Improve Your Google Adwords Quality Score

If you are running or have ever run a Google Adwords account you will have come across Google’s ‘Quality Score’. But what is this and what impact does it have?

As for the reason for having this quality score, well that depends on how cynical you are. For those that believe that Google ‘do no evil’ as per their mission statement, this quality score is all about making the users of Adwords work harder in order to ensure that the people only get to see ‘good’ adverts and are never mislead.

For those that are not so sure of Google’s good intentions, well, they see the issue of quality score in a different light, that of making Google more money.

To be sure both could be true, as if advertisers do not create their campaigns correctly, then they will pay more for every click and their customers may well not get what they expect.

Advertisers who do not set their campaigns up properly will also see their keywords under peforming; they will get fewer impressions and poorer positions both of which are bad news.

So what is this quality score based on? Well basically Google assign a value out of 10, the higher the better. It is based on the relevance of every keyword in an Adwords  Adgroup to every other one in that Adgroup, as well as its relevance to the associated Advertising text.  And it does not stop there either, as the landing page (where the visitor ends up once they click an advert) is also checked for relevance to the keyword.

I have seen this in action and have seen how altering the construction of an Adwords campaign results in a HUGE improvement in quality score and consequent reduction in click costs and improvements in impressions and traffic.

As I say, it’s all down to making sure that you are taking RELEVANCE seriously, if you don’t Google will make you pay more, it is simple as that…

Local Businesses Not Taking Advantage of Google Places Listings

A survey of Chiropodists in Herefordshire showed that only 4 out of 10 had claimed and verified their listings on Google Places and of those that had claimed their listings only 1 in 10 had bothered to add any further details.

More amazing still there were no reviews at all of any of these practitioners at all, which is something of a surprise when you consider how personal this service is.

What this shows is that many businesses are not taking full advantage of the possibilities that Google Places offers, after all these days people are far more likely to look on the Web than pick up a copy of the Yellow pages or even the local newspaper. This is the case for other types of businesses too, many are simply not taking advantage of this free service.

As it stands today, this means that these businesses could steal a march on their competitors by saying more about themselves and by getting their customers to place real and truthful reports on the service they received. After all, if you were looking for a chiropodist would you not like to know as much about them and the services they provide before you pick up that phone? And if you can read some real reviews about them as well, would that not make all the difference and make it all the more likely that they will get your business.

Another major thing to consider is that when you are using your mobile phone, Google can tell where you are, this means that it often provides ‘local information’ in preference to anything else.

Therefore, if you have claimed and ‘optimised’ your Google Places account you are far more likely to have your listing presented to those potential customers.

In the USA, Local Search (powered by Google Maps amongst others) is becoming more and more popular amongst users, and we can be reasonably certain that this is will happen in the UK (the signs are certainly there) so now is the time for all businesses to take advantage of this free marketing channel.

Google Adwords – SEO and Quality Scores

When you think of Paid Search in the UK you are really thinking about Google’s Adwords system.

What you might not think about however is Search Engine Optimisation. But there you would be wrong as you would not have taken the matter of Quality Score into account.

But what is this Quality Score all about then? Well, if you are not of a cynical disposition, you can view Quality Score as Google’s attempts to make sure that every advertiser delivers, in that they don’t take any click to a page that is irrelevant.

To be sure that is the case as any advetiser that does not take action could be paying as much as 40% more than needed for every click AND also (more than likely) wasting many clicks when people simply don’t find what they are expecting.

So what do you have to do in order to maximise your quality score (and thus minimise your click costs)? Well there are two distinct areas that need your attention.

First, you need to make sure that your Google Campaign is set up the right way, all the keywords being grouped together and placed in their own ‘Adgroup’ with their own targeted and relevant advertising text.

Then you need to make sure that the ‘landing page’ (the page that the visitor is taken too when they click the advert) is optimised, just as if you were trying to get it ranked organically. In essence this means that the Title of the page includes relevant keywords and that the Meta data (keywords and description) are also completed and include relevant words.

If you can, you also need to use a H1 tag and an H2 / H3 in the body of the page.

You also need to make sure that the words on the page include relevant words. You can even go the whole hog and include keywords in the ‘properties’ of any images (Yes those Engines look at these too…).

The word here is RELEVANCE, as if you ensure that all the keywords in an Adgroup are about the same topic andare associated with a RELEVANT advert which leads to a RELEVANT page then you will see:-

  1. a better Quality Score,
  2. Higher Click Through Rates
  3. More Impressions
  4. Lower Click Costs
  5. Lower Bounce Rates
  6. Higher Conversion Rates

So Go and Revamp your Adwords account and pages and get the very best out of your Paid Search Channel.

Google Places – An Example of Why it is so important!

