publishers face in monetising their content.

However, as with the issues around intrusive and annoying ads and the use of adblockers, publishers are putting revenue ahead of user experience.

Yes, revenue matters, and there sometimes has to be a compromise between the two, but presenting garbage ads and links t readers isn’t a great long-term strategy.

Everything you need to know about natural language search

Search engines like Google, Bing and others are making efforts to bring searching for information in line with everyday conversation with a type of search called ‘natural language search’.

This development is a move away from the type of searching that has dominated the web since the advent of search engines in the 1990s. It is part of an attempt to make searching faster and more effective by understanding searcher intent and more complex, multi-part queries.

Natural language search is also key to a number of advancements currently taking place in technology, including voice search, digital assistants and smart home hubs. But what exactly is it, and how is it going to affect the way that we look for information online?

What is natural language search?

Natural language search is search carried out in everyday language, phrasing questions as you would ask them if you were talking to someone. These queries can be typed into a search engine, spoken aloud with voice search, or posed as a question to a digital assistant like Siri or Cortana.

This is as opposed to keyword-based search, which is what most people who are used to using web search engines still default to. Keyword-based search is an attempt to break down a query into the most important terms, getting rid of unnecessary connecting words like “how”, “and”, “the”, and so on.

So if you wanted to know how high the Empire State Building was, a keyword-based search query for that information might be “Empire State Building height”. But if you were searching using natural language, you would phrase your query as, “How high is the Empire State Building?”

“Don’t speak in these weird haikus.” CollegeHumor’s ‘If Google Was a Guy’ series satirises keyword-based search queries by placing them in a life-like context.

Natural language search has always been around – think of Ask Jeeves, the 1990s search engine which encouraged users to phrase their queries in the form of a question. But Ask Jeeves was ahead of its time; keyword-based searching was the norm then, and Jeeves found itself out-competed by more powerful keyword engines like Google.

Several years too late for Ask Jeeves, search trends are coming back around towards natural language search. This is the result of a number of different developments in search and technology coming together.

The trend towards natural language

First of all, search engines – particularly Google – have improved their search capabilities so much over the years that people expect to find exactly what they’re looking for on the first try.

There’s a reduced patience for sitting and trying different keyword combinations; people are searching on their mobiles, on the go, and they want to be able to ask a question, get the answer, and move on. And search engines have worked hard to meet this expectation, so that people will feel satisfied with the service they provide instead of frustrated by it.

Secondly, search technology has improved to the point where we can begin to teach search engines to understand longer, more complex queries, with different components that modify each other and can’t operate independently.

Google recently published a blog post welcoming “complex questions” and illustrating how its search engine can now understand superlatives (tallest, largest, oldest) and “ordered items”, such as a list of the largest cities in a given state, in order of area.

Google now also has an improved ability to interpret specific dates, and complex, multi-part queries like “Who was the U.S. President when the Angels won the World Series?”

You’ll notice from the screenshot that Google doesn’t just aim to serve the right answer to that question, but to display it within the Knowledge Graph at the top of the screen, eliminating the need to even click on another site in order to find the answer.

The third key component contributing to the development of natural language search is the rise of voice search and digital assistants. As Rob Kerry noted in his presentation on the future of search at Ayima Insights digital marketing conference, “It’s becoming a lot more common for people to search by talking into their phone.”

Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now – these AI assistants are being adopted more and more widely, and their voice activation capabilities increasingly integrated into technology.

The technology might have had its stumbling blocks at first, but as with Google, it’s improving steadily, leading people to become much more used to speaking commands and queries aloud in everyday, natural language and expect an accurate response in return.

Will Oremus of Slate put the progression to natural language search best when he described it as a move from us speaking the language of computers in order to communicate with them, to us teaching them our language.

“In the beginning, computers spoke only computer language, and a human seeking to interact with one was compelled to do the same. First came punch cards, then typed commands such as run, print, and dir.

The 1980s brought the mouse click and the graphical user interface … the 2000s, touch screens; the 2010s, gesture control and voice. It has all been leading, gradually and imperceptibly, to a world in which we no longer have to speak computer language, because computers will speak human language—not perfectly, but well enough to get by.”

It’s not just Google

As the world’s most popular search engine, it’s not really a surprise that Google is leading the pack in natural language search advancements. But it hasn’t been the only search engine to do so by any means.

In 2014, Microsoft made updates to Bing smart search which improved its parsing of natural language queries. A few months later, it developed on this even further by introducing the ability to “continue the conversation” after asking a question in search. In other words, you can ask a follow-up question which depends on the previous one for context, and Bing will understand what you mean.

This works, and it’s quite impressive – ask Bing who the “President of America” is, and then in a separate query, ask “how tall is he?” and you’ll get the right answer, with the height of the First Lady and a couple of other presidents thrown in just in case.

Of course, it depends on the first question being one that Bing can answer, which mostly restricts it to simple “who is…” or “how is…” questions. Still, not even Google, which always treats individual searches as a new query, can do this, and it’s a big step towards the kind of frictionless, conversational searches that natural language search aspires to.

Newer search engines are also making natural language search capability their goal. Plonked, a niche business-focused search engine which launched in March, aims to provide its users with a natural language interface in order to keep up with the level of searching offered by Google and other major search engines.

I also made an unexpected discovery when researching this article, which is that Ask Jeeves is not the only natural language question and answer service left over from the 90s. START is a “natural language question answering system” developed by the InfoLab Group at MIT, and it has been online since 1993.

