Google are naughty - but not evil
The problem with Google’s “don’t be evil” approach is that it often seems to bite them. The other problem is that it sets the stage to be black and white – with no grey. Good and bad.
I don’t believe that Google are evil, but they’re undoubtedly guilty of questionable behaviour.
The latest bee in my bonnet lies in their newly updated AdWords ad rotation settings shown below.
The Optimise for conversions is the new option – just added yesterday.
So which is the ideal option? None of them.
Rotate: Show ads more evenly is my favourite example of Google double-speak.
Google is entirely based on numerical data. It’s therefore laughable that Google can only show my ads more evenly. If I have an ad group that receives 10,000 impressions a day and four ads, surely Google can calculate that each should be shown 2,500 times.
And don’t think that this is down to any lack of accuracy with regard to prediction or extrapolation. I’ve seen countless ad groups using this setting with a very regular number of impressions that are heavily weighted. Weighted to clicks and CTR invariably. Is that to my benefit or Google’s?
Optimise for clicks: Show ads expected to provide more clicks.
A simplistic example:
Two companies bid on the same keyword.
Company 1’s ads get a high CTR rate, but show a high bounce rate. People like the ads, click on them, don’t find what they’re looking for, so go back to Google to click the next ad.
Company 2’s ads also have a high CTR, but when people click on their ads, they find what they’re looking for and so remain on the website.
If Google display Company 1’s ads in first position, they’ll most likely get two clicks from the same search.
If Google display Company 2’s ads in first position, they’ll most likely get one.
It’s therefore in Google’s interests to put Company 1’s ads in first position, but this is certainly not in Company 1’s best interests.
Optimise for conversions: Show ads expected to provide more conversions.
At first glance this might seem to be a sound choice. And if you’re tracking only one conversion type, this might be the case. But if you’re tracking multiple conversion types this is rendered meaningless.
If or when Google allow me to choose what conversion type to base this on, I’ll be very interested in this option.
The bottom line here is that none of the options are ideal. Rotate: Show ads more evenly gives you the most control (at least in theory), and is therefore the option to stick with as default, even though Google suggest otherwise.
Google aren’t evil, but they’re very, very naughty.
The myth of SEO guarantees
It’s that time of year again. The thrill of the new year has worn off, and some of the more diligent companies have realised that almost 15% of the year has gone by, with many of their 2011 goals untouched.
At least that’s my theory for why we always start getting a surge of enquiries for our services around the middle of February.
It’s also the time of year when I get asked what guarantees we offer for our SEO work.
Please allow me to set the record straight.
I can not guarantee anything regarding your search engine rankings. Anyone that claims to do so is deceiving you.
I could offer you something like this:
“We guarantee to get your website in the top three slots for at least five of your keywords. In the unlikely event that we don’t achieve this, we won’t charge you for the following month.”
This provides the less-than-scrupulous SEO company with a number of opportunities.
The first is the choice of keywords. If your name is Steven Kraigwarna and you’ve written a book on Time Scheduling For The Perplexed, I probably could get you top position for the keyword “Kraigwarna Time Scheduling Book”, but how many people are going to be searching for this?
The second is the free month approach. Essentially they’re saying “If the work that we do for you this month doesn’t work, we won’t charge you for when it doesn’t work next month“. How’s that for an enticing deal?
As a company with a great track record of providing Genuine SEO Services, I could choose to make wishy washy guarantees.
I could guarantee that your website will be SEO ready, that I will monitor the results of what we do, that I won’t use any dodgy tricks or techniques.
But if you’re looking for tangible SEO guarantees that won’t be enough.
A reliable SEO company will tell you outright that there are no guarantees. They don’t control Google’s updates, they can’t affect your competition, and there are no special tricks that will boost your rankings.
SEO doesn’t always work, but it usually does.
We don’t offer any guarantees, other than we’ll do all the right things in the right way, and that we know what we’re doing.
If an SEO company is telling you otherwise, walk away.
Google get deceptive
You may have noticed that ads displayed on Google are starting to look a little more discrete. In days gone by they were pushed to the right hand side of the browser, were clearly marked as Sponsored Links, made heavy use of mixed case in the display URL, and the few that were placed above the organic listings were clearly highlighted with a strong background colour.
Today we see ads that are physically closer to the organic listings, Sponsored Links has been replaced by Ads, display URLs have to use lower case in the domain portion, and the now-common ads above the organic listings use such a subtle pale yellow background that it’s almost impossible to notice on my monitor.
The ads are slowly but surely blending in with the organic results.
Google have to balance between three quite distinct interests: Google themselves, their advertisers, and the searchers – the people who use Google to find what they’re looking for.
It appears that the searchers are now being pushed slightly down the order of priorities.
Advertisers will start to see increased click through rates, and Google will make more money.
It’s win-win. At least for as long as the searchers don’t realise they’re being misled.
Visiting your website = dating your company
Most of us are awful at dating. My first experiences usually involved my talking too much in a desperate attempt to hide my terror. In hindsight it may have been better to appear nervous than a yabbering lunatic.
