Well. Links are no longer the Big Thing in Google ranking – allegedly; Reddit flexes its new-found muscles over users ad choices; Google Optimize shutters as Google trashes yet another service; on the flip side Google is mentioned as “adjusting” bid prices for Google Ads; and Apple turns down little-known Bing in favour of $19 billion from Google as a defensive measure against Chrome.

Links No Longer a Top Three Ranking Signal

Last week at PubCon, the charming Google fellow Gary Illyes muttered that in his view links are not in the top three ranking signals for Google Search any longer and they haven’t been for some time, which naturally has caused a fair bit of discussion.
On the one hand you have the die-hard “links matter” crowd, for whom any utterance that links are anything less than the divine intervention is to be reviled and ignored. Annnnd on the other, you have the “content-only” crowd who truly believe that cracking content is all there is to it, and who really believe that Google wants to do away with links entirely.
Now, Google employees generally tell the truth. It’s not always the absolute, whole, exact truth, in my view, but it is always defensible as somewhat true, but like any good SEO there are always shades of grey and sometimes nuance gets lost in the hullabaloo.
You can rank without links, we’ve seen that many times. You can also rank with minimal content and heaps of links, so the answer is undoubtedly somewhere in the middle. BackLinks are still important, unless you’re a content behemoth, or a super-niche website. But links really are probably now behind content quality, expertise / authority, and trustworthiness, all of which have a number of facets and factors which make them up. Funnily enough websites displaying those three factors have a tendency to accrue more natural links anyway….
Give me a call if you want to find out about building links, offsite SEO, or my broader SEO services.

Reddit Removes Ad Personalisation Opt-Out

Dear old Reddit is growing up. From the days when it was the shouty, wild-west upstart crossover from forums into social media, to now when its subreddits have been cleansed and sanitised, and when its old moderator crew has been forced to move on, Reddit is slowly becoming a more advertiser friendly environment.
In doing so, it’s taking its staunch anti-advert crowd along with it, by hook or by crook. External apps which potentially could block Reddit ads have been blocked from the API, grumpy old moderators have moved on, and now Reddit is changing its settings so you cannot prevent personalised ads being served to you. This has not gone down well in some grizzled corners of the site.
From a user perspective, I usually prefer to see ads which are relevant to me – every now and again there’s a genuinely useful one – rather than a blizzard of gambling, or gaming stuff which just isn’t my bag.
From a company perspective, this opens up useful advertising options for its ad clients, enabling a better chance that the “tough crowd” can be converted. Perhaps now you might be able to make a semi-decent return on Reddit ads and actually target users, subreddits and threads which are relevant to your product or service. Wild and crazy idea, right?
Let’s chat about grown-up social media, paid social ads and the digital marketing opportunities it represents

Bye Bye Google Optimize

Not content with ditching Universal Analytics, Google has just closed Google Optimize, where, aside from driving my spell check nuts, you could run conversion experiments to see which single or multi-variate test users preferred – and of course it integrated with other Google services, like UA and Ads. Handy, and free.
It’s par for the course for Google to shutter useful services and it seems it is becoming more prevalent – I just got a notice that Jamboard a part of Google Meet is closing next year.
There are a number of alternatives, from the testing and personalisation platforms baked into the major pay-to-play Analytics and CRM providers, such as Adobe Target, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Sitecore, as well a whole heap of standalone alternatives. Google is promising it will allow integration from some of these services into GA4, but at this moment, when Optimize has just closed, they haven’t actually done any of that. Again, this is par for the course currently; Google is getting more disjointed and random in rolling out, upgrading and shuttering its services.
Personally, I’m disappointed Optimize has gone. Google is moving away from its roots.
Let’s talk about conversion rate optimisation options, as well as the analytics and performance methodologies that accompany it.

Google Ads “Adjusting” Prices

So, remember when I mentioned the Antitrust action against Google last week or so? Well, there have been some revelations in testimony around various matters….
One of the interesting ones is that within the Google Ads system, the good people at Google have maybe, possibly, occasionally adjusted bid prices. Naturally that has caused a degree of upset amongst the crowd who honestly believed Google didn’t do this.
This is not the key focus of the trial, but the basics would be that, same as any other auction, you set the base or reserve price and bids can flow from there once the reserve is matched. That increases overall prices. Of course, if you set the reserve too high, no bids win, so again, I’d be surprised if the known number-cruncher didn’t set the reserve at a sensible % of historic winning bids in an effort to then force bids ever so slightly higher. Across however many millions or billions of bids they are processing every day, they only need each winning bid to increase by a fraction of a penny and they are in a whole heap of extra profit.
Naughty? Or Unfair? Yes, if they claim the auction is open / no-reserve. If they don’t (and I’ve always been under the impression there is some reserve), then really it’s fair game. The trouble is their size and market dominance enable them to do this and for it to be seen as unfair and market-rigging. So, overall, naughty and unfair, but what are the real alternatives?
Want to make the most of Google Ads? Or switch from Google Ads? Talk to me :-)

Apple & Bing & $19b

One of the perpetual surprises in this digital world is why Apple has not decided to create its own search engine, or has not bought one – namely the small upstart engine no-one has heard of Bing.
Well, it is, until you realise just how hard it is to create one from scratch, the infrastructure, computing power and sheer cost would be astronomical, even for Apple, and the reputational risk is massive – remember how well Apple Maps was received on launch / is still perceived? Apple is simply not going to launch an engine that is rubbish in comparison to Google.
In steps Bing with kind of an offer for Apple to buy it, or at least take every cent of its profit and…. Apple said no. We’re not privvy to that reasoning but see my previous point about rubbish search engines, and there’s also the small factor that Apple gets paid $19 billion by Google to have Google as the default search engine for Safari. That’s a lot of money and not to be sneezed at.
The other realistic challenge for Apple is that if it were to use an inferior search engine inside its browser, Safari, then chances are even more users would leech away to Google’s Chrome, which it really would not want to happen – eyeballs and users matter to keep people in the Apple software and advertising ecosystem.
Digital technology and the relationships between the players mean you need a VCDO to help you understand digital marketing and the tech & dev side of things. Talk to me.
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