Google aims to make “search more secure” with SSL Search

Author:  Mike Hagley

In an announcement that has sent the SEO industry into a spin this week, Google has said that it is making a vital change to its search engine which will be rolled out over the next few weeks.  Users logged into Google services (+1, Gmail, YouTube, AdWords, Analytics etc) who conduct a search on, will soon be using a secure (SSL) version of the popular search engine.  Google says it is aiming to improve the privacy of its signed-in users, yet it has industry professionals wondering if there are more sinister motives for the change.

Ultimately, this change means web analysts, webmasters and SEOs alike, will be unable to view the search queries used on the new secure version of (, for those users who click on an organic search listing.  The catch is that customers of their paid search product, AdWords, will still be able to view search query data within Google Analytics (and similar applications), for those visitors who clicked on a Google ad.

Google has estimated that this change will only affect a single-digit percentage of all queries on, and at this stage SSL Search will not affect queries on Google Australia.

Read the official Google blogs:


Apportioning your Marketing Budget

Author: Hamish Anderson

Since the first marketing report was written, marketers the world over have had to deliberate (often with themselves) how to best allocate their marketing budget amongst the various options available to them. Today, when there are so many different options available, and with markets converging and diverging simultaneously, what is the best way to split your budget so as to achieve the best results for every dollar you spend?

Here are a few things you may want to consider when trying to work out how to apportion that marketing budget for the year ahead.

Tip 1 – Ignore the options

I know many marketers – and truth be told I have been guilty of this in the past too – who lose weeks when writing their marketing plan. It is not that they are inefficient, but rather that they get too easily get caught up in flights of fancy, postulating on how they can use some new emergent form of marketing, or integrate a campaign across various digital channels, or reap the benefits of creating a new campaign that goes viral. However, to use an old analogy, that could perhaps be a case of putting the cart before the horse.

Whilst it may seem innately obvious, a good thing to always remember is that one of the first things you need to do when looking at your marketing year ahead is work out what your goals are, how they can be broken down into short and long term goals and if possible broken down again from here.

Tip 2 – Determine the ROI you want to Generate

Similar to the above – yet potentially more important given the need to determine how you split your budget – is determination of what constitutes financial goals and what other goals cannot necessarily be given a numerical value and therefore need different classification. An example of the latter may include something such as increasing your membership database of ‘refer a friend’ contacts.   By doing this, you are giving yourself a total aggregated goal which you have to achieve. Similarly, in knowing what your non-financial goals are, you can quantify what constitutes success for your initial outlay. Remember, investment in marketing activity – especially as concerns platforms such as social media – is no longer necessarily only quantified by a gross dollar value, but by other factors such as time invested. Thus, have you considered ROI in terms of number of new customers which result from specific activity and which thus saves further investment in other activities (I have previously written about this in my article “ROI – More Sense than Dollars”. )?

Tip 3 – Consider how your market has evolved

Most marketers have an understanding of how technology is evolving and the newer technologies which exist. However, it seems that many of these same clients have a misunderstanding of how their market are utilising technology.

Consider this: At the end of Q1, 2010, 48.1% of all phone’s sold in Australia were Smart Phones. Why is this significant? Well Smart Phone’s allow users to easily access the internet to conduct searches whilst they are out and about. Sure, this is not really a surprising fact, however, have you considered what this means for your search budget? Are you investing any of your budget into paid search? Or are you relying purely on organic? Sure organic has definitive advantages over PPC, BUT, think on this. reported that on a Smart Phone:

“A single search ad on a PC takes up about 4 percent of the screen real estate, whereas a single search ad on a smartphone takes up about 20 percent of the screen. The relatively larger size of the ads results in higher click-through rates on mobile (as much as 3 to 5 times as much)”

Sure, there are more paid ads displayed on a PC/desktop than a Smart Phone, however, the value of holding a strong PPC position is therefore even more important when considering the growing use of smartphones. Therefore, have you considered investing more in PPC than you have in previous years?

Tip 4 – Are you taking learnings from the market?

It is one thing to say you are listening to what your customers are telling you and evolving your service or product to better cater to their needs/meet requirements or so on. In fact it is very important to do this, however, what are you doing to capture a larger share of the market?

Whilst it makes fundamental sense to seek to maintain your existing brand advocates, are you listening to what the broader market want? Are you seeking to meet their needs and therefore increase your market value/share even more? Are you using social media for example to listen to the broader conversation, or are you using it only as a platform to seed brand information?

Either way, whatever you are doing, make sure that you consider what the return is, and what you can justify as a viable spend as well as what your returns are likely to be, ahead of committing funds to it.


