April 2017 Digital Marketing News Recap
Here are some major digital marketing updates from the Month of April 2017.
Google testing ‘tags’ label in search results snippets: Google has confirmed to Search Engine Land that they are experimenting with a new feature in the search results. Google is testing showing “tags” within search result snippet. However, you could not filter by those “tags”, click on them or anything. It just listed “tags” in the snippets without showing you anything more. Google confirmed this was a real experiment but would not explain what they are for and how they should work.
Google Team Hopes to Roll Out Mobile Search Index by End of 2017, But Gary Illyes Says It Might Not Go Live Until 2018: At the Next10x Conference in Boston, Gary Illyes from Google said that the mobile first index might not launch in 2017. He said he hopes it does launch but he is not sure. We do know the experiment is live but Google said it has to be quality neutral and I guess they are far off from that. So it looks like the Google mobile first index likely won’t launch in 2017, maybe it will in 2018?
Google Fact Check Feature Now In Search Results & News Worldwide: In October, during the US elections, Google released fact check schema for Google News in the US. Now, Google announced that fact checking is officially available in the core Google search results and Google News results worldwide. The schema is also now out of “pending” status and is an official markup at schema.org. Publishers would have to use that schema to be eligible to show the label but Google said “only publishers that are algorithmically determined to be an authoritative source of information will qualify for inclusion.” Google said “if a publisher or fact check claim does not meet these standards or honor these policies, we may, at our discretion, ignore that site’s markup.” Searchers can report false fact check claims and that can be used against the publisher. There is a lot more detail on how this works in search and Google News over here.
Submit Any URL to Google For Indexing Within The Search Results Interface: Go to Google and search for [submit URL to Google] and Google will place a box at the top of the search results that lets you plug in any URL you want and submit it to Google for indexing. After you submit the URL, Google responds with “Page submitted to Google Search.” You can then submit a new URL.
Google Announces Similar Items Schema for Image Search on Mobile: Google’s image search results on the mobile web and in the Android Search app are now showing “similar items” — i.e., if you’re looking at “lifestyle” images and click on one that you like, Google may show you additional product images from places where you can buy the item(s). Julia E, product manager on Google Image Search, announced on the Google search blog that you need to use schema.org product metadata on your pages and schema.org/Product markup to make sure your products are eligible for inclusion on these image results. This schema was actually introduced last December, but Google never announced it. Google says this similar items search feature is available now for “handbags, sunglasses, and shoes and will cover other apparel and home & garden categories in the next few months.”
GoogleBot Doesn’t Understand The Words In Your Podcast Audio Files: Google has added support for rich results for podcasts but this does not mean Google can understand what you are saying in those audio files. Rich results are markup, so you are marking up your podcasts so Google can richen up the search results that have podcasts embedded on them. It isn’t that GoogleBot can understand the actual audio content in the file. Gary Illyes clarified this on Twitter in one word – saying “nope” when asked if GoogleBot understands the words in audio files.
Google Owl Update Promotes Authoritative Content For Fake News Queries: Google officially announced both an algorithm update and procedure changes for managing search results for fake news like content, which Google calls “offensive or clearly misleading content.” Danny Sullivan, by far, has the most detailed write up on these changes – so go read it. In short, this is the Project Owl update and targets fake news results.
Bing updates its DMCA take-downs and copyright removal process: Bing announced they have updated their process for handling copyright removals and DMCA take-down requests. The Bing webmaster tools team said they have “streamlined the copyright removals process.”
Bing added a method for webmasters to see the copyright removal notices and appeal those decisions directly and easily.Within Bing Webmaster Tools, there is a section named “Copyright Removal Notices.” There you will be able to see these notices and appeal them, if desired.
Google Makes Fashion Image Searches More Like Pinterest: Google introduced two new features called “Style Ideas” and “Similar Items” to the Google app for Android and mobile web for fashion image searches. Much like Pinterest’s visual search technology, Google’s new Style Ideas surfaces “a grid of inspirational lifestyle images and outfits that showcase how the product can be worn in real life.” In addition, Google also provides mobile shoppers with “an expanded carousel for ‘similar items’ while searching for apparel products, right from Image Search.” Both of these new image search features are available globally but are currently limited to apparel and accessory searches on mobile browsers and the Android Google Search app. However, Google plans to expand this technology to more platforms and product categories in the coming year.
Google Enables Multiple Merchant Centre Account & Access: In a very nice update, users can now use the same email to access multiple Google Merchant Center (GMC) accounts. Per the Help Center page: “Multiple users are able to access a single Merchant Center, and users can connect their individual Google account with multiple Merchant Center accounts as needed.” Admins can invite people by clicking on Users from the three-dot icon in the upper right corner. They’ll then be able to sign into the account using the login information for their own Google account.
