Google Responsive Ads

What are Google’s New Responsive Search Ads?

Google has announced a new ad product based on machine learning, which adapts to users’ search queries for more accurate results.

In these new responsive search ads, businesses can provide up to 15 headlines and four lines of description. Once these are submitted, Google will perform tests to learn which ads offer the strongest performance for different queries.

Google claims that incorporating machine learning into testing multiple combinations has the power to increase an ad’s clicks by as much as 15 percent.

However, the new responsive search ads do more than this: they open the door for advertisers to take part in additional auctions and provide matches for more searches. As a result, companies using Google AdWords will be able to reach a wider audience.


More space for bigger descriptions

Advertisers will have a little more space to play with, as descriptions can contain as many as 90 characters rather than just 80. Each responsive search ad may display up to three different headlines instead of only two. Two descriptions can also appear.

This is a fantastic addition to the Google AdWords platform. Businesses of all sizes and across all industries will benefit from experimenting with Google’s new responsive search ads.

With additional space for your description fields and as many as 15 headlines, your PPC ad copy gives Google plenty of potential combinations to try.

After all, the aim of PPC is to help advertisers reach potential buyers through the most relevant, engaging ads. The new responsive search ads should help companies to match more queries, increasing your chances to boost conversions.

Google’s responsive search ads are in beta at present and being provided to a limited group of AdWords clients.


Intelligent testing for successful campaigns

Being able to essentially let Google’s machine learning to test multiple combinations and decide on the most effective takes some of the strain off. A/B testing is an essential part of cultivating a successful PPC campaign, but now Google will take the initiative.

Of course, you still have to put real effort and consideration into creating the various headlines and descriptions you submit. The stronger the ideas you provide to Google, the better the combinations are likely to be.

It is vital to spend time looking into the best keywords, headlines and tone to grab your target audience. Keep in mind that Google’s responsive search ads can only work with what you deliver.

This is another exciting step in Google’s ongoing advances in online advertising. We look forward to seeing where they go next.

Are you looking to launch your own PPC campaign, or get better results with your current one? Give our Orange County digital marketing agency a call to learn more!

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What is A/B Testing?

What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing (or split testing) is mentioned again and again in the world of digital marketing, but what is it?

This can be an incredibly powerful part of optimizing your website and boosting your conversions. Performing an A/B test lets you compare two versions of a web page to identify which one works best.

This involves presenting the two pages to visitors at the same time, and whichever achieves higher conversion rates becomes the final version.

A/B testing gives you the power to make the most of your current traffic, and it can be applied to virtually any element of your website which impacts visitors’ behavior. This includes your headlines, sub headlines, testimonials, text in paragraphs, images, links, and more.

After all, Google is used to perform billions of searches each month, and you need to do everything you can to grab prospects’ attention.


Gathering Key Data

Before you run your A/B testing, you need to gather data that will ultimately help you identify the strongest variation.

Visitors’ behavior is one area to focus on, and certain tools can show obstacles that might prevent conversions or cause prospects to click away. For example, uninformative text which is too clustered together for comfortable reading, unattractive images, or an unclear CTA button can all contribute to a lack of conversions.

After exploring the results of such analysis, you would then be able to see where a potential new page would have to go. If you have problems with your CTA button or your text’s layout, you can create a new one with the same content presented differently.

If you can establish which of your options has the power to make a stronger impact on visitors, you should be able to increase conversions and build your user-base.


Trial and Error

It’s vital to make both variations as high-quality as possible, and give both a fair chance. Don’t be tempted to effectively sabotage one version of a page if you prefer the other, because what you prefer might not necessarily match your audience’s tastes.

A/B testing allows you to try different styles and presentation formats too. For example, if you feel your copy may be a little bland, your B page can be quirkier and funnier. If you find this garners fewer conversions during your sample period than the A page, you could perhaps try another new version that resembles the original more.

You can try again and again over time, eliminating less-successful variations and gathering data from the best to transform your site.

At Nett Solutions, our Orange County SEO team is passionate about helping businesses just like yours maximize your visibility, boost conversions, and ultimately achieve higher rankings. Give us a call now to see what we can do for you!

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Which Key Digital Marketing Trends Should You Follow?

digital marketing trends
Image via flickr.

No business can afford to neglect its online presence in 2016. With research indicating that a staggering 31 million people across the US alone will have used their mobile devices to go online by the end of the year, the internet is clearly never far from users’ reach.

