March 2017 Digital Marketing News Recap

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

SEO Recap

Google Page Render Tool Coming To Search Console: At the 48:04 mark into this hangout video, Google’s John Mueller said the Search Console team is working n a new tool that will show the “rendered HTML version available in Search Console.” He doesn’t know about when it will be released but him talking about it does imply it is in the works and possibly will be out soonish.

Google Algorithms Now Target Offensive, Upsetting, Inaccurate & Hateful Results: Google released a new quality raters guidelines PDF document that was specifically updated to tell the quality raters how to spot and flag offensive, upsetting, inaccurate and hateful web pages in the search results. Both Danny Sullivan dug into this and Jennifer Slegg dug into the quality raters guidelines changes. It is an important problem, but with only 0.1% of queries impacted, seems like a lot of effort is being put on this.

Google Fred Update: Confirmed by Google: Gary Illyes from Google has officially confirmed the Fred update on Twitter. Webmasters started noticing the new Google Fred updated from 7th/8th March 2017. This updated impacts low content and spammy websites.

Google Publicly Calls Out Company for Selling Links: Normally, Google isn’t so public about their shaming of those who go against their webmaster guidelines. But Gary Illyes from Google was feeling differently when he called out a company for selling links. He did this on Twitter and made sure all his followers were able to see it.

Google quietly expands rich cards worldwide: Google is expanding support for rich cards globally.  Google updated the blog post that originally announced this feature back in May 2016. In this update, Google said rich cards are now available globally. Originally, rich cards launched in the US just for movie and recipe websites. That has expanded over the months; both in terms the types of websites that are supported and what geographic versions of Google search support it.

Google Invites Verified Organizations and Celebrities to Post Within Main Search Results: Google opened the application process for verified organizations and celebrities in the U.S. and Brazil to be selected to post relevant content and information directly within Google’s main search results. This opportunity is currently limited to specific “museums, sports teams, sports leagues, movies, and musicians.” Google will continue experimenting with Posts as it looks to make Search even more useful and timely.

SEM Recap

Google AdWords Price Extensions Now On All Devices Including Desktop:  Google introduced Price Extensions in AdWords last July to show prices on types of products and services in text ads. The extensions are now eligible to show on all devices, not just mobile. With this change, advertisers now have the option of setting separate mobile URLs for price extensions.

Google Tests Additional Description Line in Expanded Text Ads: Valerio Celletti posted on Twitter a screen shot of a new Google AdWords test where they are testing showing an additional description field in AdWords ads to make the ad even longer. The additional optional line also has an 80 character limit. There is currently no information provided in the information popup next to the Additional description (optional) line in the UI.

Google to shutter Trusted Stores program in favor of new reviews program: Google began notifying Google Trusted Stores merchants last week that the program will soon wind down. Google Customer Reviews will be managed through Google Merchant Center. Current Trusted Stores merchants will have their accounts automatically migrated to the new program.

Google Rolls Out AdWords Account-Level Call Extensions: Google announced on their blog that they are making several updates to Google AdWords click-to-call ads. For advertisers that use one main number for call extensions, Google is rolling out account-level call extensions. The design for these ads have been updated to include business names in the headlines of call-only ads “to help advertisers maximize high-quality calls from people who intend to call them,” Google said. And the reporting columns for “Phone impressions” and “Phone calls” will soon be available to see phone-through rates at the keyword and ad levels in the AdWords interface.

Google AdWords Tests 6 Ads At The Bottom Of Search Results:  Search Engine Roundtable reports that people are noticing six or more AdWords ads at the bottom of the search results. And as many as 10 ads on a single search results page, up to four above the organic results and 6 below the organic results.

Google launches location extension display ads for local businesses: Google debuted a new display ad format on the Google Display Network to showcase local business information. The new format is an option in the ad gallery in AdWords under general purpose ads, where advertisers can upload up to three images, a logo and an ad headline and description.

Google to Further Dilute Exact Match in AdWords: Google announced they are changing the behavior of how close variants works in Google AdWords. Google said “over the coming months we’re expanding close variant matching to include additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords.” Ginny Marvin goes into these changes in detail at Search Engine Land. So if this impacts you, which is probably does, well worth a read.

