George Nguyen – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Wed, 21 Apr 2021 17:02:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.6.3 The Google product reviews update was big, just not big for everyone; Wednesday’s daily brief /the-google-product-reviews-update-was-big-just-not-big-for-everyone-wednesdays-daily-brief-347965 Wed, 21 Apr 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=347965 And, no, tCPA and tROAS aren’t going away.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, “is this new?”

That’s the question my colleague Barry Schwartz is known for answering on Twitter, and it’s important to be aware of SERP feature updates, but the freshness of a search engine experiment is secondary to how it may affect our business or our clients’ businesses. 

Naturally, figuring out how a change in the SERP’s layout or a new type of rich result, for example, might affect our visibility is much more difficult to unpack, but that’s why we get paid to do what we do. Search engines have gotten better at communicating substantive changes, so don’t worry if you don’t have time to research every new experiment Google, Bing or another search engine conducts — just focus on researching changes that impact the sector you’re in. The benefit of this approach is that you can wait on industry coverage (ideally from your team over here at Search Engine Land) to provide a digest of the most important points.

Of course, there’s something of a thrill to be had in being the first to see a new feature or being able to trigger it yourself, and I get that, too — after all, somebody’s gotta be first to start the conversation. Perhaps you’ll find something to talk about below, so keep on scrolling for the news.

George Nguyen,
Editor

Was the Google product reviews update big?

rankranger-product-reviews-update-comparison

We asked RankRanger, Searchmetrics, Semrush, SEOClarity and SISTRIX to sum up the Google product reviews update that launched over a week ago. It seems like it was big — but not as big as a typical Google core update.

Of course, those impacted may have seen huge gains or losses and, for any individual site, those changes can be a big deal. But overall, this was a smaller one, likely because of the niche focus of this update (i.e., targeting only product review content). We also shared some of the community chatter regarding this product review ranking changes and more.

Check out the data.

Target CPA and Target ROAS will be bundled with other Google Smart Bidding strategies

Google_smart_bidding_table_tcpa_troas_maximize_conversion

The Target CPA (tCPA) and Target ROAS (tROAS) Smart Bidding strategies will soon be appearing as optional fields under the Maximize Conversions and Maximize Conversion Value bid strategies, respectively, Google announced Tuesday. This was “soft announced” via the Google Ads Developer Blog back in February, but many PPC professionals interpreted it as Google deprecating the tCPA and tROAS bid strategies.

That’s not the case: tCPA and tROAS will remain available, but beginning later this year, advertisers will only be able to see those settings as optional fields bundled with the above-mentioned Maximize Conversions and Maximize Conversion Value strategies. When this update occurs, Google will notify advertisers in advance before automatically switching their current tCPA and tROAS strategies to the new fields. While this change is really a surface-level tweak to Google Ads’ interface, being unaware of it may lead advertisers to think that the tCPA and tROAS strategies are no longer available or function differently than they’re used to.

Read more here.

Business execs craving social data, The Harris Poll finds

A new survey conducted by The Harris Poll, and commissioned by social media listening platform Sprout Social, gives an idea of the extent to which social media is cementing its place at the center of marketing strategies and consumer engagement. Marketers realize the stakes by how high they rank social media and data within their priorities, and the data on consumer behavior and attitude shows why. Here are some of the most significant data points from the survey:

  • 85% of executives report that social data will be a primary source of business intelligence for their company moving forward;
  • 91% of executives anticipate their company’s social media marketing budget will increase over the next three years, and the majority expect it will increase by more than 50%;
  • 78% of consumers are more willing to buy from a brand and 77% will choose a brand over a competitor after a positive experience with a brand on social media;
  • Social media is the #1 preferred way for consumers to learn about brands — even ahead of TV, email and print advertising;
  • The majority of Americans (54%) increased their use of social media over the past year, with Gen Z (65%) and Millennials (63%) driving the greatest surge in usage and
  • 62% of consumers believe businesses that don’t have a strong social presence will not succeed in the long run, yet fewer than half of executives describe their current social media strategy as “very effective.”

Why we care. This isn’t just about competitive posturing and building awareness on social media platforms (or putting out public relations-related fires). Instead, to leverage the increase in consumers’ time and attention on social, brands will have to use social listening and other tools to build predictive models, especially for new customers not included in the brand’s first-party data stores. The most important stat on consumer behavior from this survey is that consumers find social media presence as the number one source of information about a brand, and a top indicator of brand success. How does this factor affect a brand’s search strategy?

Health insurance advertisers in the U.S. now required to pass Google Ads certification

Health insurance providers hoping to advertise on Google Ads will have until June 2, 2021 to complete the platform’s certification and provide proof that they are permitted under state law to sell health insurance. The certification is another effort by Google Ads to ensure trustworthiness of advertisers in the healthcare and government services space.

“When people come to Google with questions about healthcare coverage and insurance plans, we are committed to creating a high-quality ad experience – one where they’re connected to trustworthy providers, and the promotion is clear from the ad itself. This new certification creates an additional layer of protection on top of our longstanding misrepresentation policies, which prohibit advertisements with misleading claims about insurance plans or the advertiser’s affiliation with the government,” said Terri Ozoroski-Ghen, director, monetized policy, trust & safety at Google.