The internet’s proliferation and global reach means consumers have more choice than ever today. Even the most well-established brands face stiff competition from smaller enterprises offering similar products and services at lower costs.

Following the latest trends is key to success. Which your business already be embracing? (more…)

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Orange County Search Engine Placement: Three Reasons Why it’s Better than Traditional PPC

orange county search engine placementResearch shows that, on average, we perform 12 billion searches in the U.S every single month. This staggering figure shows just how much we depend on the internet as part of our daily lives: from finding the lyrics to that old Springsteen track to finding a reliable plumber in your city, search engines are as essential to many of us as food and drink.

This deep immersion in the online world is the reason digital ad spending is predicted to top out at $58.61 billion in 2015 in the U.S.: businesses recognize how vital it is to secure traffic and conversions as a means of attracting new customers.

PPC plays a huge part in web marketing, with Google Adwords and Bing Ads being the most well-known platforms. However, using PPC itself is no guarantee of success – in order to reach their target demographic and boost traffic to their site, businesses must create ads using the best keywords and phrases possible.

Search engine placement (SEP) is the best way to create high-quality ads that bring impressive results and appeal to your ideal customer. Why? Let’s take a look.  (more…)

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QUICK TIP #1 – SEP –Search Engine Placement


If you own a website, it’s natural that you want to be listed at the top of the search results. This is because users will most likely find a website that suits their needs towards the top of the page. The further down the page you are, the more likely it is that many people will miss your website. Whether you are selling products or services, you need strong search engine placement in order to get more business.

  • Choosing Keywords

Consider how people will search for your web page. The words you visualize them entering into the search box should be your target keywords. Keep in mind the language your business uses is not always the same language your customer uses. For example, you might consider yourself a “software dev staff augmentation firm” but most people would simply search “software development team” or “outsourced software development team”.

  • Don’t Fight the Odds

Make sure your targeted keywords are always at least two or more words long.  Most of the time, single-word searches are too ambiguous to be effective. There are many reasons why someone might search for something like “bicycle.”  Don’t spend all your time fighting the odds. Choose phrases that contain two or more words, and you will have a much higher chance of success.


More on SEP:

Illustrating the importance of being on top, an infographic on shows clicks from paid search listings are now outnumbering clicks from organic (unpaid) search listings by almost 2:1 in keyword searches with high commercial intent, or keywords where the searcher is looking to buy a product or service. Click here to read more.

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How Google Collects Search Quality Data

As a full service SEM agency, we often field questions about how and/or why Google makes changes to its Search Engine Results Pages.  The only honest answer to that question is “I don’t know.”  It’s very difficult to predict Google’s next move.  This is especially true for our SEO clients.  They’re making changes all the time, both visible and invisible.  The only promise we can make is that we will quickly pivot and create solutions for our clients to ensure they can navigate through this ever-changing landscape.  Here’s an interesting piece from Search Engine Journal giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse into some of the tools Google use to improve the quality of its SERPs.  While it doesn’t answer the how/why questions, it certianly gives good insight into the process.  Link here.

How Google Collects Search Quality Data on Your Site

Posted on  by Johann Beishline | Leave a comment
The views of contributors are their own, and not necessarily those of SEJ

Google Inc
It’s little known that Google was never meant to be a company. In fact, in 1998 Vinod Khosla (one of the first investors in Google) managed to convince Larry Page and Sergey Brin to sell their technology to Lycos, Excite, or Yahoo, the leading search engines of the time, for a paltry million dollars so that they could go back to focusing on their research at Stanford University.

While each company took the time to review Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s work, they passed on the opportunity of purchasing it. The companies were simply not that concerned with search quality; they figured their results were good enough and that they needed to differentiate themselves from the competition by other means.

When the two friends decided to pursue their search engine anyway, they made focusing on search quality their top priority. They even put it in their mission statement: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Google has stayed true to this commitment more than a decade later. It still dedicates tremendous amounts of resources figuring out how to deliver the best possible results.

However, when a search engine is dealing with millions of searches each second –15 percent (or 500 million queries per day) of which it has never encountered before- how does it make sure that it is delivering the best possible experience? The answer is that it uses a combination of automatic and manual review processes.

Because automatic review processes (such as PageRank, Panda, and Penguin) have been discussed so often, this piece will focus on the more manual ways that Google gathers data to judge search result quality.

