Google’s flagship app for iOS can finally surface AMPs in search results.
The post Google’s iOS App Returning Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) in Search Results by @MattGSouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
Adobe Analytics reveals AMPs account for 7% of traffic to top US publishers. This data is accurate as of December 2016
Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.
This week, Google has been spotted testing a new user ratings feature in film and television search results; the National Football League has rowed back its heavy-handed social media policy; and a new report has revealed the distance that still remains between the marketing and IT sides of a business in the digital age.
Google tests user ratings for films and TV shows
Google was spotted testing a new user rating feature in its search results for films and TV shows with a small sample of users this week. Searchers in Google’s test sample found ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ buttons appearing above the Knowledge Graph on the right-hand side, which pulls information from sites such as Wikipedia to provide a quick answer to search queries.
Tereza Litsa reported on the change for Search Engine Watch, observing that the new feature “is a quick way for Google to build user ratings depending on its own audience.
“Even if Google hasn’t revealed its plans yet [for the feature], it could be an interesting addition to its database which may even lead to further plans on building users’ reviews and gather more features on its own site.”
Digital to receive the lion’s share of new ad spending in 2017
Some good news for digital advertising business: according to GroupM, the world’s largest media investment group, digital is due to receive 77 cents for every new dollar spent on advertising in 2017.
Al Roberts reported for Search Engine Watch’s sister site, ClickZ, that “All told, GroupM predicts that global ad spend will top $547 billion next year, up from $524 billion this year. While television will still capture the biggest share of that 12-figure pie (41%), digital’s share will grow from 31% to 33%.”
But the picture for digital advertisers isn’t all rosy, as by some estimates, as much as 80% of this new revenue is being captured by Google and Facebook. According to Kirk McDonald, president of PubMatic, this overwhelming market dominance is set to “reach critical mass” in 2017, while competition heats up between other marketing organisations for the remaining 20% of new ad spending.
CMOs and CTOs need to be more aligned
A survey of more than 500 senior marketing and IT professionals has revealed the differences in perspective between marketing and IT when it comes to communications infrastructure.
The survey’s findings are explored in a new report, ‘Communications Infrastructure: The Backbone of Digital‘, published this week by ClickZ Intelligence and Zayo, a provider of communications infrastructure services. In an article for ClickZ this week, Linus Gregoriadis dived into some highlights of the research, which sheds light on the obstacles that marketing and IT need to overcome in order to truly work hand-in-hand towards the same goals.
National Football League revises its restrictive social media policy
Last October, the U.S. National Football League (NFL) implemented a heavy-handed social media policy aimed at discouraging the posting of video content during games on social media, with fines of up to $100,000 levied at anyone who violated the policy.
The NFL has seen a worrying drop in its ratings throughout 2016 which threatens its television revenue, the League’s main cash cow. Videos posted to social networks like Twitter and Facebook are thought to be the main culprit, as they allow fans to catch the most exciting moments of the game at their own convenience, without needing to tune in to entire games on television.
But a number of NFL teams took badly to the NFL’s new restrictive policy, and took to Twitter to troll the League. Now, as Al Roberts reported for ClickZ this week, the NFL has seen fit to relax its policy two months on. Roberts wrote for ClickZ about the new flexibility that the NFL has afforded to its teams, including allowances for live video and Snapchat.
AMP results are appearing in Google Image Search
Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, were first launched in the Top Stories carousel in February before being expanded to the core mobile search results in August. Now, a number of search results with an AMP logo are appearing in Google Image Search, which when selected, will take you to the AMP version of the page in question.
Image: Search Engine Roundtable
With Google’s search index set to go ‘mobile-first’ in the new year, searchers can expect to be seeing a lot more of mobile-first webpages very shortly. To get ahead of the game, check out Amanda DiSilvestro’s guide on how to prepare your business for Google’s mobile-first index.
Site speed is an important factor for SEO and conversion, but do we really understand its impact?
There is increased online competition and a decreased attention span that makes it hard for a site to convert visits into sales, or even to increase traffic.
