How does Google determine my local ranking?


Google has just updated how it determines your business’s local ranking.

Another week, another step towards Google becoming a damn sight more transparent than we’re used to. If it wasn’t enough that Google revealed its top three ranking signals for organic search last Friday, this Friday it revealed a new ranking signal for local search… Prominence.

As noticed by Mike Blumenthal, and reported by SEJ over the weekend, Google has updated its Google My Business help page.

This resource details how you can improve your local rankings with practical guidance on keeping your business information complete and accurate (physical address, phone number, category), verifying your location(s), keeping your opening hours accurate and managing customer reviews.

It also lists the ways in which Google determines your local ranking…

How Google ranks your business for local search


How well does your local listing match what someone is searching for? This is why you business information should always be fully detailed and accurate.


How close are you to the person searching for a particular term? Bear in mind that relevance will be the stronger signal. If a business is further away from a searcher’s location, but is more likely to have what they’re looking for than a business that’s closer, Google will rank it higher in local results.

Additionally, if a user doesn’t specify a location, Google will calculate distance based on what’s known about their location.

And this weekend Google added another…


Basically… How well known is your business?

Here’s the exact wording on ‘prominence’ from Google…

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.

Your business’s overall organic search presence is a ranking factor when it comes to local.

So ultimately, all of your regular, everyday SEO practices that you do to boost your rankings, whether on-page or off, apply to local.

Customer reviews

It’s also interesting to note that has Google confirmed that customer reviews and ratings are factored into local search ranking. (Although be warned that there was a ‘probably’ in the original text above.)

Experts always figured this was true anyway. Moz previosly found that review signals are 8.4% of the overall ‘local ranking pie’.

But again, it’s just nice to get confirmation on these things.


Accurate and complete Google My Business information + accurate location data + positive customer reviews + traditional SEO tactics = good local ranking (possibly).

How artificial intelligence can be used for marketing


This week sees the launch of our Marketer’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence report, which takes a look at how AI can be used for marketing, now and in the future.

In this extract, report author Martin Talks looks at the various ways marketers can make use of the technology.

1. New customer experiences

Although AI still has limitations, forward-thinking brands are starting to harness its power to enhance the customer experience.

They can do this by creating their own virtual assistants to help customers navigate through their product range or get acquainted with new functionality.

Brands could also tap in to the virtual assistants being created by the Big Five Western tech companies…


Facebook launched a concierge service called M through its Messenger app in 2015.

M can purchase items, get gifts delivered, book restaurants, and make travel arrangements for the user. There is an element of the Mechanical Turk about it at the moment as it is powered by a combination of AI and real-life people.


Siri has been around for a few years but has been upgraded in that time. It’s now capable of showing
the user specific photos he or she has taken, ordering things via ecommerce apps and giving directions.

It has also been integrated with HomeKit so it can be used to control heating and lighting. It is available on Apple devices only.


Google’s personal assistant Google Now takes a data-hungry approach to providing its service and improves as more data is shared with it.

It anticipates our needs based on our browsing behaviour and consumption of content on social networks. Google Now can be used across Android and Apple devices.


Cortana’s features can set reminders, recognise the user’s voice without them having to first
input a predefined series of commands, and answer questions using information from Bing.

It’s interestingly named – in the Halo game series Cortana is an artificial intelligence that goes wrong…


Echo is a connected device that combines the abilities of Siri and a Bluetooth speaker in a 9.25- inch tall cylinder. The built-in personal assistant is called Alexa. Alexa can answer questions, play music from an Amazon library or via Prime, read an audio book, tell the sports results and control the lights.



And one must not underestimate China’s Google equivalent, Baidu, which has launched its intelligent virtual assistant Duer.

Duer is built into the Baidu Android search app which is installed on millions of smartphones across China. It is service-oriented, so can order food and access other services through the app.


There are plenty of other plays going on too. In the enterprise space, one of the more interesting is Amelia, while the original inventors of Siri are creating a new virtual assistant called Viv8. Viv grandly describes itself as the “global brain”.

You could reasonably predict that in the not-too-distant future everyone will have a personal concierge in their life not only making recommendations on products and services, but ordering them, paying for them and providing feedback all without our conscious involvement. This of course all has implications for the role of marketing itself as we’ll explore later.

An extension of the virtual assistant role could be assessing performance of products and recommending timing and nature of replacements.

With sensors embedded in products as part of IoT, AI will be able to take a range of readings on products and, for instance, decide if a replacement is desirable or due. A virtual assistant could then make choices based on the performance data.

2. New product launches

There are a whole range of industries launching new products with AI embedded in them, from the smart fridges of LG and Samsung to robo-investing products of the advisory markets. But from a marketer’s point of view, AI can help in the process of any new product launch.

However much preparation a brand makes for a new product launch and however much material is prepared and explanations provided, there are always going to be prospective customers who want to ask questions.

This is not necessarily customer laziness, but a human desire to get reassurance from a fellow being. Through AI that ‘being’ need not necessarily be human.


For instance, BMW employed its iGenius technology in an ad campaign for its first electric car9, which was used to answer customers’ questions about the new model via text.

iGenius increased BMW’s capacity to handle simultaneous questions and reduced the need for BMW to invest in training dealers or customer service staff to handle queries.

One of the more interesting aspects was the technology’s ability to memorise previous questions and so provide more meaningful answers. However, a lot of input is still required to create personable responses with a high standard of knowledge.

3. Insight from data

With vast quantities of data being generated from all areas of business, there has never been a better time to generate insight to improve performance. Although the sheer complexity of this data is beyond human capability, this is very much suited to technology such as AI.

The usefulness of AI for data crunching was dramatically demonstrated in the Google Street View project.

People had been employed to spend weeks tagging buildings and streets in the captured footage. But through the use of Google Brain’s AI capabilities, it was possible to transcribe all of the addresses that Street View has captured in France in less than an hour. It is no wonder that Google has been described as no longer a search company, but as a machine learning company.

Ellipse is a machine learning platform developed by Thoughtly that is designed to accelerate the pace of learning for researchers and students.

Describing itself as AI for research, it provides students and researchers with the ability to analyse, visualise and summarise large volumes of text in real time.12 Individuals can use Ellipse to quickly navigate thousands of resources at once.

