Midweek SEM Rundown (6/1/16–6/8/16)

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:
SEO (search engine optimization)
PPC (pay-per-click) Advertising
Local Search

SEO (search engine optimization)

Keywords in your URL (including the domain name) or file names do still give a small SEO benefit. But changing your TLD for SEO reasons is a wasted effort at best.

  • Google (Gary Illyes on Twitter) has again noted that they don’t use social signals in search rankings. In a seprate conversation, Gary Illyes also said that RankBrain is not affected by social signals.
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Whether Social affects Organic Rankings is constantly debated, despite Google’s insistence that it doesn’t. Even if Social does not directly affect your organic rankings, social sharing can lead to mentions and links outside of the platform. These links definitely do affect your rankings. Should social be your primary avenue for business acquisition? Probably not, but it can be one them.

  • Google mentioned last year that they have been creating a separate mobile index. Unfortunately, they are running into issues with ranking factors. Specifically, the mobile variation of websites tend to have less content and fewer links compered to their desktop counterparts. Determining the weight of these ranking factors and others is making the project difficult.
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Mobile will only continue to become more prevalent in the coming years. If a website has half-assed their mobile experience it needs to be taken care of. When Google does create the separate mobile index site will no longer be able to hide behind their desktop versions.

  • Speaking of mobile, Google has created a newly updated Mobile Friendliness Tool. The tool measures your site’s mobile friendliness, its mobile load speed and its desktop load speed. After the initial results are displayed, you can have Google email you a more extensive report.

The tool was designed to be more user-friendly that its predecessors. So if you are a small business with little development experience, this tool can help you better understand what needs to be changed on your site.

  • John Mueller of Google said, “we don’t really care about underscores versus dashes.” He went on to explain that while hyphens are preferable to underscores, you should not bother changing legacy URLs that use underscores.
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If you are starting a new website, it is best practice to use hyphens (brandonprettyman.com/example-post/) instead of underscores (brandonprettyman.com/example_post). This practice also applies to your file names. If your current website has a bunch of old URLs using underscores it is not worth 301ing them to a hyphenated version.

  • John Mueller explained that hreflang tags do not improve your search rankings. But, they should be used to let Google know when to display URLS specific to a region or language.
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Hreflang tags will not affect SEO directly, but they do contribute to a better user experience on your site (as users are directed to the appropriate URLs by Google).

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

  • Bing Ads (following Google’s example) will support Expanded Text Ads (ETAs). This will be a jump from a 25 character headline and 71 character ad text to 60 character combined (two headlines) and 80 character ad text. Bing Ads says that tool providers and API partners will be fully supported for ETAs later this summer. If you want to pilot their early ETA attempts, contact your Bing Ads Account Rep.
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If you have not yet considered what ETAs mean for your PPC campaigns you need to get started. Even before ETAs go live in Bing and (probably later) Google, you should mock up headlines and text ads so they can be immediately applied.

  • Bing Ads will also be pilot testing the ability to have a shared budget across multiple campaigns (similar to Adwords). They are currently accepting sign ups to be part of the pilot test. To sign up either contact your account rep or email bingads-pilots@microsoft.com.
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Setting up a shared budget can optimize your campaign by automatically redistributing unused daily budgets from low-click/low-spend campaigns, to campaigns that can still garner more clicks. You ensure that your entire budget is spent each period.

  • Google is continuing to push AMP. Recently they released a study that showed the potential of display advertising on AMP content. The study compared normal publisher content display ads against ads on AMP content (within the DoubleClick Ad Exchange). Apparently, the viewability for AMP Ads was higher for 80% of publishers and CTRs were higher for 90% of publishers. New ad formats, designed to be placed in AMP content, are also being developed and tested. Last week Google released a roadmap of future changes in AMP.
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While this study does make AMP sound very promising there are still a lot of maybes. Will AMP take off? It very well could, especially with how much of a push Google is giving the format. Adoption and usage rates are still relatively low. Will these AMP ads continue to be effective? Maybe. The new format cannot be easily ignored, like traditional desktop banner ads, but over time users may grow desensitized to them and stop clicking.

LOCAL SEARCH

  • In a local search forum, Tim Capper posted that John Mueller said that Google does not filter gold stars shown in organic search results for local results in specific industries. He did mention that Google does not like review markup to be site wide or on irrelevant pages.

If you are using schema markup on your website you should review how it is being used. Make sure that you are not using it inappropriately or excessively. Else, Google may target you with its spammy structured markup penalty.

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