The Official Death of Keywords

At long last Google this week confirmed what most of us in the industry knew already – meta-keywords are not used in organic search rankings. No real surprise there to be honest! Although, what those who still sell it as a service will do, we have no idea.

The announcement was made in a post on the Google Webmaster blog the other day and has triggered the usual speculation and discussion that surrounds Google’s regular dissemination of information, most of which involves the usual picking apart of the statement looking for hidden meaning. Perhaps Dan Brown’s latest book is stirring up the SEO industry in its week of release?

Our View on Meta-Keywords

Our view on keywords has always been simple and straightforward: don’t bother. We have seen no difference in ranking ability of two pages that possess and lack keywords respectively, none whatsoever. Likewise, we have never seen any impact on ranking come about as a result of meta-keyword tweaking.

Meta-Descriptions Make Sense

The post also mentions that Google has not used the Meta-Description field for ranking purposes for a number of years, however, our experience is that the description field can actually aid matters as it plays a crucial role in determining the click-through rate of a listing on a search engine ranking page (SERP). Our view is that the higher the CTR on a link, the likelier the associated page is to rank more highly. Furthermore, the higher the click-through rate of a page, the more traffic you’re likely to attract, so a well optimised and written description can really make a difference.

If you don’t include a meta-description then Google will select a snippet of text from your site, which might not work as well as a bespoke one. We use the meta-description field to display the Mackerel Media phone number on the SERPs page, as you’ll be able to see here. Neat eh?

Looking to the future, we can only hope that now Google has cleared keywords up, they’ll move swiftly on to link spam blogs, dubious paid link vendors and all the other fun issues that keep us busy. Hmm…perhaps we’re a little too optimistic.

Ad-Wary iPhone Users?

We read some interesting research out this week from Chitika in Massachusetts, claiming that iPhone users are the least likely of all mobile users to click on an ad on their device. This contrasts starkly with their tandem finding that iPhone users account for 66% of mobile web browsing.

The survey was conducted over 92 million ad impressions and showed that in overall terms, mobile users are roughly half as likely to click on an ad than non-mobile users. The average click-through rate for iPhone users followed in the survey was a rather poor 0.30%, compared to an average of 0.8% for non-mobile users. Palm users demonstrated at CTR of almost 1%.

The view from Chitika (and it’s one we share) is that mobile users are generally unreceptive to ads as they are usually looking for quick answers to a question, looking for directions or a phone number, rather than being in a ‘browse’ mode. Perhaps there’s also something to be said of the intrusiveness of ads in the iPhone’s otherwise pure and controlled interface?

Whatever the case, it makes for an intriguing outlook, especially given the enthusiasm with which mobile advertising is being pushed by ad networks, agencies and advertisers large and small.

Twitter Flies Ahead of myspace in the UK

I’m a keen reader of the excellent research that Hitwise produce and was very interested to ready today that Twitter has overtaken myspace in the UK to become the (drumroll please) 27th most popular web site in the country, one ahead of News Corporation’s myspace. That means in the last week (23rd to the 29th of August) a staggering 1 in 400 internet visits in the UK were to the microblogging service.

Within the Social Media space, this places Twitter at a very respectable fourth, behind Facebook, YouTube and Bebo. Digging a little deeper into the stats, we see that Twitter experienced usage growth of over 1,600% in the last year against myspace’s comparatively low 5%.

Interestingly, it seems that as so many users access Twitter via their mobile phones and other applications, the real usage level may be higher, but the stats are skewed towards the number of people visiting the site’s home page.

There is a countervailing view on Twitter, with other recent reports “revealing” that around 40% of tweets are ‘pointless babble‘ and a number of other respected outlets claiming that the Twitter fad won’t last. It’s fair to say that 1,600% growth can’t continue for ever, but there is room for a huge amount of expansion in the months and years to come.