Another interesting approach is that of Narrative Science’s Quill. Quill analyses and then adds value to data by identifying the most relevant information and relaying it through professional, conversational language.

Quill aims to provide intelligent narratives that efficiently communicate the insights buried in big data that people can comprehend, act on and trust. Possible uses include producing readable website activity reports based on Google Analytics.


4. Pre-emptive marketing

With sufficient data it is possible to identify patterns of behaviour. To deliver this, the right volume and variety of data need to be gathered and processed in such a way that its veracity, or its level of reliability, can be understood.

By maintaining velocity, or speedy analysis of this data, we can start to establish these patterns with increasing timeliness. This is true big data and beyond human capability. It is an ideal job for AI.

5. Programmatic advertising

Programmatic advertising is already big business. It is the automation of planning, buying and optimising media so advertisers can target specific audiences and demographics. It can be used for online display advertising, mobile and social media campaigns.

The approach can even be used for TV and print. More than half the online display ads being bought in the US are bought programmatically. Google Ad Exchange and Facebook are the main programmatic display sellers.

The benefits of programmatic advertising include its efficiency and simplicity (no negotiation required), and the combination of automation and data which allows better targeting and more informed ad buying.

However, there are issues with programmatic advertising, which include susceptibility to fraud, multiple hidden agency charges and of course the irritation that persistent advertising can cause.

Indeed, the widespread use of ad blocking software is now posing a threat to some forms of online advertising. PageFair predicted that in 2015 as much as $21.8bn (£15.3bn) would be lost in online ad revenue due to ad blockers – and this is expected to increase to $41.4bn (£29bn) in 2016.

adblocking stats

AI and the use of virtual assistants could come to the rescue here and change the dynamic of this programmatic advertising. It could be the virtual assistant that decides when it is open to receiving advertising messages and of what type.

This will filter out many of the annoying experiences we currently have of intrusive ads following us around our browsing.

6. Content production

As the previous sections showed, AI can be used in the process of automatically generating and optimising ads. So it should be no surprise that AI is capable of generating the content to populate ads as well as other platforms for sharing content.

This is particularly the case with content that is rooted in data and analytical information. Business information, for example, is likely to be authored by automated writing tools, from press releases and news content through to annual reports. Gartner predicts that by 2018, 20% of business content will be authored by machines.

Indeed, this is already happening as Associated Press (AP) is using an automated system to produce many of its financial stories. If you’re wondering whether an article is written by AI, look out for clues such as these at the end of the article: “This story was generated by Automated Insights.” Here’s an example.

This system produces millions of articles a week for the likes of AP, Samsung, Comcast and Yahoo, and is capable of producing 2,000 articles per second.

Automated Insights also offers specific services aimed at the marketing industry: it can automatically generate campaign summaries, ad performance overviews and brand management reports.

But the content needn’t be dry reporting. TROBO is a lovable, huggable plush toy companion that can help children aged two to five learn about science, technology, engineering and maths through fun, personalised stories.

trobo ai

The TROBOs – Newton and Curie – read the story out loud and the child gets to be the star of the show as their name and avatar feature.

7. Designing websites

Website design is increasingly becoming a commodity, with many free and low-cost platforms to create websites on offer.

But there is no guarantee of quality with these websites and it is not always easy to modify the layout or elements on the site to increase conversion rates.

The Grid offers AI websites that design themselves by algorithmically generating website designs and improving them based on user behaviour.

For more on AI and Marketing, you can download the full report here. It’s free to download after a quick registration form. Also, report author Martin Talks discusses AI in the latest ClickZ Podcast.

Five of the most interesting SEM news stories of the week

adwords redesigned

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 lots of stats, only one or two updates from Google (for a change), and Instagram gives Peter Jackson a run for his money.

Google redesigns AdWords

As Matt Owen reported earlier this week, Google has redesigned AdWords to look more visually appealing and easier to use.

“The most relevant metrics are front-and-centre Clicks, Conversions, Cost and CTR. While further down, graphs display the ad groups that are performing best, and a nice graph displaying your split across devices. It’s also nice to see a simplified navigation menu, which should mean less time messing around in settings to find location data.”

So these are mostly aesthetic changes to bring it into line with its other products, but it’s also clear that Google wants make it more accessible to the marketer without much training or experience with AdWords.

More than one-third of millennials begin and end social consumer journey on YouTube

Although I haven’t made peace with the term millennials, I have adopted a policy of linking to this article every time I have to write the word by way of a subtle troll.


Collective Bias has discovered that although Facebook ranked as both the “preferred go-to shopping source” initially (20.8% of consumers) as well as the most influential social platform for motivating buying decisions (18.9%), millennials are least likely to consult Facebook. Only 7.5% favoured Facebook for shopping compared to the 36.2% who preferred YouTube.

Click-through rates up 10% for Travel in the post right-hand-side ad era

AdGooroo has published new data examining travel industry keywords in the post-right-rail era of paid search.

Comparing data from February 1-18 (pre change) and February 19 – March 28 (post change), it found a boost in click-through rates by an average of 10% across all 20 travel keywords examined.

  • The number of advertisers on the keyword group dropped by an average of 15.4%, from an average of 38 advertisers per keyword from February 1-18 to an average of 32.
  • Average cost-per-click did increase, but by just 5.21%, or three cents, rising from average of $2.65 to $2.68

You now have an extra 30 seconds for Instagram Videos

Instagram has increased its video functionality by doubling the length of its videos from 30 seconds to 60 seconds. Wow, that’s like all three Hobbit movies compared to Vine’s 6 second long blink.

What will this mean for marketers? Well they’ll probably give up making bespoke Instagram videos all together and just upload their full-length broadcast ads and make Instagram even more of a boring corporate playground.

On the plus side, you get an extra few seconds of aftermath after you’ve filmed your mate falling off a skateboard.

Businesses have been spotted using Google Posts

Although the Post feature, where individuals can post content directly onto SERPs for their own search term, was only being used by presidential candidates, it seems that Google is trialling the future for a few local businesses.

A Google Posts update showing a photograph of comic books on shelves in Escape Pod Comics, with a text explanation that every Wednesday in the store is New Comic Book Day, and these are some of the products that the store has on its shelves this NCBD.

Rebecca Sentance reported the story in full this week. But the skinny is that a Nebraska based spa, and a New York comic shop and a New York based jewellers have been given access to the ‘podium’.

