Google AdSense: Behavioral Targeting?
Barry Schwartz posted an interesting piece on Search Engine Land today about Google submitting a patent application for behaviorally targeting PPC. Besides being intellectually stimulating, instituting behaviorally targeted PPC to users based off Google Tool Bar data and, of course through, as I talked about in Search 4.0, user login (remember, when you sign up for an account, you provide them geographic data) could have some pretty large ramifications in the paid search world.
1) Quality Score Irrelevant?
Quality Score may become irrelevant down the road. If a user continually searches in specific geographic location, then the behavioral algorithm “should” produce only ads in or around that location. Assuming the advertiser is paying the requisite amount to show in a high position, users may be going to garbage sites. Per the new regulations, Google set in motion in April (not allowing the Destination URL differ from the Display URL) it won’t be true SPAM, but for those of us who spend time optimizing landing pages for the keywords we are buying, it seems a bit ludicrous. Moreover, this seems like another way Google will start a bidding war between paid advertisers and generate higher bids (again).
2) Leveling the Playing Field Further
This is, however, better news for smaller companies and organizations struggling to keep up. Paid ads were meant to level the field for websites who were in the process of, or have yet to, SEO their site. Small sites could get the needed exposure necessary to “play ball” with the “big kids”. Grabbing more detailed information on users’ habits, it only stands to reason that smaller companies who have yet to make SEO improvements, it will allow them to be seen for valuable keywords. (Not withstanding these companies have usable and content-developed site to take advantage of this exposure) The little man gets a semi-fair shake from the big guy.
3) Users’ Privacy
It’s gone, and we’re all going to have to be ok with that. It is what is it. Google owns search, and, therefore, gets to dictate how search functions, how search collects data, and how search is displayed to users. The same is true of Search 4.0 (Personalized Search), and I didn’t hear any complaints about that from the crowd. Think of it this way: (which is how I’m pretty sure Google is thinking about it) users are getting the most, nearly in absolute, relevant results possible for that particular user. And, that’s the key phrase “for that particular user”. Google’s entire mission is to provide the most relevant results possible for each query performed by a user (not to mention making money). This fits into that mission. It’s the where the web has been for the last couple of years, and it’s definitely where it’s going: complete transparency. No more secrets (thank you Ben Kingsley). I’m not too worried about my privacy, everything is available out there anyway, if you know the right people and know where to look. The web is evolving once again and, once again, it’s our job as SEOs and Search Marketers to help our clients understand it, compete in it, and win in it.
1. Start from Design and Architecture UP:
It starts from the bottom-up; it starts with design and architecture. Most of the time when we, as SEOs, get websites, they’ve been out in the public sphere for months to a couple of years. The chance to impact the site architecture is very minimal at this point, so we end up making due with what’s there and make smallish suggestions.
If we are lucky enough to get our hands on a site that’s pre-launch and early enough in the development phase, you’ve got to have usability knowledge in your pocket to evaluate it quickly and efficiently. And, taking a tip from Steve Krug, you want this new site to keep your user’s “Reservoir of Goodwill” as full as possible.
Key Items to Look For:
2. Make sure you, as an SEO, as a user, understand what the website is trying to accomplish.
3. Are the GOALS easily identifiable?
You don’t want the goals to shrouded or surrounded by superfluous “extras”. No one wants to get to the website and have to become Sherlock Holmes to give you money. The website goals should have giant, blinking neon arrows.
If it takes the user more than 1-2 clicks to perform a goal from a search engine, then it’s time to consider reworking your landing pages. Nothing will frustrate and deplete the “goodwill” for a user more than being led astray. Remember, users require instant gratification, so the faster a user can get to what they want, the better.
If a user searches for you, finds the title “XYZ Plane Tickets to California” and a description that seals the deal for them, and they click on the link that takes them to your page, the first thing they see should be content telling them how to purchase a plane ticket to California from you.
4. Is your site navigation and architecture easily understood?
Nothing helps conversions better than an easily understood and workable navigation. If users can’t get to where they’re going, they’re never going to come back.
At this point, we have to have an honest chat: people are not robots. People make mistakes, people get lost on through their own volition, and people LIKE to explore. So, no navigation is going to be fool-proof, and no navigation is going to prevent folks from getting lost. But, a good navigation and site design will help people get out of their own way as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Make sure each page has the following elements:
- A Site ID:
this is usually the company’s logo or branding identification. The Site ID should be, about 99% of the time, be clickable back to the home. Always give users the option to start from scratch and find their own way .
