July 2018 Digital Marketing News Recap
Here are some major digital marketing updates from the Month of July 2018.
Google Updates Their hreflang Official Documentation: Google has updated their official documentation for hreflang help. Prior, it only had content around using language annotations, supported language values and a couple of common mistakes. The new version goes through the three methods for indicating your alternate pages, guidelines, supported language/region codes, use the x-default tag for unmatched languages, common mistakes and debugging techniques.
Chrome DevTools Sensors To Check Regional Google Search Results: Aleyda Solis posted on Twitter a tip that SEOs and search marketers will love, to test regional based search results using Chrome developer tools “sensors” feature. In short, you can easily emulate being in any region and location by turning on the Sensors tool and telling it the latitude and longitude you want to test. Here are the help documents on using this tool.
Google Speed Update Rolled Out: Google began rolling out the Google Speed Update that they first announced in January 2018. These are the important points regarding Google Speed update:
- Only affects the slowest mobile sites
- Incremental improve to your site can make big impacts in speed
- Fast sites that go faster won’t see a ranking improvement
Google Automatically Recognizes Broad Site Changes: Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter that Google already can and does recognize broad site changes and thus there is no need for a button in Google Search Console to communicate these changes. This is in response to a webmaster asking for a way to “make URL transitions faster. When Google does see massive URL changes on a site, it isn’t uncommon to see Google increase crawl rates on the site to pick up on these changes faster and index those new signals sooner.
Trump Gets Googlebombed In Google Images As Idiot: You cannot be a president in the Google era without getting multiple Googlebombs throughout your service. This time, it was Trump who got Googlebombed again, for the search term [idiot] in Google Image search. It was noticed that 5 or so days later, that Googlebomb dampened. As of now, most of the photos are not images of Donald Trump, at least it isn’t as bad as it was previously.
Google To Drop Public Submit To Index Tool: Google announced on Twitter that they are or have dropped “the public submission feature” to submit URLs to Google. Google said instead, you can continue to use the Google Search Console’s Fetch & Submit for individual pages or use XML Sitemaps to feed pages to Google that way.
Google Slows Crawling with 5xx Server Errors: John Mueller from Google has some interesting comments on twitter regarding 5xx type of server errors and how it impacts Googlebot. What he meant was , “Googlebot will slow crawling once it begins to see 5xx server errors being returned.” Regardless, if Search Console shows server errors, you should investigate them to make sure it was only a temporary problem and not a bigger issue. If Search COnsole continues to show errors, you should do some fetch and renders, as that will show exactly what Googlebot is seeing, and can help you investigate the errors if there doesn’t seem to be a problem when you visit the site.
Google Speakable Annotations with Structured Data for Publishers: Google announced new structured data annotations named Speakable. These annotations let you mark up sections of your news content that “are best suited for audio playback using text-to-speech (TTS).” Google wants to be able to allow the Google Assistant and Google Home devices to speak the news to those who ask for it. So Google enabled publishers to “mark up sections of a news article that are most relevant to be read aloud by the Google Assistant.” The technical details can be found on Schema.org and Google Developer docs.
Google Uses hreflang for Countries Not for Regions: Gary Illyes from Google posted on Twitter that they spent over 30 minutes reviewing hreflang codes with MENA, EU, ASIA, etc. region codes and confirmed “they are not working” as expected. In short, Google uses hreflang for countries not for regions. Gary said “we don’t extract a language even from something like fr-eu, let alone use it in ranking.” “our current infrastructure is not capable of understanding regions, just countries and in some cases metros,” he added.
Google Search Console Search Analytics API Now Gives You 25,000 Rows Per Request: Google announced that the Search Console Search Analytics API now lets developers request 25,000 rows of data per request. This figure is up from 5,000 rows of data per request previously. Google also added 16 months of data to the Search Analytics API, so giving developers a way to get more data out of the API is a good thing. Google said it added this new guide to help developers get data out of Google Search Console. In addition, Google said that in about a month, it will be including filtered queries as “(other)” in the API. “This makes pagination easier, the numbers clearer, but might be confusing when comparing queries before/after,” Google added.
Google Testing New Visual Product Recommendations in Image Search: Google is testing a new visual product search in image search results, adding a new similar items carousel based on the products that were seen in the images for the image search. In this test, instead of automatically loading more images, as usually happens when you scroll down, it instead adds a button to view more images, but then adds a product carousel of similar products that were seen in the images from the image search. Heather Physioc spotted the test.