You can see the full results in How are businesses using Google posts?

Dictionary of ad buying: key terms and acronyms


For beginners, buying ads can be a confusing labyrinth of jargon and acronyms. To help you make sense of them, we’ve compiled this helpful glossary.

If you’re new to buying ads, you may not know where to begin. There are a lot of terms; some, like targeting, are fairly obvious, while others just seem like an alphabet soup of acronyms. If you’re like, “AMP, CPC, DSP, what?” fear not. We’re here to help.

We’ve separated this glossary into three categories:

  • Before – where we define the different kinds of ads.
  • During – is about the terms you’ll come across while in the purchasing stage, such as “ad exchange,” which is very different from an “ad network.”
  • After – breaks down some of the things that happen once your ad has made its way to the Internet.

First, let’s go back to the beginning.


The first thing you should know is the difference between the various kinds of ads you may be buying. In case you missed our beginner’s guide to display advertising, here’s a brief refresher.

Display ad: ads on webpages that are obviously advertising. Display ads are measured in pixels – picture elements, or the dots that make up pictures – and come in several forms. There are the rectangles and squares we’re not going to bother defining because we’re confident you’ve been to first grade, as well as a few others whose names aren’t so self-explanatory.

  • Banner ad: The horizontally long, vertically short ads most commonly placed at the top (leaderboards) or bottom of the page. According to Google, the ones that perform best are 728×90 and 320×110. Banners can also take a more tall, narrow form in skyscraper ads, which run alongside the page.
  • Billboard: similar to banner ads, but a bit taller. With that extra height, billboards better lend themselves to text.
  • Button: a small display ad. Common sizes are 120×90 or 125×125.

Native ads: native ads are designed to blend in with their surroundings, as commonly seen on Yahoo’s digital magazines.

Pop-ups: ads that pop up in a new window. They can also appear underneath your window, so as not to be disruptive (pop-unders) or in between activities (interstitial). Another form of pop-ups ads are the overlays, which close on their own after 15 to 30 seconds.

Responsive ads: ads designed to adapt to different devices and screen sizes.

Rich media: ads with audio, video, or some other interactive element.


Now you know the kind of ads you can buy. Here are some terms from the next stage: actually buying them.

Ad exchange: a technology platform that enables advertisers and publishers to buy and sell advertising space. AOL’s Marketplace, Google’s DoubleClick and Microsoft are a few of the big ones.

Ad network: companies that connect advertisers with the websites that want to host their ads. Networks vary based on transparency regarding where the ads will run (vertical networks are transparent, while blind networks are not), whether the advertiser is looking to reach a specific demographic, and formats, such as mobile and video.

Ad serving: the technology and services that place ads on webpages: providing the software, counting them, deciding which ads will be the most profitable, and ultimately tracking the ads’ performance.

Ad verification: a system ensuring that an ad is a good one, from a quality standpoint.

Auction: the process that determines who sees ads, and when and where they see them on a page. In Google’s AdSense auction, for example, advertisers determine the maximum amount they’re willing to pay for an impression, and the winner is chosen based on a combination of targeting, format, and Quality Score. That determines how useful someone is likely to find an ad, taking into consideration its relevance, keywords and predicted click-through rate (CTR). This can be done instantly, on a per-impression basis, known as real-time bidding (RTB).

Audience buying: Using data to target specific groups of consumers.

Cost per click (CPC): how much an advertiser earns each time someone clicks on one of their ads.

Cost per mille (CPM): a unit of measurement that refers to the price of advertising. The name can be confusing; “mille” is the Latin word for 1,000, and doesn’t mean 1 million.

Data aggregation: the practice of pulling together different kinds of data – ad-serving, conversion, third-party – without attaching anyone’s personal information.

Demand-side platform (DSP): the technology that allows advertisers to purchase ads automatically via real-time bidding exchanges. The publisher version of this is known as a supply-side platform (SSP).

Dynamic creative: segment-based advertising that changes automatically, depending on who’s seeing it.

Inventory: the number of ads or the amount of space a publisher has available to sell.

Management platform: audience management platforms (AMP) automate the process of segmentation, while a data management platform (DMP) serves as a one-stop shop for all of an advertiser’s data.

Programmatic buying: an automated way to purchase ad inventory. This is a particularly hot topic now, as agencies beef up their programmatic capabilities.


You’ve purchased your ads. Here are some helpful terms for what comes next.

Ad blockers: browser-enabled software users use in order to avoid seeing ads.

Ad fraud: the practice of serving ads that will never be seen by human eyes, in order to illegally profit off the clicks.

Banner blindness: the idea that there users see so many banner ads that they don’t even notice them.

Conversion: when a clicks leads to something valuable for the advertiser, such as a purchase, sign-up or pageview.

Cookie: small files passed from a web server to a browser, allowing advertisers to track people throughout the internet.

Frequency capping: a restriction limiting the number of times someone will see the same ad.

Impression: the measure of ad views.

Viewability: a metric regarding ads actually being seen by people. The current rate is inadequate, according to senior leadership from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Ratings Council (MRC).

This article was originally published on our sister site ClickZ.

How B2B brands perform on social (spoiler: better than you think)

B2B social Audiences by Channel

In B2B social media there are a few accepted ‘truths’. B2B can’t work on Facebook or Pinterest. Instagram is a waste of time. LinkedIn is the only place for us (and we should set up a group, not a page).

All of these are total claptrap of course. B2B works just as well (or better than) B2C, because the content and information they have to share is incredibly deep and engaging.

Things have changed a bit recently of course. One only has to look at giants like GE or Maersk to see incredible work, but just in case, how about a few stats to clear things up once and for all?

TrackMaven has compiled an overview of content from 300+ B2B brands across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest to see which verticals were performing well. 508,060 social media posts and more than 100 million interactions make for some fascinating insights…

Firstly, the old adage about B2B needing to stick to LinkedIn can be put to bed. B2B brands on Instagram saw engagement levels more than 20 times higher than on LinkedIn, with median engagement rates (defined as “Interactions per post, per 1,000 followers) at 22.53 on Instagram, compared to just 1.09 on LinkedIn (Twitter bought up the rear, with an engagement rate of just 0.86).

