Harrelson Agency and Google’s New Responsive Search Ads

At Harrelson Agency, we manage a number of Google Ads campaigns (formerly AdWords as of July 24, 2018) for clients. Simply put, there’s really no better way to drive web traffic to a site or a landing page regardless of your budget, size, or goal. Whether you’re selling stuff, raising awareness, or trying to get more people into the door of your business or church, there’s a clear return on investment for a well-run Google Ads campaign.

We’ve been writing, tweaking, and managing these ads for years. I often tell clients its part science and part art to make everything work correctly. That may change a little after today…

Consumers today are more curious, more demanding, and they expect to get things done faster because of mobile. As a result, they expect your ads to be helpful and personalized. Doing this isn’t easy, especially at scale. That’s why we’re introducing responsive search ads. Responsive search ads combine your creativity with the power of Google’s machine learning to help you deliver relevant, valuable ads.

Simply provide up to 15 headlines and 4 description lines, and Google will do the rest. By testing different combinations, Google learns which ad creative performs best for any search query. So people searching for the same thing might see different ads based on context.

Via Google Ads Blog

Google is rolling out its new “responsive search ads” from beta today, and it does have the potential to reshape a number of processes that marketers like us use for ad campaigns. I doubt that we’ll give up on the fun whiteboard sessions where we throw ideas into the open that produce the basis for most of our managed campaigns, and I’m sure I’ll still have those “shower moment” epiphanies where the perfect headline text pops into my mind as I’m applying shampoo, but I am excited about what this could mean for our clients.

There’s no doubt in my mind that a great deal of the processes we use to build websites or manage Ads campaigns on Google and Facebook or to create memorable billboard taglines or to even write strategic plan documents will be automated and “responsive” as Google says in the coming decade. That’s why I’m betting Harrelson Agency’s future on the future and making sure that I’m staying on top of everything AI and blockchain and machine learning and augmented reality that I can.

We’ve already seen the decimation of the website development industry at the hands of democratizing creative tools like Squarespace and Weebly and Wix (as much as I dislike their pedestrian designs…). We’ll continue to see the same in other areas of marketing and advertising.

It’s worth my time to think ahead both for my clients’ bottom lines as well as Harrelson Agency’s future.

Google Rolls Out “Mobile First” Indexing Today

Facebook is undergoing serious challenges to its place as a web hub between the public PR crisis involving its role in the mis/use of data related to Cambridge Analytica and the 2016 election as well as its ongoing tweaks to algorithms which now demote business and group pages in preference to users seeing more content from friends and family.

In the midst of that, there’s been a real uptick in the amount of attention that Google search results receive and topics such as SEO and page loading speed as more and more companies begin to reconsider their social media ad spends on Facebook and Twitter. Companies of all sizes are either pulling their Facebook ad buys altogether or crunching numbers to determine the effectiveness of their campaigns.

Suddenly, Google search results and SEO are becoming the new darlings of the marketing and advertising world again. So, it’s important that starting today, Google is rolling out its “mobile first” indexing scheme.

Whether you’re a big company or a small church or a medium-sized nonprofit, it’s important that you take into consideration elements such as how quickly and how well your website loads on mobile devices (if you want to rank well, at least):

To recap, our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.

We continue to have one single index that we use for serving search results. We do not have a “mobile-first index” that’s separate from our main index. Historically, the desktop version was indexed, but increasingly, we will be using the mobile versions of content.

Source: Official Google Webmaster Central Blog: Rolling out mobile-first indexing

Debunking Facebook’s Graph Search

TechHive has a good post up today on what Facebook’s Graph Search (beta) does and what it means to us as users:

How to use Facebook’s Graph Search (and why you would even want to) | TechHive: “Once Graph Search is on, Facebook prompts you to ‘search for people, places, and things.’ Start typing. Graph Search is supposed to recognize natural language and try to guess what you’re looking for, though that feature is hit or miss at the moment. You’ll quickly learn the phrases that will help you get to some sort of result: ‘Friends who listen to Daft Punk and live in San Francisco’ or ‘Friends of my friends who work at TechHive.’ It’s not exactly a conversational way to search.”

I’ve been playing with the service a little and while I’m impressed, I’m also a little spooked by the privacy factor of it. Graph Search indexes just about everything you’ve ever done on Facebook, which might put a lot of people at a disadvantage if they don’t regularly clean up their Likes, etc. I’m guessing a lot of folks will be doing some spring cleaning of their Timelines to hide some things they don’t want to show up in Graph Search when full functionality rolls out to all users.

Nonetheless, the service is looking very intuitive and could be very useful for businesses in the future. I tried a few search terms and the results are pretty solid. For example, if I do a search for “my male friends who live in Spartanburg, South Carolina” (it’s not rocket science but it’s the first thing I could think of), that’s a pretty big demographic (>100 friends) since I’ve lived there for the past 3 years and know people from there:

You can also narrow it down to some other stuff like “my friends who have been to Washington, DC,” that narrows it down to fewer than 100 (makes sense).

Creepy but nifty.

Facebook also has a pretty good video outlining what Graph Search is and what it does:

https://www.facebook.com/video/embed?video_id=10200156550214780

Strange days indeed.

Stock Images and Your Search Results

Google’s Matt Cutts assures us that using stock images on our sites doesn’t affect search results, but you should care about the type of images you’re using nonetheless.

Google’s Matt Cutts: Stock Images Do Not Impact Search Engine Rankings: “Matt’s answer was very short, he said ‘no.’ There is no positive or negative impact on your organic Web ranking if you use stock imagery versus original imagery.”

While using stock images might not negatively impact your site on a search ranking level, it can (and does) impact how users landing on your page interact with your content and navigation.

Almost as importantly in some cases, Google Image Search is a major source of traffic for many sites that use mostly original images instead of relying on stock images.

With our own clients, we’ve seen very impressive numbers from Google Image search when we’ve worked with them on custom images targeting specific keywords.

Buying Links: Good or Bad?

At the https://www.fusionquest.com/cgi-bin/main/hotlinks.cgi?aflt=afc1&client=affsumAffiliate Summit West this year, one of the most talked about moments was the back-and-forth between SEO expert Wil Reynolds and Jason Calacanis during Wil’s session.

Here’s Wil’s take:

Well the BIG topic – buying links to help boost your SEO rankings, let me say again…if you properly analyze your landscape you can determine if you may or may not need to buy links. If you do, you should buy ones that are actually on GOOD sites – while producing great content is the ideal, you may have to prime the pump a bit with a few strategic bought links. This is an advanced tactic, if you don’t understand what makes a good vs. bad link, don’t buy one!

As you can imagine, Jason was not too supportive of the link buying tactic and has called out Google and SEO’ers many times over the issue (and created a company to combat the problem he sees in search today).

And thanks to the power of the interwebs, you have the chance to see the throw down (not really) between Wil and Jason (or head over to YouTube to see the annotations that Wil has added to the video… they don’t carry over to embeds):

The video also shows why you should be going to the https://www.fusionquest.com/cgi-bin/main/hotlinks.cgi?aflt=afc1&client=affsumAffiliate Summit in Boston this August. Unlike many of the shows I go to, there is both real substance and real discussions that go on during the sessions. This is just a taste of that.