Hopefully, just about every business that wants business (especially local business) will know about the power of Google Places, but if not, well here is just one small example as to why it is so important…

The story is based on personal experience as I needed to pick a place where I could meet my sister so we could hand over a ‘package’ (my father, as he is staying with us for a bit).

My sister was travelling from Kent to Lampeter, so we decided to meet somewhere near Abergevenny, but not in the town as it was too busy and we might miss each other. So we chose Crickhowell,, a little Welsh village. But where to meet there??

This is where Google Places came in, for on the map was a cafe, so we choose that. Sure there are others all about it on the streets, but none of them had a Goolge Place, so we didn’t know they existed.

So, Cafe18 got our business, when otherwise they would have not..

OK, one little visit will not change their business, but imagine the impact over a year or so and under different circumstances for a different business.

It all goes to show that having a Google Places account is something that should not be overlooked.

If you want advice on Google Places Optimisation then please call us.

Buying Links – An Interesting Blog

Just came across this post about buying links and how it could be dangerous for SEO as an industry to rely on this system.

I for one totally agree, just relying on links is no good (although it can still work wonderfully well), however, for me, the real issue in buying links is the question of ‘Do bought lnks work’, which in turn leads to the question ‘What is a bought link?’

To Google a ‘bought’ link appears to be one that involves a transaction of money, which is clear enough, but some SEO companies trade not money, but work for a link. As the resulting link is placed on a site that is not ‘known’ for selling links then all is more than likely going to be well. BUT, if the link (however purchased / acquired) is on a site that is known to sell links, then all the links could well be disregarded. You won’t get penalised for having them, but you won’t get any benefit from them either, which means if you have paid hard cash in some way, that you are just wasting money.

SO, buying links can be a dangerous system and all should be aware of the issues…

Anyway – here is that interesting post:-

Whether you like it or not, everyone is buying links to increase PR and ranking.

Buying links is one of those funny things, that every SEO professional has done… and in all the forums, blogs and articles we claim that we will never do it. (but deep inside we have all done it at some stage in our painful link building life)

The problem is that buying links is like having “just one” chocolate cookie… once you like the taste, it’s difficult to have just one!

For the full blog see why buying links is dangerous

Google Panda – Matt Cutts a Crucial Comment

I have always told my customers that they need to take extra care when writing the content of their site. This I said was one way that they could show they ‘cared’ and that by doing so that they would get more ‘points’ from Google (and thus better rankings).

It is with some satisfaction then that I have found this comment by Matt Cutts 0f Google…

So beware, IF you don’t take extra care with your site (eg just copy content, don’t vary your page Titles and Meta data etc) then you may well fall foul of Google’s ‘Quality Checking’ systems…

The sites that do put a little bit more individual care and attention and work into the content of their site — whether it be a product description, or a blog post,’ says Matt Cutts, Google’s lead engineer on the Panda update, ‘those are the ones that users tend to prefer a little bit more and appreciate.’”

 

Google’s Panda Update – A Useful Article

Being some very interested in the updates Google run every now and then I was very interested in what would happen to the sites we were optimising when Panda ‘hit’. I am pleased to report that, in common with all the other updates in the past that our sites were not damaged at all ranking wise and all continued their upward march.

Still, for those that are interested, the blog below is very informative indeed, despite (as with all of the blogs on this subject) not really knowing 100% what Google is really up too.

On the matter of using copied material in this blog, I am of the opinion (along with the auhor of this information (I think) that copying is OK, as long as you give credit to the source. I also beleive that Google (to a degree) is quite happy about copied material, as long as something ‘extra’ is added to the pot.

Anyway, to the ‘nitty gritty’ the actual content of the blog:-

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See the what they have to say
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Despite much discussion, analysis, and guesswork across hundreds of Websites, it seems that the true nature of Google’s Panda Technologytm continues to elude the algorithm chasers. Maybe it’s time for a reset in terms of what people think Panda is and represents and does. But rather than try to persuade people to accept whatever I might think or conclude, I feel it would be more productive to go down the list of things we can all easily verify about what Panda is or does.

The Panda Technologytm was implemented as a document classifier

A document classifier is a computer program that performs a specific function or set of functions in evaluating documents for a searchable index. A few examples: Classifiers may identify or label or classify documents, tagging them for further processing; classifiers may sort documents into groups; classifiers may score documents against measurement signals; classifiers may reduce or alter document data; classifiers may deduce, tally, or compute data about documents or document sets and associate the results with documents; classifiers may scan documents for specific qualities.

A simple definition for “document classifier” might be a special program that solves a specific problem for “a document space and a set of document classes”. Okay, that’s somewhat jargonistic. But think of the primary function of the document classifier as performing a task that solves a problem. The problem might be, “How do I divide this set of documents into ‘stuff over here’ and ‘stuff over there’?”

