Freelance Digital Marketing Wed, 16 Nov 2016 19:41:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Midweek SEM Rundown (11/9/16 – 11/15/16) Wed, 16 Nov 2016 13:33:54 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Google publishes recommendations on building Progressive Web Apps.
Google published a long post on their blog, detailing their recommendations for successfully building SEO-friendly Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). PWAs are mobile websites that act like native apps, with much of the same functionality. PWAs are a Google backed technology with a dedicated developer page, but Google was never as explicit in their recommendations as in their new blog post. The post runs through best practices as well as a long list of do’s and don’ts. If you are interested in PWAs you should read the full post. If you are feeling lazy, Search Engine Journal summarized the points.

Bing will not be moving toward a mobile-first index.
Google recently announced that it would be testing a new mobile-first index. This move has been prompted by the traffic surge in mobile search, which now accounts for over 50 percent of search interaction. In response to Google’s move, Bing has stated that they will not be moving toward a mobile-first index. Instead they will continue to run one single index based off desktop. This makes it interesting for sites that have an m.domain setup and have a decent flow of traffic from Bing. They will need to figure out how to optimize for both mobile and desktop without disrupting the user experience. Responsive sites have nothing to worry about. It will also be interesting to see Yahoo Search which displays both Bing and Google search results.

Potential Google algorithm update on November 10.
Google is always changing their algorithm, hundreds of times a year. However, certain updates stick out because the webmaster community sees the resulting traffic shifts. It appears that a larger algorithm update occurred on November 10, though webmasters are uncertain what the update targeted. Reporting in search weather tools like the Mozcast tool, show an apparent spike on the tenth. Hopefully, more information will be forthcoming.

Mozcast Weather


Reports delayed in Google Search Console due to infrastructure updates.
Google announced in their data anomalies page that the data log in some reports may be prevented over the next few weeks, due to ongoing infrastructure updates. If any of your Google Search Console reports are not displaying data, this infrastructure update is why. Google did not mention what their infrastructure update was for.

Google adding 30-day penalty for Safe-Browsing offenders.
When Google notices that a site contains malware they manually penalize the website and notify the webmasters in Google Search Console. Google Chrome also displays a red warning screen to potential visitors of the penalized website. Google has now added a mandatory 30-day penalty for repeat offending websites with malware. The mandatory penalty period was added because malicious malware sites could quickly remove malware and submit a reconsideration request. After the request was successful they would immediately add malware to their site again. To prevent this practice Google will now require that repeat offenders wait 30 days before they can submit a reconsideration request.

Google claims to have fixed small sitelinks bug.
Last week, a bug in Google search results prevented the small sitelinks that live underneath individual search results, from displaying. Google made note of the bug and claimed that they have fixed it. It may take a couple days for the correction to propagate and return the small sitelinks to the SERP.

Google Search showing upcoming TV shows.
In April, Google announced that they would be bringing TV show search to their search results. Peter Meyers spotted the feature in the wild and tweeted a screenshot. Google will now tell you when a TV show you search for will be on. The information is displayed on the right of the search results in the knowledge graph for the TV show.

Google on TV Now


Error in Date of Google Snippets.
For a few days now, there have been issues with the date in snippets found in Google’s search results. The error seems to occurs when a Youtube video is embedded on the page. The snippet will display the date of the Youtube video, rather than the date of the article. Gary Illyes was made aware of the issue on Twitter, and said he would be following up with the Snippet Team to get it fixed.

Google reminds us that they rely heavily on external links.
In 2014, Matt Cutts said that if Google were to drop links, the quality of the search results would become very poor. This statement was brought to light recently when Dawn Anderson asked Gary Illyes if Matt Cutts was referring to internal or external links back in 2014. External links is the answer.

Google Search Console Crawl Report crawls every 3-4 days instead of daily.
Google updated their data anomalies page, to note that the frequency of updates on the “Crawl Status” report in the Google Search Console, for apps specifically, has decreased from a daily refresh to a refresh every 3-4 days. Google said that the decrease in frequency will improve system performance.

Google completely ignores the HTML lang Attribute.
John Mueller explained that Google ignores the HTML lang attribute for determining web page language and region. Google instead uses the hreflang markup.

Google testing new AMP only top News carousel.
Beatriz Vicente tweeted a screenshot of a news carousel test Google is running. The top carousel only displays news powered by AMP content. For any content publishers still behind with the AMP trend you need to hop onboard before you are left behind.

Google officially retires the knowledge graph snippets overlay.
Last week the knowledge graph snippet overlays disappeared from search results. It was thought to be a bug, since the feature had been around for two years. However, Google confirmed that the removal was intentional due to low usage.

