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Google Core Algorithm Update June 2019

By | Internet Marketing Service, Search Engine Marketing, search engine optimization, SEO News & Updates, seo tips

Updates from the Search Engine Marketing world!

Core Algorithm Update June 2019

In a rare move, Google announced on 3rd June that they would be rolling out a core algorithm update this month. It is unusual for Google to announce updates before they are rolled out.

google core algo update june 2019

They have since announced that the Core Update is now live. To check if your website has been affected by this update, the following needs to be audited: Search Console activity & Google Analytics organic activity.

What is a Core Update? Google has multiple algorithms overlaid on each other so that they are able to tweak various parts of the search engine without affecting others every time they make a minor update. A Core Update is related to the core algorithm, which sits at the base of all these and impacts the main search algorithm itself.

Your website may have been affected by the update, if you’re seeing lower organic activity since 3rd June. The update is still very new and there isn’t enough data available to determine which parts of the core algorithm were tweaked. We’re keeping a close eye on it and will let you know in coming weeks once we have more concrete information! In the meantime, if you’d like us to audit your site, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1300780112.

In other news, here are a few more changes we have noticed in the SERP’s that may be of interest:

Rating Score Snippets in Search

Want more visitors to your site? Once your website is ranked on Page 1, one of the ways you can increase traffic is by standing out from competitors and increasing your click-through rate (CTR).

Here’s a great way we’ve been able to do it for ourselves:

schema star rating in serpsReviews and ratings are an important factor in deciding who gets the most Clicks. By leveraging the reviews we already have, we can get our overall rating score (with the stars) to appear in Google, thus increasing CTR and getting more traffic!

While this feature has existed in the SERP for a while, it went away for quite some time as Google had imposed penalties to a lot of websites for the misuse of schema. But this time around, it seems to be back for good!

Want the 5-star ratings to appear in Google for your rankings? Get in touch and we’ll make it happen!

 

Favicons in Mobile SERP’s

Google has started rolling out some changes for mobile search results, which make the websites’ favicons appear in the search result itself. With this new design, a website’s branding can be front and center, making your website stand out from your competitors’ listings.
mobile serp favicon update

You can see Before & After screenshots above. So make sure your website has a favicon!

Google Bans Tech Repair Businesses from Adwords

By | Google AdWords, Pay Per Click Marketing, Search Engine Marketing

Search engine juggernaut Google has announced that it will heavily restrict all advertising on its platforms done by third-party tech support and repair businesses (such as smartphone repair, laptop repair and so on). It has taken this step in a bid to thwart the rise of fraudulent and ‘harmful’ companies that are using Google platforms to place their advertisements.

google bans computer and tech repair on adwordsWhat’s more, this heavy restriction will be followed by a roll-out of a verification process for companies in the tech support sector to filter legitimate businesses from the scams.

David Graff, Google’s director of global policy said in a post on the Google Ads blog that the company is currently pushing back against fraudulent companies, which has resulted in these extreme measures. The company reportedly also takes down 100 ‘bad ads’ per second.

According to Graff, the company has also worked with law enforcement and government agencies to address abuse in this area. However, because the actual fraudulent activity takes place off the Google platform, it becomes increasingly hard to separate the legitimate businesses from the bad ones.

Graff admits that measures won’t result in the complete elimination of ‘bad actors’, but the company will keep doing all it can to keep its advertising platform safe for everyone.

This new policy is already having drastic repercussions for third-party tech support providers, as even legitimate businesses are being restricted from advertising. Since this is an industry-specific ban, even working with an Adwords agency won’t help your case, regardless of how well-optimised your campaigns are!

Of course, for legitimate businesses, this new policy means that they must go through a verification process to place ads on the Google platform. However, this could actually be good news for legitimate businesses as there will be less players in the space than before, making pay-per-click costs cheaper and the competition less severe.

Google’s Ad Grant for Nonprofit Organisations: Everything You Need to Know

By | Google Ad Grants, Google AdWords, Pay Per Click Marketing

Nonprofit organizations often work with tight budgets, as most of their funds come through donations. A challenge for such a nonprofit is going to be its marketing: how can it reach the most amount of people while still spending the majority of its budget on performing the actual charity work? Well, technology is here to help and this time it’s from internet search giant Google. Google’s Ad Grant program helps nonprofit organization use its AdWords digital advertising platform to increase the exposure of their website.