Millions of Everyday Users

In the interest of improving its algorithm, Google performed more than 20,000 experiments on its search results in 2010. Much of the data from these experiments comes from placing a percentage of users into specific buckets.

If you use Google, you are likely unwittingly helping the company improve their results as part of one of these experiments right now. Based on the outcome of these experiments, Google makes more than 500 changes to their algorithms each year with each one typically impacting a small percentage of search engine results.

Experiments might be as simple as split testing their website layout or as complicated as altering millions of search engine rankings in an attempt to improve their quality.

Website Statistics

The primary way that Google gains data about its search results is through basic usage statistics.


For instance, if you happen to look for a dentist using Google and you click on the first result, Google can indirectly measure your reaction to the website by seeing whether you return back to the search engine results page (SERP) and click on another link.

It is clear you didn’t find what you were looking for if you have to return to the search engine to click on another link. Google’s goal is to provide you with what you were looking for in the least amount of time possible.

Google knows what types of usage patterns to expect based on query intent (navigational, informational, or transactional) and aggregates data on each link’s performance.

Statistics they collect include bounce rate and time spent on site. Even though these statistics are indirect, they tend to be incredibly accurate at predicting if a user has liked the content they clicked on.

Another way that Google can gather search result quality data is by looking at page load speeds from people who have installed their Toolbar. You can see the data Google has collected from users about your site’s speed in Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools. While Google also tests website speeds when its bot is crawling the web, the Toolbar provides the company with more information about real world conditions.

Social Media Metrics

Google started gathering social media data quite a few years ago. Since Google does not have fire hose access to Twitter and Facebook, they have been hesitant to trust social signals, but these signals are becoming an ever-growing part of its algorithm.

In the past, Google relied almost exclusively on backlinks to determine how to rank sites. The problem with this approach is that it only lets webmasters decide whether your site is high quality.

Social media signals are the democratization of search engine quality measurements. Basically, social media has the potential to let everyone vote on whether a page should be ranking in Google. If you share a website on your social media profiles, it likely means that you viewed the site favorably.

Social media data will play a huge role in the future of search and will be heavily drawn upon by search engines to determine how people are reacting to content online.

Surveys & Questionnaires

While indirect data from its users is great, Google still has a difficult time understanding why users don’t like certain pages. It has plenty of data, but it needs to transform it into information through analysis and evaluation to make sense of it all. As a result, it has started to take more direct feedback from its users as well.

As a search engine optimizer, I conduct a fair amount of searches each day (so much so that I often have to type in a CAPTCHA just to use the service). The following images are from my real world experiences.


After searching Google for “local search engine optimization”, they presented me with the box in the right hand corner. The box asked me to rate two different pages for relevance.

google-search-quality-result 1

One of the pages that Google was looking for information on was a Search Engine Watch article.

google-search-quality-result 2

The other page Google wanted input on was for a local search engine optimization company.

After visiting the two pages it’s fairly obvious what Google was looking for with its questionnaire. Since the query I typed into Google (“local search engine optimization”) is ambiguous, Google wasn’t sure what type of content to show.

They were checking to see if people were looking for articles on local search engine optimization (an informational query), or if they were looking for a company to hire (a transactional query).

I voted for the Search Engine Watch article, as the majority of people must have, because Google has recently begun integrating News results into the query. Now rather than showing local SEO companies near the top of the SERP, Google is showing more articles instead.

A few weeks later I performed a Google search for “great science fiction novels” to check on the types of queries for which it was using its new slider.


After performing the search, I noticed a feedback button that I hadn’t seen on any of the other sliders. When I clicked on it, the following buttons showed up:

crowd-sourced-experiment-googleGoogle was looking for input on the types of books that should be in the slider. If enough people feel that a certain book should not be in the slider, Google likely removes it.

In fact, if you look at the results right now, you will notice that several of the books seen above no longer appear on the first slide.

Another survey tool that I have seen Google use is the one below:

The survey came in the form of a chat box in the right hand side of the screen and asked me to judge the page of results as a whole.

Google Search Quality Raters

Since around 2005, Google has used an army of hired search quality raters to ensure that its results are up to par.

Because Google still relies mostly on indirect measurements of quality, it uses search quality raters to look at poor performing pages and determine why users didn’t like them.

