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What Google Secure Search Means for Marketers

WHAT IS GOOGLE SECURE SEARCH? On September 23, 2013 Google announced that they would be moving to a fully Secure Search model; which means that Google will no longer be passing keyword level data related to organic search queries on to third party sources. Google claims that the change is connected to protecting user privacy as search results are becoming increasingly personalized. The transition began in May 2011, when Google started redirecting users logged into their Google accounts to a secure version of their webpage (https vs. http). Traditionally, SEO professionals have relied heavily on the keyword queries report obtained through Google Analytics. This report was used to identify high traffic-driving keywords, as well as valuable keyword themes for the creation of new web content. With this change, secure searches began appearing within keyword queries reports as 'not provided'. At the time of the announcement, Google representatives assured brands and the SEO community that 'not provided' keyword volume would likely remain in the single digits. However, that percentage has been steadily increasing over time, especially once default searching within Firefox was pulled under Secure Search as well. Our team is embracing Google's change to Secure Search, as we are focused on approaching SEO from a more holistic view of your brand's complete online presence ' SEO, SEM, content marketing, display media, social, mobile, local search, and more. There are a number of additional resources at our disposal and we are utilizing most already. Provided within this POV are the various SEO tools and how we utilize each for our SEO measurement and analysis. We feel strongly that measurement should not be left until the end of a contract or project, but instead considered and implemented early in order to continuously drive results and achieve your business goals.  OTHER RESOURCES TO UTILIZE? Google's New Paid & Organic Report Brands that are utilizing Google AdWords as part of their SEM plan now have the ability to view paid and organic keyword traffic side-by-side with Google's 'Paid & Organic report'. This report links Google AdWords and Google Webmaster Tools accounts to generate a keyword traffic comparison. This report is pulled within the AdWords interface and identifies the following: Overlap in SEO and SEM keywords New keyword opportunities for SEM campaigns Share of clicks for individual keywords across both channels  Google Webmaster Tools In addition to linking to Google AdWords for the 'Paid & Organic report', Google Webmaster Tools is continuing to provide a three month view of the top traffic driving keyword queries to your site, as well as the number of impressions, clicks, click through rate (CTR), and the average position for a particular query. Our team is able to analyze this data by landing page or by keyword. Other tools commonly utilized in Google Webmaster Tools are site health and internal/external link analysis. Bing At this time, the 2nd most popular search engine is continuing to pass along keyword data. While the pool of data is smaller than that of Google's, Bing still represents a significant sample of keywords to capture valuable insights from. Moz Moz uses a proprietary algorithm to determine domain and page authority by considering an array of SEO and social factors. This tool pinpoints the high value pages of your site as well as pages that need further content and SEO optimization. Also available is the ability to compare your site's domain and page authority to that of your direct competitors. Site health, an SEO Report Card, and linking analysis are also available within this tool. Landing Page Data Rather than focusing on the successes of individual keywords, we can zero in on the performance of keyword specific landing pages ' where the content exists. By analyzing landing page traffic and finding themes, we can determine which type of content is performing best. In addition, we can tie landing pages to the keywords targeted on the page to determine which types of keywords are generating the most traffic. This approach paints a more holistic view of your site's performance rather than fixating on a singular ranking or traffic volume for a single keyword. Measuring Content Engagement Highly relevant, fresh content is vital to remaining competitive in organic search results. Interesting and useful content can help keep visitors on your site longer, which indicates to search engines that your site is both informative and authoritative ' a key factor in Google's algorithm. To measure the success of the content on your site, our team focuses on visitor engagement. Using metrics such as time-on-site, bounce rates and exit pages to help determine where users are staying and leaving when they come to your site. This analysis also identifies opportunities for new content, as well as conversion path improvement. Social Reports Social media is playing an increasingly important role in organic visibility as search engines are utilizing social signals to identify site relevancy and authority. Examples of these factors include: How often social media users are linking to your site How users engage, and how often they engage with your content How often content from your site is shared By ensuring social share buttons and proper social analytics tracking are implemented for your site, our team can measure your social presence,  including conversions/actions. Video Content Search engines provide video content within their blended search results. By implementing best practice optimizations for your YouTube channel and video library and by analyzing user interaction with this video content, we are able to identify what performs strongly/poorly, and in-turn identify high value keywords and opportunities for fresh content. Conductor Searchlight Through the measurement platform Conductor, we can continue to monitor and report on keyword rankings. We can identify strong performing keywords by segmenting keywords into categories such as Brand, Non-Brand and targeted themes. In addition, Conductor can provide us with specific recommendations for expanding targeted keyword lists and even provide keyword phrases that your direct competitors are ranking on. Conductor is also launching True Traffic, a metric that calculates search traffic based on online visibility, consumer demand, and behavior models. SUCCESS MEASUREMENT SEO measurement is one component in AMP's evaluation of each client's measurement strategy. It is important to first gain an understanding of current measurement metrics and desired website goals, both short and long-term, to align needs with measures of success. Our team takes a broad look at how individual marketing channels fit together in order to tell the story of your brand's digital marketing strategy. Once goals are established, our team provides recommendations on how to measure against your established KPI's and organize them in a way that answers your core business questions through a measurement audit. VISIBILITY VS. RANKINGS ' THINKING HOLISTICALLY Gone are the days when ranking on individual keywords are the key to success in SEO. With the introduction of Secure Search, Google is pointing brands in the direction of creating highly relevant and informative content in order to improve organic visibility. Today's quality content marketing has become a blend of content that gratifies search engines and captures searchers' interests. The objective is to create and share valuable content to attract and convert prospects into consumers, who will then become repeated visitors and converters. Search engines are in the business of providing the most relevant search results for any given user query. As SEO professionals, we need to think in terms of creating a holistic online presence and optimizing the various marketing channels accordingly.