Google Search Adds Dataset Schema Support to Search Results: Google has announced support for datasets markup schema in the Google search results. This makes it possible for searchers to better visualize data represented on a web page directly in Google’s search results. Google explained that “news organizations that publish data in the form of tables can add additional structured data to make the dataset parts of the page easier to identify for use in relevant Search features.” Google added, “News organizations add the structured data to their existing HTML of a page, which means that news organizations can still control how their tables are presented to readers.”
Google Expanding Store Visitation and Local Conversion Reporting: Google has begun an expanded rollout of store visits reporting for Google Ads customers of all sizes that provides performance breakouts by individual store locations. Marketers will be able to see in-person visits to their physical stores and other types of “offline” conversions associated with each business location. In order to access the data (in the new interface only), advertisers select the desired campaigns and then Locations in the left navigation, then click the “Geographic report drop-down” and “per-store report.” For more details, see the Help Center page.
Google Adds People Also Search For Box For Search Ads: The people also ask box which launched in Google organic desktop results in February 2018 has also launched last month for the Google search ads on desktop. This was only recently spotted by John Leo Weber on Twitter and Ginny Marvin got confirmation from Google. To trigger it, you need to click on an ad in the search results and then click the back button. Then Google will load this box below the ad snippet.
Google Marketing Live 2018 Announcements: During the livestreamed keynote at Google Marketing Live in San Jose, California, Google executives announced several initiatives, all of which are powered by machine learning and take automation to another level.
- Responsive Search Ads – Google says this new ad type, which automates ad testing and gives more real estate to advertisers willing to turn testing over to Google’s algorithm, will roll out to all advertisers over the next few months. Advertisers can enter as many as 15 headlines and four descriptions, which can be up to 90 characters instead of 80. In the search results, Responsive search ads can show as many as three headlines, instead of two, and up to two 90-character descriptions instead of one 80-character description. Google automatically serves the combination deemed to most closely match the user’s search query.
- Local campaigns – A new campaign type called Local campaigns is aimed at driving store visits. Advertisers set a budget, and the ads are generated automatically based on ad creative elements from the advertiser and location extensions. Google automatically optimizes ad delivery across Search, YouTube, Maps and websites and apps in its ad networks. Local campaigns report on store visits using anonymized and aggregated data from signed-in Google users who have opted to turn location history on. Local campaigns will be available globally over the next few months.
- Smart Shopping campaign goals & Shopify – These campaigns automatically optimize ad delivery across Google’s properties and ad networks to achieve the advertiser’s defined conversion goal value, such as revenue or return on ad spend (ROAS). Google announced advertisers will also be able to select store visits or new customers as goals. Google is also teaming up with third-party e-commerce platforms. To start, Shopify users will be able to set up Smart Shopping campaigns from within Shopify.
- YouTube Brand Lift – Advertisers will be able to set a new Smart Bidding strategy, Maximize Lift, for YouTube campaigns to optimize delivery to users who are most likely to consider a brand after seeing a video ad. Maximize Lift will be available later this year.
- Hotel Ads – Hotel ads are getting integrated into the Google Ads platform so advertisers will be able to access these campaigns from the same place as everything else.
Google Ads Updates Landing Page Parameters Options: Google announced on Twitter that they have added “two changes to make it easier to specify landing page parameters.” Specifically (1) Final URL Suffix is now available in Google Ads and (2) the number of custom parameters available has also increased from 3 to 8. These changes are made in accordance to the upcoming parallel tracking deadline of October 30. Google also posted this alert for those who are using Adwords Editor, “Please be sure you are using AdWords Editor 12.4 or higher. Using an older version may result in the deletion of some of your previous URL and parallel tracking changes. Check which AdWords Editor version you’re using.”
Google AdWords Officially Redirects To Google Ads: A month ago, Google told us they are rebranding AdWords to Google Ads after 17+ years of using the brand name AdWords for their search ad product. That has happened as of this morning. When you go to adwords.google.com you are now redirected to ads.google.com and the AdWords logo and branding is gone. The Google AdWords Twitter account at @AdWords is dead, it has been moved to @GoogleAds.
Bing Ads Adds Security Badge Annotations to Search Results: Bing Ads is now live with a new Security Badge Annotations that shows a site is secured when it shows up in the search results. The Bing annotations page states it is US only, but it is showing up for those outside of the US as well. Thank you to Frank Sandtmann for noticing this test.
