About Stephen Kenwright
Stephen is Director of Search at St. Ives Group-owned Branded3 – the best large SEO agency in Europe according to the 2016 judges of the EU Search Awards – and is responsible for search and analytics. Writing weekly for the Drum Magazine, Stephen has presented at more than 100 industry events since joining B3 in 2012 and now organises the SearchLeeds conference, hosting hundreds of marketers from around Europe every year.
In his Learn Inbound talk, Stephen takes a look at how people in Ireland use search engines and how search results compare to the rest of the world. This talk explores the environment that Irish brands and agencies compete within and what updates and opportunities Irish marketers will have to navigate in 2017
- Ireland is an incredibly mobile country – we have the highest mobile internet penetration of anywhere in Europe, North America, and South America.
- Mobile adoption is often overlooked by developers, designers, and marketers who often get stuck in the mindset of creating for desktop first, then making the changes to make it work correctly on mobile.
- Use Google’s new Resizer tool to test designs across platforms and see where the breakpoints are – rather than hope for the best when designing a webpage.
- Focus on site speed by using a CDN like CloudFlare. It takes around 30 minutes to set up correctly, but it can have a significant impact on page load speed.
Hi, so my name is Stephen. I work for a search company called Branded3. We've worked with some Irish brands, like 123.ie.
We've worked with some global brands who have teams on the ground here in Ireland, like Symantec, and I know Cole and Anton are here, so wherever you are, Cole and Anton. We've also worked with and currently work with some international brands who really care about Ireland, like Ladbrokes on their sports accounts. But enough about me.
I kind of want to talk a little bit more about you guys. And kind of keeping up with the sports theme, I want to ask, firstly, does anyone remember this guy, Giovanni Trapattoni? So Giovanni Trapattoni was a storied coach who's basically won everything there is to win with the Italian National Team and other big Italian teams.
And a while ago he came over here to coach the Irish National Team. And under Trapattoni, I would say trying to get the Irish to play like Italians, the team wasn't fantastic. But then if you fast forward to where you are now and if you look Euro 2016, for example, playing like the Irish would play, you're really making progress.
You know you're actually a really good team, and I'm saying this as someone from somewhere who do not have a good national team. So really what I want to talk about is if you are marketing in Ireland, I want you to market like the Irish should market, to people who are consuming because they are Irish, how the Irish consume.
The first thing that I want to talk about really is, there is, in fact, more than one search engine. Not a lot of people know this, but you can actually find information from other websites apart from Google. So this is U.K. audience of search engines. This is not Ireland. In March 2016, if you combined Bing and Yahoo, the two Microsoft-powered search engines, they have four-fifths of the same audience that Google's got in terms of unique users.
That doesn't mean number of searches. That means number of unique users. And this is something that's kind of, I thought a bit, sort of overlooked in the minute. But if you actually look at how big Bing is in Ireland, there's a million unique Irish people, who are searching Bing every single month in 2016. It's about 10% share of the market. That's a lot of monthly searches, but a million people when you consider that Ireland has a population of about four and a half million people, that's a lot of people and this is an upward trend.
So if you look at where Bing has come from and where Bing is going, Bing is bigger now than Bing has ever been in Ireland and the U.K. So why don't we talk a lot more about Bing? There's one reason for that, and that's because the number of impressions that Bing actually get, 90% of those are on desktop, and you can see this trend reflected in the U.K. and Ireland as well.
So if you look at U.K. browser share, for example, we're not quite as advanced as Ireland in that we use Microsoft Edge and other Microsoft browsers, and you guys have totally just said, "No, fuck that. We're going to use Chrome." You can see a slight difference as well because, in Ireland, there are a lot more Android phones than there are iOS Apple iPhones. So if you're looking at the number of unique users in Ireland and why we're not talking about Bing as much as we should, there's only one reason for that.
It represents cell phones. That's because Ireland is more mobile than any other country in Europe. If you look at the proportion of adults with a smartphone in the U.K. compared to Ireland, you have a lot more than we do. If you look at how ready the Irish are to purchase on a mobile phone, you're a lot more ready than we are.
