February 2017 Digital Marketing News Recap

Here are some major digital marketing updates from the Month of February 2017.

SEO Recap

Google local knowledge panel testing promotion box: Google seems to be testing a new box in the local knowledge box panel that allows Google My Business owners to post deals and promotions below their core listing.

Google adds a new carousel to let you expand the search results: Google is now letting searchers filter down their search results and/or expand their search results using a carousel-style slider at the top of the desktop and mobile search results. If you search for [baby clothes], [kids clothing] and more, Google will show you this slider.

Google rolls out 2013 Image Search design to more countries: Google released the 2013 version of the Google Images design to more countries over the past couple of weeks. Google would not tell us which countries specifically, nor would they tell us why they rolled it out over three years after the US rollout. If you noticed the drop in Google Image search traffic, it is likely because of this rollout.

Google brings back Emojis in the SERPs: Google has confirmed with Search Engine Land that they have brought the ability for emojis to be displayed in the search results listing page. In June 2015, Google removed emojis from showing up in the results after promising to disable them over webmaster abuse.  And now Google had a change of heart and wants them to show up for queries related to emojis.

Google & Bing To Step Up Demoting Piracy From UK Search Results: News is out that Google and Bing have made a deal with the Intellectual Property Office and British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and Motion Picture Association organizations for both search engines to do better removing or demoting pirated content in the UK search results. Both search engines, according to the report, have promised to reduce pirated content in their search results by June 1, 2017. It seems the sites partaking in repeated violations of piracy, specifically in the film and music fans search field, will see their site bump off the first page of the results.

Google Introduces Shopping With Google Assistant on Google Home: Google announced that consumers can now shop for “everyday essentials – from paper towels to vitamins… from participating Google Express retailers, including Costco, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, PetSmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and more than 50 other national and locally available retailers” with Google Assistant on Google Home. To get started, users simply have to say “Ok Google, how do I shop?” or “Ok Google, order paper towels” and the Google Home device will set the order in motion. The company will continue to add new features and enable purchases for other apps and services “over the coming months.”

SEM Recap

Google Now Testing Ads Added By AdWords:  Google has automated the process of creating new ad variations for our Google AdWords account and they are testing it now live on some of the AdWords accounts.  Google says “Ads Added by AdWords create these variations of your ad for you, potentially improving your campaign performance.” Google said this can increase your ad campaign performance by 5 to 15%. “Ads Added by AdWords are created by Google based on elements of your existing text ads, such as your headlines, keywords, or other information found on your ads’ landing page,” Google added.

Google Promoting New AdWords Interface to More Advertisers: Google is pushing and promoting the new AdWords interface to more advertisers. Google said so on their blog, plus they are promoting it within the AdWords console and they are sending emails to advertisers encouraging advertisers to try it out. The email says “you have exclusive access to the new AdWords experience.” “Congratulations. You’re invited to use the new AdWords experience. Sign in to your account and click “Try the new AdWords” in the bottom right corner,” they added.

Google AdWords Retiring Converted Clicks In March: Google posted a reminder on Google+ saying converted clicks are being retired next month, in March 2017. Google wrote, “Converted clicks are being retired in March 2017, after 15 years.” “The Conversions column is the best way to measure valuable actions for your business,” Google added.

Google is showing multiple ad extension types in a single swipeable carousel: Google has been using swipeable cards in mobile text ads to display sitelinks extensions and price extensions. Now, it appears to be testing a version that combines multiple ad extension types into one swipeable card carousel. Check out more details and screenshot on Search Engine Land.

AdWords Rolling Out New Green Outlined Ad Label:  People have spotted a new ad label on Google search ads. Instead of a solid green background, the new label has a green outline and white background. Google has confirmed that  the new look is now rolling out globally.

Bing Ads rolling out list exclusions for retargeting ads: Bing Ads’ search retargeting, powered by its Universal Event Tag, lets advertisers create audience lists of users who have visited their sites after clicking on search ads. Now, advertisers can use those lists to keep past visitors that meet certain criteria from seeing their search ads. The ability to exclude audiences gives advertisers much more flexibility with their Bing Ads search retargeting. As just one example, advertisers will be able to keep users who’ve already made a purchase from seeing ads promoting a price reduction.


SMM Recap

Pinterest Introduces Search Ads: Pinterest is opening up its search advertising services through partnerships with brands that advertise through Kenshoo’s marketing platform.  An option to run product ads will show up as an option in Kenshoo’s platform, which allows marketers to run search campaigns alongside Google, Bing and others. The features are being tested with brands such as Barilla, eBay, Garnier, Target, The Home Depot, and Walgreens.