What is Google Ad Grants?

Think of Google Ad Grants as the nonprofit version of Google AdWords. And it’s not some stripped-down version ogoogle adwords for nonprofits, google for nonprofits australia, google grant managementf the platform either – you retain all of the functionality of regular AdWords. Google gives nonprofit organizations a budget of $10,000 per month to advertise on the AdWords platform. This works out to about $329 USD per day.

So if you’re running a nonprofit organization and are looking to increase the reach of your noble cause, the Google Ad Grants program seems like a pretty straight-forward choice, right?

Not quite, as Google has stringent procedures through which it vets organizations to be eligible for its free advertising program. Of course, these strict guidelines are in place so no one abuses the system but it also places a significant barrier to charities that don’t have full-fledged digital marketing departments.

Google Ad Grants Eligibility Criteria

If you work at a non-profit and the Google AdWords for nonprofits program sounds enticing, then you must be aware of the eligibility criteria that comes along with it.

To be eligible for Google Ad Grants an organization must:

  • Hold a current and valid charity status in one of the approved countries: For example in the US, you must have a current 501(c)(3) status. In Australia, you must be registered with your local TechSoup partner (Connecting Up) and be validated as a nonprofit organization.
  • Not one of the of the following:
    • Government entity or organization
    • Hospital or healthcare organization
    • School, childcare centre, academic institution or university. Please note that philanthropic arms of education institutions are still eligible.
  • Acknowledge and agree to Google Grant’s required certifications: These certifications outline the methods used to receive donations and the way in which these donations will be used afterwards.
  • Have a functioning website that provides adequate detail: The website should be fully functional and ideally should have some sort of a mechanism to receive donations. It should also provide adequate information about your charity and its purpose.
  • For Australian nonprofits, the requirements are:
    • Organisations must be registered with ConnectingUp, TechSoup Global’s regional arm.
    • Organisations must be a non-government, non-profit entity that is income tax exempt (ITE) as defined by Australian Charities and Non-Profits Commission (ACNC) and/or Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

How to Maintain Google Ad Grant Eligibility

Getting a Google Ad Grant can be quite challenging, especially for charities and nonprofits that don’t have experienced digital marketing resources in-house. However, getting a Google Ad Grant is only part of the challenge, as you have to actively ensure that your eligibility is maintained by way of following strict guidelines set by Google.

  • All of the ads in your account must link to the nonprofit URL as specified in your Google Ad Grant application.
  • You must be actively engaged in your Google Ad Grant campaign, logging in at least once a month. Failing to comply with this rule will result in your account being paused without notification.
  • The ads you put to use must reflect the purpose of your mission effectively. You can also sell products as long as you ensure that 100% of the proceeds will go on to supporting your nonprofit organization.
  • Your ads cannot lead to a landing page on your site whose prime purpose is to send visitors to other sites.
  • Your ads cannot offer financial products such as credit cards or mortgages. Donations should be in the form of money, and not goods such as cars, boats or property.
  • Your website is not allowed to participate in Google AdSense or affiliate advertising links (such as Amazon Affiliates).

Violation of any of the above-stated guidelines will result in your removal from the Google Ad Grant program. These guidelines can be changed at any time so always stay up to date.

Restrictions on Google Ad Grant Advertisements

Along with the eligibility criteria and member guidelines, you’ll also need to set of rules for your Ad Grant ad campaigns:

  • Previously, Google had a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) limit of $2 USD, but that has been lifted as long as you use their ‘Maximize Conversions’ bid strategy. Under this strategy, Google will automatically measure the ideal bid for you using machine learning, leading to optimized campaigns. In the past, Google Ad Grant members had to set bids really low due to the limit of $2 USD, which resulted in lesser clicks.
  • Daily budget is set at $329 ($10,000 USD per month).
  • Your ads will only appear on Google.com – you cannot use Search Partners.

The real challenge with Google Ad Grants is that you’ll oftentimes find it hard to spend the $10,000 USD monthly limit because of the ad and keyword restrictions. What’s more, Google has a policy where if you don’t have a CTR (click-through rate) of at least 5%, your Ad Grant will be paused.

