Google Maps widget stopped working?

If you are using a standard widget by Google or some other plugin with Google Maps API by side developers, then starting July, 16 you may find that Google Maps are not working on your website.

That’s because Google recently announced the launch of their new Google Maps Platform and pricing structure for businesses making use of the Google Maps APIs to deliver customised Maps, Routes and Places experiences on their website. While the product updates rolled out on 11th June, the new pricing structure took effect on 16th July - forcing many websites using the Google Maps API to display a ‘development purposes only’ watermarked message.

The newly-named Google Maps Platform is being brought under the Google Cloud umbrella and consists of three core products: Maps (for delivering customised dynamic maps, Street Views and 360° views), Routes (directions and traffic) and Places (location names, addresses, reviews etc). Each has its own pricing structure which you can find here.

For many businesses, you’ll continue to pay nothing under the new ‘pay-as-you-go’ system as you will qualify for the first $200 worth of free API calls. However, you still have to create an account and provide Google with billing details to keep using the APIs. This is applicable to all users – even those with a simple map embedded on their website’s contact page. To set up your account, click here.

Under the new pricing strategy employed by Google for their Maps Platform – all users get to make $200-worth of API calls for free each month.

That works out to:

  • up to 28,000 free loads of Dynamic Maps; or
  • up to 100,000 free loads of Static Maps; or
  • up to 40,000 free Directions calls; or
  • up to 40,000 free Geolocation calls.

Importantly, the new pricing system allows unlimited free use of simple Dynamic Maps in Embeds and in Mobile Native apps. However, if you use the Embed API in Directions, Views or Search mode, you will be eligible for billing.

For more information or if you would like Digibrand to assist you to set up your Google Maps Platform account, simply drop us an email to [email protected].


Google rolls out Mobile First Index

While we’ve been warned since 2016 about this, finally Google is rolling out its Mobile First Index.

What is Mobile First Index?

Mobile-first indexing means Google will use the mobile version of a web page for indexing and ranking in order to assist primary mobile users find what they are searching for online.

Primary mobile refers to the fact that the majority of people using Google search as doing so from a mobile device. Essentially, soon there will be only one index for search result - so not a mobile-first index and a main index - so Google will begin to look only at the mobile web pages to index the web rather than the desktop version.

What does this mean for websites? Well, you now must have a mobile friendly or mobile responsive website in order to be indexing and ranked by Google.

What is responsive design?

Simply put, it is when a website is responsive - so the layout and/or contents of your website respond or adapt based on the size of the screen on which they are presented. Typically there are four general screen sizes that responsive design are aimed at - widescreen desktop monitor, the smaller or laptop screen, the tablet and the smartphone.

How is this different from adaptive design?

There are three main techniques for serving up mobile content - responsive design, adaptive design (which is also known as dynamic serving) and separate mobile URLs. It’s pretty easy to identify separate mobile URLs by looking at your browser’s address bar however telling adaptive from responsive can be a little trickier.

Adaptive websites detect when the reader is on a mobile device and presents a different HTML accordingly.

Responsive websites will change the layout based on browser window size, regardless of device.

If you’re not sure if your website is adaptive or responsive then you can visit your website on a desktop and see what happens when you resize your browser window. Then you can check and see what is displayed on your mobile device.

When getting your website ready for the mobile first index, here’s a checklist for you:

Refine your visuals

Creativity is great, but don’t try to be super creative and use all the design principles at once. When a user sees too many objects of differing colours and styles on a tiny mobile screen, it can make their head spin. In other words, they simply leave your site. Quality design is never loud. It’s sensible, and it guides the user through your site. Minimalism is the key to a great mobile site.

Reduce redundant content

Though the screen sizes of mobile devices have grown larger, they’re still smaller than laptop or desktop screens. It’s important not to crowd a small screen. The fewer the text and visual elements on a mobile site, the easier it is to navigate.

This is especially important for people on the go — while shopping or glancing at a screen while on the train commute.

Be thumb friendly

What’s the most important action that a user can take on your site? Is it making a purchase? Or liking a post? Or reading a specific text? Make sure that this action can be accomplished with only a thumb.

To accommodate more information on a small screen, some designers mash links and buttons right up against each other. Unfortunately, this often leads to unintended button presses and frustrates your users!

Prioritise and make your most important call to action buttons large enough so that users can click on them without zooming and having to use their pinky.

Speed things up

Mobile users care a lot about a website’s load speed. They get irritated if your pages take more than a few seconds to open. When designing for mobile, keep in mind that some users may have slow internet connections.

Quite often a page’s speed is held back by data-intensive image or video content. Optimising your images will vastly improve your page load time.


Local SEO - how to rank for local searches, SEO basics and tips

If you are a local business and you want to be noticed, not just in person, but in search engines too, then you need to understand Local SEO. Without utilising a Local SEO plan you simply won’t be able to take advantage of local, online demand for your services and product.

What exactly is Local SEO?

It’s a branch of Search Engine Optimization that specifically deals with SEO for local businesses. And, an effective Local SEO campaign will help your business to appear on page 1 of Google searches - in the Map Pack and Organic Listings.

20 years ago SEO was simple - there really wasn’t much difference between general SEO and Local SEO but times have changed. Now, there are all nuances the exactly and exclusively affect your Local SEO.

If you’re not leveraging Local SEO just imagine all the traffic and potential customers you could be missing out on. And this is why Local SEO is so important - you want locals to be able to find you online, in search results, on Google.

