January 2017 Digital Marketing News Recap

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

SEO Recap

Google Goes Live with Intrusive Interstitials Mobile Penalty: Google has rolled out its Interstitial Mobile Penalty from January 10, 2017. This only impacts interstitials that are present when someone clicks from Google’s mobile search to your web page.  Here are examples of bad mobile interstitials:

  • Showing a popup that covers the main content, either immediately after the user navigates to a page from the search results, or while they are looking through the page.
  • Displaying a standalone interstitial that the user has to dismiss before accessing the main content.
  • Using a layout where the above-the-fold portion of the page appears similar to a standalone interstitial, but the original content has been inlined underneath the fold.

Google has officially killed off their link command: A Google spokesperson has confirmed with Search Engine Land that the company’s link command is no longer functioning. Google has not commented on when they will make sure the command returns nothing or a message that it no longer works. If you want to see your links, there are plenty of third-party tools, and also access to your link report, in the Google Search Console.

Google Launches Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Lite: Google announced AMP Lite, an even further stripped-down version of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) which is designed to keep things fast even on devices that have very little RAM and very slow internet connections. With AMP Lite technique, Google uses the “amp-font” tag which enables fonts to be displayed instantaneously even if the search giant did not cache them earlier. AMP Lite, is not available to everyone just yet. Currently, Google only has the feature activated for users in Vietnam and Malaysia, and some other countries where slow wireless networks and under-speed devices are more common.

Attributes Are Finally Coming to the Google My Business Dashboard: Google has added Attributes to the Google My Business Dashboard. Earlier they had added the ability to add menus via the Google My Business API, but now some businesses are able to add attributes directly from GMB Dashboard. They simultaneously updated the Google Guidelines to provide guidance on what is an acceptable menu and made clear that a menu of services (in addition to a restaurant menu) is welcome.

Google Image Search Testing YouTube Videos: Alex Chitu spotted a new Google image search test on mobile, where Google is embedding YouTube videos for certain queries. The results contain playable videos from YouTube. Alex said the videos contain “no sound and you can’t stop or hide the video, which continues to play on repeat.” The queries he was able to trigger them for include [men jackets], [lookbook], [winter outfit].

Matt Cutts officially resigns from Google: Matt Cutts, the former head of search quality at Google, has announced he officially resigned from Google as of December 31, 2016. He has decided to stay on with the US Digital Service and has been appointed the director of engineering for that governmental department. Matt Cutts was one of the first 100 employees at Google. He was one of the most well-known Googlers within the search marketing industry. He has spoken at many of our conferences and provided invaluable contributions to our industry and to Google. But it was time for him to move on and work on big government problems instead of working on problems at Google.

Google: We Try To Launch All Our Algorithms Globally Now: Back in the day, Google use to launch specific algorithms in different regions. Like with Panda, when it launched, it launched in English regions only at first. Then it was pushed to other languages afterward. With Panda, Panda was more about the content on the page, so language support took longer. But with Penguin it was more about links and content language was not so important, so it was a global launch. Gary Illyes from Google said now, when Google launches new algorithms, they try hard to make sure it is a global launch. He said on Twitter, “nowadays we’re working hard launching everywhere at once.”

New Google Mobile-Friendly Test API: Google has announced they finally released the mobile-friendly test API, something webmasters have been asking for since the test has came out in November 2014. The test results output currently include:

  • MOBILE_FRIENDLY_TEST_RESULT_UNSPECIFIED Internal error when running this test. Please try running the test again.
  • MOBILE_FRIENDLY The page is mobile friendly.
  • NOT_MOBILE_FRIENDLY The page is not mobile friendly.


SEM Recap

Google AdWords Notifying Customers Using Call & Location Extensions:  Google sent an email to AdWords customers who are using both call and location extensions. If they do, nothing will change with the call extensions, but Google may additionally show a location-specific phone number on ads that have location extensions. This change is happening on January 19th.

Share Google AdWords Negative Keywords Across Accounts: Google has quietly added another perk for Managed Accounts: the ability to create and share negative keyword lists across accounts. Once you create a manager account-level negative keyword list, you’ll need to apply it to campaigns at the individual account. Manager account-level lists show up in the Shared Library of each account with the label “Shared from a manager account.” Just like any other list in the Shared Library, click the check box next to it to apply it to campaigns within that account. For more details, see the AdWords support page.

