The Evolution of Google’s SERP as a Result of Mobile Devices

The Evolution of Google's SERP

Over the last ten years, the design of Google’s search engine results page (SERP) has changed significantly, thanks to the influence of mobile devices. According to a recently released study on Google and mobile-influenced user search behavior, the search giant has adapted its SERP layout to accommodate the new search habits of mobile device users.

Mobile-influenced Search Habits

With the vast proliferation of mobile devices, searchers encounter and digest search results very differently than they did in the days of desktop search’s dominance. Mobile device layout encourages a vertically oriented search style in which users selectively “scan” for relevant information. Essentially, we now consume more content, much faster: while users once took 2.6 seconds to consume a SERP, that time has now been reduced to a mere 1.3 seconds.

Google’s SERP Design Changes

Since most searches are now conducted on mobile devices, Google has accommodated users’ mobile-influenced search habits in its page layout. The company has re-designed their SERP from a more horizontally oriented, triangular pattern appropriate for desktop viewing to a vertical pattern that suits the vertical design of mobile device screens.

This mobile-influenced design also remains consistent in Google’s desktop SERP, which goes to show how much our mobile search habits have changed the way we consume content more generally.

Implications for Your Business’s Search Listings

These new habits, along with the corresponding changes to Google’s SERP, affect the way businesses should approach search engine optimization. Here are a few key takeaways:

Have a Clear and Visible Main Message

Since users spend less time perusing search results, businesses need to capture their attention by articulating their message clearly and up front. Be sure to include an appropriate title that accurately describes your business.

Work to Achieve a Google Knowledge Graph

Google’s knowledge graphs synthesize links and information relevant to certain search terms. These boxes are located on the side of desktop SERPs and at the top of mobile SERPs.

This placement means that mobile searchers see the Knowledge Graph before any organic listings. When a knowledge graph turns up in a Google SERP, the top organic listing receives 22% fewer clicks, while an overwhelming 93% of searchers view the Knowledge Graph and 49% click the graph.

Although you cannot directly create a knowledge graph, there are measures you can take to gain a knowledge graph result for your business. These include typical organic SEO strategies such as adding structured markup to your site. Once your business has a knowledge graph, you or a representative can edit the graph and suggest changes.

Get Local Listings in Order

When a map and local listings appear above the organic listings on a SERP, the map and listings receive more clicks and views. This means it remains important to add or claim your name, address, contact information, and business hours on Google My Business.

Get Ratings

Registering your business will also help you to gain star ratings. Since listings with star ratings capture an average of 24% of page clicks, you should encourage your customers to provide reviews. As always, having more positive reviews will help your business to appear at the top of search listings.

Increase Organic Search Ranking

Some things remain the same: today, the top four organic listings capture the most search activity, regardless of any changes to Google’s page design and added features. Listings below the top four receive only 16% of clicks on desktop searches, and this number drops to 7.4% on mobile searches. This means that it is more important than ever to continue to use organic SEO strategies to get your business’s page in the top spot.

DIY Pay Per Click: Why Trying to Save Money Could be Costing You More

DIY Pay Per Click

Pay-per-click is one component of DAS Group’s holistic approach to search engine marketing. This digital advertising strategy enables a company’s ad to appear in a search results page or on a website. When the ad is clicked, the company is required to pay the host website or service. The nature of Google AdWords and other pay per click services constantly grows and changes, requiring time and expertise from the online marketer. Problems often arise and budgets become compromised when businesses attempt to manage their own pay per click ad campaigns.

Below, we break down five common mistakes we see when we audit clients’ self-managed PPC campaigns.

