It’s a difficult time for businesses, with many companies having to put staff on furlough and even unpaid leave. Small and independent businesses in particular are having a hard time learning to adapt to the current climate. If your business is experiencing disruption due to Covid-19, we may be able to help you.

While marketing budgets may not seem so important during the global outbreak, it’s key that you’re able to maintain some normality. It’s also important that you’re able to keep in touch with your customers during this challenging time. As so many people around the world are now at home almost 24/7, the internet has never been more instrumental in providing information and services.

However, doing this costs money and we appreciate that money probably isn’t moving as freely as it was a month ago. This is where internet giants Google and Facebook have stepped in.

Aid for small businesses

Small businesses make up a huge percentage of of the world’s economy and they truly are the backbone of many communities. With that in mind, Google and Facebook are offering help for small and medium businesses to keep workforces strong and cover operational costs.

This could be a lifeline for businesses, and even a little financial support could go a long way. In times where businesses could be facing closure and declining revenue, aid from global technology companies could provide that extra boost.

Support from Google during Covid-19

Google want to help alleviate some of the cost involved in keeping in touch with your customers through successful Google Ads campaigns. They are giving SMEs around the world $340 million in ad credits, which can be used until the end of 2020. The credits will work across Google Ads platforms including Search, Display and YouTube.

The ad credits are available to small and medium businesses who have had active accounts since the beginning of 2019, as long they advertise directly with Google or through partners. Those who are eligible may start to see a credit notification appear in their account in the coming months.

This support from Google can ensure your Google Ads strategies can continue and minimise the disruption to your business at this already difficult time.

Facebook Small Business Grants programme

Facebook for Business has launched a similar programme to ensure businesses can maintain some level of normality and keep your online presence active. Facebook has launched a Small Business Grants programme, offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits.

This grant programme is being offered to around 30,000 eligible small businesses in over 30 countries. This could help your business with a number of aspects for your digital marketing efforts, subsidising the cost of online advertising.

The programme is still being finalised, with applications opening in the coming weeks. At a time when social media is playing a part in keeping people entertained and engaged, this could be a game changing offering for your business.

Find your digital marketing partner

At Digital Next, we can help you get the most out of your ad spend, no matter how big or small your budget might be. Our team includes experts who have previously worked at Google, which means we can provide industry expertise and offer the right advice for your business.

What’s more, we are a Google Premier Partner, which means we have official certifications and the latest product knowledge all geared towards benefitting you.

So, don’t struggle through the Covid-19 crisis alone. If you’re a small or medium business looking for some additional support to keep your digital marketing campaigns going, get in touch with us today. Our team are working from home and are ready for a chat, either over the phone or by email!

Every online business needs a marketing plan that will work to spread the word about its goods and services. This has never been so true as the present, especially in crowded marketplaces such as fashion, where good internet marketing will mean the difference between success and failure.

If companies are able to implement a tactical digital strategy that combines slick website development with search engine optimisation (SEO), and the use of services such as Google Ads, they should be well on their way to driving traffic, leads and ultimately sales.

In a bid to outshine competitors, however, some online businesses are turning to unethical practices to lure customers. Indeed, there is no shortage of news stories about unethical business owners paying for social media followers or paying for positive online reviews. Fake reviews have also come under fire in recent news.

Rest assured that if you engage in these practices, you will pay for it in the long run. Search engines and intelligent algorithms are becoming increasingly adept at spotting dodgy marketing schemes and sending them way down the search rankings.

So, how should you build your online business effectively and responsibly? Fortunately, we’ve put together some brief tips to get you started.

1. Choose a respected hosting platform

Choosing a hosting company for your website is almost as important as picking out a safe and comfortable office. If the door is broken and the roof is leaking, your business is doomed from the start.

Some businesses opt for free hosting services. This is usually fine for small companies that do not need to host huge amounts of information. For bigger operations, however, you are better off choosing a provider that can come up with a tailored hosting plan for your needs.

A good provider will take a number of factors into account, including website speed, security, support, IP neighbourhood, and the site’s ability to handle large amounts of traffic. In other words, solid hosting is foundational to the functionality of your site.

2. Create a strategically planned website

When designing your website, you should think strategically about how to tailor it for the needs of potential customers. This includes:

  • A descriptive homepage that informs customers of exactly what you are offering
  • A simple web address that won’t be easily mistyped
  • Clear contact information that is easy to find
  • A site map that is easy to navigate
  • Calls to action that provide clear instructions to customers
  • Genuine testimonials from former customers
  • High-quality content that is updated regularly
  • An aesthetically pleasing design with text that is easy to read

3. Remember also to optimise your site using SEO principles

SEO is one of the best ways to drive organic traffic to your site. Best of all, it is pretty much free. If you don’t have an SEO expert to hand, you should at least ensure the following:

Images are optimised

Image optimisation means adding alt tags, with descriptive and relevant keywords that help search engines figure out what kind of pictures are on your site.

Update content regularly and use keywords sparingly

Search engines love when websites are updated with fresh content on a regular basis, particularly if that content is unique and caters for a relevant demographic. You should also try to incorporate some keywords into your content. Think about what kind of phrases your target demographic will be typing into Google to find services like yours, as well as current trending topics that may be relevant.

It is important, however, not to go overboard with keywords. If you fill too much of your site with them, search engine algorithms may start to send you down the rankings.

Make sure your website works across devices

As the number of people using mobile phones to access the internet increases, you need to make sure that your website is legible and attractive across a number of devices. Sites that fail to work on certain devices will be sent down the search engine rankings.

4. Select relevant social media channels

You need to tailor your social media use according to your customer base. If you run a B2B company that deals with business professionals on a daily basis, for example, it is a good idea to put most of your energy into sites such as LinkedIn. If you’re a retailer looking to appeal to teenagers, however, sites such as Instagram are a much better option.

In the end, it is a good idea to use a number of platforms; as long as you tailor them appropriately.

If using Instagram, beware of unethical practices. Remember that an Instagram story should pass the same ethical tests as a standard advert. In other words, avoid breaching any rules set out by the advertising standards agency.

