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At 40 degrees in the shade, Germany’s favourite pastime – watching television – is suddenly becoming irrelevant. A shame, because just as the summer heatwave is setting in, the relationship between TV devices and search engines is being newly configured. Find out why this is, and why special consideration should be given to voice-based search technology when it comes to younger and older target groups, in July’s edition of SEO News.

TV and search engines – two very different siblings on a bonding session

As we swelter our way through the summer of 2019, the global economy is beginning to look distinctly overcast, with world export champion Germany particularly badly hit. These developments force many companies to review their spending on marketing and advertising. Digital advertising channels provide the advantage (at least in theory) of permitting a direct comparison between costs and benefit, with the price of a conversion or ROI and ROAS with respect to budget allocated being generally straightforward to plan and calculate. This is less easy in the case of TV campaigns, however, which have an extensive reach that cannot be assessed with the same precision.

That’s why it’s in the interest of the advertising industry to start paying closer attention to the interplay between the two channels, in order to explore possible synergetic effects.  Although the question of how TV/display devices and search engines impact on one another is by no means a new one, the interesting thing is that both organic and paid searches are increasingly coming to be seen as the link between a sometimes diffuse TV impact and a company’s actual turnover.

Calls-to-action as a tool for generating higher demand

As New York trade journal Digiday reports, increasing numbers of American companies are beginning to examine their attribution models in order to establish how their TV presence is reflected in organic search requests and in the performance of their paid search campaigns. An increase in search requests for brand terms in particular can be stimulated not only by increased investment in TV and display device campaigns, but also by direct cues to search such as “Just Google XYZ”, or “Search for XYZ”, which can significantly increase search volumes via conventional media channels, the report reveals.

Although this creative approach has been in use for some years in the USA and the UK, in Germany it remains the exception rather than the rule. The setup enables analytics data from searches to be harnessed to optimize cross-media campaign planning throughout the customer journey. The approaches that enable conventional high-reach campaigns to stimulate awareness can be measured in the form of changes in search volumes, and the cost of paid search conversions used in turn to deliver the TV campaign’s ROI/ROAS. Sustained SEO work also enables newly-gained organic search volumes to be directed to landing pages with high conversion rates in a targeted way. This makes it possible to ensure an optimal user experience all the way from couch to conversion. As agency Mediaplus has established in a joint study with SevenOne Media and Google, similar advertising effects can also be achieved with the help of Google’s video search engine YouTube. This is why it’s high time that the long-standing competition between marketing siblings TV and search engines was ended, so that tight budgets can be used more effectively and efficiently in times of economic difficulty. After all, family needs to stick together.

Who’s talking to Alexa?

Even in an industry as latently hypereuphoric as ours, the tense hype about the possibilities and blessings of voice search technology has finally given way to a sober realism. We’ve pointed out here many times in the past that voice search is little more than an extension of the human-machine interface for search engines, and that its substantive developments in terms of new forms of interaction would most likely be unable to satisfy the high expectations surrounding them. As is now being reported, the expert prediction that by 2020 around 50% of all search requests will be made using voice technology was simply the result of an incorrect interpretation of data from the People’s Republic of China.

Voice search user numbers are also growing independently of this minor market research fail, of course. This is primarily due to the likewise inflationary market launch of dialogue-capable devices. US marketing agency Path conducted a global survey to investigate how the new technology is being used by different target groups on different platforms. The study delivered multifaceted results: Around 70% of participants reported using voice search on a weekly basis. A quarter use the technology as often as three times a day. When the respondents are divided into age groups, it’s striking that users at the lower (13-18 years) and upper (65+ years) ends of the spectrum in particular report using voice technology on a regular basis.

A glance at the used search systems reveals that the oldest user group communicates most often (approximately 57% of all group respondents) with Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa. Around 28% of respondents in the youngest target group aged between 18 and 22 likewise prefer the Echo/Alexa family produced by the technology giant from Seattle. This suggests that the best way to reach these especially solvent and tech-savvy groups is to employ a combination of conventional voice-based SEO with structured data and product data automation, like Amazon SEO. Such a combination is something that many agencies on the German market have yet to offer.

As we sweat through the first heatwave of summer 2019, Google is slowly but surely coming under pressure from the US antitrust watchdogs. That’s why in June’s edition of SEO News, we will be examining whether the search engine should be seriously concerned about the possibility of being broken up.

Google is set to become a global portal

Since Donald Trump’s election to President of the United States, governance on the other side of the Atlantic has not been quite as rigorous as it once was. Given that no important legislation is being passed in Washington D.C. anymore, politicians are even more eager to figure out how they got into this mess in the first place. That’s why the bosses of digital giants like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple are being summoned by Congress, in no particular order, for the purposes of fact-finding and damage limitation. With the threat of antitrust laws being used to break up the corporation hanging over his head like a sword of Damocles, last December Google CEO Sundar Pichai was also forced to answer the question of what his company is doing with its legendary reach. More precisely put: How many hits does Google forward to third-party sites as a conventional search engine, and how much of this reach does the company retain for commercial exploitation and monetisation on its own Alphabet Holding websites and apps?

