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Your Guide to the Google Interstitial Ads Penalty Update

We’ve all seen them. The annoying popup ad layered over the page of a website which prevents us from reading the content after we’ve followed a link on our mobile device.

Google has decided that these interstitial mobile ads are intruding on a mobile user’s experience by preventing the user from immediately accessing the page content from a search result link.

On January 10th, 2017, Google instituted its Interstitial Ad Penalty and began penalizing mobile website pages that have intrusive interstitial pop-up ads that initially obscure page content for a user.

Google explains that this is because they provide a “poorer experience to users than other pages where content is immediately accessible.”

Google’s Interstitial Policy Rationale

In their announcement on Google Webmaster Central Blog, Google explains:

“Pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results, may not rank as highly. As we said, this new signal is just one of hundreds of signals that are used in ranking and the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.”

This could adversely affect the bottom line of many companies who rely on interstitial ads as a significant source of their revenue. Read our article How to Improve B2B Website Usability in which we touch on popups and the public’s distaste for them.

3 Forms of Mobile Interstitial Ads Being Penalized

There are 3 specific forms of mobile interstitial ads that are at risk of being penalized with this recent Google interstitial update:

  1. Pop-up ads that immediately cover the main content after arriving at a mobile page through a link from a search result.
  2. Pop-ups that force a user to dismiss them before page content will be displayed.
  3. Sites that make the above-the-fold components of a page appear as though they are a standalone interstitial, underneath which the original content has been inlined.

Mobile Interstitial Ads NOT Affected by Google’s Update

Methods of interstitial use which are not affected by the new Google mobile ranking signal penalties include:

  1. Interstitials that are legally obligated to be on a page, such as age verification or cookie usage, are not affected.
  2. Site logins where content is not indexable for the public, including content that is private, or behind a paywall.
  3. Banners that can be easily dismissed, and use a reasonable amount of screen space.

Wondering what is a “reasonable” amount of space? Google does not indicate what proportion a reasonable amount of screen space constitutes, exactly. From the banner images in their mobile phone image examples in the article, the banners appear to take up approximately 1/4 of the screen.

What’s the Future of Interstitial Ads?

Personally, I’d like to see the same penalty system rolled out for desktop search. Ever come across a pop-up ad after clicking on a search result link? These seem to become more and more common and are just as annoying to visitors today as they were when they first appeared.

What is your experience with interstitial ads on mobile or desktop?

If you want more information on how interstitials as a ranking signal might affect your website, contact us at 1st on the List today at 1-888-262-6687, and we’ll answer any questions you might have.

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SEO in 2017 and Beyond: The Numbers Game

So what did we learn about SEO in 2016 that we can carry over into the New Year and improve our SERP positioning? We learned numbers! Lots of numbers!

I think that the most interesting statistics this year (and even from previous years) center around mobile, voice search on mobile, and voice search through present and future home devices. And they’ll probably all be applicable to a greater extent as the year unfolds.

In this article, we will take what we have learned from the past year and share what we think are the most important SEO predictions for 2017 and beyond.

1. Mobile Search Dominates Desktop

According to Search Engine Watch, we know that 93% of encounters online begin with a search, and from a Search Engine Land article, we learned that 65% of those searches worldwide are done through Google.

Impact has told us that 80% of users on the Internet own a smartphone, and Smart Insights indicates that the same percentage of smartphones (80%) are used to search online.

Marketing Land suggested that 56% of traffic received by the top 10,000 US websites in 24 categories came from mobile. However, if we read that actual webpage prologue by SimilarWeb that produced the report, we find that it reads the “…leading 10,000 most mobile sites in the US in 2015.”

The report itself, however, loses the most mobile reference entirely, so there is some uncertainty as to whether just mobile-friendly sites were included in the report, or mobile and desktop sites were the ones for which the stats were presented.

What does all of this mean for search in 2017? There will be some distinct changes and unique approaches developed to provide mobile-search-worthy content in 2017. SEO will not only have to address mobile’s consumption of quick, complete responses to specific questions (whether by voice or text), and produce more content pages optimized for mobile; it will also have to reflect the growing needs of the voice-only market created by home devices.

2. Voice Search Over Text Search

In a May of 2016 article, Search Engine Land cited Google indicating that 20% of mobile queries were voice searches. Now that Google has prioritized Mobile over Desktop, our takeaway should be that we can expect that number of voice queries from mobile to continue to increase significantly.

The anticipated high adoption rates of home devices such as Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Windows’ upcoming device, will all contribute to the growth of voice search.

