International SEO with rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x”

published by on 23rd October 2014 under Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

international-seo- relalternate-hreflang-1

Don’t miss out on search traffic

Does your business have identical or very similar websites targeting different countries and/or languages? In Australasia, it is a very common situation for businesses to have one site for New Zealand, and another basically identical website (with perhaps just currency and pricing changes) for Australia.

While this is great, it can cause some SEO issues. Effectively you have duplicate content. For example the two pages:

  • www.example-biz.co.nz/catagory-a/product-x
  • www.example-biz.com.au/catagory-a/product-x

most likely contain almost identical information about this product, except that one has the price in NZD and one has the price in AUD, and they may have different shipping costs. While it is very unlikely that Google will ever punish you for this “duplicate content”, you may very well miss out on some search traffic unless you take some extra steps to optimise things a bit.

By default, each of the two example pages is considered completely separately by search engines. They will both need to earn some links to help with their search rankings. While Google is pretty good at showing the .co.nz version of the page to people searching from New Zealand, they aren’t perfect at it. I have seen situations like this where a search for a specific product name returned the Canadian version of the page, even though there was a valid NZ version of the same product page available (perhaps the Canadian page had more links and was outranking the NZ page even though I was in New Zealand).

 

increase organic traffic

Adding code to tell Google what you want

It is possible to tell Google (and other search engines) that you have these types of alternate pages, just by adding a little bit of code to the <head> section of each page. For our example pages above, the code to add would be:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-nz” href=” www.example-biz.co.nz/catagory-a/product-x” />

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-au” href=” www.example-biz.com.au/catagory-a/product-x” />

NOTE: the same two lines of code would be added to both pages.  The two lines together tell Google, these are two alternate versions of this page, and I want you to show the first version to English language searchers from New Zealand, and the second version to English language searchers from Australia.
 

Searches from other countries

But what about people who search from another country (perhaps the United States) and what about searchers from New Zealand who don’t speak English (perhaps a tourist from Japan)? If you have the resources to create translated versions of your pages in different languages, then you can add them to the list of alternates:

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”de” href=”www.example-biz.com/de/catagory-a/product-x” />

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”ja” href=”www.example-biz.com/ja/catagory-a/product-x” />

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”es” href=”www.example-biz.com/es/catagory-a/product-x” />

Where the first version is to be shown to German language searchers, the second version is to be shown to Japanese language searchers, and the third version to Spanish language searchers regardless of where in the world they may be searching from.
 

“Catch them all” syntax

The syntax also allows for a catch all, so if none of the above language and location groups work for a specific searcher, send them to the default catch all version of the page.

<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”x-default” href=”www.example-biz.com” />

So is it really worth the hassle to implement this change on your website? One of our clients has seen a 60% increase in their organic search traffic since they implemented this change a few months ago. Your results may vary, but yes, I believe it is worth the hassle.

Want to learn more about how to implement this hreflang syntax for your website? Google provides a great resource here or contact us here at FIRST for assistance. Also take a look at our post regarding 5 things to consider for your international SEO strategy.

Searching for a cruise holiday online – NZ Cruise Holiday Industry SEO Report

published by on 22nd October 2014 under Industry Reports, Research

cruise holiday seo industry report image

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form

Which Cruise Holiday Providers are maximising their market share online?

Find out which cruise providers are taking the lead in organic search and how they’re doing it.

FIRST has investigated the organic search engine rankings for NZ consumer searches focused on cruise holiday bookings in New Zealand, utilising FIRST’s Ranking Based Reach (RBR) analysis framework. In addition, a consumer survey was carried out to discover where Kiwis go first when searching for a cruise holiday and what their preferred travel destinations are.

