It’s Mobilegeddon hot in here: Google strengthens its mobile-friendly ranking signal

moz mobile temperature gauge

If you have a mobile-friendly website, stand down. This news is not for you.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, my goodness what the hell are you doing!?? Have you not had enough warnings already? Stop reading this right now and go get a responsive website immediately you maniac!

So for anyone else reading this news – probably one person: my boss, the editor-in-chief of ClickZ (hi Graham!) – here’s a quick update to one of the biggest changes in the way Google ranks your website made in the last few years.

According to an announcement yesterday, from the beginning of May 2016, Google will increases the effectiveness of its ‘mobile friendly’ ranking signal.

As you will no doubt be aware, mobile-friendliness has been a ranking factor since April 2015. Ah remember when we would bandy around the word ‘mobilegeddon’ as if it didn’t make us look like paranoid crazies hidden in a nuclear bunker? Those were the days.

Many SEO experts however noticed that this SERP apocalypse (‘serpocalypse’) resulted in a rather damp fallout, with negligible change to search results.

Moz tracked the initial few days following the launch of Google’s tactical strike against mobile unfriendly sites on 21 April and suggested the change in temperature during this nuclear winter was lukewarm at best.

SEOClarity also found little to write home about in the initial wave of changes.

But there’s an argument to say the sites that would be most affected by an introduction of a mobile friendly algorithm would be the most visible sites, and therefore have probably already made the move to responsive design. They probably listened to the previous two years’ worth of advice given to them by every digital marketing publication in the world ever.

Anyway, forget all that, because as sniffy as some pundits have been regarding the initial mobile friendly update, stuff’s about to get real; mobilgeddon is about to get mobilegeddonier. In fact it’s going to be a veritable ragnorak.

Hmm let’s see if I can lay claim to the term ‘mobnarok’. No? How about ‘catacellysm’? ‘mobilehilation’? No? Fine.

Anyway after all this ridiculous hyperbole and rampant portmanteauism there is still some solace for the non-mobile friendly. Google states that the your site can still rank well if it has great, relevant content.

So maybe Google is burying the lead here… perhaps Google is revealing that user intent is truly the strongest signal of them all. But then maybe we already knew that.

The pros, cons and politics of hybrid mobile apps

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A hybrid mobile app is an application that has been built with web technologies – HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript – and then “wrapped” with native code for closer integration with the device and/or to pass itself off as a download app.

The hybrid app sits in the middle of the political battle between aficionados of the web/browser-based app and the native app.

Depending on your viewpoint, the hybrid app is the best-of-both-worlds or a botch that fails to match up to the qualities of either parent. Whether your app turns out to be one or the other often depends on the execution of the project.

  • The best-of-both-worlds: hybrid apps have the cross-platform appeal of a browser-based app, but with added native coding to give the native functionality web apps traditionally couldn’t access.Plus, if web apps look and behave like a native, Apple will allow them into its App Store, normally reserved for apps written in proprietary code.
  • The botch: combining web and native can end up with an app that lacks the slim-line elegance of the web app or the feature-rich performance of the native app.To minimize the chance of a botch, companies will need the appropriate hybrid development skills, to choose the right framework and JavaScript library and avoid embarking on projects that are too ambitious for hybrid development.
  • Robert M. V. Gaines, a Kansas, US-based web and app developer:

    “Hybrid apps are great for small scale projects that need to be developed rapidly on a budget, but they are not a good option for apps that are computationally intensive or require extensive access to low-level device functions.

    Hybrid apps that fall into these later categories can be created through the use of custom plugins, but it is usually easier to create such apps with traditional [native] methods. Before choosing to create a hybrid app, it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of this technology.”

    Cross platform development with web technologies

    Hybrid is a compelling story: write an application in pervasive, open-standards-based web languages that will work on any smart device via the device browser, then tailor different versions of the app with native code, so it works nicely as a download app.

    At the core of each app is a shared code-base which brings big efficiencies to development and maintenance.

    Certainly it is a lot more attractive proposition than writing a native app in Java for Android, then rewriting it in Objective-C or Swift for iOS; then C# or C++ for Windows.

    For most companies skilling up on multiple native coding languages isn’t an option. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that HTML5 and JavaScript is the primary platform for North American app developers, according to Vision Mobile, and second most popular platform in Asia after Java.

    In September 2015, the creators of Updown Fitness, a workout/weight-training fitness app, decided they wanted the additional distribution of app stores by creating a download version of their web app.

    Chris Freise, CEO and co-founder, Updown Technologies:

    “Native was not an option as our developers did not have native experience. After doing some research, we decided on a hybrid approach and on the Ionic Framework to accomplish this.

    The hybrid approach made sense because we could use our JavaScript/HTML/CSS web codebase with some small adjustments, and we could hit both of our target platforms with one set of code. We could also take advantage of Cordova plugins to access the phone hardware, which would allow us to do some cool things with the mobile app that we could not do with the web app.”

    Image: testing and troubleshooting the Updown Fitness mobile app with Ionic developer console tool.

    Harnessing the advantages of web and native apps

    In a previous column on web apps, we highlighted Saxo Bank’s impressive browser-based trading system, which supports 170,000 FX trades per day.

    In addition to the accessing the system via a mobile browser, Saxo Bank clients can also download mobile apps to their devices.

    Benny Boye Johansen, senior director and enterprise architect at Saxo Bank tells ClickZ:

    “Why do we even bother having a [download] app? There are two main reasons. The first one is distribution. People are so used to getting apps from an app store. They want the SaxoTrader App rather than having to go to saxotrader.com.

    The second reason is that having a native app provides support for the few features, which a pure HTML app still cannot do. In our case, that is support for push notifications and touch login. So, the core trading app can run perfectly on your mobile just by going to saxotrader.com. But unless you take the downloadable app, you will not get “the complete feeling of an app”, including push notifications and touch login.

    Now you may argue that we are not 100% purely HTML, and you would be right. But if you look how we have spent out development dollars, 95% has been deployed on HTML5/JavaScript development and the remaining 5% has been on a native iPhone and native Android application. This is still much better than spending 50% on iPhone and 50% on Android.”

