On-Demand Webinar Overview
Google has upped the velocity of their enhancements this year, in large part to improve the overall user experience for mobile searchers. Many of the changes – like the removal of right rail ads – impact SEO and paid search campaign performance, but it’s tough for everyday marketers to keep track of it all. This webinar will outline the recent and anticipated Google changes, providing you with the most essential details including upcoming deadlines to make campaign changes.
Stephen Galgocy - Senior Organic Search (SEO) / User Experience (UX) Specialist @ DMS
Stephen Galgocy is the Senior Organic Search and User Experience Specialist at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Stephen handles search engine marketing (SEM), which encompasses search engine optimization (SEO), user experience (UX), multivariate testing (MVT) and conversion rate optimization (CRO). Since its inception, DMS has evolved into a full-service performance marketing company that services firms within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, automotive, jobs and careers. DMS has achieved incredible year-over-year growth, which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Chelsea Hicken - Senior Paid Search Strategist @ Sparkroom
Chelsea Hicken is a senior paid search strategist at Sparkroom. With almost a decade of experience in the marketing field, Chelsea utilizes paid search campaigns to help schools grow their brands and generate qualified inquiries to meet their business goals. In her free time, Chelsea enjoys traveling everywhere, provided it has a warm, sandy beach, and pioneering the budding sport of Extreme Scrapbooking.
Kathy Bryan: Good afternoon. My name is Kathy Bryan, and I’m the Vice President of Corporate Marking and Communications here at Sparkroom. I’d like to welcome everyone to today’s webinar, Google Changes: What you need to Know to Stay Competitive.
Before we get started, I wanna tell you a little bit about Sparkroom and the people presenting today. Through the deployment of award-winning technology and services, Sparkroom helps higher education marketers rapidly grow their enrollment volume.
We offer our solutions in three formats: performance marketing technology, enrollment marketing, and enrollment management. Because our technology and services streamline school marketing and operations efforts, higher education marketers trust Sparkroom to fast track their recruitment success.
Our presenters today are part of our search team. Chelsea Hicken is a Senior Paid Search Strategist, and Stephen Galgocy is a Senior SEO Strategist. Both are tasked with the increasingly difficult job of monitoring Google changes to ensure our clients’ campaigns are optimized for success. Thank you for joining us today, and now I will pass it off to our presenters.
Chelsea Hicken: Thanks, Kathy. So 2016 has been a big year for Google changes, with new ad formats, mobile updates, and changes to how results are displayed on the search page.
Some of these changes have been focused on paid ads, and others are more for organic listings and technical aspects of your website. If you’ve been following along with our blog, then you’ve probably seen quite a few posts over the past few months touching on each of these changes as they’ve been rolled out.
Even if you have stayed on top of all of these changes, it can still be pretty overwhelming to make sense of all of it, and to really understand how, exactly, each of these changes can affect your PPC and SEO campaigns.
The search landscape is evolving, and Google will likely continue changing things up well into 2017. Stephen and I are here to walk you through the big changes from this past year. We wanna make sure everyone is clear on the necessary actions that need to be taken now, as well as what to keep a close eye on in the near future so your PPC and SEO campaigns examine stay competitive as we move into Q4 and 2017.
We’ll be covering the changes related to ads, mobile, technical, and local. First up, we’ll review the ad changes. Back in February, Google announced that they were changing how search results are being displayed on desktop computers.
The original layout of three ads on the top and a series of ads down the right rail was replaced by four paid ads above the organic listing, and up to three paid ads below the organic results, and no more ads along that sidebar.
Everything in that red box is no longer eligible to show. This layout with leave more room for Google’s product listing ads to show in the right rail, and it was really part of an overall effort to more closely match the mobile search experience. When this change first rolled out, we weren’t sure what the impact would be, but we were anticipating increased competition and higher CPCs due to fewer spots to show ads, and potentially a decrease in impressions with less ads showing on any given page.
When we reviewed the results a few months later, the impact was actually pretty minimal. Yes, we did see a slight decline in impressions, but little impact to the overall average CPC. The majority of our conversions were coming from ads in top positions anyway, so that’s didn’t change at all with the new layout. Overall, this change had very little impact on our clients’ search campaigns.
Stephen Galgocy: Since no text ads will be served on the right rail of the search results on desktop, Google will serve four text ads instead of three in the main area above organic listings for more highly commercial queries, and three text ads will show at the bottom of the search engine results pages.
