Google Is Prioritizing Mobile, Are You?

By Jason Bauman

Google's material design focuses on mobileYesterday, Google announced the release of Android 5.0, which they call Lollipop.  While the mobile operating system brings a wealth of new features to the platform, it also marks the first major rollout of Google’s new design language.

First unveiled at the search giant’s developer conference, “material design” is their solution to the evolving internet landscape, one increasingly dominated by mobile devices.  The design principles have existed for months, but this Android release will be the first time most consumers see it in practice.

What Is Material Design

Material design was made so that designers could build attractive content that would seamlessly transition between screen sizes and operating systems. Google details specific best practices at Google.com/design, but there are three essential features of the design language:

  • Material as a metaphor – Google drew inspiration for material design from traditional print media and how layers of paper and the ink on them could overlap to create a cohesive visual look. Instead of relying on any false realism, known as “skeuomorphism,” they built a completely digital language around the idea of having content layered, like pages on a table.
  • Bold, graphic, and Intentional – Instead of gradients and subtle transitions, the language relies on contrasting colors and using color to create hierarchy and focus.
  • Motion gives meaning – By using meaningful transitions in your design, you can create an interactive experience for your customers without worrying that it will distract them from your content.

Most importantly, material design is a mobile first perspective.  While the content will transition well to desktop screens, it signifies that Google considers future user interaction to come primarily from touch screen/mobile interfaces.

Mobile eCommerce Optimization

An Example Of a retail site built with Material Design

Material design is bold and the search giant’s own products look fantastic when they’re updated to it, but what about ecommerce sites?  While every aspect of the language may not transition well into a retail site environment, there are several compelling reasons to consider it the next time you decide to give your storefront a facelift.

One of the core design features is the idea that you’re building one page for multiple devices.  Instead of a trying to display the content differently on different screens, the language encourages adaptive designs.  This can potentially save your webmasters hours of coding time and you won’t have to update your mobile display every time Apple released a new iPhone.

The bold colors and focus on typography can create an attractive experience for your customers, one that allows you to clearly display content without risking your users becoming overwhelmed by additional information.

Finally, the language prioritizes fast, fluid designs.  The bold, attractive color schemes allow you to optimize your website for speed while still providing a rich, interactive environment for visitors.

The Future Is Mobile

Google is fully committing to a mobile first environment.  In fact, their research data already shows that up to 75% of holiday shoppers plan to use their mobile devices while hunting for the perfect gift.  Smartphones are more affordable than ever, so this number should only increase with every passing season.

Material design gives your webmasters a set of best practices for building an attractive, adaptive design.  More importantly, it will help create a pleasant experience for your customers, no matter what device they’re browsing from.

 

Nail Down Your Marketing Budget Through Audience Segmentation

By John Nicholson

It’s very important to note that digital spend is expected to rise significantly in 2015. Specifically, areas like content development, organic search and social media should see the sharpest increase. On the other hand, according to the Econsultancy Marketing Budgets 2014 Report, 15% of brands intend to decrease their Paid Search and Online Media investments. One of the largest problems facing a content-driven, socially-minded marketing strategy is measurement — naturally, these strategies don’t lend themselves to hard-boiled conversion numbers.

This is an interesting shift in the landscape that should prove integral to the way budgets are assessed through 2015. Now let’s take a look at how audience segmentation could play a likewise notable role.

Think About Individual Impact

Interestingly — though not altogether surprisingly — just few content creators and contributors hold the key to influencing a large majority of your target audience. In fact, the Econsultancy study found that 3% of individuals draw 90% of the impact. That’s somewhat astounding. But that data point goes hand-in-hand with another, less bombastic one: most of the target audience only engages within a small circle of family and friends. Beyond that, their impact is minuscule.

Find and Award Your Target Audience’s Influencers

These individuals can be a great benefit to your brand because their opinions and perspectives hold weight among other like-minded consumers. With a single blog post or social update, these influencers can sway your target audience one way or another. Building relationships with these people will 1) increase your online presence for the better, and 2) strengthen your brand’s consumer values and tighten your  relationship with them.