You're a lot more ready than any other continent, as far as purchasing on m-commerce, generally. You guys are, you're global leaders at this. If you look at the frequency of mobile purchases, more than a quarter of all Irish people purchase something on their mobile phone at least once a week. The Irish are obsessed with their mobile phones, and this is why we talk about Google when it comes to Ireland a lot more.
So if you think about it, Google launched in 1998. The first phone capable of accessing the internet hadn't even arrived yet. So Google didn't necessarily have to deal with mobile when it first came about. Apple launched the iPhone in 2007 and people think about this as the moment when mobile really arrived, but actually, that predates responsive design by three years.
So the first kind of experiences that you could get on an iPhone were mostly terrible. Most mobile websites were awful for years. It's only in 2015 in the U.K., and in Ireland that mobile search volumes have overtaken desktop search volumes. So if you think about the iPhone predates responsive web design by three years, and you think about what mobile actually means, it's not actually about going on a mobile phone, and buying something or browsing or visiting or sharing anything.
It's about switching from one device to another. It's about being able to open up a mobile phone when you're set on the sofa because you've seen the TV ads, and then maybe converting on desktop later on or maybe not. So as marketers, we need to make sure that all of our content is equally accessible and equally useful on every device.
So Google have a really nice tool called Resizer. You can find it design.google.com/resizer which can show you exactly how your content looks on every device size. This is not just what it looks like on a desktop, what it looks like on a smartphone. You can change the resolutions. You can change everything, and see what your content actually looks like to people who are browsing on maybe an iPhone 5s.
It's small, maybe a phablet, you can see the difference, and if you think about how serious the big players are about responsive design, Google, Apple, Adobe, Microsoft are all collaborating on responsive fonts. So right now what you see when you resize by going on a different device is the same font, just squeezed up a little bit.
But we're getting to a stage where everything is going to respond to the exact device that people have got because people deserve personalized experiences. But when you think about what's important on mobile, it's the same thing that's important on tablet and desktop and the answer to that is speed. This is true of the U.K. This is true of Ireland, but if you think about how people are actually accessing content on a mobile, the number of 4G subscriptions in the U.K., 39 and a half million, that's about two-thirds of the population.
The number of 4G subscriptions in Ireland, 1.7 that's quite a lot, you know. The number of 4G subscriptions in Ireland is more than a quarter, nearly a third, 40% even, of people in Ireland have 4G, and more than 50% of all the data that was generated by mobile networks in the last year went through a 4G network.
So when you look at how important Google thinks that high-speed is, Google launched in 1998, page speed becomes a ranking factor in 2010. And Google, as useful as it always is, tells you how to sort of influence that with page speeds insights a year later. So that year in between you're kind of fucked. But then 4G becomes available in the U.K. in 2013 and 5G, which is 10 times faster, 100 times is fast, faster than 4G.
It becomes available in the U.K. in 2020. Ireland beats that by a year. Ireland will be the first country to roll out 5G in the whole of Europe. So speed's pretty important to you guys. If you look at Google's latest toy, there's obviously, not just Google's. A lot of search engines again, collaborating on this, AMP.
AMP is becoming much, much bigger. And if you look at the difference between the U.K....now it's pretty similar. So this is, it just starts from BuiltWith, about 5%, 6%, of both U.K. and Irish websites in the top 1000 of BuiltWith websites. So the big traffic websites, about 5-6% are using AMP and if you are one of the 65% of Irish people who use WordPress for your website, you could totally just use a plug-in, you just switch on and go AMP for that.
So PageFrog is my favorite. There are other plug-ins available, but I'm only going to say PageFrog right now...if you want to. AMP is not the answer to everything. Right now we are currently rolling back AMP from the Branded3 website because it's one more thing to fix. Inevitably, things go wrong. It's a new technology and it's constantly advancing.