Facebook Announced Several Changes to Its Platform for Developers: Facebook announced a host of changes to APIs on its platform with the aim of protecting user data and phasing out poorly used APIs and tools. Vice president of product partnerships Ime Archibong detailed all of the changes in a Newsroom post. Developers can now search Facebook pages via the Pages API again, but they will need feature permissions for Page Public Content Access, which can only be obtained via the social network’s app review process. Those that receive approval will be able to find similar pages, @ mention other pages in comments and posts and tag pages in ads for co-branding purposes. Archibong said Facebook is introducing new app review permissions for its Marketing API, Lead Ads Retrieval and live video APIs.
Instagram Rolls Out ‘All Caught Up’ Tool, Tests Option to Mute App Notifications: Instagram announced that its rolling out its new ‘All Caught Up‘ notifications to all users, which will inform you of when you’ve seen all the new content posted by profiles you follow. In addition to this, Facebook’s also reportedly testing a new ‘Do Not Disturb’ option for both Facebook and Instagram which would mute notifications from each app for a chosen period of time. The tool (spotted by Matt Navarra) would enable users to shut off notifications for a period, or even entirely, limiting distractions.
WhatsApp Group Admins Can Now Designate Themselves as Exclusive Message Senders: WhatsApp announced a new setting for groups on its messaging platform enabling only administrators to send messages to groups. The new setting is rolling out globally to users with the latest versions of the application. Group admins can enable this setting by opening Group Info, tapping Group Settings > Send Messages and selecting Only Admins.
Facebook Adds Stories Archive, Enabling Re-Use of Stories Posts: Facebook is rolling out an archive option for Facebook Stories, the same as what Instagram provided for Instagram Stories late last year. Facebook actually announced the coming archive back in May, but it’s now being rolled out to more users, and could provide functional purpose, especially for brands utilizing Facebook Stories. Through the archive, you can more easily re-use your best-performing Stories posts – or just keep them for reference so you can better track what works and what doesn’t.
Snap Launches ‘Lens Explorer’ to Showcase Community Created AR Tools: Lens Explorer, which started rolling out to iOS users, will make community Lenses discoverable alongside Snapchat’s main Lens Carousel for the first time, and users can also browse for Lenses within search on Snapchat. Users with access to Lens Explorer can tap on the new smiley face icon that appears when Lens Carousel is active, and then tap a Lens tile to unlock a Lens and be taken directly to the Snap Camera, or they can browse through featured Our Stories and unlock Lenses by swiping up on Snaps in those Stories.
WhatsApp Is Now Labeling Messages That Are Forwarded: WhatsApp users will now have a way to tell if messages they receive have been forwarded to them. Whatsapp announced through a blog post that, it will label messages that have been forwarded from other people.
Instagram’s Making Shopping Tags in Stories Available to More Businesses: At a Facebook Marketing event in NYC, Facebook confirmed that Instagram will soon be making its Shopping Tags for Stories available to all brands which have enabled shopping on Instagram and to do this, businesses first need to be approved for shopping on the platform. If you’re approved, you’ll get a notification on your account that you’re able to tag products in your posts. The option is available in most, but not all, regions (full details available here). TechCrunch also reports that Instagram is making its Collections ad format, which they previewed earlier this year, available to all advertisers.
Instagram Officially Launches Question Stickers in Stories: Instagram has now officially confirmed that it’s rolling out its new ‘question sticker’ for Instagram Stories to all users. Along with regular and ‘emoji slider’ polls, the tool could give brands, in particular, another way to gather feedback from their audience, with questions relating to new products, ideas, opinion, etc.
Instagram Tests In-App Verification Form on iOS: Instagram is testing an in-app form that offers public figures, celebrities, and brands the opportunity to gain the coveted blue checkmark on their profiles. The form is currently available to iOS users in a test group, with Android to follow “in the coming weeks.” Users with access to the form must provide their account usernames, full names, and photo identification to apply.
Facebook’s Adding New AR Ads Which Will Enable Users to Virtually Try On Products: Facebook’s looking to take its augmented reality tools to the next stage with a new ad type that will enable users to virtually try on different products, like make-up and sunglasses, direct from their News Feeds. The new ads will appear in News Feeds with a ‘Tap to try it on’ option on the main image. Once tapped, users will be able to place a digital version of the product onto their image via the Facebook camera so they can see how they look. If you like it, you can then tap through on the ad to make a purchase. TechCrunch has also reported that Facebook’s rolling out a new Video Creation Kit, which will enable brands to create video assets from still images.
Twitter is Testing New Promoted Trend Ads, Featured in the Main Explore Listing: Twitter’s testing out a prominent new ad type in its recently redesigned Explore tab, which will enable businesses to buy large banner features that dominate the top of the screen. The new option – called ‘Promoted Trend Spotlight Ads’ – will allow for either still images or GIFs, and will appear the first two times a user visits the Explore tab each day, before it reverts back to the regular Explore layout. At present, the new option is only in test mode, with no full rollout planned at this stage.