Site speed can significantly affect a user’s decision on whether a visit to a page should be prolonged (or repeated) and this cannot be overlooked by any site owner.
In fact, a page’s load time affects several key areas:
It’s no surprise that 79% of customers are less likely to buy again from a site that lacks a speed optimised performance. As everything gets faster, you cannot afford to stay still.
Mobile experience is highly linked with site speed as this is among the most important factors that affect the length of a visit. 64% of smartphone users expect a page to load in less than four seconds and if your page fails to do so, you might need to optimise it.
User experience (UX)
Customer experience and mobile experience are relevant to the user experience and what a visitor thinks of your site’s performance. A page that loads in 10 seconds has fewer chances to be visited again, comparing to a page that loads in just 2 seconds.
If your site’s speed affects your page’s sales, then it also affects your revenue. It’s interesting to note that 40% of people will abandon your website if it loads in more than three seconds.
Page speed affects the traffic to your site and even a one-second delay in page load can result in 11% loss of page views. Moreover, the introduction of AMP is another proof of Google’s focus on site speed and although it’s still early to draw conclusions, users seem to enjoy the feature when it’s available in search results.
Conversion is also affected by a site’s speed and even a one-second delay can reduce conversions by 7%.
Quick tips to improve your site’s speed
- Test your current speed
- Measure mobile performance
- Monitor analytics for customer behaviour
- Reduce heavy images and scripts
- Remove unnecessary plugins
- Avoid CSS files
Skilled.co created an infographic that provides an overview of 12 case studies which prove why site speed matters.
Here are some examples that may convince you to optimise your page’s load time.
The Accelerated Mobile Pages project announced it has launched support for forms in AMP HTML.
The post Forms Can Now Be Embedded in AMP Pages by @MattGSouthern appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
Mobile devices currently account for more than half of all internet use on a global level, and yet, many websites are still not mobile-friendly.
Smartphones have less powerful hardware and network connections than desktop and laptop devices, and Google wants to be sure that the websites they refer people to meet user expectations.
How does AMP work?
AMP works by limiting the types of elements that web publishers can use, to ensure the pages can be downloaded and displayed quickly. Google’s servers then cache the web’s AMP-powered pages, and they pre-render in the background while people are still perusing their search results, to further help minimize page rendering times.
Do you actually need AMP?
What Google won’t tell you, of course, is that you may not actually need AMP to maximize your site’s speed. The company has too much riding on the success of the AMP initiative to admit that it’s redundant – at best – in many situations.
In fact, if you’ve already been doing everything you can to improve your site’s mobile loading speed, then implementing AMP may involve more disadvantages for you than advantages.
Does your site have a lot of pages that aren’t articles? Do you depend on third-party tools for lead capture or audience tracking? Do you monetize your site using an ad engine that isn’t among the relatively few supported by AMP?
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then when it comes to maximizing speed, you’re probably better off using your own knowhow and infrastructure, as opposed to Google’s. There are even mobile-oriented website building tools, such as Duda, that can do everything AMP does, but without many of the disadvantages.
Here are three situations in which AMP isn’t for you:
1) You’re already using a content delivery network (CDN)
When you use a CDN to host your image files and other content, your audience queries are routed to the networked server that’s physically closest to each site visitor.
Many CDNs also use smart file caching rules, sophisticated session routing optimization algorithms, purging of unused files and built-in image compression to minimize load times. This is extremely effective for speeding sites up, in many cases reducing latency by up to 50%.
Even if you don’t feel the need to invest in a CDN, though, there’s a lot you can do on your own to minimize the bandwidth demands of your images and code.
You can implement “lazy loading,” or deferred loading of images, so that your audience can begin reading your content before each image appears on the page. In addition, tools like CompressJPEG or CompressPNG can dramatically reduce your image file sizes.
With these solutions in place, you can feel good about sidestepping AMP.