The Effects of Semantic Search, Insights Lab Episode 6

Google recently announced its plans to give search a refresh via semantic search technology. What does this drastic announcement mean for search marketers? Find out in this week's Insights Lab episode, featuring Matt Jacobs, AMP's Director of Integrated Marketing and Joel Breen, Director of Digital Media.

I Know You 'Like'? Me, But Can I Get a '+1'??

Getting a '+1'? doesn't only apply to guest lists anymore. Google recently launched its new social sharing button, which will compete against Bing's recent partnership with Facebook and the 'Like'? button. While Facebook is one of the most popular sites on the Internet, Bing still doesn't compare to Google in terms of search engine user percentage. Even after last year's Bing/Yahoo! merger, the two engines combine to make up only about 14% of the total market share in the United States (Google has an impressive 85%). So even though Facebook activity may be influencing Bing's organic search results, the Bing user base is still relatively small for the partnership to have shown great impact thus far. With unsuccessful past social media experiments of their own, Google is using their new +1 button as a means of influencing their own search algorithm. The social aspect of +1 comes from the fact that users need to be logged into a Google account (Gmail, YouTube, Webmaster Tools, or other Google powered channels). From there, Google users can see which of their friends liked certain content, whether it's displayed on a link from a search engine results page, or an actual piece of content from a website. A recent study showed that 90% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they already know, and 71% of online consumers admit that reviews from family members and/or friends influence purchase decisions (Econsultancy July 2009, Harris Interactive June 2010). This data, coupled with the growing popularity of Gmail, and the worldwide popularity of YouTube should help get the +1 button to penetrate the psyche of a large amount of Internet users. I mentioned above that the +1 button can be applied to pieces of content and search listings, but the +1 button isn't only limited to organic listings. Paid listings can also benefit from the button. Google separately monitors which people clicked the +1 button sildenafil using a color coded display, which shows whether a user clicked the button on an organic listing, a paid listing, or on a website. The implementation versatility of the +1 button, combined with the social experience could have a great impact on click through rates for both organic and paid listings. Google has also rolled out detailed tracking solutions to support the +1 button. In Google Webmaster Tools, a user will soon be able to track detailed +1 activity, search impact, and demographic data. In Google Analytics, users will soon be able to track visits that were affected by social media engagement, which will pull data from all social media sites (Facebook, Twitter'?¦etc). It remains to be seen if the Google +1 button will catch on with Internet users, but if it does, the tools are in place to revolutionize the Google algorithm and bring social based search to the mainstream.

One Small Step for Bing '? One Large Step for Search

The social wars began in earnest among search's heavy hitters last year when Bing launched the first real time search platform, which aggregated tweets and Facebook status updates into a singular searchable interface. Google struck back swiftly, announcing a similar tool that went even further by actually integrating these social elements into the normal search results for queries that were relevant to recent events. While a significant development in the search world, this change had little material impact on the life of the searcher. Social media is an impactful research tool because it offers a personal connection with the people behind the information. When you take away this personal connection, as Google and Bing did in the early iterations of social search, the value of the information declines precipitously. With the announcement of their recent agreement, Facebook and Bing have taken a large step toward solving this problem. In mid'?October, Bing and Facebook announced an alliance in which Facebook will feed Bing their user data so that it can be integrated into the search results page. In addition to the traditional algorithm'?based results, Bing will now serve up 'Liked' results. These are pages that people within your social graph have 'Liked' in Facebook. While Facebook has indicated that they plan to open this information up to all companies (i.e. Google), there is no set timeframe for making this happen. Therefore, Bing will be given a significant head start to make real developments in the world of social search. Below are some thoughts to consider as companies digest this alliance: Make it easy to be 'Liked' (literally): The value of Like's is a hot topic, but this alliance certainly ups the ante. Therefore, don't make it hard for your audience to 'Like' your content. Put the Facebook 'Like' button front and center across your website and any other place possible where your content is displayed. Even if you already have a social sharing widget (i.e. ShareThis or AddThis) that includes Facebook, put the 'Like' button on as well. Make it easy to be 'Liked' (figuratively): Now more than ever, it is critical that brands remain relevant to their customer base. People are short on time and patience and will not waste either consuming information that does not apply. If the content you produce passes the relevance test it is likely that your audience will reward you with Like's and viral distribution. Drop the 'E' in 'SEO': This alliance does not mark the end of SEO, as some pundits would have you believe. Now more than ever, search is the primary way that people find information on the Internet. The difference is that those searches are happening in far more places than Google, Yahoo and Bing. Let's not forget that more searches happen on YouTube than on both Yahoo and Bing. To be successful, companies need to ensure that the fundamental principles of findability are woven into every piece of content they produce. This will broaden visibility in the universal search results as well as other social channels. People have always relied most heavily on the opinions of friends, family and other like'?mined individuals and social networking sites provide easy access to that sounding board. There is no question that the future of search will be more social and success in search and social will come to companies that truly understand and deliver a relevant experience to their consumers across all channels.