YouTube Is Rolling Out a New Copyright Match Tool to Catch Re-Uploads of Creators’ Content: YouTube is introducing a new Copyright Match tool to help creators sniff out re-uploads of their content on other channels, after testing it for nearly one year. Product manager Fabio Magagna detailed the new tool in a blog post, saying that it will begin rolling out to creators with more than 100,000 subscribers. The potential matches will appear under a matches tab in the tool, and creators can choose to take no action, contact the creators who uploaded the duplicate videos or use YouTube’s copyright webform to request that the video site remove the content.
Snapchat Reportedly Developing Camera Search With Link to Amazon: TechCrunch reports that Snapchat appears to be developing a new camera search feature that users can “press and hold to identify an object, song, barcode, and more… [and] once an object or barcode has been scanned you can ‘See all results at Amazon.’” Code found within the Snapchat app for Android lists the ability to surface “sellers” and “reviews,” “Copy URL” of a product, and “Share” or “Send Product” to friends. It’s very likely these links will be sent via Snap messages or Snapchat stories.
Twitter Account Removals See Users Lose up to 70% of Their Following: Twitter announced a new push to remove inactive accounts from follower lists, which, Twitter noted, would likely see all accounts lose around four followers each, on average. But the larger your account, the bigger your exposure – Twitter also said that it would be removing ‘tens of millions’ of profiles from follower counts, so potentially, it could have a major impact on the numbers. Social media expert Matt Navarra noted that, some users have lost up to 70% of their total following due to this update.
Facebook Added Several Creative Tools to Its Ads Manager App: Facebook announced several tools to enhance image editing in Facebook ads directly within the Ads Manager mobile app –
- The text overlay feature enables Ads Manager users to add text to their ads and customize that text with different fonts, as well as control over positioning and opacity.
- The text policy checker will alert brands as to whether the amount of text in their ads conforms to Facebook’s guidelines.
- The image cropper feature enables brands to crop images to properly fit their ads and page posts.
- A set of fully customizable templates comprised of stickers, text and shapes speeds the creation of ads via the Ads Manager app.
- Brands can now add shapes, stickers and logos to customize their ads and highlight information about their businesses.
- New color filters enable brands to adjust the look of their ads.
Instagram Public Accounts May Soon Be Able to Remove Followers: Instagram confirmed that it is testing a way for public accounts to remove followers. Matt Navarra shared a screenshot from Twitter user @blueasyraff in a tweet. And Chris Welch of The Verge reported that he and several of his colleagues with Android devices had access to the Remove Follower feature, saying that other users who are part of the test group can go to their profile pages and tap on Followers, where they will see an icon with three vertical dots to the far right of other users’ names.
Facebook Tests Branded Content Labels on Posts: Facebook appears to be testing a new About This Partnership tag for sponsored posts that details the relationship among brands and the publishers who post ads for them.
Pinterest Introduces One-Click Saving for the Web: Pinterest rolled out an update that makes it possible to save pins from the desktop web with just one click instead of having to click the Save button and pick a board. Pinterest notes that one-click saving will also work on pins you see in search results, your home feed, or Following tab.
YouTube Features Searchable Hashtags Above Video Titles: YouTube has started displaying the first three hashtags within a video’s description above the title and at the bottom of the video. Android Police reports that the hashtags are clickable and will bring up a results page with other videos tagged with the same hashtag.
Reddit is Adding Chat Rooms and News Tab to Boost On-Platform Engagement: Reddit’s taking its next steps towards becoming a more social platform with the addition of dedicated chat rooms on subreddits that will enable users to engage in real-time, back and forth discussions with other members. Reddit is also testing a new ‘News’ tab within its beta app, in order to help users find more relevant content.
LinkedIn Adds Video Captions and New Content Sharing Tools: LinkedIn has added some new options to improve content creation and sharing on the platform. First off, LinkedIn has added a new option to upload captions for your videos on the platform. LinkedIn’s also adding the ability to share LinkedIn posts by highlighting a relevant pull quote for your own update. LinkedIn is also adding an auto-save option for your Publisher posts in progress. And lastly, LinkedIn’s also put a new quick link in their main menu options to access all of the content you’ve shared on the platform – whether via posts, articles or videos.