2) You’ve already adjusted the code on the mobile version of your site
If you’re working in WordPress, then this isn’t actually so hard to set up. All you need to do is adjust your theme’s functions.php file to include some “dequeue” commands by adding a code snippet along the lines of:
wp_dequeue_script( ‘cufon_handle’ );
This particular function will determine if the visitor is on a mobile device, and if so, will disable the Cufon plugin, a useful font replacement tool.
Add additional versions of this code to account for all the plugins and scripts you want to disable. Keep in mind, though, that in order to dequeue a script, it must first be enqueued. If it is not, this solution will have no effect.
3) Your site’s mobile version only has a single CSS reference
Style sheets, as powered by CSS files, are generally relatively small, but if you have several of them, then your audience’s devices will need to query your servers for each one separately.
Often, it’s the query volume, rather than the weight of the files, that can slow down content loads.
The solution is to consolidate all of your style sheets into one master CSS resource. To get started with this, set your website code to reference an external CSS file called from your CDN, rather than placing the CSS in-line through all the pages on the website. Then, use a tool like CSS Minify to clean up your CSS file before hosting it on your CDN.
In this sense, CSS files are similar to images. They should be consolidated, compressed, minified and hosted via a CDN. With all this in place, you’ll kill code bloat and unlock faster load times, once again negating the need for AMP.
To AMP or Not to AMP?
If you’re already doing everything you can to reduce the number and sizes of resources required to load your content, then your pages might be as fast as they ever will be.
However, speed isn’t to be taken too lightly. As long ago as 2012 – before the dominance of the mobile web, mind you – Amazon estimated that each second of added load time per page costs the ecommerce giant some $1.6 billion in annual sales.
If you’re struggling to get your page load times down to within four or so seconds, which is where it should be for the optimal user experience, then you may want to consider using AMP.
At this time, Google doesn’t officially consider AMP implementations to be a ranking signal, although some websites have started to see lower click-through rates since AMP pages have started aggregating in mobile SERPs. Carefully consider the costs and benefits of using AMP for mobile speed before you dive in – you may be giving up more than you need to.
Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative has gained significant traction in the past 12 months, and high-profile publishers such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Hearst are among the many companies that have adopted AMP.
According to a DoubleClick study conducted earlier this year that looked at various performance metrics of AMP pages across 150 publisher sites, the majority of publishers using AMP saw increased eCPMs.
But now, The Wall Street Journal is reporting that many publishers using AMP are seeing their AMP pages generate substantially less revenue than their non-AMP mobile pages. According to the Journal, “Multiple publishers said an AMP pageview currently generates around half as much revenue as a pageview on their full mobile websites.”
One of the reasons for the lower revenue is likely that while AMP supports around 75 different ad providers, including many of the largest, there are fewer types of ad units available.
“AMP pages rely heavily on standardized banner ad units, and don’t allow publishers to sell highly-customized ad units, sponsorships or pop-up ads as they might on their own properties,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jack Marshall explained.
Those ad units that AMP doesn’t support might make it easier for publishers to maximize their revenue, but some of them, particularly pop-ups, are the very ad units that degrade user experience.
For now, Google is satisfied with AMP’s ad capabilities and Richard Gingras, Google’s VP of news, suggests that some publishers are seeing lower ad revenue on their AMP pages because they’re not taking full advantage of AMP’s ad capabilities. That said, he acknowledged that AMP is in its early stages.
“We want to drive the ecosystem forward, but obviously these things don’t happen overnight,” Gringas stated. “The objective of AMP is to have it drive more revenue for publishers than non-AMP pages. We’re not there yet.”
AMP is probably the future, regardless of revenue considerations
Despite the fact that Google is aware that some publishers adopting AMP are generating less revenue as a result, it will likely have time to improve AMP’s capabilities. That’s because publishers by and large seem prepared to stick by AMP, even if it’s costing them money in the short term.
One reason for this is that AMP traffic is growing. According to CNN chief product officer Alex Wellen, 20% of CNN’s search traffic now goes to the news outlet’s AMP pages, and AMP traffic has increased by 80% in the past two months.
