Firefox has recently made a decision that is set to continue a worrying trend for website owners by further restricting the knowledge of what keywords people searched for to find the site.
Whilst not yet live, Mozilla have committed to making the changes, and they have started to be placed in the main code set for an imminent future release.
The changes build on Google’s decision to hide all information about the keyword used from a website owner if the user is signed in to their Google account. The search is made secure, using the https protocol instead of the standard http.
I’m going to address secure search from two viewpoints; the users and the webmasters:
Benefits of Secure Search to a User
Secure search is of benefit to the end user because it improves the privacy of their internet browsing. They may navigate through to a site, but the keyword they used in Google search is hidden from the owner of the site they arrive on. Whilst this may not be perceived as an issue to most people, the problem arises in the way Google Instant (where results are shown as you type) works – as the search is modified, the original keyword used is maintained and then also passed to the end website. This is of concern as the first keyword could be completely unrelated to the final one used before selecting a site, and could be a serious breach of user privacy.
One additional advantage of secure search, which perhaps makes it of more importance for the end user, is that this would prevent network sniffing being used to copy the cookie data of the signed in user. As Google have consolidated the privacy policies across all their digital properties, and since being signed in to Google search is the same as being signed in to Google Docs or Gmail, having someone copy your cookie means they can log in as you to any of these other websites. As most users tend to use one email address to be the point of reset for all their other passwords, this access means that a person’s entire digital life can be hijacked, potentially being extremely complicated to recover.
The hijacking issue obviously points to a bigger problem – cookies are a really unsecure way of working. Whilst there have been calls for changing this underlying system, decreasing costs of SSL (Secure Site License) means that, potentially, every site will go secure in the future.
Following on from my previous post showing the Australia/Melbourne race result, here is Round 2 of the Forumla 1 in Malaysia at the weekend. A somewhat extended race being red flagged while the thunder, lightening and heavy rain passed, it was the drivers toward the back of the top 10 who went on to take 1st and 2nd.
Last week I spoke at a conference on digital marketing around the topic of putting data, and more importantly the insights from that data at the heart of your digital marketing strategy and how doing so would help increase sales and ROI.
Research should form the foundation of any digital marketing strategy, without it you’re placing yourself on unstable ground, adopting a Mad Men guess work approach to marketing rather than leveraging all the powerful insights that can be gleamed from the large amounts of data available to us.
Understand the audience: who are they, what do they want, why are they here? Creating personas around your typical user can help you understand your audience. For example if you have an audience of middle aged women from India you’ll likely implement a different strategy than if you have an audience of young men in their 20’s from North America.
Understand their behaviour: demographics and socio economic data can only take you so far, what is of real interest is how people behave. What language do they use online, does it match the language you’re speaking on your site? Categorising and performing cluster analysis on the user data allows us to delve deep into the data and pull out nuggets of insight that help uncover niche interests that competitors may not be targeting but are of interest to your customers.
Ever since I can remember I’ve been passionate about Formula 1 so, with the kick-off of the 2012 season I thought about combining my passion for the sport with my love for design and come up some infographics around each of the races and the results to show how creative can be applied to a multitude of content sources, not just research results. Check out the first from this year’s Australian GP – I’ll be circulating throughout the series so we can see the final results altogether in a final summary of the 2012 races – stay tuned!
Developments are afoot once more for Google, with a new format for the integration of Google+ searches making its way onto our screens. This new format means that brands on Google+ can now occupy a much larger proportion of the search results screen than they did previously. This appears to be a simple progression of the new Search Plus Your World update that we discussed back in January which primarily sees the Google+ page recommendations/latest posts appear at the top right of the screen as opposed to its previous location within the search listings.
What does this mean for your SEO strategy?
For businesses on Google+ this is going to become key for your natural search strategy as appearing in the top right of search results (in a space usually reserved for paid search ads) will mean more visibility and an additional place for users to access your social content. It’s also important to note that as with previous Search Plus Your World, this format change is visible even if a user isn’t signed in to their Google+ account meaning it will reach a far greater audience than was previously possible.
In October 2011, Google made an announcement regarding a change to encrypted search queries within Google.com. This involves an SSL encryption protocol which is automatically applied to all users logged in to Google (Gmail, Google+ etc.) and also searches made directly via https://www.google.com (notice the ‘s’ in the URL).
While the secure protocol was not a new feature in Google, the latest update meant that all searches via the secure server would no longer pass keyword referral data. While Google’s announcement initially suggested this was to protect users’ privacy, the SEO community speculated whether Google’s intent was otherwise.
What was particularly suspicious about the update was that the secure keyword data would remain available for paid search referrals, suggesting that Google were intending to encourage paid search, rather than protect users’ privacy. While other sources suggested that privacy was a genuine concern, with the Google+ API allowing webmasters to track search queries down specifically to any individual.
How does it affect us?
