December 2017 Digital Marketing News Recap
Here are some major digital marketing updates from the Month of December 2017.
Google Notable Moments In Knowledge Graph Cards: Google has a new feature they are testing in some knowledge cards called “notable moments.” In short, these notable moments give you a timeline of specific events that occurred in a carousel format.
Google Extends Search Results Snippets To Max 320 Characters: Google has officially extended the search results snippets to a maximum character length of 320 characters. Google is telling webmasters to not go ahead and change their meta descriptions. Google automatically makes based on the content on that page and your query.
Google Will Render AJAX & Stop Using Old AJAX Crawling Scheme: Google had hinted they would stop crawling and indexing content from the old AJAX crawling scheme, which was technically deprecated two years ago. Well, that day is coming in the second quarter of 2018 says Google’s John Mueller on the Google blog. If you are on Google Search Console and you have an issue, Google will notify you beforehand about any AJAX crawling issues.
Google Search Console Notifying Webmasters Of TLS Upgrade Requirements: Anyone who has been managing website security for the past few years has been following the long phase-out period of TLS version 1. We are moving to TLS version 1.2, as TLS 1 is no longer that safe. TLS beats SSL, people still confuse both, but TLS stands for Transport Layer Security and SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. For the past few years, there have been deadlines for webmasters to upgrade from TLS 1 to TLS 1.2 but those deadlines have been pushed off time after time. It looks like the final deadline for that upgrade is March 2018 and thus, it seems Google has started to notify webmasters that are running TLS 1 to upgrade to TLS 1.2 via the Google Search Console notification system.
Google Finally Updates The SEO Starter Guide After Several Years: Google has finally updated their SEO starter guide after first publishing it several years ago and only updating it once in 2012. Google did recently say the old one is still relevant but promised to update the guide for mobile and markup details. They did that and dropped the PDF document and went HTML and it can now be accessed over here.
Google Search Console Adds a Years Worth Of Data On Beta: Finally! Google has released a year’s worth of data in Google Search Console in the beta version. If you have access to the beta version of Google Search Console and go to the performance report, you will see a filter to change the date range for that report and the options include over 12 months of data!
Google Finally Posts Webmaster Tips On Mobile-First Index: After months and months of promises, Google has finally published on the Google webmaster blog their tips to getting ready for the mobile-first index. Here are some key points outside of the tips that Google published: (1) It is still only live for a handful of sites (2) Those are closely being monitored by the search team (3) It will still be rolled out very slowly (4) There is still no timeline for when it’s going to be completed (5) You can check your log files for smartphone Googlebot activity to see when you migrated over to the mobile first index. (6) You can also check the snippets in the results, as well as the content on the Google cache pages, will be from the mobile version of the pages.
Google Image Search Results Tests New Related Searches Box: Google is testing a new “related searches” box in the mobile version of the Google Image search results page. Robin Rozhon spotted the change and posted a screen shot on Twitter of this new box. Google frequently tests new user interfaces, so we are not sure if this new one will stick or fade away over the next couple of weeks.
Google AdWord Auction Insights & Impression Share Data Refreshed Multiple Times A Day: Google posted on Twitter that Google AdWords now refreshes the auction insights and impression share reports data multiple times per day, instead of just daily.
Google Manufacturer Center for product data expands the scope, launches API: Google announced new features and an expansion of Manufacturer Center. With the launch of a new Manufacturer Center API, brands and third-party data partners can add, update and delete products without having to rely on manual feed uploads. In addition to streamlining product data quality management, Manufacturer Center offers analytics about how individual products perform on Google within their broader categories. The analytics show overall impressions for the category, the product’s share of category impressions, total clicks and how the click-through rate compares to the category benchmark click-through rate on a week-by-week basis over a four-week period.
AdWords Advertisers Can Use Phone Numbers & Addresses for Google Customer Match targeting: Google has added more ways for businesses to target their known customers with AdWords campaigns. As of this month, advertisers can upload phone numbers and mailing addresses for Customer Match retargeting and similar audiences. As with email data, Google attempts to match phone number and mailing address information with user-provided data in Google accounts. Advertisers can use Customer Match for targeting those matched customers across all Google properties, including search text and shopping ads, display, YouTube, and Gmail. The lists can also be used to create similar audiences for targeting on YouTube and Gmail campaigns.