Why we care. If you work in the healthcare advertising space, this is something to ensure your clients and business are in compliance with. Advertisers can begin to apply for certification on May 3, 2021. And if the certification is not complete by June 2, 2021, the search marketers’ health insurance advertisements will no longer be served.

Read more here.

Bite-sized distractions that *hopefully* won’t send you down a rabbit hole

Regex — I say it “rej-ex”. Don’t @ me. Apparently, I’m wrong, at least according to Google’s pronunciation. Marie Haynes has a poll, it’s going to end around about 2pm ET today so weigh in before then to see if you’re part of the majority or just go check out the results. I’m not changing the way I say it though, feel free to giggle at me the next time I present.

A helicopter on Mars. People really like Google’s Easter eggs, and there’s a new one to celebrate the first successful flight on the red planet.

The Marketoonist does it again. This one hits close to home. I’m thinking about buying a print and having it framed but I’m not sure I want to make this period of transition in the PPC industry a part of my home decor.

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Target CPA and Target ROAS will be bundled with other Google Smart Bidding strategies /target-cpa-and-target-roas-will-be-bundled-with-other-google-smart-bidding-strategies-347924 Tue, 20 Apr 2021 15:00:00 +0000 /?p=347924 Advertisers are still able to use tCPA and tROAS, but later this year, these options will only appear with Maximize Conversions and Maximize Conversion Value, respectively.

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The Target CPA (tCPA) and Target ROAS (tROAS) Smart Bidding strategies will be bundled with the Maximize Conversions and Maximize Conversion Value bid strategies, respectively, Google announced Tuesday. Moving forward, Maximize Conversions will have an optional tCPA field, and Maximize Conversion Value will have an optional tROAS field.

tCPA and tROAS will remain available. New tCPA and tROAS bid strategies can still be created, but beginning later this year, advertisers will only see the updated options: Maximize Conversions with an optional tCPA and Maximize Conversion Value with an optional tROAS. Google will notify advertisers in advance before automatically switching their current tCPA and tROAS strategies to the new fields.

In February, Google published a soft announcement containing this same information on its Ads Developer Blog, but many PPC professionals misinterpreted this as Google sunsetting tCPA and tROAS. Under the new configuration, you can still optimize your bids like you would with tCPA and tROAS by filling in the optional fields under Maximize Conversions or Maximize Conversion Value.

What you should use. Aside from the settings you’ll be using once this update rolls out, not much is actually changing in terms of how bid management works. The table below shows the new settings that will be equivalent to the ones you might already be using now.

Smart_bidding_strategy_changes_April_2021
Image source: Optmyzr.

Why we care. While this change is really a surface-level tweak to Google Ads’ interface, being unaware of it may lead advertisers to think that the tCPA and tROAS strategies are no longer available or function differently than they’re used to. Additionally, it’s important for advertisers to understand how each Smart Bidding strategy works so that they can select the one that best aligns with their goals.

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WordPress proposes blocking FLoC by default /wordpress-proposes-blocking-floc-by-default-347887 Mon, 19 Apr 2021 18:12:21 +0000 /?p=347887 It’s estimated that 40% of all sites use WordPress. If the proposal is implemented, that could be a devastating blow to Google’s ad-targeting capabilities.

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A proposal that would block Google’s replacement for third-party cookies, Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), by default across WordPress sites was put forth on Sunday. It is estimated that over 40% of all sites use WordPress (according to W³Techs), meaning that if this proposal gets implemented, a substantial share of browsing behavior may be hidden from Google’s ad-targeting technology.

UPDATE: Matt Mullenweg, CEO at WordPress’ parent company Automattic, has emphasized that a decision has yet to be made. “It is more correct to say there is a proposal from a WP contributor to block FLoC by default,” he tweeted.

How it will work. Under the proposal, FLoC would be disabled via the addition of a few lines of code that opt out WordPress sites from transmitting the user’s interest cohort to Google.

This functionality is not unique to WordPress; every programming language that powers websites typically carries a similar functionality. This would be relatively easy to implement if a website owner or developer wanted to do so, but if WordPress disables FLoC by default, that could be a large-scale blow to Google’s advertising capabilities.

Why the block was proposed. The WordPress proposal cites the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s article “Google’s FLoC is a terrible idea” and states that “placing people in groups based on their browsing habits is likely to facilitate employment, housing and other types of discrimination, as well as predatory targeting of unsophisticated consumers.”

In addition, the proposal also mentioned privacy concerns associated with tracking users and sharing their data “seemingly without informed consent.” For these reasons, WordPress is treating FLoC like a security concern, meaning that it can patch the next minor release (as opposed to holding off for the next major update, scheduled to become available in July) to block FLoC and back-port the patch to previous versions of WordPress as well. 

Many WordPress sites postpone updating when a new, major release goes out because the update may cause compatibility issues with other parts of their site, so blocking FLoC in the next minor release as well as in previous versions of WordPress may mean that the FLoC-disabling code appears on more sites sooner.

WordPress joins a growing group of FLoC opponents. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s arguments against FLoC have been echoed by players across different sectors of the internet: Chromium-based browsers Vivaldi and Brave are disabling FLoC and DuckDuckGo’s Chrome extension also blocks FLoC.

Google’s major rivals in the browser market, Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple, have not committed to blocking FLoC. Microsoft and Mozilla are evaluating various proposals (including FLoC) that would fill the void left by third-party cookies, according to The Verge, and Apple Webkit engineer John Wilander tweeted a similar position. Even so, it is highly unlikely that their browsers will ultimately support Google’s proposal. 

