Are Rankings Relevant in 2013? - Ben Millar


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With the latest Google algorithm changes, search engine rankings are becoming increasingly tailored towards individual search behaviour. Digital Strategist Ben Millar will be discussing the step away from the emphasis on keywords and highlighting the ranking factors that search engines will be looking for to improve your site’s visibility.

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  • Nice , easy start to the day.
  • Cast your mind back to the mid-90’s…
  • NOSTALGIA. And Here’s what Google looked like at this time! I know this is probably a silly question as there’s no one under 30 in the room… Was anyone working in SEO at this time or in the late 90’s? I wasn’t. I was mostly listening to UK Garage in Vauxhall Novas .
  • Rankings were relevant because users were served pretty much the same SERPS from mid 90’s to mid 00’s And there was less clutter in the serps So of course you’ll remember the many infamous heat maps & AOL’s leaked CTR data. Rankings = visibility = traffic = conversions. This Story was easy to understand. But Search Changed…
  • 3 key dates Smoking ban in Northern Ireland Albania’s worst ever power cut Nepalise Government – Mount Everest – Climate Change in the Himalayas
  • At this time everyone prophesised the end of the rankings. Articles, blogs, press… “I don’t think rankings matter anymore. Given the highly personalized, geo-targeted, socially-influenced rankings that Google and Bing provide today, no two people see the same search results in the same order.” Bit OTT! Approx 1 in 5 searches were personalised. LIKEWISE the death of rankings was a bit OTT. They still exist now. Is that because they’re useful or because marketers were used to reportings on rankings? Were busy execs used to KPIs in the form of rankings as a easy-to-understand SEO glance? That’s my argument to people who say Ranking = ego construct. --- But, from a search perspective, we don’t (or rather we shouldn’t) live in that world anymore and we haven’t for some time… So let’s take a look at exactly what personalisation entails.
  • In Eli Pariser’s TED talk (a man whom I’ll refer to again in more detail later on) it was claimed a Google engineer stated there are 57 signals involved in personalisation. So even when you’re logged out of Google and with a clear cache and no cookies, Google is still personalizing search results for each user based on the search history of each IP address and your geographic location. Why not test it? Do a couple of searches for the same terms at different locations (work, office, coffee shop ), on different devices and see what turns up. Now imagine if there are 57 signals. We know what a lot of them are…but 57?
  • One curious character, Rene Pickhardt a Webscience PHD Student began to imagine what they might be. He got to a few dozen and gave up! Some we know about, some we’re not so sure about, some…WHAT!? Now as SEO’s there’s some we know about and can demonstrate and CATER TO …
  • Car park in London signed out
  • Car park in London signed out (mobile)
  • Google knows I’ve looked at E-consultancy before.
  • Of Course Google+ Changed things with Search, plus your world. As did Facebook in Bing. Then there’s the other Google properties – Youtube , FlickR . And of course Linkedin .
  • You can clearly see in this SERPS you’re being shown a the WIKI page for California because ‘you recently searched for flag. So what? What is the net sum of all of this personalisation? Well – it’s FILTER BUBBLES!
  • Filter Bubbles are refined and tailored subsets of results which provide you with information you are in some way already connected to – based on your demographic, the behaviours you have demonstrated online and the connections you have. Eli Quote: Shira Quote:
  • So, to clarify, personalised search has led to filter bubbles which has exacerbated the variation of results between users in organic search. Why does this concern us? Well there’s 2 very distinct points to make. Ethical - now Us as marketers – later The chap Eli Parisner whom I mentioned earlier gave a Ted Talk, actually gave his TED talk about Filter Bubbles: he is primarily concerned with the ethical. He Believes; (a filter bubble), seeing more and more of what you already agree with, and less and less (relevant and important) opposing viewpoints. This effective filtering is troublesome when looking for raw information on a subject. Many people use Google as a starting point. Hence it should be neutral; unbiased. “A world constructed from the familiar is a world in which there’s nothing to learn ... (since there is) invisible autopropaganda , indoctrinating us with our own ideas.” [Eli Pariser ] Duck Duck Go, which Eli’s involved with, exists (or rather the USP is) because they want people to break free from their filter bubbles.
  • Quote 1 & The user does not know about filter bubbles! Quote 2 OUR CTO, Matt Stannard believe this is akin to China’s censorship of the net. Where is the transparency?
  • Gabriel Weinberg @ Duck Duck Go “ This was the first  in a series  of experiments we're doing to explore the state of Google search tailoring -- the fact that different people see different results on Google based on who they are.” Not scientific, not a masterpiece. Page 1 ONLY. I know what you’re thinking – where’s the little pic? Bad day for news. Note – these are informational searches – sensitive topics. Neutrality is important here.
  • Talk about the slide: …and one vital thing on top….