    The interesting thing is how having a web app with a minimal “wrapper” of native code allows Saxo Bank to continually maintain and enhance the core app, without needing to save it for the next version or needing to resubmit it to the app store authorities for evaluation.

    Johansen:

    “We have spent a very small part of the total development budget to create these wrappers. And, since all the core/important functionality is in the web application, we don’t have to spend any more money on extending the native part when we introduce new business functionality – we don’t even have to submit a new version to the app stores.”

    saxo_trader_go_cz10

    It is worth noting that functions previously only available to native applications, such as push notification, location, camera and working offline are now or will be soon be available to web-based applications, which means hybrid apps will need even fewer native extensions.

    Another advantage web technologies bring to apps is the ease if testing, as Updown’s Chris Freise explains:

    “Most testing (of the app functionality that doesn’t require plugins) can take place in a browser. Changes can be tested with a refresh at the push of a button rather than having to do a full compile of the app each time.”

    Performance: the need for speed

    Every silver lining has a cloud. For hybrid (and web) apps there has been a big question mark over performance versus native apps. This is mostly about how quickly the app reacts to user interactions.

    Whether this is real or perceived; whether users a) notice or b) care; and the extent to which performance issues are caused by poor development techniques and inappropriate choice of framework and JavaScript library has been hotly debated for years.

    For example, Drew Crawford: Web apps are slow, Dan Bricklin: Oh no they’re not.

    The jQuery Mobile JavaScript library has received some criticism for being too large for mobile apps as it was built for mobile web. See here or here.

    Yet the creator of the jQuery library John Resig was recruited by Khan Academy to help build their apps – often cited as a poster boy for hybrid apps – and to establish their computer science curriculum.

    But the most important thing is what the users think.

    Pieter Gorsira is lead developer and co-founder of Lawnmower, an app for Android and iOS that enables people to passively invest their spare change in the digital currency Bitcoin:

    “As far as native vs. hybrid, you aren’t missing out on much by going hybrid. Also, it really depends on the application. The Lawnmower app is really just a nice interface for a user to interact with their Lawnmower account. For this purpose, native really doesn’t offer anything special over hybrid.

    It used to be that hybrid apps suffered performance-wise (especially with transitions etc.) but that era is long gone. Most consumers have no idea that Lawnmower is a hybrid app and would be unable to tell the difference between native and hybrid performance. For something with bleeding-edge performance needs, you may need to go native, but for 95% of apps the hybrid approach is more than sufficient.”

    lawnmower_landing_cz10

    Choosing a framework

    The best known framework for building cross-platform hybrid apps is PhoneGap which has been downloaded over 1 million times and is being used by over 400,000 developers.

    PhoneGap is built on an open source platform called Apache Cordova, which was donated to the Open Source world by PhoneGap’s owners Adobe.

    Other frameworks also use the Cordova source, such as Ionic, Monaca, Onsen, Telerik, Intel XDK and Framework7.

    See these analyses of the leading platforms by Noeticforce or Tutorialzine.

    Choose a framework that:

    • Has a pedigree, commercial backing, active community, good customer base, and been used to build lots of good apps (like yours).
    • Has lots of tools, plugins and a good JavaScript library – all of which, should be well-documented and well-maintained.
    • Fits the purpose of your app – some frameworks are more suited to enterprise apps, others to consumer or games and some are better for cross-platform development.
    • Plays to your strengths e.g. if you have worked with Angular JS choose a framework that is based upon it, such as Ionic; if you are new to hybrid app development, choose a more straightforward framework.

    Or no framework

    When you break down most hybrid apps, you find a web app and/or web site displayed with an in-app web browser called WebView with some additional native code, often formed of plugins. This set-up doesn’t require a framework.

    Magnus Jern, president DMI International:

    “It’s also becoming more and more common to create your own hybrid apps combining a shell with the main menu and core functionality, mostly with WebView content. Over the past year, Apple’s App Store has become increasingly friendly towards apps that use WebView, since browser performance has drastically improved.

    This is the most common method for m-commerce apps, used by Abercrombie & Fitch, GAP, H&M, Mango, Furniture Row, TK Maxx and others, as it means they can develop a thin layer of native core functionality such as push notifications, barcode scanning and geolocation with all the product catalogue and commerce functionality based on responsive website in WebView.

    For commerce apps, hybrid is usually the only alternative as the e-commerce platforms were not set up with APIs (e.g. REST JSON) needed to support native apps – therefore WebView is the only option.”

    Plugins

    A plugin is a piece of ready-to-use code that enables hybrid applications to access the native functions of the device, such as camera, barcode-scanner, touch ID, geolocation, NFC and push notifications.

    cordova_plugins_cz10

    There are repositories of plugins such as Cordova Plugins which boasts 954 plugins as well as and smaller specialist ones such as ngCordova for Angular JS users. But the environment still can cause frustration for developers.

    Updown’s Chris Freise:

    “The Cordova plugin landscape is quite disorganized. On more than one occasion we’ve installed a plugin only to discover that the application will no longer compile due to conflicts with another previously installed plugin. This has resulted in us having to spend time to find some creative workarounds, even having to abandon a specific plugin altogether.

    The plugin environment is improving, though. Sites like ngCordova have done a good job aggregating the best and most useful plugins in one place and linking out to the setup documentation.”

    Good press/bad press

    It’s difficult to get a definitive list of big-name download apps that are hybrid. VenturePact lists Amazon Appstore, Evernote, Apple App Store, Gmail, Khan Academy, Instagram and Twitter as hybrid apps.

    Yauh adds Feedly and Mafia Wars to the list. Both also include Uber, but the company says this is false. Telerik cites Basecamp and Yelp.

    If you have too much time on your hands you could conduct an investigation yourself.

    Over the years, the news that some big names have dropped hybrid apps for native, has caused damage to the credibility of both web and hybrid apps.