Local SEO isn’t a fad - it’s only set to become more important with the expected, continued rise in mobile device usage.

Now while Local SEO might seem a bit techy, a bit overwhelming it is almost always cheaper and more effective than traditional marketing. And in all honesty - it’s really not that techy at all.

Benefits of Local SEO over traditional marketing:

Everything with a Local SEO campaign is trackable - you’ll know exactly what is and isn’t working
It requires a lower level of investment to set up and continues to yield returns
You can track how much traffic, leads and customers are coming from Local SEO and organic searches

So, how do you get started with Local SEO?

Find the keywords you want to target and rank for - local and longtail keywords -
Create a unique landing page for each product or service you offer.
Write original content that answers people’s questions and links back to your core sales pages.
Avoid being spammy and don’t “stuff” your keywords in a repetitive manner all over a page. Google understands synonyms, so vary your language naturally.

Use your keywords for effective onsite optimisation
Use keywords in URLs, page titles, meta descriptions, image alt text, headers and paragraphs (especially the first paragraph).

Proactively work on link building
Take advantage of all free social media listings, even if you don’t plan to use that specific platform. Your business should links from the following at the very least: Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest.
Reach out to other blogs/sites for guest posting.
Have you received any media mentions? Make sure other sites link to yours wherever your brand is mentioned.
Create accurate, up-to-date info on business directing listings, and be sure to include a link to your website.

Get your Google My Business page up to date and ask for Google reviews
Verify your Google My Business page, if you haven’t already.
Make sure your Google My Business page contains accurate information. Your business name, address, phone number, main email, hours and website should be standard across the web.

Create, post, and promote unique, high-quality, original content
Write good quality content and keep publishing it on a fairly regular basis (at least once per month, but ideally more). Don’t bother just writing filler.
All else being equal, a higher word count is better for SEO, so write the most authoritative blog post you can on any topic you’re covering.

Use website analytics to measure your results
Make use of free tools like Google Search Console so you can easily tell where you stand and where you can improve.

Have a snappy and mobile responsive website that loads quickly
Think Mobile First, Not Just Mobile-Friendly - more than half of all daily Google searches are performed on mobile. That means you can’t afford to neglect the mobile version of your site – in fact, it ought to be a priority.


What's all this talk about GDPR and what it means for your business

Let’s start at the very beginning - what is the GDPR? The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is European Union legislation that commenced being enforced on May 25, 2018, however its purpose can be summarised very simply:

Its aim is to strengthen the rights of data subjects within the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) with regard to how their personal data is used and how it’s protected. (‘Personal data’ means any information that relates to an identified or identifiable natural person).

To that end, the GDPR is structured around six key principles:

  1. Transparency on how data will be used and what it will be used for.
  2. Ensuring that the data collected is used only for the purposes explicitly specified at the time of collection.
  3. Limiting the data collection to what is necessary to serve the purpose for which it is collected.
  4. Ensuring the data is accurate.
  5. Storing the data for only as long as necessary within its intended purpose.
  6. Prevention against unauthorized use or accidental loss of the data through the deployment of appropriate security measures.

In addition, there is a new accountability requirement to be able to demonstrate how compliance with the principles is being managed and tracked. This will mean maintaining records of how and why personal data was collected as well as the documentation of the processes put in place to protect it.

Who does GDPR apply to?

The GDPR applies to any organisation inside or outside the EU who is marketing goods or services to, and/or tracking the behaviours of, data subjects within the EU and EEA. If you do business with Europeans that involves the processing of their personal data, this legislation applies to you.

Penalties for non-compliance are significant, with large fines for those in breach of the regulation: the maximum fine for a single breach is €20 million or 4% of annual worldwide turnover, whichever is greater.

What does this mean for your business?

As businesses, if we create customer experiences that feel personal and human, that are founded on trust and delivered with care, we will win their hearts and minds.

Though the GDPR doesn’t use these terms our goals are the same, namely to respect the rights of our customers and go on to earn their trust. To build and maintain that trust we, as businesses, need to be attuned to the how, when, and why our customers want to be engaged and respect their preferences.

How you address these higher expectations around the collection, use, and security of the personal data that we routinely use in the course of our business is key.

There are two key aspects of the GDPR where businesses need to review past, current, and future practices. The first is consent by the individual to process their personal data and the second is accountability, namely being able to demonstrate how they comply with the principles of the GDPR.

Consent

The definition of consent under the GDPR is: “any freely given, specific, informed and unambiguous indication of the data subject’s wishes by which he or she, by a statement or by a clear affirmative action, signifies agreement to the processing of personal data relating to him or her”.

This dual need for an ‘affirmative action’ that captures consent which also must be ‘specific’ in how the personal data will be used before any processing of the data represents a significant change for most marketers in how they record and respect customer preferences.

Of course, customer preferences change over time and rarely exist in perpetuity and GDPR has something to say about this too—namely that organisations must make it easy for data subjects to make any changes in preference or withdraw consent altogether. Essentially it must now be as easy to withdraw consent as it is to give it.

All businesses need to audit, identify, and review the current points at which they are collecting personal data for processing.

Consider what personal data you need to do business and create relationships, how long you need to hold that data, how safe and secure it is, how you will accept specific consent and how you delete that data once there is no further need for it or a customer withdraws consent.

Accountability

The most significant addition to current legislation under the GDPR is the accountability principle. The GDPR requires you to show how you comply with the principles—for example, by documenting the decisions you make about a processing activity.