AdWords Dynamic Search Ads gain page feeds, will soon support expanded text ads: Google announced updates to AdWords Dynamic Search Ads including support for expanded text ads. Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) will transition to expanded text ads through April, bringing them in line with search and display campaigns. Google is introducing a new solution for DSAs called page feeds. Page feeds consist of two columns: Page URL and Custom Label. The feeds enable advertisers to designate exactly which landing pages to include in a DSA campaign. Google also says it has continued to make quality updates for DSAs, such as taking location signals into account, and that the latest changes have led to better conversion rates and lower CPAs, on average.

Google Introduces New Reporting and Research Features for Video Ads: Google Adwords announced new research and reporting features to help advertisers ensure their video ads don’t just reach their audience, but also capture their attention – at scale. These features include Unique Reach in AdWords, which allows marketers “to see the number of unique users and average impressions-per-user across devices, screens, and platforms,” and the ability to track long viewers watch your content with watch time reporting.

Bing Ads Editor Updates: After running in beta in the US since last June, Bing Ads Editor is now available globally. The availability of a desktop editor for Mac could increase adoption of Bing Ads by Mac-heavy advertisers and agencies. The beta has largely been well received by advertisers, and Bing says the Mac Editor is now faster than it was in beta. Also the latest version of Bing Ads Editor is out. Version 11.9 offers support for Enhanced CPC bidding and the ability to export standard text ads to a spreadsheet formatted for enhanced text ads.

Bing Ads Removes Trademark Policy For Keywords Globally: Bing announced they have dropped their trademark policy to disallow the bidding on trademarks globally, like they have in the US. The policy is going into effect March 27, 2017 in Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Singapore. The restriction on the use of trademarks as keywords will be removed. The restriction on the use of trademarks as keywords, Bing Ads’ protection of trademarks in ad copy will remain unchanged.

SMM Recap

Facebook Algorithm Ranks Reactions Higher Than Likes: Facebook announced that reactions will affect post ranking slightly more than Likes in the news feed algorithm because it has found reactions to be an even stronger signal  when it comes to indicating what content users would like to see.

Foursquare Publicly Releases Enterprise Location Toolkit: Foursquare released Pilgrim SDK, a new enterprise product that sends app-related push notifications to users based on their location, to all developers. For example, this technology makes it possible to send menu tips once the user arrives at a restaurant he or she has never visited before or recommend places to visit in a new city.

Facebook Globally Launches Messenger Day: Facebook launched Messenger Day, a new way to share photos and videos as they happen in the stand-alone Messenger app. Like with Snapchat Stories and Instagram Stories, Messenger Day allows users to customize their photos and videos with thousands of frames, effects, and stickers and each post disappears after 24 hours. With Messenger Day, users also have the option to share their “day” with everyone or specific Messenger friends.

Twitter Introduces Analytics for Twitter Moments: Twitter announced Moments analytics are now available to all Twitter users on the web. TechCrunch reports that Moments’ publishing partners and brand advertisers will now be able to track their content’s performance and gather key insights on “opens, likes, shares and more.”

Facebook Relaxes Ad Placement Limit in Instant Articles: Facebook updated its monetization policies for Instant Articles. Now publishers and advertisers may place ads every 250 words instead of 350 through Facebook’s Automatic Ads Placement feature. Publishers also have the option to manually place each ad into Instant Articles.

Instagram Adds Geostickers to Instagram Stories: Instagram rolled out an early version of geostickers in Instagram Stories for New York City and Jakarta. There are now “more than a dozen new stickers” for each city, including unique stickers for select neighborhoods and landmarks that are “designed to match the vibe of the location it represents.” Instagram plans to roll out more creative tools “soon,” but hasn’t yet confirmed when geostickers will be available for more destinations.

Vimeo Adds Support for 360 Videos: Vimeo announced that it now supports 360-degree video in stunning high quality. Vimeo also rolled out lessons on “the fundamentals of 360” in its new 360 Video School, a curated 360 Cinema channel featuring beautiful 360 video, hand-picked by Vimeo.

Facebook Develops Advanced Measurement Tools: Facebook announced that it’s “beginning a test of new advanced measurement tools focused on reach and attribution” that will allow the platform to “bring the insights from Atlas to more marketers, regardless of their size.” According to Facebook, the tools were previously only available through its ad serving and measurement platform, Atlas, but will soon be available to more marketers through Facebook Business Manager.