Google is launching automated call extensions in mobile ads on February 6: Google has begun alerting some advertisers that call extensions will start generating automatically as of February 6, 2017. Reporting for automatic call extensions will be available at the campaign or ad group level. They will not be reported in the automated extension report, either, but in the main call extension report. That at least means that you’ll be able to see all numbers being used for call extensions–whether of your doing or Google’s–in one location. A Google spokesperson has confirmed that if you do have call extensions set up in a campaign, Google will not add other call extensions.

Google Local Pack Showing Google Shopping Ads:  Mike Blumenthal posted a screen shot on Twitter showing Google shopping ads in the local pack results for a query on [engagement rings buffalo] on mobile. It is not showing engagement ring stores, but rather engagement ring products directly in the local pack results. These are clearly labelled as “sponsored” results and take you to a Google Shopping landing page to order.

Google AdWords To Only Allow Add/Edit Extended Text Ads Starting January 31st: Starting January 31st, you will no longer be able to add or edit your Google AdWords ads using the standard text ad format. It will only allow you to use the extended text ad format. Google posted a reminder on Google+ saying the last day to add or edit your AdWords ads using the standard text ads format is on January 31, 2017.

Bing Ads rolls out scheduling for ad extensions: Advertisers can now choose when to show certain ad extensions in Bing Ads. Ad extension scheduling is rolling out for nearly all extensions globally. Scheduling will be available via the Bing Ads API, Bing Ads Bulk Upload and the Google Import function. It is not yet available in Bing Ads Editor. Scheduling is an option for app, sitelink, callout, call, review, location and structured snippet extensions.

Bing Ads launches Automated Imports to automatically sync AdWords campaigns: Now, Bing Ads has adding Automated Sync for campaigns imported from AdWords. With Automated Imports, advertisers no longer have to remember to update ad copy. By scheduling imports, changes made in Adwords campaigns – ad copy, extensions, budgets and so on – can be automatically updated in Bing. Scheduled imports can be set on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Google AdWords Call Reporting Now In India & South Africa: Google announced both on Google+ and Google AdWords Help forums that advertisers in India and South Africa can now do call reporting.

Google Horizontal Scrollable Local Pack Ads: Google seems to be testing yet another format for the local pack ads. @SilverbackStrat shared a screenshot showing a local ad pack which looks like the AMP carousel. A horizontal scrollable set of cards that you can scroll or flick to get more results.

Google AdWords Updates IF Functions & Default Values: Google quietly announced on Google+ that they made some changes to the IF functions and default values used for ad customizations. Google said “we’re making it even easier to customize these ads with IF functions and default values.” Here are more details in the help section.

Google AdWords Call Reporting Now In India & South Africa: Google announced both on Google+ and Google AdWords Help forums that advertisers in India and South Africa can now do call reporting.

Google launches Ads Added by AdWords pilot: Google launched a pilot that adds new text ads to advertisers’ accounts. Dubbed Ads Added by AdWords, the program started on January 26. The initial set of advertisers were notified of the pilot on January 12. For those that chose to participate, ads were added to ad groups two weeks later, on January 26, at which time a second wave of advertisers were notified about the pilot. Currently, 2,000 accounts have been selected for the test. Each has a two-week opt-out window via a form. If you do not receive an email, you haven’t been selected for the pilot. From the Help Center page on this new program, we also know that any ads generated for the pilot will be labeled “Added by AdWords.”

New AdWords Interface Alpha is Rolling Out: Google has been slowly building out the new AdWords interface, which was introduced last March. More accounts have been granted alpha access, and on Tuesday, Google’s head of search ads, Jerry Dischler, said it is rolling out to even more AdWords accounts in the next few months. Google says accounts are selected based on a number of factors, such as the features used.


SMM Recap

Facebook Extends Automated Video Captioning Tools to Pages: Facebook released an automated captioning tool for video ads last year. Over the past few months, Facebook has been gradually rolling out access to this feature to videos published to Facebook pages. This free tool is powered entirely by voice recognition software and the video captions are automatically generated. However, page admins have the option to review the subtitles “snippet by snippet” and manually enter corrections before saving the captions to the video. This tool is currently only available to U.S. Facebook pages written in English.

Vine Shuts Down Vine App on January 17: Vine recently announced plans to shut down its network and pare down the looping video app to a simpler Vine Camera app. In an update this week, the company confirmed that this transition will take place on January 17 and asked all users to download their content before this date.