Why we care. WordPress is the dominant content management system, so blocking FLoC by default could obscure a meaningful share of user behavior. That would, in turn, diminish advertisers’ ability to effectively reach potential customers via Google’s cohort-based targeting.

Google has said that it would end support for third-party cookies sometime in 2022. However, as FLoC moves forward to replace third-party cookies, more and more players are pointing out ways that it may fail to protect users, or ways that it may be anticompetitive. That 2022 deadline Google set for itself is now within view, but it seems like Google is the only one on-board with FLoC. As third-party cookies run out of time, the web will decide whether FLoC is successful or not — this proposal from WordPress can be considered a very important vote against it.

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Automation isn’t about what machines can do for you, it’s about what you can do together /automation-isnt-about-what-machines-can-do-for-you-its-about-what-you-can-do-together-347778 Thu, 15 Apr 2021 16:17:24 +0000 /?p=347778 Automation puts new capabilities at our fingertips, but success will remain out of reach if you don’t take an active role in guiding those advancements.

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Automation elicits a range of emotions, which is true outside of marketing as well. Within the context of marketing, we should be used to it. In fact, some of us are already so used to it that we use automated tools all the time. Nevertheless, skepticism and distrust are also common attitudes when it comes to automation — these feelings are valid as well. After all, new automations are often accompanied by a change in workflow (which can be uncomfortable) or a lack of data or manual controls (which can make us feel helpless).

Unfortunately, there’s little to be done about the data or controls that platforms take away, but there is something we can do about how we perceive these advancements. At SMX Create, Carolyn Lyden and I presented a keynote on the ways automation has changed search marketing and how marketers must learn to use these tools and understand our role with respect to them if we want to maintain a competitive advantage.

You’re probably already used to automation

The capabilities that AI and machine learning bring to your business range from minor automations, such as visualizing your internal links or personalizing ads using data feeds, to natural language processing, like GPT-3, that can write content or ad copy for you based on a sprinkling of inputs.

On the organic side, many marketers have automated keyword-focused SEO tasks like rank tracking and monitoring for brand mentions. There are also tools that will analyze SERPs for you, tell you about search volume, how competitive a keyword is and the assumed intent behind it. The right combination of these tools, and more importantly, knowing when to use (or ignore) the information they’re giving you, can help you determine the type of content to create as well as how detailed that content should be.

The paid search professionals among us have had a long history of adapting to automation introduced by platforms, dating back to the deprecation of “pure” exact match keywords. And, now that responsive search ads are the default in Google Ads, it’s more important than ever for marketers to understand what their role is with respect to the technology that powers their campaigns.

Automation still requires guidance

Going full-steam ahead with automation may be a tempting idea, especially for teams that are short on resources, but the technology is still a long way away from understanding the entire scope of your marketing efforts. And to some extent, that’s probably how it’ll always be.

For instance, keyword and SERP analysis tools may help you narrow down which queries to target, and you can plug that data into another tool to automatically generate the content, but the technology just isn’t sophisticated enough to publish without an experienced professional to finetune it. Just look at The Guardian’s GPT-3-generated article — it’s quite good for something that probably did not require much human effort, but this level of content is unlikely to get you closer to your performance goals without a real marketer tailoring it to fit their audience personas, ensuring that it doesn’t cannibalize keywords, adding the appropriate internal links and so on.

bad_responsive_search_ad_automation_example
Providing redundant inputs when using responsive search ads can result in unnatural ad copy or the ad platform outright rejecting it.

On the PPC side, a “set it and forget it” attitude towards automation can result in wasted budget and effort. Using keyword match types means your ads can trigger for terms that you think are irrelevant or even harmful to your brand, and human intervention is required to get your campaign back on track. To minimize any potential blunders, marketers must also ensure that they’re providing the machines with inputs that complement each other, as is necessary with responsive search ads. In the example shown above, Google Ads rejected the ad because the advertiser didn’t provide Google’s platform with unique headlines to work with, resulting in the appearance of keyword stuffing.

Advancements in automation typically involve training models on datasets, and the larger a dataset is, the better the model typically performs. However, datasets may contain biases that are ultimately reflected in whatever the model produces, especially if the data comes from the internet. This can even be true on a much smaller scale, such as when you create a lookalike audience using a segment of your own customer data. The potential for these biases probably isn’t as obvious as wasted ad budget, but the risks here are two-fold:

  • Your messaging, be it ads or organic, misses the mark with your target audience. Microsoft’s Marketing with Purpose Playbook has a great example of this: “A marketer might conclude that a luxury accessories brand should target women, because gender appears to correlate with a higher purchase probability. That might lead you to assume that only women buy luxury handbags, but gender may just be a red herring. Income could correlate with conversion to a much higher degree. The resulting bias of only targeting women would limit your opportunity.”
  • Your automation behaves predictably, but there are scenarios that you didn’t account for. The apology in the screenshot below was issued when the New England Patriots’ automated social media retweeted a user’s racist handle. Microsoft’s AI chatbot, Tay, was another example of an unforeseen scenario.
Patriots_apology_automated_retweet

However, marketers aren’t simply stewards of the technology they use. Our role, with respect to the automation available to us, is far more nuanced.

