Hey Google Search Terms in Google Ads

You may already be familiar with the widgets in Google Ads overview. Lots of handy intel there. However, you may not have stumbled on Hey Google search terms or what I’d rather call “Search Recordings” because they are the  entire conversation your prospective customer is having with Google.

You find this in Google Ads > Overview tab > in the widget that says “New Words were used in Google searches that showed your ads”. Then look for the keyword bubble “google”. Mouse-over it, and then mouse-over the “+x more searches”. The pop-up contains the entire recording a shopper had with Hey Google. In my case, its not just the search regarding the original keyword. Its the whole enchilada, truncated at x number of characters, it seems. I’m almost sorry I couldn’t catch what the next thing “to pay..” was going to be. To pay what?

I think this is far more insightful than just looking at a list of search terms to get inside the head of my audience. Its like eavesdropping on a private conversation and stream of behavior that you probably couldn’t get if you were this persons spouse.

Creepy Line? Or Use It Before You Loose It!

I can’t help thinking that this post will cause havoc down at the campus in Mountain View and (this disturbance in the force) may cause our little window into the soul of our shoppers to disappear. Enjoy it while you can.

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Conversion Statistics

Just some useful statistics on conversions as I’ve found them somewhere else or from my client analytics. In the interest of keeping this usable as a reference tool, this is intentionally brief. Perhaps I’ll expand more on certain points as necessary. All statistics are no older than 2018.

@ 60% of all conversions happen during a single visit
@ 15% of conversions require two visits
@ 25% of all conversions require at least 3 or more visits

@ 70% of conversions happen on the same day as the first visit

**Typical Local Business traffic Sources
@ 25% Maps
@ 25% Organic

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The Domain Authority Fail

Have you gotten a proposal from an SEO firm that lists as one of the deliverable “Domain Authority Evaluation”?

If so, you should unceremoniously crumple it into a ball and shoot for the trash can. If it arrived by email, delete it.

Why do I think this is a sign that the firm is not reputable?

For one, its a term that fails to clearly explain itself. What the hell is “Domain Authority” anyway? But I’m getting ahead of myself. Backing up…

…Recently a few clients have passed along proposals they have received from Agencies or SEO Firms. There in big bullet point fashion is “Domain Authority Evaluation” or  “Domain Authority Audit” or “Domain Authority Research”.

Domain Authority was once such a simple concept that its not worth mentioning in a proposal or report. It once meant the age of your domain name and website in continuous service. “How long has your website been around?” See? Simple. A long time = “good”. Its brand-spanking new = “not great for your search rank. We’ll need to work harder to get your web pages indexed and ranking in search results.”

So its was enough to simply say in meeting “You bought your domain name in 2001, and the website has been in continuous service since 2002. That means it has solid domain authority, which means its been around long enough to have credibility with search engines, making it easier to rank in search results.” Or you would say, “I see you just bought your domain name and built a website. It probably does not have too much street-cred with the search engines. We’ll have to work harder…”

That’s the gist of it. Its not rocket science and it does not require any “research”. (and by the way, Google never-ever mentions “Domain Authority” anywhere)

Now if you are new to the business of SEO, you may have read about it at MOZ, who has redefined the term over recent years. What we once called “link authority” is now “Domain Authority” at MOZ. I’m not going into the weeds on why their definition is misleading. Read about it here https://moz.com/learn/seo/domain-authority and you decide if it should have been redefined.

Doesn’t anyone like straight-forward terminology anymore?

Well I do and I know my clients do and that’s why the term and its use in proposals is a bad sign. Too much snake oil in this business already. Lets talk (and write proposals) like business professionals and not like propeller-heads.

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Semalt Still Spamming

They aren’t giving up so I assume it works to catch the dumb fish. I (again) found “traffic” spikes in Analytics coming from auto-seo-service.com, auto-seo-service.org, autoseo-service.org, resell-seo-services.com only to find that it is our old friends at Semalt. Does this spam even work? Maybe their real purpose it to generate traffic out of your curiosity to visit one of their spam links in Analytics that forwards to their website to improve their Alexa Rank or something. I can’t imagine anyone would do business with someone who uses dirty tricks to advertise “spam advertising” – not cool! So I advise that you don’t give them the benefit of a visit.