So it breaks, and I want my developers doing something else, so it may not be for everyone. What could be more useful as far as page speed goes is a content delivery network?So we use Cloudflare. Again, other CDNs are available. Cloudflare does have a free version and again, it's quite easy to install. On branded3.com, 61% improvement in page load times, 30 minute's work just fiddling around with it.
So it's totally worth having a look at how you can deliver your content a little bit faster. But again, as marketers, we've got a bit of a misconception about where people actually are when they're searching on their mobile. Everyone thinks that, because we spend all of our days sat in front of a laptop, that you only really search from your mobile when you're out and about. That's not necessarily true.
So according to Google, most searches on a mobile phone occur at home. Ofcom in the U.K. think the exact same thing. Most mobile purchases happen at home and if you look at when that happens, it's nighttime. People don't fire up laptops themselves. A lot of people just don't even own one. A lot of people don't even own a desktop computer.
So if you don't convert on mobile, you kind of don't convert. We're seeing trends similar to this as well. So this is a Branded3 client. You've got to understand where you are actually being seen, to understand where your conversions are coming from. So this particular client is on TV every now and then, and when they are on TV, people open up their mobile phones and they convert.
We have a client that sells cars, that has historically a 10% improvement in conversion rate when Top Gear is on. So you've got to understand the context that people are going through when they're actually going to convert or not. Not just about conversions, of course, because a conversion from something like this implies that you're already known, you're already found.
And I'm very grateful that a lot of people did fill in a survey that myself and the Learn Inbound Twitter account sent around a while ago, trying to understand what challenges you guys have and brand awareness is the big challenge. So what we are actually relying on a lot of time is organic search. If we're looking at click-through rates, for example, where we are on mobile is very different to where we are in desktop right now.
We did a study just to understand what people are clicking on. This is global and about 25% of all organic clicks on a mobile phone go to the first result, about 21% go to the second result and then it kind of trails off, and that's similar to desktop. Arguably, you get a little bit more in second place on a mobile right now and if you want to see all of the results, and see them in different industries as well, you can go on branded3.com/blog/mobilectr.
What we were really looking at and the reason we did this study is because we wanted to understand what mobile-friendly is doing, what the mobile-friendly algorithm that's Google's rolling out, has actually done. So we took a snapshot of all of our client search console profiles to look at click-through rate in May and then we took one again in September to understand the difference, and we're thinking, in that time, position one has just kind of shrunk by a huge amount.
People are still scrolling down to position two. The same number of clicks are going on position two as they always did, if not a little bit more. But the impact of being in the first position in Google organic has shrunk quite a lot, in that time. So when we think about why mobile-friendly didn't necessarily have the impact that we thought it would, 85% of all websites are mobile-friendly so that's Google's excuse.
If you look at the Stone Temple study there was basically no change, either. The percentage of mobile-friendly URLs is the same before and after the update. So what did mobile-friendly really do? So I've included, again, a client example. So you can see that traffic over time, desktop is declining and that's the same story for pretty much everyone.
Mobile is increasing, but not as fast as tablet and that's not the same story for everyone. In Ireland, particularly, you would expect to see an intersection there where mobile overtakes desktop. And, in fact, when you look at just mobile without Google organic, you can see the moment when the mobile-friendly algorithm rolled out, where instead of continuing on the same trend where more mobile traffic comes from Google than any other channel, you can see that more mobile traffic comes direct.
So if there's any proof for a mobile-friendly website, that's probably it and, again, you could start to argue that maybe the search trends are different. But if you look at the search volume across the devices from the keywords that we're tracking versus actually the clicks that we get from those devices, there's a huge disparity from the mobile-friendly update. If you've not got a mobile-friendly website, proportionally, you are missing out more than any other country in the entire of Europe by not having one.
You can see the exact same reflection, so in the ranking positions, we track a lot of rankings for a lot of our clients. If it was a straight line, it would rank the same on mobile as it does on desktop, but it doesn't. It tails off. It absolutely plummets on mobile. So when we're looking at this difference and we're thinking, "This is a huge problem across the board, everywhere on the globe for mobile-friendly."