With that said, the hierarchy of familiarity clearly plays a part here, as B2B brands had an average of 109,000 followers on LinkedIn, almost 36 times more than Instagram, with just 3,000.

Engagement rates vary wildly by sector and platform:

Of course, these topline figures don’t take into account the type of content being shared by different sectors. the aerospace and defense industry performs incredibly well on Instagram, with an average engagement rate of 29.10.

Because, well, this looks amazing:
-jet_fighters • Instagram photos and videos

Over on Twitter, it’s an entirely different story. Engagement rates for the same industry are just 0.54. There are two obvious reasons for this: Firstly, Aerospace news tends to surface on Twitter, so rather than images of jets launching missiles, you get press releases informing you of… less interesting developments.

The other reason may be the nature of the platforms themselves. Twitter’s most engaged users are usually part of small niche communities, whereas it’s larger user groups are less engaged with brand updates. A digression, but an important one.

While overall follower numbers don’t tell us a huge amount, the rate of growth from different industries is more illuminating:

b2B 3

Comparatively ‘new’ industries like Biotech are flying ahead, with small but very engaged followers. Similarly there’s an interesting split between ‘Professional Services’ and ‘Financial Services’. The former has a huge audience but they are less likely to engage.

In the past I’ve experienced engagement as sluggish in this sector partly due to a glut of lightweight content that is often hidden behind registration walls, but also because regulation has discouraged individuals from sharing information without consent.

This should of course, also be true of finance, but it’s inherent newsworthiness, combined with a love of data viz and stats (not to mention the rise of the Fintech sector) seems to have overridden this, driving average annual growth of 81.77%.

Overall, finance, biotech and engineering saw the best performance, with consistently high engagement across channels. This is of interest as it indicates a dedication to content marketing and (hopefully) some awareness of extended attribution models – it is after all, rather difficult to sell complex financial products in 140 characters.

The results also show the importance of relevance by channel. Software brands have seen phenomenal growth (an 82% average increase) but very low engagement, possibly indicating an over-reliance on glossy product photography and traditional PR techniques that don’t engage users.

Overall these figures show that there is a place for B2B on newer, more visual channels and it’s a mistake to assume that you are dealing in ‘boring’ content that won’t appeal to users on those channels.

How to track clicks to offline sales from a B2B lead generation website

tracking clicks to offline

Some products demand a very specific conversion strategy. If yours includes a process of generating leads through your website to nurture and follow up offline, then you may face an issue which has plagued marketers for years.

While it may make your old-school PPC account manager feel warm inside to see a healthy rate of conversion from form fills and phone calls, that often isn’t a good indicator of campaign success anymore.

The modern day digital marketer needs to understand which clicks are turning into sales and not just the ones that are generating interest.

So, where does the problem lie, and what can you do about it?

The problem

Let’s say you spend $100,000 each on two separate campaigns. Campaign A generates 1,000 online leads, whereas Campaign B generates only 500.

Using this information alone, you would probably choose to focus your resources on Campaign A as it seems to offer a better ROI. However, the problem lies in the fact that the lead-to-sale conversion rate is rarely consistent across different campaigns, keywords and channels.

If Campaign B converted its 500 leads at a rate of 50% and Campaign A only managed 10%, then it puts a dramatically different perspective on the success of both. The more granular you get with conversion analysis, the better you’ll understand these conversion rates and the more effectively you’ll be able to allocate your budgets.

When you’re spending $50 a click in some valuable and competitive markets, then it is a necessity rather than a bonus.

Failing to recognize and tackle this issue can mean you’re not aware of which of your leads are good or bad, and can cause a whole host of other issues including:

  • Manual work to review and feedback on lead quality
  • Not knowing which keywords are actually generating sales, so you can’t optimize AdWords/paid marketing accordingly
  • Wasted ad spend on keywords that generate low-quality web leads

The solution

There are ways to tackle the problem, though. Digital marketers usually optimize their campaigns in one of two places:

  • Ad platforms such as AdWords or Doubleclick (or perhaps a third party management platform like Marin or Kenshoo)
  • Analytics platforms – such as Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics or IBM Analytics (formerly Omniture and Coremetrics)
  • To make this optimization more effective you need information about your final offline sales to be visible in those systems. This is now a straightforward process and can be achieved much easier than most people think.

    The examples below are for AdWords and Google Analytics, but you may also need to explore other methods using your own specific setup and platform.

    Injecting offline conversion and activity into Google Analytics

    Using your analytics platform to hold information about offline activity and conversions, that started with an online journey, is the best solution to problem. This will give you a solution that works for all your online efforts and not just a specific ad platform.

    For this to work, you need to make it possible for users to share an ID between their online sessions and your CRM database. This is then used to record what happens with the customer once you have their details.

    There are two possible ways to do this, by using either the UserID method, which is the most effective, or the Client ID method.

    Here’s how you can implement these changes:

    UserID method

    Google Analytics (GA) now has the ability to link sessions across devices and even activity that occurs offline (perhaps at the point of sale in a shop, or a face to face sales meeting).

    It does this by making use of a feature called UserID tracking. This UserID is an ID that you set to uniquely identify each visitor to your website in your CRM. You probably already have this ID in your CRM.

    In each session/hit that a user interacts with your website, you make a small customization to the tracking script to output this ID. This then enables GA to link this activity together whether it is on the same device, a different one or even offline. To implement this, take the following steps:

  • Set up a UserID view in Google Analytics (GA) – You need to create a new view that will have the sole purpose of presenting all sessions and activity that has a UserID associated with it.
  • Output that UserID at every opportunity – The most important time to do this is during the session that they originally make an enquiry in. Your technology needs to be integrated enough and capable of saving information submitted in a form in your CRM, getting the ID from that CRM record and then outputting it to the “Thank you” page of the form that the user has just submitted. Once this ID is output in the original, lead generating session you have the ability to join your offline activity with that session. More importantly, you will better understand the channels that drove it. Find out more information here:
  • Inject offline activity back into GA – Next, you need to be able to customize your business system so that it’s able to execute some very basic code when something you are interested in tracking occurs. This might be a sale when an enquiry turns into a ‘qualified enquiry’, when a sales visit occurs or any number of other checkpoints. You have to make use of what is called the Google Analytics measurement protocol to inject this data. Although this may sound complicated, it really couldn’t be much simpler. All the change does is allow your system to generate a simple URL (such as the one below) in a predefined format or protocol.
  • POST


    The values of the parameters relate to what type of information you want to put into GA. More information and a reference to the measurement protocol can be found here:

    And that is it! One point to note is that to make UserID as effective as possible, it’s worth taking every opportunity to output the UserID to the web sessions of people when you know who they are. This could include:

    • Storing this ID in a cookie so it is available in future sessions – important if your site does not require login
    • Outputting this UserID whenever they log in
    • Including this UserID in email marketing to set and store the UserID when they click a link
    • Any other opportunity you get to inform the web browser that the user has an ID

    crm to analytics

    ClientID method

    As mentioned above, there are two possible ways to link your offline activity to online leads. If you do not have the ability to integrate your website and CRM fully to output the UserID on the ‘Thank you’ page after a form is submitted, then there is an alternative.