This means avoiding misogyny, racism, and encouraging dangerous practices, to name only a few things. As this recent story shows, it is all too easy for Instagram stories to be banned and ruin the reputation of a person or business.

5. Learn lessons from Google Penguin and stay on top of its updates

Google Penguin is essentially an update to Google’s ranking algorithm that takes place on a regular basis. In this way, it is important for businesses to stay on top of the changes and make sure they abide by its latest rules. Fortunately, there is information out there to help you adapt to the updates.

After graduating from Nottingham Trent University, I thought it would be important to gain some work experience in a field of interest. So, before starting my Master’s degree in PR, I turned to Digital Next. As Digital Next are recognised as a Top 100 Fastest Growing Technology Company, I thought this would be a great place to start. Social media and content creating has always been one of my main interests.

– Ella Worthington BA (Hons)

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After focusing my dissertation around the impact that Instagram can have on an individual, the role of social media influencers never fails to amaze me.

More than ever, social media influencers are a crucial component to influencer marketing as there are currently 2.6 billion active social media users. They aim to shape audience attitudes through a range of platforms such as blogs, YouTube and Instagram.

WHO ARE THE SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS?

Social media influencers are everyday people like you and me, they just post about their passions for the world to read. As a consequence of this, influencers gain vast internet popularity. For example Zoella, a YouTube sensation, has over 12 million YouTube subscribers. It’s not surprising that they are considered the perfect marketing tool.

zoella social media influencer

Incase you missed just how popular social media influencers have become, a recent study found that the term ‘influencer marketing’ increased by 325% in Google searches over 2017. This is likely to continue as two-thirds of marketing departments are aiming to increase their influencer marketing budget.

This allows for social media influencers to help drive engagement, as well as gaining influence and followers to a brand or organisation.

DOES IT REALLY WORK?

Still not convinced? Well, a recent survey found that 72% of respondents have made a fashion, style or beauty purchase after seeing something on Instagram. An article in Forbes also stated MuseFind found that 92% of consumers trust an influencer more than a traditional celebrity endorsement.

Not only this, but in 2017 sponsored Instagram posts generated 1 billion likes. This just goes to show that they must be doing something right.

inthefrow feel unique partnership

As a result of all this, if you find the right influencer for your brand, they will drive more traffic to your site which will lead to more engagement and a better SEO ranking in the long run.

FINDING THE RIGHT INFLUENCER

There are only a few thing to consider before reaching out to a potential social media influencer:

  • Find an influencer that is sharing content and has an audience that is similar to your brand or organisation.
  • Check whether their profile is engaging enough. Have a look at their followers and comments, however, it is quality over quantity.
  • Build a relationship with the influencer and work together. Give instructions but also leave room for creativity.

Summary

It is clear to see that social media influencers play a huge role in influencer marketing today. There is no better time to find out whether this is what your brand or organisation needs in order to reach its next steps. If you think this might be helpful for your brand or organisation, why not get in touch.

Last week Google announced that their popular web browser, Google Chrome, will display warnings to users who access non-HTTPS sites by strongly advocating that all websites adopt HTTPS encryption. Although all sites should be secure and run on HTTPS by default, there are still a proportion of sites that have yet to make the switch, which is why Google will now side with those that have taken the necessary steps in securing their site, rather than those that haven’t. But before we drilldown into these latest updates to Chrome, let’s first revisit what HTTPS is and why you need to run your site over its protocol.

What is HTTPS?

If you’re sat there thinking what is HTTPS, then there’s probably no better time than now to try to gain more of an understanding. Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure is essentially a secure version of HTTP, which is the protocol used to send and receive data between your web browser and the website you’re attempting to access. The fundamental difference between the secure version and the not secure version is that, when secure, all connections between browser and website are encrypted to protect the sending/receiving of sensitive data. As such, this heightened security reduces the chances of being a victim of cyber attacks where known web vulnerabilities can be exploited.

Why do you need HTTPS?

Alongside the fact that HTTPS ensures that your entire site is protected and far less susceptible to web vulnerability exploits – which is particularly relevant to those handling customer’s personal data – Google’s search engine actually favours secure sites over non-secure, simply because they’re ensuring that their users can browse their site in a safe and secure environment. As such, sites that run on HTTPS will generally feature higher up the search results for relevant search terms, than non-secure sites. Google have been actively encouraging webmasters to switch to HTTPS for the past couple of years as we navigate towards a more secure web, but last year’s progression was seen as a big step in the right direction with:

  • Over 68% of Chrome traffic on Android and Windows now protected
  • Over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac now protected
  • 81 of the top 100 sites on the web using HTTPS by default

So, what’s changing in Chrome?

Whilst making the switch to HTTPS is no new initiative and Google’s core algorithm is known to already favour secure sites over non-secure, new changes to Google Chrome have been rolled out to identify all sites that have yet to migrate to HTTPS as “Not Secure” as shown in the below image.

Currently, Google Chrome identifies all sites that run on HTTPS as “Secure” with a green lock icon to indicate that the page you’re visiting is a secure page that’s encrypted and protected from cyber attacks. However, Google’s latest update (Chrome 68) is the first change that’s been initiated to identify all sites that are “Not secure”, which means that essentially all sites accessed through Google Chrome will be displayed as either “Secure” or “Not Secure”.

Google’s next planned alteration is scheduled for September 2018 in an update named Chrome 69, which will see them remove the green lock and label in the search bar and assume that all sites run on HTTPS as shown in the above image. As per the previous update (Chrome 68), all non-HTTPS sites will be identified with the “Not Secure” label.

Put simply, rather than assuming that a site is not secure – unless indicated with the lock and label – users can now assume that a site is secure, unless otherwise indicated by the “Not Secure” label.

Summary

Making the switch to HTTPS should be high up on your priority list if you own a website or online business and have yet to secure your website. As such, there is no better time than now so it’s advisable to take the necessary measures to find out whether your site is secure or not and better your understanding of what this means. Should you have any questions or queries as to how to make the switch to HTTPS or why you need to, then why not get in touch with us today to see how we can help to secure your site today to safeguard your website’s future.

