You have a web site that sells trinkets and then you decide you want to expand your business but handing over those products to the behemoth e-commence site, Amazon. So you upload your products to the Amazon Marketplace and then all of a sudden, Amazon is outranking you for all your product queries. Surprise, surprise – what did you expect?
John Mueller from Google was asked about this question this morning on Twitter and responded with a poll on how you’d like Google to handle it. The question was “if we are uploading same product catalogue on Amazon/marketplaces and also on our own e-comm website, will this impact our ranking?” John Mueller’s respond was kind of funny, because he spent the time creating a Twitter poll.
He said “What do you expect to happen in search? What would you expect as a user?” He offered these options (a) I love seeing double, (b) I prefer diverse answers or (c) I would like a cold beer.
What do you expect to happen in search? What would you expect as a user?
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) July 31, 2018
That is John saying – Google can only rank one web site in the first position.
Forum discussion at Twitter.
There is the saying “do as I say, not as I do.” That is often the case in which Google prefers you to listen to their advice versus watch their actions. When Google AdWords redirected to Google Ads and used a 302 redirect, which is still the type of redirect in place, that would be one of those examples. AdWords has permanently changing to Google Ads, so why a temporary redirect?
Another example is when Google Maps moved from maps.google.com to google.com/maps, again a 302 redirect. Or when Google webmaster tools, well, it is still undergoing, moved from a google.com/webmasters and is moving to subdomain at https://search.google.com/search-console.
Again, do as we say, not as we do.
Why does this happen? Well, John Mueller of Google said on Twitter that often these decisions are not coming from the SEO team but rather the PMs (project managers) or other people in the company. This is a decision made by PMs, marketing, & security policies and not SEO and thus, we should not always just blindly follow what others are doing, even Google.
John said: “you’d be surprised (or maybe it’s just like most other companies) how these decisions usually aren’t driven by SEO.”
Here is the tweet:
You’d be surprised (or maybe it’s just like most other companies) how these decisions usually aren’t driven by SEO, but rather PMs, marketing, & security policies. It makes it fun to see what external folks read into it though :-).
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) July 31, 2018
So if you think you should move from a subdomain to a subfolder or use a 302 over a 301 – it doesn’t mean Google is doing this because it is their best SEO bet – it was just a decision made for one of many other reasons.
Forum discussion at Twitter.
The other day, Gary Illyes from Google posted on Twitter that they spent over 30 minutes reviewing hreflang codes with MENA, EU, ASIA, etc. region codes and confirmed “they are not working” as expected. In short, Google uses hreflang for countries not for regions.
Gary said “we don’t extract a language even from something like fr-eu, let alone use it in ranking.” “our current infrastructure is not capable of understanding regions, just countries and in some cases metros,” he added. Why not? Why shouldn’t Google figure out regions within countries?
Gary said he doesn’t think it is useful. He said he is actually “also skeptical about the merits of introducing this”.” If you place markup like es-latam on a page, does that mean Brazil and French Guiana should get a Spanish page? There’s also no one language for EU or Asia, and defaulting to one is not necessarily good for users,” he added.
Here are the tweets:
We spent over half an hour with @suzukik looking at hreflang examples with MENA, EU, ASIA, etc. region codes in hreflang and I’m happy to report they are not working. We don’t extract a language even from something like fr-eu, let alone use it in ranking. pic.twitter.com/SCmLzxvDJC
— Gary “鯨理” Illyes (@methode) July 25, 2018
I’m also skeptical about the merits of introducing this. If you place markup like es-latam on a page, does that mean Brazil and French Guiana should get a Spanish page? There’s also no one language for EU or Asia, and defaulting to one is not necessarily good for users. 2/2
— Gary “鯨理” Illyes (@methode) July 26, 2018
Here are some more tweets from Googlers on the topic:
Having 1 URL with multiple hreflang is fine, I don’t see a problem with that (other than maintenance on your end). Having tons of URLs for each hreflang just “dilutes” the value of your content, I’d avoid that. Gotta know when to localize, and when to fold together.
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) July 25, 2018
If the language / location doesn’t match any of the known pairs, we have to determine the most relevant one ourselves – it’s undefined.
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) July 25, 2018
That’s simply bad targeting. Those countries in your example were the motivators for coming up with hreflang in the first place. Hreflang solves it in search results if correctly implemented
— Gary “鯨理” Illyes (@methode) July 26, 2018
This may be why Google considers hreflang one of the most complex topics in SEO.