START functions more like a reference book than a search engine, designed to give factual answers to questions in fields like geography, science, history and culture.

It also might be a little out of date. But it has an ability to puzzle out the different components of a complex query in a way that Google could stand to learn a thing or two from – and by the look of things, has been doing it for much longer than Google has.

A screencap of a query from the START Natural Language Question Answering System, showing the query "When was the constitution adopted in the most populous country in Africa?" START reasons the answer as follows: " know that the most populous country in Africa is Nigeria (source: The World Factbook). Using this information, I determined when the constitution was adopted in Nigeria: Constitution: several previous; latest adopted 5 May 1999, effective 29 May 1999; amended several times, last in 2012 (2016)"

Where next for natural language search?

We’ve published a number of articles on where Google is going with search, from using Hummingbird to better understand searcher intent, to employing RankBrain to guess at the meaning of never before seen questions, to making strides towards semantic search.

Natural language search is bound up with all of these, since these are all capabilities that would allow Google to better interpret and respond to search queries in everyday language. So I think it’s fair to say that we can expect much better and more accurate natural language responses from Google as these algorithms learn, develop and have their limits tested.

But as we’ve established, it’s not just about Google. There’s a possibility that we’ll see natural language search developing in a few different directions as Bing furthers its ‘conversational’ search style, and other search engines play to their own strengths.

The kinds of natural language search queries that a niche engine like Plonked needs to interpret and respond to could be very different from those put to a general search engine, which could lead to some interesting advances in unexpected areas.

An image of two smartphones side by side, one an iPhone running SIRI, and the other a Windows phone running Cortana.
Screen capture via GV Commerciais

There are even bigger developments taking place in the ‘digital assistant’ field, which is heavily tied together with voice and natural language search as digital assistants handle search queries along with a myriad of other tasks. Siri, Cortana, Alexa and others are all threats to Google’s dominance of search, and there are rumours that Google is planning to develop its own voice-controlled assistant device to take on Amazon’s Echo in the smart home space.

Natural language search is not only a direction that search engines are overwhelmingly moving in in order to better understand the goals and desires of searchers online, but also a key component of some of the most important – and, let’s be honest, futuristic – developments currently happening in the field of technology.

Google Analytics: a guide to confusing terms

Google Analytics is a hugely useful and in-depth tool for measuring and monitoring your website’s performance, as long as you can learn its language.

After setting up Google Analytics on your site for the first time, it can be hard work to navigate your way through all the different terms referring to parts of your site or the activities users carry out on it – especially when so many of them sound similar.

What’s the difference between a ‘session’ and a ‘pageview’? Are ‘users’ and ‘visitors’ the same thing? How does your site’s ‘bounce rate’ differ from its ‘exit rate’? Does ‘time on page’ really reflect what it says it does?

If you’ve wondered something like this at any point while staring down a mass of analytics for your site, worry not.

We’ve put together a handy guide to break down the meanings and uses of some key but confusing terms on Google Analytics, and how they differ from each other.

Quick Links
Bounce Rate
Sticky content

Clicks
Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

Entrances
Events
Exit Page
Exit Rate (% Exit)
Hits
Impressions
Landing or Entrance Page
Page Views
Unique Page Views
Pages/Session or Average Page Depth

Sessions
Average Session Duration

Time on Page
Users, Visitors or Traffic?
New Visitor
Returning Visitor
Traffic Source

Types of Traffic
Direct Traffic
Organic Search Traffic
Organic Search Keywords

Paid Search Traffic
Referral Traffic

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate of your site is the percentage of visitors who leave the site after only interacting with one page. This could be because they lost interest, were confused, or had already found the information they were looking for.

Individual pages have bounce rates as well as the site as a whole. A bounce rate for a page is based on all sessions that begin with that page and end without the user navigating to any other pages on the site.

A high bounce rate can be an indicator of problems, or it can indicate that for whatever reason, visitors aren’t finding anything on the site that entices them to stay longer, read more, or search for more content. A site that people spend a long time visiting and interacting with is often referred to as ‘sticky’.

For more, listen to Avinash Kaushik on the power of bounce rate, or “I came, I puked, I left”:

Not to be confused with: Exit Rate

Clicks

Clicks is a metric that appears on Google’s SEO Reports, which you can set up for your site to monitor your visibility in search results and how that translates into visitors to your site. As it says on the tin, the number of clicks on your SEO report records the number of times that people have clicked on a URL to your website in search results. This does not count clicks on paid AdWords search results, which are recorded separately in AdWords reports.

Clickthrough Rate, or CTR, is a number calculated by dividing the number of clicks to your site by the number of impressions (which records how many times it was seen) and multiplying by 100. This will tell you what proportion of users who see your site in search results actually click through to it.

Not to be confused with: Impressions or Hits

Entrances

Google Analytics records an entrance for each page that a user begins a new session on. So the number of entrances given for a specific page shows how many users began their session with that page.

Not to be confused with: Landing or Entrance Page

Events

An event on Google Analytics is a type of hit which tracks user interactions with content like downloads, mobile ad clicks, Flash elements and video plays.

Events on Google Analytics give insight into a range of user activities that are taking place across your site, and with a little bit of technical know-how, you can set up custom events to track all kinds of user behaviours that aren’t normally visible in Analytics.