    The ClientID is an internal ID that GA uses to identify an individual. The ‘Client’, in this sense, relates to the software client, most probably the web browser or app. Instead of pulling an ID from your CRM to output on your website, this method is slightly simpler in that you only need to capture the ClientID and ‘push’ it with the lead information they send.

    GA provides an interface/function to capture this ClientID, which means you don’t have to go looking in cookies yourself – it is as follows:

    ga(function(tracker) {

    var clientId = tracker.get(‘clientId’);



    You then simply find a way of populating a hidden field in your web forms with this value. You can then use this ClientID with the measurement protocol as described earlier.

    Importing offline conversion into Google AdWords

    Of course, if you implement the GA method above, then you have the option of importing GA goals into AdWords. However, if you prefer to import offline conversion data directly into AdWords, then there is now functionality to do so. The following steps should be followed if you wish to do this:

  • Enable auto-tagging – You need to enable auto tagging which will automatically put a parameter called ‘gclid’ onto each URL when someone clicks an ad. This parameter will contain a string value that uniquely identifies the click.
  • Capture the above-mentioned gclid parameter – When someone lands on the site, or the landing page contains the gclid parameter, then you need to program your site to capture this value and store it (probably in a cookie). This is a relatively simple task, especially if you use the script provided by Google shown here:
  • It becomes even easier if you have Google Tag Manager installed, which makes this a two-minute job.

  • Push the gclid ID into your CRM when a lead is completed – When a form is submitted, you need to ensure that you take the gclid parameter value out of the cookie (mentioned in point two) and then place this in a hidden field. That way, it’s ready for your CRM to record this against the lead it records.
  • Push conversions back into AdWords – When one of the leads you accept, with a gclid against it, goes on to complete offline conversions (such as buying something), then you need to push this information back into AdWords. There are two ways of doing this, you can either:
  • Upload a CSV or Excel file with the details of the conversion and the gclid it belongs to. This also contains other information like the conversion date. You can process a full batch of these at a time (perhaps every day or week). You can even automate this using AdWords scripts.
  • Upload using the AdWords API – this is a more advanced method but is the most effective, and allows you to push conversions in instantly as they occur.
  • What about phone enquiries?

    There are phone tracking systems on the market now that allow you to individually link online sessions to a phone call (for example Infinity or ResponseTap).

    You can make a small customization to these systems to hold the information you send it from the web browser. This will enable the system to work with the above AdWords and GA (ClientID) methods. Although, there is a little more custom development required.

    So, what does this all mean?

    In summary, understanding the true value of the clicks you are buying or generating allows you to make a better-informed decision about their importance. This knowledge is what separates the market leaders, from the market followers.

    In a competitive market, having confidence that a keyword is generating $2 per click instead of $1 can be the difference between setting bids that put you at the top of Google, or the bottom.

    How are businesses using Google Posts?

    Google has recently debuted a new feature giving individuals and organisations a new platform for communicating with the wider public.

    Dubbed ‘Google Posts’ by most commentators – although Google has indicated that the feature does not have an official name yet – the new platform appears as a carousel of ‘card’ style updates within a search engine results page.

    The feature was originally introduced as part of the U.S. Presidential Elections, as a way for presidential candidates to deliver a personal message to the public via Google. Later on, some sharp-eyed searchers noticed that Posts had been rolled out to a very limited number of local businesses in the US, and was being given a prominent billing on search results pages.

    Google has been fairly quiet about the new feature’s existence so far. Search Engine Land managed to confirm with the company that this was an official test, which has been rolled out to a “few dozen” local businesses.

    Of these, only three seem to be widely known about: a day spa and massage therapist, a comic book store, and a jeweller’s specialising in engagement and wedding rings. So how are these lucky few making use of Google’s newest innovation, and what can we take away for when the feature is rolled out more widely in future?

    Andrews Jewelers

    Andrews Jewelers was the first business to be spotted using the new feature, by local search expert Mike Blumenthal as he searched for engagement rings in Buffalo, New York.

    Searchers who enter the right keywords on are presented with a miniature carousel of the most recent few posts by the business in the search results page. Each has a time stamp, and a share button which allows the posts to be republished on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and (in weirdly meta fashion) Google+.

    Although the posts are showcased prominently in search results, businesses using Google Posts don’t seem to be artificially boosted to the top of the results page. Rather, the Posts carousel will appear directly below the business’s highest entry on the search results page, whether it be the top search result or the fourth.

    Clicking on the company’s logo takes you to a feed of published posts by that company which is presented on, in Blumenthal’s words, “a slimmed-down Plus like page”. The resemblance to Google+ (and the fact that well, it is a Google creation) has caused many to speculate that the new feature could eventually be phased in as a replacement for Google+, which has noticeably been stripped out of branded searches as of late.

    As a retail business, Andrews Jewelers has made use of the strong visual element of Google Posts to show off its products, with eye-catching images of their diamond rings and custom designs.

    Andrews Jewelers’ updates on Posts are slightly more evergreen compared with something like its Twitter feed, promoting longer-lasting content like a diamond-buying guide, a post on the importance of prong maintenance, and current trends and styles in the jewellery world.

    The business is good at linking up its various different channels, drawing attention to five-star Google reviews and encouraging readers to visit its Google+ Page.

    Most interestingly, company founder Andy Moquin published a longer piece to his business’s Posts page, addressing an “ongoing debate in the jewelry industry” about gemological laboratories and diamond grading.