Google is Testing Images in Search Text ads: Google is running a new image test in search ads. An image from the landing page appears to the right of the description area of the text ad. Sergey Alakov tweeted a screen shot of the ad test.
Google AdWords Shopping Ads Similar Looks & Easy Checkout: PPC Hubbub on Twitter shared a screen shot with new Google Shopping Ads features. The first feature is Google is showing “similar looks” under the main Google shopping ad carousel and the second item is the “easy checkout” button in the carousel. Similar looks can be triggered if you click on a result from the top AdWords shopping carousel and then click back. The easy checkout must be coming from the purchases on Googlebecause when you go through the process, it lets you checkout using your Google account and credit card on file with them.
Google Chrome To Block Ads Not Complying With Coalition For Better Ads: Google has confirmed that they will begin blocking ads from being served on their Chrome browser that does not comply with the Coalition For Better Ads standards. Google said this starts on February 15, 2018 and you can check your Ad Experience Report to make sure your site is okay.
Bing Ads Now Supports Call Conversion Imports: Marketers running Bing Ads campaigns can now import call conversion data so they can tie calls back to campaign efforts for attribution. Third-party call-tracking systems can integrate directly with Bing Ads via the Offline Conversion Import tool or APIs.
Snapchat Releases Massive Redesign: Snap Inc. released a “new and improved Snapchat” interface that centers on the camera and “separates the social from the media.” Chats and stories from friends are set on the left side of the app and stories from publishers, professional creators, and the community are housed on the right. With this new layout, Snapchat is introducing a dynamic Friends page that displays your friends “based on the way you communicate with them” and promises that Discover will become uniquely personalized over time.
Snapchat Introduces Two New Ad Formats: Snap Inc. unveiled two new formats for ads. The first is Promoted Stories, which string together multiple snaps into a longer-form slideshow and inserts it as a branded story in the app’s Stories tab among the organic stories from other accounts a person follows and Discover content. The second new ad format is called Augmented Reality Trial ads that allow users to play with an AR version of a product overlaid on the world around them. Based on Snapchat’s World Lens feature, the new AR Ad experience is meant to let users get a better look at the product being sold and try it for themselves hands on.
Instagram Introduces Stories Highlights and Stories Archive: Instagram rolls out two major features that allow users to save and showcase their favorite expired stories. The new Stories Archive feature automatically saves stories to a private part of a user’s profile 24 hours after being posted. Rather than having to rush and download stories to a phone before they disappear, Instagram will now save them in the cloud, where they can be privately viewed, publicly shared, or downloaded later. Instagram’s Stories Highlights allows users to then select and group these past stories into named collections that show up in a new horizontal bar across the top of their profile.
Pinterest Launches New Bot and Chat Extension for Facebook Messenger: Pinterest rolled out a richer, more integrated experience through a new Messenger chat extension that “makes responding to ideas, sharing new Pins, and accessing Pinterest Search and Related Pins quicker and easier than ever.” The Pinterest chat extension will be rolling out to users of the English-language version of the Pinterest app on iPhone and Android “over the coming days.”
Pinterest also introduced a new Pinterest bot that brings “the power of Pinterest Search to Messenger” and helps users find recipes, products, and inspiration around select topics such as food, home, or DIY. The bot is available across all platforms on mobile and web with the latest version of the Pinterest app.
Facebook Requires Domain Verification Process for All Publishers and Page Admins: Facebook confirms that the ability for publishers to edit the way their content appears on Facebook will be removed in “early Q1 2018,” unless admins complete the new Domain verification process for all of their pages. Domain verification provides a way for page owners and admins to claim ownership of their domain in Business Manager and allows them to control editing privileges of their links and other content. The intent behind this process is to prevent misuse of a domain and “to keep bad actors from spreading misinformation” on Facebook.