Not to be confused with: Hits

Exit Page

The opposite of a landing page, an exit page on Google Analytics refers to the last page a user accesses before their session ends or they leave the site. The Exit Pages section of Google Analytics therefore allows you to see which pages people most frequently end their sessions on or leave the site after viewing.

Google Analytics has difficulty calculating the amount of time users spend on an exit page because there is no next page to help it judge when the user left that page. This issue impacts the accuracy of average time on page and average session duration figures.

Not to be confused with: Landing or Entrance Page or Exit Rate

Exit Rate (shown on Google Analytics as % Exit)

This figure shows how often users end their session or leave the site after viewing that particular page. The exit rate is calculated by dividing the number of ‘exits’ made from the page by the number of pageviews it has, to determine what proportion of visitors to that page leave it after visiting.

A page with a high exit rate may not necessarily have a high bounce rate, since users might be coming to that page from elsewhere in the site before exiting. However, a page with a low exit rate is likely to also have a low bounce rate, since users must be going on to other pages on the site before they leave.

Not to be confused with: Bounce Rate or Exit Page

Hits

In web terms, a hit is a request to a web server for a file like a webpage, image or JavaScript. In Google Analytics, hits are an overarching term for a variety of website interactions. Page views and events, for example, are both types of hit. A session is simply a collection of hits from one user, grouped together.

Google Analytics uses hits to determine when and how a user is interacting with a webpage. So if no hits are sent, the user is assumed to be inactive. The countdown to the end of a user’s session begins from their last hit. After thirty minutes with no new hits, the session automatically ends.

Not to be confused with: Clicks, Page Views or Events

Impressions

In Google’s SEO Reports, impressions records how many times a URL to your site was viewed by a user in search results. This does not count impressions by paid AdWords search results, which are recorded separately in AdWords reports.

By calculating clicks on those URLs as a percentage of impressions, Google Analytics can tell you the Click-Through Rate of your URLs that appear in search results. This appears in your SEO Report under CTR.

Not to be confused with: Page Views

Landing or Entrance Page

‘Landing Page’ and ‘Entrance Page’ are both used by Google to refer to the first page a user accesses (or ‘lands’ on) at the beginning of a session. The Landing Pages section of Google Analytics therefore allows you to view the pages through which users most often arrive on the site, and their statistics.

Not to be confused with: Exit Page or Entrances

Page Views

Page Views (also called screen views for mobile) are the total count of how many times any user lands on an individual page on your website. This includes repeatedly landing on the same page during one session, so if a user refreshes the page, this counts as an additional page view on your site.

Unique page views’ is a number that will tell you how many times a page was accessed at least once during a session. In other words, it doesn’t count multiple views of a page by the same user in the same session, instead treating them as a single view.

Pages per session, also called Average Page Depth, is the average number of pages viewed by each user during one session. On Google Analytics, this metric includes repeated views of a single page by the same user.

Not to be confused with: Hits or Impressions

Session(s)

A session is a measure of the amount of time a user spends actively engaging with your website. Session length is calculated from the moment a user arrives on your site until 30 minutes of inactivity have elapsed. Every new action that a user performs will reset the clock on when that session will ‘expire’.

The only exception to this is at midnight, at which point all sessions for that day are considered to have ended and a fresh session will begin, even if that user has been active throughout.

Average Session Duration calculates the average length of a user’s session by dividing the session duration by the number of sessions. However, there is a problem with this calculation: Google cannot calculate the time spent on an exit page because there is no next page for it to use as a marker. This can drastically throw off the accuracy of the average session duration, especially in the case of bounces where the session consists of a single page, and no session duration can be calculated at all.

Not to be confused with: Time on Page

Time on Page

If you look at the Google Analytics for individual pages on your site, you can see the average amount of time that a user spent on that page, as well as the amount of time that users spend, on average, on any one page of your site. This figure can be deceptive, however.

Google has no way of measuring the time a user spent on the last page of your website that they viewed, because it uses the next page they access to calculate how long they spent on the previous one. On the last page of a session, there is no next page and so the time on that page is recorded as 0.

Google does correct for this issue somewhat, calculating average time on page by dividing the time on page by the number of page views minus the number of exits from the site. The problem is, this still means the time on the exit page isn’t accounted for, so bear that in mind when looking at these figures.

Not to be confused with: Session Duration

Users, Visitors or Traffic?

These three terms are all ways of referring to the people who access your site. Google uses the words user and visitor interchangeably in different places, both to refer to an individual person who comes to your site. A new visitor is someone who comes to your site without having been there before, while a returning visitor is someone who has been to your site previously.

Traffic is an overall term to refer to the volume of users accessing your website. A traffic source is any place from which people are directed to your site, such as a search engine, social network or other website.

Types of traffic:
Direct traffic

Visitors to your site are classed as direct traffic when they access your site via a bookmark, or by entering its URL straight into their browser’s address bar. When viewing Traffic Sources on Google Analytics, the source for direct traffic is shown as ‘(direct)’.

Organic Search Traffic

Organic traffic is the name given to the amount of users who find your website ‘organically’ through search results, as opposed to via a paid ad, clicking a link on another site, or from a bookmark they already have saved. Organic search keywords can allow you to see which search terms are helping users to find your site, as well as the kind of things they are looking for when they access it.