As discussed in Voice Activated SEO Strategy for Google Home Device, Google is expected to ship nearly 3 million voice-activated speaker devices in 2017. According to Geek Wire, Amazon has already sold 5 million Echo units. That is at least 8 million reasons to focus more intently on voice searches.

The argument for voice-activated searches will direct the purposeful route of website content toward more specifically-tailored responses to voice searches from 2 very different devices. Those responses will need to be capable of serving their two new online masters (mobile and home assistant) while maintaining desktop traffic. Do any other SEO writers feel like a sideshow juggler already?

Even though both user groups could be searching for similar content, determining user intention based on separate schemes for each style of device will become extremely important, depending on the way voice search tactics by users evolve over time for each group.

SEO companies will need to develop ways to uniquely satisfy the needs of each group of device users without risking duplicate content issues that could be detrimental to their overall SERP strategies (mobile, home, and desktop) as a whole. Target strategies for keywords will no doubt appear somewhat disjointed initially.

It wouldn’t surprise me if as many as 3 different plans evolved for the 3 disparate search methods:

  • Mobile Voice
  • Home Assistant Voice
  • Desktop

3. Apps (plus or minus) Mobile-Friendly Websites?

Smart Insights has quoted Yahoo! Flurry stats, indicating that apps are used predominantly on mobile devices, with 90% of time on a mobile device being spent on an app, as opposed to using a browser such as Chrome (only 4%).

For some companies, I would argue that an app offers some great potential. But, for companies with a consistently changing landscape of information, articles, blogs, and other forms of data not conducive to being presented in app form, their websites will remain as go-to places for individuals with an interest in their products, services, or culture.

Such sites will still require ongoing SEO attention, but how that attention might translate into SEO planning will undoubtedly take a step sideways as more prominent mobile and voice usage begins to nudge desktop to one side until, dare we even think it, we’ve evolved into a totally mobile and voice driven world?

4. Time to Get Hyped About HTTPS

According to Search Engine Journal, as of February 1, 2017, Google has warned that Chrome will mark sites as unsecure if they have forms that collect information such as personal information, credit card information, or password information, and the site does not utilize HTTPS.

Even if only one page collects information insecurely, the entire site will be marked as unsecure, and Chrome users will be unable to access it without clicking through against Chrome’s warnings. Without HTTPS, most websites are open to man-in-the-middle attacks, through which sensitive information can easily be collected. Considering that 55% of desktop and mobile traffic is searched through Chrome, this is a significant wake-up call for website owners.

In February of 2014, I did some research on my own regarding the security of 86 major corporate oil company websites through which I was attempting to submit job applications at the time. Only 13% of these websites were attempting to collect my personal information securely through their own domain. 17% were attempting to collect my information through unsecured pages on the company domain. And probably the most shocking stat was that 23% of these companies were attempting to collect my personal data through unsecured third party domains.

While Google’s move on HTTPS is going to create some pain points for companies ill-prepared for the transition, I applaud the move. It’s time that major companies and corporations started taking more responsibility for safely handling our personal data.

If your company hasn’t done so already, start taking measures NOW to secure your domain before February 1. For more information on the importance of HTTPS, read my other blog article What Does it Take to Rank #1 on Google?

5. Mobile-Friendly Sites and Soft Selling

We’ve all visited those sites. You know the ones. You arrive on your mobile device and have to start zooming in and scrolling from side to side just to read the content. The links are so small, and so close together, that you inevitably click on the wrong link, and close your browser in frustration when the page is only half loaded.

Impact has written that Google indicated 61% of visitors won’t return to your site if they had trouble gaining access to it on mobile, claiming that 40% will visit the site of a competitor instead. CMS Report states that 57% of users won’t recommend your business if your mobile site is poorly designed.

And, a whopping 87% of purchasers, according to Search Engine Watch, indicate that online content has an influence over their decisions to purchase, with 43% disliking a hard sell or conspicuous advertising.

What Does It All Mean?

So what does all of this mean for 2017? Mobile, Home Assistants, HTTPS, and more mobile-friendly websites are probably going to be some of the most important aspects of SEO to pursue this year.

How user intent is defined, particularly where voice search is concerned will likely be one of the most important, ongoing discussions in 2017, making it worthy of its own developmental approaches and evolving strategies.

For an even scarier reminder of how things change so quickly online, visit Live Internet Stats and become mesmerized by their stunning visuals.

If you want to know more about any SEO strategies for 2017, contact 1st on the List today at 1-888-262-6687. Or drop us an email.

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Google Mobile Search Algorithm to Update May 2016

Over the years we have talked quite about Mobile Search here on our blog including this post about the Google Mobile Update on April 21 2015.

