What is the Google “Pigeon” Algorithm Update?

googleIn their ongoing quest for the best most relevant search experience for users, Google recently launched a new and relevant update tied closely to local search. As happens on occasion, Google decided not to name their updated algorithm. Industry leader, Searchengineland.com seized upon the moment and decided to name the new update “Pigeon” and their reasoning “because this is a local search update and pigeons tend to fly back home.” The name makes sense. Let’s take a closer look at what has developed.

What is the Google “Pigeon” Algorithm Update?

At the onset, Google rolled out the new update for U.S. English results but did not provide details about a rollout schedule to other countries. According to SEO expert Barry Schwartz , the launch would bring the following:

  • Google’s new algorithm “ties deeper into their web search capabilities”
  • Pigeon takes into consideration the “hundreds of ranking signals used for web search”
  • Pigeon ties into search features such as “Knowledge Graph, spelling correction, synonyms and more”
  • Changes should be visible within the search results for both Google Maps and Google Web search

How has Google “Pigeon” Impacted Local Business?

In a stellar effort by Jim Yu of SearchEngineWatch.com “How Google Pigeon Impacted Local Queries, and What You Can Do” we begin to see the early returns on how Google “Pigeon” has impacted and begun to change the local search landscape.

Search Queries Benefiting From Google “Pigeon”

Whenever an update begins to change the search landscape, there will always be winners and losers in search ranking. In his analysis of the winners and losers, Yu used a “massive data set” from BrightEdge covering June through August 2014. This information showcased a rise in search queries related to the following terms:

  • 28% growth for “Hospitality” in Google Places results
  • 19% growth for “Food” in the Google Places results
  • 13% growth for “Education” in the Google Places results
  • 4.64% growth for “Spa”
  • 4.32% growth for “Shop”
  • 3.55% growth for “Law”
  • 1.83% growth for “Medical”
  • 1.31% growth for “Transportation”
  • 1.12% growth for “Fitness”

Search Queries Negatively Impacted by Google “Pigeon”

On the opposite side of the ledger, many businesses were greatly affected by the new algorithm. The following highlights the negative decline:

  • 68% decline for “Jobs” in the Google Places results
  • 63% decline for “Real Estate” in the Google Places results
  • 36% decline for “Movies” in the Google Places results
  • 11% decline for “Insurance” in the Google Places results

As Pigeon continues to evolve, it appears that Google wants businesses to think local and adjust their search engine optimization strategies to reflect this new emphasis. The end result for search will be a more geographically niched SERPs that should provide far more targeted and relevant information.

How to Use Twitter’s Favorite Feature to Showcase Your Expertise

What was once an underutilized feature on Twitter, ‘Favorites’, is quickly becoming a subject of experimentation. One of the original reasons for using the Favorites feature was to store content you intended to read later. The latest craze has social media fans asking: “Are Favorites the new Retweets? Past experimentation included a deluge of people favoriting tweets in order to gain the attention of their targeted twitter users. It is annoying but somewhat effective as many have found they are slowly creeping up on the radar of those influential users they desire to connect with at every level. Instead of trying to game a feature on Twitter like Favorites, a more meaningful strategy is to use your Favorites tab as a repository of proof for your expertise similar to what we detailed in “The Brian Solis Twitter ‘Favorites’ Strategy: Will It Work For You?” 

Use Twitter Favorites as a Repository for Your Retweets

The strategy is simple but effective. Instead of using the Favorites feature exclusively as a bucket for content you hope to read later, use it to store the retweets you accumulate. You can also favorite compliments and recommendations but look for retweets of your content to add to the mix.

How to Find Retweets to Favorite

Retweets, in most cases, are a positive vote for content you share. It is the most powerful signal on Twitter short of a user tweeting a full recommendation. Here are the steps to finding retweets to use as your social proof:

  1. Go to your Twitter.com/handle page and select “Tweets”:
    Tweets page




  1. Search for tweets that have been retweeted. This is made evident by the increased size of the tweet once it has been retweeted as well as the RT which has a counter:
    Tweets page002




  1. Search for those tweets that have the most retweets and then select the favorite button to store them in your favorites:
    Tweets page003



  1. Click the RT icon to view who has retweeted your content and thank them, follow them, or list them:
    Tweets page004


2 Tips for Improving PPC Click-Through

PPC click-throughOne of the most common problems I see when evaluating PPC click-through on an existing account is lack of oversight. Think about it. PPC campaigns are live. So is the reporting data attached to them. That means that if something is not performing well you can turn it off immediately with a simple click on the pause button. If days, weeks and months pass with under-performing ads or campaigns it simply means that the campaign manager is not paying attention.