    These include LinkedIn in 2013 and Facebook in 2012. Facebook’s slating of HTML5 prompted quite a backlash. Sencha even built a Facebook web app to prove Facebook’s failure couldn’t be blamed on HTML5.

    Ecosystem

    Developers are dependent on a healthy ecosystem, which means a ready supply of tools, methodologies and reusable code – including plugins in the hybrid environment.

    The main reason LinkedIn gave for its change of direction in 2013 was lack of mature development ecosystem, including lack of tools – e.g. for debugging the software.

    Back then Kiran Prasad, senior director for mobile engineering, LinkedIn said:

    “It’s not that HTML5 isn’t ready; it’s that the ecosystem doesn’t support it. There are tools, but they’re at the beginning.”

    In three years, of course, things have changed a lot. Today the number of developers building web and hybrid apps has swollen massively, all contributing to methodologies, skills, plugins etc., and creating a massive market for tools vendors.

    As noted previously, HTML5 and JavaScript is the primary platform for more US app developers, than any other platform.

    This isn’t just about the open source community, there are plenty of tech heavyweights investing in hybrid app development, platforms and tools – particularly around enterprise apps (internal apps developed by companies to mobilize their workforces), which has all helped to boost the ecosystem.

    These include SAP, IBM, Oracle and Intel.

    Money

    One of the major advantages of hybrid development is that can cost less – a lot less, according to San Diego web shop Comentum – than developing native apps for each platform as well as a web site/app.

    But the more custom native development on top of the web app, the more each app is going to cost.

    DMI’s Magnus Jern:

    “It’s not that a hybrid app is not good enough for the consumer. Most customers probably don’t care as long as the performance, reliability and UX is good.

    The main challenge is that the cost of delivering a native like experience using hybrid is usually higher than developing real native apps for iOS and Android. Therefore few companies that have gone down that path will talk about it. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook all went down the hybrid route to start with ‎and then had to redo their apps from scratch.”

    ClickZ attempted to contact several of the big-name hybrid apps, but found none keen to discuss it.

    Pros and cons of hybrid apps

    The key advantages and disadvantages of hybrid apps, summed up by Robert Gaines:

    Pros

    • Facilitates rapid prototyping and development.
    • Affordable, especially for small to mid-sized businesses.
    • Allows the creation of a cross-platform codebase that is easy to maintain.
    • Web professionals are able to leverage existing skills.
    • Access to native functionality through plugins.
    • Ability to offload computationally intensive tasks to high performance native plugins.
    • Consistent APIs that are normalized across platforms.
    • Eases the conversion of web apps to mobile apps that can be listed in app stores.
    • Supports flexible, cross-platform, UX through CSS3, HTML5, and JavaScript.
    • Ensures access to web APIs that may not be available on all browsers.
    • Hybrid apps don’t require web access, but they can take advantages of web services through JSON.

    Cons

    • Developers must account for device specific quirks.
    • Updates may be required to account for new OS releases.
    • Few experienced developers are available.
    • Computationally intensive tasks must be moved to native plugins.
    • Requires a different perspective on optimization and performance than traditional web apps.
    • Many hybrid app developers lack the skills necessary to create a polished end product.

    This is the tenth part of the ClickZ ‘DNA of mobile-friendly web’ series.

    Here are the others:

  • Six mobile strategy questions.
  • How to identify your mobile audience
  • Why prioritize mobile-friendly web?
  • Web apps: advantages of native apps in a web browser
  • How to test the viability of your mobile project
  • Assessing the technical and operational feasibility of your mobile project
  • Show me the money: proving your mobile site or app will deliver ROI
  • Formulating the go-to market strategy for your mobile project
  • How to market your mobile site or app without spending a fortune on ads
  • Andy Favell is ClickZ columnist on mobile. He is a London-based freelance mobile/digital consultant, journalist and web editor.

    Contact him via LinkedIn or Twitter at Andy_Favell.

    Paid search and social: an introduction to your first steps in digital marketing

    online supermarkets Google Search serp

    So you’ve realized, for one reason or another, that it’s time to crank up the volume of your business and invest in digital marketing.

    You’ll be faced with an immediate question: there are so many different channels in digital marketing, which one do you try first?

    Well, the first step is knowing what each channel does, then we can narrow down your options with some recommendations.

    Breakdown of channels

    SEO

    Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing a webpage to increase the volume of traffic entering the site by obtaining a high-ranking position on search engine results pages (SERPs).

    SEO is typically a long-term play, can take months of optimization to increase rank and requires tons of maintenance to hold or improve your position.

    Paid search

    Paid search (also know as pay-per-click – PPC) is a method of online advertising used to direct targeted traffic to websites through search engine results. This is done by bidding on keywords to enable your ads to show for relevant searches.

    Paid social

    Paid Social advertising involves placing ads on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, directly in the news feeds of targeted users.

    Display

    Display advertising consists of banner ads on targeted websites that present your product/service to large sets of audiences.

    Native

    Native advertising is promoting branded content that matches the form and function of the user environment it is served in.

    Which one do I choose first?

    No doubt there are lots of options to choose from. If you’re a small to medium size business, chances are you’re looking to kick-start your growth and want traffic to come in fast, but also to keep ROI and efficiency as a focus.

    With this in mind, you can narrow things down to paid search and social as these are the channels that can bring in volume faster than the others while also offering plenty of levers which you can pull to optimize efficiency.

    Paid search

    The biggest benefit of paid search is that you’re reaching an audience with high intent – meaning the audience is already searching for your product or service. By choosing the most relevant keywords, you can get your brand, product or service in front of searchers who need it.

    The great thing about reaching audiences with high intent is that you are getting the best quality traffic – essentially, the audience knows they want the product/service, so if you are able to capture that audience’s attention, the more likely they are to convert.

    Now of course in this situation, you are also competing with others who are trying to get in front of the same audience.

    So your ad will be listed alongside your competitors’ ads, and it’s not just a matter of who has the highest bid, but also the most relevant ad, landing page and user experience. In this situation you need to make sure the product or service you’re offering is advertised as attractively as it can be.