  • Like the flag & country example earlier. Labelled – ‘You Searched for’ & Bolded – last instance of taxes
  • Do these keywords relate to you? No one knows the scope of magic keywords.
  • magic keywords have their own internal variation, presumably based on personal factors.
  • Political Ramifications here. Is this right? What about if: You recently searched for cheap flatpack furniture; here’s Ikea.
  • Filter Bubbles = real & Important. There are ethical implications. But what about as marketers? How can we use our understanding of filter bubbles to our advantage? And should our filter-bubble-bursting strategies alter our SEO reporting practices and how we look at rankings?
  • Perhaps the single most important thing you can do to burst into more bubbles is to get active on Google plus. No more excuses. No more ‘not us’ industries. Google employee bonuses – 25% bonus. It’s here to stay. I don’t like it. STOCKHOLM SYNDROME. Identify influencers. What they +1 effects their friend’s search results so get them to +1 you page(s) Fan acquisition. Trade off giveaways for +1s on a CPA basis in the knowledge that you’ll be able to remarket to them; altering their search results. What about celebrity endorsements? Snoop Doog – 5 Million +1s. Is he an influencer of your target audiance ? Influence their results with a +1 & a product share. But of course – meaningful metrics; quality not quantity. Fan acquisitions might not be worthwhile. Maybe direct traffic is? | Increases in avg. pos. of rankings | Brand Awareness | conversions with G+ as a touchpoint --- The other thing about filter bubbles? The basics: RESEARCH AND REAFFIRM YOUR TARGET MARKET WHERE ARE THEY, WHEN ARE THEY THERE AND WHAT ARE THEY DOING? Tailor your content and content distribution to match (more on this later) Like, Pin, Join, link, share, comment, post, blog – GET INTO more bubbles --- Steph had a good point on this: re brand term competitors – they’re in your bubble. Get in theirs!
  • Quote 1, 2 3: HOW CAN YOU BE MORE PERSONALISED SEARCH FRIENDLY? A whole variety of things: If you’re a multi-site bricks & motar operator then localised search strategies are easier Keep Bounce rates down across ALL devices – good content, compelling CTAs ( upsteam / hitwise ) Language & local factors Spread of traffic sources: direct traffic helps – encourage bookmarking In case it wasn’t clear enough – SEO AND SOCIAL are having a dirty affair. Embrace it. What about the future of the SERPS?
  • Universal Search Instant Search Knowledge Graph & more to come? CTRs are declining. Have been for a while – famous study from slingshot. 10,000’s searches. My data isn’t quite as gloomy. Let’s look at a SERPS.
  • Look at all the things you can get from the SERPS – why click? What the shop looks like. Where it is on a map. Address. Phone Number. Opening Hours. Nearest Opening Hours Reviews, aggregate & actual. This puts a real emphasis on refining and understanding your keyword sets. But understanding which keywords are informational | Navigational | Transactional & likelihood of converting = you can apply the appropriate measurements, and more importantly the right effort to them. So, rankings…
  • Not all bad. Provides some benchmark. Easy, but misleading. But how many are you tracking? How are they grouped? Technology issues. It’s an industry problem But if I was the CEO of … & what would I do if ranking reports were abolished tomorrow?
  • OBVIOUSLY brand awareness, goals, conversions, transactions and revenue. But not applicable to all websites. Not applicable to all stages of the journey.
  • Explain. What is avg. pos ? Disparity means? Answer:
  • Do you need help training/re-educating? We Can help.
  • Are Rankings Relevant in 2013? - Ben Millar

    1. 1. @4PsMarketing #4PsEDGE @Ben_4Ps
    2. 2. Welcome§ Ben Millar§ Digital Strategist @ 4Ps Marketing§ @Ben_4Ps
    3. 3. What we’re going to talk about today§§ An Incredibly Brief History of SEO & Rankings as a Metric§ Personalisation§ Filter Bubbles§ Magic Keywords§ ‘Building’ Bubbles > Building Links§ Rankings & Personalisation: Close the gap§
    4. 4. The 1990’s
    5. 5. A Very Brief History of SEO Earliest Search Engines (Mid 90’s) • Keyword stuffing, keyword density Backrub (Pre-Google) • Quality and quantity of Links (PageRank) Google (1998) • Offsite and onsite
    6. 6. Google’s First Home Page
    7. 7. Rankings: A Meaningful Metric Less Distraction, Less Filtering
    8. 8. Personalisation in Google: A Timeline Live testing – Mar. 29th 2004 Integrated within Google search (signed-in users) Nov. 11 2005 Default to all users – Dec. 4 2009
    9. 9. The End of Rankings?
    10. 10. 57 Signals of Personalised Search …even when not signed in!