Some people find their usually fluid vocal skills dry up to the point of paralysis, to find themselves eating in silence, only occasionally punctuated by inane small-talk about the weather and how nice their food is.
Many websites commit the same sins; either saying far too much or far too little on their main pages. New visitors account for around 70-80% of most website’s visitors. So their first impression of your company is either ‘silent-enigmatic’ or ‘manic-deranged’.
Here’s what has taken me forty-one years to learn.
‘Silent-enigmatic’ only works on teenagers. A great shame I never knew that when I was one, but in fairness I didn’t have that many opportunities to develop my skills.
‘Manic-deranged’ doesn’t work on anyone. It obviously didn’t put-off my wife, but she’s always been quite good at filtering out the noise.
Treat visitors to your website like you should have treated your dates when you were a teenager, and you’ll be making the right impression from the start.
Your product will never be ready
Get it out there.
The great software success stories all began their public lives as buggy and quirky. But they were first.
If you’re developing something truly exciting, you need to have released it yesterday.
Being first doesn’t mean that you’ll forever dominate your market. But when the clones and blatant copies appear, you’ll have a better chance than they do. Initially. And assuming you can maintain your pace.
Perfectionism has no place in selling software.
Actually I take that back. Striving for perfection is honourable. But to be a viable business goal it needs to be tempered by realism.
It’s all about today. Make the biggest splash you can.
Five ways to distract your visitors
AdWords, SEO, press releases, social networking, time-limited discounts – all have the potential to pull in large volumes of targeted traffic to your website.
Once they get there, here are five of my personal favourite ways to distract them.
1 – Interesting external links. Prominent testimonials are all fine and well, but if they’re linked and look a little too interesting (for example a testimonial from one of the weapons inspectors in Iraq) you’ll lose a fair number of visitors who will simply click themselves away.
2 – Interesting images. Personalising your website is a good idea, as people like to see pictures of people. But I have to admit to being distracted by a website with photos that changed with a mouseover. I remained on the website, but my focus went from what they’re selling to what they’re showing me.
3 – Interesting video. Video can undoubtedly be a powerful sales tool, but when you’re embedding your video from YouTube, the rest of YouTube is only a click away.
4 – Interesting comparisons. I’m a fan of the good old-fashioned feature comparison matrix where you demonstrate how your product beats your competition. But the risk is that you’re showing visitors other alternatives to your product. Some of which they might not have heard of, and some of which they might prefer.
5 – Interesting ads. Running ads on your website is risky. If you have regular traffic in the scale of CNN or the BBC, then ads are a monetising opportunity. If most of your visitors come only a few times, you run the risk of losing them to an ad. If the amount you receive per click is more than what you sell, you’re winning.
The content of your website needs to hold your visitors attention. External links, images and video are only there to reinforce.
The curious incident of the under-performing website
The first mistake is neglect – not monitoring how your website performs.
The second mistake is negligence – allowing the damage to continue.
Google Analytics is incredibly simple to set up, and will give you more actionable information than you might have dreamt is possible.
But installing it on your website is like buying the treadmill for your home. It’s a good start, but now you have to use it.
I don’t know what baffles me more – those who don’t try to find the pages on their websites that lose most of their visitors, or those who accept their exit and bounce rates.
Optimising a web page tends to follow the law of diminishing returns. The flip side of this is that your initial actions have the potential to produce great results.
If you knew you could cut your bounce rate by 20% just by changing your headlines and intro paragraph, wouldn’t you do it?
Your bounce rates and exit rates aren’t written in stone.
Yes but can I trust you?
You probably know the feeling. You like the product and would like to buy it, but don’t know whether you should trust the company behind the website.
If I order a product online and it never arrives, I can email the company and try to call them. But what if they simply don’t reply?
There’s always some degree of risk.
Buying from Amazon is safe. And buying from the Amazon Marketplace is safer than buying directly from the retailer. Yet I had an unresolved issue with a marketplace seller.
Buying from eBay is safe – especially when you pay with PayPal. Yet I am right now waiting for eBay’s ruling on whether non-delivery of a service I purchased entitles me to a refund.
Buying from DiscountGoods.com, however, might leave me with no hope of a safety net.
Your website’s primary goal is to engage the visitor; to convince them that you have what they’re looking for.
Your website’s secondary goal is to convince them that buying from you is safe.
Whether you offer a free trial, verifiable testimonials, a money back guarantee, an established history, a credit rating or links to reviews… the more you actively demonstrate that there is no/low risk in buying from you, the greater the chance of the visitor buying.
Bonus tip: the more your visitor needs what you sell, the higher the risk they’re prepared to take.
If your product has the potential to cure their insomnia, the risk barrier will be less of an issue.
If your product merely helps them to enjoy better better dreams, the risk barrier may be higher.
Extra bonus tip: what if you can convince your visitors that the benefits of using your product are greater than they anticipated?
That your product can help them enjoy better dreams, leading to deeper sleep and more energy throughout the day? In that situation, the risk barrier would be less significant.
The greater the reward of purchasing, the greater the acceptable risk.