Sometimes the lack of oversight stems from not knowing how to evaluate PPC click-through. I’d like to share how I get a quick overview on results and the kind of tweaks I make to improve.

I look at the average PPC click-through rate (CTR) as being a good top level gauge for evaluating the campaign. What happens when the visitor gets to your website is another topic. I typically strive for a minimum CTR of 2% but that can be tough in a competitive area with higher priced keywords and a limited budget.

What to do if your click-through rate is not acceptable

There are two components that are most likely to influence your CTR:

1.     Average position of ad - Your ad position is directly tied to your daily budget. I repeatedly see that ads in the #1 position generate the highest CTR with ads in the #2 position having an opportunity to generate a strong CTR. Ads in the #3 position have a greater challenge and those on the side are in a much more difficult position to produce good results.

What to do to improve your ad position? Consider allocating your budget over a shorter period of time. For example, if your monthly budget is $500, rather than distributing the budget over 30 or 20 days at a daily budget of $16 to $25, increase the daily budget to where it needs to be to generate a top two position and then shorten the life of the campaign.

2.      Ad copy – I learned from my days in magazine subscription marketing how much even the most subtle changes in copy can produce significantly different results. The same rule applies to PPC campaigns. One surefire way to get off to a good start is to title your ad with a primary keyword from the campaign. This will ensure that viewers will resonate with it.

How do you tweak your ad copy? You should always be testing ad copy for learning and improving results. Testing should be done so that you can isolate what is being tested. For example, run a test using the same copy for description line 1 but different copy for description line 2.  Keep repeating the testing process using the line copy that produces the best results.

Do you have a tip or two that you’d like to share?

Related post: 3 Basics for a Successful PPC Campaign

Read This Before Signing a Law Firm Marketing Service Agreement

law firm marketingI think it is safe to say that law firm partners know they need marketing yet most don’t understand it and frankly, they have much more important work to focus on. So unless it’s a big firm with an in-house marketing team, it’s not unlikely that marketing agreements are signed without a lot of due diligence or questions asked.

I make this point because I believe it explains the injustices to law firm marketing clients I’ve seen outlined in a couple of law firm marketing service agreements we’ve reviewed lately. One is from a large company and the other might be considered an “up and comer”. Granted these are only two, yet they share the same service agreement model that any law firm looking for website or other law firm marketing services should be aware and beware of.

Legal Terms and Conditions

The legal terms and conditions behind the law firm marketing service agreements lay out the rules of the game—things like who owns what and what happens when the contract is terminated. Be sure you read these carefully and fully understand and agree with the terms before you move forward. It could put your firm in a position of having to start from scratch when you decide you want to leave your service provider.

In particular, make sure you have answers to these key questions:

  1. What portion of the website content is owned by your firm?
  2. What portion of the website content is owned by the law firm marketing company?
  3. What will happen to the SEO development and other work your firm has invested in when the contract is terminated?
  4. Where will your website be hosted? If it will be hosted on the law firm marketing company’s server, what role will they play (if any) to support a smooth transition to another provider when the contract is terminated?
  5. Does your firm have the right to execute your own paid marketing programs or is the law firm marketing provider claiming the exclusive right to drive traffic to your site through paid advertising?
  6. What exactly are the dollars for your monthly service fees going towards?
  7. Will there be full disclosure in reporting from Google Analytics, Google Adwords and any other reporting platform that supports the programs your firm is paying for?

Have I missed any key points you have discovered?



4 Key Tips for Increasing Organic Search Traffic in 2014

organic search trafficInner Architect has been studying the effects of Google’s latest algorithm—‘Hummingbird’—on the organic search traffic of our clients over the past few months. Hummingbird was said to have rolled out on August 22, 2013. We have seen sites that were hit with a negative impact immediately and those whose organic search traffic has taken a slower, more gradual decline. We have also seen websites that have experienced rather significant increases in organic search traffic.

The main focus of Hummingbird is to respond to the way that user’s search habits have changed as a result of the evolution of mobile search, and in particular, Apple’s Siri. Rather than speaking keywords into our mobile devices, Siri has trained us to ask questions when we need assistance. This search behavior has since been embraced by users on all devices.

What does this mean for SEO?

We have evolved from being a generation of search engine users who pose questions in short keyword phrases that are not detailed enough to deliver what we really want. We have become users who search with questions–long-tailed keywords in order to drill down to the answer we seek quickly. Google’s goal now is to try to decipher the context of the question rather than focus solely on the specific keywords within the question. The goal is to provide results that actually answer the question.

