Category: Online advertising

I have just come across an old screenshot of a Google result page while tidying up my files, and I just could not resist comparing it to a contemporary one. Wow, those were the times when you had at least a chance to get on the screen with SEO for popular keywords!

These two screenshots showing the results for the very lucrative keyword combination: ”hotel budapest”, albeit in Hungarian, clearly illustrate how Google’s search engine evolved over the years. While you might spot first some web design related changes, it is more interesting to look behind the surface and discover the substantial changes and tendencies which have a great impact on our daily online marketing activities.

No organic results above the fold

While the old screenshot shows four non-paid search results, occupying almost the half of the screen real estate devoted to displaying results, the more recent screen capture has no ordinary search results above the fold, not even on bigger screens with full HD resolutions.

During those good old days, if you were clever enough, you could get a considerable exposure in Google search results, while nowadays you have to rather rely on paid online campaigns, just because otherwise you cannot bring your message before the eyes of your audience on the most popular web pages. On the above screenshot, you can observe how the paid results, a knowledge panel on the side, and the map-based hotel search interface push down the first organic search results way below the fold. Meanwhile, in the old screenshot below, you can spot non-paid result snippets of an old-school hotel booking/aggregating site and a website of a local hotel aptly named “Hotel Budapest”.

By the way, these webmasters of these first-generation hotel listing/booking pages were among the first ones who were actively doing SEO in Hungary. These sites had been optimized quite frequently by the owner of the property, heavily relying on automated mass link exchange schemes and other, now obsolete, if not counterproductive techniques. They had been wiped out a couple of years ago by a Google algorithm update, way before and Airbnb started new chapters in the history of online booking.

Google wants to keep users in its walled garden

Although Google’s robots still do not create content, the tendency is clear, just as it was obvious ten years ago too: more and more web content is to be scraped, processed and displayed in a structured format on Google’s own web pages, thus more and more answers are given on the search result pages itself, therefore the content creators are rewarded with fewer and fewer clickthroughs by Google.

You can observe how the hotel offers are listed on a map, how the different prices from the booking portals and the hotel web pages are blended in search results, and how the whole thing is enriched by user reviews and other additional information hosted by the Google My Business service.

It can be easily seen that this ”movement” provides a more seamless experience for the search engine users but also means a lot of drawbacks for the webmasters aiming for getting organic, that is, free traffic from one of the most popular websites of our time.


As big online platforms, such as Google and Facebook, are trying to increase their revenue year by year, less and less free slots are to be available for webmasters, and more and more is to be paid if someone wants to get traffic from these huge sites.

The other phenomenon related also to the constant need of generating more profit is that these online platforms are increasingly capturing others’ content, incorporating them into their services, that is, instead of conveying traffic to the content sources, they will try everything to keep their users close to their ad placements while they consume the third-party contents.

Some more tidbits

It’s also funny to see that while a couple of years ago there was only 948 000 results reported, nowadays there are approximately 8 210 000 results estimated – almost ten times more.

This might be the reason for a ”slower” result generation time: instead of 0,26 seconds, it took almost three times longer, a whopping 0,69 seconds. 🙂

The new results page just does not fit on a 1024 pixel wide screen anymore — a screen resolution commonly used by web designers as the minimum width ten years ago.

The knowledge panel providing in-depth information about a movie titled ”The Grand Budapest Hotel” among the contemporary results indicates that Google is not quite sure about your search intent when you just type ”budapest hotel”. If the big G is not sure what you are looking for, then there might be a considerable amount of search volume for the movie too — in comparison to the volume of the ordinary hotel searches.

You might have recently read quite a few articles summarising last year’s online marketing trends – but this article is not about summarising last year’s widely published and discussed news, but simply about what changes 2015 has brought to my professional life. Of course how someone sees this, heavily depends on what kind of marketing activities one pursues for clients and for own projects; therefore the below list will be neither objective nor definitive.

Facebook bigger than AdWords

While there are clients and there are certain kind of activities where it is still better to spend the vast majority of your budget on Google AdWords, but for me, 2015 was the first year when I was relying more on Facebook’s than Google’s advertising system. I have found myself spending my clients’ money more and more on Facebook and less and less on AdWords – even discontinuing advertising on Google Search for certain clients.

A few years ago AdWords was the one and only online ad system if you wanted to have a wide coverage and considerably grow your web site traffic by paid ads (I mean in Hungary and a handful of other markets outside the US), now it became just one – but still important – part of your marketing mix.

Facebook video bigger than YouTube

During the previous years, I just loved to advertise on YouTube with the TrueView video format: it was extremely cheap and fairly cost-effective.  Last year it turned out that advertising with videos was even more effective on Facebook. I don’t mean here differences like the video autoplay function, but the fact that Facebook facilitates a way more intensive discussion related to the promoted videos. While on YouTube only a small fraction of viewers are commenting, on Facebook it turned out in many cases that prospects would frequently start meaningful, interesting, many times enthusiastic discussions as a consequence of video promotions.