What your relationship with automation should be

As automation continues to entrench itself in every aspect of search marketing, it may be easy to become apathetic towards it or even resent how these developments change our workflows. Not all changes are going to be positive, but many will be necessary, and any reluctance in adapting to them will put you at a disadvantage. Below is a framework that can help you stave off that inertia and take stock of your role as a marketer in an increasingly automated industry.

Chart a course. Successful automation requires clear business objectives, just like any other aspect of marketing. Setting those objectives is likely up to your C-suite, but coordinating the strategy to get there is up to you. Before any automation can be applied, you must talk to stakeholders, set the campaign goal and determine what’s important to measure along the way.

Fuel the machine. The inputs you provide have a huge influence on the quality of the outputs your automated tools produce. You may already be doing this by adding negative keywords to your PPC campaigns or manually adjusting your SEO crawling or SERP-scraping options, for instance.

google_gusto_case_study_offline_conversion_tracking

Automation, especially with regards to PPC, often requires marketers to meet a data threshold in order for it to function the way it was intended — pay close attention to what the platforms recommend and how your campaigns are performing as you adjust your inputs. In the example above, HR management software company Gusto integrated offline conversion tracking into the data it was feeding to Google Ads, which ultimately enabled the company to increase their conversion rates and improve ROAS.

Guide the campaign. Automation has been likened to cruise control but that analogy may downplay how important it is to keep your eyes on the road. Whether it’s due to a global pandemic, a competitor’s new strategy, a dramatic shift in audience priorities or just seasonality, marketers must know when to turn off or recalibrate their automated systems.

Google’s updated phrase match is a great example of this. If your keywords were previously broad match modified, that announcement had a substantive impact on your account structure, and you had to go off of cruise control to reconfigure your keywords for phrase match’s new treatment.

Coordinate your data and efforts. We’re at a point where platforms are so confident about their machine learning capabilities that they’re making recommendations. But, their ability to provide us with useful insights has yet to catch up, and even if it did, those insights would be drawn from a slice of your overall marketing efforts because platforms, like Facebook and Google, aren’t going to talk to each other on your behalf.

Your campaigns don’t exist in a vacuum: They’re susceptible to the environment you’re marketing in and what you’re doing in any given channel should complement what you’re doing in other channels. It’s still on you, as the marketer wielding the automation, to tie together data and information from disparate sources and create a cohesive journey for your customers.

Automation is advancing, so should you

The technological advancements we’ve seen in our industry lay a lot of capabilities at our fingertips, but campaign success will remain out of reach if you don’t take an active role in guiding those advancements. Remember, automation isn’t here to take your job, but it will change the nature of your work and being cognizant of that evolving relationship will help you get the most out of what’s available to you.

Special thanks to Carolyn Lyden, Andrew Shotland, Brad Geddes, Christi Olson, Fred Vallaeys, Ginny Marvin, Julie Bacchini, MJ DePalma and Noah Learner for helping me put these ideas together for my keynote at SMX Create, which served as the basis for this article.

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Tips from the pros at SMX Create; Wednesday’s daily brief /tips-from-the-pros-at-smx-create-wednesdays-daily-brief-347728 Wed, 14 Apr 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=347728 Plus, competitors and regulators are sounding off on FLoC.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, I’d like to share a bit about the mindset I try to adopt — perhaps it’ll help if anxiety sometimes gets the better of you (as it does for me).

In researching and writing as well as programming and attending our SMX conferences, I come across a lot of information that feels like it just goes way over my head. When that happens, I focus on the long game: the goal isn’t to learn something as a one-off but to master it and build on it. And, while there may be tons to catch up on, that will not always be the case if I chip away at it. Similarly, earning the top position for a keyword usually doesn’t happen overnight, so my career development won’t either.

That’s what I was thinking about during SMX Create yesterday, and that’s why we established this year’s series of SMX learning journeys: to give professionals a way to incrementally advance themselves, discover new topics, ask questions and, hopefully, feel invigorated about what they do for a living. Keep on reading for some insights from our speakers that helped me feel that way, I hope they do the same for you!

George Nguyen,
Editor

Check out some of our takeaways from SMX Create

  • “Reporting on success is not reporting the numbers, it’s really reporting on goals and KPIs and making sure there’s a direct connection between your KPIs and your goals,” said John Shehata during his session on analyzing content success. John also emphasized the distinction between KPIs and what he refers to as “levers”: “KPIs are company-wide metrics and ‘levers’ are team-specific metrics . . . Each team could have their levers, and these levers can influence the KPI.” Knowing which is which can help you keep your campaigns on the right track and moving towards your ultimate goal.
  • “As PPC managers, we need to balance two conflicting realities: Our algorithms need time and an investment in data, but we also need to ensure that our clients don’t go out of business while waiting for an algorithm to learn,” said Patrick Gilbert. His suggestion? Reduce the size of the learning environment and increase the quality of data that exists in that environment–you can speed up the rate at which the algorithms provide accurate predictions.
  • “As SEOs, we often tell writers what to create based on what’s already ranking, which makes sense, but then what you publish is exactly like what already exists,” Aja Frost said, “So, finding a way to match what’s already there and then take it to the next level will really help your content perform.” Your business is unique and so are your audience’s needs; tune into those needs to create content that also stands out.
  • “[The client] started putting reviews on the sales associates’ bio pages and that created some really healthy competition within the sales team because they all really wanted to have as many reviews about them as possible . . . and so it really incentivized the sales associates to start asking for reviews and create that culture,” Alli Berry said, pointing out a creative way to further your reputation and local SEO. Soliciting reviews can be difficult, but there are gains to be had for businesses that can find a creative way to get them.
  • “Speak to your or your clients’ customer service teams and ask about the common questions, problems, and complaints that they get,” Charlie Byrne suggested, “And then preemptively address those [in your ad copy]. This tactic can also be used with positive feedback to showcase your product’s strengths.
Another takeaway: Remember to have fun with your job!