In some truly startling news, Google has been fined a whopping €4.34bn (£3.9bn) for breaching EU antitrust rules, where illegal restrictions have been placed on Android device manufacturers and network operators since 2011 to “cement the dominance of its search engine”.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet, has now been given just 90 days to bring a halt to such practices otherwise they face greater penalties of up to 5% of its average daily global turnover. However, Alphabet has since said that they will actively pursue an appeal of this in a similar vein to the way they handled a previous fine they were handed from the EU in 2017 over its Google Shopping service.

According to reports, a third investigation by the EU is also underway regarding AdSense, Google’s advert-placing sidearm.

So what is the fine actually for?

In a recent press release published by the EU commission on the matter, Google is alleged to have violated European law and acted illegally in the three following ways:

  • Android handset and tablet manufacturers were instructed to pre-install the Google Search and Chrome apps as a mandatory requirement in exchange for access to the Google Play app store.
  • Payments to large manufacturers and network operators were made by Google to exclusively pre-install the Google Search app on devices.
  • Manufacturers were prevented from selling any smartphones / tablets that are powered by alternative versions of Android with the threat of Google refusing permission to pre-install its apps.

These accusations were brought to the EU by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager who claims that Google has acted illegally in the above ways in order to ensure that “traffic on Android devices goes to the Google Search engine”.

In doing so, Ms Vestager argues that such practices have “denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits”, while having also “denied European customers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere”. One particular example of this is in the case of Amazon’s Fire OS, where Ms Vestager claimed that this ruling could lead to manufacturers being able to sell smart devices with alternative Android operating systems, which they had been previously prevented from doing.

Despite acknowledging that Google’s particular version of Android OS does not prevent users from opting to download and use an alternative web browser to access the internet, figures show that only 1% of users have downloaded a competing search app and 10% have chosen to use a different browser than Chrome.

What have Google said on this?

Google have seemingly failed to claim ownership to any illegitimate business practices whilst rejecting the claims laid by Ms Vestager, with Chief Executive, Sundar Pichai, responded to this in a blog stating, “Rapid innovation, wide choice, and falling prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition and Android has enabled all of them… Today’s decision rejects the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less.”

How have others reacted to this?

While Google has been ordered to refrain from partaking in any illegal activity, the European Commission opened formal proceedings back in April 2015 following a complaint by trade group, Fairsearch.

The group also claims that the case has taken so long to reach a decision due to Google “using every trick in the book to delay action”, with a spokesman for Fairsearch claiming that “this was an important step in disciplining Google’s behaviour in relation to Android” and “It means that Google should cease its anti-competitive practices regarding smartphones, but also in other areas – smart TVs in particular – where it is foreclosing competition by using the same practices.

But however will they afford it?

While this fine requires Google to fork over a huge amount of money to the EU (pending the appeal), in relative terms to their annual turnover and cash reserves, it’s likely the search giant will be largely unmoved by this. They could, of course, settle on somewhat of a lesser figure, though, in a similar way to how they managed to negotiate a deal to settle at £130m with HMRC in 2016.

To put this into context, Alphabet’s annual turnover was estimated to be around $110bn in 2017, where they also have around $103bn in cash reserves as indicated at the end of March this year. While Google could clearly afford to pay the fine, (without any adverse effects to business performance since around 91% of its revenue is generated through Paid Search advertising) the fact this decision is being appealed clearly denotes that either Google simply does not want to accept liability or they genuinely believe they have not committed the offences they are accused of.

However, with one appeal already underway, another ready to launch against this decision, and potentially one in the not too distant future, it’s clear that the Competition Commissioner Ms Vestager isn’t going away any time soon.

Summary

Although it remains unclear as to whether Google will pay the figure demanded by the EU, it’s likely that this story may take some time to fully unravel. If the two year process it’s taken for the EU to arrive at this decision is anything to go by, then it’s anyone’s guess as to when this issue could be resolved. However, we’ll see in the next 90 days whether Google halts their alleged illegal business practices, so it’s expected the internet world will be keeping a watchful eye on the progression of this investigation.

Ask any business with an online presence what their business objectives are and lead generation is sure to appear somewhere on the list – usually near the top for B2B businesses and those selling high-ticket items because their potential customers require more nurturing to convert. Whatever the nature of your business is, with Google announcing its rebranding of AdWords to make it more user-friendly, now is the perfect time to learn how you can use paid search for lead generation when looking to attract new business.

To get you started, we’ve broken down how you can use 5 different platforms to generate high-quality leads for your business.

AdWords

Officially known as Google Ads from 24 July, Google AdWords is the top dog of paid search and has been for quite some time now. When a business starts exploring PPC options, AdWords is where they’ll start. With a majority of users not being able to distinguish Google’s ads from organic search results, it remains one of the best ways to drive new business through your lead generation methods.

The reason why AdWords works so well for lead generation is that it allows you to target users at the exact moment they are searching for something. Reaching a user this early on in the conversion funnel allows you to then nurture them into a customer through display advertising and remarketing further down the line. A key thing to keep in mind is to not forget about optimising your AdWords campaigns for mobile – thanks to Google’s ‘click to call’ feature you can now add a phone number to your ad copy, encouraging users to contact you directly.

Display Advertising

Display advertising is where you can start getting more creative with your lead generation efforts. Available in a range of formats including, image, video, flash, and audio, display marketing offers a more budget-friendly alternative because you aren’t bidding on specific keywords. More experienced users can take advantage of the platform by using a layered targeting approach and setting custom affinity audiences, while display advertising novices can make use of Google Display Network’s “Smart Display” function. The highly-automated nature of smart display campaigns allows you to set up a campaign with automated bids, targeting, and creatives, to maximise your lead generation efforts.

The advert below is a perfect example of how much creative freedom display advertising gives you and a reminder that you have to think outside of the box to grab your audience’s attention:

display advertising

If you’re a new business or find that the search volume for your products isn’t high enough to warrant an AdWords campaign, display advertising can help you generate leads by targeting relevant users as they browse certain websites or by serving them ads after they watch specific videos. Ideally, if your budget permits, you would be using a mix of paid search techniques for lead generation purposes, but display advertising is a good place to start and works especially well if you can identify where your potential customers are likely to be found online.