In this report we discovered:

  • The 2013 Cruise Industry Source Market Report shows that New Zealand cruise passenger numbers reached a record high of 59,316 in 2013, a 23 per cent increase on 2012.* Following this trend, cruise providers not ranking at prominent positions in search are missing out potential sales and should invest in a robust digital strategy to be competitive online.
  • Global player Princess Cruises is leading the RBR, closely followed by P&O Cruises and quite a bit behind Lets Cruise.
  • In general, search results are broadly dispersed among a wide range of competitors. In this competitive market, some cruise providers have recognized the urgency of ranking well in organic search, nevertheless there are still many companies which are not at all present within organic search.
  • In our survey we revealed that of all respondents who have not booked a cruise so far, more than 40% of Kiwis would use a search engine first to find a cruise. Moreover we discovered that 72% of respondents who have never been on a cruise holiday would like to book a cruise in the future. This offers great opportunities for cruise holiday providers.
  • A digital strategy that integrates both organic and paid search should be a key customer acquisition and revenue driver for cruise holiday providers.

 

FIRST uses its bespoke metric called RBR (Ranking Based Reach) to estimate how well each company is ranking in search engines. RBR provides a simple way to compare a website’s search engine rankings with its competitors. RBR is an estimate of the percentage of available search traffic a website will receive for a set of phrases – this gives the sites share of search or reach. It is weighted based on the popularity of each search phrase and the relative click through rate (CTR) of each ranking position.

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form

Websites included in this cruise holiday industry report comparison:

* celebritycruises.com
* cruiseabout.co.nz
* cruisecompany.co.nz
* cruisecompete.com
* cruiseholidays.co.nz
* cruisesalefinder.co.nz
* finetravel.co.nz
* flightcentre.co.nz
* goholidays.co.nz
* harveyworld.co.nz
* houseoftravel.co.nz
* icruise.co.nz
* letscruise.co.nz
* pocruises.co.nz
* princess.com
* seeya.co.nz
* unitedtravel.co.nz
* webjet.co.nz

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Google Tag Manager Updates

published by on 16th October 2014 under Digital Strategy, Google Analytics

Today (5.00 a.m. NZ time), Google has announced some major improvements to Google Tag Manager (GTM):

  • New APIs to Answer Custom Needs

APIs are a time saver when you need to manage GTM containers at a large scale. Thanks to the new API you can for instance manage users in bulk or create a container template to be used and synch for hundreds of different sites.

  • New Templates for 3rd-Party Tags

Over the next weeks, you will find new tag templates for Neustar, quantcast, Criteo and more to be added to the already supported 3rd-party solutions (AdRoll, Marin, Comscore, Bizo, Clicktale, Distillery, Turn, Mediaplex, VisualDNA). 3rd-party tag templates make tagging easier and reduce the risk of errors when using Custom HTML tags.

  • New User Interface

More intuitive and colourful!. The new interface has a more visual workflow, which should make things easier to understand. Also some useful features such as instant search, autocomplete and new keyboard shortcuts.

One of the Google Tag Manager Updates is the New GTM user interface

A new more friendly interface for non-technical users

These improvements will be rolled out over the next few days so be patient if you don’t see your new user interface in your existing GTM account. Don’t have a GTM account yet? Create one and have a play with the new UI!

So here you go: even more reasons to use Google Tag Manager!

Read the announcement on Google Analytics blog

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Searching for accommodation online – NZ Accommodation Industry SEO Report

published by on 6th October 2014 under Industry Reports, Research

Accommodation Providers Industry SEO Report - NZ Reach

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form

Which Accommodation Providers are maximising their market share online?

Find out which accommodation providers are taking the lead in organic search and how they’re doing it.
FIRST has investigated the organic search engine rankings for NZ consumer searches focused on booking accommodation in New Zealand, utilising FIRST’s Ranking Based Reach (RBR) analysis framework. In addition, a consumer survey was carried out to discover where Kiwis go first when searching for accommodation and what type of accommodation New Zealanders typically stay in.

