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Google’s organic and paid algorithms can no longer operate independently

Google have always been keen to stress that organic search and paid search results operate completely independent of each other, and generally this is for the right reasons.

They’ve also constantly denied that user signals, in particular CTR, are a ranking signal, despite numerous tests suggesting otherwise.

I don’t envy the engineers who are responsible for evaluating user signals as a quality measure. There are so many  factors to taken into consideration and so much misinformation out there. To give an example, a lot in the industry are fixated on the time-on-site metric, and bounce rate as indicative measures for quality of content. The thinking is that a long session length is a quality measure. This isn’t necessarily true. A short session length and high bounce rate could suggest quick information retrieval, and therefore be a quality signal.

CTR too, is difficult, and assuming this is a ranking signal, there needs to be some connection between organic and paid listings. Through changes over the years, Google have cleverly managed it so that paid search often can be demonstrated to have an incremental effect on performance. Lots of brands will run paid search on generics, and this is likely to reduce the CTR of the organic listing. That reduction in CTR isn’t a reflection on the quality website.

If brands are running paid search, unless organic and paid search algorithms are connected, Google has no robust method to evaluate CTR as a quality signal.  The algorithms need to be connected, and the long standing position of their disconnected status needs to be re-evaluated.

Sing it Kitty – New Campaign from Three – #singitkitty

Sing it Kitty


Three Mobile today launched their new Sing it Kitty campaign. The creative was produced by Wieden and Kennedy and features a girl riding through her town with a cat in the front basket. It follows the successful Pony campaign from last year.  The micro site allows users to create their own user generated content, placing their face into the advert. You can view the Sing it Kitty video on You Tube.

Future of Mobile Infographic from Three Mobile

Three Mobile have put together an infographic looking at the future of mobile on the back of some OnePoll research. There are some interesting statistics to highlight:

  • * Tablet adoption rate is set to nearly double in three years to 53%
  • * In four years time, there will be an explosion of 4g connections (10x!)
  • * By 2017 there will be transactions of $721bn on mobile devices
  • * That’s an impressive 50% of all transactions

For the past five years, the next year was touted to be the year of mobile. There can be no doubt that it’s now happened. Google reckoned 2013 would be the first year when mobile traffic would over take desktop traffic. Here at Havas Media Group, we’ve seen it happen for the first time on a couple of accounts last month, January 2014. Here a preview of the infographic, click on it to see the full version.

Future of Mobile

SEOs rejoice! Is Apple now passing the refer in iOS 6?

When Apple first launched iOS 6, it caused a bit of an uproar among digital marketers. Depending on how an iOS 6 user searches in Google, it used to be the case that the refer would not always be passed. If the search box in the top right was used, no refer would be passed and the organic traffic would be incorrectly attributed as direct.

This had big implications when tracking campaign performance, as iOS 6 accounts for around 30% of traffic, resulting in approximately 15% of overall traffic being misattributed.

This week, Searchengineland reported that on the latest version, iOS 7, Apple was again passing the refer. But does this now apply to iOS 6 too? That’s what our data at Arena suggests.

Using various iPhones running iOS 6 in the office at Arena, our tests consistently show the refer being passed. Next, we looked at the web analytics of our clients.

Case study one: This client receives 1m+ visits monthly to their website. Gradually, over the past few months, the proportion of their keywords which are encrypted (represented by the green line) has gradually increased. However, since the 30th July, the proportion of encrypted keywords has jumped by 6% in just one day. This is consistent with our observation as, even though a refer is passed, no keyword is passed within it.


When we investigated the web analytics in more depth, we saw a decline in direct traffic.

Case study two: Again, this client receives 1m+ visits monthly. Assuming that the change was made on the 29th, Arena looked at the amount of traffic attributed to organic search on iOS 6 devices and compared it to the same period in the previous week; the amount of organic iOS 6 traffic increased by 50%. Overall traffic was flat period on period, while, as you might expect, direct traffic fell.

As the SEO channel matures, the need for data to support the business case for investment increases. This change will certainly help that cause, and is great news for digital marketers.

SEO Seminar – Measuring Enterprise Level SEO

In June Arena hosted a SEO Seminar at the Soho Hotel. I was one of the speakers and I chose the topic of how to properly measure SEO. Over the past few months I’ve encountered a lot of SEOs who sadly have no consideration for issues such encrypted search and iOS6. It’s especially timely given that Firefox are now fully supporting Do Not Track (DNT) so looks like the on going battle to get data is set to continue. You can view the bulk of my talk below, otherwise see the rest of the videos here.  