For those who won’t visit but are curious, search a bit for other webmaster comments. What I have found (and I’m not visiting their site to see what they are pitching today) is they are reportedly a Ukrainian SEO outfit.

Since this isn’t real traffic (100% bounce rate) you can’t filter them from your analytics. You’ve got to block them at the server. If you have access to your Apache htaccess file, adding this line in mod_rewrite should do it.

RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} ^.*seo-service.* [NC,OR]

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Conflicted Advertising Agent?

Before the Internet, a business would never hire the same person or agency as their local competitor employs. Today its any everyday thing.

How did that happen? Since when is that OK?

Chances are if you are a local car dealer you have a website vendor (or ad agency) that has hundreds if not thousands of other dealers for clients. You do know they employ cookie-cutter programs so that you all look alike, don’t you?

Why in the world is it now considered OK to hire the same vendor as your nearest rival? It is insane to give up this competitive advantage to “be different” from your competition.

So why are you trying to look just like your rival by hiring their agent?

In the legal trade, the agent (lawyer) would have to recuse themselves from practicing with one or the other client. Its the law! Doesn’t that make sense? Well apparently to many in the local digital advertising sphere, its the land of unicorns and rainbows and anything goes. Like I said, insane!

( As always, PLEASE, Please comment if you disagree. I would love to hear how I am wrong. )

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The SEO Diet

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing

Have you ever made the connection? That SEO is like a diet. (the latest fad diet I should say)

Lets face it. Marketing is always trying to make the old seem new so they can sell you more of the same.

I hear these pitches about SEO and they sounds like the latest diet fad. It wears me out. It wears me out because there really are not that many new things under the SEO sun. There are always changes in technology, and there are changes in human behavior. Both mean there is something to stay abreast of and act on, but just because people changed their search methodology sightly, does not mean we have to start all over and “get with the new diet”. ( the best diet is still that recommended in 1940 – just read “Good Carbs, Bad Carbs” and you are good to go for the next 80 years )

SEO is actually like a diet, and the key to success is just keep doing it well every day. Eating well is the same a doing SEO well. There is no need to “get with the new” by doing a 365 degree turn (which is the same as a 5 degree turn), just making slight course changes is better than a total make-over.

For instance, we learned that as more people use mobile devices to search, they changed their behavior SLIGHTLY and began using “near me” as a part of their phrasing. We all adapted SLIGHTLY by updating our SEO methods. But that was about 2 years ago and it was a slight change. It was a small 5 degree course correction, not really an earth shaking event. But if you listen to the SEO “news” you would think it required a major re-tooling.

Just stay on course. Tune as needed. Everything in moderation.


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Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing

28% of Website Traffic is Non-Human…says Adobe in a Wall Street Journal article.
Fraudulent Web Traffic Continues to Plague Advertisers, Other Businesses

Adobe found that about 28% of website traffic showed strong “non-human signals,” leading the company to believe that the traffic came from bots or click farms.

Bot Traffic in Apache logs
Bot Traffic in my Apache logs

Anyone who runs a webserver would not disagree with that. It just takes a brand name company in tech to say it so that this stuff sticks to the wall.

So yes, Fraudulent Web Traffic Continues to Plague Advertisers, Other Businesses is true. Bob Hoffman says Ad Fraud Is Off The Charts. I love his stuff. Ya know, ten billion here, ten billion there…it starts to add up. Read more by Bob Hoffman.

According to another ad fraud expert, Dr. Augustine Fou, “No matter what you are hearing or reading about digital ad fraud, I can assure you it’s actually worse than you think.”

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Lies and Pretty SEO Reports

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing

What is the single most frequent concern I hear from business owners?
“I don’t know if the Internet Marketing we are doing is working?”
What they mean can be 2-fold, but the bottom line is always the same – is someone doing anything and is it having any affect?

