Infonesis Issue no.2, December 2012

Each month, Infonesis brings you some of the SEO and ecommerce topics that have caught my attention over the past few weeks.

In this issue:

Ecommerce: 'Not Provided' keywords account for 40% of B2B analytics reports.
Mobile: Google recommends responsive web design for tablet users.
Local: Retailers' own websites are first port of call for coupons.
Broadband: Live working BT broadband connection outpaces hardware.
The Cookie Law Crumbles: Just one in eight UK websites comply with the EU e-Privacy Directive.

Ecommerce

Google's decision to move to a secure https connection for logged-in users last year came with one major problem for webmasters and SEO practitioners: keyword analytics.

The move to secure search meant that any logged-in user's queries would appear in analytics reports as 'Not Provided' - and that applies to all analytics platforms, not just Google Analytics.

A November 13th report from Optify, the digital marketing software innovators, revealed the extent to which this has affected e-commerce site analytics, particularly in the B2B sector.

Since last year, 'Not Provided' results have risen 171% in B2B website analytics reports, to account for nearly 40% of all results.

That means keyword analysis gives B2B webmasters and marketing professionals, at best, a three-fifths view of their website's total audience.

Optify found that 81% of B2B companies now see 'Not Provided' in over 30% of their results, while 64% see it in 30-50% of cases.

The analyst now warns that these figures could continue to rise until organic referring queries are almost entirely gone from analytics reports.

"This is yet another example of how the SEO practice is at the mercy of search engines, and we believe it's time for B2B marketers to focus on the data they have for creating a personalised experience for their visitors and leads."

Rob Eleveld
CEO of Optify

Mobile

In a November 12th post on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog, Google finally laid rest once and for all the argument about how best to serve mobile web users - and particularly those surfing the web via a tablet.

Tablets are a totally new kind of 'screen' and fall frustratingly into the middle-ground between a desktop or laptop computer, and a low-resolution, low-bandwidth smartphone connecting via 3G.

As such, they raise the question: Are you better off serving the full desktop version of your site to tablet-based visitors, or offering them a trimmed-down mobile-specific template instead?

The answer may actually be 'no' in both cases, as Google recommends a third option - responsive web design.

I'm hearing from clients in the web design industry that responsive web design is the best way to go, but that their clients are, in some cases, proving hard to persuade.

But a clear-cut statement from Google is likely to help with the pro-responsive argument.

"Our recommendation for smartphone-optimised sites is to use responsive web design, which means you have one site to serve all devices.

"If your website uses responsive web design as recommended, be sure to test your website on a variety of tablets to make sure it serves them well too.

"Remember, just like for smartphones, there are a variety of device sizes and screen resolutions to test."

Pierre Far and Scott Main
Webmaster Trends Analyst and lead tech writer for developer.android.com
Official Google Webmaster Central Blog
November 12th 2012

What is responsive web design? Well, it's about making the same content appear differently to different users.

You can do this using CSS queries based on the media format of your website visitor's device, in order to shape and display your content in a suitable form.

On a smartphone, for instance, you might adopt a largely text-focused template with small or no sidebars, to make best use of the available screen width when the phone is held upright.

Although tablets come close to the full functionality of a desktop or laptop, you might still consider trimming your site down slightly - partly in case the user is connecting via 3G, but also partly because some rich media formats are not supported by all tablet types.

For more guidance on optimising your site's layout for smartphone devices, visit Google Developer.

Local

You might think that, once a customer is actually in your bricks-and-mortar store, your website has done its job. Think again.

A November 21st Nielsen report notes the importance of retailer websites to shoppers looking for discounts and coupons - and with smartphone web access improving all the time, many of those shoppers could be inside your store when they search for you.

To my mind, this only goes to reinforce the importance of local search - not only for people searching in general for your category of goods or services in your area, but also for people searching specifically for your store.

Whether you're a franchise, part of a chain, or an individual retailer trying to thrive in a competitive market, being discoverable online is as important now as it has ever been.