Paid Search Traffic

Paid traffic is the amount of visitors to your site who came there via Google Adwords ads, paid search keywords and other online ad campaigns. With Paid Traffic on Google Analytics, you can track all traffic from paid sources in one place, analyse user behaviour and gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Referral Traffic

A referral is a visitor to your site who is sent there, or referred, from a direct link on another site. Referral traffic is therefore the general term for the amount of people who are referred to your site from elsewhere on the web.

11 tips on how to optimise Pinterest pins for SEO

pinterest username

Pinterest has evolved during the past few years from a trending social network to a powerful visual search engine, and as with any other search engine, you can optimise your presence to be discovered by other users.

With more than 100 million users who keep searching and pinning new content depending on their interests, Pinterest is probably an underrated platform, when it comes to its searching capability and the traffic it can drive to your site.

However, in order to create a successful profile on Pinterest, you need to make sure that your pins are easily discovered from other users and that’s when SEO optimisation for Pinterest is required.

Yes, there is SEO optimisation for Pinterest and it’s not as complex as it sounds.

Pinterest is not about quick return-on-investment, and you may be surprised about its evergreen value, so it’s time to start optimising your presence and help other Pinterest users discover your pins through searching.

Here’s a list of the tweaks that could improve your Pinterest presence:

11 tips to boost your SEO on Pinterest

1. Optimise profile

Before you even start pinning, you can tweak your profile and pick the right username. You can change it through your settings and use one that reflects your presence and the way you want to be discovered. The URL will serve as your keyword, so make sure you pick a clear, direct and memorable username.

This also applies to your actual profile name, as it will serve as your identity on the platform.

2. Optimise boards

Your boards should be appealing and neatly organised, emphasising both on the titles, but also on the images of the boards.

Adore Me decided to create an interesting Pinterest presence by paying attention to the details, being playful both with the titles and the images.

From an SEO perspective, it is important to think like a user when picking a board’s title and name it the way it would be searched. Yes, a clever and funny title is great, but if you want to improve your pins’ ranking, you need to optimise the titles in a way that they can be discovered by other users.

Still, you don’t have to strictly focus on the use of keywords, feel free to mix creativity with effectiveness.

Nordstrom, for example, has a very successful presence on Pinterest, and heavily relied on the right optimisation to measure significant traffic from its pins.

pinterest nordstrom board

3. Optimise pins

Every pin is the representation of your profile, which means that you need to optimise it as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to be descriptive, as this will help the search engine to discover your pins.

pin

Image: Pinterest

4. Focus on descriptions

Not every user spends the right amount of time on the description of a pin and this ultimately affects the chances of having it repinned.

Pinterest favours the pins that provide a specific and thoughtful description, one that helps the users find the image they are looking for when performing a search. Add all the details that describe your image and create a natural flow of text that will favor your pin’s discovery towards others.

pinterest descriptions

Image: Pinterest

5. Avoid hashtags

When Pinterest created a guide on how to use the platform for your business, it mentioned among others:

Don’t just drop in keywords or hashtags. The description is an important part of captivating Pinners. Set a scene that incorporates the right search words, and you’ll help Pinners imagine themselves with your Pin.

pinterest hashtags

On a ‘hashtagging’ scale from Facebook to Instagram, Pinterest is probably in between, as hashtags are not completely useless, but they are also not necessary to extend the reach of your pins.

6. Do keyword research

The best way to find the right keywords for your pins is to actually perform extended searches on your own. Try out how Pinterest searching works, which results show up first, how Pinterest organises the pins, the boards and the pinners in order to start understanding the platform at a deeper level.

Which keywords does the automatic suggestion bring together? Which keywords are relevant to your pins?

pinterest seo search

Except for the desktop search, it might be a good idea to try out Pinterest’s mobile version, as there’s an increasing number of the audience using mobile searching for the sake of convenience.

As more than 75% of Pinterest usage takes places on phones and tablets, it’s important to understand the differences between the desktop and the mobile search, with Pinterest trying to make the mobile platform as functional as possible.

pinterest searching

Image: Pinterest

Analysing Pinterest keywords

If you’d like to analyse the performance of specific keywords on Pinterest, then you can use Google, following this formula:

site: www.pinterest.com “keyword”

This way you can analyse the most popular pins according to their search ranking and use the results to improve the optimisation of your own keywords.

pinterest google search

How to find who pins from your site

If you want to understand how pinners pin your content directly from your site, then all you need to do is use the url:

http://www.pinterest.com/source/[yoursite]

This is an easy way to understand what Pinterest users like pinning from your own content, but also the way it ranks in Pinterest’s platform.

pinterest source

Analysing Pinterest’s referral traffic

Pinterest is among the social networks that may drive great referral traffic to your site, so it’s useful to measure the pages that attracted the biggest traffic, examining how pinners reached your page and whether you can further optimise the most popular pins, or even to upgrade your content with new posts.

pinterest analytics

7. Use rich pins

Rich pins are the enhanced version of the regular pins, providing more information about a pin. They can be used in six contexts (app, movie, recipe, article, product and place) and their effectiveness is significantly better than usual pins.

Whether it’s providing the price of the product, a full-recipe, or an article, rich pins tend to perform better in the search ranking and they are highly recommended if your presence can benefit from them.

pinterest rich

For example, About.com noted an increase of 70% on its traffic back to the site with the use of rich pins.

aboutcom

8. Verify website

pinterest verified

A verified website seems to be prioritised on the search results above the rest, increasing the pinner’s authority and eventually the ranking on the searches.