Google Introduces Fully-automated ‘Smart’ Display Campaigns: Automation isn’t new to display campaigns on the Google Display Network, but with the new Smart display campaigns, it’s not just the creative that’s automated. Targeting, bidding and the ads all run on autopilot powered by machine learning. The system pulls advertiser-provided headlines, descriptions, logos and images to create responsive text, display and native ads. Bids are set, based on Target CPAs, for each auction as the system determines the likelihood of conversion.
Google Adds Linear and Digital TV Inventory to DoubleClick Bid Manager: Google’s DoubleClick Bid Manager Platform in the U.S. has added traditional TV inventory, which means that advertisers will be better able to manage their video campaigns across ‘linear’ TV and digital TV in a single platform. Google is currently working with two ad tech partners that will work with cable networks and TV stations, as well as its own Google Fiber service, to serve access to ‘national, local, and even addressable’ TV inventory through DoubleClick Bid Manager.
LinkedIn Introduces LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms: LinkedIn launched LinkedIn lead gen forms, an easy way to collect quality leads for your business from sponsored campaigns. The new feature uses their current member profile information to automatically populate an in-app form that can be submitted instantly. Sponsored content campaigns running with the new lead gen forms are currently only supported on the LinkedIn mobile app; however, LinkedIn plans to expand this capability to desktop campaigns and sponsored InMail campaigns for both mobile and desktop “in the coming months.”
Facebook Tests Free Version of Workplace: CNBC reports “Facebook is introducing a free version of Workplace, its social networking tool for workers to chat and collaborate.” The new product, which is still being tested, will have the same “look and feel… as the paid version” of the tool. However, it won’t offer companies the administrative and analytics tools available to paying subscribers. The free version of Facebook Workplace will be called Workplace Standard and the paid version will be called Workplace Premium.
YouTube Removes Ads From Channels With Fewer Than 10K Views: YouTube announced that it will no longer serve ads on YouTube Partner Program videos until the channel reaches 10,000 lifetime views. The company considers this to be an appropriate threshold “to determine the validity of a channel and confirm if a channel is following community guidelines and advertiser policies.” For example, YouTube reports “seeing cases of abuse where great, original content is re-uploaded by others who try to earn revenue from it,” and the new protocol is meant to safeguard original creators against such violations.
YouTube Launches Live TV Service in the U.S.: YouTube released its live TV service, YouTube TV, to five major metropolitan areas in the U.S. These cities include San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, “with more U.S. markets coming soon.” For $35 per month, the subscription service provides more than 40 channels including ABC, CBS, NBC, and ESPN; allows simultaneous streaming of different programming to up to six different devices; provides unlimited DVR cloud storage; and more.
Twitter Rolls Out Twitter Lite: Twitter introduced Twitter Lite, a new mobile web experience which minimizes data usage, loads quickly on slower connections, is resilient on unreliable mobile networks, and takes up less than 1MB on your device. Twitter Lite is also “optimized for speed, with up to 30% faster launch times as well as quicker navigation throughout Twitter.” However, Twitter Lite provides all of Twitter’s key features including your timeline, Tweets, Direct Messages, trends, profiles, media uploads, notifications, and more. Twitter Lite is now available globally.
Facebook Adds More Customer Service Tools in Messenger: Facebook Messenger is rolling out new tools that make it easier to respond to your customers’ questions and provide updates based on actions customers have taken. These tools include “a new method for developers and businesses to respond to actions their customers have taken beyond the current 24-hour window as stated in the Messenger Policy” using a generic template and approved tag in their response.
Facebook Releases Canvas Creation API: Facebook Marketing Partners announced it’s “opening the capability to create Canvases via the API” to the developer community. Businesses and marketers can create canvases through the Canvas builder or through page and ads creation interfaces. The rollout of the new Canvas Creation API makes it possible for developers to “add value by providing advertisers with solutions across a wide array of use cases whether it’s scaling creation, developing templates, or delivering creative insights.” Facebook provides a webinar and documentation to help developers learn more about this new API.
WhatsApp Speculated to Roll Out Peer-to-peer Payment Services in India: The Next Web reports that WhatsApp has indicated that it may be “preparing to roll out peer-to-peer payment services on its platform in the next six months” in India. In a statement to TechCrunch, a WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed that “India is an important country for WhatsApp” and the company is currently exploring ways to work with local governments, companies, and users in India to give businesses a presence on the messaging platform.
Instagram Rolls Out Redesigned Direct: Instagram launched a new Instagram Direct that makes it fast and easy to turn any conversation into a visual conversation with photos and videos. All texts, uploads, and reshares sent in Direct will now appear in the same thread with disappearing photos and videos, which allows users to “seamlessly go back and forth with [their] friends.” Disappearing images/videos will be highlighted in blue in the inbox, where they can be viewed and replayed once.