The total number of text ads that can appear in a results page will shrink from as many as 11 to a maximum of seven, so product listing ad blocks and knowledge panels, the big info box that appears on the right hand side during branded search, that will show in the right rail on relevant queries.
These updates are rolling out permanently worldwide on both Google.com and search partners. The SEO impact, click-through rates, CTRs, are up. In test data from us, SEO data company, a group of test domains, we see an increase in Position 1 click-through rate from 22 percent average to 27 percent average click-through rate. This bend in CTRs, click-through rates, across Page 1 could also be related to the seemingly increasing weight put on engagement metrics, which includes click-through rate.
What this means to businesses increased priority to reach the top positions, as Google seems to be decreasing the click-through rates on listings further down the page, and placing more value on results that they feel have better engagement. This means Rank No. 1, and I’m sorry, but it’s true, you’ll get the most visibility if you can strategize a way to outrank your competition.
Also, focus on less highly commercial query. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you can win. Identify search queries that are valuable to your business that don’t trigger large numbers of ads, and focus more heavily on those.
Search behavior has shifted. This image here is from a recent search marketing expo conference, which shows user behavior heat map of a search engine results page in Google. In 2006, users considered top three links and engaged. Now, ten years later, in 2016, the majority are shifting a bit below in what seems to be in anticipation, or avoidance, of ads. Chelsea.
Chelsea Hicken: The next change will touch on our expanded text ads, and this was part of the many changes announced at the annual Google performance summit back in May, which was focused on helping marketers succeed in today’s mobile-first world.
This new ad format, which officially rolled out in July, increases visible text by 50 percent by providing two 30-character headlines, and one consolidated 80-character description line.
The displace URL is pulled directly from the file URL domain, and you have option for two additional path fields of 15 characters each to use in that display URL section.
So far, the majority of our clients have seen better results with these expanded text ads, with some seeing improvements in click-through rate of over 300 percent. However, there are some clients who do still see standard ads performing better, so you definitely do need to continue testing here with different headlines and copy in the expanded format.
When drafting these new ads, definitely take advantage of those additional character limits to convey as much information as possible to your audience. It’s really not recommended to just simply add a second headline to your existing ads. You wanna make sure that both headlines make sense and really flow with the rest of the copy.
Keep in mind that what worked best in your standard ads may not necessarily work best in the new format, so you, of course, need to keep testing to identify what works best for your audience in this format.
Since the roll out in July, Google has continued to support the creation of both expanded text ads and standard text ads. They had originally announced a deadline of October as the last date we could add or edit these ads, but that deadline has now been pushed to January 31st in 2017.
As far as we know, standard text ads will continue to serve alongside expanded text ads for the near future, but we expect that at some point, Google will just start phasing them out of generating traffic completely.
If you have anything time-sensitive in your standard ads, like a special. Promotion or an upcoming start date, be sure to edit these now since you soon won’t have the ability to do so. Of course, if you have not yet added expanded text ads to your campaigns and your ad groups, you need to do that now. This ad type is here to stay, and you need to make sure that you’re prepared with those ads.
Onto responsive display ads. This new responsive ad format also rolled out in July, and these ads can only run in display network campaigns.
The ads are created directly from the AdWords interface. You just need a headline, a description, an image, and URL. The ads will then automatically respond to the environment where the ad is being served.
Google will automatically adapt the size and format of the ad, as well as how the text and images will appear, to fit each particular site. Advertisers really no longer need to take the extra time to create multiple image ads to cover every type of ad size for the display network.
These ads allow for more opportunity to run ads on the display networks, and it saves advertisers time in creating them. While we’re on the topic of the Google display network, after we had put this presentation together, we found out that yet another change was recently made to the display settings, which really just goes to show how frequently these changes are rolling out and occurring, and how confusing it can be to stay on top of all of it.
With this new change, when you’re targeting a display campaign with keywords, you now have the ability to choose if you want to restrict your ads to just show on the sites that are contextually relevant, or if you want to your ads to be shown to a wider audience of anyone potentially interested in your keywords.
This change, and the option to keep your ads more restricted, will definitely be helpful for marketers who hadn’t had much success with display in the past and are pretty hesitant to test again, as well as those with limited budgets, since you can now really keep the spend pretty restricted while testing that.