- Page Name:
let your users know they’ve landed on the right page by indicating the page name. Best way to do this, and to earn some great relevance is through your site’s page title tag and employing breadcrumb navigation
- Sections and Subsections:
let your users know what else is in the section. Put a unobtrusive sub-nav or side-nav on the page. Nothing could be worse than signaling to the user with a overbearing navigation, that “we want you to go somewhere else on this site too!” For good SEO results, avoid AJAX and Flash menus. Stick with good ol’ HTML links, and yes, images will work, but make sure you have keyword-targeted ALT and TITLE tags in them.
- Local Navigation:
if you can find a visually-pleasing way to include this on each page, I would. It’s a POI for the site: “If you aren’t interested in what you’ve found here, then how about Door #2?”
- Search Box:
Not every site needs one. If have less than 20 pages of content, I wouldn’t put of these on your site. But, if you run an e-comm site or a article-laden site, this is an absolute must. However, your sites audience needs to be taken into consideration. If you have a less-savvy group of users, it would be best to build out a database and create in-house search functionality.
With the Google Search API, users have to select to search your site or the ENTIRE web. The last thing you want is for user to jump off the site, when they were just about to enter the Purchase Funnel.
5. Contact/Subscribe Forms
A great quote that comes to mind is from Mel Brooks’ “Spaceballs”: “Take only what you need to survive”. That’s how you have to look at these forms; what do you really HAVE TO have and what’s a NICE TO HAVE. If you’ve noticed that your goal conversions are down, and you’ve applied the other steps above, then sadly, as much as it is going to pain you, you have start pointing the finger at your forms.
With the advent of “Identity Theft” and the media coverage exploiting it, and a rising SPAM NATION getting a hold of it and unrelentingly spamming you to death, users are less and less likely to give out information they feel will threaten them. Even things as simple as a phone number, which coincidently, I’ve found to be an absolute deal-breaker on all our clients’ forms.
The main rule for forms is to keep it K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. An old Army adage that goes a long way. Of course, different companies have different needs, and so you may have to sacrifice best practices for essentials, but try to keep them to a minimum. And, besides, long forms that need all the optional information necessary to submit, just makes your consumers and users resent you. Here are some quick guidelines:
- Make only fields that are ABSOLUTELY required for your business, be required for the user
- Don’t ask for too much additional/optional information; i.e. phone numbers, address, how they found you. They found you once, they’ll find you again. And, you should be running analytics, so you’ll know how they found.
- Show your users/consumers the value they’ll receive when they sign-up and submit. If it’s a mystery, not too many are willing to believe on blind faith.
- Put in a “We won’t sell or distribute clause” by the submit button. It’s a lot more encouraging to me, as a user, if I at least read you care about my privacy.
Where GPS has Been & Where GPS is Going
The technology isn’t exactly new; it’s been available to the public since 1983, but has really become utilized and abundant in the last two years. With companies like TomTom , Garmin, and Magellan bringing this technology to more households, it stands to reason this is the next giant wave of online marketing. GPS is quite popular overseas, and has been for a number of years, and is now finally catching on here in the US.
Prices on these devices are dropping rapidly, and depending on the unit, can run you anywhere from $150 to upwards of $1000. Sales on these devices are expected to exceed 5.4 billion this year. Automotive and hand-held GPS devices are losing some of its exclusivity among the upper echelons and becoming affordable and available to the general populous.
Search Engine Land told us that Google Maps is now allowing users to download locations to their Garmin or TomTom device. And there are more and more POI (Point of Interest) sites popping up out there that allow GPS device owners to download to their device.
Some Popular POI Sites:
The Next Wave:
Even with the proliferation of GPS devices, and stretching field of the consumers you can reach, there’s more in store for GPS. Let’s start with branding.
I’ve already seen, on a couple of GPS systems, company branding being included like McDonalds logo, instead of the staple “knife and fork” icon. That’s a lot of branding power in an icon world. We’ve contacted TomTom and Garmin about this, to include a couple of our larger clients in corporate sponsorship. (NOTE: Neither TomTom nor Garmin will respond to site contact forms, you have to mail them directly) We’re still waiting on a response, but I’ll keep you posted.
Detailed Company Information:
Submitting to POI sites can give you an edge over the competition by allowing you to enter detailed company information. Those GPS systems with Bluetooth capability, will be able to access your website and download anything they need, including product information and coupons.
Audio (MP3) Messages:
I haven’t seen it yet (rather heard it) but many of the newer model GPS systems have the ability to play MP3’s. Think about the extended branding you have if consumers/users are within, let’s say 10 miles, of your client’s location. Once they breach that 10 mile radius, an alert goes off on the GPS device and begins to play a 10-15 second audio message to the driver letting them know they are within range and turn-by-turn directions! Amazing.
Folks, this is just the tip of the iceberg. And the time to get on your boards and ride this wave is now. It’s one of the last frontiers to be completely saturated with competition.