Forum discussion at Twitter.
Let’s just admit it, we live in an automated, machine learning world.
It’s time to embrace that, celebrate it, and figure out how to do PPC the best we can in this brave new world.
I’m all for better PPC automation!
However, this post isn’t about machine learning (ML).
As good as ML is, it still has weaknesses, particularly when it comes to data quality.
What’s the best way to destroy your Google or Bing Ads account?
Feed a machine bad data, sic it on the account bids, and walk away.
To be fair, that’s not the machine’s fault, it needs good data to make the right decisions… one key difference being machine learning doesn’t (yet) have the intelligence to suspect the data itself. It just uses whatever is plugged into it, darn the consequences.
The reason this is relevant to my post today is that because we don’t all manage accounts with great data, or enough data, or the money to invest in a great machine learning platform (for whatever we’re trying to do).
In other words, there are still those of us who need to bid well based on manual parameters, AND even for those utilizing automated bidding, it behooves us to understand how bidding rules work behind the scenes.
The machines aren’t magic, they’re just utilizing basic algorithms.
We’re going to investigate bidding practices, and then look at two ways to create your own bidding rules within the Google or Bing Ads UI.
Before digging into unique bidding rules, let’s look at a few basics of bidding.
1. You only really have two objectives in mind when making a bidding decision.
This is simplified, but I think it’s worth pointing out to prevent us from getting too lost in data paralysis.
Objective 1: Decrease bids on low performing entities (keywords/product groups/etc).
Objective 2: Increase bids on high performing entities.
Admittedly, there are complexities that work into each of those.
How much should we adjust bids?
What is to determine what is a low performing entity?
Are we tracking LTV or just utilizing the immediate data we have access to?
These are important questions, but really at the core of what we’re trying to do is one of two things:
Should we adjust bids on these terms and, if so, should we adjust them higher or lower?
Don’t get so caught up in everything else that you are paralyzed from making a decision here.
2. You need to focus on the right data to make a bidding decision.
Data collection just isn’t as big a problem as it was previously.
“I’m a data-driven marketer!” Congratulations, you and all the rest of us.
We get it by now, we need data. But the person with the most data doesn’t win.
There is no one that I am aware of handing out awards to the person with the largest server warehouse for their internal data (if they were, it undoubtedly would look like this trophy).
It isn’t primarily about data quantity (though we do need enough data to make a good decision), it’s about data quality.
We need to identify which data points we need to focus on to make a good bidding decision.
Here’s where I think many of us (especially newb) PPCers can stumble over our data.
We have access to a lot of data in our Google Ads and Bing Ads UI’s.
In fact, I challenge you to add every possible keyword column into Google Ads… I did and I got 99 (I’m curious if someone gets another number besides that?).
If you’re analyzing 100 keywords, that’s almost 10,000 data points to mine through. Good luck with that.
Here’s where the rubber meets the road though with creating smart bidding rules/algos. Take our two objectives (lowering/raising) and factor in these elements into your account.
What Is the Right Data for a Bidding Decision?
Is There Enough Traffic?
In this question, you are analyzing data points such as impressions, clicks, or spend that ensures you have enough data to make a good decision.
If you can’t get enough data for this point, then the best way to fix this is to push your lookback window further. Try 30 days instead of 7, 180 instead of 60…etc.
Is It Affordable?
This is a tricky one, but I like to keep an eye on general CPCs and average positions here. This is tough because those are averages, and averages generally suck.
However, it can be helpful to create filters for CPCs in, let’s say Product Groups in Shopping Ads since higher CPCs don’t always guarantee higher profits (often-times the other way).
Is It Profitable?
This is the one we’re all most aware of.
Lead gen client? You will likely want to analyze CPA (cost / conv) based on lead (or even better, based on your CRM if you have one).
Ecommerce? Think through a good attribution model, incorporate it into your account, and then consider making bid adjustments based on ROAS (this isn’t always the best answer for Ecommerce bidding, FYI… specifically in Top of Funnel terms and products!).
What is happening in the market? You can’t just bid in a vacuum. Your bidding is impacted by, and actually impacts, the other advertisers in the space.
I think including Search Impression Share (and other competitive metrics) is essential for great bidding.
The quick and easy explanation of Search Impression Share is that it tells you what percentage of impressions you’re actually getting compared to the number of impressions you could be getting.