It isn't. For PPC ads, Google very helpfully is turning everything into paid traffic. I'm sure Sam loves it, but everything is becoming paid. So let's look at organic for a second. Again, we just did a bit of a study across a few industries that we're interested in, just to see what the search market actually looks like in Ireland.
This is just flights. You will probably expect to see Skyscanner.ie in number one, and you do because skyscanner.net is number one everywhere. But what you get in Ireland that you don't necessarily get in any other country and the metric we're looking at here is total percentage of the traffic they could get, 100% percent means you rank one for everything and then, obviously, everyone kind of goes down a little bit from there.
So Skyscanner's getting about half of everything they could get. What you get in Ireland that you don't really get anywhere else, and you certainly don't get it in the U.K., is skyscanner.net also ranks. You get more dot.co.uk's and dot.coms and dot.ie's in Ireland whereas in the U.K., for example, we only get dot.co.uk and dot.com. The competition is much lower and, generally speaking, you know if you've got a duplicate version of your website in the U.K. version of Google, it just wouldn't rank.
If we had skyscanner.co.uk and dot.net, it wouldn't appear. Looking at fashion, Littlewood's in number one. If the Wolfgang guys are in here, well done. Littlewood's are in number one, but actually what you're seeing is a huge number of global brands with [inaudible] attributes that are really partitioning their traffic across everywhere.
And, again, you're seeing more competition and, actually a lot more island-specific domains. Mortgages is a really interesting one because we don't necessarily get quite as many exact match domains ranking really well in the U.K. So some of those older ranking signals, things like actually having the keywords in your URL seem to be a little bit more important over here than necessarily they do in the U.K., which means you should certainly be looking at your URL structure and looking at actually how you are formatting your pages.
Make sure you have the keywords in the URLs, for example. Mark asked me, "How does Barry's Tea rank?" because everyone in Ireland loves Barry's Tea. Okay, they do all right. Wikipedia is really high for tea, that specialty, really high in tea and that is interesting because Wikipedia doesn't generally dominate quite as much in the U.K.
What we're seeing here is maybe, you know, a lot of the brands don't necessarily stock everything, etc.and that could be the problem, but actually there is a huge gap in the amount of content on a lot of websites in Ireland. We've got a load more of these, but I just thought I'd kind of show you a few examples where Wikipedia actually has a huge amount of content, as you know.
But a lot of Irish websites don't necessarily have the depth of content that we are used to seeing in the U.K. and the U.S. But it's not just about content. I'll talk about other ranking factors like links, for example. Links are quite good. I like links. How do you build links in Ireland? How is it different to the U.K., for example?
Well, in Ireland, localized data is absolutely key. You guys don't want to hear about the U.K. unless you're compared against us, and usually, if you're winning, that's when you want to publish. If you're seeng that, you know, you've got stats from everywhere and you don't include Ireland or you don't have some specific data that backs up the point why Irish people should care.
You don't necessarily include it at all. But a lot of the time, if you do have that, Irish journalists are quite happy to cover that. Another thing that's a limiting factor for a lot of people and probably shouldn't be is the domain extensions. So if you've ever thought about actually, "I am an Irish brand and I want to push myself in Ireland, I should definitely have dot.ie domains."
There aren't that many around. It's quite difficult to get a dot.ie domain. You know you've got to prove some things. So a lot of bloggers go for a dot.com and actually, you get a lot of blogspots over here, a lot more blog spots proportionally than we get anywhere else, more blogspot than WordPress, for example. So instead of looking for dot.ie domains, if I really want to push myself to an Irish audience, I'm looking at what Followerwonk says.
I want to know where a blogger is based, not what their top level domain extension is. Another big difference and we'll stay on MOS for a second, metrics. MOS metrics, page rank metrics, whatever kind of metrics you're using, are terrible in Ireland. You have so much lower domain authority, etc. But it's fine because it's all made up.