In the February 2011 Wired Magazine interview, Matt Cutts said: “…we actually came up with a classifier to say, okay, IRS or Wikipedia or New York Times is over on this side, and the low-quality sites are over on this side.”

The Panda Technologytm appears to have helped some scraper sites

I have trouble finding queries where scraper sites are outranking their original sources. I see many people complaining that their sites have A) lost traffic since being affected by Panda and B) are now being outranked by scraper sites.

It is pretty easy for me to find scraper sites. I need only take article titles from sites like SEO Theory, SEOmoz, Search Engine Land, and Marketing Profs and search on them. Marketing Profs was complaining about being outranked by syndication partners earlier this year but when I performed some queries on their article titles just before writing this article, I found their site ranking above all the others.

That is the case for SEO Theory, SEOmoz, and Search Engine Land. I have known for years that these sites were being scraped by Web spammersand I know this blog gets scraped a LOT.

So what’s the difference between me and someone whose site is being outranked by scraper sites? I’m pretty sure that SEO Theory hasn’t been downgraded by Panda.

The Panda Technologytm is looking at sites

According to the Google Blog post that Amit Singhal and Matt Cutts published on February 24, “This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.”

The Panda Technologytm uses “new signals”

In a February 25 blog post, Wall Street Journal writer Amir Efrati stated that “Singhal did say that the company added numerous ‘signals,’ or factors it would incorporate into its algorithm for ranking sites. Among those signals are ‘how users interact with’ a site.”

In an April 11 update published on their original Panda announcement, Singhal/Cutts wrote: “We’ve rolled out this algorithmic change globally to all English-language Google users and incorporated new signals as we iterate and improve.”

It’s interesting that the Wired article doesn’t mention user interaction with sites, whereas the WSJ blog post partially summarizes Singhal’s statement. We don’t have a clear indication that Google is actually trying to monitor user engagement with Websites. Nonetheless, this has proven to be one of the areas where certain SEOs have focused much of their attention.

The Panda Technologytm uses multiple signals

On March 9, Vanessa Fox recapped new information about Panda disclosed during the SMX West conference. She quoted “Google’s words” as:

Our recent update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites, so the key thing for webmasters to do is make sure their sites are the highest quality possible. We looked at a variety of signals to detect low quality sites. Bear in mind that people searching on Google typically don’t want to see shallow or poorly written content, content that’s copied from other websites, or information that are just not that useful. In addition, it’s important for webmasters to know that low quality content on part of a site can impact a site’s ranking as a whole. For this reason, if you believe you’ve been impacted by this change you should evaluate all the content on your site and do your best to improve the overall quality of the pages on your domain. Removing low quality pages or moving them to a different domain could help your rankings for the higher quality content.

This appears to be the first time Google associates “low-quality sites” with “shallow or poorly written content, content that’s copied from other websites, or information that are just not that useful”.

Also, Google noted that “low quality content part of a site can impact a site’s ranking as a whole”.

Panda-downgraded sites have reduced crawl

In another post summarizing SMX West Panda information, Vanessa Fox wrote: “Matt also noted that if Google determines a site isn’t as useful to users, they may not crawl it as frequently.”

As Eric Enge’s interview with Matt Cutts revealed:

There is also not a hard limit on [Google’s] crawl. The best way to think about it is that the number of pages that we crawl is roughly proportional to your PageRank. So if you have a lot of incoming links on your root page, we’ll definitely crawl that. Then your root page may link to other pages, and those will get PageRank and we’ll crawl those as well. As you get deeper and deeper in your site, however, PageRank tends to decline.Another way to think about it is that the low PageRank pages on your site are competing against a much larger pool of pages with the same or higher PageRank. There are a large number of pages on the web that have very little or close to zero PageRank. The pages that get linked to a lot tend to get discovered and crawled quite quickly. The lower PageRank pages are likely to be crawled not quite as often.

By simple inference, one can conclude that a reduced amount of crawl may indicate a reduction in PageRank. You should review the entire interview, however, as Matt points out some situations where Google may be prevented from crawling a site efficiently by factors beyond its control.

Google ties the algorithm to their Webmaster Guidelines

In his April 11 blog post announcing the international English-language rollout for Panda, Amit Singhal wrote: “Based on our testing, we’ve found the algorithm is very accurate at detecting site quality. If you believe your site is high-quality and has been impacted by this change, we encourage you to evaluate the different aspects of your site extensively. Google’s quality guidelines provide helpful information about how to improve your site. As sites change, our algorithmic rankings will update to reflect that.”

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For the full story, see the blog in full here

Good Website Content – Whose Job is it?

I have worked on many many websites over the years, and one thing that seems be common (at least for the most part) is that the designers come up with a really good looking site, one that sets the brand up and all that, all in all a very good ‘visual’ job being done.

However, once the visual picture has been painted, they seem (in the most part) to stop, and say to the customer, “OK now give us the copy”, or even “Here are the access codes to the CMS, you can now fill the site up with the words”.