To be absolutely fair, this research was carried out in the US, where the retail market is a little different, but its lessons are still valid to retailers in the UK, or anywhere else with a mature smartphone market.

The challenge for retail webmasters in the future will be how to make bricks-and-mortar stores discoverable, without compromising on any e-commerce elements that may be incorporated into their websites.

Bridge-the-gap technologies like click-and-collect offer one possibility, which would reasonably help to justify name-dropping specific store locations on a site ostensibly aimed at online shoppers.

"When it comes to seeking out deals, consumers are going to the most convenient, reliable sources.

"This creates an opportunity for retailers and 'daily deal' sites to streamline the process of gathering deals and coupons for users, ultimately increasing website and app traffic to drive sales."

John Burbank
President of Strategic Initiatives, Nielsen

Broadband

What are the limitations on the speed of a broadband connection? Available bandwidth? Distance to your nearest exchange? The number of simultaneous users?

According to BT, one of its customers is now facing the unusual situation of having a broadband connection so fast, no hardware can operate fast enough to reach its bandwidth limit.

The XGPON (Tens of Gigabits on a Passive Optical Network) connection is a real-world, working 10Gbps broadband connection in place at Arcol UK, a Cornwall-based engineering firm, thanks to a direct fibre link to BT's Truro exchange.

Its bandwidth is greater than the maximum peak load of the entire London 2012 Olympic media network, and significantly, so great that the limiting factor governing line speeds is the physical networking and computing equipment being used on the site.

"This trial shows we are thinking and ready for the future even though there are no current plans to deploy this technology.

"A lot of this project is about future-proofing - making sure that it's not just the fastest speeds today, but that we can continue to be at the cutting edge for five, ten, twenty years."

Ranulf Scarbrough
Programme Director for the Cornwall SuperFast Broadband Programme

The Cookie Law Crumbles

Research from online privacy specialists TRUSTe, published on November 15th, revealed the extent to which European webmasters have failed to comply with the Cookie Law, AKA the EU e-Privacy Directive.

The Directive means that, if your website stores cookies on a visitor's computer, you should inform them when they arrive at your site, and give them the option of leaving, or of turning cookies off, if they choose to do so.

All websites that use cookies should display a clear warning that requires user interaction to hide, with the exception of those where it is reasonable to assume that cookies must be set in order for them to work - such as sites where you are asked to log in, or certain elements of the e-commerce process like shopping baskets and checkout procedures.


Image courtesy of Surian Soosay

Are websites complying with this law? According to TRUSTe, many are not, even though a large proportion of web users know about the new law and want to see it put into effect on a widespread basis.

In a survey encompassing Great Britain, France, the Netherlands and Germany, Britons ranked second only to the Netherlands in terms of awareness of the law (N 86%, GB 81%, G 78%, F 59%).

Conversely, France - where the new legislation is least widely known - had the highest level of privacy concerns amongst web users (F 71%, GB 69%, G 62%, N 48%).

And despite the awareness and concern levels among users, most of each country's top 50 websites have failed to implement an adequate cookie warning - rising to all 50 of the biggest sites in France and Germany.

Cookie warning implementation rates:

  • Netherlands - 32%
  • Great Britain - 12%
  • France - 0%
  • Germany - 0%

"The consequences of getting this wrong for businesses are significant, with 36% in France choosing not to visit a company website due to concerns about their privacy online, and 34% in Germany not using a smartphone app due to online privacy concerns.

"Across all four countries, an average of 68% expect companies to comply with the recent EU Cookie Directive, and an average of 41% plan to only visit websites that do.

"With the top 50 websites in France and Germany having taken no action to inform visitors on their home page about cookie use and tracking on these sites, they appear to be out of step with the concerns of their users."

Danilo Labovic
EU managing director for TRUSTe
November 15th 2012

In the UK, the Information Commissioner's Office has confirmed that it is unlikely to levy financial sanctions against non-compliant sites, and more likely to offer practical help towards compliance.

However, even if you see this as a 'soft touch' approach, you should consider implementing a suitable cookie warning as an indicator of the professionalism of your site, and to assuage any user concerns about privacy.

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