    Given the high-intent audience, many verticals have very competitive markets, so the cost-per-click to get your ad in a high-ranking position can get very expensive. A great way to get a sense of the competition and what you will likely be paying is by using Google’s Keyword Planner tool:

    Another thing to note is that, in order for search to work, there actually needs to be demand for your product or service. If not many people are searching for it, you really aren’t going to get much traction. This is where social comes into play…

    Social

    If you have just come up with a new product or service that has never really existed before, or hasn’t become popularized, social is the play for you. Because if people don’t know such a thing exists, that they need it in their life, how do they know to search for it? Therefore paid search becomes moot. (Think Tivo in 1999.)

    In the above situation, you will be doing ‘pull’ marketing (a marketing approach used to draw customers to a brand where the goal is to strengthen awareness to the brand/product/service and essentially generate demand).

    So you might say, “I can do pull marketing with display as well, so why go the social route?” The benefits of social, and more specifically Facebook, is that you have thousands of different data points to use, different targeting levers to pull, and the ability to really hone in on very specific audiences by using Facebook’s different technologies.

    Another reason you may want to go the social route vs. PPC is in the scenario where competition in PPC is very high, making it expensive for you to get in front of your target audience. In a highly competitive environment, not everyone can afford to reach their audience. Facebook is a great way to get in front of your target demographic and familiarize them with your brand.

    If you’re in ecommerce and have visually appealing products, then social is another great route to take.

    The combination of brand awareness and visual products show that for small brands using Facebook, there is a differentiation opportunity. The opportunity is for brands (which happen to be in a highly competitive market) to differentiate and compete on head terms.

    For example: a ‘newer’ high-end fashion line would be going after expensive head terms in search – keywords like ‘women’s clothing’, ‘men’s clothing’, etc. With only text elements in paid search, these prohibitively expensive terms make it hard to differentiate your brand from the sea of competition.

    therealreal facebook post

    With social, users are not necessarily in a state of purchase intent, so ads serve the purpose of creating demand where it may not have already existed.

    Ultimately, both channels have their own benefits in bringing traffic to your site, but if you are in a position where you only want to test in one first, then it’s definitely important to consider the nuances of each.

    Sana Ansari is the General Manager of 3Q Accelerate.

    Instagram to adopt the dreaded ‘algorithm’, posts will show out of chronological order, everyone panic!

    rioting on the streets

    *dusts hands, congratulates self on sensationalist headline, sits back and awaits traffic*

    So yeah, you probably already know this, but if you don’t – last night Instagram announced that will be adopting an algorithm that will show posts from the people you interact with/care about the most at the top of your news feed.

    This is what we in the business call ‘doing a Facebook’.

    Instagram states that people miss on average 70% of their feeds (crikey, how many people are you all following?) which means that you’re more than likely to miss ‘important’ posts from your very bestest friends.

    Although if your bestest friends are anything like me, they’ll be clever enough to share Instagram posts across Facebook and Twitter to be triple-sure you’ll see their stupid cat pictures. Ahem…

    I’ve had enough of you jerks. Book me a taxi, I am outta here!

    A photo posted by Christopher Ratcliff (@christophe_rock) on Jun 13, 2015 at 5:20am PDT

    So basically Instagram is doing you a favour. Showing you posts from the people you care about the most, first.

    Here’s an official statement:

    “The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order.”

    Again, I could have surmised that quote (and this whole article) in one short sentence: “guys, we’re doing a Facebook.”

    But what interests me the most about this change is the very nature of ‘needing’ an algorithm itself.

    Did we, the users, ask for this change? Did Instagram see our behaviour on the app and decided it would be best for us? How does this ultimately benefit Instagram?

    No doubt most people’s knee-jerk reaction is “oh bugger off, leave it alone” but this is mainly because we fear change. Remember when Facebook changed its Newsfeed to show the most ‘interacted with’ posts? My memory is pretty hazy but I’m pretty sure I remember rioting on the streets.

    And then Facebook calmed everyone down by informing us that we can toggle between the algorithm and chronological order in the settings. Which we all didn’t do and left it as it was, because… well, who could be bothered? And now Facebook is going from strength to super-ridiculous strength, and it’s algorithm works pretty damn well.

    Sorry hang on… from a user’s perspective it works pretty damn well. Look at the way it has kept advertisers and brands off the feed. It’s ingenious. Sure for marketers and publishers, this is a nightmare and Facebook is barely worth bothering with anymore, but for people who don’t care what you have to sell and never have done, it’s a veritable nirvana.

    Is this what Instagram is looking for though? It is owned by Facebook, so it stands to reason the publicly stated reasoning is the same: to put the user first.

    But of course we all know the real reason why Facebook killed brand reach on its Newsfeed: to encourage marketers to pay for Facebook’s various advertising services. This occurred hand-in-hand with the general user-focused algorithm change.

    Similarly, Instagram is allowing more and more brands to monetise its platform with a variety of pay-to-play ad units, which has worsened some hardcore Instagrammers’ experience…

    So perhaps an algorithm will help offset the encroaching commercial world and essentially democratise the playing field once again. You’ll only see posts from not only the people you care about the most. but the brands too. This only benefits the user right?

    In theory.

    But what are the other practicalities for the introduction of an algorithm?

    Gone will be the days of this clever type of Instagramming, where chronological posts form one giant picture.

    debenhams instagram

    Meh, no big loss. But the real pain is for the people who genuinely appreciated the ability to scroll back chronologically to catch up with their news feed.

    Hi @instagram if I wanted an algorithm-driven photo-sharing site I’d use @facebook. But I don’t, so I use you.

    — Jamison Foser (@jamisonfoser) March 15, 2016

    But then, according to Instagram, these people are in the 30% minority.

    My real worry is for the everyday, run-of-the-mill user who doesn’t get a lot of engagement, mainly because they don’t have many followers, who will get buried by the big-hitters – the ones who manage an instant 900 likes from a selfie – and feel like they’re not getting any value out of the app.

    Basically what I’m saying is that I’M worried that even less people are going to like MY stupid cat photos, and as my self-esteem is tied directly to my popularity on social, this is a cruel blow to my already fragile ego and if you ALL don’t follow me on Instagram right now it will ruin my life forever.

