• Adwords Changes for 2016

    Google announced some significant Adwords changes during the Google Performance Summit in May.  While they have not given any specific dates for the updates to roll out it is well worth getting familiar with the new concepts.

    Some Adwords Stats and Why Mobile is Everything

    Most of the statistics that Google provide are specific to the US market. However, the UK follows the same trends and much of what they have experimented with the big US retailers they also trailed here in the UK.

    image of mobile phone with search During the Performance, Summit Google stated that they handle at least 2 trillion searches per year,  although they don’t give any breakdown to that figure.  However, it is known that more than half those searches happen on mobile.  Which is massive for Adwords when you consider that the Adwords platform is a little over 15 years old and was built in a “desktop” age.

    Additionally nearly half of all mobile searches on Google are location related.  Location searches are growing at a faster rate than other mobile queries.

    Think about people searching for “…. near me.”

    So all of these changes have the mobile user/experience at their heart.  In early 2016 Google removed the adverts that were displayed on the right-hand side of the page.  Instead of showing 3 or 4 adverts at the top and three at the bottom of the page.  This change was specifically aimed at harmonising the desktop/tablet/mobile experience.

    Adwords Changes for 2016

    Expanded Text Ads

    The format of the text ad has not significantly changed since the inception of Adwords.  Currently, the text ad is made up of:

    • 25 character headline
    • Two 35 character description lines
    • The display URL
    • Optional extensions.

    The new Adwords text format consists of:

    • Two 30 character headlines
    • One 80 character description line
    • The display URL
    • Optional extensions

    In effect, many text adverts already had two headlines as with the correct use of punctuation it has been possible to show the headline and description line 1 on the same line.  However, the available advert text moves up from a possible 95 characters to 140.

    new text ad following Adwords changes
    New ad format showing increased space

    This is a huge change and will make bidding for the top 2 positions more important than ever.  Currently, the search results page for a competitive search term contains four adverts at the top of the page.  Assuming that remains the same the extra space that the new text ads take up will push everything else right to the bottom of a mobile screen.

    No doubt Google will test this new format, but they expect it to roll out later this year.  That has to mean in the next few months as it’s highly unlikely they would make such a significant change immediately before the main shopping seasons.

    This means recreating ad creatives across entire campaigns.

    Responsive Display Ads

    Many small advertisers keep clear of display ads, partly because of the perceived complexity of selecting Ads creatives and sizing options.

    In future advertisers will only have to provide one Image, the ad text (headline and description) and the target URL.  Google will take care of how the advert displays on different devices.

    image showing The New Google Display Avderts
    The New Google Display Adverts

    Specific Bid Adjustments for Device Types

    There has been an argument for creating specific campaigns for mobile rather than using the existing bid adjustments.  Whether that is right or not probably depends on the point of view and circumstances.

    In future, Google will allow you to bid more or less for desktop, tablet or mobile.  The adjustment range is increased to 900%.  So instead of having to gear the bid adjustments against desktop it will be possible to structure the bids relative to each device.

    Local Ads for Google Maps

    As so many mobile searchers have a local intent, it makes sense start including advertising within Google maps (promoted pins).  This changes leverages the existing local extensions, but also expanding the information available to searchers from within maps.  Aside from business location, and opening times it will also be possible to check stock levels and see special offers.

    image showing a promoted pin on google maps
    Promoted pins and business pages on Google maps.

    How will these Adwords changes affect Small Businesses

    Theses changes are possibly the most significant updates to the Adwords platform since the system was created in 2000; reflecting how the internet is used in the mobile age.

    The Adwords interface is also undergoing a redesign, although don’t expect to see that live for quite some time.  It’s a massive undertaking, and while a demo was shown at the event, likelihood is that it won’t be widely available until the end of 2017.

    While the system does allow business owners to manage their accounts, the frequency of Adwords changes highlight the importance of employing an Adwords Specialist, especially for advertisers in highly competitive markets.

    Images are screenshots taken from the Innovations Keynote speech.

  • Quick Basic Overview About WordPress and Themes

    WordPress is not just a blog, there is no reason why a WordPress installation cannot manage just about any type of business or personal website.

    The addition of a plugin, and if you’re prepared to learn a little CSS or PHP you can transform any theme into a unique piece of web real estate.

    WordPress can be found in two incarnations: the “hosted” version available from WordPress.com and the self-hosted version from WordPress.org.

    • The hosted version of WordPress is very quick and easy to set up with plenty of great features and would suit most casual users.  There are some limitations which can be worked around by opting for the premium services.
    • The version of WordPress which offers the greatest flexibility and adaptability is one that you upload on to your own server and take responsibility for configuring and keep up to date.

    To get the best out of WordPress it pays to spend a bit of time finding the right hosting company.  Things have improved greatly over the last few years, but there are still some horror stories about lack of support for upgrades to PHP and MySQL.

    One way to get the most out of the self-hosted version of WordPress is to use a “theme”.  There is a wide variety of themes to choose from, including frameworks.  For example, this site is currently based on the Genesis Framework along with a modified free theme.  The Thesis theme is equally good and to be honest you would be hard pressed to say that one is better than the other.   However, it also pays to be slightly cautious.

    What happens when a developer stops supporting a theme

    One example of this is the Semiologic Theme.  Semiologic was available in two versions, the free semiologic theme or the paid for semiologicpro.  Both were essentially a theme which adds a great deal to WordPress.  I tend to refer to the paid for version of the theme as “Semiologic” and identify the free theme where appropriate.

    The main selling point for Semiologic was the work that Denis had done behind-the-scenes for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and improvements to the availability of some of the more complex aspects of WordPress.    A few years ago quite simply anyone could launch a professional looking website and know that the basic best practices have been taken care of on their site.

    Unfortunately, Denis has not been very proactive in making sure that Semiologic says compatible with the latest versions of WordPress.  At last count, the pro version was having minor problems with WordPress and is broken as far as WordPress 3.42 is concerned.  Anyone still running a site on Semiologic is running a huge security risk.

    Update, as of February 2018 the semiologic website no longer exists.  Just like Nokia and Betamax, being really good isn’t always a guarantee of longevity.