So we know that Google has hinted that speed matters (at least a little) for search engine ranking, and we also know that slow page load times lead to web site abandonment – now what? How about a nifty tool for analyzing the page load times of your site? I just came across what looks to be a great web-based tool/interface called GTmetrix. Using a simple web interface, GTmetrix determines the performance of your site and suggests methods of optimization. GTMetrix is powered by both the Yahoo YSlow and Google Page Speed tools and displays performance results from both. There is an option to create an account and save reports and historical performance graphs for up to 10 sites. There is no cost to use GTMetrix (as there is no cost to use YSlow and Google Page Speed) - of course the creator of GTMetrix, Gossamer Threads, would like you to know that should you need to optimize the speed of your site they would be glad to help.
I’ve been using the YSlow and Google Page Speed plugins that hook into the Firebug extension for Firefox and it works out fine for my purposes. But for those who don’t use Firefox or who don’t want to deal with those extensions, GTMetrix is worth checking out.
When Googler Matt Cutts talked to WebProNews about Google’s search algorithm update (Caffeine) late last year, he mentioned that website speed would take on more importance in 2010. Since then the blogosphere has been buzzing with SEO pundits wondering whether website speed will be more important than content relevancy. Earlier this month, in a video response to this question:
“Since we’re hearing a lot of talk about the implications of Page Speed, I wonder if Google still cares as much about relevancy? Or are recentness and page load time more important?”,
Matt assured us that content relevance is still the most important ranking factor. However, he did go on to say,
“If you have two sites that are equally relevant, same backlinks, everything else is the same, you’d probably prefer the one that’s a little bit faster, so page speed can in theory be an interesting idea to try out for a factor in scoring different websites. But, absolutely, relevance is the primary component, and we have over 200 signals in our scoring to try to return the most relevant, the most useful, the most accurate search result that we can find. So, that’s not going to change.”
So what does this mean for you and your SEO strategy? Your primary focus should still be the relevance of your content (and quality of your backlinks), but its clear that going forward Google is taking a bigger interest in the ‘user experience’. One of the easier aspects of user experience for Google to evaluate is speed – so its not surprising that this would be incorporated as one of the over 200 ranking factors that Google uses.
If you are happy with the aesthetics, navigation and content of your site why not take the next step and evaluate your page load times. If speed is an issue on your site and you determine the bottleneck to be server-side then consider upgrading your shared hosting plan to a VPS or even a cloud platform (Even 1and1.com’s has just come out with a cloud platform). If on the other hand the bottleneck lies with the design of your website (size of the pages, large graphics, multiple lookups etc.) get in contact with an SEO or Web design firm to see if a low-cost ‘clean-up’ can be done.
Check out Matt’s response here.
Google is modifying the way they define keyword quality by considering the ‘commerciality’ of the keyword. In a recent interview a Google product manager suggested that Google will deliver more impressions for queries for which ads are useful and fewer ads on queries for which users might prefer not to see them.
The interview cited an example where queries such as ‘dog friendly parks in Mountain View’ would show fewer ads as Google feels users typing in these queries are most likely not interested in a product or service.
<p>In a move that has angered many developers and search engine marketing firms, Google has announced that as of July 1st it will <a href=”http://groups.google.com/group/adwords-api/browse_thread/thread/1344697a36f8607c”>start charging for the use of its Adwords API</a>. Pricing for the Adwords API will be based on a usage fee structure where $0.25 USD buys 1,000 units.</p>
<p>The Google Adwords API allows adwords users with a My Client Center to create their own programs to interface with the Adwords system. Using the Adwords API, developers and SEM Firms have created custom and commercial reporting, automation, bidding anc cross-PPC platform comparison tool that greatly improve efficiency and scalability of the Adwords platform.</p>
<p>From its initial launch, the Adwords API has been free to use and based on a quota system that was calculated for the most part based on the number of accounts one administered within their My Client Center</p>
Google has expanded their empire a little bit more with the introduction of Google Calendar. The calendar is still in beta, but it’s early features show that it is quite a good system. Sharing your Google Calendar is a snap, either as a public or group calendar, and adding on holidays, both religious and regional is just as simple.
The calendar can be configured to be integrated right into your Gmail account, for easy viewing of your events and upcoming holidays.
To test out the new Google Calendar system, find it here.
Things definitely don’t move slowly at Google. There are rumblings in the online SEM community about Google Adwords adding additional “bid management tools”. This news, no doubt, has bid management software makers shaking a bit.
It seems this new feature will help you determine the position of specific keywords in your Adwords account. You will be able to activate each campaign and decide for each keyword, where you would like it to be placed. This feature brings Google’s operating methods closer to that of Yahoo.
The cost for bidding on a specific position will be based, as with Google’s typical structure, on the keyword, the position you choose, your maximum bid and, the all-important, Quality Score (more on that later).
Why is this feature necessary? Well, it’s not, but it is useful to those who are interested in holding their position. For instance, if a company wants to hold the 3rd position for their keyword, and are willing to pay for that privelege. If your bid is higher than required to get your ad in 3rd place, Google will lower your bid automatically…which will put you in 3rd position and save you money. In the opposite case, where your maximum bid does not qualify you for the position you desire, your ad will not show, because Adwords rules still apply and thus the Quality Score is of utmost importance.
In addition to specifying a single position, you can specify a range of preferred positions. Again, each keyword is monitored separately.
Our advice is to be careful when using this new feature. Google’s representatives warn that setting your position preferences errantly can contribute to a sharp decrease in your impressions, as your ad might not show in many circumstances. If you find your impressions have drastically reduced using this option, try to broaden your preferred position range and consider making changes to your keyword and your ad, to improve your quality score.
As many of you may have seen, Google Adwords has very recently added a new Adwords ad format – sponsored local business ads within Google Local. These local business ads appear in google local as a highlighted ad in the results column as well as an enhanced map marker that expands to display your business’s details.Google displays up to three sponsored local business ads per search result page. The highlighted listing contains the business name, address and URL as well as two user-inputted description lines. The map marker denotes the location of the business using an icon that can be chosen (from 11 possibilities) during ad creation. The info window that expands from the map can display the business information in the listing as well as a phone number and 125×125 pixel image/logo.
Having your ads appear on Google Local when a browser enters a relevant query is one way to reach even more customers look for your product or service in your geographic location. Ekamtech has begun to incorporate Adwords Local campaigns into its clients SEM portfolios with excellent success. If you would like more information about how Adwords Local can benefit your business please contact us.