In this report we discovered:

  • In NZ Wotif is leading the RBR (for desktop search), followed by Expedia, AA Travel and Holidayhouses. And also in mobile search Wotif is leading the field, Expedia falling back to 5th position, left behind by players like Booking, Jasons, and AA Travel.
  • In general, search results are broadly dispersed among a wide range of competitors. In this competitive market, some accommodation providers have recognized the urgency of ranking well in organic search, nevertheless there are still many companies which are not at all present within organic search. It would make sense for them to invest in a robust and smart search strategy.
  • In our survey we revealed that Australia is the number 1 travel destination for Kiwis and that most use an online search engine (e.g. Google) to search for accommodation. Moreover, 4 out of 5 Kiwis search online and also book online before leaving for their trip.
  • A digital strategy that integrates both organic and paid search should be a key customer acquisition and revenue driver for accommodation providers.

ranking position accommodation providers nz

FIRST uses its bespoke metric called RBR (Ranking Based Reach) to estimate how well each company is ranking in search engines. RBR provides a simple way to compare a website’s search engine rankings with its competitors. RBR is an estimate of the percentage of available search traffic a website will receive for a set of phrases – this gives the sites share of search or reach. It is weighted based on the popularity of each search phrase and the relative click through rate (CTR) of each ranking position.

For the full report (PDF) please use our download form

Websites included in this accommodation industry report comparison:

www.aatravel.co.nz
www.agoda.com
www.bookabach.co.nz
www.booking.com
www.expedia.co.nz
www.graboneescapes.co.nz
www.heritagehotels.co.nz
www.holidayguide.co.nz
www.holidayhouses.co.nz
www.jasons.co.nz
www.lastminute.co.nz
nz.hotels.com
www.travelbug.co.nz
www.tripadvisor.co.nz
www.trivago.co.nz
www.wotif.co.nz

 

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Tracking Fragment URLs in Universal Analytics with Google Tag Manager

published by on 19th September 2014 under Google Analytics

Ah, fragment URLs – you know these URLs with a hashtag (such as www.example.com/categoryA.html#filter1=abc&page=2), that can’t be tracked with Google Analytics…

Indeed Google Aanalytics strips out everything after the hashtag. Yet seeing what’s after the hashtag can be useful to know what are the most popular filtering options for example or to check if your visitors go beyond the first page of your product listing.

With Google Tag Manager, tracking these URLs as virtual pageviews becomes relatively easy. No need to be a developer or adding any codes on your web pages.

Here is how to do it :

1. Create a Universal Analytics tag for Virtual Pageviews with a hashtag

This tag is different from your existing Universal Analytics Page View tag.

In the field for Document Path, click on the brick to insert the new {{hashtag URL}} macro that you create in step 2.

UA virtual pageview tag for hashtag URLs

UA virtual pageview tag for hashtag URLs

2. Create the {{hashtag URL}} Custom JavaSscript macro with the function below:

function() {
var newURL = window.location.pathname + window.location.search + window.location.hash;
return newURL;
       }

3. Create the firing rules for the UA Virtual Pageview tag

You want to fire the virtual pageview tag when:

  • The URL changes in the browser without the page is loaded again (history change event rule)
  • Or when the user lands directly on a hashtag URL (fragment URL is present on the page load).

The first “History change event” firing rule is as follows:

Firing rule for the UA Virtual Pageviews tag

Firing rule for the UA Virtual Pageviews tag

The rule calls the History Listener tag: {{event}} equals gtm.historyChange (see https://support.google.com/tagmanager/answer/3415369?hl=en#HistoryListener).

The second “Fragment URL loaded” firing rule is like below:

Fragment URL loaded firing rule

Fragment URL loaded firing rule

For this rule, you’ll need to create the {{fragment url}} macro as below:

Fragment URL macro

Fragment URL macro

4. Save your UA Virtual Pageview tag

5. Create the History Listener tag

History listener tag to fire on all pages

History listener tag to fire on all pages

6. Add the “Fragment URL loaded” rule as a blocking rule in your “standard” UA pageview tag

Because you don’t want to double track the hashtag URL on the page load.

7. Preview & Debug your container version

Check that your Virtual Pageview tag for hashtag URLs fires when a fragment URL is loaded (tag fired on GTM Page Load event) AND also when you navigate to another hastag URL (tag fired on gtm.hisotryChange event)

8. Visit your site and check your Real-Time Content report in Google Analytics

Google Analytics Real-Time Content report

Google Analytics Real-Time Content report

Hooray, it works!

9. Create your new Google Tag Manager container version, name it, publish it, and get you a well deserved cup of coffee, tea or whatever beverage you most prefer :-)

 Story based on:

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