What’s more, the verification of your website on Pinterest allows you to access further details on your account in Pinterest Analytics, helping you understand the performance of your presence, from your most popular pins, to an analysis of your audience.

pinterest more analytics

9. Pin consistently

Pinterest is all about consistency. You don’t have to be obsessed with it, or look like a spam account, but you need to incorporate it in your content calendar and pin appealing content several times during the week.

What’s more, content curation is also important, which means that except for the content creation, you also need to spend the necessary amount of time to spot popular pins and users in your niche area, in order to repin what’s relevant to your audience (and the boards you want to create).

Remember, Pinterest is ideal for the circulation of evergreen content and this highlights even more the need to focus on relevance and quality.

pinterest pins

Image: Pinterest

10. Focus on quality

Every image you’re pinning should aim to stand out from the rest, always while maintaining its relevance.

Quality is rewarded with better ranking in the search results and thus, with repins and traffic to your site. Pinterest users may not notice your description, but they certainly pay attention to the image and this means that every pin should be clear, have the right size (ideally at least 600 pixels wide), and balance the actual image with text overlays if needed to provide more context..

pinterest w
11. Pin vertical images

Every image can be pinned on Pinterest, but vertical images have more chances to be noticed, as they occupy more space in the feed.

What’s more, vertical pins are ideal for mobile devices, which brings us back to the importance of creating pins that are highly optimised for Pinterest’s mobile version.

An ideal size of a vertical pin should be close to 736px by 2000px, in order to take up the necessary space in the feed, but also to provide the necessary details when clicked.

pinterest nordstrom vertical pins

Finally, here’s how a Pinterest pin of all the tips could look like, taking into consideration what we mentioned above:

How to optimise Pinterest pins for SEO

Five of the most interesting SEM news stories of the week

elections candidates

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from around the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week we have information on Google opening up even more about its ranking signals, which would be great news IF it was even a search engine anymore.

Google reveals a new ranking signal for local search

As we reported earlier this week when I asked the question How does Google determine my local ranking?, Google has updated its Google My Business help page with an additional pointer to how it ranks your business beyond relevance and distance… prominence.

“Some places are more prominent in the offline world, and search results try to reflect this in local ranking. For example, famous museums, landmark hotels, or well-known store brands that are familiar to many people are also likely to be prominent in local search results.

Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (like links, articles, and directories). Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.

Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.”

Basically, all of the everyday SEO practices that you use to improve your visibility, whether on-page or off, apply to local.

Google isn’t a ‘search engine’ rules the EU

As reported by Rebecca Sentance this week, the EU has defined what a search engine actually is, and it isn’t Google.

The definition is now as follows:

“‘Online search engine’ is a digital service that allows users to perform searches of in principle all websites in a particular language, on the basis of a query on any subject in the form of a keyword, phrase or other input; and returns links in which information related to the requested content can be found.”

As Google doesn’t index all websites (partly due to, ironically, the EU’s own ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling) it isn’t strictly a search engine.

Will this ultimately matter? That depends if you still refer to all vacuum cleaners as Hoovers and sticky tape as Sellotape. So, uh… no.

Time spent building links is greater than SEO budget allocation

Cory Collins, Nicholas Chimonas of Page One Power and John Doherty of Credo teamed up to create the 2016 Link Building Survey, which was published on Moz this week.

We’ve covered its key takeaways here, but perhaps its most important insight is how much time SEOs spend on link-building vs. the budget available…

What percentage of your typical client’s overall SEO budget is dedicated to link building?

What percent of your SEO work/campaigns is focused on link acquisition?

percentage SEO work on links

Respondents reported more time was spent on link acquisition than the budget allocations suggest.

Cory Collins reports:

“SEOs are either working for less when building links, or using budget from other activities to cover time spent building links. This disparity, in my opinion, goes back to the charging-for-links conundrum. Links are a core responsibility for SEOs and portion of our job, but clients aren’t overeager to spend budget for links.”

This week in US election search news

Linkdex released its United States of Search report this week, revealing that… surprise, surprise… Donald Trump is the most searched candidate among all states, occupying 31.59% of all the searches. Bernie Sanders was second with 21.19%.

On a country-wide level, the most searched topics are: education (20.33%), religion (13.46%), foreign policy (11.81%) and gun control (8.58%).

For much more on the subject, here’s Tereza Litsa talking about how organic search might influence the US presidential race.

Reddit now has a mobile app

Probably the most surprising thing about this is the fact that Reddit has only this week released its first ever app.

It’s really nice to use too and looks a damn site more user friendly than the web version, so this should encourage people onboard who have struggled to get to grips with its interface.

reddit app

For ideas on how to use Reddit for inspiration, check out how to use Reddit for content ideas.

Why user testing is the most important part of mobile development

table_test_dev_schedule_cz15

This article explains the why, when, what, how, where, and who of user testing for mobile friendly websites or apps.

The sooner you find out your what is wrong with your *brilliant* concept, the easier, quicker, cheaper (and less embarrassing) it is to put it right or – if it is a total flop – go back to the drawing board.

That is why it is never too early to start testing and why testing should be ingrained into the design and development schedule.

Why do you need to user test?

Dr David Travis, chartered psychologist and managing director of UK-based user experience and training company, Userfocus:

What are the dangers of not testing? Designing the wrong product that doesn’t have a user need; designing a product that people can’t or won’t use; design teams failing to understand their users and designing for themselves; and/or developing a system for the wrong context.

