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  • Yahoo! Search Testing Google Search Results

    Search PandaMonium

    A couple days ago Microsoft announced a deal with AOL to have AOL sell Microsoft display ads & for Bing to power AOL's organic search results and paid search ads for a decade starting in January.

    The search landscape is still undergoing changes.

    I am uncertain to what degree they are testing search results from Google, but on some web browsers I am seeing Yahoo! organics and ads powered by Bing & in other browsers I am seeing Yahoo! organics and ads powered by Google. Here are a couple screenshots.

    Bing Version

    Google Version

    Comparing The SERPs

    Notable differences between the versions:

    search providerBingGoogle
    top ad colorpurpleblue
    top ad faviconyesno
    clickable ad areaallheadline
    ad labelright of each ad near URLonce in gray above all ads
    ad URL redirectr.msn.comgoogle.com
    ad units above organics54
    ad sitelinksmanyfewer
    ad star rating colorblueyellow
    Yahoo! verticals like Tumblr & Answersmixed into organic resultsnot mixed in
    footer "powered by Bing" messageshownmissing

    When the Google ads run on the Yahoo! SERPs for many keywords I am seeing many of the search arbitrage players in the top ads. Typically these ads are more commonly relegated to Google.com's right rail ad positions.

    The Google Yahoo! Search Backstory

    Back in 2008 when Yahoo! was fighting to not get acquired they signed an ad agreement with Google, but it was blocked by the DOJ due to antitrust concerns. Unless Google loses Apple as a search partner, they are arguably more dominant today in general web search than they were back in 2008. Some have argued apps drastically change the way people search, but Google has went to great lengths to depreciate the roll of apps & suck people back into their search ecosystem with features baked into Google Now on tap & in-app keyword highlighting that can push a user from an app into a Google search result.

    In Q4 last year Yahoo! replaced Google as the default search provider in Firefox in the United States.

    And Yahoo! recently signed a deal with Oracle to bundle default Yahoo! Search settings on Java updates. Almost all the Bing network gains of late have been driven by Yahoo!.

    A little over a year ago Yahoo! launched Gemini to begin rebuilding their own search ad network, starting with mobile. In their Q1 report, RKG stated "Among advertisers adopting Gemini, 36% of combined Bing and Yahoo mobile traffic was served by Yahoo in March 2015."

    When Yahoo! recently renewed their search deal with Microsoft, Yahoo! was once again allowed to sell their own desktop search ads & they are only required to give 51% of the search volume to Bing. There has been significant speculation as to what Yahoo! would do with the carve out. Would they build their own search technology? Would they outsource to Google to increase search ad revenues? It appears they are doing a bit of everything - some Bing ads, some Yahoo! ads, some Google ads.

    Bing reports the relative share of Yahoo! search ad volume they deliver on a rolling basis: "data covers all device-types. The relative volume (y-axis) is an index based on average traffic in April, therefore it is possible for the volume to go above 1.0. The chart is updated on a weekly basis."

    If Yahoo! gives Google significant share it could create issues where users who switch between the different algorithms might get frustrated by the results being significantly different. Or if users don't care it could prove general web search is so highly commoditized the average searcher is totally unaware of the changes. The latter is more likely, given most searchers can't even distinguish between search ads and organic search results.

    The FTC was lenient toward Google in spite of Google's clearly articulated intent to abuse their dominant market position. Google has until August 17th to respond to EU antitrust charges. I am a bit surprised Google would be willing to run this type of test while still undergoing antitrust scrutiny in Europe.

    Choosing to Choose Choice

    When Mozilla signed the deal with Yahoo! & dumped Google they pushed it as "promoting choice."

    A cynic might question how much actual choice there is if on many searches the logo is different but the underlying ads & organic results are powered by Google, and an ex-Google executive runs Yahoo!.

    "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black." - Henry Ford

    Categories: 


  • Web Design Resources for Non-Designers

    Most of you are too busy monitoring Google's latest algorithm updates, examining web analytics, and building links and content to stay up to date on the design world.

    Usually, creative people who excel at design aren't very good at the left-brain thinking required to succeed in the highly-technical search engine optimization industry. Likewise, very few people with the analytical mindset required for search engine optimization would do well in the free-spirited design industry.

    Unfortunately, in the real world, you're often expected to do exactly that. And while most people understand that it would be ludicrous to expect their doctor to also troubleshoot their plumbing, they don't seem to understand why they shouldn't expect the person responsible for their SEO to also handle their design needs from time to time.

    So you're often forced to design things for your clients from time to time. Or sometimes, you just need to whip up something for yourself instead of trying to find someone who can deliver what you need on Fiverr.