The other reason publishers are giving AMP the benefit of the doubt is that they strongly suspect Google will favor AMP pages in a big way going forward. As one publisher put it, “Publishers who are not using AMP will probably be penalized.”
Even if that doesn’t come to pass, the expectation that Google will increasingly favor AMP pages over non-AMP pages will probably remain a powerful motivator for publishers to adopt it regardless of revenue considerations.
Click-through rates for websites depend a great deal on their position in organic search results.
But to what extent are local businesses further compromised as Google pushes all organic results further and further off the bottom of the mobile screen as it prioritizes paid ads, Google My Business listings, Knowledge Graph and/or Accelerated Mobile Pages?
And when directories, aggregators, articles, reviews and chains dominate the top organic slots, what hope is there that the mobile user will scroll two, three, four or more screens to find the website of the local restaurant or hotel they seek?
This is the first of two columns on the state of mobile search.
- This column is focused on what’s happening to mobile organic search – i.e. where websites come in the search engine result page (SERPS).
- The follow-up column will consider the Google-owned properties – particularly Google My Business and Knowledge Graph – that are displacing organic results, including the impact as Google commercializes these businesses.
So burning question is: has Google killed mobile organic search? For these two columns ClickZ consulted five experts.
- Brian Halligan, CEO HubSpot
- Andrew Shotland, CEO LocalSEOGuide.com
- Will Critchlow CEO, Distilled
- David Mihm, local digital marketing consultant.
- Kevin Cotch, SEO Analyst at TopRank Marketing
The answer (as you’d expect from inbound and local marketers and SEO specialists) is organic search is not dead, but there is no doubt that the game has changed immeasurably, and continues to change every time Google introduces a new innovation, including on-going changes to paid search, Google My Business listings, Knowledge Graph and its latest baby Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).
Andrew Shotland sums up the responses nicely:
Google hasn’t killed organic search on mobile but it has certainly maimed it. There is still a large amount of traffic going to non-Google properties in local organic SERPs. Despite Google’s continuing takeover of prime SERP real estate with its own properties, its algorithms still need to allow for a wide breadth of results because it still has to account different intents from a single query.
As shown in the Local Search Ranking Factors report (June 2016), Google treats “implicit” geo queries (searches like “pizza” that may have local intent but don’t specify a geography) differently than “explicit” geo queries (e.g. “pizza in Chicago”). And while Google is generally pretty smart about what the most popular intents are, when it’s fuzzy, they will need to provide a variety of results. So smart SEOs still have a lot to play with.
So what has Google done to organic search?
A. More paid search ads.
B. Prioritized Google My Business (GMB).
For a business-related Google mobile search, the priority for results is usually as follows – as demonstrated by results for “Restaurants in Mayfair”, below:
- Paid search ads (designated by a PL in the screenshots below) – up to four different ads for popular search queries in popular locations. These can be quite sizeable, including up to 10 lines of text or links.
- Google My Business (GMB) results – three local businesses (listed in Google’s directory) are shown on a local map, then given an individual listing of four lines each. The listings do not correspond with the organic results below.
- Organic results (OL) – approx. 10 listings. For popular search terms such as “restaurants in X” or “Pizza nearby” the top ranking results are often dominated by aggregators such as directories, delivery services (if restaurants), articles, reviews and national/international chains – this may mean (as in the case below) that there are no restaurants on the first page of search results at all.
- More ads – often including ads for download native apps.
- Related searches – approx. eight listings of searches recommended by Google.
(Aside: a study of how these recommended searches relate to the keywords favored by advertisers would be a really interesting read).
- Option to see next page of results.
C. Prioritized Knowledge Graph
For a content-related Google mobile search, the priority for results is usually as follows – as demonstrated by results for “Mayfair”, below:
- Paid search ads (none present in the example).
- Knowledge graph (KG) – this is an expandable panel of information and images related to the search query, drawn from various sources e.g. Wikipedia and may include GMB-type listings (as shown below, these may be restaurants or hotels.)