  1. No use of negative keywords: Essentially, negative keywords are words that you do not want to lead to your ad. If you are using Google AdWords, you can visit the search query report to view all of the words and phrases Google users have entered to “trigger” your ads. You will notice that some will be “accidental” queries that most likely will not result in a conversion, and will instead burden you with an unnecessary cost. You can add these words as “negative keywords” to ensure that your ad budget goes toward driving relevant traffic.
  2. Display network turned on: When you begin using AdWords, your ads will appear in search engine results pages relevant to your key words (referred to as the “search network”) as well as AdSense-equipped webpages relevant to your key words (referred to as the “display network”). Since potential customers using your keywords are more likely to be looking for your product or service in search engine results, a conversion is more likely to happen within the “search network.” Therefore, it is best to disable the display network, at least initially.
  3. No ad testing: Instead of creating only one advertisement for each campaign, create at least three or four. This way, you can test these ads against one another, compare performance and choose the most well-received ads for your campaign.
  4. Not tracking campaigns: It is quite common to see no conversion tracking installed in a client’s AdWords account. Conversion tracking identifies which key words and ads are leading to conversions; with this crucial tracking component missing, money and valuable customer insight are lost in droves. Furthermore, Google Analytics and AdWords should be linked together in order to obtain even more performance information.

    Along with monitoring online conversion rates, businesses should use keyword level call tracking and analyze call outcomes in order to determine which keywords drive the highest quality new business calls that lead to conversions. Pools of unique numbers can be dynamically inserted on pages to provide invaluable insight into the keywords within specific campaigns that are ultimately driving the best results for the business.

  5. Not scheduling ad campaigns properly: Some aspects of ad scheduling are quite simple: if including a phone number, for example, be sure to enable ads only during business hours, so someone can be around to take customer calls.

    Carefully tracking campaigns allows you to optimize your ad campaign scheduling even further. Through tracking, you will gather important information about your target audience, including daily, weekly and seasonal peak shopping times. Proper ad scheduling maximizes the effectiveness of ad campaigns while helping you to avoid needless spending.

If you would like to ensure every one of your ad campaigns is timed, monitored and optimized for successful conversion, contact DAS Group today.

Local SEO for Multi Location Businesses: Why Your Local Locations Aren’t Showing Up in Local Search Results

Local SEO

Today, customers are constantly performing searches for local businesses on their phones and computers, and making their decisions according to search results and reviews. In most cases, single-location businesses find it easier to appear at the top of local searches. Why are multi-location businesses losing out? While there are a number of reasons for this disparity, a lot of it has to do with multi-location businesses placing emphasis solely on the brand as a whole – including the central website – rather than catering to local markets via local web presence.

Here are some of the traps that multi-location businesses fall into along with some best practices to ensure that they can successfully compete with their single-location competitors.

The Problems

Web design

Sometimes, basic web design is the problem. Web design issues include a lack of responsive, mobile-first design, which leads to a slow loading speed. These design problems are especially important to address since potential customers use mobile devices to find businesses and Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm now factors mobile loading speed when ranking search results.

The other main web design issue involves the central website’s relationship with branch websites. Many multi-location businesses focus on a main web site instead of creating individual sites or location pages for each location. Even when a business has individual sites for each location, poor design and bad structure can negatively impact search engine results rankings. In these cases, local information is missing or structured in a way that cannot be indexed effectively by search engines.

Local Listing Accuracy

Accuracy in local listings is another crucial factor in achieving high-ranking search results. Since they have to manage multiple locations, multi-location businesses often forget to maintain consistency in local listings and citations. When information is missing or wrong, the local web site loses visibility and credibility in the eyes of search engines. Many simple errors often affect consistency in local listings, including typos, having more than one phone number for a location, business name changes and new addresses.

Local Reviews

Multi-location businesses often lose out to local businesses in number and quality of local reviews. When businesses fail to encourage reviews, they may end up with a few negative reviews that turn away potential customers.

Best Practices

Fortunately, utilizing the following local SEO best practices can help multi-location businesses avoid these common traps. Putting these changes into effect can greatly strengthen the local business’s visibility and reputation.

Create a unique landing page for each store

Having a page for each location helps customers and search engines to find specific information – such as name, address, phone number, hours and maps – when they perform local searches. While these pages should be customized in terms of locational content, they can be designed uniformly to retain brand integrity. Create clearly accessible links from local pages to the main site and vice versa, and be sure that the page is structurally optimized, with local key words in titles, tags, meta description and site copy.