The 2021 Search Engine Land Awards are open for entries

Once a year, we highlight the industry’s most innovative professionals and campaigns with the highest honor in search marketing — the Search Engine Land Awards.

This year’s awards are now open for entry and it’s easier than ever to apply: We’re no longer requiring metrics and campaign stats; you can simply send us an executive summary (750 words or less) that showcases your team’s award-worthy performance during the last year.

In 2020, we introduced the inaugural Search Engine Land Award for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Search Marketing, and this time around, we’re adding three new categories: Boutique Agency of the Year (for both SEM and SEO agencies) and Freelancer of the Year.

As a judge, I can tell you the competition is tough, but it’s worth it for a shot to earn an accolade that can distinguish your business from competitors and to recognize your team’s efforts.

The entry period is open now until September 4. Get started by creating your account and, if you have questions, reach out to us at awards@searchengineland.com.

Niche players move to block FLoC

Brave’s stance on FLoC is exactly what you’d expect. Brave, the privacy-focused browser company, has announced that it’s removing FLoC, Google’s replacement for third-party cookies, on its desktop and Android versions. In the announcement, the company made a number of arguments as to why FLoC is harmful to both users and publishers — here’s my favorite quote: “For the Web to be trusted and to flourish, we hold that much more is needed than the complex yet conservative chair-shuffling embodied by FLoC and Privacy Sandbox.” Those are some zesty words, but they’re also what you’d expect from a Chrome competitor seeking to differentiate based on privacy.

DuckDuckGo also chimes in. For users who want to continue to use Chrome but aren’t on board with Google’s new ad targeting tech, DuckDuckGo is promoting its Chrome browser extension to block FLoC. Both Brave and DuckDuckGo cite privacy concerns as justifications, but Google is also pushing user privacy as a reason why people should embrace FLoC, yet here we are. The landscape isn’t as simple as Google’s word vs. its competitors’ — keep on scrolling to learn why Google may also face regulatory pressure as FLoC rolls out.

Google Marketing Livestream is set for May 27. After skipping 2020, Google Marketing Live is back with a slightly tweaked name to reflect the digital nature of the event. The company has a history of making big announcements and introducing new products here. You can register and watch it live or head on over to (you guessed it) Search Engine Land, where we’ll cover all the announcements that are important to search marketers. And, with all the controversy surrounding FLoC, my money says the company will present some interesting findings to counter its opponents.

Is it an illegal monopoly if user privacy improves, but competition suffers?

“What Google is doing is trying to not rethink its business model,” said Carissa Véliz, author of Privacy is Power. “In Spanish, we would call it a refrito—something you cook again, trying to make it look like a different dish.” That’s my favorite quote from Wired’s article “Antitrust and Privacy are on a Collision Course,” because it’s funny and because I believe it’s accurate — which either makes it funnier or more tragic.

The piece discusses how Facebook and Google are facing legal scrutiny for seemingly contradictory reasons: a coalition of states filed suit against Facebook for weakening user data protection, and another coalition of states has accused Google of anti-competitive practices related to increasing user privacy protections (yes, that’s right, we’re talking about FLoC). However, the truth is that Google isn’t taking flak because FLoC will reportedly insulate user data from advertisers, it’s because FLoC is Google’s closed ecosystem.

The question then becomes, if a business puts forth a new initiative to improve their services for users, but the business also gains a competitive advantage as a result, is it an illegal monopoly? If the answer is “no,” then I think businesses like Google will have their playbook handed to them: as long as they take care of their users, they’ll be able to obfuscate potentially anti-competitive strategies. If the answer is “yes,” then perhaps we’ll see a cascade of regulation that attempts to address the nuances that have now become commonplace in our industry.

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In search of your most memorable moments; Monday’s daily brief /in-search-of-your-most-memorable-moments-mondays-daily-brief-347636 Mon, 12 Apr 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=347636 Plus, only YouTube and Reddit have seen much usage growth since 2019.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, Google’s Panda algorithm update rolled out globally, in English, a decade ago.

Businesses and search professionals here in the U.S. got a taste of it about two months prior to the worldwide release as it went live domestically in February 2011. For those of you who, like myself, weren’t in the industry back then, the Panda update was a milestone in search history because it was one of Google’s most significant spam-targeting updates.

The Panda update, named after Google engineer Navneet Panda, made it harder for pages with thin content to rank well. This was bad news for sites that targeted long-tail queries by generating large volumes of similar content which were often only distinguishable from their other content due to subtle, and sometimes arbitrary, differences.

I like to think of Panda as a precursor to our modern core algorithm updates, and like those updates, it made a huge impact for many businesses: “I think we went from like a billion-dollar market cap to a six hundred million-dollar market cap overnight,” said Eric Wu, VP of product growth at Honey Science, who was working at Demand Media at the time.