Facebook Experiments With “Go Live With Inspiration” Feature for Live: Facebook appears to be testing a new feature that provides broadcasters with weekly topic suggestions for their live videos. Users are asked to create a short live video detailing their experiences with the suggested prompt. It seems that the intent behind these “topics of inspiration,” as shown in the example provided, is to encourage more users to broadcast more frequently using these questions or ideas as a starting point.
Facebook Tests Pre-Roll Ads in Watch Tab: AdAge reports that “Facebook plans to test video ads at the start of Watch shows… in the coming weeks.” While Facebook has long resisted the pre-roll ad format for videos, the company appears to be considering it as a viable option for the programming featured on the recently introduced Watch Tab. Facebook hasn’t officially confirmed nor shared any details about this experiment, but it’s expected to roll out “in the coming weeks.”
YouTube Announces Increased Content Moderation and Stricter Advertising Criteria in 2018: YouTube promised to take steps “to protect advertisers and creators from inappropriate content” and assures that marketers will have “peace of mind that their ads are running alongside content that reflects their brand’s values” in the coming year. YouTube will ramp up its ad review staff to 10,000 and plans to apply stricter criteria for which channels and videos are eligible for advertising, conduct more manual curation, and ensure that ads are only running where they should. YouTube also promises to develop additional tools to create more transparency around flagged content.
Twitter Enhances Support for AMP Article Analytics: Twitter is enhancing its implementation of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) to give publishers access to article analytics. With more robust article analytics and insights into their audience on Twitter, publishers can better understand the origin of the traffic and distinguish it from organic views.
Facebook Messenger Makes Sponsored Messages Available to More Businesses: Facebook announced that “in the coming months,” all advertisers will be able to send relevant promotions directly to customers who have previously communicated with the brand in Messenger. Facebook also shared that sponsored messages will be added to a brand’s Messages objective, making these types of ads simpler and easier to create.
Facebook Expands AR Studio to All Creators and Developers: After months of being in closed beta and only open to a limited number of creators, Facebook Camera Effects Platform and AR Studio tool will now be available to all users and developers worldwide. They will be rolling out over “the coming days.” Facebook also announced the release of world effects technology within AR Studio, which will enable creators to develop 3D digital objects for people to place onto surfaces and interact within their physical space similar to Snapchat’s world lenses.
Facebook Introduces New Resources and Tools for the 360 Community: Facebook launched a new centralized hub for “all things 360” called the 360 Community Page. It offers educational resources and tools for all 360 creators such as tutorials on getting started with 360 cameras, 360 video editing workflows, and more.
Facebook Introduces Sound Collection for Videos: Facebook released Facebook Sound Collection to help creators find high-quality sound effects and music to use in their videos. The easy-to-use discovery tool allows creators to discover tracks from a wide range of established composers and songwriters, follow the ones they like, and browse sounds by genre, mood, length, and vocals to find just the right tracks. Facebook guarantees that the sounds and music are fully owned by Facebook and are free and clear to use in any videos created and shared on Facebook and Instagram.
Instagram Rolls Out Ability to Follow Hashtags: To make posts and other users even more discoverable on the platform, Instagram introduced hashtags that users can follow and use to find “top posts from that hashtag and some of the latest stories in your stories bar.” Users can follow and unfollow a hashtag at any time, and only your followers will be able to see which hashtags you’re following.
Instagram Tests Recommended Posts From Users You’re Not Following: Instagram confirmed that it is testing a new feature called Recommended for You with a small group of users. The new Recommended Posts feature is housed in a new section within the Instagram feed and highlights images from users that either your friends have liked or have been chosen for you by an algorithm.
Instagram Enables Rights Manager: Instagram appears to have rolled out Rights Manager for Instagram. On Facebook, Rights Manager is one of several content management tools that help copyright owners protect and manage the rights to their videos and accompanying audio on the platform. You simply upload and maintain a reference library of videos you want to monitor and protect.
Facebook Introduces WhatsApp Call-to-Action Buttons for Facebook Ads: Facebook launched a new ad unit that allows businesses to “create a link” between Facebook and WhatsApp with a new call-to-action button that directs users to call or message the company through WhatsApp. Facebook confirms that it’s “gradually” rolling out this new feature globally, starting first with North and South America, Africa, Australia, and most of Asia.