At the end of the day, every marketing situation is unique. Even the most meticulous plans may need to be changed and maintain some fluidity throughout the year. However, planning ahead is essential if you wish to have any marketing success. My tip for ensuring things go more to plan, is to make sure that you have evaluated your requirements, determined what is a suitable ROI and how you plan to implement everything. I don’t guarantee this will lead to success, but it will put you in a better position.

Is Place Search Costing Google Revenue?

Author: Mike Hagley

Over the past week if you’ve carried out a search for a local business or service you may have noticed some changes.  It’s called Place Search, and it’s an interesting move by Google – interesting for a number of reasons.

Google Place Search Screenshot 1

Place Search example: new map preview location

The map preview uses advertising space

Previously, Google would show ‘Local business results’ (and map) within the organic search results.  Now, with Place Search, Google has moved the map preview to the right hand side of the page, chewing up a massive piece of advertising real estate.  The map even follows you as you scroll down the page, covering the ads, showing AdWords advertisers even less respect:

Google Place Search Screenshot 2

Google Place Search example: scrolling map feature

Place page results combined with organic results

As well as a new location for the map preview, Google has added a number of new formats for serving Places listings.  One particular design combines a business’ Place page result with its organic result (along with an image) almost doubling the size of a regular organic result.

Why implement Place Search if it could lead to a reduction in AdWords revenue?

Possibly the answer lies in the rise in the usage of mobile devices for both web searching and social networking applications like Gowalla, Foursquare and Facebook’s newest add-on, Places.  Earlier this year, Google reported a 500% increase in mobile search from 2008 until EOY 2009, and an alarming 50M Google Maps for Mobile users.

If we look at a mobile search result, the first two listings are advertising, followed immediately by the Place page results (image 1 below).  Notice that the Place page results are positioned above the organic results.  Conducting this same search on a PC has different results, and it seems that Google are giving a higher weighting to Place results on mobiles than on PC based queries.

Mobile Place Search Screenshot

Mobile Place Search example

OK, but how will Google make up for the lost AdWords revenue you ask?  The next innovation in Google advertising…

Boost Ads

Searchengineland explains Google Boost Ads as ‘automated AdWords for small business’.  Boost Ads are a paid search ad for your Place Page, and it’s currently being testing in a select few cities in the USA.  Businesses will be able to set a monthly budget and Google will automatically select which keywords for which your ad is shown.  Boost Ads will be shown alongside AdWords ads, and are clearly targeted to the small business that isn’t currently advertising on Google.

Boost Ad content

Example of a Boost Ad

So while Google may be losing advertising revenue with Place Search in the interim, I believe it’s a smart move to promote Google Places to small businesses, making it very easy for them to sign up for Boost Ads once available in all locations.

Increasing Conversion Rates in Ad Copy

Mike Hagley | August 19, 2010

First things first: What’s the goal of your paid search campaign?  Ask yourself what the single most important metric is.  In my opinion, it’s conversion rate, and this is especially true if you’re limited by budget.  Let’s assume that you’ve heard over and over about how to structure your account and how important it is to have highly targeted ad groups and ad copy and keywords and yada yada yada.  We’ve all heard it ad nauseam (excuse the pun).  Forget about click-through rates, Quality Score or site design, and think for a minute about how you could increase your conversion rate by simply optimising ad copy.

Honesty is the Key

Be upfront.  Be honest.  By doing this you’ll gain immediate respect from the reader and as you know a happy customer is more likely to chalk one up on the conversions tally.

Take Control of Your Ads

Don’t let your paid search provider optimise your ads.  Often, the default settings in your account will optimise your ads based on click-through rate.  I recommend optimising your ads manually, by conversion rate instead.

Understand your Buying Cycle

It’s no surprise that customers who search for your brand names or specific products are closer to making a final purchasing decision.  By similar logic, conversion rates for search queries pertaining to the latter stages of the buying cycle will be higher too.  Include these in your campaign and you’ll be sure to increase conversion rates.

Deter Unwanted Clicks

Rather than writing ad copy which attracts clicks, instead, write ad copy which deters readers from clicking on your ad.  If, for example, your goal is increase form completions, write ad copy to the tune of “Complete an online form…”.  This is guaranteed to deter those people who don’t want to complete an online form from clicking on your ad.

Don’t Hoard Ad Copy

Be brutal.  Don’t hoard ad copy.  Even if you think it is great copy, if it’s not converting, it’s not converting.  Get rid of poor performing copy.  Immediately!

If you’re not analysing your current copy and testing new ad copy regularly, now is a good time to start.

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