    Wow. That did not end the way I expected it to.

    Blenheim Chalcot acquires analytics firm iJento

    ijento2

    Last week, Blenheim Chalcot announced the acquisition of customer journey analytics firm iJento.

    I’ve been talking to Jonathan Attwood, CEO of fospha and iJento, about the tools and the thinking behind the acquisition.

    What’s the reason for the acquisition of ijento?

    Blenheim Chalcot has hosted iJento’s clients in the UK and US for many years and is excited about the opportunity their technology and team delivers for organisations.

    So much so that they acquired the business and have put their venture building track record, funding and client footprint to work developing iJento’s core sectors of customer journey optimisation and marketing analytics and extending its capability to analyse fraudulent and malicious behaviour.

    We are also adding our machine learning tech iJento.

    Can you tell me a little about what ijento does?

    iJento is built to help organisations understand today’s connected customer, whose buying journey is complex and cuts across multiple channels.

    Beyond page clicks and views, iJento enables you to capture, analyse, predict and shape customer behaviour. Letting you take the right action at the right time to increase customer value across all touch points: web, mobile, social and offline.

    iJento allows you to easily bring together all your customer data into a single location. Centralising multi-device, multichannel data.

    Creating a single customer view and stitching multi-device activity. It builds powerful customer profiles and transforms customer data into actionable insight that can be used to reduce advertising spend, increase sales and improve customer engagement.

    It’s predictive tools allow you to understand customer intent and engagement in real time in order to influence customer behaviour.

    How does it capture data as customers move between channels?

    Multichannel data is gathered from a range of sources, including in-browser tags, server-based tags, mobile app tags, data imports of offline sales and other back-office data, API feeds for campaign costing data, mass email data and more.

    Its unique ETL processing then matches data across sources and channels ensuring the new truth is reflected through the entirety of the customer’s history.

    Who are its clients?

    They include Ft.com, Cox Media Group, Direct Line Group, LV= (Liverpool Victoria), Allianz Ireland, and Cheapflights.

    Why is this significant for brands and retailers today?

    Brands who learn from their data significantly outperform the who don’t.

    Simply relying on old siloed tools that track lagging often product centred data is not enough. Brands need to be able to link all their customer data together across any device and source. They need to be able to easily understand and make use of it in real time.

    They need to be able to be predictive and personalise user experiences. Those who do this will have a significant advantage over others

    Where will it fit into Blenheim Chalcot?

    The iJento toolset is unique in its ease of implementation and ability to help transform an organisations data and make a measurable difference to their business. We will accelerate iJento growth by continuing to invest in the team and technology.

    ClickZ is part of the Blenheim Chalcot portfolio.

    Blenheim Chalcot acquires analytics firm iJento

    ijento2

    Last week, Blenheim Chalcot announced the acquisition of customer journey analytics firm iJento.

    I’ve been talking to Jonathan Attwood, CEO of fospha and iJento, about the tools and the thinking behind the acquisition.

    What’s the reason for the acquisition of ijento?

    Blenheim Chalcot has hosted iJento’s clients in the UK and US for many years and is excited about the opportunity their technology and team delivers for organisations.

    So much so that they acquired the business and have put their venture building track record, funding and client footprint to work developing iJento’s core sectors of customer journey optimisation and marketing analytics and extending its capability to analyse fraudulent and malicious behaviour.

    We are also adding our machine learning tech iJento.

    Can you tell me a little about what ijento does?

    iJento is built to help organisations understand today’s connected customer, whose buying journey is complex and cuts across multiple channels.

    Beyond page clicks and views, iJento enables you to capture, analyse, predict and shape customer behaviour. Letting you take the right action at the right time to increase customer value across all touch points: web, mobile, social and offline.

    iJento allows you to easily bring together all your customer data into a single location. Centralising multi-device, multichannel data.

    Creating a single customer view and stitching multi-device activity. It builds powerful customer profiles and transforms customer data into actionable insight that can be used to reduce advertising spend, increase sales and improve customer engagement.

    It’s predictive tools allow you to understand customer intent and engagement in real time in order to influence customer behaviour.

    How does it capture data as customers move between channels?

    Multichannel data is gathered from a range of sources, including in-browser tags, server-based tags, mobile app tags, data imports of offline sales and other back-office data, API feeds for campaign costing data, mass email data and more.

    Its unique ETL processing then matches data across sources and channels ensuring the new truth is reflected through the entirety of the customer’s history.

    Who are its clients?

    They include Ft.com, Cox Media Group, Direct Line Group, LV= (Liverpool Victoria), Allianz Ireland, and Cheapflights.

    Why is this significant for brands and retailers today?

    Brands who learn from their data significantly outperform the who don’t.

    Simply relying on old siloed tools that track lagging often product centred data is not enough. Brands need to be able to link all their customer data together across any device and source. They need to be able to easily understand and make use of it in real time.

    They need to be able to be predictive and personalise user experiences. Those who do this will have a significant advantage over others

    Where will it fit into Blenheim Chalcot?

    The iJento toolset is unique in its ease of implementation and ability to help transform an organisations data and make a measurable difference to their business. We will accelerate iJento growth by continuing to invest in the team and technology.

    ClickZ is part of the Blenheim Chalcot portfolio.

    Google AdWords average conversion rates by industry [study]

    CVR meme

    When you evaluate your Google AdWords performance and conversion rates, what are you comparing against?

    If you’re like most advertisers, your primary source of insight is probably your own historical data. As long as you’re trending towards better than worse, you’re doing great… right?

    Not really.

    It’s important to track your performance over time and make sure you’re constantly improving, but using only your own data tells you nothing about how you’re doing against your competitors (AdWords is a live auction, after all).

    We recently ran an extensive analysis of more than 2,000 client accounts in all verticals, representing over $34 million in AdWords spend, to establish current, accurate average conversion rate (CVR) benchmarks for both Search and Display ads across 20 different industries: Advocacy, Auto, B2B, Consumer Services, Dating & Personals, E-Commerce, Education, Employment Services, Finance & Insurance, Health & Medical, Home Goods, Industrial Services, Legal, Real Estate, Technology, and Travel & Hospitality.