However you judge the success of your mobile project – whether a mobile-friendly website or an app – the reception it receives from users will be critical.

This means it you have to test to see if it:

  • Meets an identified need for an identified audience (see this column on audience need)
  • Is fit for purpose (see this column on project viability)
  • Is easy to use (usability).
  • Is enjoyable to use (user experience or UX).
  • There are plenty of methods and tools that will help highlight issues (e.g. things that don’t work properly, or are unpopular with users), but if you really want to know what works with users, you need to test it on real people.

    Doug Brams, Principal UX architect, mobile web, The Home Depot:

    The Home Depot conducts both qualitative and quantitative research to reveal what users need from our website and app experience. We work hard to improve both the general usability based on known HCI principles [Human-Computer Interaction], but also to understand some of the often subtle platform differences in terms of context of use and key tasks. This helps us present the right information at the right time to create workflow efficiencies and delight our users.

    There are many facets to truly understanding our target users so it is important to employ a variety of methods. Some tools such as clickstream analysis, tracking/analytics, A/B testing or multivariate testing and clickstream analysis help to elucidate where problems spots exist with the interface or task flow.

    However, these are just clues as to where to look and do not explain why the problem is occurring. Rather than guessing at causality, it is best to follow up with other techniques such as usability testing and user research.

    When should user testing start and how regularly should it happen?

    Testing should start ASAP. Long before coding begins, perhaps even before you start putting pen to paper. Stop thinking of testing as reactive, testing should be proactive.

    Nothing to test? Rubbish.

    • Test user behavior on and attitudes to your existing mobile-friendly site.
    • No mobile site? Test mobile user reaction to your desktop site.
    • No desktop site? Test on competitors’ website or apps.

    Raluca Budiu, senior researcher, at US-based user experience training/consulting specialists Nielsen Norman Group:

    Test as soon as possible. You can sometimes start testing even before you have the first designs. For example, if you have competitors in the same industry and they do have mobile products, you can start by testing those. In that way you can learn which design mistakes to avoid. You can also do diary studies and field studies to better understand the needs of your users and how they currently do the tasks that your site or app will address.

    As soon as you have your first candidate wireframes, test with paper prototypes to make sure that you are on the right track. You don’t need to put effort into high-fidelity prototypes in the beginning — just test your flows to make sure they make sense for the users. At the later stages, as you refine your visual design and individual page layout, high-fidelity prototypes become important.

    Regular testing should be interwoven throughout the planning, design and development process.

    Consider it as three disciplines/teams working in parallel, each feeding and feeding back to the next stage, with all teams discussing and agreeing in a regular meeting at the end of each stage/iteration (these stages are sometimes referred to as a sprint and may last two to four weeks).

    A simplified schedule of test, design and development tasks, might look a bit like this:

    Nielsen Norman’s Budiu:

    Leave room for testing when planning your design and development process and interweave testing at various stages in the development.

    Use a pipeline model where designers and researchers work on refining the next area of the user interface (UI), while the developers code those areas that have been already tested and for which the team has agreed on a design. Start with the areas of the interface that are difficult to design and/or important to the organization.

    Testing advocates love to quote – with good reason – the old adage that the same problem that costs $10 to fix early in the development process; will cost $100 pre-release; and will cost to fix $1000 if discovered post release.

    While the origin and empirical proof for this maxim is hard to come by, the logic is as applicable to mobile user testing as any other form of software development.

    What to user test

    Testing can cover innumerable aspects of your site, from size of a button to content headlines. But one critical thing is to concentrate on testing tasks – both the tasks that are important for the user as well as those that the business wants them to achieve.

    Keep it simple and to the point to avoid influencing the outcome. E.g. Your task is to use your mobile device to find/purchase a new bed; a hotel for tonight; a night out.

    As the subject carries out the task, you will study:

  • Usability
  • User experience (UX)
  • Usability and UX are often confused, and regularly argued over. The first is concerned with how easy people find it to complete the tasks they want to do.

    The second is concerned with how much people felt about using it e.g. like/dislike. Often mobile design is a compromise of the two.

    This is a subject for a future column, but if you’re unclear, consider Thomas Baekdal’s analogy: how do you get from A to B? Do you take the wide, straight, fast, but dull, highway – the usability option – or the twisting, engaging, mountain road – the high UX option?

    One major difference between usability and UX is the measurability of results. Usability is often more easily quantified: Was the task completed? How long did it take? Was the navigation intuitive? Did they attempt to tap pictures that weren’t links? Did they take the expected route? How fast did the pages load? Did it crash? Etc.

    Testing for UX is more emotive, often personal to the individual, making it harder to measure. What may be a frustrating, tedious task for one, may not be for another.

    Also the user may not be able to quantify why they preferred one site to another e.g. was is it the images, font, colors, navigation, content or a general look and feel? And it can be harder to design UX test without influencing the outcome.

    What you test also depends on where you are in the process.

    This might be:

    • A rough pen and paper design (see example pictured below from Nielsen Norman).
    • A storyboard (a cartoon strip of the use journey – see this example from Userfocus).
    • A prototype, using a mockup (wireframe) tool such as Axure and some creative trickery.
    • A beta version of the site/app
    • Using competitor sites/apps

    How and where to conduct a user test

    A previous column on identifying the needs of your mobile audience touched on the various ways to solicit user feedback – e.g. through surveys and focus groups and to track user behavior through heatmaps and web analytics.