This feedback mostly makes its way back to Google’s engineering department so that it can develop more experiments. This feedback doesn’t usually have a direct impact on your site’s rankings. You can see the exact guidelines Google gives its search engine quality raters here.

Webmaster Tools Spam Reports


Another manual method that Google relies upon to ensure quality search results is through itsWebmaster Tools spam reporting interface.

Spam reports come from a variety of sources including victims of scams, disgruntled SEOs, and copyright owners.

Google employees go through the reports and can manually penalize sites that they come across.


As you can see, Google is serious about the quality of its search results. Google is a living, breathing organism fed by enormous amounts of data.

The company is in constant flux, exploring ways to improve the quality of its search results. As long as search engine optimizers continue to outsmart Google’s algorithms (which will happen for the foreseeable future), Google will keep using manual data gathering techniques to enhance their algorithm and penalize manipulators.

What other tactics have you seen Google use to gather more manual forms of search quality data?



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Does your pricing “Thrill” your customers?

JC Penny (JCP) has been making headlines over the past year due to a strategic shift in its pricing model.  About a year ago, newly hired CEO, Ron Johnson, announced that JCP will no longer promote sales and offer coupons to its customers.  Instead, they would offer everyday low prices.  JCP wanted to offer shoppers a no-nonsense way to shop without worrying about whether or not they are getting the best deal possible.  Theoretically, that made some sense.  From a business owner’s perspective, that makes even more sense.  A simple, systematic, uniform pricing model saves labor cost, stabilizes inventory, and allows a method to manage costs/margins much easier.  Time and labor is money, so if you’re saving those two resources, you’re going to save money.  So how did JCP miss the mark?

A recent NY Times article interviewed Tracie Fobes from Penny Pinchin’ Mom.  She epitomizes the fallacy in JCP’s logic.

When, a little over a year ago, J. C. Penney stopped promoting sales and offering coupons and instead made a big deal about its “everyday” low prices, Ms. Fobes stopped shopping there. It wasn’t that she thought the prices were bad, she said. She just wasn’t having any fun…  most shoppers, coupon collectors or not, want the thrill of getting a great deal, even if it’s an illusion. In recent months, Penney recognized that human trait and backtracked on its pricing policy, offering coupons and running weekly sales again”.

JCP grossly underestimated the human aspect of its customers.  Humans don’t just buy based on price.  We buy based on feelings and emotions.  (Ironically, Mr. Johnson was recruited from Apple, a company notorious for selling on perceived value and brand equity, not price)  We want to feel like we got a steal.  It’s an experience.  It’s a great feeling to see a discount on our receipt.  It’s the reason grocery store cashiers are now trained to grab a red pen and circle the “club card” discount total on your receipt before you leave.  It’s not because you got the best deal available.  It’s to give you the proud feeling and emotional elation of realizing you did a great job on your purchase.  That’s what we like.

Does the same hold true for online retailers?  Would JCP’s strategy work for e-retailers?  Online shoppers have fewer barriers to price shop compared to brick-and-mortar shoppers.  With a few keystrokes you can compare prices from multiple websites.  Due to these low barriers, the assumption is that online retailing is all about price. Traditional shoppers don’t have the luxury of walking or driving to 10 brick-and-mortars for price comparisons.  If they want to touch the product before buying, their options are limited, so you don’t need to be the lowest price to earn the sale.

While online retail may be more price sensitive, you need to take a look at yourself and your competitive landscape.  Price is important.  However, check the ease of navigability on your site.  Compare the efficiency of your shopping cart process compared to competitors.  If yours is clunky, update it.  If it’s ugly, redesign it.  Simplify your sitemap.  Offer shipping deals.  Build a retargeting campaign to stay connected when they shop around.  Note a regular price next to “your” price. If your company has a mission or cause (think Tom’s shoes), make it known.

Just remember, people don’t always buy based on the absolute lowest price.  Before focusing on how to sell more… focus on understanding why people buy.   Tap into their emotions a bit.  This may allow you increase sales while, most importantly, maintaining healthier margins.

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SEO & the Art of War

“If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”  Sun Tsu, The Art of War

SEO has become a series of battles to be won.  Years ago, it was easy to be a one trick SEO pony and be successful.  Using link farms, bots, cheap overseas labor and other automation tools made SEO a robotic process.  Fast forward today and you’ll see an entirely different battlefield.  It’s not enough to run what we call “Ronco” campaigns (Set it and forget it).  Every month there seems to be a new Panda or Penguin update altering the landscape of the SERPs.  You need to know your “opposition” as well as you know your own business.  (Of course, I’m not saying Google is an enemy.  My point is that their decisions sculpt the challenges that we must overcome in our landscape.)