Get a Grasp on Social Media

For users and brands, social media has become pretty much ubiquitous in our everyday lives. From feature films with Twitter hashtag campaigns to local delis with Instagram accounts and targeted Facebook ads, social platforms have been a bastion of marketing for years. And chances are your target audience is socially present. Find your niche and make the strides to champion your brand; it’ll pay off. Though it’s impossible to measure conversion through social channels, it is possible to measure engagement, reach and interaction.

 

New 2014 Holiday Season Shopping Habits, Trends & Data

By Morgan Tombler

As retailers begin to gear up for the holiday season, new data suggest that consumers are getting ready as well.

Google recently released data from research of online and offline consumer shopping habits during the holiday season. We’ve rounded up the quick hits that you need to know to better understand your customers and stay ahead of the competition this year.

We’re researching and shopping all night long
One third of all shopping-related Google queries are taking place between 10 PM and 4 AM. This shouldn’t come as a surprise though. As online shopping becomes more affordable and convenient for everyone, consumers are more likely to spend extended periods of time making sure we get the right present or product.

Black Friday no longer takes place overnight
The times of camping out for door buster deals instead of eating turkey with your family are over. Online retailers are now offering deals throughout the whole month of November, with one of the most popular days being Cyber Monday. Check out Google’s calendar of 2013’s biggest in-store and online shopping days below.

Most popular shopping days of 2013

Source: Google Adwords Blog

26% of surveyed shoppers said they’ll start researching their purchases before Halloween. Moreover, the ways in which consumers are doing their research is continually increasing. Shoppers were reported as to using 5 sources of information prior to making a purchase in 2010. In 2013, the number of sources jumped to at least 12.

Moreover, the ways in which consumers are doing their research are shifting. Though magazine reviews and ratings may still be relevant, the hottest new way shoppers are searching out opinions are YouTube product unboxing or “haul” videos. As evidence of this, views for these videos has nearly doubled since last year. Also, these videos aren’t just being viewed while lounging on the couch or sitting behind a desk; a quarter of shoppers surveyed said they view YouTube videos while considering a product inside of a store.

haul-video-views

Smart Phones are the new sales associate

Google’s research showed that 75% of shoppers with smartphones planned on using them in-store during the holiday season. While shoppers historically came to the store with questions for sales associates, consumers are walking in being more informed than ever. And even when shoppers do have questions, it was reported that a third will use their phones instead of asking for assistance from workers. However, just because consumers are relying on their phones more does not mean they are less likely to make a purchase. Just under 50% of consumers that use their phones in-store still buy the product, which is an 11% increase from 2011.

Links to the full research can be found here.

67% of all Click-Throughs Occur in First 5 Links of SERPs

By Jessica Herbine

Turns out, there is some truth to the old SEO joke that goes, “The best place to hide a dead body is on page 2 of Google.” In July 2014, Advanced Web Ranking measured and compared the click-through rates from the Webmaster Tools search queries reports of large client accounts. Their findings were presented at SMX East and included data on CTR as they pertain to mobile, branded, non-branded queries and more. However, the most significant discovery reported was that that pages two and three of the SERPs received only a measly 5.59% of all click-throughs.

Though search engines are powerful enough to deliver hundreds of millions of hits for short and long-tail queries, users are only interested in the first few results to pop up. In fact, while an average of 71.33% of clicks were of organic results from page one, 67.60% were click-throughs to the first five links listed. If only some 3% of clicks were to pages in positions 6 through 10, you have to wonder at how many or how few impressions your brand or clients are receiving when ranking below the fold – or worse, on page two. In years past, these positions might have been lauded. But now we’re left to wonder: if a URL ranks on page four of the SERPs, and no one is around to view it, does it have any impact at all?

CTRs

Click-through-rate by exact position

 

Google Ditches PLAs, Focus on Optimizing for Google Shopping

By Katherine Pietrangelo

Logo_2013_Google

If there’s one thing you can say about Google, it’s that they certainly like to keep things moving. With the recent phasing out of Product Listing Ads (PLAs), Google is trying to focus more on a deeper and more integrated Google Shopping experience.