Facebook Rolls Out Ability to Broadcast Live From Desktop: Facebook shared several new tools and improvements that give publishers more control, customization, and flexibility over their broadcasts. These updates include the ability to go live on a Facebook page through a web browser from a desktop, video metrics for public videos for profiles with 5,000 or more followers, comment pinning, and more. The ability to go live from a desktop is currently limited to the Chrome browser and extends to Facebook groups as well.

Facebook also introduced a new Live Contributor role in pages, which allows admins to “designate specific individuals to go live on behalf of a Page” and “gives contributors the flexibility to stream great live content from a mobile device… whenever it happens.”

Instagram Rolls Out Insights to Instagram Business Tools and Ads in Stories: Instagram announced that, in the coming weeks, Instagram Business Tools will include analytics such as reach, impressions, replies, and exits for individual stories. In addition, businesses will soon be able “to run immersive, full-screen ads in stories,” which will utilize Instagram’s targeting, reach, and measurement capabilities. Instagram is currently testing the new story ads with a limited number of global brands including Airbnb and ASOS.

Facebook Updates How Dynamic Ads Work: Going forward, Facebook Dynamic Ads will go beyond remarketing by looking at factors including:

  • A user’s web browsing activity.
  • Its treasure trove of user behavior data (e.g., likes, clicks).
  • Demographics

Similar to how marketers already use dynamic ads, advertisers first upload a catalog of products that they would like to promote. They then select an audience of people they’d like to target—say, women in the United States. Facebook’s algorithms then look at traffic patterns on retailers’ mobile sites and apps as well as information on Facebook to automatically serve a targeted promo to users. Dynamic ads are initially open to retailers and ecommerce brands in the U.S. with plans to include other regions in the coming months.

Snapchat Launches Universal Search Bar and Our Story Submissions: Snapchat is making it easier to find friends, groups, Discover publishers and Our Stories with a universal search bar that’s always accessible at the top of every screen of the app, including the camera. This new improved interface is “designed for speed” and helps dig the best content and conversations out of Snapchat. This new feature is currently only available to “some people on Android” and will be rolling out “soon” to all iOS and all other Android devices. Snapchat now also allows “people anywhere at any time” to submit their snaps to the Our Story feature.

YouTube Rolls Out Super Chat Feature: YouTube introduced Super Chat, its “latest tool for fans and creators to connect with one another during live streams.” This new feature allows viewers to purchase a highlighted message in the chat stream that “stands out from the crowd to get even more of your favorite creator’s attention” and remains pinned to the top of chat for up to 5 hours.  Super Chats provide a new revenue stream for YouTube creators, while offering a “meaningful and lively” way to maintain conversations and connections with super fans.

Snapchat Tests Deep-linking and Web Auto-fill for Ads: Snapchat is testing two new features for Snap ads, deep-linking and web auto-fill. Adweek reports that deep-linking enables Snapchat users to swipe up on an ad appearing between stories and tap a link that will bring them to a specific place within another application like a playlist or a product page. The web auto-fill feature will allow users to quickly complete lead gen and opt-in forms using their personal information already contained within Snapchat with just one tap. Snapchat has limited the availability of these two new features to an undisclosed group of brands.

Snapchat Introduces Sequenced Messaging for Video Ads: Snapchat introduced sequenced messaging, which allows advertisers to run consecutive video ads with different creative within its Discover section, in order to tell one story. For example, a 30-second asset could be cropped into three 10-second spots and featured as back-to-back ads that tell a sequential story in a unique way. This new feature is available to all advertisers, but can only be purchased directly through Snapchat, and not via its Ads API and requires “early commitments for a full-service execution.”

Pinterest Adds Ad Groups to Campaign Structure: Starting this month, Pinterest is updating the way its ad campaigns are structured and giving companies and brands more control over Pinterest campaigns with the rollout of ad groups. The Pinterest for Business blog states that an ad group works as a container for your Promoted Pins and gives you more control over how you budget for, target and run your campaigns. Pinterest Business Account holders will receive a notification via email once ad groups are available to them.

Google+ Improves Interface and Adds New Features: Google+ announced three new much-requested updates. These updates include the option to hide “lower quality comments” on posts, the ability to zoom on photos and the return of Events. Google also announced that it will retire the “classic” Google+ web interface on January 24 and replace it with the new Google+ layout, which was introduced to the public over a year ago.