The shortest path between the question and the answer you seek is Reporting. (and a quick test…more on that in a moment)

The only way to know you are getting what you pay for is in the reporting, because you often cannot see “the work”. And even if you are shown “the work”, its still about the bottom line – sales. But measuring online visitors converting into in-store sales is not easy. ( and don’t let them tell you it is )

I’m going to let you in on a secret you probably already suspect is true, The SEO business is more about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” than actually doing the work and honestly reporting the results of that work.

So here are my back-of-napkin statics : 90% of SEOs (including SEO agencies ) don’t actually do much “effective” work, and 90% of SEOs (including SEO agencies ) work harder on pretty reports than doing the actual Work. Work is hard. Re-reporting Google Analytics is much easier and scales better.

I have been amazed to see how often the magic tricks (pretty reporting) sells better than the hard work. But it makes sense. Pretty reports make people feel good and provides cover for the subordinates whose job it is to hire and manage the Internet Marketing portion of the business. Thats why we at HARTENSTINE would rather work directly with hard-nosed owners rather their “expert” employees. ( we welcome hard-nosed expert employees )

Here is one scenario you may be familiar with :

You hire an SEO, SEO firm or advertising agency (that also does SEO). After some time has passed you are given a report or presentation which shows all the keywords your website now ranks for and how you dominate your target market. Everything is “Green” and improvements are abundant. The problem is, you probably didn’t get a report on these keywords BEFORE you hired them. And “dominate your market” is often based on some kinda logic you can’t quiet get your head around – but it sure is a pretty report.

It dawns on you that you might have fallen victim to “lies, damned SEO lies, and pretty reports”. Now what do you do? You either continue in the relationship spending money on feel good reporting, or you tell them you are having a sales crisis and can’t afford them anymore. Both of these scenarios play out everyday. But either way, you are not happy.

It does not have to be that way (or end that way). You only need someone who does the work and who reports in a transparent and honest way.

The Test

I use this litmus test because we can get our hands on the data. If your SEO is working, your CPV should decline. (Cost Per Visitor)

Take a look at your past PPC campaign Average CPC ( Average Cost Per Click ). All things being equal, Average Cost Per Visitor should decline as your Internet Marketing initiative kicks in. A better website, et al, with better PPC campaigns will get lower-cost clicks. This is an especially useful test if you suddenly turned everything over to an agency and increased your budget at the same time – everything changed and the reporting will look pretty different – but the Average Cost Per Visitor test will cut right through that lying reporting.

You can get a little more complex (and more accurate) by taking your Total Website Visitors and dividing that by your Total Online Spend. Thats a bit more meaningful way to calculate your Cost Per Visitor. Then do some calculations integrating In-Store Sales, and you should start to see a pattern emerge. Regardless of how you go about it, if you are not seeing more efficiency ( lower cost per visitor / increased sales ), you now know what to do to make things right.

Don’t fall for the magic tricks of pretty reporting.

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Diary of Google My Business

HARTENSTINE Search Engine First Marketing

This is the unvarnished version of the Ultimate Google My Business Guide, calling-out all those happy horse shit blogs about the so-called “support” that Google My Business (GMB) provides.

The Ultimate GMB Guide is here but that is just a rehash of Google guides – just a bit more straight forward.

But if you are here reading this, it means that The Ultimate Generic Guide won’t solve your problems, nor will it make your pain disappear.

Unlike the SEO “experts” writing blogs which make Google’s support sound like a pleasant walk in the park, I’m here to tell you it is anything but. I am one of those webmasters that actually does the work first-hand, and this is my experience.

#1 – Contrary to the what the experts write, you need to be disabused of the idea that GMB support DOES SOMETHING for you. When you ask them to actually “do something”, they will say “we can only guide you sir”. They explicitly say THEY DON’T DO ANYTHING.

Now here is one of those happy horse shit blogs https://searchengineland.com/problems-google-business-use-phone-support-221305

They write “staff is still incredibly helpful” and “they’ll be able to shut them down immediately“. Sounds like bullshit, because it is. GMB support is just following instructions on their screen. They won’t actually do anything except say rote-friendly things like “I understand your frustration” and “thank you for your patience” and they will not shut anything down.