Because of all the factors involved in managing a Google Ad Grant , it can be complex for nonprofits to manage it. Getting a Google Ad Grant is hard enough, but maintaining it is the real challenge. That is why it’s imperative that nonprofits employ skilled Adwords Managers. Ideally, Google Adwords specialists who understand the Ad Grant comprehensively to effectively utilize it. Sure, a good Adwords consultant will come at a cost but then the organization is also getting $10,000 in free ad money.

Of course, if the ads are being run successfully, then the Google Grant management cost will be completely negated.

A.P. Web Solutions works with several Australian Nonprofit organisations to help them set up and manage Google Ad grants. Here’s a screenshot of an NFP’s Google Analytics within a month of engaging our services:

GET THE SAME RESULTS FOR YOUR NONPROFIT ORGANISATION!

 

Meta Elements – Everything You Need to Know About Meta Tags

By | Search Engine Marketing, search engine optimization, seo tips

Meta elements or meta tags are text elements of any website that help search engines in identifying the content subject matter of a page. Meta elements are never visible to end users, as they’re hidden in the page’s code.

WordPress users might be familiar with the ‘tagging’ of content, a way to categorize content based on subject. Meta elements work in the same way, but they’re part of a web page’s underlying HTML. They’re usually placed in the ‘header’ part of a web page, and are usually the first to be seen by search engine crawlers.

Meta Elements – Why They Matter for SEO

In the realm of SEO, knowledge on how to effectively use meta elements is part of the most basic of trainings. Meta elements are not as important to a page’s SEO as they used to be, thanks to advanced search engine algorithms that can analyze and deduce what a page’s content is about.

To view a page’s meta tags, all you have to do is right-click anywhere on it and click on ‘View Page Source’:

view sourceThere are several different meta tags available, but their usefulness varies quite a bit. In fact, there only a handful of meta tags that search engines such as Google understand.

Important Meta Elements for SEO

As mentioned above, Google understands a select number of meta tags. And perhaps the most important of these meta elements, which will have an impact on your site’s SEO are:

  • Meta title tag – <title>Title of the page</title>: The contents of this tag are shown as the title in search results.
  • Meta description tag – <meta name=”description” content=”some content” />: This tag provides a brief description of the page. A summary of a summary, as its length is very short.
  • Meta robots tag – <meta name=”robots” content=”arg0, arg1”/>: This tag specifies what search engine crawlers should do with the page.
  • Meta keywords tag – <meta name=”keywords” content=”kw0, kw1..”/>: This tag specifies a set (or array, specifically) of keywords that are relevant to the page.

Meta Title Tag

The meta title tag is perhaps the most important of all meta elements, because it’s going to be processed by search engines and then shown as-is to search users.

Whenever you make a search on Google, you’re presented with a set of search results. The main titles of those search results are actually the meta titles of those pages.

Meta title tags are also visible at the top of a browser:

meta titleThe meta title tag is important because it is one of the few meta elements which is visible directly to web users. A badly worded meta title is going to drive away search users, thus severely affecting its click-through rate.

Meta Description Tag

The meta description tag is just as important as the meta title tag, as it can be seen by users in search results.

Usually, the meta description tag contains valuable and actionable information about a page’s content.

meta descriptionWhat most SEO specialists try to ‘fill’ a page’s meta description with highly-searched keywords so the page has better chances to come up in search results. This is a good practice, as long as you don’t go overboard with keywords.

Usually, Google will choose to display the first 155 characters of a meta description, so try keeping it brief and to the point, with well-chosen keywords.

Meta Robots Tag

The meta robots tags act as instructions for search crawlers on what they should do with your page. These tags are generic, and are used to control the behaviour of all search engines, not just Google.

The robots tag can be specified with different arguments based on what you want the search crawlers to do (default values are index and follow):

  • noindex: Prevents the page from being indexed by search engines.
  • Nofollow: Prevents search engines from following links on the page.

Meta Keywords Tag (Deprecated)

The meta keywords tag is not recognized by Google anymore, since it was notorious for being abused by search engine marketers to ‘steal’ traffic by using popular (but unrelated) keywords for web pages.