SEO isn’t easy.  You must optimize but not over-optimize.  You need good, healthy, fresh content, but not too thin and not too thick.  You need links, but they need to be quality and “natural”.  Use keywords but don’t overstuff them.  Try hard without appearing to try too hard.  Make people like you.  Now do all this without knowing the exact recipe or strict outline of the “perfect” result.

As a Certified Google SEM agency, we decided to jump into the Organic game just as Google began its game-changing updates.  How is it that our clients continue to “not be imperiled in a hundred battles” during the most volatile time in our industry’s history?

  1. As Sun Tsu states, “know yourself.”  We’ve done paid placement for years.  We know ourselves, and that has been our forte.  We’re damn good at it. As a proverbial tiger, I didn’t want to change our stripes or water down our talent pool.  I knew our paid search team were not organic SEO guys.  I set off to find an equally damn good SEO to either acquire or create a strategic partnership with.  I literally spent years meeting with SEO agencies, trying to find someone who wants to do it right, and who blends seamlessly with our culture.  I finally found one through my alumni network.  I don’t mix the two departments.  Our team members are all local, U.S.  based SEOs who only focus on being the best at what they do.  They’re passionate about SEO & Content Marketing.  This way our paid search team can continue to be the best at what they do.
  2. As the Art of War states, “know your enemy.”   We study google and learn everything we can about them.  In other words, we dedicate a lot of time and resources learning about Google’s goals, strategy, and mindset.  We don’t have one particular software or rigid gameplan for SEO.  We’re constantly changing and improving based on what Google wants.  It’s not the easy route but it is the best route.

Our clients have seen the benefits of this strategy.  We would love to help you navigate through the confusing and evolving organic search environment.  We aren’t the cheapest  SEO.  We don’t want to be.  We don’t use low cost, overseas labor.  We don’t care for it.  More importantly, we’ve learned that our clients don’t want “cheap” either.  As written in a great Harvard Business Review article:

Orange County SEO Company

– Michael Won
“Formerly Ungoogleable”

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Restaurant Impossible?

I’m a huge fan of the Food Network.  I love to cook.  I love to grill.  I love experimenting with new recipes.  One of the more entertaining shows on the Food Network is called Restaurant Impossible.  The premise of this show is about a chef named Robert Irvine, who always reminds me of NFL Referee Ed Hochuli due to them both wearing tight fitted shirts that show off their guns.  (Let’s be real, if I was a walking gun show, I’d probably buy my shirts 2 sizes too small too.)

Chef Irvine goes into a failing restaurant and has 48 hours and $10,000 to turn it around.  A majority of the show is spent fixing the operational and aesthetic aspects of the restaurant and the menu.   However, there’s always a 5-10 minute segment focused on marketing.  Chef Irvine always needs to find a way to generate buzz and bring customers to the grand re-opening of the restaurant.  In marketing terms, he’s focused on “push marketing.”

I have a handful of friends in the restaurant business and they’re always looking for ways to attract more patrons.  They all share a similar sentiment:  If I can just get them to try my food, I think they’ll come back.  Here are a number of very cool stats published in a collaborative study titled “The Mobile Path to Purchase” by Telemetrics, xAds, and Nielsen.  These are some rather convincing numbers.  Especially since I my own behavior seems to fit right into these statistics.  I hope this helps all you restauranteurs:

  • 89 percent of smartphone owners and 84 percent of tablet users have immediate purchase intent and take action within 24 hours of their research.  (that’s not a typo.  89%!)
  • 64 percent of smartphone and 44 percent of tablet users in Restaurants make a decision within an hour.
  • 84 percent of mobile users had looked for a business location or maps and driving directions in the past month.
  • Smartphone local directory apps are most popular for Restaurant (53 percent)
  • 75% of smartphone users seek restaurant info while on the go and over 50% of that activity is happening in a car.
  • 65% of smartphone users look for restaurants within local walking or driving distance.

Bottom line:  get your business on google maps/local  apps, yelp, urbanspoon, and other social directories.  We can help you get there.

Here’s an infograph for you to enjoy with more data:


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