Search Behaviors and keyword trends have gone for a toss in the past week. Social distancing and home quarantine have resulted in irregularities in click behaviors across all sectors. Grocers, Restaurants, Hotels, Productivity sites, and E-commerce are the spaces that have seen the most action (or the least in some cases).
If we take a glance at Google Trends the growth swings are quite evident. Most of the surges in search volume has been around representative search terms in the bulk, grocery, and online productivity categories. Social distancing and lockdown measures have forced people to turn their attention solely towards the internet for most of their activities ‘at home’. People are forced to prepare food at home since restaurants and online food delivery services are temporarily closed. The keyword “groceries” saw a whopping 446% increase in terms of search volume for the week ending March 21compared to the same period in 2019 as per Google Trends data. “Online groceries” and “grocery delivery” are the closest related keywords which saw a similar growth pattern.
To avoid gatherings and in-person events many conferences have moved online and travel plans have been postponed. Most of the companies around the world has shifted their employees to work from home scenario. These factors led to a surge in the usage of many online peers to peer work platforms and video conferencing apps.
Trends data clearly shows an increase in search patterns for Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype. All of these platforms saw their highest search interest with YoY growth ranging from 270% for Skype to1057% for Zoom.
On the contrary, keywords like “hotels”, “restaurants” and other local businesses have seen a significantly low amount of search interest which is normal in the current scenario.
This is an unforeseen situation and all types of businesses are being affected as a result of this. It is advisable for all businesses to hold on and try to adapt to the situation in order to accommodate the new set of customers’ needs and also to find new solutions for their workforces who are working remotely. Nobody knows for how long this situation will last, it might continue for several weeks, if not months.
Search behavior is a reflection of the users’ preferences and it’s clear that people are now more focused on tackling their new way of life and preparing themselves for the long run. They are less likely to concentrate on leisure activities for the time being.
For those of you who do not have any idea about this let me tell you that Google Ads has its own built-in feature that provides the users with an optimization score and further recommendations on how they can improve it. We decided to test this in order to procure actual results and find out if we should all be actually aiming for a 100 or not unlike our school days when the answer was so obvious.
The optimization score, according to Google is an estimate of how well a Google Ads account can perform. The optimization scores are available at the campaign, account, and manager account levels. It is shown for all active Search, Shopping, and Display campaigns.
Since its launch, Google has continued to update this feature and has also added recommendations that will improve your score. You may also find an ‘apply’ button beside most recommendations. This helps to automatically apply the respective recommendations to your account.
We tested out the recommendation feature with dummy brands selling myriad products and services. Following are the recommendations that we got:
- Use Customer Lists: This was a great recommendation. Customer Lists can help in retargeting. It also helps in analyzing and finding out similar audiences. Then again this recommendation has limited practicality for other business types where customer lists will not add any value overall.
- Add Price Extensions: This was an interesting suggestion. Price extensions are generally used by retail stores. Thus it is again subject to the nature of the business. Also revealing the price of a product or service is not a welcome sight for many businesses ina highly competitive landscape. You can always add prices and test if its working towards qualifying your traffic in a better way or not.
- Apply automated bidding: This was a real downer. We have a very bitter experience to say the least with this feature. Once we decided to turn on automated bidding for 5 out of 60 campaigns for a particular client of ours. Guess what? Within a week we could see a rise in spending of approximately 57%!! We decided to immediately shut it down. Automated bidding has always been a feature that has disrupted our client’s budget. The cost of scoring 100% is too much in this case.
So, let’s address the elephant in the room now. Should you be aiming for a 100%optimization score in Google Ads?
The answer is a definite, NO.
I would rather say that this score is not an important goal. Most of our clients’ accounts have an average score of 85%, which has always been a sweet spot in our case. Pushing higher is not really a problem but we do not want to blow a hole in the advertising budget. There’s an optimum point for everything and it’s safe to say that you should test and arrive at your own point. We are not saying that Google’s optimization score is entirely rubbish. Before trusting it entirely you should test it for yourself.
Google’s AI might be smart but it can not decipher your business goals and decisions for you. Thus it is safe to conclude that the human factor is still relevant in the year 2020.
Google in their latest update announced that they are now primarily focusing on mobile-first indexing and they are planning to shift to mobile-first indexing for all websites by September 2020. As per their analysis stated in their update, 70% of all sites that currently appear in their search results have already been shifted to this new category. They have also made it clear that they will be shifting the remaining sites to this new indexing method as and when their systems identify that the sites are ready for the same.
So what does this mean? It means that there will be a significant increase Googlebot’s crawling of the web, primarily the smartphone Googlebot. According to Google they will update their index for each site’s mobile version and there will be a variation in time depending on the domain of each website. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Google will stop using its traditional desktop Googlebot but the frequency will decrease and most of the crawling for Search will be done with their mobile smartphone user-agent.
It is absolutely no surprise for SEO veterans as Google had been working on this for the past four years and we (as in the world of the internet) have come a long way and our preferences have widely shifted from desktop to mobile viewing. Google started its mobile-first indexing process long back in 2016 and we had plenty of time to get ready for this.
Some key pointers for optimizing for mobile-first indexing are:
- On-page content is the same on mobile and desktop versions
- Meta data is the same on both versions
- Structured data is the same on both versions
Apart from the above pointers the top priority for mobile-first indexing is responsive web design. Google also prohibits the usage of mobile specific URLs (also known as “m-dot”)because it primarily causes issues and confusion for viewers and search engines alike.
An increase Googlebot’s crawling, particularly from the mobile smartphone user-agent is asure sign that your site has been moved to mobile-first indexing.
The following can also help you:
- Search Console (settings page)
- URL inspection tool
Google’s guidance with regards to optimizing a site for mobile-first indexing remains the same.
Furthermore, you are likely to receive the following notice if your site has not been moved over yet:
Indexing and ranking of your web pages in Google might take a hit If Google has issues with accessing your site with the mobile-crawler. The deadline is September 2020 and if you have received the above notice then it’s time for you to take action for your website to be mobile-friendly.
In the recent wake of Coronavirus outbreak a lot of precautionary measures are being taken to contain the spreading of this disease. Many businesses have been affected by the virus outbreak.
If your business has been affected by COVID-19 we suggest that you update the same on your Google My Business listing. Google recently placed a notice as a header on its Google My Business support pages. It read as follows – “If your business is affected by COVID-19, update your profile to provide the most accurate info. Learn more.”
Google is asking all businesses to update their description in Google My Business listings if they are affected by COVID-19. Google in its help document has suggested that businesses should update their business hours, phone numbers, business descriptions and they may also use Google Posts to share more helpful insights with their customers.
So you should update your business hours preferably if you are closing early. Change your phone number if you want customers to reach out to your home number instead of your business number. You may also add other necessary details to your description like precautionary measures that you are taking inside your business premises and if you would like your customers to follow certain guidelines before stepping into your store, etc.
The updates that you make will show on your Business Profile on Google SERP and Maps as well.