Prospects asking their friend’s opinion, including their names in comments to notify them about a certain promoted content – isn’t this what many marketers would even die for? 🙂

A bigger mess to tidy up

AdWords, Facebook, plus add a few more contenders like LinkedIN, Instagram, Twitter – you will be quickly messing around with complex multi-channel online marketing campaigns, sometimes even for quite small clients with very straightforward business models. So things have been getting more complicated, so chances are getting higher that you’ll get lost somewhere.

This is the reason why I have been spending quite some time with properly naming my campaigns, remarketing lists, conversion points, events, etc. I had to set up sometimes quite a sophisticated naming conversions so that I could effectively work with many channels and many campaigns. And it was just one side effect of having to manage ad spendings on more online channels.

Google Tag Manager – a marketing dashboard

When defining complex marketing funnels with multiple steps and multiple channels, you will most likely end up with a quite complex Google Tag Manager setup – again with a well-thought-out naming convention system labelling the different tracking codes for the interactions you would like to measure along the entire online marketing funnel.

Therefore Google Tag Manager became one of the most important places where I can administer and overview the whole set up for complex online marketing activities – sometimes even incorporating additional logic a CMS system would never be able to handle. So far ”only” the results are missing from this interface.

Google Analytics just not enough

As an obvious consequence of our shift towards data-driven marketing, even the most sophisticated traditional web traffic analytics solutions seemed to be getting more and more obsolete, and lacking many People Analytics-related features of great importance. Even if I fed relevant data into Analytics to anonymously identify visitors, quickly found myself downloading a series of weekly data reports one by one so that I could get precise reports for a bigger time interval – instead of the heavily sampled ones, which proved to be a useless when I wanted to found a needle in the haystack.

On the other hand, the Google Analytics Premium is clearly a no-go for the majority of clients – both for its price tag and its missing features to easily identify individual leads’ activities.

Big Data bigger than Marketing

Having delved into Big Data and BI, in general, I got to a conclusion that while many principles and methods are indeed applicable to 99% of us online marketers, but for almost the same high percentage of us Big Data solutions are just an overkill – with a fairly big price tag.

I think just a small fraction of us would generate gigabytes of data per day with their marketing activities – so there should be a term like ”Medium-sized Data”  coined for those online marketing professionals who would like to use complex systems to manage their data-driven marketing activities, without feeling forced to shell out a lot of money or hiring programmers for Big Data solutions that are eventually meant to handle huge data sets.

SEM more complex than SEO

At the beginning of this decade building up and running a complex system for my multilingual mass link building practice meant a much bigger intellectual challenge than I could ever imagine with paid search campaigns way back then. I think last year we got to the point where paid search and paid social media advertising together allowed us to create much more sophisticated processes and systems than the most complex search engine optimisation cases.

Managing various audiences – even beyond remarketing lists, see matching customers’ emails for instance – on multiple platforms proved to be more challenging for me than building links or content for getting better organic rankings.

Hosting is cheaper than ever

It might not be something last year brought to us, but I just realised it in 2015: I used to run the same virtual private server for more than nine years, just because I was too lazy to migrate all of the servers to a newer system or to an other VPS provider. But as the infrastructure of my old server was shut down without prior notice, I found myself forced to find an other hosting company – and ended up paying for the same service, four times less than before.

Other than that I could figure out how to host huge WordPress sites effectively on a bare minimum VPS setup. It was a long journey to find the best configuration, but the good news is that there is an almost-out-of-the-box solution for those who don’t want to pay the relatively high price of a managed WordPress hosting service but dare to mess around a little bit with Linux command line. WordPress is still not meant to host tens of thousands of posts, but you can find some workarounds to make that possible – without having to run it on a supercomputer.

…and a lot more

Of course last year I also started quite a few other new things – some of them will hopefully bear fruits this year, and some of them will define what and how I will work during this year. But one thing is for sure – we won’t be left being bored this year either…

Image credits – Photo by kazuend. Source:

It’s not so well known but there is a place where Google displays what it thinks about you – or at least what it is willing to tell you about it. If you think that Google knows everything, then you might want to visit this web page and check it out:

As for what Google has registered about me, the results were very-very poor: I had to uncheck 30 interests out of the 39 different interests Google has previously attributed to my Google Account. I must admit that as an online marketer perhaps I am not the easiest to profile since I am visiting a lot of different web pages, doing a wide variety of search queries, watching a lot of videos and ads, but still the original list was full of irrelevant interests like Dance & Electronic Music or TV Reality Shows or Billiards – topics I have never sought for.

As a frequent user of Google’s services like AdWords or Analytics, I tend to think that there are a whole lot of things Google knows about us statistically and builds many services upon that (such as conversion optimizer or similar audiences) without disclosing too much about its knowledge to us.

Perhaps I have overestimated Google’s ability to identify and categorize their users based on their activities? Once I was told by a Googler that cookie is the new keyword, but if there are so many irrelevant pieces of information attached to those cookies, there is still a long way to go.