I do enjoy a trip down memory lane because what’s past is prologue. Share your most memorable search industry-related moments with me, whether it was a particular campaign, client, update, or perhaps you met your spouse at SMX (a few have!!) — my email is gnguyen@thirddoormedia.com; use the subject line: In search of your most memorable moments.

George Nguyen,
Editor

Google Search Console performance report image impression change

On April 6, 2021, Google made an “improvement” to its algorithm for reporting on image search impressions within the Google Search Console performance report. This update is just a reporting change and is not a result of any ranking algorithm update or ranking issues with your website.

This update is also specific to “image impressions when type=image is specified in the Search Performance report,” Google said. If you see a drop in your image search impressions starting April 6th, you can likely attribute that drop to a reporting change and not any ranking change. Of course, you will want to track those impressions going forward to ensure your actual traffic from Google has not changed.

Read more here.

Editor @ Martech Today (remote)

  • Create a range of journalistic content that includes well-reported features, guides, profiles, and more
  • Cover this tech-enabled approach to marketing that we call MarTech

Digital Media Buyer @ ROI Revolution (Raleigh, NC)

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Sr. SEO Manager @ LendingTree (remote)

  • Conduct extensive research on industry trends
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Director of Marketing, Demand Generation @ Resiliency LLC

  • Owns all aspects of marketing strategy and leadership
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Enter a job opening for an opportunity to be featured in this section.

Programmatic SEO, Facebook’s POV, and Snapchat e-commerce

Leverage your programmatic SEO (and scale your approach). Programmatic SEO involves automatically generating pages at a very large scale and is best leveraged for industries like travel, e-commerce, educational content, real estate, etc.

Facebook’s POV on their 500+ million-user data leak. On April 3, Business Insider published a story saying that information from more than 530 million Facebook users had been made publicly available in an unsecured database. “It is important to understand that malicious actors obtained this data not through hacking our systems but by scraping it from our platform prior to September 2019,” said Facebook’s Product Management Director, Mike Clark.

Snapchat advances e-commerce efforts. Snapchat has taken another step in its shift towards integrated e-commerce with the acquisition of Screenshop, an app that scans your photos to identify your desired style choices, then provides clothing recommendations based on those findings.

Social media use still plateaued in 2021

social media platform growth chart from Pew research center

Most Americans use Facebook and YouTube, but TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram are most popular with those under 30, according to new social media usage data from Pew. Even though the last few years has caused a change in sentiment around social media, 70% of adults still participate (which hasn’t changed much in the last 5 years).

Here are the most interesting points from the data:

  • YouTube and Reddit were the only two platforms measured that saw statistically significant growth since 2019
  • Adults living in urban (17%) or suburban (14%) areas are more likely to say they use Nextdoor. Just 2% of rural Americans report using the site.
  • 71% of Snapchat users ages 18 to 29 say they use the app daily, including six in ten who say they do this multiple times a day.

Why we care. This information can give advertisers an idea of the audiences behind the channels they’re using and ways to leverage those channels to better meet their consumers’ needs. It may also confirm a lot that we already know about social (like youths’ love of TikTok) and open new advertising opportunities for platforms you may not have considered (such as Reddit or Nextdoor).

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Google updates Merchant Center product data specifications /google-updates-merchant-center-product-data-specifications-347555 Wed, 07 Apr 2021 16:27:37 +0000 /?p=347555 This year’s updates focus on improving the quality of product information across both paid and organic Shopping listings.

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Google’s product data specification requirements ensure that all product data submitted to the Merchant Center is formatted appropriately for both successful Shopping ads and organic Shopping listings.

Every year, Google updates these specifications with the aim of improving its shopping experience. The company released the 2021 updates for search marketers yesterday. Below is a list of changes that merchants need to be aware of.

Changes effective immediately

The following are changes that started taking place on April 6, 2021.

Checkout price enforcement. Google has had a longstanding policy requiring that the price in Merchant Center product data be consistent with the price shown on landing pages. It is now enforcing that policy and verifying price accuracy throughout the checkout process. Merchants found violating this policy will receive a warning and have 28 days to resolve the inconsistencies. If they are not resolved, Google can suspend your account.

Region-specific shipping times. Shipping times for particular regions can now be specified at the item level using the min/max_handling_time and min/max_transit_time sub-attributes. These new sub-attributes apply to paid and organic Shopping listings, but not to products listed through Buy on Google.

Backordered and preorder products. Merchants can now specify that products are backordered when they use the availability attribute by adding the availability_date attribute to inform potential customers when the product will be available again. Availability_date can also be used when a product’s availability is set to preorder. This is applicable to both paid and organic Shopping listings, but not to products listed through Buy on Google.

“Big,” “tall” and “plus” sizing. The size_type attribute can now be used to indicate certain variations of clothing sizes. Up to two values can be provided (e.g., “big and tall” or “petite maternity”). And, the “oversize” value is no longer accepted; instead, Google recommends using the “plus” value.

No support for cross-border payment plans. Merchant Center no longer allows products using the subscription_cost or installment attributes to be listed across countries using a single feed. You can still list a product with a payment plan across countries by duplicating the product and adding it to a separate feed for each country. Products with payment plans targeting more than one country will be disapproved. This applies to paid and organic Shopping listings in all countries where the subscription_cost or installment is available.

