Want to improve your page conversions?
I was talking with someone the other day about the challenges faced with getting new business for what was a very niche product. The product is the type that has limited demand, is very niche but adds huge value to the people who want it.
We briefly talked about what they do and how they currently do it, what appears to work and what doesn’t. We touched upon the various online channels particularly with regard to PPC, SEO and Social media. I didn’t get too deep, but my takeaway was that it wasn’t really working as well as they’d liked or expected.
It might be useful to others, to run through a few things as they come to me. Nothing too structured, just a general meander through some of the issues and what we can at least begin to try and do about them. Continue reading
So the recent change in how Google displays its ads on its search engine has already pulled up a number of interesting outcomes with agencies that manage large accounts reporting a number of standouts.
An increase in CTR of 16% across SERPs should be pretty concerning to folks in the organic space, and frankly to advertisers as well. I’m not saying these results are instantly stealing 16% of traffic from organic results, but there’s certainly been a migration as a result of this change; however significant or insignificant is yet to be seen. Aaron at EliteSem
That’s quite a big chunk and is echoed by what icrossing saw too with big increases in CTR for the new ad slot.
Positive click-through-rate impact for top positions (+5%) and PLA (+10%), as competition at the top right has been eliminated.
Negative click-through-rate impact for positions 5–7 (-8%) as they moved from top right to bottom of the page.
Negative impression impact for positions 8–10 (-69%) and click impact (-50%). However since this segment accounted for a very small percentage of impressions in the “before” period, their loss doesn’t represent a significant impact.
There’s no doubt a slew of these across the web. Look at any account with a large enough dataset and you’ll likely see similar patterns.
But what does this really mean for organic? It’s pretty obvious what it means for PPC. In the short term, for competitive queries the new position four ad slot seems to be doing a sterling job at stealing organic click share. If CTR’s are up across ad slots, then it follows that available click share MUST be down for organic, even if we account for the loss of side ads, right?
I was talking with a client yesterday about conversion rates on site.
We had all been a little perplexed in how conversions rates had dropped off of late and had tried a variety of things to identify and reverse.
We looked at the usual suspects of onsite changes, page speed, competitor activity, sector innovations etc and were doing a degree of head scratching trying to establish what was going on. Most channel traffic was up, organic especially. The view was that maybe rankings had decreased for competitive head terms (nope) or that direct and referral traffic had increased due to PR activity and that was impacting conversion rates due to lower buyer intent (a fact, but also nope)
The client noticed that the conversion problem had occurred around the 22nd of February, which funnily enough was around the time that Google rolled out its new land grab. Aha! The smoking gun.
What was really interesting (but surprising) was that the inclusion of this new ad spot, appears to have impacted the click through on high converting pages for competitive search terms. Effectively, for every competitive position attained, visibility has dropped by an order of at least one position.
Is it really the case that people collectively have jumped the shark and no longer care about ads in google as they once did? Has Google created such a neat and compelling ad product that users are now more drawn to the ad than they would be the organic result? Are the ads more relevant today even? Is all that SERP diversity of images, videos, knowledge graph, news results and the like just a massive pain in the Goolies? Are ads the quicker route for commercial intent!? Maybe!
Of course, I’m surmising and using the data witnessed from one account. It may not necessarily be the same for every commercial query and determining what is and what is not a commercial query isn’t a walk in the park either. Just because a query doesn’t have ‘buy’ or ‘book’ in the string doesn’t mean that it’s an informational intent type query.
It’s only when you begin to dig in to your conversion data locally that you’ll even begin to notice, and even when you have your aha moment you’ll be none the wiser as to how to fix it.
In short, the only fix that matters is, to gain increased visibility for your commercial intent queries, and the only way you are going to do that in “Google Four Ad slots” is to buy ads.
Sure, you can up your activity in your other channels and up your efforts targeting queries of lesser commercial intent and create more wow moments in your PR and general marketing efforts but make no mistake. Those organic opportunities are continually diminishing as Google seek to eat more of that organic pie.
For those interested, it might also be interesting to take a little look at CTR generally and look at a few of the tactics Google has taken over the years.
Looking at CTR historically
If you look at click throughs around positions over the years you’ll see that it’s an interesting picture. Many of us will have read the various click through studies detailing how pos #1 gets x % position #2 y% position #3 z% tailing off the further you go down the SERP.
Here’s an old graph from Internet Marketing Ninjas showing the optify data
This is old of course and came from the days when there was a max of two ads above the fold at the top.
However, it does show the general picture and variations over the years show similar curves and it’s pretty safe to say that with the advances in PPC ads since (smart links, stars, better ad copy, blah blah) that those numbers and their respective share has likely diminished since as ad clicks, knowledge graph type distractions have gained click share.
Eye tracking and clicks
Heatmaps show us that generally, much of our attention is taken by the space above the fold.
A page loads, we scan it, see what we need and click it and many of the studies produced have helped inform ad placement, nav placement, button placement and the like.
This eye tracking study below shows the google of old 2005 and the google of 2015. The golden triangle versus the um…red guy with no arms and legs.
What’s really interesting is the whole background colour change in the ad slot in the image to the right. Note the background is some kind of distinctive yellowish colour.
Do a search today, and that colour distinction is no longer there. The only differentiator is the word “Ad” and that’s diluted by other distractions like ad links and gold stars.