Google Announces New Cloud Video Intelligence API: Google announced the upcoming launch of a new machine learning API that will automatically recognize objects in videos and make them searchable. Not only will the API track metadata in videos, it will also allow creators to tag scene changes, extract text, and more. The new cloud-based technology is currently in private beta, but developers can sign up to participate online..

Facebook Testing Video Insights for Personal Profiles: This week, Social Media Examiner staff noted that Facebook appears to be testing video metrics for personal profile users. The video metrics include insights on engagement, views, minutes viewed, and overall performance for the past 7, 30, and 60 days. To learn more about this possible new feature, listen to the Social Media Marketing Talk Show from March 17, 2017.

LinkedIn Adds Profile Photo Filters and Editing Tools for Mobile: LinkedIn rolled out a “quick and easy way to enhance” users’ profile photos with new photo editing tools and filters for its mobile app. LinkedIn users can now “crop and edit the brightness, contrast, saturation and vignette” and choose from up to six filters to enhance their LinkedIn profile photos.

YouTube Launches Experimental Uptime App: YouTube launched a new experimental group messaging app called Uptime, “a place to share and watch videos together with friends no matter where they are.” With Uptime, viewers can comment on a video or leave reactions like a smiley, surprise, heart-eyes, or angry emojis that “will be displayed to anyone who watches the video, even if they’re watching at a later time.” Uptime is currently only available for iOS users in the U.S. and is in invite-only mode. However, the service can be accessed with the invite code PIZZA.

Facebook Expands Ability to Broadcast Live from Desktops and Laptops to All Users: Facebook announced that everyone around the world can now broadcast live video to Facebook from their desktop or laptop computers. Facebook also added a new Live feature that “makes it easy to use streaming software or external hardware when going live from a computer.” All Facebook users can now “seamlessly share their screens, insert graphics, switch cameras, or use professional equipment in Facebook Live videos” and broadcast directly from their personal profiles and well as to Facebook Groups, Events or Pages.

Facebook Rolls Out New Product-Focused Ad Format and Ad Metrics: Facebook now offers better ways to visually inspire mobile shoppers with its newest product-focused ad format, collection. With collection ads, brands can feature a primary video or image above relevant product images that, once clicked, lead to an immersive, fast-loading shopping experience that can showcase up to 50 products at a time within Facebook. Collection ads are rolling out to Facebook marketers worldwide.

Facebook also announced an upcoming change to the way outbound click metrics are measured for full-screen ad experiences across Facebook and Instagram, such as collection and Canvas. These performance insights are currently being tested and are expected to offer all marketers a “clearer picture of people’s paths through the entire ads experience” once they are rolled out more broadly.

Instagram Adds Option to Save Live Video: Instagram rolls out ability to save live video broadcast to a phone once it ends. Although the live videos will continue to disappear from the Instagram app once the recording stops, this new feature “gives you the flexibility to hold onto your video and re-watch it later, especially if something exciting happens during your broadcast that you want to remember or share.” However, Instagram notes that comments, likes, the number of viewers, and live interactions will not be saved with the downloaded videos.

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.

Messenger Rolls Out Reactions and Mentions Globally: Facebook Messenger introduced two new features that improve group conversations to make them more fun and useful. These include Message Reactions, which lets users react to an individual message with a specific emotion, quickly showing acknowledgment or expressing how you feel in a lightweight way. Messager also rolled out the ability to directly notify someone when they’ve been mentioned in a conversation with an @ tag or just by typing the first few letter of their name.

Facebook Introduces Split Testing for Ad Optimization: Facebook introduced Split Testing for ads, which allows businesses to “simply and accurately” test different components of their Facebook ad buy across all devices and browsers and receive “easy-to-understand” feedback and results. Facebook Split Testing is available to all advertisers globally in Ads Manager and the API.

Instagram Expands Two-Factor Authentication to All Users and Begins Blurring Sensitive Content: Instagram announced that two-factor authentication is now available to everyone. This extra layer of security requires users to enter a code every time they log into an Instagram account, but is an optional feature which can be turned on and off as needed. Instagram also announced that it will begin blurring photos and videos which have been marked as “sensitive” by another community member and reviewed by the company.

Facebook Tests GIF Button for Comments: TechCrunch reports that “Facebook will begin testing a GIF button that lets users post GIFs from services like Giphy and Tenor as comments.” Facebook confirms that this is “just a test” for now and will share more once this capability can be fully supported.