This is a big one and what I want to focus on next in this article. Keep reading!
Creating Bid Rules with Impression Share in Mind
Here’s how we’re going to take this post and turn it into action in your account.
We’ll utilize Filters in Google or Bing Ads and make our own bidding rules, and also illustrate how to layer on impression share bidding in the mix.
Tip: Save these filters when you’re done, and you can easily pull the same “rules” each week or every time you want to run them!
Bid Rule 1: Decreasing Bids on Low Performing Entities
In this example, we are looking for product groups in Shopping campaigns on which we’re over-bidding, but aren’t converting.
Cost > $100: This makes sure we only look at product groups with enough data to take action on.
CPC > $4.00: We have some product groups where CPCs have gotten a little high, let’s start there.
Conversion value / Cost (ROAS) < 2: Even though we’ve sent a bit of money through these products and we’re bidding high, they aren’t profitable.
Search Impression Share > 90%: Looks like we aren’t profitable on these products, but they are showing in almost every eligible search. We’ve proven that these particular product groups don’t do well in their auctions, and we should consider reinvesting that budget elsewhere.
Based on this, we can take this list of highly curated products, and lower all bids by 25 percent.
You just found products you’re spending too much money on where you have room to drop without impacting other products.
Congratulations, let’s move to the next rule example.
Bid Rule 2: Increasing Bids on High Performing Entities
In this example, we’re looking for product groups in Shopping campaigns that we are under-bidding on and that are converting well (like this cheesy stock photo of two winners).
Cost > $100: This again makes sure we only look at product groups with enough data to take action on.
Conversions > 3: This is important because it means you aren’t just grabbing products with a random purchase, but these are products with multiple purchases at a great ROAS. Trends are good!
Conversion value / Cost (ROAS) > 4: These product groups are looking great for ROAS!
Search Impression Share < 50%: While we are doing great on these products with conversions, they aren’t showing as often as they could be based on impression share. Great news, that means we can push bids up and still have room in the market to grow!
Based on this, we can take this list of highly curated products, and raise all bids by 25 percent.
You just found products that are making you money, and yet have room to grow in the market.
Now you are a pro bidder and understand everything about bidding philosophy and market share!
Well, OK, not everything.
We’re all on this journey of learning together, but hopefully this has been educational and given you a few good ideas for bidding rules to create in your own accounts.
More Paid Search Resources:
Google’s John Mueller settled a long running debate as to whether keywords in the domain name matter. He also provided four insights about choosing domain names and ranking.
History of Keyword versus Branded Domains
A keyword domain is a domain name with keywords in it (example, BuyWidgets.com). A branded domain is a domain name without the keywords in it (example, Amazon.com).
There was a time when Internet users typed the name of a product or service they wanted. This was called Direct Navigation. This earned ad revenues to those who owned those domains and “parked” them. Parking the domain was setting it up so that the domain names showed ads and only ads.
The search engines helped the keyword domain industry by ranking those parked domain names in the search results. Then in 2011 Google removed parked domains from the search results. The parked domain industry suffered after Google updated its algorithm to remove parked domains. More on this in section 3 below.
Google Offers Four Insights on Keyword Domains
In the course of answering a question in a recent Webmaster Hangout, Google’s John Mueller offered four insights in the ranking power of keyword domain names.
Four Insights into Keyword Domains and Ranking
Keywords domains don’t have a time advantage
Keyword domains don’t rank better
Keywords lost ranking influence years ago
Keyword domains ranked the same as branded domains
1. Keyword Domains Don’t Have a Time Advantage
There is a belief that keyword domains are able to rank better faster than branded domains. But according to Google’s John Mueller, this is not the case.
There is a perceived advantage with obtaining keywords in links through the anchor text. This is something that’s been discussed for years. An argument can be made for and against.
Unfortunately, John Mueller’s statement didn’t address this perceived advantage.
Here’s what John Mueller confirmed:
“…it takes time like any other new website. …Obviously there are lots of websites out there that do rank for the keywords in their domain name. But they worked on this maybe for years and years…”
2. Keywords in Domains Don’t Rank Better
John Mueller was quite firm in asserting that keyword domains do not rank better than branded domains.
“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords.”
There is so much that goes into ranking, like content, user intent for that content as well as links. All of that likely takes significant precedence toward something like keywords in the domain.