Many of the features that Google used to show for its organic results, user rating stars for example are now seen in its ads, but increasingly, not in its organic results.
It would seem that increasingly in the organic portion, attention is taken away at every opportunity. One could be forgiven for concluding that Google sought to confuse the consumer by continually shifting such features around and blurring the lines between organic and paid. After all, we aren’t stupid are we? We don’t need to see the ads with a clearly defined different background colour, do we.
Some might say that it would appear that if it’s commercial and you monetise it, then the Google of today wants you to pay for those clicks.
For businesses looking to seek visibility for commercial queries, they are effectively a pay for inclusion engine today. If you want visibility, then they want you to pay for it.
It’s a risk laden strategy. Altavista did the same in 1998 and killed itself.
Users didn’t want ads shoved in their faces and users left in droves, enticed by the thing that was all Googley.
Google aren’t stupid and have learnt from the mistakes of their predecessors. They do lots of testing and use feature creep to change things. Revolutionaries they are not.
I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions around the bait and switch tactics and overlaps of paid serps versus organics. There’s no reason why they’d seduce users with rich snippets, only to snatch them away and leave them hanging around in their paid results, no reason at all.
If you are seeing similar things in your campaigns, decreased conversions whilst organic traffic has increased, and it fits in with these date ranges, do let me know in the comments.
Just to be clear, I didn’t personally identify the reason for reduced conversions. A team member at the client put forward the hypothesis and the whole 4 ad slot scenario seems to fit. I’d love to say who that is, but client confidentially and all that stuff… Hat tip Nick!
Holistic Search Marketing
It’s been ages since I wrote anything anywhere near interesting or controversial so I thought I’d sit down and have a go and see where it leads me. 🙂
We often hear the word ‘holistic’ bounded about these days. Increasingly (and rightly so) companies are looking to connect the dots and put together the various pieces of their marketing puzzles.
The challenge for many is that they aren’t quite sure themselves, they are looking for people and companies who can sit down and explain to them what fits where and why.
How Does PPC affect Organic CTR’s?
Just recently I was having a discussion about PPC and it’s relationship with SEO in the SERPs, specifically, does a PPC listing help organic clickthrough (CTR).
It was very late and I’d had quite a few beers and was very stuffed with Chinese food but even so, we managed to get to a point whereby we discussed a variety of other questions which such a question begged, namely that it depends on the vertical, the user, the PPC position, the Organic position, the brand, the creative etc.
In other words, there is no simple answer other than yes, quite probably. PPC helps organic CTR.
The Pie is big with lots of flavours
I used this example because it’s relatively fresh in my mind and has a natural segue to the core question. SEO and PPC are indeed just a part of the online marketing pie – there’s also Online PR, Social, Affiliate and Display too – All are related, very few large corps can do one without any of the others as there are lots of inevitable overlaps and blur lines – It’s right today in these frugal times that marketing managers looking to maximise the impacts of their budgets, should be asking probing questions like – Should you do one w/ out the other? What aspects of each inform the other? Where should they target their budget to get the most bang for their buck? How will you track ROI for them? Which piece of the pie will deliver the most? Yet answers to these aren’t always as clear cut or as straightforward as we’d like. Many of them require scrutiny and analyses of the pieces used and the pieces that are likely to come into play. Not many big corps still really *get* online. Many struggle with the idea of a unified strategy, preferring to go with the segment that’s the most tried and tested.
No surprise there either, why would they direct positive ROI spend anywhere else – it’s all about ROI after all Rob you dummy!
Well yes and no. Yes because absolutely, if company X invests 100k and gets 300k of sales from a single Channel then the jobs a winner, it’s a no brainer, right? Yet no, because to do so is to take ones eye off of the ever shifting fluidity of the other channels out there. 2k On PR could deliver 50k worth of Organic Serp positions, as could 10k invested into Affiliate, Display or PPC. Whilst it’ll usually be on a case by case basis, there will be very few scenarios where wholesale investment in one channel would be a sensible online strategy.
Some of you reading this might be asking, “yeah ok, but what about offline” and of course you’d be right to ask too! Why wouldn’t a good agency consider offline, they’d be mad to ignore the impact of a good TV, Radio or Paper Media campaign. Your agency or individual (if they were any good) should be falling over themselves to get access to your analytics package to advise upon strategy or to demonstrate past impacts through retrospective analyses.
Yet how many today do? How many companies can actually sit down and give a coherent definitive overview and strategy and deliver on budget? My guess is not too many. It’s a good reason why that on many projects, you’ll find quarterly or monthly inter agency reviews, whereby agency A will sit down with client and agency B, C and D and all attempt to discuss the strategy w/ out giving away too much IP to probable or likely competitors. Yet for the companies who can provide that full 360 overview, who can clearly demonstrate how and why doing X will deliver Y to the bottom line, who can clearly show how aspect XXX strengthens the position of strategy component Z, the benefits and potentials to win new business is huge.
To state the obvious, it’ll be the companies who are demonstrating these traits and abilities who’ll grab the most market share – companies who invest in their people and think outside of the box with experience and insights are the ones who forward thinking businesses will want to trade with. Businesses that recognise that having six or seven different relationships to manage is a whole lot more time consuming and draining than one.
Companies like the one I work for (plug plug) who can step up and deliver, should do really well as a result. 🙂