Google Shopping

google shopping

Google Shopping might not be the first platform that comes to mind when you think of a lead generation campaign utilising paid search, but if you’re savvy you can use it to generate some high-quality leads. With Google Shopping, you can include product images in your ad and they are usually displayed higher up in SERPs, increasing the likelihood of a user clicking on your advert and putting your products in front of customers from when they begin their search. Although the primary aim of using Google Shopping is to generate sales, even if a user clicks on your advert but doesn’t make a purchase, you can use the data to inform your remarketing efforts…which nicely brings us onto our next way to generate leads.

Remarketing

It’s all well and good generating leads, but for them to have any value for your business, they need to be high-quality leads that will eventually turn into a purchase. By using remarketing, you can target users that have already visited your website and customise your ads more efficiently based on their browsing habits. When you’re using remarketing to fuel your lead generation efforts, it’s important that you offer users something of value, rather than trying to sell them something. By focusing your remarketing on a content offer, you will generate leads that are more likely to be interested in what your business has to offer and make a purchase in the future.

Let’s be honest, remarketing is basically cyberstalking – which is why it’s a good idea to add a frequency cap to your campaign if you’re going to use it for lead generation. You don’t want to drive users away by serving them the same ad 20 times a day so make sure you set an appropriate frequency cap. There’s no rule of thumb when it comes to frequency caps so we recommend looking at your historical ad frequency data to determine what the optimal cap will be for you. To ensure that your remarketing efforts are generating high-quality leads, make sure that you segment your audience in order to filter out junk leads (users who aren’t likely to ever be interested in the service or product you’re selling). Your remarketing ads should always tie back to the experience the user had with your website or the product they were interested in, in order to nurture them as a lead.

Lead Generation PPC Landing Pages

Targeted landing pages are an excellent way of generating leads, especially when combined with display advertising and remarketing. The first step to creating a landing page that will help you successfully generate leads is to establish what action you want users to take. Common call-to-actions for lead generation include newsletter signups, registration forms, free trials, and contact forms. Your CTA will be determined by the action you’re aiming to trigger and the information you’re looking to gather from users. A well-designed landing page will also support your other paid search lead generation efforts, as lengthy forms and a lack of trust are often the reason why users don’t take an action once they land on a page.

As Google Premier Partners, we’re experts in creating paid strategies that will support your business goals, fuel lead generation, and help you maximise your digital marketing efforts. To find out how we can help your business, take a look at our range of PPC services or get in touch with us today.

Google AdWords and DoubleClick… It feels like they have been around for a lifetime but well over 15 years later we are finally saying goodbye – Well, maybe not entirely… What we are seeing is a serious rebranding campaign from AdWords to Google Ads, along with a combination of services by Google to help you as the user to effectively utilise these platforms.

Google AdWords set to become Google Ads

Lets begin with some of the more simplistic changes. The less convoluted adjustments are to Google AdWords or as it will be soon known as, Google Ads. That’s right, Google AdWords will cease to be and instead Google Ads will be standing in its place. The name change seems like the logical decision to make as not all Google ads campaigns focus on words. By calling the platform “AdWords” it may be putting off potential users who assume that this is a word-based platform.

google ads

Looking back about 15 years, Google AdWords did focus on word-based ads but if you look at it today you may be surprised to see the range of ads it now supports. This includes ads such as Videos, apps, Search, YouTube and many more types of ads. Knowing this shows that it may be time to make a change to the name, which is what Google has now decided to do with the emergence of Google Ads.

You may be wondering about some of the recent changes to AdWords and if they are related to the rebranding campaign to Google Ads. To answer your question, it seems unlikely. These changes include a big change to the User Interface (UI), but the changes seem to have been because they were needed by the platform instead of being part of the rebranding process. For anyone who is wondering what a user Interface is, a user-interface is the point where the Computer meets the user (You). In short, it is essentially what you are seeing on the screen.


Hello Google Marketing Platform

Now while changing the name of Google AdWords to Google Ads may not be the huge change you were expecting, I think you will agree that the changes to DoubleClick are on a much larger scale.

google ads

What Google has planned is to strip down DoubleClick Digital Marketing into sections and then add these sections to the Google Marketing Platform. The DoubleClick services are also being merged with Analytics 360 to form something more. When visiting the Google Marketing Platform, you can expect to see some new options such as “Display & Video 360”, this service is a combination of both DoubleClick and Analytics 360.

google ads

Combining these services together and grouping them under the Google Marketing Platform will give users such as yourself, a better experience as well as helping to make good use of all the services on offer.

The Birth of Google Ads Manager

google ads

We still have one final big change to explore and this change is the creation of Google Ad Manager. It’s been over 10 years that Google successfully acquired DoubleClick, beating companies such as Microsoft in doing so. For the past 3 years of this time, Google has been trying the unify parts of the DoubleClick services and it looks like they may have succeeded. The new unified platform, Google Ads Manager combines DoubleClick Ad Exchange (AdX) and DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) into one.

After a few years in which they released a seemingly never-ending slew of changes to their search algorithm and results, Google has made most of its changes under the radar in recent months. One significant exception has been the rollout of the mobile-first index. Unlike previous changes, which Google only announced when they were rolling out, the company has been very cautious about the latest mobile-first index update.

It was first announced over a year ago and the rollout, which took over a year to start, is still in a very early stage. Nevertheless, mobile-first indexing is a key indicator of the way that Google will be moving in the coming years. Here we’ll take a look at what it means and how you can make sure that your website is ready for any upcoming changes.

What is mobile-first indexing?

To put it simply, Google wants to make sure that the websites it returns in its search results work across a wide variety of devices. In short, this means that the pages on the website should have a responsive web design that scales naturally to any size of screen, whether that screen is on a desktop, tablet or mobile device. Websites that don’t scale naturally or redirect customers on mobile devices to a specific mobile version of the website will receive a small ranking penalty. This won’t push them out of the rankings altogether, but will ensure they appear below other websites that are responsive. It is likely that the weight of this penalty will increase over the coming years as mobile-first indexing continues to be rolled out.