Moving onto mobile changes. Yet another one of the changes announced at that summit back in May was the ability to set individual device bids. Previously, tablets were lumped together with desktop computers, and we only had the option to set an adjustment for mobile devices. We tend to see much lower volume and poorer performance on tablets, so it’s been pretty frustrating in the past that we couldn’t do much about that and couldn’t manage those bids separately.
For example, so for in 2016, we’re seeing about 41 percent of leads being generated by desktop computers, 54 percent from mobile devices, and only 5 percent from tablets.
Tablets have the highest CPL and lowest enrollment rate of all devices for this sample of our clients. Now, being able to adjust these tablet bids and bid down for that device that’s not performing well is definitely really exciting.
Stephen Galgocy: Okay, let’s talk about mobile site speed and AMP pages. Research has shown that higher bounce rates are associated with slower-loading web pages. AMP pages, or accelerated mobile pages, are created to mitigate this.
AMP files take advantage of various technical and architectural approaches that prioritize speed to provide a faster experience for users, and site speed is in the top five out of over 200 SEO ranking factors. Implementing this will increase visibility and improve user experience.
Chelsea Hicken: Since this is still really new, the jury is still out on how exactly these page listings will affect page search. Essentially, these new pages would show above the paid ads, which could hurt paid search, but Google, of course, does not want to lose money, so there will likely be some algorithm that determines when the AMP pages show.
They most likely will not show as much on commercial searches, where there tends to be a lot of paid ads. They’ll probably show more on informational searches, where paid ads are just not as prevalent. When in doubt, you can do some searches on your keyword lists. Take note of how many paid ads show.
If there are a lot, chances are Google isn’t compromise those potential ad clicks by showing the AMP pages above these ads, but if there are aren’t a lot of paid ads, you may start seeing some of these AMP pages show on those searches, so definitely keep your eye out there.
Stephen Galgocy: Okay, and back in August, Google announced that it’ll “punish” any sites with “annoying mobile interstitials.” The punishment for annoying interstitials, those annoying ads and announcements that take over the whole page have the smallest possible button for dismissing them, which inevitably leads to you accidentally clicking on the ad, even though you didn’t really wanna buy a new car, will likely be mourned by bad marketers, but for users, it can’t come too early.
It’s worth noting that Google won’t punish all sites that use interstitials, only the ones that make content less accessible, so that means pop-ups that cover the main content after a user navigates to a page or they’re looking through it, as well as standalone interstitials that have to be dismissed before you can access the main content.
The pages that show what looks like a standalone interstitial, above the fold, those last ones are actually especially annoying because they often push the main content down once they load, which also often leads to you accidentally clicking on them, too. This isn’t the first time Google’s looking at interstitials as a ranking signal. The company already punishes sites that use them for app install ads.
At the end of August, Google removed the mobile-friendly label from their mobile search results. We knew it was coming. Google announced it a few weeks before they were dropping the label, but it took some time for the label to go away.
The removal of the mobile-friendly label in no way means that mobile-friendly ranking is not being used. It is still being used. Google removed the label because they wanted to declutter the mobile search results, and because 85 percent of all pages in the mobile search results are now mobile-friendly by Google’s criteria.
These a screenshot of the mobile-friendly label now longer showing up in this example of a Google search on what is SEO. Just last Thursday, there’s been a really new development in mobile search. Within months, Google was saying that they’re going to divide its index, giving mobile users better and fresher content. Currently, Google has a single index of documents for search that encompass desktop and mobile.
Google’s going to create a separate mobile index within a few months; could be during the first quarter, one that will be the main or primary index that the search engine uses to respond to queries. A separate desktop index will still be maintained, put it won’t be as up to date as the mobile index.
The news came during a keynote address from Gary Illyes, a web master trends analyst with Google, and that was at the Pubcon conference in Las Vegas last week. Illyes didn’t give a timeline in his talk, but later, he confirmed that it would happen within months, and so we have a lot of questions.
It’s unclear exactly how the mobile index would work. For example, since the mobile index is the primary index, will it really not be used for any desktop queries, or will it contain only mobile-friendly content? How out of date will the desktop index be? These are all great questions that we’re asking as well.
Desktop usage is now a minority of Google queries, but still generates substantial usage. We’ll have more updates on this via our blog and/or next webinar.
Next up are some technical changes. Next time users search for a college or a university in Google, they’ll get more than a map and a logo for the institution in the right hand side of the browser. Alongside the address and brief Wikipedia synopsis, they’ll find information related to student outcomes, such as graduation rate and average salary of the university’s graduates.