0 to 60mph quickly! Seeing a SEO campaign pay dividends.

There are few things as rewarding as just seeing traffic going up every week in Google Analytics. Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the details. We forget that just doing the basic elements of search engine optimisation can be lucrative. No need to talk about semantic mark up, or the impact of social as a ranking signal. The most powerful thing a SEO can do is actually to do some SEO. Hot air isn’t a ranking signal (sadly for a lot of people). This is what I’ve been up to the past couple of months.

1) Find a moderate volume keyword to rank for

This took a few good hours to be fair. If the average est CPC in Adwords is greater than £20 that usually means those in the paid positions are monetising the traffic really well. A challenge is to get a good balance between competitiveness and volume. No good trying to rank for something that will take months when all I want is fairly instant gratification.

2) Spend weekend  building a website

This is usually WordPress. Create some page templates and spend the rest of the day breaking and fixing stylesheets. Absolutely love the developer tools as part of Chrome.

3) Spend another weekend creating content

I find this one of the most difficult tasks. I don’t spin or scrape any content. I actually research the area and then write up some decentish content. As time goes on, I’ll slowly see the bounce rate drop.

4) Spend further weekend linkbuilding. 

When linkbuilding really quickly, I like to mitigate the risk of tripping any filters by leading primarily with brand/URL anchor text. The bulk of my backlink profile will predominately be like this, about 90% and when I get a really high authority/trust link, I’ll opt for some money anchor text.

5) See traffic to the site grow

Frequently check Google Analytics, and occasionally even watch it in real time.

6) Start making £1k per week from the site.

Open a bottle of champagne and book a holiday in the Canary Islands. Good work, job done.



Doesn’t look too shoddy in Searchmetrics either…




Dance Pony Dance – New Advert from Three Mobile #danceponydance


This week Three mobile launched a new brand campaign. You can view the dancing pony  advert on their website. The telecom have rolled out an Ultrafast network meaning you can get near 4G speeds without the hefty price. Their TV campaign has gone viral, clocking up over 700,000 views in the first few days on Youtube alone. It comes off a back of research the company did that sought to find out what people like to share online and with who. Turns out people simply like to share ‘silly stuff’ and the brand has made a contribution to that!

HTC One X 4.1 Jelly Bean Update 3G/ Mobile Data Problems

I figured that I would post this to help out anyone that may have encountered a similar problem this evening. I was most glad to see that an update was available for the One X – finally 4.1 was becoming available to SIM free handsets like mine. However, after successfully updating, I realized I wasn’t getting any mobile data or 3G connection. Using search engines, I wasn’t able to find anyone else with this problem or reporting it at least.

I did however find a solution. If you go to settings, then select ‘mobile data’ (not the on/off slider) you’ll get an array of options. Then select ‘access points’, then select your network (in my case everything everywhere). Boom, 3G connection restored!

Data Plan Infographic from Three Mobile

This new infographic from Three provides a visual representation of  what you can do with your phone when on a 1GB data plan versus all-you-can-eat. Many consumers do not fully understand data, for instance, relatively few consumers really have a grasp of how much data streaming video has versus social networking. Visit Three for their full range of mobile phones.

All-you-can-eat-data vs 1GB data allowance


Which webpages are making you money?

Yesterday I generated four iGaming players from 15 clicks. That’s great, however with the data that was available to me, I had no idea which pages on my website was sending the clicks that were driving converting clicks.

I have event tracking labels on all of my outbound affiliate links, so in Google Analytics I can drill down to some level to understand what keywords and landing pages are driving those sales, but beyond that, on my affiliate portals, I cant tell which traffic my site gets actually converts.

So I thought, wouldn’t be great if I could see which pages on my affiliate website were the clicks that converted?

  1. On affiliate portals, create a different campaign URL for each of your main landing pages
  2. Cloak each URL using .htaccess
  3. Replace all of your outgoing links with variables
  4. In a PHP file, set a URL variable using the  $_SERVER function
  5. Write conditional statements that set the outgoing link based on matching the URL function
  6. BOOM!
Following this methodology, I can now break down my iGaming accounts and see of the pages that are driving clicks, which ones (and therefore what traffic) is actually making me sales.