How to make sure your website is ready

If your website isn’t mobile responsive, then it may require quite a major overhaul in order to prepare it. One short-term stopgap solution is to use Accelerated Mobile Pages, a format that is favoured by Google, to show information to mobile visitors until your new website is ready. This is not a permanent solution but should help to protect your rankings until you get something more robust ready.

Having a mobile responsive website is a great investment that will almost certainly pay dividends in the long-run. While mobile-first indexing is a great reason to make sure your site is up to scratch, you will also enjoy a lower bounce rate and higher customer satisfaction since your site will work better and be easier for your customers to browse.

If you want to make sure that your website is ready for these upcoming changes, get in touch with us today and see what we can do for you.

Whether you’re an SEO expert, or you’ve absolutely no idea where to start, Google’s algorithms can catch you out and impact your website in ways you didn’t even know. Google is a search engine giant that introduces minor and major changes to its algorithms regularly; sometimes they’re not noticeable, but other times it requires some work to make sure you’re still appearing in search results.

So, if you’re trying to understand Google’s popular algorithms over the last few years, or you want to see if there’s a correlation between updates and your website’s performance, we’ve provided a breakdown of the biggest Google algorithms to help you make sure your website is well-optimised.

Panda

The Panda update was launched in 2011 and was responsible for seeking out duplicate or thin content, as well as keyword stuffing. This update to Google’s algorithm meant that a quality score was assigned to web pages, and penalised those sites that had low quality or spammy content. The quality score has an impact on rankings, so it was in the best interests of a business to take a look at their content.

Panda was originally released as a filter, but it became officially incorporated as a part of Google’s actual algorithm in 2016. That means getting filtered by Panda, and recovering from it, can happen faster than before.

To make sure you’re in line with Panda, check your website for duplicate content; run regular audits on your site to make sure you avoid any future issues. You should also identify any thin content across your site and ensure each page has a good word count of relevant, interesting content that isn’t over-optimised for your keywords.

Penguin

Released in 2012, the Penguin update was designed to down-rank websites that appeared manipulative. In other words, if you had a lot of spammy or irrelevant links, you could be penalised. Google Penguin identified unnatural link profiles and it works in real time, due to being a part of Google’s core algorithm.

Make sure you are monitoring your link profile, identifying any unusual spikes; look into the new links you’re acquiring. If you find spammy links, request removal of these by contacting webmasters.

Hummingbird

The Hummingbird algorithm update was designed to improve search queries, and help Google interpret searches better. Aiming to provide results that match searcher intent, Hummingbird makes it possible for pages to rank for queries even if the page doesn’t contain the exact words that were searched.

Released in 2013, it meant that keywords are still important but are not necessary the be-all and end-all of search engines. You can adjust to this update by expanding your keyword research, including related search and synonyms. You should also take the time to understand your audience’s language and create comprehensive content that can help both SEO and engagement.

Pigeon

Google’s Pigeon update improved local searches, making them more useful and accurate. The update, released in 2014, created closer links between the core algorithm and the local algorithm. This meant traditional SEO factors could now be used to rank local results.

Make sure your pages are optimised properly; local businesses in particularly should be putting effort into their on-page optimisation. Google My Business pages can also help, and are the first step to being included in Google’s local index.

A helpful move for Pigeon is to make sure you are listed in relevant local business directories like Yelp and TripAdvisor; this has had a positive impact on rankings. This is because they act like backlinks as well as ranking well in Google themselves.

Mobilegeddon

In 2015, Google released a huge mobile update to its algorithm that ensured mobile-friendly pages appeared higher in mobile searches. Pages that weren’t optimised for mobile were seriously down-ranked. Mobile friendliness was measured page by page; so one page of your site could be up-ranked due to being mobile friendly, while others wouldn’t make the cut.

This meant that websites needed mobile versions of their pages; it was no longer a recommendation, but a necessity. As mobile searches continued to increase year on year, businesses were missing out if they weren’t mobile friendly. The easiest way to make sure you’re on top of this update is to make sure your website is mobile friendly, and make sure you’re checking speed and usability.

RankBrain

Part of the Hummingbird algorithm, RankBrain is a system that enhances Google’s understanding of the meaning behind search queries. It makes sure the best matched search results appear, and has been dubbed the 3rd most important ranking factor by Google itself.

The general consensus of the RankBrain update is that it identifies relevance on web pages and will arrange results in SERPs, according to the amount of relevant features on a page for that particular query. Make sure your content is optimised for relevance and comprehensiveness. You should also look at user experience and make sure it is at its optimal, as this can have an impact.

Possum

The Possum update is related to Google’s local ranking filter; Google will return varied results depending on your location as well as how you’ve phrased your query. In other words, the closer you are physically to a business, the more likely you are to see it in your search results. If you share an address with another business of a similar kind, you may be penalised in the search results.

Launched in 2016, Possum required businesses to carry out geo-specific rank tracking; the location from which you’re checking your rankings also plays a part in the results you get. You should also make sure you’ve expanded your list of local keywords.

Fred

Released less than 12 months ago, Google’s Fred update targets websites that go against webmaster guidelines. It was mostly websites that had low quality blog posts created purely for generating ad revenue. Websites with affiliate-heavy or ad-centred content are the ones most likely to suffer from Fred.

Watch out for thin content again, and make sure your ads are appearing on high quality pages with relevant information. In other words; don’t try and trick Google! Review its guidelines and make sure you fully understand how to comply.

If you need help in understanding these updates further, or if you’ve been penalised and need recovery options, get in touch with us today.

Whether you’re just starting out with your online business, or you’ve been established for some time, there’s probably one thing on your mind; your Google rankings. Where do you appear in the search results? Are your customers able to find you easily? This is one of the aspects of online business that people often get caught up in, hounding their SEO managers to ensure they appear on page 1.

If you’re focused on improving your online performance, top listings on Google are an indicator that your SEO strategies and internal marketing are doing well. It will also naturally mean that you get more traffic to your website, alongside brand exposure and authenticity. Increasing your Google rankings, therefore, seems like a huge part of being successful in the digital stratosphere. However, it can be easy to get carried away and even get lost in all the different factors that have an impact on your position in search engine results.