YouTube Will Stop Supporting Video Annotations on Mobile: YouTube announced that effective starting May 2, you’ll no longer be able to add new or edit existing annotations, only delete them on videos viewed on a desktop. Mobile users will no longer be able to see video annotations at all. According to YouTube, “the use of annotations has decreased by over 70 percent” as the adoption of mobile-friendly End Screens and Cards across all devices and the use of mobile devices have both increased.

Facebook Rolls Out Facebook Stories and Other Snapchat-like Camera Features Globally: Facebook rolled out a new in-app camera for iOS and Android that’s packed with dozens of effects like masks, frames and interactive filters that you can apply to your photos and videos. These include dynamic objects, artistic filters, and branded masks for some upcoming movie releases. Facebook plans to introduce a way for users to create their own Facebook camera frames and effects over the coming months. Facebook also announced the global release of Facebook Stories on the main Facebook app. This new feature allows users to share multiple photos and videos as part of a visual collection atop the News Feed.

Facebook Expands Live 360 and Spatial Audio to All Profiles and Pages: Facebook announced that Live 360 and spatial audio are now available globally to all profiles and pages. While “anyone with a 360 camera can go live in 360 degrees on Facebook,” the site integrated with several leading 360 camera manufacturers to make going live “easy, reliable, and fun.” A list of compatible camera brands and models can be found on the Facebook Media blog. The company also provides a helpful, step-by-step guide and offers best practices for “getting the most out of Live 360” on the Facebook 360 site.

Snapchat Introduces Search in Stories: Snap Inc. announced that Snapchat users can now “search over one million unique Stories on Snapchat,” from professionally curated stories to clips of a local basketball game, the scene at your favorite bar, and more. Search in stories is starting to roll out “in select cities” and will be gradually released more broadly.

Facebook Enables Branded Content from More Pages: Facebook announced three significant updates on the use of branded content on its platform. Facebook now allows more pages to share branded content. Prior this latest change, only verified pages and profiles could share branded content on Facebook. Now any page can apply to gain access to the branded content tool and begin sharing paid posts once they’re approved. This feature is currently only available on iOS and the web, but will be rolling out to Android in the coming weeks. Page admins can read the Facebook Branded Content Policies to get more information on this program.

Pinterest Announces Pinterest Propel Program: Pinterest created Pinterest Propel, a new program providing one-on-one marketing support to businesses and agencies that are unfamiliar with advertising on Pinterest. According to Pinterest, Pinterest Propel was created to help companies quickly build effective campaigns, gain new customers, and analyze traffic, sales, and online actions and provide direct access to Pinterest advertising experts, training, custom images, and more. This program is currently limited to marketers in the U.S. and Canada.

Twitter No Longer Counts @names toward 140-character Limit: The Next Web reports that “@usernames won’t count towards your characters within a reply” on Twitter. Now the other users’ names will appear above the tweet text for a “cleaner” look and more simplified approach to conversation management.

Amazon Quietly Launches Amazon Influencer Program: Amazon unveiled the Amazon Influencer Program, a new affiliate program “exclusively designed for social media influencers with large followings and a high frequency of posts with shoppable content.” This influencer program is currently in beta mode and only open by invitation. Social media influencers who are interested in joining the program can get more information and apply on the Amazon Influencer Program page.

Analytics Recap

Google rolls out free Data Studio globally, improves filters & other features: Google has now rolled out the free version of its reporting tool, Data Studio, globally and made several improvements to the tool, including filters and analytics segments. More dimensions and metrics are available from existing data connectors, such as AdWords campaign ID and keyword quality score, YouTube video title and DoubleClick Campaign Manager revenue and cross-environment conversions.

Google Optimize is out of beta and free for everyone: Google’s A/B testing and content personalization solutions, Optimize and Optimize 360, are now out of beta. Google Optimize is now free for everyone and available in 180 countries. Google Optimize is designed for small to mid-sized businesses. It ties in with Google Analytics, and that data is used to inform website tests. A visual editor lets users drag and page drop elements and it’s also possible to edit raw HTML or add JavaScript or CSS rules in the editor. Tests can be targeted at specific user segments and set URL rules to determine which pages on which to run a test.

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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