In just a few short days we will have even more to talk about as Google launches its second official mobile search algorithm update. Here’s the announcement Google recently posted on how this update will affect rankings of non-mobile friendly websites:

Continuing to make the web more mobile friendly

Getting good, relevant answers when you search shouldn’t depend on what device you’re using. You should get the best answer possible, whether you’re on a phone, desktop or tablet. Last year, we started using mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on mobile searches. Today we’re announcing that beginning in May, we’ll start rolling out an update to mobile search results that increases the effect of the ranking signal to help our users find even more pages that are relevant and mobile-friendly.

If you’ve already made your site mobile-friendly, you will not be impacted by this update. If you need support with your mobile-friendly site, we recommend checking out the Mobile-Friendly Test and the Webmaster Mobile Guide, both of which provide guidance on how to improve your mobile site. And remember, the intent of the search query is still a very strong signal — so even if a page with high quality content is not mobile-friendly, it could still rank well if it has great, relevant content.

Have you been ignoring the need to make your website mobile friendly for too long? Your website rankings on mobile devices may soon take another hit in May as Google increases the effect of its mobile ranking signal even more.

It’s not too late! Call our mobile website experts at 1-888-262-6687 to find out your best options to become mobile friendly as quickly as possible!

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Top 8 Mobile Website Shopping Problems According to Consumers

A recent study done by Bizrate Insights uncovers the top problems consumers experience when shopping online from their mobile device. Almost all of these relate to usability. Does your mobile website design have any of these issues?

Problem 8 – Data Security Concerns (11%).

Problem 7 – Not enough product information available (12%).

Problem 6 – Pictures are too small (17%).

Problem 5 – Entering information in checkout is frustrating (17%).

Problem 4 – Text is too small (17%).

Problem 3 – Having to use the “full site” version to access what I’m looking for (21%).

Problem 2 – Pages load slowly (25%).

Largest Problem Online Mobile Shoppers Have – Having to enlarge first to ensure I touch/ click in the right place (33%).

Another recent study by Google and AnswerLab sought to answer the question “What makes a good mobile site?” Their key takeaway was:

“Mobile users are very goal-oriented. They expect to be able to get what they need, immediately, and on their own terms.”

Take a minute to try purchasing a product on your website as if you were a customer.

  • Is your navigation easy to click through and the links large enough for your fingers?
  • Do your pages load in 2-3 seconds?
  • Can you access all your products?
  • Can you read the text?
  • Can you proceed through the checkout with speed and ease?
  • Are the pictures large enough to see the detail you need?
  • Do you include all the information about the product that a customer needs to know before purchasing?
  • Does your site have an SSL connection, or common Security features and badges to reassure your customers that their personal and financial information is safe?

For more information on mobile friendly website design check out Google Developers’ Principles of Site Design or contact our SEO website designers.

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SEO News and Google Updates – August 2015

Here’s what making news in the SEO community in the last couple of weeks.

Moz Ranking Factors Preview

Moz is getting ready to publish its latest set of Search Engine Ranking Factors and gave author Eric Enge early access to some of the data. Here is what he has found:

  1. More and more Top 10 Results are Mobile Friendly:
  • 75% of Top 10 Results for commercial searches are mobile friendly.
  • 64% of Top 10 Results for informational searches are mobile friendly.
  1. Using HTTPS is a very new and minor ranking factor:
  • 17% of Top 10 Results for commercial searches use HTTPS.
  • 11% of Top 10 Results for informational searches use HTTPS.

Gary Illyes of Google confirmed HTTPS as a minor ranking factor on July 22, which we are told is used as a tiebreaker when two competing sites are similar in all other aspects. Google has warned that they will continue to increase the weight of this ranking factor over time.

Actionable Takeaway: Mobile Friendliness has arrived. To maintain or improve your rankings your website needs to be Mobile Friendly. HTTPS is on the horizon and many are waiting to see the impact this will have on rankings and the best way to implement on various types of websites.

Google Showing 3 Local Results Instead of 7

We started noticing this ourselves last week and Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable confirmed it on August 7. Google is now showing just 3 local listings with a link to see more. Previously, it had shown 7 local listings in Search Results.

Many SEOs and businesses are upset that just 3 make it to the Google Local Pack, making the competition even tougher.