Add specific local content to local pages

Multi-location companies can also link these sites to each location’s social media accounts to provide extra authority. These social media pages can also contain name, address, phone and hours. It also helps to include local content in the form of meaningful local links, such as news, testimonials and tagged images. All of these elements prove to search engines that the business is real.

Check and update listings and citations

Make sure that NAP (name, address, phone) are present and consistent, without any errors, in local directories. Use a single phone number for each location, and account for any name changes and new addresses. Simple typos can also be a critical mistake. Clearing up these citations will improve search visibility and credibility.

Generate reviews

Correct listings can improve reviews, since many business directories allow customers to provide reviews. In turn, more good reviews will help your local websites to appear at the top of search results.

If you would like to ensure that these best practices are implemented for your multi-location business, contact DAS Group.

Angie’s List is Now Free: Now What? What the Change Means for Your Business

angie's list

The importance of reviews

Reviews matter to businesses more than ever. Once upon a time, word of mouth, advertising and formal reviews in traditional media were the only way for businesses to receive publicity, and it was relatively easy to prevent negative reviews from affecting your business. Now, reviews are crowdsourced and easily accessible to any consumer with a computer or phone. In fact, 88% of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business, while 39% read reviews on a regular basis. Reviews give customers a voice and influence the decisions of other potential customers. Additionally, today’s online reviews can add credibility to a business’ website, and therefore influence the business’ appearance in local search results rankings. For these reasons, obtaining positive online reviews is a crucial component of contemporary business marketing, reputation management and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy.

What is Angie’s List?

Today, many think of Yelp or Google reviews when they think of online reviews, but the impact of online reviews began in 1995 with the founding of Angie’s List, now the oldest online review site on the web. For a subscription fee, Angie’s List enabled users to browse and post both positive and negative reviews of home, yard, auto and health service providers. Angie’s List currently reports 10 million verified reviews from its members.

The problem for Angie’s List was that, until now, the site was viewed by just over 3 million paid members, which translates to less than 1% of the population. Today’s digital consumers are often unwilling to pay a nominal subscription fee when they have free access to alternative review sites. This meant that, while Angie’s List subscribers were better informed than the vast majority of review readers, the site did not have a significant effect on businesses.

However, the number of consumers reading and providing reviews will soon grow and make Angie’s List a much more formidable component of lead generation for businesses. Last March, Angie’s List announced its intention to abandon its subscription model and open the website and services up to the general public, free of charge. As of June 2016, this change has taken effect. This decision to change the Angie List model may stem from recent competition by newer sites like Home Advisor and Thumbtack and free sites such as Yelp. Competition from these sites has been affecting Angie’s List’s earnings in recent years, well before the company decided to remove the paywall.

Without its paywall barrier, Angie’s List will most likely be a key player among review sites due to its unique, end-to-end customer experience. When announcing the change, CEO Scott Durchslag noted that Angie’s List gets “over 100 million [unique] visitors each month, but 90% of them have been bouncing because of the reviews paywall . . . We expect to see traffic explode with the change.” Since then, Durchslag has reported that “new member sign-ups increased nearly fourfold compared to a year ago and, among those members, unique visits more than doubled. In that same period, unique members searching have more than doubled and the number of service provider profile views from those members more than doubled.”

What the change means for your business

Angie’s List’s impact on search results will grow with these recent changes, making it a necessary tool in reputation building and local SEO strategy. Reviews, and good reviews in particular, contribute to a business’ website traffic. Google’s local search algorithm uses data from third-party directories and platforms, including review sites such as Angie’s List, as a key determining factor to authenticate a business’s website and thereby increase or lower its search rankings among competitors. Businesses will now have to account for Angie’s List in their SEO strategy along with other popular review sites such as Yelp and Google reviews.