    11. 11. Personalisation Signals: What Might they Be? Time Taken to Type a Query Frequency of Search History Time Spend on a SERPS Vs. Toolbar Use Location Daily Volume of Requests Historical Use of ‘I Feel Lucky’ button Browser Average Position of a Clicked Result Enter Key Vs. Mouse The Computer We Use Time Use of Advanced Search Operators The Language Date Use of IiGoogleOperating System & Version Topic of Ads Clicked Frequency of Typos Screen Resolution Frequency of Ads Clicked Use of Autosuggest
    12. 12. Personalisation Based on Location
    13. 13. Personalisation Based on Location (Mobile)
    14. 14. Personalisation Based on Search History
    15. 15. Personalisation Based on Personal Sharing
    16. 16. Personalisation Based on Previous Query
    17. 17. “That personalecosystem of information that’s been catered by these algorithms” [EliPariser, The Filter Bubble] “…figurative sphere surrounding you as you search the Internet.“ [Shira Lazar, CBS News]
    18. 18. Filter-Free
    19. 19. The Motivation Behind Duck Duck Go “ We believe any tailoring of the organic results should be opt-in and not opt-out.” In a recent Pew Report, 65% of people said personalized search was a "bad thing" since "it may limit the information you get online and what search results you see" compared to just 29% who said it was a "good thing" because "it gives you results that are more relevant to you." When asked a different way 73% said they were "Not OK" with it because it was an invasion of privacy.
    20. 20. The ExperimentObama Abortion 6th Sept. 2012 131 Users Gun Control
    21. 21. The Results: [Abortion]US: Abortion Orderings: Subjects: 48 (off) 11US: Abortion Subjects: 43 Orderings: 8 (on)
    22. 22. The Results: [Gun Control] US: Gun Orderings: Subjects: 43Control (off) 10 US: Gun Subjects: 40 Orderings: 8Control (on)
    23. 23. The Results: [Obama]US: Obama Orderings: Subjects: 49 (off) 11US: Obama Orderings: Subjects: 45 (on) 11
    24. 24. What Did They Discover? “We saw about as much variation in the ‘off’ state as the ‘on’ state.” “No ordering received a majority across the whole study, and several orderings were only seen by one or two people.” “We saw a lot of different links (not just orderings). And we also saw a lot of different news results within the news blocks.” “The news varied a lot. In the Obama search, news was the first link. Some people were getting Fox News while others got the LA Times and a few people got other stuff.”
    25. 25. …And, “We stumbled upon magic keywords.”
    26. 26. Magic Keywords “A magic keyword is a search that can transform the Google results of later searches.”
    27. 27. Searching for Social Security after Taxes
    28. 28. More Magic Taxes Social Security Health Care Abortion Ohio Election
    29. 29. Variations of the Magic Keyword How many links are inserted Which links are inserted Which order they are inserted in Where they are inserted Which later searches are transformed How many later searches are transformed Transformations across on/off states Transcends private browsing
    30. 30. Yes for Obama, No For Romney
    31. 31. Conclusions The Filter Bubble is “real and important” Political & Sociological ramifications of biased personalisation
    32. 32. Squeeze Into More Filter Bubbles? Google+ [Friends] • If one of your friends +1’s a page it’s more likely to show up in your personalised results. Google+ [+1 Brands] • If you +1 a page, that page is more likely to show up in your search results. Google+ [Brand’s Share] • If you +1 a brand’s G+ page, anything that brand shares on G+ is more likely to show up in your search results.
    33. 33. The Future of Search “…make your “In the future you “It’ll be very hardWorld feel smaller.” become the for people to query.” watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.”
    34. 34. Lower CTRs & SERP Bait Universal Search Instant Search Knowledge Graph
    35. 35. Better SEO, Less Clicks?
    36. 36. The Problems With Rankings Do not tell the full story Time Consuming & Expensive Old Fashioned, dated methodology
    37. 37. Alternatives to Rankings % Share of traffic from a target group(s) of keyword(s) •brand versus non-brand •converting versus non-converting Total number of unique keywords driving organic traffic to the site •brand versus non-brand •converting versus non-converting Total number (or volume as a %) of landing pages receiving organic traffic •Brand versus non-brand •Converting versus non-converting Page views generated by non-brand traffic •Especially useful for media business Conversions assisted by organic search •brand- versus non-brand
    38. 38. But If You Must Continue to check Rankings… Ranking Average Position in Analytics A More Meaningful Metric in a World of Personalised Search
    39. 39. TakeawaysRankings§ Are you taking the right approach?Personalisation§ Are you bursting bubbles?Magic Keywords§ Are they salient to your industry? Will they be?
    40. 40. Any Questions?@4PsMarketing #4PsEDGE @Ben_4Ps
    41. 41. Further Learnings
    42. 42. References