It’s all go in search engine country right now, with a profound mobile-led change in Google’s search algorithm on the cards for 21st April. The truth might end up beating inbound links in the rankings wars too, with link equity getting less algorithmic priority than top dollar content. The debate about whether the news should always be negative heats up. And buying signals aren’t always as simple and straightforward as you might think. Here’s a load of interesting copywriting and marketing news for March 2015.
Digital marketing news March 2015
Google exploring how to rank web pages on facts – Long live ‘truthiness’
President George Bush had a terrifying penchant for what he called truthiness, a term he coined for using one’s instinct alone to distinguish between the truth and a pack of porkies. Now Google is exploring its own version of truthiness, and one day it might just become an algorithmic reality.
The search engine is apparently looking at how it might rank web pages based on facts instead of links, signalling a long-suspected nosedive in backlink relevance. If the rumours are true it heralds a fundamental change, no longer using inbound links as a primary indicator.
As reported by WebPro, the paper’s abstract reads like this:
The quality of web sources has been traditionally evaluated using exogenous signals such as the hyperlink structure of the graph. We propose a new approach that relies on endogenous signals, namely, the correctness of factual information provided by the source. A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy.
The facts are automatically extracted from each source by information extraction methods commonly used to construct knowledge bases. We propose a way to distinguish errors made in the extraction process from factual errors in the web source per se, by using joint inference in a novel multi-layer probabilistic model.
We call the trustworthiness score we computed Knowledge-Based Trust (KBT). On synthetic data, we show that our method can reliably compute the true trustworthiness levels of the sources. We then apply it to a database of 2.8B facts extracted from the web, and thereby estimate the trustworthiness of 119M webpages. Manual evaluation of a subset of the results confirms the effectiveness of the method.
In theory, the search engine giant’s ideas could mean the user experience improves no end. But how well can Google distinguish fact from fiction? And can it update its vast bank of facts as new facts arise and old ones are consigned to the bin? These are important questions, since information is rarely the same as knowledge.
Thankfully at the moment it’s academic. Right now it’s much more important to make sure your website is mobile friendly, something Google is bringing into the search ranking algorithm fold during the next few weeks…
Google announces 21st April 2015 mobile web algorithm change
Is your website 100% mobile friendly, fully optimised for smaller-screen devices? Mine’s almost there but I have some work to do. Why bother? Because a dramatic algorithm update means the search engine giant will be surfacing mobile friendly content in preference to non-compatible pages from 21st April 2015.
In other words, if your website isn’t optimised for mobile access you will lose your hard-won organic visibility. If anyone competing with you delivers a better mobile web experience than your website, you’re stuffed. Even Google themselves acknowledge the difference in the search landscape will be profound.
Contemporary WordPress sites are mostly mobile-friendly out of the box, but if you’re on WP check your website’s mobile status just in case. Google has provided a load of cool tools to establish mobile web performance and suggest improvements. To access them, dive into your Google account to find a:
- Step by Step Guide to App Indexing
- Guide to Mobile-Friendly Websites
- Mobile-Friendly Test
- Mobile Usability Report
If your website is on a proprietary CMS or built from scratch, you might come across problems optimising it for mobile devices. It may even be easier and cheaper to go for a complete website redesign
If someone tells you you’ll need a separate mobile site, walk away. You don’t. While it was the first stop for web designers when the mobile web first raised its head above the parapet, there should be no need for a separate mobile site these days. The technology is a lot more intelligent.
Buying signals, car batteries and diamond rings
Buying signals differ according to your product. Take car batteries. You need a battery. You go online, find a supplier, click through to the right model, find your marque and buy one. Diamond rings are different. You want a diamond ring. You go online, find a retailer and click through to the diamond ring department. But because it’s so subjective, you might not see one you like. You might buy. But you’re just as likely to click away to another jewellers.
There’s not a lot you can say about a car battery. It’s a quick, simple purchase with little or no emotional context. So from a marketing and content creation perspective your priorities are:
- Get your on-site optimisation ducks in a row
- Making your car battery site as intuitive, easy to use and efficient as possible
- Stocking or drop-shipping as many in-demand makes and marques as you can
- Keeping your prices low
- Ensuring delivery is super-fast
- Providing clear instructions about how to fit the various batteries, ideally in writing with still images as well as video
- Blogging about anything and everything to do with battery technology, old and new, plus breaking car industry-related news
On the other hand you can wax lyrical about diamond rings. And if you want to steal the edge over competitors it pays to do exactly that. You also need to reassure people, since it’s an expensive and important purchase with plenty of emotional context. Your content creation and marketing priorities might look more like this:
- Perfecting your on-site optimisation
- Making your products appear absolutely irresistible in writing, with a strong emotional slant
- Displaying your rings on human hands so people can get a real feel for the way they look
- Providing free ring sizers and free re-sizing
- Offering ring sample and sizing services
- Giving low cost or free lifetime maintenance for extra buyer reassurance
- Blogging about the factual side of jewellery, the materials, how to buy guides and so on but also covering the emotional side of buying diamond jewellery
The good news debate heats up
I know a few therapists who advise their clients against watching the news. So do various self help books. I’m not surprised, it’s all so depressing.
A couple of years ago I wrote to a terrestrial TV station with a programme proposal. It simply involved balancing the relentlessly negative TV news we currently get with a decent proportion of good news, of which there’s plenty. They replied quickly. But the reply was defensive if not rude. I was both amazed and discouraged.
Last week on Radio 4 I caught part of a debate: does ‘news’ by definition always have to be bad? Could we deliver balance by giving viewers and listeners the good news, too? It looks like I’m not alone, and it’s telling that one of the most popular elements of the excellent Huffington Post website is their Good News page.
Are you fed up with only being fed the bad stuff? As telly watchers we deserve a logical balance. Come on BBC, Channel 4 and everyone else. Let’s get real.
Brands on Twitter – Does sex matter?
I don’t follow many brands on Twitter. Just a tiny handful. Too many of them comunicate in a corporate manner on Twitter and the results are as dry as dust. I also get very bored, very quickly, with hard sells and strings of links.
It also feels a bit strange engaging with an account on Twitter rather than a person. For a start you have no idea whether they’re male or female which, while it shouldn’t matter, is slightly disconcerting. You can’t get very close to an entity that’s essentially so mysterious and opaque.
I do enjoy engaging with one brand because the person who’s Tweeting on their behalf – he or she – has a warm, friendly tone of voice and actually comes across like a human being not an organisation. More of that, please – after all, the best-loved brands have oodles of personality.
‘Point and fire’ content creation – No brief required!
Do you know exactly what content you need on your web pages? Luckily all you have to do with me as your copywriter is point me and fire. I know enough about marketing and content creation to write a home page, about page, product page, landing page or whatever you need with little or no briefing.
Because it’s easier to examine and judge something tangible than try to imagine what it might look like, the approach saves my clients loads of time and hassle. I write what I recommend they need, they give me their input, I take the copy to second draft stage and that’s it. It’s much easier and faster than asking time-poor non-marketers to specify every detail beforehand.