This Week's Buzz within the Digital Space

Google imitates Facebook. Rumors have been flying about Google's Facebook copycat product:  Google Me . The company has already tried and failed to foray into social networking by their own means (e.g. Google Buzz, Okrut). But I, personally, wouldn't mind a Facebook clone ' encouraging fragmentation in the market and a check on Facebook's power. Because of Facebook's privacy negligence, consumers are now looking for an open alternative. It's feasible that Google Me could be the right solution, at the right time - capturing Facebook drop outs who are fed up with the network's omnipotence. Google can now attempt to persuade their 900M loyal users to follow them to a more secure and democratic social scene. I see this resulting in one of two scenarios. Facebook is approaching saturation. Consumers may become sick of Facebook and try Google's clone out of rebellion'?¦ or Facebook may listen to our complaints, adapt, and maybe even expand their search functionality as an added crack at Google. And, Google should feel threatened.  In March, for the first time ever, Facebook had a larger weekly market share than Google, making them the most popular website in the country (at least for that week). Facebook is increasingly web users' portal of choice. From a consumer's perspective, I want to see competition in this space. Facebook, right now, doesn't need to fight for my loyalty (with clear and simple privacy settings, for example). If I want to socialize online, they're the easiest option; I'm stuck with them.  In the end, though, we only want to participate on a single social portal. Would you make the switch? Google challenges Microsoft. This week, Google acquired major travel search company ITA Software ' as well as revised their business strategy. The search engine giant now aims to focus on vertical search, which is (not coincidently) their rival Bing's main differentiating feature. For those who know the information they're searching for, and want to find it fast, Google is their go-to engine. Alternatively, Bing is promoted as a discovery tool. It's the difference between needing neutral results or filtered, customized outputs.  Many consumers rely on the Internet to make their travel plans (about 90M Americans in the past year), making travel search a huge opportunity with a huge audience. Google obviously wants to remain king of this vertical and sees Bing as a contender. But, Bing's 3% travel search market share seems very insignificant next to Google's 30%. The buy makes strategic sense. Purchase-orientated search is just another opportunity for Google to monetize ' potentially charging airlines and travel aggregators on a cost-per-action basis. And ITA Software, the company they've chosen to partner with, powers a part of Bing's search.

Microhoo! What, Where, When, Why, How...

Assuming the FCC doesn't spoil the fun, it looks like the second time is a charm for a search agreement between Yahoo and Microsoft. At a high level, Yahoo will use Microsoft's Bing search platform to power searches across Yahoo properties and Yahoo will be responsible for selling and servicing search for premium advertisers. Specific highlights of the deal are: '?¢ 10 year partnership, expected to close in 2010; Microsoft's Bing to replace Yahoo! search (organic) '?¢ MSN to serve paid ads through adCenter; Yahoo ads will be powered by Microsoft AdCenter ' likely won't happen until about a year after the deal closes, full integration over 24 months '?¢ Premium service sales will be led by the Yahoo search account team. Self Service via AdCenter '?¢ There will be no upfront investment from MSN '?¢ For 5 years: - MSN giving Yahoo 88% of the search ad sales made - MSN takes 12% rev from Yahoo '?¢ Projected $275MM in savings for Yahoo '?¢ Yahoo expects to boost its annual operating profit by about $500 million by 2012, when the two companies expect to have everything in place Based on the terms of the deal it will finally allow each respective group to focus on their strong suits. Yahoo will be able to focus on the sales end of things, something that Microsoft has been challenged with on the search front. Conversely, Microsoft will be able to turn their technological savvy loose to an audience that is large enough to matter. Will this relationship threaten Google's dominance in search? Most definitely not! No direct search competitor will unseat Google in that department because, regardless of Bing's bells and whistles, it's difficult to improve the search experience enough for the everyday search user to make the switch. From an advertiser perspective, the merger creates an audience, that in both size and composition, will be difficult to ignore. While the deal won't go down until 2010 and the actual switch won't happen for some period after that, sharp advertisers will certainly be paying a lot more attention to their Bing campaigns in the coming months, to make sure they are dialed in on the nuances of that platform.

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