Changes starting on June 15, 2021

Add time zones to date-time attributes. If the timezone is missing from your availability_date, expiration_date or sale_price_effective_date attributes, Google will assume the attribute refers to the UTC timezone. This does not apply to the promotion_effective_dates and promotion_display_dates attributes.

Proper product identification. Google may disapprove your products if several of them use the same Manufacturer Part Number (MPN) and brand combination. Here are the scenarios to avoid:

  • Multiple products sharing the same mpn and brand combination, but with different item_group_id values.
  • Multiple products sharing the same mpn and brand combination and the same variant attributes (color, material, pattern, size, size_type, unit_pricing_measure, gender, product_detail, condition and multipack).

Item-level warnings started going out on April 6; you can view them in your Diagnostics. These warnings will become disapprovals if unresolved by June 15.

Changes starting on September 15, 2021

Shipping country sub-attribute requirement. As of September 15, the shipping country sub-attribute will be required when providing the shipping attribute for products shown in more than one country. If this information isn’t filled in by September 15, you run the risk of Google disapproving your products. Item-level warnings for this change have already gone out on the Diagnostics page.

Why we care

Adhering to Merchant Center guidelines, including the updates mentioned above, can ensure that your product listings are eligible to show in search. Additionally, some of the new attributes, like timezone and region-specific shipping speed, can help ensure that customers have a positive experience, while other attributes, such as the sizing values, can help them find the products they’re looking for.

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Amazon now accounts for more than 10% of U.S. digital ad market revenue; Wednesday’s daily brief /amazon-now-accounts-for-more-than-10-of-u-s-digital-ad-market-revenue-wednesdays-daily-brief-347529 Wed, 07 Apr 2021 14:00:00 +0000 /?p=347529 Plus, Google's new product leads and Yelp introduces a new diversity attribute for business profiles.

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Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, here’s what I learned from last week’s #SEOchat that I had the honor of hosting.

There wasn’t a consensus on the validity of SimilarWeb’s stat that nearly 65% of Google searches were zero-click: some thought it was an outlier, some didn’t and others won’t believe it until they see the data. There was, however, consensus that the stat does not affect how SEOs actually do their jobs, and that’s the big takeaway here: This figure may be interesting from a “big picture” perspective, but it seems like most of the participants understood that the statistic is far less relevant than the features and rich results that appear on the SERPs that actually affect their business or their clients’ businesses, and that’s what we should all be focusing on.

I also asked whether we needed to clean up the tone and language we use in SEO Twitter after the heated discussions of the past weeks. While most agreed that a level of decorum wouldn’t hurt, the vibe was also that we should be able to express ourselves freely. It’s hard to argue with that, and ultimately, the decision to believe studies or get heated on Twitter is up to you, so make choices you’re proud of.

Keep on reading, we’ve got lots of news to share with you, as well as a new section at the end just for funsies.

George Nguyen,
Editor

Yelp introduces a searchable Asian-owned business profile attribute

The Asian-owned business attribute within Yelp’s mobile app interface.

A new profile attribute allows businesses on Yelp to self-identify as Asian-owned. The attribute is free, searchable, opt-in only and joins Yelp’s existing women-owned, Black-owned and Latinx-owned diversity attributes.

These attributes can help you distinguish your business and enable audiences that want to support diverse businesses to more easily discover you on Yelp. As of late, there’s been increased demand for such businesses, according to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report: In February, overall searches for women, Asian, Black and Latinx-owned businesses were up 2,930% compared to February 2020. Searches for Asian-owned businesses, in particular, on Yelp were up by 130% YoY for the same period. 

Read more here.

Prabhakar Raghavan, Google’s head of search appoints new leads

Google's Elizabeth Reid, Cathy Edwards and Sissie Hsiao, who were recently appointed as the leads for core search, Apps, News Discover and Ecosystem, and Assistant, respectively.

Google has made a few leadership changes within the organization, specifically within the search team. Elizabeth Reid is to lead core search experiences, Cathy Edwards will lead Apps, News Discover and Ecosystem efforts and Sissie Hsiao will lead Assistant.

With this, three women have taken high-level leadership roles within Google. Also, Scott Huffman will be seeking new opportunities after leading engineering in the Google Assistant team for many years. Google’s Vice President of Search, Pandu Nayak is still leading Search Quality. Jen Fitzpatrick is still leading the central engineering team at the company. And Jerry Dischler is still the head of Google Ads.

Learn more about these changes.

Coming soon to Microsoft Advertising

Flyer extensions in Microsoft Ads

Every month, Microsoft publishes a roundup of recent product announcements and updates, and this month, it has also given us a preview of things to come. 

The company has teased flyer extensions (shown above) as a way to display more product promotions in your ads. This feature will only be available to advertisers in the U.S.

Customer match, which will be rolling out in the coming months, enables advertisers to use the email addresses customers have given them to remarket to them on the Microsoft Search Network and Microsoft Audience Network.

And, the platform will also be extending dynamic remarketing capabilities to more industries, including retail, entertainment, travel and automotive.

Amazon now accounts for more than 10% of the U.S. digital ad market revenue

U.S. triopoly digital ad revenue share by company, 2019 compared to 2020.