    What is the average conversion rate on Search & Display?

    So how do you know whether you’re middle of the road, or getting left in the dust?

    We found that on average, Google AdWords advertisers are seeing conversion rates of 2.70% on the Search network, and 0.89% on the Display network.

    Benchmarks are an important consideration on top of your own data, because if you were getting 1% conversion for your Search ads and doubled it to 2%, you might think that was pretty awesome. You doubled your CVR, that’s amazing! Woot!

    Except you’re still doing 0.7% crappier than the average, and the average isn’t exceptional. It’s just… average.

    Don’t settle for average conversion rates – be a unicorn in a sea of donkeys

    Who the heck aspires to be average?

    If you aren’t even doing as good as middle of the road, average might seem pretty attractive, but you can do so much better than that.

    The range on conversion rates varies so greatly that the top 10% of advertisers are regularly getting conversions FIVE TIMES better than average. Not only can you be better than average, but once you surpass that plateau, you can do incredibly well in AdWords.

    It’s crazy; there are all these accounts seemingly content to hover around slightly below or slightly above average. I call these advertisers the donkeys. They stubbornly just sit there, waiting for something to happen.

    But then you have the unicorns; those accounts that are not only doing better than average, but slaying the averages by converting at exponentially higher rates – up to five times higher. These advertisers enjoy not only more conversions, but typically a way lower cost, too, as more engaging ads drive higher Quality Scores and lower CPCs as a result.

    Don’t be a donkey.

    So which industries convert best on the Display network?

    The surprising top converting industry in Google Display ads

    You might think that Travel & Hospitality or maybe Dating & Personals ads would kill it on the Display network, because they’re just so much sexier and exciting than other industries, but you’d be wrong…

    They actually have the lowest conversion rates among industries for Google Display ads!

    So which super sexy industry does best with Display ads? Well, um… it’s Home Goods. Would you believe ads about couches, lamps, desks and other furnishings and goods for the home convert at an average rate of 2.19% in Display? That’s higher than any of the twenty other industries we evaluated.

    The top five best converting industry types for Display are:

    • Home Goods with an average 2.19% CVR
    • Finance & Insurance: 1.75% avg. CVR
    • Real Estate: 1.49% avg. CVR
    • Employment Services: 1.28% avg. CVR
    • Technology: 1.04% avg. CVR

    And who fares the worst? The average CVR in the Advocacy industry is an abysmal 0.37%.

    Top converting industry average Search CVR is almost 3x higher than overall

    In the Search network, one industry is killing it to the extent its average conversion rate is nearly three times higher than the average CVR across Search as a whole.

    Insurance and Finance ads enjoy an average 7.19% conversion rate on the SERPs, a full 2.19% higher than the next highest industry average:

  • Insurance & Finance: 7.19% avg. CVR
  • Consumer Services: 5.00% avg. CVR
  • Advocacy: 4.61% avg. CVR
  • Real Estate: 4.40% avg. CVR
  • Legal: 4.35% avg. CVR
  • Understanding these averages is critical, because how you fare against others in your area can seriously impact your costs and ROI. For example, you could be converting at 3.5% and think that’s pretty decent, yet find it hard to justify what you end up with as your cost per acquisition. That might leave you thinking AdWords just doesn’t work for you.

    But if you’re in Consumer Services, where the average conversion rate is actually 5%, the reality is that you’re seriously underperforming. If you’re converting less than average, your ads aren’t resonating, your QS is going to suffer, and you’re going to pay MORE for each click.

    Check out the average Conversion Rates across the 20 industries we analyzed and see how you stack up:

    adwords-industry-benchmarks-average-conversion-rate

    For new Google AdWords benchmark CPCs, CTRs and CPAs by industry, see our full analysis on the WordStream blog.

    Seven ways publishers have reacted to ad blockers

    age tune

    There is a growing concern among publishers regarding the rise of ad blockers from users who prefer to enjoy an ad-free experience, as this translates to a significant loss of revenue for them.

    According to a report by Adobe and Page Fair, the loss reached $21.8 billion during 2015 and this has created an imperative need to tackle this increasing threat before it has any further impact on their existing advertising model (and their main source of profit).

    Ad blocking has turned into a very popular term during the past year and it’s not expected to lose its interest in 2016, as the trend moves from the early adopters to a bigger audience.

    Image source: Tune

    There are many different responses to ad blocking from publishers and it’s interesting to note their range of reactions, from the discreet to the aggressive.

    Seven different ways publishers approach ad blocking

    1. The discreet approach

    This is a polite and discreet approach that acknowledges the problem, without hiding the content from the users who browse the site with an activated ad blocker.

    This is probably the most user-friendly approach, but it seems to lose ground among publishers, as it doesn’t lead to the desired results of reducing the usage of ad blocking.

    The Guardian and Smashing Magazine are among the sites that chose this approach, with the latter winning the impressions with its message.

    adbl smashing magazine

    As for The Guardian, it will probably switch to a tougher approach soon, in an attempt to follow in other publishers’ footsteps.

    2. The polite approach offering alternative options

    This approach is similar to the one mentioned above, but it has a clearer call-to-action, by asking users either to disable the ad blocker or support their site through alternative offers (premium subscription, promotion of products, services, etc).

    ad atlantic

    The Atlantic and Slate are currently using this approach, hoping to showcase their journalistic value through their products.

    ad slate

    3. The direct approach: turn off your ad blocker

    The direct approach of requesting the removal of ad blocking is winning ground lately, as more publishers realise this may be the best way to deal with the problem.

    wp-ad-blocked

    The simple call-to-action hopes to make its goal clear for the users, informing them that they need to disable their ad blockers to access the site’s content. Moreover, many sites try to explain their point of view, in order to ensure that readers understand the reasons they are picking this approach.

    adbl cityam

    And this is part of their goal to educate the audience about the importance of advertising, both for the site, but also for the industry in general.

    bild

    Washington Post, City A.M., Forbes, Bild are among the big publishers that chose this approach and according to their data, they are satisfied from the early results.