Snapchat Releases New Location-based Ad Product: Snapchat released Snap to Store, a new location-based product that lets businesses see whether people go to stores after seeing [their] advertisements. With this new ad product, advertisers can access a dashboard that shows “the number of people who go to a store within one week of seeing one of Snap’s vertical-oriented mobile ads.” The dashboard also reveals the number of Snapchat users who visited a specific retail location; their demographic information such as age, gender, and region; and which Snapchat lens or geofilter they used. Adweek reports that Snap plans to integrate more interest categories such as music, sports, or “department store shopper” for grouping users in the near future.
Facebook Adds Call-to-action Units to Instant Articles: Facebook rolled out a new feature that allows all publishers to add Page Like and Email Sign-Up call-to-action units to their instant articles. Along with providing “a simple, self-serve creation flow” for setting up these new call-to-action units directly from a page, Facebook also offers access to performance insights and opportunities to help “identify and develop new call-to-action units” in the future.
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.
LinkedIn Introduces Smarter Messaging Experience on Desktop: LinkedIn is rolling out an even smarter messaging experience with the ability to message a connection from wherever you may be on LinkedIn, along with suggestions that can help connect you to a new job. The new messaging functionality offers a seamless way to contact another member “from anywhere on the LinkedIn desktop experience” and get “relevant suggestions within messaging on the Jobs and Company pages to help [users] start a conversation.”
Facebook Launches New Tools for Ad Manager on Mobile: Facebook announced a new milestone of reaching “more than 5 million active advertisers” on its flagship site and is “the mobile solution for 65 million businesses with Pages and 8 million with Profiles on Instagram.” To further its adoption among small- and medium-sized businesses, Facebook launched new tools, optimizations, and resources for Ads Manager on mobile. These updates include at-a-glance performance analytics, improved navigation, the ability to compare up to five ads side by side, and more from a mobile device. In addition, Facebook also introduced a new Mobile Studio where businesses can learn how to build ads using a mobile device and plans to expand its Facebook Small Business Council to more countries “later this year.”
Facebook also rolled out a single inbox to manage communications across Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram on desktop. This feature was added to the Page Manager app at the end of 2016 as a convenient way to “manage communications across all three channels in a single place.”
Facebook Messenger Rolls Out Group Payments: Facebook announced that users can now send or receive money between groups of people on Messenger. This new feature offers a “free, simple, fast and secure” way to seamlessly coordinate payment within a new or existing group conversation in Messenger. It will also show who has paid and full-screen details about the request. Group payments are currently only available in the U.S.
Google Duo Rolls Out Audio Calling Feature Worldwide: Google Duo began gradually rolling out audio-only calls last month and just announced via tweet that this feature is now live for all users worldwide.
Facebook Releases Augmented Reality Camera Effects Platform: Facebook officially released the Camera Effects Platform at its annual F8 Conference for developers this week. The new Camera Effect Platform “turns smartphone cameras into the first AR platform” and provides “an opportunity for artists and developers to create effects for the Facebook camera.” With this new platform, Facebook introduced two new tools, Frame Studio, a web-based tool that “allows anyone with a profile or Page to design frames for use on profile pictures or in the new Facebook camera,” and AR Studio, which “enables artists and developers to build their own AR experiences such as animated frames, masks, and interactive effects that respond to motion, interactions during Live broadcasts, or third-party data.”
Twitter Rolls Out In-stream Video Ads: Twitter advertisers can now run In-Stream Video Ads to align with video from Amplify partners, including top TV networks, major sports leagues, major publishing houses and magazines, and professional news outlets.” These new video ad units include both pre-roll and mid-roll ads and have been proven to get a message “in front of a larger target audience.” In-stream video ads are currently available in the U.S. and are expected to roll out more widely in the year ahead.
YouTube Opens Mobile Live Streaming to Smaller Accounts: TechCrunch reports that the ability to live stream directly to a YouTube channel from a phone was previously restricted to accounts with 10,000 or more subscribers. However, a YouTube support page on mobile live streaming reveals that this capability is now available to smaller channels with more than 1,000 subscribers. Facebook notes that these accounts must also be verified and free of any live-stream restrictions within a certain time limit to be granted the ability to broadcast live from a phone.
Facebook Launched New Social VR Platform, Facebook Spaces, in Beta: Facebook introduced Facebook Spaces, “a new VR app where you hang out with friends in a fun, interactive virtual environment as if you were in the same room.” With Facebook Spaces, users can create a personalized avatar; connect with other users; share photos, videos, and experiences; and much more within a virtual 360-degree space. Facebook Spaces is currently in beta and only available for Oculus Rift and Touch. Facebook plans to add new features as more users provide feedback and continue exploring “what makes social VR experiences most meaningful.”