The pandemic has been a totally different experience depending on which vertical you’re in. In Amazon’s case, it helped the company grow its ad business by 52.5% last year, according to eMarketer, further bolstering its position as the third-largest ad publisher in the United States. The growth was propelled by sponsored products and brands, as well as video ad revenue from Twitch, IMDb TV and Amazon Fire TV.

Is this the competition we all wanted? With consumer shopping preferences moving online during COVID (a trend that may be here to stay), Amazon has been able, and will continue, to attract a larger slice of advertisers’ budgets. It has also invested heavily in ad-supported video, and inked an 11-year deal with the NFL to be its exclusive partner for Thursday Night Football, which will almost certainly attract more users to Amazon Prime Video.

As Amazon continues to grow its share of overall domestic digital ad revenue, Google’s share will shrink from 28.9% in 2020 to 26.6% by 2023, eMarketer says. Google has made a lot of changes to its e-commerce offerings over the years, even introducing free shopping listings last year, but that just hasn’t seemed to affect Amazon’s growth.

These developments mean that advertisers may have to think more deeply about where to spend their budgets: Sure, more consumers are beginning their shopping on Amazon, but you’ll also have to pay fees for every item you sell. Then there are the distinct branding opportunities, like remarketing or more freedom to build a relationship with your customers, that traffic to your site, from ads on Facebook or Google, to consider.

A walk down memory lane…

Happy 10th anniversary, #PPCchat. On this week, ten years ago, #PPCchat was founded by Matthew Umbro. Since then, it’s become a weekly town hall of sorts where passionate PPC professionals voice their opinions and share knowledge. If you haven’t yet, give it a try — I, myself, have gotten some questions answered using the hashtag. Check out the thread that started it all, you might just recognize a few names! 

Microsoft turns 46. That’s almost a half-century — the company even predates the founding of the internet by about 7.5 years. In honor of the occasion, Microsoft updated its Twitter profile and banner image with an homage to its OG logo from 1975.

PPC memes should be more of a thing. You know that feeling when irrelevant searches trigger your ads? Tip of the hat to Kim Doughty for this meme that perfectly captures the moment.

Maybe this will be nostalgic one day. But, probably not. If you’ve got a fashion sense, click at your own risk: I spotted these Google all-terrain slippers on Twitter. A reverse image search reveals that they were created by a customizer named Nicole McLaughlin; so, no, you can’t buy them.

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Google Ads’ continuous audience sharing is now available from sub-accounts /google-ads-continuous-audience-sharing-is-now-available-from-sub-accounts-347534 Tue, 06 Apr 2021 21:44:55 +0000 /?p=347534 When enabled, existing and new remarketing lists you create from sub-accounts are automatically shared with your manager account.

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Google has expanded on the continuous audience sharing feature it launched last year by enabling audiences to be shared from sub-accounts, the company announced Tuesday. When enabled, existing and future remarketing lists created from sub-accounts are automatically shared with manager accounts.

continuous audience sharing settings in Google Ads

Continuous audience sharing settings in Google Ads. Image: Google.

How it different than before. When continuous audience sharing was first introduced, it could only be done at the manager account-level and it only enabled manager accounts to share audience lists with sub-accounts.

Now, audience lists can be shared from sub-accounts to manager accounts as well.

Be aware. Audience lists may be confidential or proprietary. Before sharing a list with another account, ensure that you’ve received permission from the account that owns the list, Google says on its remarketing list help page.

You’ll also want to ensure that, by sharing an audience list, you’re not inadvertently violating a privacy policy. And, keep in mind that any changes made to a shared list are applied across accounts.

Why we care. Continuous audience sharing may help PPC professionals save time that would otherwise be spent creating new audience lists or manually selecting audiences from individual accounts.

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Yelp introduces a searchable Asian-owned business profile attribute /yelp-introduces-a-searchable-asian-owned-business-profile-attribute-347469 Tue, 06 Apr 2021 11:00:00 +0000 /?p=347469 In February, Yelp searches for Asian-owned businesses were up 130% YoY.

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Yelp has added “Asian-owned” to its list of available business profile attributes, the company announced Tuesday. This searchable, opt-in-only attribute enables businesses to self-identify as Asian-owned and is available free of charge.

The Asian-owned business attribute within Yelp’s mobile app interface.
The Asian-owned business attribute within Yelp’s mobile app interface. Image: Yelp.

Why we care

In February 2021, overall searches for women, Asian, Black and Latinx-owned businesses were up 2,930% compared to February of the year prior, according to Yelp’s Local Economic Impact Report. On Yelp, searches for Asian-owned businesses were up 130% year-over-year for that same period. In addition to distinguishing your business, these attributes can make it easier for audiences that want to support diverse businesses to find them on Yelp.

More on the news

  • Other available Yelp diversity attributes include women-owned, Black-owned and Latinx-owned. 
  • In October 2020, Yelp introduced a “business accused of racist behavior” consumer alert. The alert was also accompanied by a temporary halt to new reviews to prevent profiles from being flooded with non-customer reviews objecting to what the business was accused of.
  • To add one of Yelp’s diversity attributes to your business profile, log into your Yelp for Business account and go to the Amenities section. Next, click Add or Edit and select the appropriate attribute. Finally, save the changes.
  • In July 2020, Google enabled verified Google My Business (GMB) profile owners to add the Black-owned business attribute to their listings. The veteran-led and women-led attributes are also available to GMB profile owners as well.

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