    Since you probably won't start sporting a black turtleneck and talking about crop marks, press checks, or CMYK colors anytime soon, it seems silly to shell out thousands of dollars on software you'll only use occasionally, so I've compiled a list of design resources for non-designers.

    The resources in this list are every bit as powerful as any of the professional-grade software, but they are free. (Some do offer premium versions with more options.) The only downside is that it might be a little bit tougher to find tutorials for some of these programs compared to the industry standard software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator.

    Image editing

    Image Editing.

    We all need to edit and create images from time to time, but if you only do it occasionally, software like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator works out to be pretty expensive. Fortunately, there are several feature-rich image editing programs available.

    • Gimp - Anything you can do with Photoshop can be done with Gimp, and it runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux. The learning curve can be steep, but it's worth the time.
    • Pixlr - If you're used to Photoshop, this program has a very similar interface, and it even opens native .psd files with the original layers intact.
    • Canva - The drag-and-drop interface of this web-based design program make graphic design quick and simple, plus it comes with a library of over one million professional stock images.
    • Inkscape - Easily create illustrations, logos, technical drawings, and vector images with this free alternative to Illustrator.
    • SVG Editor - If you're obsessed about website speed, you probably love SVGs (scalable vector graphics) and this handy tool from Google make it easy to create and edit them.

    3D

    OK, so you're not going to compete with Pixar anytime soon, but 3D capabilities do come in handy for designing mockups of books and DVDs, creating characters, and even complete photorealistic animations.

    • Online 3d Package - This tool lets you quickly and easily create photorealistic mockups of books, boxes, DVDs, and CDs.
    • Blender - If you occasionally need to create 3D renderings but can't justify spending big bucks for professional-grade software that you'll only use a few times, Blender is the perfect (and free) alternative.

    Web design

    Web Design.

    Designing a website requires a blend of creative and technical skills. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools available to efficiently complete both. From the pretty parts, to the nuts and bolts, to the little details, here is everything you'll need:

    Palette generator - Upload an image and this tool will generate the perfect color palette to compliment it that you can download as a CSS file.

    Subtle Paterns - Creating seamless backgrounds can be a pain, so instead of starting from scratch, just download from over 400 high-quality seamless background images, including textures and patterns.

    Web page editors

    Whether you're building a website from scratch with a WYSIWYG editor or fine-tuning the code on an existing website with an HTML editor, web design software will probably get a lot of use in your hands. If you have the technical chops to hand code your websites, that's ideal, but if not, or if you just don't want to, here are several options:

    • Kompozer - With a WYSIWYG editor in one tab and raw HTML in the other, on-the-fly editing with built-in FTP, Kompozer will make creating and editing web page a breeze.
    • Google Webdesigner - Build HTML5-based designs and motion graphics that can run on any device without writing any code! (If you want to get your hands dirty, you can edit all HTML and CSS by hand.
    • Expression Web - Microsoft offers another free web page editor which has made significant improvements since that abomination called Frontpage.

    Favicon Generator - A truly polished website needs consistent branding throughout, and that means all the little details, including a favicon—that tiny little image that sits in the tab or bookmarks. Just upload an image file, such as your logo, and this handy tool will spit out the .ico files you need.

    Web Developer Toolbar - This browser toolbar is available for Firefox and Chrome, and helps you troubleshoot your website and even test it at various screen sizes.

    Infographics

    Infographics.

    Infographics are still an effective method to earn social shares and links, and they are a great way to present a lot of data-rich information, but they can be a pain to create. Here are several tools to simplify the process that might even be better (and easier) than traditional design software.

    • Infogram - Build beautiful data-driven infographics in just three steps with this free tool.
    • Piktochart - With a simple point and click editor and over 4,000 graphics, icons, and template files, Piktochart makes it easy to create infographics that look exactly the way you want.
    • Easel.ly - Loaded with tons of creative templates and an east-to-use interface, this is another powerful tool to create your own stunning infographics.
    • Venngage - This drag and drop interface provides all the charts, maps, icons and templates you'll need to design attention-grabbing infographics.
    • Vizualize.me - Turn your boring resume into a unique visual expression of your skills and experience to stand out from the crowd.

    If you are in a saturated market or have a great idea you are certain will be a success then it may make sense to splash out for a custom designed graphic, but in less competitive market some of the above quick-n-easy tools can still be remarkably effective.

    Data visualization

    Google Charts is a great way to create all sorts of charts, and the best part is that you can create them on the fly by passing variables in the URL.

    Typography

    Typography.

    Today you have plenty of options when it comes to font choices, so please stop using Arial, and for the love of all that is good, never use Comic Sans or I will hunt you down. You can choose from thousands of free fonts, so it's easy to pick one that fits your project perfectly.