Working with the US Department of Education, Google has incorporated data from the College Scorecard directly into its search results. According to Google blog post in the matter, “By featuring this data front and center, Google is helping more students and families get the information they need when they need it.”
EDUs, review your College Scorecard profiles, or reach out to a representative if you’re concerned about what data they provide to Google. The website is listed here on the page, collegescorecard.ed.gov.
Chelsea Hicken: This change is also very new, so this is all still hard to tell how it will impact paid search, but this could potentially impact the click-through rates of page search, either positively or negatively depending on what that Scorecard says.
Again, it’s really still too early to say right now, but we will be watching this pretty closely over the come being weeks and months.
Stephen Galgocy: Okay, a bit more technical for a second. What seems like forever, SEOs have operated by a set of best practices that dictate on how to best handle redirection of URLs. This is the practice of pointing one URL to another. 301s and 302s are the most common types of redirects.
While they perform a similar task, they do it in different ways. A 301 is permanent, and a 301 is considered temporary. Traditionally, 302s don’t pass any link authority, so any links going to a 302 URL carry no link authority with it to the new URL.
By definition, 302s are temporary, so it makes sense for search engines to treat them differently. HTTPS, or migrations to a secure environment, lose link authority, and sometimes, sites even see a drop in organic traffic. This is because they typically implement the wrong type of redirect. If you’re doing a migration, pay attention.
What are you new rules of redirection? In order to mitigate this problem for web masters, Google’s reported that both types of redirects will now pass all link authority. They’re saying this. What this means, any links that go to old pages will now still matter in your link profile, versus before, your site would sometimes tank after a migration or a switch to a secure environment, or HTTPS. Is it perfectly safe to use 302 for everything instead of 301s? Not really.
302s should be considered a web standard for temporary redirects. Remember, Google isn’t the only player on the block. 302s are meant to indicate a temporary redirect, and it’s quite possible that other search engines, such as Baidu, Bing, DuckDuckGo, services such as Twitter and Facebook treat 302s differently than Google.
Marketers, test, don’t assume. Use best practices, and you’ll win in the long run. Now, let talk about Google Penguin. A little history about Google Penguin. They launched the Google Penguin algorithm update in April 2012 to better catch sites deemed to be spamming its search results, in particular those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.
When a new Penguin update is released, sites that have taken action to remove bad links, such as through the Google Disavow tool, links tool, or to remove spam, excuse me, may regain their rankings.
On September 23rd, Google officially confirmed on the Google web master blog they began rolling out the Penguin 4.0 realtime algorithm.
Realtime, so what does this mean? It means no more future Penguin confirmations. Google said since this is a realtime algorithm, we’re not going to comment on future refreshes. By realtime, Google means that as soon as Google re-crawls and re-index your pages, those signals will be immediately used in the new Penguin algorithm.
Google did this with Google Panda as well, which was the content-based release when it became part of the core algorithm, and Google said then, no more confirmations for panda, and we haven’t heard anything since then.
Penguin 4.0 is realtime and more granular, and Google said again, this is now rolling out, so you may not see the full impact until it fully rolls out. I say I don’t expect the roll out to take very long.
Just a quick quote from Google, “Penguin is now realtime. Historically, the list the sites affected by Penguin was periodically refreshed at the same time. Once a web master considerably improved their site and its presence on the internet, Google’s algorithms would take it in consideration very fast, but others like Penguin need to be refreshed.”
Penguin is now granular. Penguin now devalues spam by adjusting ranking based on spam signals rather than affecting the whole site. The realtime part we understand, it means when Google indexes the page, it will immediately recalculate the signals around Penguin.
Becoming more “granular” is a bit confusing. I suspect it means that now Penguin can impact sites on a page-by-page basis, so really, spammy pages or spammy sections of your site can solely be impacted by Penguin.
On October 5th, we have an update just around the SEO community. We’re starting to see recoveries and losses as a result of this Penguin release. That’s it on Penguin.
Local changes. Google’s local three-pack of organic listings may begin to show ads for certain searches, bringing the number of organic listings down to only two. Used to be ten.
This was first reported on by Joy Hawkins of Imprezzio Marketing, who shared the news on Twitter during a presentation at SMX Advanced.
The ramifications of this change mean that any business can become featured on the local pack just by paying their way in to get there. That’s great news for advertisers, but could spell bad news for local businesses that have worked hard to earn a spot in the local three-pack.