What this means is that you need to think about SEO in a slightly different way. You need to focus on search queries rather than simply keywords. Your blog and web content need to deliver information that answers the questions that your prospects will be asking to find your website. This means you have to get into the head of your prospective client, think about their pain points, challenges and needs and speak directly to them.

Hummingbird Friendly Tips

  1. Develop a list of FAQs that prospective clients have when they are seeking to hire you. Then move forward with a content strategy that services these needs.
  2. Review your existing static web page content. Determine where adjustments may need to be made to answer your potential clients’ questions better.
  3. Make sure your website is mobile responsive and loads quickly on all devices. Google seeks to provide users with the best experience.
  4. Don’t ignore social media. Experts suggest that Google’s future algorithm updates are likely to increasingly rely on social signals as active human confirmation for good and authoritative content.

What trends have you experienced in the past year? How have you responded?

What You Should Know About Facebook Advertising

Facebook advertisingPerhaps you’ve been hearing about Facebook’s push for advertising dollars and the tightening up of organic reach. You might be wondering if Facebook advertising is right for your business and how it works. I’m here today to outline the basics.

The advertising program on Facebook is very similar to Google Adwords and the other search engine paid search programs where small ads are displayed on a cost per click pricing model and a daily budget.

Yet rather than being a search program driven by keywords, Facebook advertising is delivered to people who fit the geographic, demographic and interest criteria selected by you, the advertiser. The geographic and demographic data is provided through the user’s Facebook profile. A user is selected as someone who has an interest if they have expressed interest in or have liked pages that are or related to the interest specified.

The Facebook ads can be set to display in the midst of the users’ news feed for optimal visibility.

A flaw in Facebook advertising filtering

There is a flaw in Facebook’s process for defining the target audience that limits your ability to filter by interests. Let’s say you wanted to reach an audience of people who are Vietnam War veterans and baseball fans. Facebook allows you to choose both of these interests as filters yet the flaw is that the process operates on an OR basis rather than AND. By that I mean that this filter will deliver an audience that is interested in the Vietnam War OR baseball, not the Vietnam War AND baseball. Since both interests are necessary to define the target, this criteria will deliver a lot of users who don’t fit your target profile and result in a waste of money spent.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider Facebook advertising. What it does mean is that you simply need to understand how your filter will work and choose accordingly.

How Facebook Advertising Pricing Compares to Google

We’ve seen the suggested cost per click for our clients’ Facebook advertising run less than 10% of what they pay with Google. Keep in mind, though, that they are different animals. The key benefit that Google Adword brings is users whose keyword searches are proving their want or need for your service or product in the moment.

Using Your Blog to Power Your Law Firm SEO Strategy

law firm seoStaying up on the latest focuses of Google’s search algorithm will give you the intelligence from which to build the most effective law firm SEO strategy.  A search engine algorithm is a formula used by Google to take a user’s search terms and combine them with information on websites to provide the person performing the search with the best possible match.

Google’s latest algorithmic update—called Hummingbird—addresses the fact that conversational search–asking a question rather than typing key words–has become the norm over short keyword terms. This trend has evolved from the fact that most people searching on mobile devices speak queries into the voice search feature. We are now seeing 20% or more of law firm website traffic coming from mobile devices.

This shift to conversational search means that your blog has become a more powerful tool in your law firm SEO strategy. Blogging is done in a conversational style and you have all the freedom to create content that supports your law firm SEO strategy. We are currently seeing more than 50% of traffic being generated by organic search for law firms with blogs.

 Blogging Tips to Fuel Your Law Firm SEO Strategy

  •  If your firm has several areas of practice, publish articles that promote all practice areas that you wish to generate new cases for, not just those that are current now. Not only will this help your law firm SEO strategy, it will make it clear to those who visit your blog that you do practice in all of these areas.
  • Host your blog on the domain with your website. This will ensure that the traffic generated by the blog articles will land on your website. While some of the large legal marketing companies building websites for law firms won’t allow this, be aware that you are doing your law firm SEO strategy a major disservice if you walk down this path.
  • Publish more frequently. Frequent, fresh content is what makes a site most relevant in Google’s eyes. The more relevant your content, the higher you will be placed in search results. And the more often you publish the more traffic you will drive to your site.