I am asking “Is this the right approach?” saying this as in my experience, even though a business owner knows ‘his onions’, they often cannot put this knowledge into words, or at least words that impress the visitor (or the Search Engines for that matter).

What do you think, should the designer write the words (after ‘getting to know the business in depth’ or employing a copy writer to do this) or is it the job of the website owner to get it right, or indeed, is it the job of the SEO expert (if engaged) to re-write the words to both impress the visitor (the most important) and the Engines (of secondary import).

Any views appreciated

Press Releases – How Can They Be Used for SEO etc

I have just returned from a workshop given by a PR company called PR2Go. It was their first and was all about what PR was and how it could be used to enhance a businesses reputation.

Of course to those versed in all this, it is easy to see why you should use PR, but to the rest of us, it is a bit more difficult, at least in some cases. For my part I can see that PR is a valuable SEO tool, as it allows me to create a press release and then submit this to one (or many) of the Online Press Release sites that abound on the web.

If the release is half decent it will get accepted and once accepted be there when Mr Google’s spiders come a calling (something they do often with these sites). The result, a link back to the site, which is all to the good.

The presence of this release is good for another reason of course, as it raises the profile of the business on the web when someone is looking for sites that ‘talk’ about it, reviews and comments often being searched for when a customer is deciding whether they really want to be a customer or not…

However, the real reason for a Press Release must be to get into the press, either digitally in print (or better still both). Whilst getting some digital space is relatively easy, getting some space in print is much harder it seems.

So what are the things to bear in mind when trying to get a release printed?

This is a difficult question to answer, but I have some tips for you, from the experts at PR2Go:-

However, before I do that, the most IMPORTANT piece of information that I picked up at the workshop was this piece of gold:-

“The story that you want to tell will, most often than not, Not be the story the journalist wants to tell…”

There is a basic reason for this and that is that most of the stories that we want to tell about our business are ‘yawn’, a bit boring to the journalists of this world.

This in turn means that you have to have an ‘angle’, something that whilst being what you want it to be about (your business) it is also about something that makes interesting news.

This can be quite difficult, but with some thought, and a little practise and guidance from people like those are PR2Go it is achievable.

Tips to make it more likely for your PR to be accepted:-

Make it (perm any number from these 6):-

  1. About People
  2. Interesting
  3. Educational
  4. Informative
  5. Entertaining
  6. Tell them something NEW

Then, bearing in mind that your story might not be the one that anyone wants to tell, think of the ‘Hook’ the thing that makes something mildly interesting very interesting. An example of this is a shop refit. If it was once an old building, then you can use the ‘shop refit breathes new life into historic building angle’ and if it is about taking on new staff, if there is someone that is being employed who has been out of work for a long time or has a disability or something, consider using that as a ‘good news’ angle.

So, if you want some PR and don’t really fancy sitting in a bath of beans for charity, have a chat with a PR expert or two and let them see what they can come up with. After all, ‘There’s a Story in there somewhere’, you just have to find it…

Of Old Dogs, New Tricks and SEO

It has long been said that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, the saying it seems coming from the Bronze age (see excerpt from http://www.stuckon.co.uk/mythbusters-gives-hope-for-us-all-in-seo-3861.html:-

“One of the most hackneyed sayings in the English language is ‘You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.‘ It was crafted in the early Bronze Age to keep elders in their place, and it has tarnished our perceptions of what aged things are capable of ever since. Well, the US science experiment show Mythbusters has proved that you can indeed teach old dogs new tricks, and Google’s search results continue to show that old SEO can still rank.”

They go on to say:-

“The two hosts of Mythbusters, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, have been testing cultural and Hollywood myths since 2003. In 2007, the intrepid pair decided to put the old saying to the test, taking on a pair of older canines from an animal shelter and each trying to teach their dog a series of tricks. Needless to say, the saying was thoroughly disproved.

The ranking test of old pages can be disproved with far less effort. Simply type a few keywords into Google. For an astonishing number of keywords, Google promotes surprisingly aged websites. For example, a search on ‘online marketing tips’ produces a first result from 2009 and a second from 2006. Unlike a search for Cheshire cheese, one would assume that fresh pages are constantly competing for these spots.”

For me this all makes perfect sense, pages either holding onto their places because

  1. Their has been no real competition for the spot.
    or
  2. They were so good, or were on such a powerful site that they could not be easily moved.

However, it is probably more accurate to say that ‘old dogs don’t forget their tricks’ here, as it is the fact that these pages (dogs) are still so good at doing their trick (getting a top ranking)  that allows them still be there.

The experiment with the pages is interesting in another way in that it does show pages can be knocked off the top spots where there is competition, the question here being “Are they better or is it just that they are newer?”

Happy SEOing