Google Acquires Twitter Fabric: Google will acquire Twitter’s mobile app developer platform, Fabric, along with its Crashlytics reporting, Digits SMS login, FastLane development automation systems, and its Answers mobile app analytics. Fabric will join Google’s Developer Product Group and serve as an additional resource to “help developers build better apps and grow their business.”

Snapchat Leverages Offline Purchase Data for Ad Targeting: Snapchat now allows specific advertisers to leverage third-party retail data provided by Oracle’s Data Cloud to target users based on their offline purchases. TechCrunch reports that this new ad targeting system rolled out “over the last few weeks” and will allow companies to reach customer segments along “100 different customer demographics” such as cosmetic shopper, consumer technology enthusiast, or men’s clothing buyer. Snapchat is currently testing this new targeting system with select brands including Honda, Kia, and The Honest Company.

Facebook Adds Custom Reminders for Page Admins: Adweek reports that Facebook is giving page admins the ability to set reminders to update the content on their page. A new Reminder module spotted in Page Settings gives admins the option to receive reminders before local holidays or set custom reminders on specific days of the week or time of day. Facebook hasn’t yet shared any details or information about this new feature.

Facebook Adjusts News Feed Rankings Based on Video Completion Rates: Facebook announced that longer videos watched through completion will be given a higher priority in the news feed ranking. Percent completion is one of the many signals the network uses to determine which videos to surface in the news feed and it will now be weighted more heavily for ranking longer videos.

Instagram Rolls Out Live Stories Globally: Instagram announced that live video on Instagram Stories – a new way to connect with your friends and followers right now – will be rolling out to entire global community over the next week. Instagram introduced Live Stories to the U.S. in November along with disappearing photos and videos in Instagram Direct. The Instagram blog states that live video on Instagram Stories is available for everyone as part of Instagram version 10.0 and above.

Twitter Introduces Vine Archive: Twitter rolled out a Vine Archive from 2013 through 2016 on the Vine site. With this update, users can search “a time capsule of all posts made to vine.co” by year, by genre under Highlights, by Editor’s Picks, or by Playlists. According to Vine’s FAQ page, the Vine Archive “will not support any of the community features from Vine such as followers, revines, likes, or comments.” However, the Vines can be viewed on vine.co or elsewhere that URL is embedded and shared with their unique URL.

Facebook changes feed to promote posts that aren’t fake, sensational, or spam: Facebook is prioritizing “authentic” content in News Feed with a ranking algorithm change that detects and promotes content “that people consider genuine, and not misleading, sensational, or spammy.” It’s also giving a boost to stories that are going viral in real-time right now that could help it compete with Twitter for in-the-moment news sharing. To build the update, Facebook categorized Pages that frequently share inauthentic posts like fake news and clickbaity headlines, or get their posts hidden often. It then used these posts to train an algorithm that detects similar content as its shared in the News Feed. Facebook will now give extra feed visibility to posts that don’t show signs of similarity to inauthentic content.

Facebook Developing Branded Filters for Selfies: Facebook is reportedly in talks with Hollywood studios about the prospect of promoting big-budget films with animated mask filters. The filters, which are expected to be launched in March, would initially be offered to brands as an unpaid experiment.

Facebook Starts Testing Ads On Messenger: In a blog post announcing “a very small test in Australia and Thailand,” Facebook Product Manager Eddie Zhang said that some businesses in these markets will now have the opportunity to have their ads appear below recent conversations on the Messenger home screen, “similar to how Facebook surfaces birthday notifications or where Facebook lets you know if a friend is currently active on Messenger.”

Of course, the few people who are in this test are in complete control of their Messenger experience and can choose to hide/report specific ads using the dropdown menu in their Messenger. Advertisers will still not be able to message users directly unless a person starts the interaction and people will not see a message from a business that they didn’t initiate.

WhatsApp is Secretly Working on Structured Messages for Businesses: WhatsApp’s plan to let businesses directly message its more than one billion users appears to be taking shape. Multiple references to “enterprise” message templates have been uncovered in WhatsApp’s code, according @ WABetaInfo.” The reference code hints at structured messages for ‘enterprise’ and business users. According to the user’s findings, there are several templates for structured WhatsApp messages, one of which is translation feature. It will allow businesses to send a message that is translated to local language of the recipient.

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