    According to Forbes, 42.4% of the total 2.1 million visitors between late December and early January turned off their ad blockers when they were asked to do so in the promise of a light advertising experience, which led to the monetisation of 15 million ad impressions.

    adbl forbes before

    Although not every user is happy with this approach, it proves to be effective from the publishers’ perspective, which means that more sites might apply it soon.

    Hi Forbes, etc I have adblocker because of offensive/invasive ads that proliferate. I’m not turning it off. I’d rather ignore your content.

    — Ann Witbrock (@annwitbrock) February 27, 2016

    4. The direct approach that provides two options

    This approach is relevant to the previous one, but it focuses on providing more than one option, in a clear call-to-action that is split in multiple options. Users do not have access to the site, unless they disable the ad blocker, whitelist the site, or subscribe to its services.

    Cc9Js-wW8AA7az2

    The New York Times recently joined this approach, by applying it to a small part of its audience as an experiment, and this will probably reach all its users soon. The site decided to use the message “the best things in life aren’t free”, reminding its audience that advertising helps them fund journalism and thus, it asks them to disable ad blockers to access the site.

    In a similar way, Design Taxi creates a split screen which offers two options to the users that want to keep accessing the site’s content.

    designtaxi

    Once again, users were not very happy.

    .@designtaxi I read your notice regarding ad blocker and just want to state i didn’t mind the ads till I realised it slows down the site.

    — laura smith (@laura2daisy) February 7, 2016

    5. Subscribe for an ad-free experience

    Whether it’s a donation, or a premium subscription, this approach is either blocking the access to the site, or only allows users to browse part of it.

    adb gq

    GQ and Wired are among the cases that decided to promote the subscription in order to keep their sites going, with the latter receiving numerous tweets for this decision.

    w

    As Wired mentions on its post about ad blocking and their approach:

    “On an average day, more than 20% of the traffic to WIRED.com comes from a reader who is blocking our ads. We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.”

    Thus, users are asked once again to decide whether they want to continue reading the site, which means that they have to whitelist it, or else, to subscribe to a premium service. (And of course, there’s the option of never visiting the site again, which some of them might prefer, according to their tweets).

    6. The rise of native advertising

    While most of the approaches above rely on the users’ willingness to proceed to a specific action (from whitelisting, to subscription, etc), the concept of native advertising might be an ideal option, especially when it’s integrated smoothly to the site’s content.

    buzzfeed native

    Buzzfeed is among the best examples of sites integrating native advertising in their business model and it proves that ad blocking can be tackled in many different ways.

    independent sponsored content

    Up to now, native advertising is not affected by the use of ad blockers and it may be a a more appealing advertising option if users find it interesting and relevant.

    7. The different approach: log in with Facebook

    This is certainly a different approach and we noticed it at the Canadian site Narcity and although it’s not expected to become the most popular choice, it’s still interesting to examine its point of view.

    Narcity blocks the access to its site for everyone having an activated ad blocker and it only displays a (funny) message asking the users to log in with their Facebook account to enjoy an ad-free experience.

    This proves the power of Facebook in terms of personalisation and the social integration in publishing and its possible users would prefer this option from a subscription model.

    narcity

    Of course, every approach depends on the goals and the advertising model of each site, but the results also vary, along with the users’ reactions.

    What’s important for every publisher to realise is that most users turned to ad blockers after a series of bad experiences with intrusive, annoying and irrelevant advertising and that’s what needs to be improved.

    How to improve the advertising experience (and win users back)

    south-park

    It’s not that users suddenly hate any form of advertising, but as they are becoming more demanding, they expect a specific quality and relevance from all the displayed ads they are willing to see.

    According to a report by Teads, users would still be willing to watch ads that are:

    • Relevant to the services/pages they like
    • Useful
    • Entertaining
    • Non intrusive
    • Beneficial for preferred publishers

    teads1

    Thus, publishers need to understand that the browsing experience is changing, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t maintain their income from alternative methods of advertising.

    An optimal advertising experience has more chances to succeed, especially when it focuses on:

    • Quality
    • Relevance
    • Creativity
    • User control
    • Innovation

    After all, no advertising model can be sustained if the users start deviating from it.

    Google Analytics launches 360 Suite, promises a better view of the “complete customer journey”

    360 suite

    Following the ‘micro-moment’ trend that Google has named and popularised for itself, Google has launched a suite of tools for its premium Analytics users, which promise to help better take advantage of customer behaviour “in the moment.”

    With companies swimming in data from an infinite number of channels, it’s harder than ever to get a genuinely complete view of the customer journey.

    Sure you can measure traffic to your site from online channels, but what about the effect your digital marketing has on offline store visits? What about when someone searches for a service on a mobile when out and about, how do you know you’re delivering the most relevant message to them?

    To help enterprises achieve a more personalised ‘customer centric’ way of marketing, Google Analytics has launched 360 Suite, “a set of integrated data and marketing analytics products,” the purpose of which is to make your brand genuinely useful to potential customers.

    Now putting aside any cynicism, anything that helps companies see the whole customer journey in real-time and provides useful information that cuts through the usual ‘hit-and-hope’ marketing rubbish, is to be applauded.

    Here’s a breakdown of what Google is offering to its 360 suite users. Four of the six products are brand new (three are in beta), and most of the following are the words of Google, but I’ve tried to cut back on the hyperbole wherever I could 😉

    Google Audience Center 360 (beta): a data management platform (DMP) that helps marketers understand customers and find more like them across channels, devices, and campaigns. It offers native integration with Google and DoubleClick, plus it’s open to third party data providers, DSPs and more. This is Google’s first ever DMP.

    Google Optimize 360 (beta): a website testing and personalization product, where marketers can show consumers multiple variations of their site and then choose the version that works best for each audience. So basically a landing page A/B testing tool.