The real question is is this better for searchers? Google’s been about providing the most relevant answers to its searchers’ query. Until now, the local three-pack has been a fairly reliable way to find high quality local businesses in a given area. Will an ad unit be welcome by searchers who have grown accustomed to the organic listings feature in the local three-pack? I don’t know.
The new local pack ad unit is not live yet, and has yet to be spotted in practice. Once rolled out, it’ll become another AdWords extension available to local businesses who have their Google My Business listing linked up with their AdWords account.
We found an example of these ads as they appear in Google Maps, but not within a default Google search, so we haven’t seen it exactly in the wild yet.
Chelsea Hicken: In terms of how this affects paid search, the location extensions show your business address, phone number, and other information, like your hours and readings about your location. These extensions help your ads stand out against your competition, and provide the location details, which encourage searchers to visit your location in person.
Once the location extensions are enabled, your ad can show us a standard text ad on the Google search network with your business address and phone number, and can now also show on Google maps.
Location extensions are most beneficial for exclusively local businesses, such as retail establishments and restaurants, since they help attract nearby customers, they make it easy for people to find and visit your business location in person.
However, the location extensions are not recommended for every type of business, particularly those with online divisions, since if you’re targeting a broad geography, searches will typically not be in close proximity to your actual business location, and nor is it the goal to have a prospective customer visit your brick and mortar facility.
If, like many of our Sparkroom paid search clients, your goal is to get a click through to your landing page, which would lead to an inquiry submission or a phone call, this form of local advertising really is it not the best use of your media dollars.
That’s because when an ad shows with local exceptions on the main Google search results page, the user may then click one of those extensions, which would then take them to the Google Maps page, will takes them away from our defined conversion path of sending them to our landing page they can send into conversion.
Although this can be a great tool for specific businesses, it just doesn’t make sense for others, so we typically do not enable location extensions for the majority of our clients here at Sparkroom.
Stephen Galgocy: Okay, so if it seems that changes like these are coming more frequently, you’re right, they are. It’s up to a business’s respective marketing people or teams to keep up with these best practices, and new products, and new optimization strategies in order to keep your brand at the forefront.
To recap, here are our top three takeaways from each respective channel. Top three SEO takeaways. In our example on Google knowledge box showing more data on EDU properties, know where that data’s coming from so you can better control your brand perception, and we’re happy to help discover where Google’s pulling the data from.
No. 2. If your business runs mobile interstitial pop ads, make sure they’re user-friendly, or prepare to lose site authority. The third one, the top takeaway from the organic portion, in my mind, is concerning redirects.
If you’ve recently migrated or redesigned your site or plan to do so, make sure you have a solid 301 redirect map in place. Here’s a pro tip: Use the internet archive, or Wayback Machine to look at old versions of your site, and make sure previous iterations are properly 301ed. This may even save you a link building effort by reclaiming old link authority.
Chelsea Hicken: Alright, and the top three PPC takeaways would be, No. 1, get those expanded text ads rolled out to all of your active ad groups. This ad type is here to stay, so you need to start embracing it if you haven’t already. No. 2 is to make sure that all of your standard ads are edited appropriately before that January 31st deadline, after which you won’t be able to edit them at all.
Lastly, just to keep a really close eye on the potential impact to your campaigns from those newly launched AMP pages and the College Scorecard info showing in the results. They’re both really new changes, so just monitor your campaign performance closely in the coming weeks and months to identify if these changes are having any type of effect.
Stephen Galgocy: Alright, and at this time, I’d like to open the floor to answer any questions on Google changes.
Kathy Bryan: Thank you, Chelsea and Stephen. As Stephen just said, we’re gonna take some questions in just a moment. If you have a question, please type it into the question box on your webinar control panel.
If you can’t see the control panel, look for the orange box with the arrow. Click on that arrow, and the control panel will expand, allowing you to type in your questions. We got a couple of questions while Chelsea and Stephen were presenting. The first one is, “How important is it for schools to convert existing content to AMP pages? Because it seems like a lot of work.”
Stephen Galgocy: Sure. If you’re running a WordPress CMS, it’s actually really super-easy because there are amazing plugins created by WordPress, like WordPress for AMP, or if you’re optimizing for Facebook Instant Articles, which is Facebook’s type of AMP page, they also make a WordPress plugin for that.
