If you use the Google My Business offering from Google (and you should), then there’s a new feature to play with. ‘Google Posts’ (at least we think that’s what it’s called) is a way of putting up-to-date announcements right on the Google search results page when people look for your company. As an example, if you search for us, you should see some ‘posts’ in the panel on the right. My guess is that these have a limited shelf life, but they’re a good way of dropping important news or offers in front of people.
The feature first saw the light of day over a year ago, in a strictly limited format. The Ars Technica website described it then as being like “a Google+ reboot just for brands”. Now it’s being offered to everyone. There’s more at Search Engine Land here.
Most of us don’t have the volume of search engine traffic to be able to make many meaningful tests of different page titles, which provide the ‘headline’ in Google’s natural (or ‘organic’) results. But we can learn from those businesses which do. One interesting recent piece of research suggests that on Google’s results pages, different rules apply to search ads at the top and the ‘natural’ (free) entries below.
“Users who click on paid ads are not a random sample of searchers”, says the report. “They are a biased group. We know they behave differently from overall searchers because they are in the minority of users who click on ads.
“And it turns out they respond differently to titles than users who click on organic results — specifically, it appears that promotional messaging (‘on sale’, ‘discount’, ‘free shipping’, ‘50% off’) performs far better in paid ads than it does in organic results. Titles that performed best in ads often drove organic users away.”
Now, some people use their AdWords ads to test out page titles. This is a reasonable technique. But the research suggests that they shouldn’t assume the same results will work for their page titles too.
The conclusion is that for your general product pages, don’t try to be too clever or too pushy. Indeed, the report’s author goes as far to suggest that in sales, it’s “incredibly difficult” to beat a simple title formula of ‘Product | Supplier Name’. Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t focus more on the benefits in the headline on the page.
Here’s a bit of extracurricular reading for those of you interested in the strategic direction of search engine optimisation. How machine learning impacts the need for quality content on Search Engine Land explains how search engines are constantly being reprogrammed to produce better results by improving their understanding of what a web page is actually saying.
What makes ‘quality content’ which will make a page rank increasingly higher in the search results? According to author Eric Enge, it’s content which meets the needs of the people being sent there. In turn, this means that:
- The product/service/information they are looking for is present on the page.
- They can find it with relative ease on the page.
- Supporting products/services/information they want can also be easily found on the page.
- The page/website gives them confidence that you’re a reputable source to interact with.
- The overall design offers an engaging experience.
Note that these basic requirements do not necessarily mean lots of ‘content’ (i.e. words). It’s about having the right thing in place, clearly labelled and confidently presented. How the machines go about identifying this is challenging, but there are some of the most brilliant minds in the world working on it.
It’s a challenge to get the SEO right for websites in multiple languages, or with sections targeting specific countries. How do we get the search engines to index all the pages and show the right ones in the right countries? Search is not like AdWords, where you can simply tell Google to show this ad in this country, and this ad when people are using this language. But there are some useful techniques. After all, Google wants to get things right on your behalf.
There’s also the issue of running almost identical pages targeted at different countries, for example the UK and North America. The differences might be tiny – maybe just a price, some spellings or a contact number. Google takes exception to “duplicate content”, and even if it understands that you’re not trying to deceive it in this case, how do you tell it to show one page to searchers in the UK and another in North America?
It’s a big subject, and I’m not going to reinvent the wheel. Instead, take a look at this article on Search Engine Land and the other articles it links to. The latest information from the horse’s mouth is here and there’s some good stuff here and here.
I’ve written before that it’s important to have results in the search engines which look good, because clickthrough rate helps you get a better position in the results. It makes sense. If people are clicking on a result low down the page rather than one higher up, Google will adjust the positions in favour of the popular result, right?
It turns out …not right. Not any longer, at least.
An intrepid SEO expert named Bartosz Góralewicz has been undertaking some experiments, and he found that clickthrough rate is not a ranking factor many more. It doesn’t appear to matter how many people click on each result, their relative positions are determined by other factors.
You can read the research in Is CTR A Ranking Factor In Organic Results? on Search Engine Land. However, the findings shouldn’t change anything you do. It’s still critical to have a good-looking result, because for the position on the page which you’re going to be given, the volume of clicks is going to be entirely down to the attractiveness of that result.
So continue to work hard on writing page titles which draw people in. Ask questions, discuss the benefits and be intriguing. And make sure you spend time on your description meta tags too. They all play their part.