While John Mueller didn’t specifically say keywords in the domain name are not a ranking signal, he did affirm that there is no dramatic benefit from having the keywords in the domain name. And that’s an important insight.
3. Keyword Domains Lost Influence Years Ago
John Mueller asserted that keyword domains lost influence years ago.
Here is what John Mueller stated:
“…just because keywords are in a domain name doesn’t mean that it’ll automatically rank for those keywords. And that’s something that’s been the case for a really, really long time.”
This may be a reference to an algorithm update from 2011 (official Google announcement here). In late 2011 Google updated their algorithm to introduced a classifier to remove parked domains from the search results.
A quote from Google’s algorithm update announcement:
“This is a new algorithm for automatically detecting parked domains. Parked domains are placeholder sites with little unique content for our users and are often filled only with ads. In most cases, we prefer not to show them.”
Nevertheless, the idea that keyword domains were better than brand domains continued in the search industry, even though Google was no longer giving a boost to parked keyword domains.
An argument can be made that there is a minimal signal. But there is nothing to lend support to that theory. It’s been a long time since any search engine has published research that included keywords in domains as any kind of signal.
We’re living in a time when keywords in headings (H1, H2) have diminished ranking weight. Current algorithms no longer give extra weight to title tags. This we know, and it calls in to question the idea that Google continues to give a direct ranking bonus to a keyword in a domain name.
4. Keyword Domains Ranked the Same as Branded Domains
This is another statement that contradicts the idea that keywords in a domain name have a ranking benefit. John Mueller points out that the keywords in a domain are unrelated to their current ranking:
John Mueller’s statement on keywords in domains:
“…it’s kind of normal that they would rank for those keywords and that they happen to have them in their domain name is kind of unrelated to their current ranking.”
He does hedge his statement with the phrase “kind of.” In my opinion, he may be alluding to the fact that the keyword in the domain might influence a searcher to choose that site to click to because of the perception that the site specializes in a topic. So in that sense, the keywords may influence the rankings, especially if users show evidence that they are satisfied with that website.
Unfortunately, John Mueller didn’t elaborate on this point.
Expert Opinion on Choosing a Domain Name
Research the Domain
I asked Jenny Halasz of JLH Marketing on her thoughts. She offered that it was prudent to make sure that whatever domain is chosen, that it’s past history be thoroughly vetted.
“When you’re acquiring a new domain it’s very important to check its history… You don’t want one that spammed Google with bad content or bad links.
Use Archive.org and a backlink analysis tool like Majestic to find historical information. Keyword specific domains seem to have more problems with this.”
SEO Advantage of Keyword Domains
Jeremy L. Knauff of Spartan Media offered this about the SEO advantages of keywords in domains:
“From an SEO perspective, a keyword in a domain has very little direct impact today, but it does play a tremendous role in the anchor text of the links a website earns. In that regard, it can provide an SEO advantage.
Another, and perhaps more important factor, however,is its role in branding. A unique and memorable domain is good, but a unique and memorable domain that also tells people what the website is about is infinitely better.”
Stand Out with Your Domain
Finally, I asked Ted Ives, a Rhode Island search marketer from CoconutHeadphones for his opinion on keyword domains and he offered this interesting feedback.
“Choosing a domain name really has to do with your brand strategy. Do a search for your most important industry term…do you see a bunch of companies that all have the keyword in their domain name?
If so, a non-generic brand name has the opportunity to really stand out among a lot of players that look alike.
If the competition are small brand names and they don’t seem to be doing much SEO, go opposite and go with the generic term. “
Ted Ives’ encouragement to choose a domain name that stands out is similar to what former Googler Matt Cutts recommended back in a webmaster help video in 2011. In the video he used the example of sites about Android all having the word Android in the domain name.
Matt Cutts’ suggestion was that having the keyword in the domain would make it harder to stand out:
“For example, if you have 15 sites about Android and they all have Android, Android, Android, Android, it’s going to be a little hard to remember, to rise above the noise, to rise above the din.
Whereas if you have something that’s a little more brandable, then people are going to remember that. They’re going to be able to come back to it. Even sites like TechCrunch, nothing in there says tech news.”
Takeaway on Domain Names
The consensus seems to be that it’s helpful if a domain name stands out. Also, don’t be swayed by a domain name without first researching it to make sure that it’s not hiding a latent penalty. And finally, that a keyword domain name has to fight just as hard to rank as a branded domain.
Watch the Google Webmaster Hangout here
Screenshot by Author