- Organic results.
- Related searches.
- Option to see next page of results.
D. Accelerated mobile pages (AMP)
A further complication to organic search is AMP, which is a Google backed initiative to make mobile pages load faster. Currently these are mostly news stories (it has yet to gain much traction with business), and are usually displayed as a carousel of headlines and images.
Depending on the search term AMP results will come first, second behind paid ads, third behind ads and GMB or KG results, and sometimes among the organic results. Whichever, the effect is that organic results can be pushed further below the fold.
The following screenshots show two mobile searches conducted in London (results in different countries may bring different results). The fold line denotes where the visible screen ends (before scrolling) on large smartphones, such as Samsung Galaxy S6.
- The first is for “Restaurants in Mayfair” – which shows how organic listings are pushed two+ screens down search results by three ads and the three Google My Business restaurant listings (notated by GMB in the image). These GMB listings do not correspond with organic search results. Also note the absence of any restaurants at all in the first page of search results.
- The second search was for “Mayfair” – which shows how organic listings are pushed off the first page by Google’s Knowledge Graph (KG). Interestingly the restaurants in the KG are different to those in GMB results for “Restaurants in Mayfair”, if expanded (not shown) KG also shows a carousel of hotels, these results are different to the GMB results for hotels in Mayfair.
Bizarrely, restaurants (RL) and hotels (HL) do better in organic results for “Mayfair” than “Restaurants in Mayfair” or “Hotels in Mayfair”. This may reflect the fact that the context is not what Shotland would call explicit.
Mobile search is different to desktop search
Organic search on the desktop has also been hammered by Google, but not as badly in all cases.
In February 2016 Google shifted paid ads from the right side panel to above organic results.
For content-related searches Google’s Knowledge Graph (KG) has taken the place of the ads in the panel. This means that in situations where there are fewer paid ads, organic search results may be above the fold on a PC screen.
GMB would also fit well in the side panel, but instead it sits above the organic results, and below the ads, leaving the side panel blank. This means organic results are pushed down the page, and depending on the dimensions of the PC screen size, below the fold.
The disparity of PC screen sizes makes it difficult to estimate where the fold would fall on the screenshots.
Why is Google doing this?
There are two motivations:
- First, Google want to make more (even more) money from advertising and partner referrals.
- Second, it wants to provide better answers to the searchers’ queries – this we assume is partly motivated by expectations for growth of voice search. If it can achieve this without searchers leaving Google’s properties all the better (for Google).
HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan:
I think there are two real changes that have happened with Google Search, since we started HubSpot 10 years ago:
- AdWords: 50% of above the fold v 100% above the fold…
10 years ago, for most searches you got a few ads along the top and bunch of ads along the side of the results page. For that same search today, there are no ads along the side and the ads along the top cover the entire space above the fold on a regular computer and above the fold on a mobile phone. This means that if you want to get found in Google, paid is far more important than it used to.
- Organic: Research the answer v Give you the answer….
When we started HubSpot 10 years ago, for most searches, you just got a list of 10 links on the first page and the name of the SEO game was getting to the first page and as high as possible. Increasingly, Google is just giving you the answer to the question. The percent of queries I do where the answer is provided is going way up and the quality of those answers is very good.
Organic search isn’t dead, by any means. The long-tail game of getting many keywords on the front page of the SERP still works, but increasingly you’ll need to work to just be “the answer” to the query as opposed to one of the list of answers.
How are Google’s changes impacting organic results?
Click-through rates (CTR) for organic search fall as the position increases
All studies conclude that CTR declines the further down the SERPS the results is, but there is disagreement over the numbers and how this varies by the type of site and the search query.
The following table shows the results of a study by Authoritas (formally Analytics SEO) in 2015, which illustrates how rapidly the chance of traffic declines with each search position. Note the differences between desktop and mobile CTR per position and between search terms that relate to the brand and search terms that do not.
But what is the impact of paid ads, Google My Business and Knowledge Graph on organic CTR?