Optimizing Meta Elements for SEO

Meta elements still play a vital role in determining how well your page will be ranked by search engines. As such, it is important to come up with meta elements which are produced using SEO strategies such as keyword research.

There is no simple formula to help you come up with meta titles and descriptions that will be viewed more favorably by search engines. For titles, it is absolutely important that you include the core keyword once. For meta descriptions, many users make the mistake of ‘stuffing’ them with keywords. This has an adverse effect on readability, and thus reduces reader confidence and trust.

Pop-up Ads: Does Google Hate Them?

By | Internet Marketing Service, Search Engine Marketing, search engine optimization, SEO News & Updates, seo tips

The internet as we know it today wasn’t always the way it is. Advertisers saw the potential reach of the internet back in the early 90s and started using it aggressively to advance their marketing goals. And the pursuit of capturing the internet user’s undivided attention resulted in the creation of the revolutionary pop-up ad. Today we’ll be discussing how pop-up ads were invented and why Google has come to severely penalize websites that use them.

First, let’s talk about where pop-up Ads came from and their history…

Pop-Up Ads: A Brief History

Back in the early 90s, there were less than 4 million internet users in the entire world. But the internet was gaining popularity at a swift pace and by 1995 the total number had grown to 16 million people. This rapid growth was something that marketers and advertisers could no longer ignore and soon the world of online advertising was born.

The first online ads were nothing more than images with some marketing text in them. These are now more commonly referred to as banner ads.

By the late 90s, online advertising was commonplace and advertisers were working hard at finding new ways of getting the internet user’s attention. But there was a problem. Advertising technology was still in its infancy and that led to online ads being placed on random websites. As one car company found out when they realized that their ads were being served on an adult website, which they believed would negatively affect the reputation of their brand. Thus, online advertisers had to find a way of disassociating the ad from the website they were being served on. This effort indirectly led to the invention of the pop-up ad.

Ethan Zuckerman, the inventor of the pop-up ad, designed it to cover a part of the website’s content underneath it. The pop-up ad had its own design so it stood out from the website it was being served on. This created a strong disconnect between the website and the ad itself and so the reputation of the brand being advertised would stay intact (in theory), while ads could still be served freely on any kind of website.

The pop-up ad proved to be a hugely popular way of advertising online. By 1997, popular websites such as AOL and the New York Times were pushing advertising through pop-ups.

This popularity was one of the major reasons for the pop-up ad’s demise. It was being overused, and that led to people being frustrated because of the way it hindered access to a website’s content. A study conducted in 2004 found that 95% of internet users reacted negatively to pop-up ads.

How Pop-Up Ads Work

Pop-up ads work through the use of web page scripts (predominantly JavaScript) that allow them to jump in front of the website’s content. Pop-ups may appear as separate windows or as part of the web page, obscuring the content of the web page being accessed, to instantly catch the attention of the visitor. Want to find out what Google thinks of your website? Get a free SEO report here!

Pop-up ads are designed to deliver “in your face” advertising. They’re something that cannot be missed and usually needs to be closed. Because the pop-up is guaranteed to get at least one click (meant to close it), it can be misused to instead redirect that click to another website. This is why most people find pop-up ads to be a deceptive or misleading form of advertising. In worst case scenarios, pop-up ads have been known to run malicious scripts designed to collect sensitive data or install spyware.

What Google Thinks of Pop-Up Ads

As annoying as pop-up ads were, they were never really on Google’s radar and as such the search results of a website with pop-up ads weren’t affected. According to our Search Engine Optimisation specialists, that quickly changed as smartphones gained popularity and a bulk of searches started to come from mobile devices.

From 2015 onwards, Google started implementing some new search engine measures that favored websites providing good mobile user experiences. The first of these measures was the mobile update which was announced in the autumn of 2014 and rolled out on April 21st, 2015. This update included search results which showed a “Mobile-friendly” label for websites that had been optimized for mobile devices.