Many online business owners can sometimes be under the impression that anything to do with your website will affect your position on Google. While many things do have an impact, with some indirectly making a difference, it’s true that there are some aspects that have no bearing on where your website appears in the search results. As a business owner, you shouldn’t have to spend your days worrying about what parts of your website need maintaining; your efforts should be on making money! With that in mind, let the team at Digital Next help you understand what you don’t necessarily need to put extra effort into.

The age of your website

You might worry that because your website was built in the 1990s, it won’t be rewarded as much as a shiny 2017 website with all the newest updates. You’d be wrong in this instance; Google doesn’t care how old your website is.

If your website was built years ago, it’s very likely that you’ve built up some authority and links over the years and this is something that Google will notice. Your Google rankings won’t be affected by how old or new your website is; you should instead focus on the quality of the content, user navigation and other factors that make it relevant and helpful.

Using Google’s services

Google is somewhat of a digital giant, thanks to the likes of Gmail, Google Analytics and Google Docs. It’s a common misconception that for Google to make sense of your website’s performance, you must be using all of Google’s services. This is not the case. Your Google rankings aren’t affected by how your Gmail account is set up, nor will it take into account the data in your Google Analytics. These services are kept separate from Google’s search engine; if you use them great, if you don’t, you won’t be penalised for it.

google services

Header tags and headlines

Using headings like H1 and H2 header tags within the content on your website has been a contentious issue over the years. The truth is that using header tags is still classed as best practice, but it won’t directly affect your Google rankings. Using H1, H2 or even H4 tags helps to organise your content and some say it can ensure Google can follow your website that little bit easier.

So, while it does ensure your website is coherent, it won’t boost your website further up the search results.

Image alt text

Alt text in your images is important because it can ensure the users on your website know what to expect if the image isn’t displaying correctly. Including keywords in your image alt text won’t directly affect your Google rankings. Alt text will help Google’s spiders to find their way around the page, but it won’t have a bearing on where that page appears in the search results.

Alt text should be used to inform the user, not to improve search engine rankings. Your time is better spent optimising the content on the page where the image is, instead of the image itself.

Keywords in meta tags

Marketers and webmasters remain obsessed over meta keywords when in reality, they have no impact on your Google ranking. Stuffing your meta tags with keywords is not particularly helpful for your position in search engine results. They are a way of telling the search engine the topic of the page, but there is no correlation between the keywords in that meta tag and your position on Google.

High keyword density can actually work against your website and indicate spam. So, if you’ve been worried about your meta tags in the past, you’re better off using those tags to accurately reflect the content of the page, not targeting keywords.

meta tags

Dedicated IP address

There are many reasons why having your own dedicated IP address could benefit you. For example, it could help to speed up your site or it can add extra security for your hosting. For reasons like this, a dedicated IP address can help to improve your website, but not directly within Google rankings.

If you were considering buying a dedicated IP address purely to boost your Google rankings, you should instead consider other reasons why it could benefit you.

Following a multi channel marketing approach can ensure that your website performs to its optimum as well as having an impact on your search engine rankings. Instead of being purely focused on whether you appear on page 1, you should look to maintaining your website as a whole and making the right changes that will improve user experience, authority and relevance.

Starting over the Christmas period, Google started sending out messages to webmasters that collect ‘Passwords and credit card details’ on pages that are not secure.
The update would refer to Google Chrome 56 which has started to roll out from today in the UK and the fact that if you collect data on an insecure page, then the browser will warn the user.

What Does This Mean

From the warnings we have received, we have been given example pages that contain:

Call Back Forms
Newsletter Signups
Contact / Enquiry Forms
Collecting emails to allow PDF downloads

Google does say in its warning their list is not exhaustive, but we have found their warnings to be fairly blanket across any input fields.
In reality now Chrome 56 has been released, we are only currently seeing the warning on pages that are asking for a password.

What it means, is that if you do not use an SSL certificate site-wide, then your customers will be told you are not a secure website which will be a bad reflection of your business and trade.

We have been pushing for site-wide SSL use for a while now at Digital Next; this is a further push from Google. In the future, I would expect Google to take this a step further. At the moment Google are saying passwords should be encrypted when transmitted across the internet which I agree with 100%, but why stop at passwords? Why shouldn’t a user want their email addresses, or the problems they are writing down in contact forms to be kept private? I believe in the coming months and in the updates to Google Chrome, they will tighten security warnings and include all input fields.

Why Are They Doing This?

Google have, for a few years now, been trying to push towards a secure web. It really started many years ago when they stopped reporting on keywords stating data protection.

Since then, online privacy has become a huge topic, with governments demanding access to everything and I’m sure the tech giants have demands put on themselves. A secure web means nothing can be snooped on. All communications between user and web server are completely private, which is what Google are pushing for.

For Google to achieve a secure web, they will need to force webmasters to invest and put the work in their websites to make it secure. They are currently doing this by making secure pages preferable in search results and by labelling websites as insecure. Webmasters will not want to risk losing business, so they will inevitably fall into line.

Once Google take this stance and Chrome implement this change, then it won’t be long before other browsers follow suit and within the next 12 months, I believe Google will achieve their goal and the majority of websites used will be completely secure.

What Do I Need To Do

In short, make your website secure! We have been making this recommendation for a while now, but I would now say it needs to be higher up on a website’s ‘To Do’ list.

Firstly, you need an SSL certificate. This can be arranged by your hosting company in most instances. There is a cost, but it’s certainly worth it to stop your customers being told they are using an insecure website because you have a newsletter form.

Secondly, you need to ensure that all assets on your website are loading trough a secure URL. This means all JavaScript and CSS files, all images and PDF links need to be loading through https. If you link to external resources or JavaScript libraries, then ensure these links are also secure. If you have an SSL certificate and you have an asset that loads insecure, then the whole website is classed as insecure.

Thirdly, don’t panic! If you’re not sure what you should be doing, then just ask. Google move the goal posts on a regular basis; this time it’s one of the larger changes which is identified by Google sending out messages. They don’t do this for insignificant change. For any extra advice, or help on ensuring your website is performing to its optimum, get in touch with us today.