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any research on the impact of Google move to monopolize the prime search real estate with its owned properties.
However a survey by ComScore and Localeze reveals that:
- 72% of respondents perceived local search results most relevant, compared with 23% for organic results and a meager 5% for paid search results.
- 67% – slightly fewer – perceived local results the most trustworthy, ahead of 26% for organic and 7% for paid.
If this sense of relevancy and trust influences click-through rates, as you would expect, then it is inevitable that Google prioritizing GMB results will impact organic search results.
The big question is: to what extent would that trust in local results be undermined if/when Google starts to introduce paid local listings? The impact of Google commercializing GMB and KG, we will consider in the next column.
Anecdotally, it appears that some sites have been hit harder than others by Google’s changes.
The damage has been real. We have seen local organic traffic, particularly on mobile, for large sites trending downwards over the past two years. The big event was Google anchoring the Google My Business three-pack at the top of most local SERPs on both mobile and desktop from late 2015. We’ve definitely seen GMB cannibalize organic traffic to a far greater degree than paid ads.
When searching a local business name on a phone, there is now enough information on many of the Google My Business panels to reduce the need for a user to scroll to the organic results. This is great for local businesses that have a well-optimized GMB page. Not so great for everyone else trying to show you info about that business.
For other sites we still see growing organic search traffic and businesses are still getting a lot of conversions from organic mobile listings – particularly those who value phone calls. Even for those sites that have been losing overall organic traffic Google still knows to send you highly relevant traffic – the traffic that converts well – so sometimes conversions go up even as traffic goes down.
We’re in it for the long tail.
While Google attempts to condition and steer searchers with recommended search queries – both as the term is typed and through related searches at the end of the results page (assuming anyone makes it that far) – and attempts to distract with paid ads, GMB and KG listings, Google will always try to deliver the best results for the query.
The more precise, relevant and frequent the terms used by the mobile user visa vie your sites keywords, the more likely the mobile searcher will be to find a listing for your site and the less clutter they will find in the way.
Will Critchlow, CEO, Distilled:
However much Google tries to give one-box instant answers, and no matter how much they monetize commercial phrases, so far, total mobile search volume is growing strongly enough that total organic mobile is growing as a channel.
It’s really easy to forget the huge volume in the long-tail of search. In the long tail advertising is much sparser, one-box answers are less compelling, and the aggregators have much thinner content. It’s even easier to forget this as keyword data recedes into the rear-view mirror in the form of (not provided).
Thus, in terms of tactics, we recommend moving further up the funnel, and capturing searchers earlier in the lifecycle, as well as beating out the aggregators based on your business’ strengths and USPs – of course you will likely want to complement that with conversion-oriented paid search and appearing on appropriate aggregator / powerful sites as well.
SEO on its own may not be sufficient.
While SEO remains very relevant for mobile search, it should be used (as Critchlow also suggests above) as part of a coordinated marketing plan.
Kevin Cotch, SEO analyst at TopRank Marketing:
I do not believe that Google has killed organic search for mobile users. Google still shows the information that is the most relevant for the mobile audience including organic listings, but the SERP on a mobile phone is more limited. Google is typically showing more owned results (i.e. paid, local listings, featured snippets, etc.) with the limited space on mobile SERPs.
I recommend approaching mobile with a unique strategy that targets where your audience is within the marketing funnel. Marketers should implement an integrated mobile strategy to attract, engage, and convert your target audience by incorporating SEO, paid, email, and social campaigns. Part of the mobile strategy related to SEO would utilize development resources to implement AMP, schema markup, and optimizing your website for site speed to enhance user experience.
At the end of the day, Google will continue to change the SERPs to provide the best results. Search marketers will need to continue optimizing their integrated mobile strategy to get the most out of each campaign, including SEO.
The follow-up column to this one will consider the Google-owned and controlled properties – particularly Google My Business and Knowledge Graph – that are displacing organic results.
We will investigate what this means for your search strategy and web design and the impact of Google introducing sponsored results and prioritizing partner businesses
Read the reports: