Good morning, it’s nice to be back at it.

I was fortunate to be able to take some time away from digital media over the past week to spend time with my kids and to try to immerse myself in their online learning without the distraction of work (my fractions are rusty). Yes, it feels strange to take a so-called vacation under these circumstances, but if you can swing it — even just a morning or afternoon — do it. Your brain will thank you. (And I am so thankful to my colleagues for all they did while I was off.)

Now, on to the news.

We’ve all been living it, but Google’s first quarter earnings report Tuesday painted a picture of the Covid effect on digital advertising. After strong growth during January and February, “in March we experienced a significant slowdown in ad revenues,” said Google CFO Ruth Porat, confirming what we already knew. 

The question had been, how bad was it for the ads giant? Overall, Google ad revenues still increased by 10% year-over-year in Q1. For context, ad revenue was up 15% year-over-year in the first quarter of 2019. So we can interpret that as January and February are camouflaging just how bad March was, or the slump wasn’t that bad. Keep in mind, the slump effect really only hit the final two to three weeks of the quarter. 

However, yesterday, Facebook added some color of its own, signalling signs of improvement in April: “After the initial steep decrease in advertising revenue in March, we have seen signs of stability reflected in the first three weeks of April, where advertising revenue has been approximately flat compared to the same period a year ago.”

One item worth noting from Google’s earnings call: direct response advertising persisted on YouTube through March, while brand advertisers pulled back heavily starting mid-March, the company said. I’ve spoken with several marketers who’ve said they kept the pedal down on their YouTube performance campaigns for the cheap CPMs and strong performance. 

On the Facebook front, the company is expanding its in-stream ad test to more Live content.It’s got several brand safety controls baked in (lessons learned), and the test consists of both pre-roll and a kind of picture-in-picture mid-roll ad format. 

Google’s Martin Splitt offered a handy refresher on the right way to apply JavaScript to links for SEO — and good UX — including how to think about fragment identifiers in your URLs.

Keep reading for an update on Microsoft Advertising’s spiffier UI from Duane Brown and much more.

George Nguyen,
Associate Editor

Search Shorts

Microsoft Advertising UI

“Every ads manager from Facebook to Google has been working hard to make their UIs easier to use in the last few years. Some have fared better at it than others and Microsoft Ads Manager is nailing all the small details that take you from good to pretty bloody awesome for an update,” explains Duane Brown of Take Some Risk Inc.

“Love it or hate it; the double sidebar makes context switching a lot easier as you move between ad accounts or from other search engines. Plus when you move from an open to a collapsed view in the sidebar. All the little icons just make sense across Search, Shopping and Dynamic Ads. I really love the little shopping bag icon for Microsoft Shopping Ads.”

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Search Shorts

Parallel tracking delay, site speed a teeny-tiny ranking factor

Don’t sweat video campaign parallel tracking. Last month, Google extended the mandatory switch to parallel tracking for video ad campaigns to June 15. Now, given the ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19, Google is pushing out the deadline indefinitely. If you’ve already made the transition, great! If not, you can continue to prioritize more pressing matters. 

Site speed in Google. Gary Illyes from Google said (again) that site speed “ranking wise it’s a teeny tiny factor, very similar to https ranking boost.”

Duplicate reconsideration requests. Bombardment doesn’t help. “If the last reconsideration request is still pending, submitting another one won’t make it be processed faster — the new ones will be discarded as duplicates instead,” said Google’s John Mueller of Google.

Rich results clutter. Google engineers dislike rich results clutter, so as more search results show them, the engineers may decide to show fewer, said Mueller.


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What we're reading

We've curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader

Accounting For Future Performance In Paid Media – PPC Hero

COVID-19 insights & trends – 28 April edition – Microsoft Advertising

Google CEO says return to office won’t happen until at least June 1 – CNBC

Google May Delay Mobile-First Indexing Switch Over Deadline – Search Engine Roundtable

Google Meet Now Available for Free – Google Blog

Google opens Assistant to developers of Wi-Fi routers – 9to5Google

Google: GoogleBot Would Rarely Ever Submit A Form – Search Engine Roundtable

How to Remove URLs From Google Search (5 Methods) – Ahrefs

Major Display & Video 360 API v1 Feature Update – Google Ads Developer Blog

SEO Pioneer Rand Fishkin’s New Mission? Helping Brands Quit Google. – Built In Seattle