WhatsApp Introduced Verified Status Types for Business Accounts: Businesses on WhatsApp will now be identified as one of three status types: unconfirmed, confirmed, or verified. According to WhatsApp’s FAQ page, each level of verification will have a unique type of checkmark that will allow users to “control their experience with businesses.” WhatsApp also notes that “business verification and confirmation don’t indicate an endorsement by WhatsApp.”
Instagram Pushes New Format for Sponsored Posts to More Influencers: Instagram expanded its branded content tool to more celebrities and influencers. The tool helps users better identify sponsored posts, creates a standardized format that clearly indicates that a post is a “paid partnership” from an advertiser or sponsor, and provides data about a post’s performance. It will also notify accounts when it detects that they’ve shared branded content without using this tool and give them the option to “tag a business” in their post
Facebook Introduces New Feature on Branded Pages Called “Our Story”: Facebook appears to have rolled out a new feature for brand pages called Our Story. Within this new section, admins and page owners can upload photos, format text, and include links to tell people more about their business or brand. The flexible formatting and layout are similar to that of a blog post.
Twitter Officially Rolls Out Multi-Tweet Threads: Twitter has been testing a new Tweetstorm feature that links the multiple tweets into a single thread with a handful of select Android users in its Experiments Program. This week, Twitter announced that its officially rolling out this new feature to all users on iOS, Android, and Twitter.com “in the coming weeks.” In addition, Twitter also made it easier to find and read tweets in a thread by adding a new Show This Thread button at the bottom of all tweets. By clicking on this button, users will be able to expand a conversation and see all of the linked tweets in the order they were posted. This new feature makes it easier to follow a conversation on Twitter.
Facebook Penalizes “Engagement Bait” Posts in the News Feed: Facebook will now demote posts from people and pages that use “engagement bait,” which is the attempt to manipulate Facebook’s news feed algorithm by boosting engagement to achieve greater reach. Facebook has reviewed and categorized “hundreds of thousands of posts” to inform a machine learning model to detect different types of engagement bait.
Facebook Rolls Out Custom Audiences for Users Lingering on Ads: There appears to be a new option to target a list of people who have “spent more time than usual viewing your display ads on Facebook and Instagram” within Ads Manager. Simply called Dwell, this new audience targeting option is an expansion of Dwell Time, which rolled out a few months ago and targeted people who have spent any time viewing your display ads on these platforms.
Facebook Allows Users to React to Individual Parts of Videos: Facebook appears to be testing the ability to react to different parts of a video similarly to the way that reactions bubble up when rewatching Facebook Live videos. Facebook hasn’t officially rolled out this feature nor shared any details about it.
Facebook Page Messages Found Inside Messenger: Facebook page messages can now be managed from inside the Messenger app, as well as the Page Manager app on mobile. The inbox can be accessed by clicking on your profile image. Messenger displays all of the pages you manage and you can click on each one to see its messages.
Pinterest Introduces New Visual Search and Shopping Tools: Pinterest rolled out a number of visual search and shopping tools to help Pinners find products and ideas they might want to try. These new discovery tools include Lens Your Look, “a new way to find outfit ideas inspired by your wardrobe and add a photo of an item from your closet to your text search,” a more seamless and immersive way to search images on mobile devices with Responsive Visual Search, and Pinterest Pincodes, which offers a shortcut to curated ideas on Pinterest that are “inspired by what you’re looking at in the real world.”
Twitter Shows Hashtag Insights in Real Time: Twitter hashtags may now show insights as you type. It appears that Twitter will suggest variations on hashtags and reveal which versions are trending and how many people have shared the hashtag within the past hour.
Twitter Rolls Out Account Activity API for Powering Customer Service and Chatbots: Twitter launched a new enterprise-level API that will offer developers access to real-time activities such as tweets, @mentions, replies, and much more and help them power customer service tools, chatbots, and other brand engagement vehicles for Twitter. While the existing Twitter Account API also grants access to real-time Twitter activities, this new version is expanded to handle data from a larger number of accounts, multiple URLs, and support.