Unlike the average review site, however, Angie’s List’s longevity and commitment to quality make it an extra credible and “weighty” site among search engines. A business website linked to Angie’s List reviews will have an improved Search Engine Results Page. Furthermore, because of the site’s emphasis on length, Angie’s List reviews simply contain more content than typical blurb-type reviews and will provide more weight than reviews from other sites.

This all simply means that businesses should work to encourage positive reviews on Angie’s List as a major part of their marketing strategy. However, many business’ current monitoring tools may not be able to identify reviews from Angie’s List since the site’s content was, until recently, secured behind a paywall. In order to make sure that you can detect and track Angie’s List reviews, you can claim your business’ Angie’s List profile by proactively registering your company on the site.

As Angie’s List grows, it will most likely expand into different markets and categories of business. Even if your type of business is not included in the scope of Angie’s List currently covered business categories, it may soon be, as the company continues to look for growth opportunities.

If you would like to ensure that your business and site are fully optimized for this change and others to come, contact DAS Group.

5 Tips to Improve Speed of Mobile Sites

improve mobile site speed

Even if you have an otherwise well-designed mobile site, a slow page loading time can lead customers directly to your competitors. Did you know that most users become frustrated when encountering only one second of loading time? This is an astounding statistic considering that most mobile sites take an average of five seconds to load.

While optimizing the loading time of mobile sites has always been a critical part of capturing and maintaining the interest of potential customers, it will soon become even more important now that Google plans to factor mobile site loading speed into its page-ranking algorithm.

Here are five basic ways to speed up your mobile site’s page loading time and avoid being penalized by Google:

  1. Check your mobile website’s speed. If you do not have Google Analytics installed on your webpage, you can use Google’s Page Speed Insights to see how your site measures up to Google’s one-second page render recommendation. Using a score out of 100, this handy tool will give you an idea of your site’s relative page speed. It also suggests “fixes” that explain your site’s slowing problems and offers detailed instructions for making necessary changes.

  2. Build a responsive website. While Google’s Page Speed “fixes” serve as useful tips for improving your mobile site’s speed, you might want to begin by building a responsive website, which will often boost your site’s speed in several key areas. Responsive web design automatically sizes and rearranges your site’s text, images, and other elements in order to deliver the same exact content to users no matter what device they are using to view your site. Most importantly, responsive design will fix poor mobile rendering of your desktop site. Even If you have two separate websites for mobile and desktop, you will still encounter slowing problems such as faulty redirects. For these reasons and more, beginning with a responsive website will help page speed in addition to improving SEO.

  3. Use a “mobile-first approach” to web design. If you begin by optimizing your responsive site for mobile and then scale up for larger devices, your website will likely meet Google’s mobile-friendly standards. In addition to optimizing the user experience for mobile browsing, designing in a minimal form forces you to think about what is most important for your customer and contributes to a simpler, more effective design that will benefit your responsive site’s overall speed and SEO.

  4. Avoid plugins. Plugins such as Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and Apple QuickTime are familiar third-party applications used to render video; however, these kinds of software do not work well, if at all, on mobile devices. Even when used in desktop pages, plugins add to page load time. Not only do these software programs cause problems for the mobile user, but Google now considers plugins in its new mobile-friendly algorithm. Instead of plugins, Google recommends utilizing common “native web technologies” for rendering content such as “audio and video, advanced graphics and presentation effects, network connections, local storage, and file access.”

  5. Optimize your images. Responsive web sites use responsive images, which means that images will scale to fit the mobile device or disappear at certain screen dimensions if encoded to do so. However, there are still a few baselines to consider when selecting and compressing images for your responsive, mobile-first website. Since images account for most of a page’s weight, optimizing and minimizing images can greatly enhance your mobile page speed.

    First, decide if your images are necessary to the website’s overall effect; oftentimes, simpler web design contributes to a better loading time and browsing experience. As we all know, however, a website without images is boring and unengaging. Since larger image files make for longer load times, it’s good practice to get your image file sizes as small as possible while not sacrificing too much image quality.

If you would like to optimize your mobile site with responsive, mobile-first design, contact DAS Group.