The answer Pichai gave at the time was not terribly helpful; rather than citing specific figures, he instead made vague statements about the distinctive characteristics of the user journey in Search. The search engine from Mountain View is also about to turn this user journey completely on its head: At the recent search marketing conference SMX Advanced in Seattle, observers were in agreement, for example, that Google is becoming increasingly less a search engine and much more a portal.

Clickstream data confirm the trend

A recent blog post from SEO aficionado Rand Fishkin conveniently fills in the gap in the numbers. Using clickstream data from analytics firm Jumpshot for the US market, he showed that around half of the approximately 150 billion Google hits in the US in 2018 were so-called ‘no-click searches’ – in other words, end points of the user journey, with no further click to a third-party site following the search request. This means that Google answers every second user’s query on its own website, thereby itself becoming the end point of the user journey.

New design layouts and clickable features in its once cleanly structured search results give the impression that Google is increasingly taking on the function of a classic web portal, according to the intention of the user request. What’s more, Google forwards around twelve percent of clicks to its own third-party sites, such as YouTube, according to Jumpshot data. According to Fishkin, what is not known is how many search requests are forwarded to a Google app such as Maps or Gmail on mobile devices and opened in those. This still leaves a significant proportion of more than 40 percent – over 60 billion clicks annually – that are forwarded to third-party sites as organic traffic on the Internet.

His traffic analysis also shows that the total number of these clicks has remained relatively consistent overall over the past three years. On the other hand, organic traffic from mobile end devices is falling sharply compared to desktop devices. This can be attributed to the increasing preference for paid and local search results on the small screen. The reason this decline in organic traffic from mobile searches is not yet being felt by website operators, according to Fishkin, is that Google’s reach continues to grow rapidly.

Google is standing at a crossroads

Let’s recap: Google is capitalising on most of its traffic growth on its own websites and apps. This loss of potential visitors to third-party websites is currently being offset by Google’s steep overall growth, however. One of the major reasons for this development is that the search engine from Mountain View no longer differs all that much from its commercial competitors – the price comparison and shopping platforms – when it comes to certain structured search requests, such as for flights, hotels or cinema listings.

The hearings before Congress and investigations reportedly launched by the US Department of Justice are therefore coming at the right time. Google must decide whether it wants to be a search engine or an omniscient universal portal. The diversification of its business model should not come at a cost to other market players.

The best way forward is always together. This key phrase characterizes not only the message of the Easter holiday, but also the SEO news for the month of April.

Why IT security is so relevant for SEO performance

Search machine optimisers are happy to label themselves as their customers’ caretaker. After all, SEOs stick their noses into almost all areas of the organisation and operation of digital assets such as websites or apps. Conscientious SEOs are not only required as strategic analysts, but also as nagging quibblers who are at some point confronted with security issues in addition to structural, content-related, and technical problems. Marketing staff are not responsible for IT security, of course, but a lack of awareness of online security is certainly capable of negatively influencing performance in search engines. Today’s basic SEO knowledge base should include the fact that the use of secured client-server connections by means of the HTTPS protocol of search engines has now become an essential quality factor. At least as important as these formal security components, however, is the monitoring of automated bot traffic on one’s own servers, for instance. The multitude of bots has perfectly legitimate purposes when it comes to website crawling. The best example of this is domain indexing for a search engine. According to a current study from the US bot specialist Distil Networks, however, around 19 percent of all active bots have darker motives. These include copying copyrighted content, looking for potential vulnerabilities on a given server, or even the distribution of malware. In total and over time, these generally unproblematic bot attacks can cause throttling of the loading speed or even completely prevent the delivery of websites.

Both have immediate negative affects on visibility within search engines. In addition to automated attacks, the topic of hacking in particular also takes the limelight. The term hacking refers to the act of changing content on a website through illegitimate intrusions from the outside. According to information from an analysis from the world’s largest domain handler, Go Daddy, around 73 percent of all hacked websites are taken over and changed for purely SEO reasons. In most cases, sites with relatively high authority are hacked in a specific topic area in order to deter potential visitors or to set up illegitimate links. The gravest consequences of such a hack would not only be the potential damage caused via search engines, such as a loss in incoming traffic and visibility, but also direct harm to website visitors due to fraudulent acquisition of their personal data (phishing) or direct infection with malware via infected downloads.

Strong together

The consequences of insufficient IT security for marketing and searching can be so severe that this creates a great commonality between the two areas. Neither effective search engine optimization nor comprehensive IT security can be outsourced; they must be the result of shared responsibility and teamwork. Those who continue to compartmentalise their thinking and organisation will not really be successful in either area.