3 Basics for a Successful PPC Campaign

PPC CampaignIt is not unusual in marketing that the most effective source for bringing in a large volume of new leads or new customers is also the most expensive. I saw it first while growing up in the magazine industry where we invested in direct mail campaigns that reached hundreds of thousands to millions of prospects at a time. It was an expensive proposition yet a necessary one to meet the advertising rate base. Today’s big marketing hammer? Meet Google Adwords and the pay-per-click (PPC) campaign.

No matter how big or how small of a role a PPC campaign plays in your marketing mix, here are three things that are basic to the success of any program.

1.      Determine Cost Effectiveness

Determining whether a PPC campaign is cost effective begins first with getting straight on your goal. What end result would you like to see from that click that you are paying for? Is it a purchase made from your website? A lead generated for your sales department? A new newsletter subscriber from which to cultivate a customer relationship? The achievement of each of these goals are likely worth different values to your business so getting clear on your goals and how much you’re willing to invest for each is step 1.

2.      Design a Successful User Experience

Probably one of the biggest mistakes PPC marketers make is running ad campaigns that send visitors to the home page. That’s like inviting potential job candidates to your headquarters office and expecting them to find their hiring manager’s office on their own. People need a little hand-holding when being introduced to something new. That’s what a landing page is for.

A landing page should be uniquely customized to an ad or ppc campaign. It needs to effectively deliver on the expectations the user developed from the ad. The landing page needs to sell the benefits of your product or service and contain a call-to-action to move the prospect to the next step in the goal process.

3.      Evaluate Goal Results

The goal examples mentioned in #1 above are all actions that take place beyond the clicks that are measured in your Google Adwords reports. So in order to evaluate how well your PPC campaign is doing, you must set up a system to measure your goals.

Luckily Google makes this rather simple. In the Tools section of your Adword account is a feature called Conversions. Here you designate what your conversion options are, how exactly they will be defined, and what visitor actions will trigger the count of a conversion.Conversion tracking is critical to effectively managing your PPC budget. The counting of clicks alone is not very meaningful towards understanding how well your goals are being achieved.

What basics have added to your success?

Related posts:

2 Tips for Improving PPC Click-Through
The Drying Up of Hidden Keywords and How to Get Around It

The Drying Up of Hidden Keywords and How to Get Around It

Over the last couple of years we have seen data on organic keywords dry up as Google implemented their user privacy policy in October 2011.  This policy results in the hiding of keywords utilized by users who search while logged into their Gmail, Google+, YouTube, or any other Google account.

The chart below illustrates the evolution of this loss of keyword intelligence on one of Inner Architect’s case studies since the policy’s inception Q4 2011. This particular client, a professional services provider, is now seeing 66% of its keywords hidden for the first two months of this year after a steady climb.

Organic keywords hidden

For those of us trying to analyze organic keywords to understand what’s working and what’s not, this secure search poses a real problem as we evaluate our SEO, blogging and content marketing efforts. Luckily there are industry leaders out there to guide us on how to get around this problem to uncover the information you’re looking for.

Technical writer and SEO copywriter Claire Broadley gives us Four Methods to Unlock Your ‘Not Provided’ Keywords in Google Analytics. Sean Ellis, CEO/Founder of Qualaroo, delivers more meat in Four More Ways to Crack the Keyword (not provided) Code.

Thanks to these bloggers and others who are helping to keep us out of the dark.

Related post:

3 Basics for a Successful PPC Campaign

Inner Architect Offers Free Evaluation of Google Social Signals

Social signals scorecardMost of the companies we work with have the need to rank high in Google search results to be visible to new clients or customers. A couple months back we wrote about the increasing influence of social signals in Google’s search ranking algorithm. The evolution of Google’s search engine is taking shape with social signals becoming a driving force behind improved user experience and more relevant search engine results for every search query.

Social Signals’ Impact Ranking on Google Search

In the past, the search engine optimization community relied upon accepted link building and other SEO tactics in order to push websites to the top of the Google rankings. Today another powerful element is beginning to positively affect Google search results: social signals.

A recent study by search analytics company SearchMetrics reported these as the most influential 8 ranking factors within Google search in order of importance:

  • Google +1
  • Facebook shares
  • Number of back links
  • Facebook total
  • Facebook comments
  • Facebook likes
  • Pinterest
  • Tweets

Today I am happy to announce that Inner Architect is offering a free service–our Social Signals Scorecard–to give firms and brands a gauge on how well your social media efforts are contributing to the goal of ranking high on Google according to the list above. Even better, we give you some tips on what you can do to be more effective towards this social signals goal.

This really is a turning point in SEO. It puts more power at your control.

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