Twitter Is Tightening Up Developers’ Access to Its APIs: Twitter is taking steps to clean up its image and avoid its own version of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, announcing that it removed more than 143,000 applications that violated its policies between April and June, and that it implemented a new process for developers requesting access to Twitter APIs. The application process requires developers to provide “detailed information” about how they use or intend to use Twitter’s APIs, and applications with incomplete or insufficient information face delays, while those that do not comply with the company’s policies will be rejected. Twitter also announced that single developer accounts are now limited to registering 10 apps, and developers that need to exceed that cap can request permission via the API policy support form. Starting Sept. 10, the following rate limits are being placed on all apps that do not go through a new request process:
- 300 tweets and retweets combined per three hours.
- 1,000 likes per 24 hours.
- 1,000 follows per 24 hours.
- 15,000 direct messages per 24 hours.
Facebook’s Watch Party Feature Is Now Available to All Groups Worldwide: Facebook announced that Watch Party is available to all groups worldwide. Watch Party enables members of a group to view videos together—Live or recorded—comment on them and react to them. Two new features are also being introduced – 1) Co-hosting allows the host of a Watch Party to add co-hosts, who, in turn, can add videos to the list and keep the Watch Party going. 2) And Crowdsourcing enables anyone in a Watch Party to suggest videos for the host to add.
LinkedIn Overhauled the Reporting Experience in Its Campaign Manager: LinkedIn announced several changes to the reporting experience in its “Campaign Manager” aimed at giving advertisers and marketers quicker and more personalized access to data on the performance of their ads and campaigns. Taylor Greason, detailed the changes in a blog post. Data in LinkedIn’s Campaign Manager now loads much faster, and the redesign enables users to navigate from accounts to campaigns to ads in two clicks. Search capabilities have also been refreshed, enabling users to query specific campaigns by criteria including campaign name, campaign ID and ad format. Users can now customize their reporting to focus on the metrics that matter the most to them, such as performance, conversions or video.
LinkedIn Added a Voice Messaging Feature: LinkedIn users who prefer saying it over typing it can now do so with voice messaging on the professional network.The feature is currently rolling out on LinkedIn’s iOS and Android applications, with full availability expected in the next few weeks, and voice messages can be received on mobile and web. Zack Hendlin revealed in a blog post that voice messages of up to one minute can now be recorded and sent via LinkedIn messaging.
Snapchat Launches New Program to Pair Brands with Platform Influencers: Snap Inc. has launched a new program called ‘Snapchat Storytellers’ which will connect brands to Snapchat influencers for content collaborations. As per TechCrunch, the pilot program will introduce brands to a selection of the app’s most popular content makers, including Mplatco, Cyrene Q and Shonduras. For Brands, tapping experts already well versed in the various Snap processes, can have a huge impact.
Snapchat Opens Private Ads Marketplace on Select Discover Channels: Snapchat will offer “100 cherry-picked brands across the UK, Australia, the USA, and Canada” unskippable ad placements against premium publishers’ TV-style show-like content found in the Discover section of the app. The Drum reports that these publishing partners include Hearst, Vice, BuzzFeed, NBC Universal, ESPN, and others and the ads will be available through Snapchat’s self-serve ad platform in August.
Google Adds Cross Device Measurement Tools to Google Analytics: Google Analytics, will now be able to better track how users come to your website via “Cross Device” reporting. As explained by Google: “Cross Device reporting in Analytics takes into account people who visit your website multiple times from different devices. Now, instead of seeing metrics in Analytics that show two separate sessions (e.g., one on desktop and the other on mobile), you’ll be able to see when users visited your website from two different devices. By understanding these device interactions as part of a broader customer experience, you can make more informed product and marketing decisions.”
Google Announces ‘Measurement Partners’ to Provide More Marketing Data Solutions: Google is launching a new ‘Measurement Partners’ program to give advertisers access to more trusted data options for tracking their ad performance. Google’s new program will see the search giant partner with more than 20 verified partner brands, including comScore, Nielsen and Oracle Data Cloud. The first round of announced Google Measurement Partners have met Google’s ‘rigorous standards for accuracy’, and will be able to provide insights on viewability, reach, brand safety and sales lift, among other elements.
Google Adds New Way to Track Google Images Traffic in Analytics: Google has announced a new update for referral traffic from Google Images, which will help webmasters better track their visitor sources. The new referrer URL will have the same country level domain as the URL used for searching on Google Images. Most visitors, regardless of region, will come from images.google.com, but some will still come via a country-specific service, such as google.co.uk for the UK. In those cases, the referrer will uses that country’s TLD – so you’d see ‘images.google.co.uk’ as the referrer, as opposed to the generic site. If you use Google Analytics to track site data, the new referral URL will be automatically ingested and traffic will be attributed to Google Images appropriately.