For all other sites, CMSes, there maybe be a bit of development work involved, but for any sites with the content marketing campaign, I would make this change sooner than later.
Kathy Bryan: Okay. Next question: “Can you repeat the information about the Wayback Machine? Because some of us are pretty interested in that.”
Stephen Galgocy: Oh yeah, sure. Simply Google Internet Archive, and you’ll get the URL for that. Basically, what you’re looking for there is an old version of your site map, or a potential client’s site map, if you’re doing marketing.
The thinking there is you run the site map through a tool like Screaming Frog, SEO Spider, and you identify any dead pages, pages that may not have been redirected properly. Then, you can take that list and repair them, and make sure they go one to one to all the correct URLs, and problem solved.
Kathy Bryan: Awesome. Chelsea, you appropriately scared someone about changing their standard ads by the deadline. Can you talk a little bit more about what actually needs to be done?
Chelsea Hicken: The only change that’s going to happen is just that you won’t be able to add another standard text ad or edit an existing one. In you have some generic ads running, that’s fine, you don’t really need to do anything.
Just know that at a given point; you won’t be able to change them at all, so that’s really important if you have something time-sensitive in the ad.
If you’re promoting a start date, if you have a special promotion in there, anything that will become irrelevant after a given point, you wanna make sure that you edit it because after that point, you won’t be able to change it, and it will look bad showing to your audience.
Kathy Bryan: Just for clarification, I’ll be able to delete it after that date, but if would be double work because I would have it delete it and recreate a new ad.
Chelsea Hicken: I believe so, yes, yeah. I mean, eventually, we can probably assume that these standard text ads are going to be phased out completely, but for the near future, they’re just going to show alongside your other ads, but you won’t be able to change anything about them.
Kathy Bryan: Great, thank you. The College Scorecard information. Does it show only in PPC results, or is it in organic results, too?
Stephen Galgocy: It’s in organic results, most commonly in the knowledge box under a branded search, and we’re starting to see this now, so definitely start some branded searches for yourself.
Kathy Bryan: Actually, is it only in the organic results? It’s not in the paid results?
Chelsea Hicken: It can show for paid also. It’s a branded search, so if your ranking organically, it’ll show there and if your paid ad happens to be showing on that search, your paid ad will be there, too, so it could affect both.
Kathy Bryan: Great. With the ability to change device bids, can we now create device-specific paid search campaigns?
Chelsea Hicken: Technically, yes you can. I don’t think Google necessarily recommends doing this, and I haven’t really read much about others testing this just yet. I think it really depends on how different the performance is for your campaigns on different devices.
If you think it varies greatly, then yes, maybe it is worth having a separate campaign that would just target mobile, and you can adjust the desktop and tablet bids to negative 100 percent to prevent that traffic.
I guess also, if having mobile-specific copy is crucial to your campaign, you may wanna consider segmenting since the one challenge with the new expanded text ads is that they are not device-specific.
I’d also really just take into consideration how crowded your account already is since the work involved with the additional build and organization, it may just outweigh the benefits there. You can still be able to optimize properly for your devices with the device adjustments that are already available.
Kathy Bryan: Excellent. Going back to the expanded text ads, will we be able to pause and unpause those ads?
Chelsea Hicken: For the expanded text ads, it’s the standard text ads that you won’t be able to add or edit. You do think you will be able to pause them being you just won’t be able to actually edit the copy or anything about the ad.
Kathy Bryan: Okay. Two questions came in about the College Scorecard, so I’m gonna ask them both together. Actually, this is three questions. What would you recommend for a school with minimal data? You said something about contacting College Scorecard directly. Then, for those rankings, are scorecards available for individual schools within a university?
Stephen Galgocy: Okay, so it all comes down to what data you’re sharing with main College Scorecard site. If you do have multiple schools that each individually require reporting on such metrics, then yes, you better believe it, those are in there.
Kathy Bryan: Oh, and then, if a school has minimal data, what would you recommend?
Stephen Galgocy: Well, it all comes down to if you’re required to report this. If you’re already reporting such data as College Scorecard requires, then they’ll most likely display it. If currently, you have little or no data, then I would recommend reaching out to a College Scorecard representative and asking them how you can submit more data for them to display.
Kathy Bryan: I think the key there, Stephen, if I understand correctly, is first look and what is showing. If it’s not already showing for your school because this is a new feature, then maybe proactively reach out to College Scorecard to make sure you know what your data is, and that it is as correct as possible and shows you in the best light as possible.