    I’m on the fence about whether Google Posts makes the best platform for this kind of piece. The no-frills platform interface makes text posts very readable, but without an image, a text post is only given a few lines of preview in the main feed, and is very easily overlooked between the more attention-grabbing visual posts.

    A screenshot showing two large and prominent Google Posts updates with eye-catching images, and in between them, an almost overlooked snippet of text.I almost missed the text post here when scrolling through the feed.

    Then again, when you’re one of the first businesses ever to make use of a new Google platform, anything is a good idea from a visibility standpoint. It’s cool to see businesses experimenting with different types of post on the new platform, and hopefully there’ll be plenty of room to find out what works when the feature is rolled out more widely.

    Escape Pod Comics

    Another local New York business, Escape Pod Comics in Huntingdon, NY, has also been spotted using Google Posts.

    Escape Pod has a good mix of posts going on in its feed, using images, video, GIFs and text posts to promote the business, spotlight individual artists and highlight upcoming events. As a comic book retailer, it uses visual posts to great advantage, using GIFs to showcase a creator’s distinctive style ahead of a signing, or to show off products within the store every Wednesday (the day new comic books are released).

    A Google Posts update showing a photograph of comic books on shelves in Escape Pod Comics, with a text explanation that every Wednesday in the store is New Comic Book Day, and these are some of the products that the store has on its shelves this NCBD.

    The page features some cross-promotion of Escape Pod’s blog, as well as a post which makes use of a screenshot from the store’s Instagram. With posts dating back to 29th February, Escape Pod Comics is also our earliest adopter of the three Google Posts businesses, as the other two feeds both date back to 1st March.

    I found it entertaining that, when searching for Escape Pod Comics on (Google Posts currently only appear in search results for and not any of the localised Googles), Google has already begun to make associations between searches for the different businesses who are using Google Posts.

    A screenshot of a search for "escape pod comics". In the drop-down box of search suggestions below it, the top suggestion is "A healthy choice spa", one of the other businesses known to be testing Google Posts.

    A Healthy Choice Spa

    Our third Google Posts business is based in Lincoln, Nebraska, which promptly did away with my theory about whether the businesses that Google has chosen to debut Posts had any geographical link.

    A Healthy Choice is our most frequent updater on Posts, often publishing two or three posts per day. The updates tend to be short and simple, containing just a single line of text, an image or GIF, and a link.

    At this stage, it’s impossible to say whether updating more frequently on Google Posts could be an advantage, a disadvantage, or not really make a difference. In a situation where most or all businesses on Google have their own Posts feed, it’s conceivable that Google could boost the more active publishers higher up the search results, but this could also turn out not to be a factor at all.

    Currently, the most that it affects is the number of recent posts which show in the ‘carousel’ on the search results page, which seem to have a cut-off period of about one week; the more posts which have been published in the past week, the more will be displayed in the carousel.

    A screenshot of the ‘carousel‘ of recent posts published by A Healthy Choice Spa, each featuring an image and a simple text description such as "Find your happy place" with a link to the spa‘s website. The earliest is time stamped 6 days ago.

    As well as updates promoting its business and the health benefits of massages, A Healthy Choice uses its feed to support and promote local events, history and causes. This isn’t unusual for social media, but when publishing to a platform which feeds directly into search results pages, I wonder if it’s such a good idea.

    On the one hand, it looks good for a business to be seen promoting its local area, and building trust and respect with the nearby community is always important for local businesses.

    On the other hand, with Posts from businesses appearing directly within search results, businesses might have to put on a search engine ‘hat’ and consider how to deliver the most useful information to searchers who are looking up their business on Google.

    I can see it going either way, but as with most things, it will be up to businesses to refine what works when Google Posts is rolled out on a larger scale.

    A Google Posts update from A Healthy Choice Spa, showing a conductor frozen in the middle of conducting an orchestra. Underneath the text reads, "Supporting music for all our community", with a link.What’s next for Posts?

    It’s difficult to speculate too much about what Google plans for Posts, given that Google itself has kept so quiet about the whole project. None of the businesses taking part in the initial, experimental testing stages seems to have made an announcement about being approached or selected, leaving searchers to stumble across these early users by accident.

    The homepage for Posts on Google definitely implies a wider implementation of the platform, calling it an “experimental new podium” which will allow people to “hear directly from the people and organisations [they] care about on Google.”

    “Verified individuals and organisations can now communicate with text, images and videos directly on Google,” it proclaims. Anyone who is a “public figure or organisation” who would like to publish on Google can join the waiting list, though noticeably, the form doesn’t require anyone to specify why they are significant or even what organisation they represent in order to sign up.

    A screenshot of the waitlist form from Google Posts. The form only has three fields: Name, Email and Additional Notes. The first two fields are marked by an asterisk as being compulsory; the third is not.

    Based on what we’ve seen of Posts so far, Google’s new feature seems like a halfway house between a new social media outlet and a publishing platform. Certainly, the early adopters seem to be using it that way.

    But I think there’s potential here for Posts to become something completely new altogether. As I mentioned before, the fact that Posts are published directly into search results means that publishers will have to bear searchers in mind as their audience with their presentation and the information they provide.

    The key thing setting Google Posts apart from social media (and blogging platforms) is the lack of interactivity. You can share posts, but not otherwise comment on or interact with them. That could always change in future, but I think it’s a statement of intent as to where Google is going with this feature.

    Speculation about replacing Plus aside, I don’t think Google is setting out to create a self-contained social network with its own ecosystem, but something that extends more seamlessly from existing Google search. It’s not just another social network or another publishing platform – both of which Google already owns.

    But combining elements of both with the huge ‘audience’ that Google (as the world’s most popular search engine) commands makes using Posts a very attractive prospect indeed, at least from a business perspective.

    I think the next big consideration will be whether users find it beneficial, or whether it will be seen as just another level of clutter trying to draw their attention away from the information they’re searching for.

    How to use In-Page Analytics and how it can help boost conversions

    in-page analytics

    Google Analytics is most certainly complex, so naturally there are a few options and features that go unnoticed.

    So where do you begin if you’re trying to get more advanced and need a place to start? In-Page Analytics is probably one of the most under-used features that can also be the most impactful to a small business.