So I wouldn't limit myself to that. What's actually really interesting is that when you're working with an Irish blogger or an Irish journalist, you guys are in it for the long haul, you know, you're not necessarily just looking for a pay off. You're not just getting some content and, "I'm far too busy. Don't talk to me again until you've got something else." Actually, what we find is when we're talking to Irish bloggers, they want to know what else we've got coming up. They want to know what else that we're going to do that we could involve them in.
A lot of the time, you know when we're doing events, and I'm going to show a photo of Laura, our Comms Director, slightly embarrassing...a lot of the time when we do events, so this is Ladbrokes' Galway Races, for example, Irish blogs are really excited to be invited to those kind of things. Because a lot of those global brands just do them in London. So there's not necessarily the same amount of engagement from brands as there is in the U.K.
So if you show some, generally speaking, the payoff is definitely there. So like I alluded to a little bit earlier, I sent this survey around, just to try and understand what kind of challenges you guys are having and how that necessarily compares to the U.K.
What I was going to do is I was going to show some graphs there, add some graphs of the U.K. versus Ireland and show how different they are in some of that. They're all the same. So the first one, I want to point out is actually who does search in the U.K. and who does search in Ireland? So the same story in the U.K. and Ireland. This is SEO on that site and PPC on that site, and what you see is that SEO is more traditionally done in-house and not necessarily outsourced.
That's exactly the same in the U.K. and in Ireland, as well. PPC, a lot more often is outsourced, but a lot of people don't do PPC. And again, one of the challenges that everyone highlighted was budget. So if you're thinking about, you know, "How can I get our budget to go a little bit further?" Bing, maybe, is something that you should be looking into.
The cost per acquisition is a lot lower on Bing, but the volume isn't the same. So if you're not doing Bing at all, it's something that you should probably have a look at, and especially if you have an older audience, because they tend to over-index a little bit on Bing. If you look at the bigger sources of traffic, again, that's pretty much the same. Organic search is huge. We were expecting to see maybe a bit more social, but no, that's pretty much the same across the board.
You know 75%, nearly of all traffic across everyone that we surveyed come from Google organic. I did survey a lot of SEOs, so maybe they're just bragging, but you know, it's pretty consistent. I wanted to ask about some of the technologies that I talked about a little bit earlier. So AMP, for example, who's using it and who isn't? About a quarter, a fifth of the people in Ireland who I surveyed, are using AMP and only about a third have no plans at all to implement that.
I'm not saying that AMP is brilliant or that you definitely should implement it or shouldn't. It's not for everyone. The experience isn't necessarily very good on AMP. So if you have other things to be doing, and I'm sure you all do, have a look at whether it's actually worthwhile, very hard to prove a return on that. HTTPS again, you know pretty consistent. You're seeing a large number of people using HTTPS and a large number of people aren't using HTTPS, I say and they're going to.
This is something that I do think is worthwhile. If you're not planning to implement HTTPS, show your site securely. And you are doing something, for example, collecting data, you're starting to get messages in Google search console the minute it says that you need to do that if you are going to actually collect any data. So I think it's definitely worth implementing HTTPS and making sure that your experience for your customers is secure.
And lastly, I wanted to ask what do you guys think is the biggest ranking factor? What's the strongest ranking factor at Google.ie compared to Google.co.uk? This is all guesswork everywhere, but naturally, people share between links and content, and that's definitely the case.
I think they're the two strongest factors everywhere. But one thing that I would say when you compare Google.ie and Google.co.uk, the amount of content that's available in Ireland, the depth just isn't quite there. So maybe, actually over here, the return on investment is probably a little bit stronger on content than it is on links, just saying, but generally speaking, that's entirely consistent.
I'm really interested in afterwards, you know, if you have a particular thought on what that something else could be. For example, I'd be very keen to hear what else people are really working on at the minute, and what people think are going to be the big ranking factors moving forwards.
Because, as far as I'm concerned, this hasn't changed for a number of years, and this doesn't change between Google.co.uk and Google.ie. So thank you very much.