    • Typegenius - Choosing the perfect font combo can be tough, but Typegenious makes it easy. Just pick a starter font from the drop down list and the site will recommend fonts that pair well with it.
    • Google Fonts - I recommend embedding Google fonts instead hosting them on your own server because they load more quickly and there is a chance they're already cached on visitors' computers.
    • Font Awesome - This is an awesome (hence the name) way to add all sorts of scalable icons without a load of extra http requests. Simply load one font for access to 519 icons that colored, scaled, and styled with CSS.
    • DaFont - Download and instal these fonts (.ttf or .otf formats) for designing documents or images on your computer.
    • What the Font - If you've ever experienced the rage-inducing task of figuring out what font was used when your client only has a 72dpi jpg and no idea how to track down their previous designer, then this is the tool for you. Just upload your image and it goes to work figuring what font it is.

    Social media

    Social Media.

    Social media can multiply your website's exposure exponentially, but it takes a lot of work. From branding profiles on each network to crafting engaging visual content your fans will share, you'll have to create a lot of graphics to feed the beast. Doing that manually, the old-fashioned way is tedious and slow, so I recommend these tools to speed up your workflow.

    Easy Cover Maker - Stop wasting time trying to position your cover and profile photo for your Facebook and Google+ page. This tool lets you drag everything into position in one handy interactive window, then download the image files.

    Quote creators

    • Quotes Cover - Just select a quote or enter your own text, apply various effects for your own unique style, and download eye catching pictures perfect for social media. It even creates the perfect dimensions based on how you intend to use it.
    • Chisel - This tool has the most user-friendly interface and tons of great images and fonts to create the exact message you want to share.
    • Recite This - There are plenty of images and fonts available, but the downside is you have to scroll through images one at a time, and fonts are selected randomly.

    Jing - From the makers of Camtasia, this free program gives you the ability to capture images or video (up to 5 minutes long) of your computer screen, then share it with the click of a button.

    Social Kit - Create cover images, profile pictures, and ad banners for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube with this free, up-to-date Photoshop plugin.

    Social media image size guide - The folks over at Sprout Social created (and maintain) this handy and comprehensive Google doc listing the image sizes for all major social media networks, and since it's a shared document, you can have Google notify you anytime it's updated!

    Meme creators

    Instead of wasting time searching for the perfect meme, why not just create your own?

    Stock photos

    Powerful photos can mean the difference between a dry post that visitors ignore and one that entices them to read more. The good news is you don't have to take your own spend a fortune on stock photos because there are several free and low-cost options available.

    • Unsplash - These are not your typical cheesy stock photos; they lean more towards the artistic side. New photos are uploaded every day and they're all 100% free.
    • StockVault - With over 54 thousand free images available, both artistic and corporate-style, you should be able to find the perfect photo for just about any project.
    • Dreamstime & iStockPhoto - Both of these sites give you the option of a subscription model or a pay-as-you-go credits. Many images on one are available on the other, but I've found great images that were only on one of the two sites, so it's worthwhile to check both.

    Inspiration

    Even the best designers hit a wall, creatively speaking, so it helps to look for inspiration. These sites curate the best designs around and are updated regularly, so you'll find plenty of fresh ideas for your project.

    Tutorials

    Since you're days are filled with keyword research, content development, link building, and other SEO-related tasks, you probably don't have time to stay up-to-date on the latest design trends and techniques. No worries—with these websites, you'll be able to find a tutorial to walk you through just about any design challenge.

    • CSS-Tricks - Whenever I have a CSS question, I always slap “css tricks” on the end of my search because Chris Coyer has the most detailed, yet easy-to-understand tutorials on damn near every scenario you could imagine.
    • Tuts+ - Learn everything about graphic design, web design, programming, and more with a growing library of articles and tutorials.
    • Smashing Magazine - This is probably one of the most comprehensive web design resources you'll find anywhere, going wide and deep on every aspect of web design.

    About the Author

    Jeremy Knauff is the founder of Spartan Media, a proud father, husband, and US Marine Corps veteran. He has spent over 15 years helping small business up to Fortune 500 companies make their mark online, and now he's busy building his own media empire. You can follow Spartan Media on Twitter and Facebook.

    Categories: 


  • But First, A Word From Our Sponsors...

    Yesterday Google shared they see greater mobile than desktop search volumes in 10 countries including Japan and the United States.

    3 years ago RKG shared CTR data which highlighted how mobile search ads were getting over double the CTR as desktop search ads.

    The basic formula: less screen real estate = higher proportion of user clicks on ads.