Snapchat Rolls Out QR Snapcode for Websites: As part of a recent iOS update, Snapchat added the ability to convert web links into snapcodes that can be used to open web pages within the platform’s in-app browser. Publishers and brands can create their unique QR snapcode by selecting a URL and an image from the target domain.

Facebook Updates News Feed Algorithm to Show More Authentic and Timely Stories: Facebook rolled out two new updates to the algorithm that prioritizes more authentic and timely content in the news feed. Facebook added new universal signals that will identify and determine whether a page post would be considered “genuine” rather than “misleading, sensational or spammy” and rank it higher in the news feed. Facebook is also giving a boost to topics or posts that are either getting a lot of engagement from many people or might be temporarily more important to you in the moment.

Facebook Extends Lead Ads to Instagram: Facebook help article states that, marketers can now run lead ads across both Facebook and Instagram placements. However, Facebook notes a few differences in the functionality of lead ads on Facebook versus Instagram. For instance, Instagram only supports certain pre-filled fields for lead ads and users will need to open the ad and “click through a series of pages” to complete them. Lead ads are also only available on the Instagram app, but not on Instagram’s desktop site.

Facebook Rolls Out New Search Technology for Images:  Facebook is applying new image understanding to improve the automatic alt text (AAT) for photos, which is a technology used to describe the contents of photos for people who are visually impaired. According to the Facebook Code site, the image captions previously only described objects in the photo. With the updated search technology, Facebook added a new set of 12 actions and “image descriptions will now include things like ‘people walking,’ ‘people dancing,’ ‘people riding horses,’ ‘people playing instruments,’ and more.” Facebook can now leverage this new image understanding technology “to sort through the vast amount of information and surface the most relevant photos quickly and easily.”

Instagram Tests Multiple Image and Video Posts: The Verge reports that Instagram appears to be testing the ability to showcase multiple photos and videos in a single post among regular users. While this capability is currently only available to advertisers as carousel ads, the latest beta release for Instagram for Android suggests that “this same feature is making its way to the app’s 600 million users.” Instagram hasn’t confirmed if or when this feature will be rolled out more widely.

YouTube Expands Mobile Live Streaming and Launches Super Chat: YouTube rolled out mobile live streaming to “every creator with more than 10,000 subscribers” and announced that other creators will have it “soon.” YouTube announced that mobile live streaming is built “directly into the YouTube mobile app” and has “all the same features as regular YouTube videos” such as search, the ability to find videos through playlists and recommendations, and protections from unauthorized use. YouTube also released Super Chat, a new live stream monetization tool that lets any fan watching a live stream stand out from the crowd and get a creator’s attention by purchasing chat messages that are highlighted in bright colors and stay pinned to the top of the chat window for up to five hours.

Pinterest Adds New Visual Discovery Tools: Pinterest introduced Lens, a new visual search tool that uses machine vision to detect objects in the real world and suggest related items on the service. Lens, which is now in beta, is a tool inside the Pinterest mobile app that functions as a kind of Shazam for objects. Point it at food, furniture, or even the night sky, and Pinterest will return objects that it believes are related.

Pinterest also rolled out two new buttons, Shop the Look and Instant Ideas. The Shop the Look button is found on home and fashion pins and offers users “a new way to shop and buy products you see inside Pins.” The Instant Ideas button can be found on pins in the home feed and presents users with additional personalized pin recommendations in real time. The more frequently a user taps on one of these pins, the more refined and customized all future recommendations will be.

Facebook Rolls Out New Job Posting and Application Features for Desktop and Mobile: Facebook announced that page admins can now create a job post, track applications and communicate directly with applicants on their business pages or through a new Jobs on Facebook section on the site.  As with other Facebook posts, admins also have the option to boost job posts to reach a larger or more relevant audience. Likewise, job seekers can just easily apply for jobs with a new “Apply Now” button found on Facebook’s job listings. This button generates a pre-populated form “with information from [the user’s] profile on Facebook.” However, Facebook notes that applicants will be able to “review and edit their information before submitting it” to a business.