There are a number of other big differences between Google Local 3-Pack and 7-Pack, as pointed out by Jennifer Slegg:

  • Exact addresses removed (just street name is shown)
  • Phone numbers removed (mobile version still has “call” button option)
  • Google+ links removed
  • Store hours added
  • “Google Reviews” now called “Reviews”
  • No fly out listing when you hover over a business (must click to see information)

When you click on a business from the Local Pack you will see a list of 20 additional local listings (competitors) in the left column, the selected business’ local listings information in the middle, and a map of the area on the right.

Google says they are exploring the best way to bring a better search experience but many business owners and marketers are wondering how this will impact potential calls and clicks.

Actionable Takeaway: Make sure you do everything possible to have a complete Google+ Profile including customer reviews. Make sure your website is properly optimized for the opportunity to show up below the Local Pack. You need to do everything you can to try to get in the Top 3 Local Pack, have a complete profile for if searchers click on you from the list of 20 Competitors on the side, and have a great ranking site if searchers scroll right past the local listings all together.

Reviews Deliver ROI

Myles Anderson has spent a lot of time and resources uncovering the true value of reputation management for local business marketers. Some of his latest findings include:

  • 83% of marketers believe reviews and reputation management absolutely delivers a good ROI,
  • 61% ask customers for reviews, and
  • 73% spend less than 20% of their time on review/reputation related tasks.

The results suggest that Review Management doesn’t have to take up too much of your time, is as simple as asking customers for reviews, and can provide a great ROI.

Anderson sought out an additional four experts in the area to provide advice on reviews, which included:

  1. Positive reviews can mean more clicks than your competitors.
  2. No reviews can be just as detrimental as bad reviews.
  3. Take the time to read, mine, and apply your reviews – both good and bad.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask multiple times for a review.
  5. Remember all sources for reviews … Facebook, Yelp, Google+, TripAdvisor, Yelp, Houzz, Healthgrades, and more. Niche sites in your industry are important too.

Actionable Item: Follow Anderson’s advice in thinking of this process as Reputation Development rather than Reputation management. How can you further develop your reputation?

Recent Google Algorithm Ranking Updates

Google makes hundreds (300-600) of changes to its algorithm each year. Many are minor and go unnoticed but there are some more major updates that affect a significant number of websites and get the SEO community buzzing.

So far in 2015 there have been several Google ranking updates that people are still talking about:

  • Panda 4.2 – July 17, 2015
    This is the 28th Panda refresh that is expected to take months to fully roll out. Panda was first launched on May 20, 2014 and is designed to target low quality content.
  • The Quality Update (aka Phantom) – May 3, 2015
    The SEO Community started buzzing about large scale ranking changes and named this update “Phantom” before Google would officially confirm it. Google did finally confirm this as a quality signals update that has a broad impact.
  • Mobile Update – April 22, 2015
    For the first time ever Google preannounced a ranking update before it happened plus the exact date it would hit, giving website owners a deadline to upgrade to a mobile friendly or mobile responsive website. Many took the warning seriously and upgraded their websites to become mobile friendly. So far the update has had a smaller than expected impact on websites although it is expected to increase in the future.

Actionable Item: Google is making changes to how your site might rank each and every day. Focus on Google’s best practices and principles, and take a holistic approach to SEO and online marketing as a whole.

Have you kept up with all of these changes, or do you need assistance going mobile friendly or secure? Do you have enough reviews and local exposure?

Call us at 1-888-262-6687 for advice.

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Will Your Rankings Drop on April 21?

Today we published our new SlideShare presentation on Google’s Mobile Friendly website ranking update scheduled for April 21. Check it out!

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Are Mobile Fanatics Finding Your Business in Local Search?

Mobile fanatics make up 40% of the US smartphone population. You may even be a mobile fanatic.

A mobile fanatic is someone who does at least 10 searches per week on at least two devices from multiple locations. Maybe you are watching TV with your tablet and decide to look up who the guest cameo is on the current episode of your favorite sitcom. Or maybe you are leaving your Doctor’s office and need to find the nearest pharmacy near you. What about checking if the nearest electronics store has the latest and greatest video game for your son in stock? It’s easy to meet the 10 search per week criteria.

And if you are doing it chances are your potential customers are too!

Desktop and Mobile Statistics and Usage

A new study by Thrive Analytics shows the importance of this emerging group and how mobile devices have now taken over desktop usage when it comes to  looking for location information online:

Device-most-commonly-used-when-looking-for-location-info-online

Additional findings include that 60% of US adults will choose Smartphones and Tablets over PCs to find information before buying products and services offline.

It seems this figure is constantly on the rise as previous studies by Google and Microsoft suggested that only 50% of mobile search query volume had a local intent.