    Google made a big deal of their "mobilepocalypse" update to scare other webmasters into making their sites mobile friendly. Part of the goal of making sites "mobile friendly" is to ensure it isn't too ad dense (which in turn lowers accidental ad clicks & lowers monetization). Not only does Google have an "ad heavy" relevancy algorithm which demotes ad heavy sites, but they also explicitly claim even using a moderate sized ad unit on mobile devices above the fold is against their policy guidelines:

    Is placing a 300x250 ad unit on top of a high-end mobile optimized page considered a policy violation?

    Yes, this would be considered a policy violation as it falls under our ad placement policies for site layout that pushes content below the fold. This implementation would take up too much space on a mobile optimized site's first view screen with ads and provides a poor experience to users. Always try to think of the users experience on your site - this will help ensure that users continue to visit.

    So if you make your site mobile friendly you can't run Google ads above the fold unless you are a large enough publisher that the guidelines don't actually matter.

    If you spend the extra money to make your site mobile friendly, you then must also go out of your way to lower your income.

    What is the goal of the above sort of scenario? Defunding content publishers to ensure most the ad revenues flow to Google.

    If you think otherwise, consider the layout of the auto ads & hotel ads Google announced yesterday. Top of the search results, larger than 300x250.

    If you do X, you are a spammer. If Google does X, they are improving the user experience.

    @aaronwall they will personally do everything they penalize others for doing; penalties are just another way to weaken the market.— Cygnus SEO (@CygnusSEO) May 5, 2015

    The above sort of contrast is something noticed by non-SEOs. The WSJ article about Google's new ad units had a user response stating:

    With this strategy, Google has made the mistake of an egregious use of precious mobile screen space in search results. This entails much extra fingering/scrolling to acquire useful results and bypass often not-needed coincident advertising. Perhaps a moneymaker by brute force; not a good idea for utility’s sake.

    That content displacement with ads is both against Google's guidelines and algorithmically targeted for demotion - unless you are Google.

    How is that working for Google partners?

    According to eMarketer, by 2019 mobile will account for 72% of US digital ad spend. Almost all that growth in ad spend flows into the big ad networks while other online publishers struggle to monetize their audiences:

    Facebook and Google accounted for a majority of mobile ad market growth worldwide last year. Combined, the two companies saw net mobile ad revenues increase by $6.92 billion, claiming 75.2% of the additional $9.2 billion that went toward mobile in 2013.

    Back to the data RKG shared. Mobile is where the growth is...

    ...and the smaller the screen size the more partners are squeezed out of the ecosystem...

    The high-intent, high-value search traffic is siphoned off by ads.

    What does that leave for the rest of the ecosystem?

    It is hard to build a sustainable business when you have to rely almost exclusively on traffic with no commercial intent.

    One of the few areas that works well is perhaps with evergreen content which has little cost of maintenance, but even many of those pockets of opportunity are disappearing due to the combination of the Panda algorithm and Google's scrape-n-displace knowledge graph.

    .@mattcutts I think I have spotted one, Matt. Note the similarities in the content text: pic.twitter.com/uHux3rK57f— dan barker (@danbarker) February 27, 2014

    Even companies with direct ad sales teams struggle to monetize mobile:

    At The New York Times, for instance, more than half its digital audience comes from mobile, yet just 10% of its digital-ad revenue is attributed to these devices.

    Other news websites also get the majority of their search traffic from mobile.

    Why do news sites get so much mobile search traffic? A lot of it is navigational & beyond that most of it is on informational search queries which are hard to monetize (and thus have few search ads) and hard to structure into the knowledge graph (because they are about news items which only just recently happened).

    If you look at the organic search traffic breakdown in your analytics account & you run a site which isn't a news site you will likely see a far lower share of search traffic from mobile. Websites outside of the news vertical typically see far less mobile traffic. This goes back to Google dominating the mobile search interface with ads.

    Mobile search ecosystem breakdown

    • traffic with commercial intent = heavy ads
    • limited commercial intent but easy answer = knowledge graph
    • limited commercial intent & hard to answer = traffic flows to news sites

    Not only is Google monetizing a far higher share of mobile search traffic, but they are also aggressively increasing minimum bids.

    As Google continues to gut the broader web publishing ecosystem, they can afford to throw a few hundred million in "innovation" bribery kickback slush funds. That will earn them some praise in the short term with some of the bigger publishers, but it will make those publishers more beholden to Google. And it is even worse for smaller publishers. It means the smaller publishers are not only competing against algorithmic brand bias, confirmation bias expressed in the remote rater documents, & wholesale result set displacement, but some of their bigger publishing competitors are also subsidized directly by Google.

    Ignore the broader ecosystem shifts.

    Ignore the hypocrisy.

    Focus on the user.

    Until you are eating cat food.

    Categories: 


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