Google SERP Penalties for Intrusive Pop-Ups

The push for better mobile user experiences led to Google penalizing websites that showed intrusive pop-up ads (or interstitials, as the company calls them) in early 2017. According to Google, an intrusive pop-up is anything that takes unreasonable amounts of screen real estate and generally impedes the user’s access to a website’s main content. The following are clear examples given by Google of pop-ups it deems to be intrusive:

  • A pop-up/interstitial that is displayed on top of a page’s main content immediately after a user has navigated to that web page from Google search results. This can also include pop-ups/interstitials that are displayed while the user is reading the content.
  • A pop-up/interstitial that forces the visitor to dismiss/close it before the content of the page underneath can be accessed.
  • A pop-up/interstitial which has been incorporated into the design of the page and appears at the above-the-fold portion of the page, with the original page content appearing after the interstitial.

Examples of Pop-ups/Interstitials that negatively affect Google SERP rankings

This, however, shouldn’t be confused as a blanket ban on the use of pop-ups, for advertising or otherwise. Google just wants to discourage the use of intrusive pop-up ads that lead to a sub-par mobile user experience. The company has set clear guidelines for the types of pop-ups/interstitials that will not cause penalties for websites:

  • Pop-ups/interstitials that have to be used due to a website’s legal obligations. These can be age verification dialogs (for websites with mature content) or cookie-usage policy disclosures.
  • Pop-ups/interstitials that block access to a website that provides paid access to its content. The interstitials could be used for providing customers a way to login or to block the general public from accessing the original content of the page. An example of this would be news websites where a user needs to pay a monthly or weekly fee to be able to access the website’s content.
  • Pop-ups/interstitials/banners that take a small amount of screen real estate and can be easily closed by the user. Some common examples of this would be notification prompts or app-install banners that are shown in an above-the-fold portion of a website.

Examples of pop-ups/interstitials that are permissible according to Google

The Reasons Behind Google’s Dislike for Pop-Ups

1. Pop-Ups Lead to Subpar Mobile User Experience

Smartphones have limited screen real estate due to small physical display sizes. A pop-up ad can potentially take up all of the screen’s available space, thus forcing the user to either dismiss or follow through on what the Ad wants. This leads to frustrated users and a bad mobile experience in general.

2. Pop-Ups Disrupt the User Experience

The pop-up was invented to create a strong disassociation between ads and the websites they were being served on. Needless to say, this clearly hints at the fact that pop-ups rarely deliver content that is relevant to the website’s visitors. Not only that, but they’re also frustrating to encounter as they hinder access to what the user is really there for – the website’s content.

3. Pop-Ups Encourage Aggressive Advertising Tactics

Pop-ups have been designed to grab a user’s attention whether they like it or not. Pop-ups that are displayed successfully will always be able to show their content to the user. This has given advertisers the opportunity to include ‘click-bait’ content that is designed to get the most amounts of clicks. The focus here is not on the quality or relevance of the ad, just the number of clicks it can get from visitors.

Important Factors of Pop-Ups that Impact SEO

Pop-up ads can have a direct impact on the overall success of the SEO strategy of a website, even when Google’s penalties are not taken into account. We have seen this happen first-hand at A.P. Web Solutions.  The following factors should be considered when implementing pop-up ads on a website:

1. Timing

The timing of a pop-up ad can often decide whether it’s going to be considered as intrusive and frustrating by the user. Pop-ups that are displayed immediately after a webpage is accessed, are deemed intrusive by both Google and most internet users.

As such, it is advisable to display such pop-ups after the user has browsed a certain length of content on the page. Ideally, pop-ups should be displayed when the user has reached the end of the content and is likely to leave the page. If the user likes the content, they’re more likely to click on the pop-up and not leave with a bad impression of the website. If you want to consider hiring professionals to do the job for you, learn more about SEO pricing here.

2. Interaction

A pop-up should be easily dismissible by the user. This can include a clear “X” mark at the corner of the pop-up or a button which closes the pop-up ad. Considerations should be made to close the pop-up if the user clicks outside of the pop-up (this shows intent to access content).

Final Thoughts

The pop-up ad has revolutionized the way online advertising is delivered to web users. However, user response to this has been overwhelmingly negative. That is why most modern web browsers now include built-in pop-up blockers. But the pop-up ad is not going to disappear any time soon – it still remains a reliable way of capturing the attention of a website’s visitors.

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