Local SEO first began to make headway in 2005, thanks to the introduction of Google Maps, and Maps data being merged into the Local Business Centre. This allowed users to search for specific businesses. Since then, local SEO has developed and evolved into something much larger; and much more influential. In 2007, Google began to present local business information in SERPs while also letting business owners have more control over their Google listings.

Google Updates for Local SEO

Over nearly the past decade, local SEO has continued to grow thanks to Google’s regular updates, bringing us the likes of Venice, Pigeon and more recently Possum. These updates have allowed for a number of different strategies, including unique results and specific keywords based on location.

possum google update

With the launch of Google My Business in 2014, it’s clear that local SEO is still an ongoing development that continues to be streamlined and improved.

Now, local SEO is more useful, and more competitive, than ever before. 46% of all searches on Google are local, while 50% of those searching for local results are looking for business information such as addresses. The most recent update, Possum, has diversified local rankings; including an update of Google’s filter that applies to local results. Businesses that originally fell outside of the city limits have benefitted, while the physical location of the searcher is now more important.

What’s more, Google’s Local Pack has now been reduced from 7 to 3. This was rolled out across all platforms, and all countries almost immediately. Desktop search results now appear similar to mobile searches; 3 Local Pack search results fit perfectly on a mobile screen. It may be that Google did this from a user experience perspective, or it simply just wanted to show the most relevant results. The Local 3 Pack appears in the top spot in 93% of searches with local intent.

local seo

But why should you really get involved in local SEO? What if you’re a national brand? Local SEO can help businesses of all sizes, in all locations. The amount of ‘near me’ searches has increased drastically over the last 1-2 years, so even if you have stores all over the country, you can implement local SEO to help people find your closest location.

At the end of the day, if you don’t have a successful local SEO strategy, your customers might never find you. Your aim is to dominate your area when it comes to your industry.

So how do you create a local SEO strategy that will boost your business’ ranking and ensure that you stand out amongst your competitors? Local search ranking factors have changed over the past years, making it more difficult to rank for local search keywords, but there are a number of strategies you can put in place to help.

Create a Google My Business Page

Having a Google My Business page is still very relevant, and Google have been pushing this and encouraging local businesses to claim their page. Adding as much information as possible to a Google My Business page can help to set your business apart from competitors and those who haven’t verified their own listing.

By adding more information, you can also increase your chances of appearing in Google’s Local Pack.

google my business

Write local content

To allow your business to compete successfully for local SEO, it’s crucial that you are writing local content on your site. This could mean anything from regularly updating your blog with local news and events, to creating city-specific pages for your website.

Write your content with city-specific keywords and unique pages for each of your locations, if your business operates in multiple cities.

Create authoritative backlinks

Taking advantage of online business directories can provide those necessarily backlinks to your local business’ website. Many citation sites actually have credibility with Google, which can have a positive effect on where it shows in the search results.

In some cases, online directories can actually dominate the top few searches, helping your business to appear at the top.

Depending on your business-type, you may benefit from different kinds of backlinks. For example, if you are a small local business in one town, make sure you’re listed on the business directories that operate in that town. This can ensure you are found for searches relating to your business or your area. If you’re a national business with various locations, you can aim a little higher and reach out to bigger publications in order to boost your outreach efforts that little bit more.

Encourage online reviews

It’s recently been revealed that online reviews are a major factor in achieving higher local rankings. Sites with the most reviews will actually outrank other businesses, while positive reviews will naturally help to gain customers’ trust and even attract new business.

local seo

A recent confirmation from Google themselves has revealed that ads are now coming to the Local Pack. The first result in the 3-pack will now be a paid-for ad, with the following two results being organic listings.

It’s clear that quick fix SEO no longer works; both customers and Google itself are cleverer than ever before and are incredibly savvy to shortcuts taken by local businesses. Development in local SEO has come a long way, and more diverse strategies are needed to ensure your local business ranks high on Google.

To get your local SEO strategy up to scratch, get in touch with our SEO experts!

“The Panda, the Penguin and the Possum?”, we hear you shout. Don’t worry, we aren’t about to tell you a children’s bedtime story, these are just a few of the major Google algorithm updates that have been put in place over the past few years, dubbed with animal names – well, because Google does what it wants.

google algorithm

Just last week, our head of search wrote an in-depth piece informing everyone about the all new Google Penguin 4.0 update that came into action earlier in the month. But with so much seemingly happening at Google HQ, we wanted to delve a little deeper in to each of the major updates to see what has really been happening over the past few years, how this could be affecting your business and how Digital Next have worked closely with clients to ensure they are not at a loss due to them.

>>> Read about Google Penguin 4.0 Update here

Google updates its algorithms hundreds of times a year, but these are little changes that no one really shouts about – so when there is a major update, like one of these little animals, SEO experts get rather excited. Google is now working to make many of these updates part of their ‘core’ algorithms, which basically means it will all work in real-time so when we undertake work on behalf of a client that might have been affected by one of these, Google will react immediately – which is good news for you!

Let’s Start From The Beginning…

As with any tale, there’s always a bad guy and in this case Google’s enemy is the webmasters from many moons ago (we’re really taking this children’s story theme and running with it here…) who got to the top of the search engine rankings through foul play, taking part in “black hat webspam”. Google wanted to weed these out, and with this they started to introduce frequent algorithm updates. ‘Google Panda’ was the first, and one of the most significant (even to this day) spam-fighting algorithms that primarily focused on targeting spammy, spun or auto-generated content. Launched in February 2011, there have been 28 official updates of this algorithm and it aimed to lower the rank of low-quality websites, or “thin” sites and provide the user with higher quality results at the top of the search. Google Panda affected 12% of the search results on the internet at the time, hitting entire websites instead of just certain pages, giving penalties out left, right and centre… it made things notoriously difficult for SEO specialists (including us). But as the first major algorithm change, this was bound to happen.