    By looking at these specific analytics you can figure out which areas of your site are most important and which links visitors are clicking when they are actually on your site.

    Once you can understand some of the details associated with user patterns, you can reformat your site and optimize in ways that ultimately will boost your conversions.

    How to access your In-Page Analytics

    The purpose of In-Page Analytics is to be able to tell what is working visually and what is not. In order to see your In-Page Analytics data you will need to sign into your Google Analytics account. Before you can do anything specific with the report, you will have to enter the URL for the page on which you want the report to launch. You enter that URL when you edit the settings for a Reporting view.

    You can access this report two ways:

    • Access—Way #1
    • Sign in to your Analytics account.
    • Navigate to your view.
    • Select the Reporting tab.
    • Select Behavior > In-Page Analytics.
    • Access—Way #2
    • Select Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.
    • Drill into a page and select the In-Page tab.
    • This opens the report for that page.

    In both cases you access the report through the ‘behavior’ section. Once, you click on In-Page Analytics, your website’s home page will display the exact percentage of where users are clicking on your site. Below shows where you can find the In-Page Analytics report and what it looks like:

    Once again, the job of the In-Page Analytics report is ultimately to infer the number of clicks on a page element (CTA, links, etc.) from the number of times that page appears as the referrer to subsequent pages.

    In this way you can see which elements are leading to the more popular subsequent pages on your website. In many cases this is not just a preference of content, but something that stood out more than other elements on your website.

    Customizing In-Page Analytics

    According to Site Pro News, you can also customize in-page analytics for the needs of your site, which Site Pro News also touched on here. This can directly help to optimize your site, which in turn will help boost conversions.

    Here are two ideas for how you can customize the report:

    Importance of setting the date range

    Just as with any report, you may customize your date range by clicking on the date panel located on the top right-hand side of your analytics dashboard and choosing your own date range.

    This will allow you to understand exactly what was up on your site or any changes you have made, and when. Periods of time are incredibly important to consider with this analysis, so I recommend clicking the ‘Compare To’ button to see if you’re making improvements:

    setting date range

    Keep in mind that the only way to say whether or not your numbers are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is to compare them to what they were in previous months, and this is especially true with this report.

    Every website is different, so you’re in a competition with yourself first and foremost before worrying about competition.

    Using Segmentation

    There are a lot ways to segment your data on the in-page analytics platform. This will allow you to look at how users arrive on your site (for example) and then the ways that they navigate it once they are there.

    You can separate, as the screen shot indicates, by categories such as ‘made a purchase’, ‘referral traffic’, ‘direct traffic’, or ‘new users’. All of this can be used to optimize your site and figure out what focus you need to have to boost conversion rates.

    To create a segment, click on All Users. This will take you to a screen where you can ‘Add a Segment’ (as shown below). You can then click to create a recommended segment or create a custom one. The screenshot below, for example, has segments for Bounced Sessions, Direct Traffic, and Converters. Just hit ‘Apply’ at the bottom when you’re finished.

    add segment

    Note: If you’re new to segmentation, segmenting your email lists is probably one of the easiest and most important places to start. Check out this article to learn more.

    Making the Most of In-Page Analytics for Conversion Rates

    Just as we discussed above in the section on data customization, there are a lot of different ways to make the most of your data to enhance your conversion rates. Segmenting data is one of the more successful ways to focus on who is finding your site and how these differences might effect interaction.

    If you are interested, check this out this video on the visual context for your In-Page Analytics data from Google…

    So now that you know how to read the data and what to look for, it’s important to understand how exactly to customize it. Below are some tips on customization that will help you make the most of your data for conversion rates:

    • Make sure you segment or have a category for each of the streams/referral sites that people may be coming from—whether it be social media or other sites.
    • For each channel, you want to construct a separate report (this includes direct traffic as well). This will give a clearer picture of the differences in where your audiences are coming from.
    • Make adjustments as you see fit. For example, if you have a CTA that is either not being clicked, or people are leaving your site once they do, then you probably need to readjust and reconfigure the way this particular element is presented. There may also be differences for certain audiences that you want to account for, but remember to prioritize places where you are getting the most traffic from.
    • Find out where maximum click happens. For example, if it happens on the top left side of the page, then put your conversion links there. Always check this when you run your analysis and make sure you adjust accordingly, as this can change over time.
    • Make efforts to reduce whenever exit rate is high, especially when it is on most-linked or top pages on your site.
    • Make it a goal to check back on a regular basis, as you do with your other analytics, so you are conscious of what needs to be adjusted over time

    The Takeaway

    It is difficult to understand why In-Page Analytics are as underused as they are when they provide such valuable insight. Definitely do not miss out on the opportunity to look at this as a tool of change and boosting conversion rates. The ability to segment your visitors and see how they interact with your site is very valuable; so start now!

    Do you have experience with Google’s In-Page Analytics? Let us know in the comments section below, we would love to hear from you.

    Okay, now Google’s Artificial Intelligence Division is just showing off


    In Seoul, South Korea, a Google-created artificial intelligence has been squaring off against a mortal man in the 2,500-year-old strategy game, called Go, that’s several orders of magnitude more complicated than chess.

    When it was finally over, Google’s AlphaGo won four out of five matchups, making AlphaGo a role model for young artificial intelligences everywhere.

    How did the robot pull off such a decisive win?

    Wired reported that “AlphaGo relies on deep neural networks—networks of hardware and software that mimic the web of neurons in the human brain. With these neural nets, it can learn tasks by analyzing massive amounts of digital data.”

    That’s bad news for SEOs the world over, because Google isn’t just using neural nets to beat Koreans at board games, it’s also using these advanced networks to make their search results more efficient. And in the process Google might just create the artificial intelligence science-fiction authors have been dreaming about for decades.

    When will Google become sentient?

    For eons, our foremost philosophers and scientists believed that man’s ability to make tools set him apart from the animals. It was actually Jane Goodall who smashed this macho theory to bits after she witnessed chimpanzees making rudimentary tools.

    Now, many scientists instead believe that it’s our unique capacity for language that truly sets us apart from the beasts of the world. In the quest to give birth to artificial intelligence, computers’ inability to comprehend human speech is one of the main stumbling blocks – as anyone who’s ever tried to talk to Siri can attest.