In a recent study, it was found that Google Shopping feeds outperformed PLAs through increased revenue, ROI, and order volume.

Perhaps the biggest change from PLA that is concerning merchants is the limit on Custom Labels. Retailers are now allowed a maximum of 5 Custom Labels that are designed to make segmenting and organizing products easier.

To keep your business ahead of the game, it’s a good idea to plan out your custom label plan before you launch your new shopping campaign. One possible label idea is ‘Category-Based’ labels. Category labels make it easier for search engines and customers to delve deeper into your products. Another tactic, ‘Best Sellers/Most Popular’ labels, allows you to showcase your best-selling/highest profit material in your feed. The ‘High/Low Profit Margin Product’ labels let you exclude from your feed products that aren’t performing well, and highlight those that are. Or you could try ‘Sales Status’ labels, which put seasonal and promotional content into their own custom labels and are easier for ad group creation and promotion.

Managing and maintaining a quality data feed is important in the success of your Google Shopping listings. Some qualities of good data feed management are distinguishing product photos and searchable titles and names. Distinguishing product photos set your apart from the competition. Using an interesting photo with different product views will grab the viewer’s attention as they go through the listings. Easily searchable titles and names will increase the chances of a sale. Names like “Tahiti Red” or catalog number product names don’t do well in product searches, as shoppers are more likely to search for “Dark Red Women’s Shirt” and the chances of someone searching for ‘Tahiti Red Women’s Blouse’ or ‘RDSHRTXXS’ are slim to none.

While keeping your Google Shopping feed clean and optimized is extremely valuable, it’s also important to not forget some of the core points that help e-commerce sites rank better such as: scrutinizing your Ad Networks to make sure you’re targeting the right sites for your ads so that they can make the biggest impact, Mobile Responsive Design to make mobile visitors more likely to stay on your site instead of going to a competitor with a better mobile site design, and Testing Date/Time to make sure your ads are reaching the right audiences at the right time.

There’s no “one size fits all” approach to optimizing your Google Shopping data feed, so the best way to find out the right strategy for you is to try them out.

SEO Solutions for Discontinued Products in E-Commerce

By Morgan Tombler

Out-of-stock3 (1)

Due to seasonality, production issues, or who knows what else, many products are discontinued at some point. As an e-commerce store owner or online marketer, you may be pounding your fists and scratching your head if the product had brought tons of traffic to your site. Now what are you supposed to do? Surely, you can’t let all of its SEO value go to waste!

When it comes to finding the right strategy for your site, there are 3 issues to take into consideration:

  • How do I retain or pass on SEO value to other products/pages?
  • How do I improve to help maintain current user experience?
  • How do I use as little 404 redirects as possible?

Read on for our four strategies to dealing with discontinued products in your store.

Option 1: Redirect to Parent Category with Message

The easiest option in terms of user experience and SEO is to simply redirect the user to the product’s category page. This task can be easily automated which will save you time; it will also save your pride if you happen to let a discontinued product slip through the cracks. Do make sure to include a message to the user telling them why he or she has been redirected.

Option 2: Redirect to Blog Post Detailing Product

If you own or work with a small inventory and love to write about your products this may be a great option for you. Create blog posts for all or some of your most popular products and utilize internal linking within the posts. When/if one of the products is discontinued, redirect all visitors to the product’s blog post. Make sure to update the blog with a clear message of why the user is being redirected. This should cut down on user confusion.

Option 3: Redirect to Similar Product with Message

Giving the user information on similar products is very straightforward and logical. However, for some products you may have a hard time finding a replacement if both are seasonally produced. Again, include a message informing the customer why he or she was redirected. Because searching out similar products may have to be done by hand, this option may become time-consuming if your store has high product turnover rates.

Option 4: Create custom 404 Page for Product

In your customer 404 page, you should provide information on the product, why it was discontinued and include information on finding similar products.

 

Conclusion

While it may be a pain dealing with popular discontinued products, the options listed above give you the chance to keep the pages’ SEO value and without harming the user experience.

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