Facebook Announces New Accountability and New Data Choices for Marketers: Last year, Facebook revealed several reporting mistakes that might have seemed relatively minor but collectively added momentum to calls from the ad industry for better data and more third-party oversight from Facebook. In response, Facebook announced several upcoming initiatives such as providing more impression-level data and three new buying options for video ads across Facebook, Instagram, and Audience Network that are expected to provide greater “transparency, choice, and accountability.” Facebook also committed to an audit by the Media Rating Council “to verify the accuracy of the information” it delivers to its partners. Facebook plans to roll out these updates over the course of this year.

Amazon Launches Online Hub for Marketers: Amazon launched an online hub to help marketers “get started with creating ‘skills’ (Amazon’s word for apps) for the Echo device family.” Marketing Land reports that the new hub “currently lists 20 agencies ‘with expertise in designing, developing and optimizing Alexa skills,” including Razorfish, Mobiquity, VaynerMedia and others.” Brands that are interested in building their own Alexa skills can be connected to the Alexa Skills Kit, exclusive Alexa data, and development tools and providers to help them get started.

Google Maps Officially Rolls Out Favorite Places Lists: As announced earlier this year, Google Maps has officially rolled out the ability to “create lists of places, share your lists with others, and follow the lists your friends and family share with you – without ever leaving the Google Maps app.” Google offers three different preset lists types, including Favorites, Starred Places and Want to Go, but users have the option to create custom lists that can be public, private, or shared with a link. Favorite Places Lists are available on Google Maps on both Android and iOS and on desktop.

WhatsApp Updates Status Feature: Facebook-owned WhatsApp rolled out a “new and improved Status feature” that allows users “to share photos and videos with your friends and contacts on WhatsApp in an easy and secure way.”  Like with any other WhatsApp messages, the status updates are “end-to-end encrypted.” WhatsApp is rolling out this new feature worldwide on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

Facebook Rolls Out Three Updates to Video Monetization: Facebook shared three updates to video monetization on its site and through the Audience Network. Facebook announced that in-stream video is now available to “all eligible Audience Network publishers who have available inventory” on their own websites and apps. With this rollout, “publishers can bring relevant video ads to people all over the world, on both mobile and desktop.” Facebook is also expanding its beta test of Ad Breaks in Facebook Live and on-demand video to profiles and pages in the U.S. This means that a select group of creators testing this new experience can now take short breaks for ads during their live or existing videos and “earn a share of the resulting ad revenue” for it.

Google Rolls Out New Tool to Combat Abusive Online Comments: Google rolled out a new tool called Perspective that “helps publishers combat online abuse.” This new API can integrate into any platform and combines a “human-generated database of comments that have already been tagged as abusive or toxic” and machine learning technology to rate and flag comments.  Google presents multiple uses for this new tool. For instance, comments could be flagged and manually reviewed by moderators or the community or a publisher could alert a commenter in real time that what they’re writing is abusive. According to Google, Perspective will “improve as it receives more feedback from people using it.”

Facebook Tests Shortcut Buttons to Other Social Media Platforms: Facebook is currently testing shortcut buttons to other social media accounts displayed prominently on users’ Facebook profiles. The Next Web reports that users have been able to add links to other social media accounts under the Contact Info portion of the About section. However, this limited test is “the first time said links have taken button form and been displayed so blatantly on your profile’s front page.” Facebook hasn’t provided any details about this test or shared any plans to roll it out more broadly.


Analytics Recap

Google Announces Free, Unlimited Data Studio Reports: Google is making its data analytics and visualization tool Data Studio infinitely more appealing with the news that it’s removing the five-report limit from the free version of the software. Google said it had received positive feedback and tremendous demand for the Data Studio beta over the past nine months and removed the five-report limit as part of its continuing enhancement of the product.

Google Data Studio Integrates With Google Search Console: Google announced on the Google Analytics blog that Google Data Studio, Google’s free toolset to build custom reports, now has a connector with Google Search Console. Google added a new “Data Studio connector for Search Console,” Google said. “With this launch users can pull their data into Data Studio to build reports that include impressions, clicks, and average position broken out by keyword, date, country, and device,” Google added.

Google Data Studio beefs up AdWords MCC integration: AdWords MCC account users can now create reports for multiple clients more easily in Google Data Studio. An updated AdWords connector in Data Studio lets MCC account managers select individual or multiple sub-accounts as a data source, rather than having to select the entire MCC. The connector also enables MCC account users to filter sub-accounts by currency. If the selected accounts use different currencies, the connector will automatically remove currency fields like Cost and Average CPC, which can’t be aggregated properly when different currencies are included in the same report.

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