Here are a few tips that might relieve some pain and speed your recovery.

#2 – Understand that Google probably (theory) makes more money if your GMB is screwed up. So no reason to think they are going to solve your problem quickly – thus the slow-motion labyrinth you currently find yourself in.

When you have 2 GMB listings that are causing your website to rank poorly – and I can prove that 2 listings will cause your website to NOT show up in Business Card where the big clicks are, you will be then compelled to spend more on ads to get the same traffic. (this part is not theory)

#3 – Google probably does not delete anything. First and foremost, Google is in the data mining business and they archive EVERYTHING. This has several negative implications for us when (supposedly) deleting location information like GMB listings and you can see that logic as things unfold…

#3a – If you manage to claim a listing (now you have 2 – a Published listing and a Duplicate listing). Regardless of what your support rep tells you, and in spite of what the final delete screen shows, the NEWER LISTING WILL BE DELETED.* It just happened to me. I was told the duplicate would be deleted – duplicate to whom?

I was given conflicting instructions from different GMB support reps. I was first told not to remove the duplicate listing. And that once I claimed the duplicate, the 2 listings would be merged. Well that never happened. On the next support call, I was told to remove and delete the duplicate. I asked (in writing) “will you confirm that nothing will be lost”? “No sir”.

Once that duplicate was deleted, the newer listing was gone. There goes a years worth of content! And we were left with a listing we did not create and with content that was now over a year old.

*Reviews will not be deleted. (see #3) Reviews will be MERGED, but everything else will disappear never to be recovered. Curious how that works, No?

(in this scenario, the business was purchased from a prior owner, the owner created a NEWER listing, while there also existed an OLDER listing which was never transfered due to lost logins).

Lesson learned: Google is going to delete the NEWER listing! You have no say in this! Google does it their way and support tells you what you want to hear AND THEY DON’T ACTUALLY DO ANYTHING!

#3b – Now you have Manager access of the OLD listing. You need Owner access. You get to start over and request Ownership and wait 7 days again.

#4 – When something goes wrong (in our scenario in #3a), your support rep will do 2 things, a) refer you to Adwords support (Really? Really! It just happened to me) and/or b) they will stop responding to your email.

#4a – When you call in AGAIN, and your rep is now curiously never available. The rep who answers your call this time will say “They will be in touch shortly. Thank you for your patience.” Click – end of the call and funny…I never get the survey at the end of those calls anymore.

Here is a twist. If you are trying to claim a listing, for reasons known only to Google and the current “Owner” (usually an agency) you may be given only Manager privileges. What good is that? You need Ownership to do many important things (besides the principal of the matter – that you are the owner of the business). KNOW THIS: you need to make the OWNERSHIP request using a DIFFERENT email than the email that is currently a Manager. What? This makes no sense and no one would normally arrive at that conclusion by themselves. I was told something like “its for your own protection”. Yeh, where have I heard that before?

I can document everything in this post. I have the email. I thought carefully before writing this post. I would like to provoke a response from the Google sycophants or from Google, who should take steps to see that their support is not giving advice that is destructive with no recourse otherwise. Where do you go when support screws up? We lost a years worth of content and then support won’t answering email or making things right (recover our lost content).

Some will say that the service is free and therefore we should not expect anything but a “best effort” from support. I argue that you overlooked how much money we spend on Adwords which is not “free” and Google My Business is fully integrated with Adwords. GMB has a huge affect on the efficacy of Adwords (ads).

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Chrome Browser SSL Ending Support For Symantec Thawte Verisign Equifax GeoTrust RapidSSL

Well that’s a big deal.


If you are running a Symantec certificate issued before June 1, 2016, and you do not replace the certificate, come April 17th, your site will be regarded as unsafe. The browser will display a big nasty warning that “Your connection is not secure” and most would-be visitors will be long gone.

Failure to replace your certificates will result in site breakage in upcoming versions of major browsers, including Chrome.

If you want to test your site https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/canary.html

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