Along Came a Penguin

via GIPHY

Google Penguin was introduced in 2012 to combat links (it loves the black and white animals) and the aim of this was to catch out the websites that were using spammy techniques to affect the search results, i.e. those that were buying links or obtaining them through link networks that might have been designed to primarily boost Google rankings. Penguin was updated regularly over the years, and if you didn’t react the first time round, you were penalised.

Much of the work that we undertook for our clients had a positive impact on their search results once the algorithm was put into place, and we are still seeing the benefits of that work now, which is why when the Penguin 4.0 update was rolled out last week, we didn’t panic as we knew the hard work had already been done!

But What About the Possum?

Well, Google hasn’t actually confirmed this one, but SEO experts (including our guys here) have noticed some strange activity going on over the past month or so. The Possum update is seemingly affecting local SEO, and evidence indicates that it has impacted ranking in the 3-pack and Local Finder, (the local results or Google Maps results). It is believed that the main purpose of it is to diversify the local results and prevent spam from ranking in these searches.

local seo

Once we know a bit more from Google about this, we will be able to bring you confirmed information. For now, it is a bit of a guessing game, but we are eagle-eyed and keeping on top of the changes that are happening.

If you think you have been affected by any of the updates to Google’s algorithms, contact us immediately. We have worked with hundreds of clients to remedy any penalties that they may have been landed with, you can read some of our case studies here.

Today it has been confirmed that Google Penguin 4.0 has started to roll out, and that it is now part of the core algorithm.

For several weeks now there has been chatter about an update from Google. We have seen some great movement ourselves across a range of industries, all with very different backgrounds (when it comes to historic link building activity). Google conveniently confirmed a local-based update but was also testing the latest and last Penguin refresh that they named Penguin 4.0. During the last few weeks, Google have actively denied a Penguin update was to blame.

What is Penguin 4.0?

To put this into perspective, Panda 4.0 is the 4th iteration of the Panda update that was first implemented in April 2012 when Google first dropped the update. It hit the industry hard and devastated rankings for a large number of websites. As part of their work, Google also for the first time sent out messages in Webmaster Tools to inform people they had been penalised.

Penguin was used to combat spam links and their ability to influence the search results. The 4th update for Google Penguin has come over 4 years after the first, which is a very long time in the land of Google. As a comparison, the first and last confirmed Panda update, which combatted poor content, was also a 4-year period, starting in 2011 and ending in 2015. In this time, they rolled out 28 confirmed updates.

Why is it the last?

With this latest update, Google have also said that Penguin is now part of the core algorithm. Before this, Google used to collect up all the data it needed for the algorithm to work, then systematically pushed out the update to the main search results. This is when they confirmed updates to the world and they get numbered. Now the Google Penguin algorithm is core, it means it just works in real time. When you make changes or carry out work within links, Google reacts once it sees the work.

This means that in the past, many agencies and webmasters that did work to clean up any spam links that a website had didn’t have any effect for up to a year or more when Google pushed out more updates. We were aware of this in October 2014 when Google released the Penguin 3.0 update.

What does Google Penguin actually mean?

Very little! As an agency, we very rarely need to do links work anymore to rectify link penalties. We have seen some good increases in our clients’ rankings over the last couple of weeks, probably from work we did back in 2014, or checks on disavow files that have been made when a client comes on board, but in reality, spam links are not a huge issue and haven’t been for a long time.

These updates first hit in 2012; if you hadn’t cleaned up your act and done what Google wanted you to do by Penguin 2.0, then you were slow on the uptake or your agency was poor. By Google Penguin 3.0 there should have been no issues whatsoever with links as this was 2 years after the initial update. That’s more than enough time to fix the issues and change your ways.

If you have seen drops over the rollout of Google Penguin 3.0 (it can take some time) then call us immediately! We see very little activity of poor spammy link building anymore and for the last 3 iterations of penguin, we have only seen increases and good results. If you have seen a negative response, then you need to get help and speak to an expert.

The Future

This doesn’t mean that spam links are a thing of the past. If you try and manipulate Google through the use of manufactured links, then I fully expect you to get penalised. I believe they will still be using the manual action penalty, but at the same time, it should be much quicker to fix this type of issue.

If you continue to conduct outreach and build links in a manner that is best for your client and its users, then you should encounter no issues.

 

We’re proud to announce that we’ve officially been named a ‘Google Premier Partner’. This comes on the back of months of hard work from our Paid Search team, headed up by our very own Google expert, Sherline Kumanan.

Google Premier Partner

What is a Google Premier Partner and what does it mean for you?

This accreditation, we’re told, recognises us for exemplary service for our clients. An agency can only achieve Google Premium Partner status when they have done the following:

  • Created and completed a Partner company profile to be listed on Google Partner search
  • At least 2 AdWords certified colleagues to show they have advanced AdWords knowledge (Knowledge capital)
  • Meet a higher spend requirement across managed accounts to demonstrate that the agency has a healthy amount of activity (High quality, large accounts)
  • Meet the performance requirement, by delivering solid overall AdWords revenue and growth, and maintaining and growing the customer base (Performance of the accounts and client retention rate)

Digital Next has met all of these criteria and is therefore accredited as a Google Premier Partner.

Google Premier Partner

Advantages of working with a Google Premium Partner

  • Total flexibility on your strategy
  • Direct line with Google
  • Only Google Certified Consultants will work on your campaigns and strategy
  • Access to special Betas

Head of Paid Search, Sherline Kumanan said:
“After working with many companies from a paid marketing perspective, I know how much your investment into digital marketing is vital. You need a digital agency you can trust and the Google Premier Partner network gives us access to be able to do just that for our clients”.

CEO of Digital Next, Justin Blackhurst added:
“As an official Google Premier Partner agency, we are recognised as a trusted business partner by Google. When you work with us, you’re working with digital marketers who have proven expertise and the ability to help your business succeed online”

Ultimately it means our Search and Web Development agency is healthy and delivering tangible results for our clients, through using the latest products, tools and knowledge.

Very few agencies within the UK have been awarded this prestigious accreditation and that makes us proud of our work and the teams here at Digital Next.

If you want to talk further about the accreditation and how we can help you leverage paid online methodology, get in touch with our head of sales Jade.