    Google Data Studio 360 (beta): a data analysis and visualization product that integrates data across all suite products and other data sources, which you can use to crate interactive reports and dashboards. So you can make fancy patterns and stuff.

    Google Tag Manager 360: an improvement on its previous tag management product. It offers a more simplified way to gather site information to increase data accuracy and streamline workflows. This is now a standalone product.

    Google Analytics 360: the new version of GA Premium. This will be better integrated with multiple touchpoints and Google’s ad products.

    Google Attribution 360: the new version of Adometry, which has been rebuilt from the ground up, will help advertisers value marketing investments and allocate budgets.

    Google has also stated that the 360 Suite integrates with many third party data providers and platforms, and it will plug directly into Google AdWords and DoubleClick.

    The four new products are available today in limited BETA, if you’re a Google Analytics Premium or Adometry customer.

    Although no date (or price) has been announced for the official public launch, you will be able to purchase each individual product separately.

    If you have any thoughts about this launch, and whether this is a genuinely useful step forward or not, please let us know in the comments.

    How much do journalists and editors need to know about SEO?

    la times

    How much SEO knowledge does a journalist need? Is it a key part of the job in the modern world, or should they just concentrate on writing?

    From my perspective, looking after the ClickZ and Search Engine Watch sites, it plays a big role in what we do. Especially this site – if we’re going to write about SEO, we should know what we’re talking about.

    I see it as being essential to the modern journalist or writer online. These skills will help you write for the web effectively and ensure that your content finds its audience.

    Let’s be clear though: the quality of content is the first consideration: if the article sucks then no amount of SEO knowledge is going to help. The ability to write is the thing.

    After that, it’s about giving the content you created and the site you write for the best chance in the search engines.

    This isn’t all down to the writer, but I think writers should be learning abut this. It’s a way to future-proof your career.

    The SEO tasks editors and writers don’t need to do

    I think an understanding of SEO and how it works is useful for editors, but there are areas where an internal or external expert may be the best option.

    As Kevin Gibbons says:

    “A lot of SEO for media/publishers is likely to be more technical, such as optimising category pages, passing internal link equity, on-page structure markup, crawling/indexing analysis, Google News/sitemap creation etc… So it’s a different skill-set required, which the editors don’t really need to worry about, but equally important towards getting results.”

    So what do writers and editors need to know about SEO?

    Here are some of my suggestions, then I’ll let the search experts give their views.

    How to write headlines

    Headlines written for the web, unlike those for print, should be alluring and descriptive. And the keywords used should be considered. We editors can’t do all of this, so if writers can contribute here, or if it’s a collaborative process, all the better.

    The brave new world of headline writing had some pining for the loss of the art of puns, though there’s still a place for them offline.

    Besides, if you can write a headline for the web and squeeze a pun in too, you’ve hit the jackpot.

    Use of keywords

    I have a target list of keywords and phrases which relate to the central themes of the sites, and also that tie in with the products we offer – events, webinars and research.

    When we write headlines or use links, these target phrases are considered, and are tracked over time.

    A strategy of allocating target pages (or hub pages) for each topic or keyword is a great way to distribute internal link equity and avoiding individual pages competing against each other for rankings. See how Mail Online does this.

    Writers don’t necessarily need to be involved in planning keywords, but I do think an understanding of the purpose of this is helpful.

    Linking

    Writers should link to outside sources, when referencing a quote a piece of research, or perhaps talking about a product or website.

    It’s also important that they know about placement of links and the use of anchor text.

    Internal linking

    While I’d say the overall linking strategy should sit at editorial level, an understanding of internal linking can help a great deal.

    At its most basic, simply encouraging writers to link to related articles within the same site can have beneficial effects for both reader and site.

    For the editor, an understanding of the pages you want to help rank for any term and the best anchor text to use is essential.

    Working with the SEO team

    Editors can also work with the SEO team to set a clear SEO strategy. As Kevin Gibbons says, the editors role should be to build this into their editorial planning, as they see appropriate, and to keep the journalists more focused on telling the best stories that they can to readers.

    The experts’ opinion

    • Kelvin Newman is Founder and MD at Rough Agenda, the company behind the excellent BrightonSEO conference.
    • Kevin Gibbons is MD at Digital Marketing agency Blueglass, and a contributor to SEW.

    How much do journalists/bloggers need to know about SEO?

    Kelvin Newman:

    I think anyone working for an online business need a basic understanding of how Google works, some of the key ranking factors, how to carry out some basic keyword research etc. It wouldn’t take more than an hour to pick up the absolute basics and give them an awareness.

    If I was hiring a journalist I’d want someone who cared about reaching the biggest audience they possibly could. If they genuinely care about that they’re going to need to think about writing in a similar way to people search.

    Equally I’d be worried if they didn’t care about SEO at all, if they don’t care about appealing to that audience they clearly aren’t worried about the commercial interest of who their working for.

    Do they need to be an SEO expert? Of course not, but I’d want them to be inquisitive enough to know what their potential audience interested in. That’s what keyword research gives you.

    Kevin Gibbons:

    I definitely think it can help if journalists know how to write content for SEO – e.g. using top target keywords within headlines and the body of their articles.

    However, they definitely shouldn’t over-think it – just try to write in a way that is likely to resonate with readers the best, being descriptive and using their natural language and you shouldn’t go too far wrong.

    What does an editor need to know? Which SEO-related tasks should they be carrying out?

    Kelvin Newman:

    An editor’s role is to steer the direction of a publication. When I worked in consumer magazines the best editors instinctively new what audiences wanted. SEO skills help hone that instinct.

    I wouldn’t expect an editor to be dictating keywords to journo’s but they might be interested in info like more people search for Beach Wedding Dresses than Designer Wedding Dresses if they edited a publication about Weddings.

    That kind of insight should have an influence on their editorial approach.

    Kevin Gibbons:

    I think it’s always a worthwhile exercise to make sure you have a clear SEO and data-driven content strategy.

    This can allow you to maximise organic search traffic and should be based on both a longer-term keyword research strategy and providing topical short-term news/social trends, which can be fed into more agile content writing.