Chelsea Hicken: It sounds like, I mean, Google can only show what they have available, so if you don’t have minimal data to show, it just won’t be available for other people to see, which won’t necessarily hurt you, but if you have some good stats that you would want to show, then definitely reach out to make sure that data is updated.
Stephen Galgocy: Great.
Kathy Bryan: Going back to the very beginning of the webinar, Chelsea, you mentioned that the cost per click hasn’t really changed with the removal of the right rail. Stephen, you mentioned that click-through rates have gone up for the top listings. How about the top paid listings? How have the click-through rates changed on those? Have they been impacted at all?
Chelsea Hicken: We really haven’t seen too much change with overall proportion of those ads. Typically, we are getting the most clicks and the most conversions from our ads that were showing in those top positions anyway, and very little traffic was coming from the ads that showed at the bottom or down the right rail.
Even though CPCs may have gone up slightly just due to the competition there, it hasn’t really affected our click-through rate at all, and we haven’t seen anything substantial there.
Stephen Galgocy: Just to piggy back off Chelsea, recently, an organic write up on the matter stated that since there are four ads on top, the overall average click-through rate may not have gone up, but I’m reading that the third ad down seems to be the most commonly clicked one out of all four ads.
Chelsea Hicken: Interesting.
Kathy Bryan: Interesting. What about being in other search engines? This webinar was specific to Google changes, but are they making similar mobile focus changes?
Chelsea Hicken: Some of them, yes. I mean, Bing is starting to roll out the expanded text ads. Also, they do have the ability to edit individual device bids. Bring just definitely seems to lag behind Google, but they typically do follow the similar paths, so I would expect that a lot of these changes that are happening in Google would eventually affect Bing down the line.
Stephen Galgocy: Yeah, same thing from an organic perspective. As an SEO, we’re always sort of taught or learn along the way that when you optimize for Google, you’re absolutely optimizing for the other search engines because their algorithms aren’t as strict or refined, and I would follow that same suit here.
Kathy Bryan: Great. We talked a little bit about location extensions today. How do I edit the information that’s shown there?
Chelsea Hicken: Your location extensions is all managed through the Google My Business account, so you’ll wanna make sure that all of your information in there My Business account is up to date and correct before you would implement location extensions, and then it’s simply linking to that information through the AdWords interface to enable that to show.
Kathy Bryan: Chelsea, you also talked about the new ads that Google is creating, the responsive ads that they create for advertisers now. Do you know how the performance of those ads compares to the performance of ads that are created by designers?
Chelsea Hicken: That I don’t know yet. It’s still very new. They’ve only been live for about a month and a half so far, so I don’t really have any hard stats on the performance.
I think one of the main benefits so far is just the ease of getting them up and running, and not having to take so much time to create them in so many different formats. That will likely mean that more and more people are going to be testing these, so that could affect your performance just because the competition will likely increase with the amount of people being able to now use those types of ads.
Kathy Bryan: Related to the Penguin update, will my entire site be penalized if I have bad links.
Stephen Galgocy: Yeah, no, fortunately, not the entire site anymore, where historically, it was before this most recent algorithm update. Only the portion with questionable links pointed at it. Again, take this with a grain of salt, but Penguin can affect sites on a page-by-page basis, so as opposed to how it worked in the past where it impacted the whole site. Really spammy pages or spammy sections of your site can be solely impacted by Penguin now as opposed to your whole website.
Kathy Bryan: Last question unless more come in: There are a lot of changes that you guys went through, and clearly, they’re happening on a regular basis. Where’s the best place for me to find, or for any of our attendees, to find information about Google changes as they happen?
Stephen Galgocy: Oh, well, the Google Webmaster blog is always a good one, or you could try subscribing to top SEO news aggregators, such as Search Engine Land, Search Engine Roundtable, which Search Engine Land would encompass PPC as well.
Chelsea Hicken: Yeah, and also our Sparkroom blog. We’ll try to do our best to stay on top of all of these changes that are coming and publish them as they come about, and Google also has an AdWords blog that we monitor to just try to stay on top of any new updates being posted there.
Kathy Bryan: If you ever have any questions, I’m just gonna answer partly for the team on this one, Stephen and Chelsea are great resources, as are everyone on our search team, so always feel free to reach out. Our contact information is on the screen. With that, we’re gonna wrap it up. Thank you for joining us, and enjoy the rest of your day.