Snapchat Introduces World Lenses: Snapchat launched World Lenses, a new way to use Lenses, that can paint the world around you with new 3D experiences. Snapchat users can now place new AR-like cards and stickers onto any scene captured with their mobile device and “virtually interact with 3D graphics that look like they were anchored to, and blended with, the real world.”
Facebook Debuts New Tools and Bots for Messenger: Facebook introduced a new suite of tools that gives you the ability to build richer experiences, get discovered, and extend the conversational, visual and social capabilities of your bots with its new “Messenger 2.0” rollout. Facebook launched the Discover tab, a new surface to help people intuitively browse and find the best bots, places, and businesses in Messenger. Discover currently has categories such as Entertainment, News, Food & Drink, Finance, and more to come. Discover is rolling out to a “small number” of users in the U.S. this week but is expected to “gradually” roll out to all users over time. Facebook invites bot developers to submit their own tools for the Discover tab and encourages businesses to make sure their information on Messenger is up to date and accurate.
Instagram Offers Offline Mode Functionality on Android: Instagram announced that it has built support for using most of its features without Internet access on Android and is “exploring” the option of releasing an iOS version as well. With this new feature, Instagram users in developing nations, where “data is either too expensive for everyone to afford or there aren’t omnipresent or stable data connections” can now see Instagram content that was previously loaded in their feed, as well as leave comments, like posts, save media, or unfollow people – all of which will go through when they reconnect.
Facebook Tests Groups Tab for Pages: Facebook is testing a new feature that makes it easier for select brand pages to link to or add a new tab for groups. By linking the two, page admins can direct users to an “official group instead of one of the many fan groups” that may be created for a company, organization, or program. Adweek reports that this new feature has only been released to “about 2 percent of Pages” and Facebook plans a broader expansion in June.
LinkedIn Rolls Out Matched Audiences: LinkedIn introduced Matched Audiences, a set of targeting capabilities that give you the unique ability to combine LinkedIn’s powerful professional data with your own first-party data. LinkedIn also rolled out the ability to engage prospects from your list of contacts with Contact Targeting and reach decision-makers and influencers at companies you’re targeting with Account Targeting.
Facebook Allows Content Owners to Claim Ad Revenues From Freebooted Videos: Facebook updated the Rights Manager to include a new option that allows content owners to “claim ad earnings” generated from a piece of content that other users have taken from them and uploaded elsewhere. For example, if a freebooted video happens to be served a new mid-roll ad break that Facebook is currently testing, then the resulting revenue could automatically be sent to the content’s rightful owner instead of the infringing user who uploaded it. In addition to the right to claim ad earnings from their videos, content owners can also set automated rules for instantly blocking infringing uploads from being viewed.
Facebook Expands Dynamic Ads to Target Airline Customers Globally: Facebook extended Dynamic Ads for Travel to include flights globally across Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook’s Audience Network ad network. Marketing Land reports that these new flight ads are similar to the industry-specific retargeted ads that Facebook rolled out for hotel inventory almost a year ago. With Facebook’s new Dynamic Ads for Travel for Flights, marketers can retarget potential air travelers with ads featuring flight information such as dates, airport names, or links to an airline’s site or mobile app.
Facebook Tests Video Cover Images for Pages: Facebook is testing the ability to upload videos as cover images on pages. Facebook confirms that it’s always looking for ways to help businesses create more engaging experiences and drive more rich experiences for their audiences but didn’t share any further details regarding plans to expand this feature more broadly.
Facebook Announces Upcoming Changes to the Facebook Pixel: Facebook alerted advertisers that effective May 20, the Facebook pixel will start mining more contextual information and event data including button clicks and related page metadata from websites. This enhancement to the Facebook pixel is expected to improve ad delivery and reporting. Facebook notes that for any pixels created before April 20, this new functionality will go into effect May 2 and for Facebook pixels created April 20 or later, this change will take effect immediately.
Facebook Launches Automated Insights for Analytics: Using advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence, Facebook Analytics can now automatically surface insights in the dashboard such as shifts in purchase behavior over time or engagement across multiple cities that allow admins to easily identify where to dig deeper and determine a plan of action. Facebook also rolled out customizable dashboards where page admins can quickly pin their most important reports in one place and see everything at a glance.
Google Unveils New Home Page and Enhancements for Analytics: Google introduced “additional enhancements designed to help [site owners] make better data-driven decisions based on a deeper understanding of their users” and a new landing page for Google Analytics. The new home page for Google Analytics now features “an overview of key aspects” of an organization’s online presence such as snippets from a curated set of Google Analytics reports framed with “helpful questions” and the ability to surface more details. Google also offers a new Discover page where users can find useful products, tools, and features to help monitor and manage an account.