    This all provides valuable insights, but the king of user testing is being able to “watch” and “hear” how the user interacts with your site or app.

    The tests can be conducted:

    • Remotely
    • In person e.g. in your office

    And will, arguably deliver better results when it is conducted in context:

    • On the user’s own device
    • In their own home
    • In a store
    • Doing a task they commonly perform e.g. shopping.

    A common scenario for a user test would be: a camera (ideally a document camera) videos how the user interacts with the site/app on their device and sends this to a monitoring computer. This is often accompanied by the user describing what they are doing – known as thinking aloud.

    The following image shows the user test set up recommended set up by Nielsen Norman.

    doc_camera_testing_nng_cz15

    The Home Depot’s Brams:

    Remote unmoderated usability testing can be done rapidly these days through services such as usertesting.com. The advantage of this is the speed which a test can be done.

    However, in my opinion, nothing beats a one-to-one moderated usability study to help explain why issues may be occurring. The downside is you must think of all your questions and tasks beforehand. Live moderated sessions have the advantage of being both more organic as well as allows the researcher to probe deeper when you hear something of interest with follow up questions.

    For longer term understanding you need to get out in the field and into users’ homes to interview them, conduct shop-along studies or ethnographic research. This helps reveal when in their journey they use your site and where it fits into their thinking, planning and decision process. It also helps identify the trigger points that kick off a session or moments of truth where brand loyalty can be developed.

    Analyzing the user research from lots of users can help you begin to truly understand their motivations, inspirations, and aspirations. From all this data you can produce useful artifacts such as customer journey maps and user personas. These can become tent poles to help anchor your design thinking.

    home_depot_screenshot_cz15

    Who and how many people to test with

    One of the most important lessons in user testing is to keep it simple. Often conducting multiple short tests with a few participants will be more effective than expensive and complicated studies with large groups.

    The other advantage of small user tests is it provides empirical proof to back up your pitch to senior management, explains Joe Pendlebury, mobile user experience consultant who has advised major UK retailers.

    In usability testing sessions, I’ve found that you start to receive repetitive feedback with any more than five participants. Sometimes, even four is enough. Whilst face-to-face sessions are well-recommended, they are time-consuming to prepare, set up, facilitate and moderate. With remote user testing, you can have a test up and running, and be receiving feedback from participants, within minutes.

    In addition, as these remote sessions are often recorded, you have visual feedback available on demand, to present back to internal stakeholders. This is an extremely powerful tool to have in your inventory, and can greatly help with decision-making, and seeking UX buy-in, at a much senior level (such as with C-level execs).

    Often overlooked as a testing resource is the company’s employees:

    When you’re looking at the same thing, day-in, day-out, it’s easy to reach a point where you think you’ve found and addressed all the bugs you need to. Chances are, you’ve not even touched on half of them. That’s where internal beta testing can come in handy.

    Distribute what your build to internal employees and ask them to test the app/site on their device. Offering some sort of incentive (such as a £5 or £10 gift card for every previously unknown bug found) will drive participation in the program.

    Test, test and test again

    No test or testing method is infallible, which makes it imperative to have a number of testing methods in your arsenal.

    The Home Depot’s Brams:

    An important aspect of testing is to take each finding with a grain of salt and employ multiple methods to look for patterns to get closer to the truth.

    This is Part 15 of the ClickZ ‘DNA of mobile-friendly web’ series.

    Here are the recent ones:

    • Formulating the go-to market strategy for your mobile project
    • How to market your mobile site or app without spending a fortune on ads
    • The pros, cons and politics of hybrid mobile apps
    • Digital transformation: what it is and why it was the unofficial theme at MWC
    • Connected cars offer valuable opportunities for marketing your brand today
    • Everything you need to know about building apps for connected cars
    • Enterprise mobile apps: best practice tips and common mistakes to avoid

    Five tips for low-risk Google Display Network testing

    muppets in a remarketing list

    So you’re a small or medium-sized business (SMB) and you’ve already hit a cap on how far you can go with search engine marketing and remarketing.

    You want to continue to scale and are considering doing it via Google Display Network (GDN), but you’re aware of the possible drawback: a lot of wasted spend on poor quality, low-intent traffic.

    As an SMB, you don’t have enough budget to throw spaghetti on the wall and see what works, so you need to test new waters in a smart manner.

    Below are five tips on how to begin testing within the GDN to determine if this is a viable channel for you.

    Use Display Select Keywords

    One initiative I typically recommend people run when they first venture out into GDN is Display Select Keywords, which can almost be considered a good middle ground between search and display.

    So what is Display Select Keyword (DSK) targeting? Basically, you choose keywords that are highly relevant to your product/service, and Google will use its technology to match your ad based on a customer’s purchase intent – using that keyword selection, predictive conversion models, and ‘other’ criteria (the black-box stuff that Google won’t tell us about).

    My recommendation is to launch DSK starting with your top 15 keywords; as you see success you can continue to expand that list.

    Try Similar Users

    Given you are running remarketing, you should have generated some good remarketing lists of audiences you deem to be valuable (most obvious would be those who have converted on your site).

    We can take these audiences and use Google’s lookalike technology to find users who have characteristics, traits, and behavior similar to those audiences. This is a great way to get your ad in front of your target audience.

    Take advantage of In-Market Segments

    In-Market segments are groups of audiences who Google has determined to be most interested in what you have to offer based on their behavior and activity.