Facebook Officially Rolls Out Snooze for News Feed Posts: Facebook will launch a new Snooze feature, which gives users the option to “temporarily unfollow a person, Page or group for 30 days” over the next week. This feature was initially being tested in the U.S. earlier this year with different lengths of time and it will now be widely available.
Snapchat Debuts Branded Filters with Animated Graphics: Snapchat is rolling out a new type of branded filter that features moving text and graphics that can be overlaid on photos and videos. These new “animated filters” were introduced to users earlier this month and are now available to all advertisers in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, and Australia for their sponsored snap ads. Adweek reports that “in the coming months,” this feature will also include targeting by age, gender, time of day, and interest.
Twitter Displays Video Counts on All Video Tweets: Twitter announced that video counts will now be publicly displayed on both organic videos and video ads in tweets, but not on pre-roll ads.
Facebook Introduces New Facial Recognition Tools: Facebook debuted new facial recognition tools “to help people better manage their identity on Facebook” and “help you detect when others might be attempting to use your image as their profile picture.” Using the same technology that automatically tags users in photos, Facebook will now notify users if their face is being used as someone else’s profile photo or found in any other images that have been uploaded to the site.
Instagram Tests Ability to Follow Hashtags: Instagram appears to be testing the ability to follow hashtags in addition to users on the platform. An image obtained by The Next Web shows that Instagram appears to be limiting the hashtag search to “top posts and recent stories.” This possible new functionality remains unconfirmed by Instagram and has only been spotted on select accounts, but is expected to roll out more broadly.
Facebook Announces Updates to Video Distribution and Monetization: Facebook news feed ranking will give priority to video posts that have a strong repeat viewership and Watch Show pages that are linked to existing pages. In a Newsroom post, Facebook specified that videos from pages that people “proactively seek out” with search or directly going to a page week after week should expect to see greater distribution on the news feed. Facebook is also rolling out more ways for larger publishers to monetize their video posts with new guidelines and limits around ad breaks rolling out in January and the adoption of pre-roll ads being tested in the Watch tab. To help creators and publishers, Facebook added a dedicated Ad Break Insights tab with two new metrics: Ad Break impressions at the video level and Ad Break CPMs at the video level.
Snapchat Copies Facebook’s ‘Year in Review’ Feature for a Change: Just as Facebook has a “Best of 2017” auto-created video, Snapchat now has a quick and easy way to create a compilation of your best 2017 memories. Just tap on the Memories icon at the bottom of the main screen when you open the app. At the top of that screen, you should see a card that says “A Look Back at 2017.” Tap that, and Snapchat will take you on a quick slideshow through your best Snaps of 2017, as determined by the all-powerful algorithm.
Google Analytics Releasing 4 New Functions to Offer More User-centric Insights: Google Analytics has announced four new features to better measure the customer journey –
User-focused reporting – The new version of standard reporting will now also include “Users,” instead of just “Sessions.” This reframes the data for ongoing engagement focus, especially for instances where users visit multiple times, as opposed to just a total number of sessions. Prior to this update, you had to build custom reports to get a good picture of user data.
User Explorer – The new User Explorer tool allows marketers to view the lifetime metrics and dimensions at the user level. Based on the life of their cookie, this will open up new details to marketers, such as the number of transactions made or total time spent on the website.
Audience reporting – Previously, Audiences could be created and published to other platforms such as AdWords, but there was no way of doing so in Analytics. There is now the option to publish Audiences to reports, allowing marketers to see a cross-channel view of them. They can be added as a secondary dimension in reports and as a dimension in segments, custom reports and custom funnels.
Conversion Probability – Based on the same machine learning that powers Smart Lists and Smart Goals, this calculation applies data from past transactions in order to give the probability that a user will convert in the future. Average Conversion Probability will be calculated related to a dimension in the date range you specify. The minimum data threshold for calculating conversion probability is initially 1,000 a month, and then 30 days of data to model accurately. The score runs from 1 (least probable) to 100 (most probable).