Google using alt attributes to title SERPs

Weird little glitch, spotted by the ever-vigilant Rick Tobin at Circus Media. Google is showing the title of our SERP result and choosing the alt attribute of the header image, rather than any on-page text or page title.

Sigh.

Admittedly, we’re still working through a back-catalogue of woes on the site, including a lack of a homepage H1, but this surprised me a little – although it offers a small insight into what factors Google use when trying to give context to a page.

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New AdWords Format?

Don’t ask why I was looking for polka dot handbags. Just accept it, then look at the image, then read my thoughts afterwards 🙂

Firstly, these ads appear in between Google Shopping results and the Gooooooogle pagination thing. Obviously that placement isn’t accidental: to get to the next page of results you are now forced to see the ads. That can only have a positive impact on CTRs.

Secondly, anyone who has used product links or sitelinks in their AdWords know what a dramatic effect they can have on CTRs too (I personally saw a fivefold increase in CTR for ads with sitelinks on a big enough sample size to know it was no fluke). What I haven’t seen – and I could be behind the times here – is the promotion of product links with no ‘plus’ button: the images are just planted straight into the ad.

It’s a very attractive format for an advertiser and one that would certainly appeal to me – especially if it were rolled out into the main SERPs.

Does that take Google another inch to being primarily a shopping and advertising channel to the further subtle detriment of the organic SERPs? Well, duh. Everything Google does at the moment is informed by that rationale.

Don’t invest in technology

The USA narrowly avoided voting itself into financegeddon over the weekend, but nothing has changed for the World’s Sole Superpower(TM). It is still spending money at a rate vastly higher than it can generate – and seeing most of that money getting siphoned off into corporate coffers while normal people sleep in sports halls.

As yields on Spanish bonds continue to drift higher than they were before the Euro was ‘saved’ the other week, the Euro can-kicking exercise looks to be every bit as effective as trying to fend off Moth-Ra with a table spoon and a French-English phrase book. Meanwhile, the Chinese are in the grip of several unsustainable inflationary booms in their own economy and when reality dawns will have learnt that slave labour an economy maketh not.

So your technology shares are overpriced. Whenever the crash arrives, the one thing people won’t be doing is buying an iPad 3.7 or whatever generation of Android phone we’re on now. Subsequently, the value of all these hilariously pointless doodads like Foursquare and Twitter is going to sink faster than Rik Waller chained to a fridge full of lead ingots.

The upgrade cycle is going to look a LOT longer in 2013 than it does now which is going to play merry hell with whole swathes of assumption behind the price of tech shares. Watch for a new trend in downgrading as people discover that, actually, spending 40 quid every month on a phone with Angry Birds makes little sense in a world where it costs £2.80 for a packet of crisps.

The technology boom lasted from 1999-2011, which wasn’t a bad innings. Only on the other side of the crash will it be apparent which services actually added value to our lives – and the list is likely to be quite short.