    These customers are actively browsing, researching, or comparing the types of products/services you sell. So this is an opportunity to get your ad in front of a highly relevant audience that has demonstrated in-market behavior and purchase intent.

    interests and remarketing

    Test and optimize your creative and copy

    The quality of your ad itself is one of the most important aspects of GDN. In order to ensure that you maintain efficiency and reduce wasted spend, it is crucial to be as clear as possible about the value proposition of your product/service.

    Of course you also want to follow many of the accepted best practices when it comes to ad creative, but know that the importance of being extremely clear about your product/its purpose is that you’ll be able to qualify your audience up front.

    If an audience has a good understanding of what you do, then they’ll know if this is relevant to them or not. If they don’t care for your service/product, they won’t click on your ad. Avoid being too broad or vague; this tends to bring more users to your site – and result in a much higher bounce rate.

    ad copy

    Cut bad spend liberally with the help of placement reports

    One of the most important reports Google provides is placement reports, which help you see the sites where your ads are serving and how the ads are performing on each site.

    Make sure you set up criteria to define ‘poor performance’; based off of that, you can single out placements that are not performing well and add them to your negative placement list.

    Be sure to pull this report/analysis more frequently in the beginning so you can start catching any bleeding placements that arise from your initial launch.

    Setting this up as a recurring task will allow you to reduce any wasted spend from these poor-performing sites.

    view automatic placements

    There are many more great strategies that you can implement and test to continue to scale efficiently within the GDN. The above are just a few options to get your foot in the water and do it in the least risky manner. Good luck!

    The Joy of Micro UX: 18 delightful examples

    royal mail postcode finder

    What is micro-UX?

    Micro-UX refers to the tiny interactions with a website or app that are designed to delight the user, by making their digital interactions easier, more engaging and ultimately human.

    Providing a good user experience is so vital to keeping visitors glued to your sites and products, and many of these animations or simple pieces of copy can really help engender a feeling of loyalty. Revealing that your brand actually has a personality and really cares about the human at the other end.

    This is a list of just some of my favourites that I’ve discovered over the last 12 months, and I couldn’t have complied it without these excellent resources: Little Big Details and BrianLovin.com.

    Royal Mail’s Postcode Finder

    Find an address by typing your postcode into the search box, and watch as the drop down menu reveals a scrollable list of all possible options as you type.

    AO.com

    AO has tonnes of brilliant UX features, but this is really clever… If you highlight the name of a product in order to copy and paste it, AO knows what you’re doing and says “we price match.”

    ao.com price match

    MailChimp

    If you high-five the monkey’s paw too much when your campaign is in the send queue, it goes red, and THEN if you click again it opens up MailChimp’s surprisingly addictive Fast Fives game. Go on, click it, you’ve earned a break. I won’t tell anyone 😉

    Secret

    As Brian Lovin points out on his excellent blog Designer Details, there’s lots of great photo animations on the Secret, including the subtle way the image remains while scrolling through the comments…

    secret

    Gilt

    The luxury retailer fills in popular domains when you enter your email address.

    gilt form

    Google search – popular times

    When you search for restaurants, Google provides you with a handy visualisation on its busiest times and highlights the current time.

    google listings

    Rough Trade

    Instead of adding to a bag or cart, on the Rough Trade site you can drag a record up to a ‘shelf’ so you can see all your lovely vinyl throughout your crate-digging.

    rough_trade

    AV Club

    Many publishers do something similar, but here’s AV Club’s subtle indicator at the top of the page that tells you how much of the article you’ve read.

    av club indicator

    Google Hangouts

    One word: /ponystream

    google hangouts chat ponies

    There are other easter eggs too… woot!!, LMAO!!, /pitchforks and my personal favourite – Use your cursor and press: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, and then hit Enter.

    Spotify – Star Wars playlists

    If you listen to a song uploaded by the official Star Wars channel on the Spotify desktop app, the time remaining bar turns into a lightsaber.

    star wars lightsaber

    Airbnb

    Airbnb has tonnes of awesome UX features, but I particularly like how the price tags for each location are greyed-out when you’ve looked at the place already.

    airbnb-bad

    Amazon

    Amazon has a myriad of ways it uses to retain its customers, included respecting your privacy. The emails below all say the product name of the purchased items, apart from the one with the product number, which is a sex toy.

    amazon anonymous

    Automattic

    If you’ve looked at the same role available on Automattic’s jobs page more than a few times, it offer this encouraging little pop-up…

    Automattic jobs page

    Timehop

    I love this cheeky little message from the social app that invites you to share social posts from your past… ‘looks like “someone” is trying to get a job in politics.’

    timehop

    MoMA

    On the MoMa site, if you leave a comment, the Captcha tool is based on a piece of artwork from the collection.

    moma blog captcha

    ASOS

    When you sign-up to ASOS.com, when you fill in your date of birth, it tells you how many sleeps till your birthday.

    Join ASOS

    Mondo

    In order not to distract from the artwork and create a nice clutter free page, Mondo only reveals the price and add to cart buttons when you hover over the products.

    mondo

    Google Chrome

    And finally, my very favourite secret thing on the whole of the internet. If you lose internet connection while you’re on Chrome, did you know that you can play a platform game with the little dinosaur by pressing your space-bar? It’s totally worth switching off your Wi-Fi off for.

    chrome dinosaur game