Since the update, analytics packages have returned encrypted keyword data as ‘not provided’, while other keywords appear to dip in visits. With the update only implemented on Google.com, US sites have taken the biggest hit, while UK sites have been affected on smaller scale until now…
On 5th March 2012, Google announced that this feature will be pushed out across their localised domains as well, affecting referrals from Google UK as well as Google.com. The announcement states that this will be introduced “over the next few weeks”; therefore UK sites should see an impact by the end of March.
UK webmasters should expect to see a further increase in traffic filed under the keyword ‘not provided’, which Google’s Matt Cutts “estimated even at full roll-out, this would still be in the single-digit percentages.” Although, external research into the impact on US sites shows the average figures to be closer to 11%.
What to do?
With secure keyword referrals returning ‘not provided’, all websites will lose a fraction of keyword data, which is unavoidable. However, there are various ways to make use of the data such as sorting visits by landing page, to determine what keywords may have contributed towards the unknown data. This is particularly useful for websites where individual landing pages correlate closely with specific keywords. In cases where more than 20% of data is being lost and it is having a significantly negative impact, iCrossing suggests that further actions should be taken to make the most of the lost keyword data.
As Twitter has recently hit 500 million registered users and Google+ now has 90 million users, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the demographic makeup of each of the major social networks to see if certain types of people gravitate to a particular social network.
Looking at UK traffic data for the four social networks, Facebook is unsurprisingly way out in front with over 10x as many unique visitors as Google+. What is worth noting however is Twitters continued growth over the last 12 months, growing over 60% (Jan 2011 vs Jan 2012).
Facebook may get the most traffic but perhaps it doesn’t do as well with user engagement, maybe people spend less time on site, or come back less often? Not the case, looking at the stats above we can see that Facebook also
Today’s changes to Google’s privacy policies (or, the singular ‘policy’ from March 1st) have prompted a wide debate in the media regarding how companies such as Google collect and utilise users’ data.
Google have taken great strides to reassure customers about the new privacy changes, going as far as to launch a media campaign of their own – Good to Know – in partnership with the Citizens Advice Bureau. However, at a time that online privacy has been making major news in the U.S, and new EU cookie legislation, that has already technically been introduced, is raising awareness of web-tracking processes, it is no surprise this unification of privacy policies are a cause for concern for some. France’s privacy watchdog CNIL have already launched a Europe-wide investigation into the legality of the move.
Even though there has been a lot of speculation during the past year or so, about social signals influencing rankings, it was just yesterday that one of the two major search engines shed some more light on what that means from a search engine’s technical standpoint.
Rangan Majumder, Bing’s principal group program manager, defined the new SEO formula during a session at SMX West 2012 which took place in San Jose, California as:
Rank = Authority + Quality of keyword match + Personal preference + Social preference
The first two factors, link equity and keyword relevance have been the main ranking signals for search engines for over decade. However, Rangan, went on giving more details on how Bing perceives the other two factors:
- How much do we think a user will like your content?
- We look at user’s past behaviour with your content or content similar to yours, their likes, and more.
- How much do we think a user’s social graph will like your content?
- We look at a user’s friend’s past behaviour with your content or content similar to yours, their likes and more.
Bing’s representative confirmed that they look at how much (they think) a user will like the content based on past behaviour and his/her likes. Or, in other words that, authority is no longer just link authority but social authority, too. Google, in the meantime, has taken a series of actions recently, which seems to have similar characteristics to Bing’s new SEO formula.
Content often defies the law of gravity; we’ve all seen cases where something innocently placed within the confines of a website goes viral, takes on a life of its own and flies off into the ether.
Whilst these instances can be meticulously planned, more often than not it takes website owners by surprise. To capitalise on the opportunities exponential traffic can bring your way and to make a guesstimate about which content might have wings, it’s important to understand the various environments within which content may exist.
- Content Troposphere – Where things remains close to the core
Content is what keeps your website alive, allowing it to breathe and allowing those looking in to understand your species. Even if visitors have come from many light-years away, this is where they will carry out their interactions and transactions with you, so the content portraying your brand needs to be solid as a rock.
Become a content cosmonaut: The most appealing websites are those which offer a different way of absorbing what can often be standard information. Give all your content a sense of style, from the privacy policies to the press releases.
- Content Stratosphere – Where you’ll experience strong jet streams
Translating company knowledge into interesting content about your products and services is a vital tactic for wide message disbursement. It isn’t about you or what you want to say, it’s about what your audience wants to hear – the key to success is delivering content at the right frequency, in the right format and through the right channels.
Become a content cosmonaut: Treat your customers as individuals and attempt to tailor their experiences as often as possible throughout your website journey with dynamic content placement.
Sign up for email notifications of Connect blog posts.
- Connect – iCrossing U.K.
- Conecta2 – iCrossing LATAM & Spain
- Greatfinds – iCrossing U.S.
- Talblick – iCrossing Germany