Key Takeaways

How does this affect you as a local business? Here are four things you need to know:

  • Google’s recent announcement to update its Mobile Rankings on April 21, 2015 means that if your site is not mobile friendly you can expect significant impact in search results.
  • With 50-60% (and growing) of people searching from a mobile device you can’t expect your website’s traffic to grow at a decent rate if you do not have a mobile responsive website.
  • If you aren’t mobile you’re likely losing sales from mobile fanatics.
  • If you are mobile and your competitors aren’t you’ll likely gain a huge advantage on April 21!

For more information on mobile responsive website design and how you can make your website mobile please call us at 1-888-262-6687 or email us.

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Google Mobile Search Algorithm to Update April 21 2015

This is the first time in the history of Google that we can remember them giving official notice of an upcoming algorithm update and telling Webmasters the exact date the algorithm will go live!

In the Google Mobile Algorithm announcement last week, they say:

Starting April 21, we will be expanding our use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal. This change will affect mobile searches in all languages worldwide and will have a significant impact in our search results. Consequently, users will find it easier to get relevant, high quality search results that are optimized for their devices.

Many believe this announcement is game changing yet does not come to our surprise. Check out our post from two weeks ago where we talk about being ready for a potential Google mobile ranking algorithm update.

Is your website ready? Here are a few ways to check it out before the Google mobile algorithm update takes effect.

  • Pull out your phone and open up your website. Does the screen resize? Is text easy to read without zooming in? Are links in the navigation easy to click?
  • Head over to Google’s Mobile-Friendly test and check out your score.
  • Log into your Google Webmaster Tools account and use the Mobile Usability Report for a complete list of issues you will want to fix before April 21, 2015.

Let us know soon if you need help making your website Mobile Friendly before the Google algorithm updates that we know will take place on April 21, 2015. Call us at 1-888-262-6687 or fill out our quick contact form.

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Prepare for a Potential Google Mobile Algorithm

The above warning in a recent Search Engine Land article titled Is Your Local Site Mobile Friendly? Should It Be? caught my attention. Would your website be ready if a Google mobile algorithm update was released today?

On our blog we have shared plenty of stats and updates about mobile responsive website design becoming more important, such as this one about Google sending notices to webmasters with sites that are not mobile friendly.

Search Engine Land shares more stats about mobile usage as a warning that this has an impact on you:

  • Smartphone penetration in the US is now at 75%.
  • Mobile traffic has surpassed desktop traffic.
  • 87% of Smartphone and tablet owners use their mobile devices for shopping.
  • Google says 94% of smartphone users are looking for local information
  • Google says 84% of these smartphone users take an action.

However, as the author argues, if we stay focused on these rising stats we miss the main point which is that Google may be preparing for a mobile algorithm update.

The notices to non-mobile friendly webmasters and the use of the mobile-friendly label in Search Results are just two indicators an algorithm update is getting closer.

Will you be ready when Google’s new mobile algorithm hits? Will your mobile responsive website design boost you above your competitors? Or will your dated, non-mobile friendly website leave you on the third or fourth or fifth page of results?

To learn more about what’s mobile friendly and your options for a mobile friendly website, please visit our Mobile Website information page or call us at 1-888-262-6687.

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Google Sends Notices to Webmasters With Sites That Are Not Mobile Friendly

Google has made two strong moves towards encouraging (or gently forcing) all webmasters to become more Mobile Friendly. Could this mean Google is launching a new mobile algorithm update soon?

The first move was in November 2014 when Google added a “mobile-friendly” label into Search Results (see our recent Is my website mobile friendly post). This means that people searching on their Smartphone may see your website in Search Results and scroll right past it because the lack of a “mobile-friendly” label means it could be slow to load, hard to navigate and difficult to view.

Google’s second move occurred just two days ago (January 19, 2015) when they started sending out notices through Google Webmaster Tools. The “Fix mobile usability issues found” WNC-451500 message looks like this:

 Google Notice Not Friendly Website

Note that Google warns website owners that “these pages will not be seen as mobile friendly by Google Search” and will be “displayed and ranked appropriately for smartphone users”.

Did you receive one of these notices? Are you worried yet? With most websites averaging between 30-50% of traffic from mobile users a drop in mobile visibility could be hugely detrimental.

Several thought leaders in the SEO industry believe that this is just one more indicator that Google is going to be launching a new mobile algorithm soon. Others think that Google has targeted this message directly to website owners who are knowingly not mobile-friendly.

Stop putting off a mobile website upgrade before it’s too late! Give us a call at 1-888-262-6687 to discuss your mobile website or preview all our Mobile Website services.

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