    Yet we’re getting closer to that Brave New World every day, and in many ways Google is leading the charge. Not only does the company control one of the most complex computer networks on the face of the planet, but by necessity Google is making major strides in Natural Language Processing.

    Because search engines can’t (yet) understand a piece of content or search query the way a human does, the company uses advanced algorithms to analyze the semantic content of content. Recently, Google started using neural net technology to push its NLP efforts forward.

    And while Google is using machine learning to bring you more relevant search results, and Apple is doing the same to make Siri more useful, both tech companies are striking at the very core of human consciousness.

    How long until Siri can pass the Turing Test?

    This March it seemed like every website on the internet covered the story about Siri and Cortana responding to questions about violence and suicide. As Gizmodo summed it up, “Siri Is Woefully Ill-Equipped to Help With Your Mental Health Problems.”

    Clearly we haven’t quite cracked the secret to artificial intelligence, even despite recent breakthroughs in machine learning (see my earlier post on Google’s RankBrain).

    So why does it matter that Siri, Cortana, and Google Now still struggle to understand even basic questions?

    Alan Turing, the father of the computer, is known for many things, but AI geeks remember him best for the so-called Turing Test. The test has evolved through a number of different versions over the years, but simply put, the Turing Test is a method for determining whether a computer can think like a human being.

    ex machina robot

    Per the Webopedia version of the experiment…

    “The test is simple: a human interrogator is isolated and given the task of distinguishing between a human and a computer based on their replies to questions that the interrogator poses. After a series of tests are performed, the interrogator attempts to determine which subject is human and which is an artificial intelligence.”

    If a computer can genuinely pass the Turing Test and convince a human that it’s a fellow living, breathing, talking person, then that machine can fairly be called Artificial Intelligence, with a capital AI.

    One day, when you pull out your smartphone to ask Google or Siri a question, instead of returning a list of search results, they just might answer back.

    Remembering Klout: how ‘influence’ has changed over the years


    I came across a tweet the other day from a follower giving a +K to another user, which serves as a reward for someone’s expertise, and it reminded me that Klout is still out there, although I haven’t visited it for years.

    What is Klout?

    It was back in 2008 when Klout was introduced to everyone as an online platform measuring social media influence. Klout aggregates a user’s performance (ranging from followers to engagement) among several social networks in order to calculate the Klout score, counting from 0 to 100, depending on the online influence someone has.

    Although it wasn’t the only site that attempted to measure online influence, Klout quickly became popular for its measuring algorithm, which was a mystery for many years.

    Image source: Garry McLeod

    How we became obsessed with our score

    It was in 2012 when Klout reached its peak popularity, as passionate social media users became obsessed with their Klout scores, looking for ways to improve their numbers and then use them accordingly as a way to prove their online credibility.

    In fact, it was believed back then that a high Klout score could lead to great rewards, both in the online and offline world, and a new form of rising influence with endless opportunities.


    Many companies were fascinated by this measurement platform that allowed them to separate the influencers from the average Internet users and they even turned a high Klout score into a job requirement for their hiring process.

    Klout realised its rising power and launched ‘Perks’, a service that rewards influencers with perks coming directly from companies that joined the program.

    It was the first time that users could officially monetise their online influence with actual rewards, and they were happy to do so.

    However, Klout Perks disappeared at the end of 2015, as Lithium Technologies, the company that bought Klout in 2014, decided to focus mostly on the algorithm and its powerful social data.

    klout trend

    Why we moved beyond the Klout score

    Klout recently released a paper analysing how its score is calculated and all the factors that determine the measurement of a user’s influence.

    According to Klout, its scoring system processes 45 billion interactions daily and analyses 3,600 different actions that define the score that is assigned to its 750 million users from nine networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Youtube, Lithium Communities and Wikipedia).


    Image source: Klout

    Although the algorithm takes into consideration many factors to determine a user’s influence, it still doesn’t include rising social networks, such as Snapchat and Vine, or it doesn’t consider Pinterest and blogging platforms, despite the fact that a user may connect these to a Klout profile.

    Thus, Klout struggles to keep up with all the changes on social media and this inability to include the rising social networks on its measuring algorithm makes its score incorrect, or at least, not as relevant as it hoped to be.

    the worst class i took in college was a social media class. we got graded based on our klout scores. i can’t believe someone approved that.

    — Maya Kosoff (@mekosoff) March 28, 2016

    It’s not that we got past our vanity to measure our social presence, as it may still serve as an indication of someone’s influence, but we now seem to realise that we can’t take it as seriously as we did, if we ever did.

    How do we define social influence today?

    Klout might not be the primary measurement of influence anymore, but social influencers gained significant power lately, turning their social recognition into a profession.

    Many brands seek online ambassadors to promote their products and Instagram appears to be their most popular choice, as it blends the visual appeal and the increasing engagement with the business leads.

    Although the number of followers is still important in many cases, it’s certainly not an indication of a user’s influence, as a number may be misleading (and that’s also the case with Klout and how we stopped relying on just a number).


    Tyler Oakley started creating videos while he was in college and he counts today more than 8 million subscribers, turning his hobby into a profitable job.

    It’s the engagement an influencer creates and the ability to affect users that matters most to brands, and this can be analysed today through numerous platforms, or simply by taking a closer look at a user’s online presence.

    What’s more, what Klout failed to depict was the fact that every platform is different, which means that it also leads to a different type of influence. Social influencers nowadays may focus on a specific platform, or they may create a unified social presence, which requires the necessary attention on each social network separately.

    klout obama

    For example, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, who all have a Klout score higher than 90 out of 100, belong to the social influencers that are all over the web and may use their social power every way they want.

    However, the freedom of social media and the call for authenticity created a new type of influencer, the self-made ones that usually focus on a single platform and create an engaged community who is ready to listen to their suggestions and their reviews. Though they cannot be compared (yet) with the influencers mentioned above, as they don’t have the same exposure to media, they still manage to build a solid presence, which makes brands chase a collaboration with them.

    klout oakley

    Natasha Oakley is considered one of the biggest influencers in the swimwear fashion industry in 2015 and counts 1.7 million followers on Instagram, also promoting her own swimwear brand.

    Yes, social influence gets more complicated day by day, but it’s another sign how social media is maturing and so does the users’ influence.

    It may not be easy to consider yourself a social influencer, but this makes it more challenging, and usually more rewarding.