Bing gives a vision of its future at Bing Ads Next.
In Bing’s presentation at Bing Ads Next, the company gave a hopeful and bright outlook for Bing. One in which, bing is pervasive, as Microsoft continues to build integral partner relationships. You will find Bing on Xbox One, Windows 10, MSN, Apple phones and a myriad of other places. Worthwhile presentations included topics on a dynamic native ads pilot, small but growing mobile share, decision service, cortana and conversation as a platform and hololens. Bing is now a profit-producing line item on Microsoft’s’ budgets and plans to continue to grow.

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Bing expands its Partner Program.
Bing’s Partner Program is being expanded to offer more benefits to different types of customers. Originally launched as a program for resellers, the Partner Program is now open to agencies and technology providers above a spend and certification threshold. Being a Bing Partner provides access to the latest Bing technology, APIs and marketing support. Members also receive a Partner Program badge and are included in the Partner Directory. Partners who spend above an even higher threshold become Elite Partners, and have access to in-person training, exclusive events, dedicated account management, and deeper connections with the Bing Ads engineering teams. The Bing Partner Program launched in Australia on Tuesday but is now available in the US. Over the coming year it will roll out to Singapore, India, Canada, Brazil and Europe. Those interested in joining the program can contact their account representatives or reach out in email.

Bing launches pilot app install ads in the US.
Bing launched
a test for its app install ads in the US. App install ads link directly to the download page of a specific app on the Apple App Store or Google Play. Users in the pilot program will be able to setup app install ads from the web interface, the bulk upload and in the API, but not in the Bing Ads Editor. The ability to track installs from these ads will need to set up with one of Bing’s certified partners: Tune, Apsalar, Kochava, and Appsflyer. Interested parties can apply to be part of the pilot.

Bing App Install Ads

Facebook & Google AdSense ban ads for fake news stories.
Google, followed by Facebook, announced that they will no longer allow fake news sites to advertise on Google AdSense and the Facebook Audience Network. While this will probably not diminish the amount of fake news shared, particularly in Facebook’s news feed, it will hopefully disincentivize publishers to produce this fake news solely for revenue. Satirical sites, like The Onion, may be caught up in this ban as well.

Google aware of Adsense spam impressions.
A long thread in the Google Adsense Help forums has a litany of complaints about massive spikes in ad impressions on third party sites that the users do not control. These spikes cause inflated earnings reports and results in the RPM (revenue per impression) dropping. A drop in RPM indicates to Google that the ad placement is poor. The end result in Google lowering their earnings per click because of the low-quality impressions on the ads. These spikes in traffic are potentially from hacks spoofing traffic in AdSense. A Top Google Adsense Contributor in the thread said that Google is aware of the issue, but does not think that the spoofing problem is a large scale issue.

Adsense Spoofing


Swipeable carousel cards for Adwords price extensions.
Google said that in the coming weeks, price extensions will begin showing as swipeable cards. The swipeable cards make it easier for users to compare prices. It appears that these cards are now live in the search results. The new price extension format will eventually roll out to 10 additional languages and 24 currencies.


Google to end Google Map Maker.
Google has decided to kill off its Map Maker product. The Map Maker site will be taken down in March 2017, but any edits in Map Maker from now on may simply be ignored by Google. As Map Maker is removed, many of the features of the product will be integrated into Google Maps. Which features and to what extent they will be implemented is still a mystery.

Google’s Advanced Verification cuts large numbers of plumbers and locksmiths.
Back on November 10th, Google started removing the local listings of plumbers and locksmiths in San Diego who had not met Google’s new advanced verification. The advanced verification was a localized test, specific to San Diego and these two business types. Google hoped to cut back on the notorious local listing abuse these two industries are known for. Joy Hawkins had tracked the term ‘plumbers san diego’, before the deadline. The initial result was eight pages of local results, each page containing 20 listings. Now that the advanced verification has been enforced, there are only seven businesses remaining for the same search term. In the same test Joy noticed that the paid/home services pack is now displaying for branded searches. So even if a customer searches for your company by name, they will see a list of competitors in ads alongside.

Google tests new Local Pack in San Diego.
As part of Google’s new rigorous vetting process being tested in San Diego with plumbers and locksmiths, Google is also testing an update Local Space on top of the page. For the search term ‘locksmiths san diego’, the Local Pack is pushed own by the Home Service Pack which lists businesses which have passed this higher level of verification. The Home Service Pack displays the service area of each business on the associated map. The Service Pack can also appear in addition to the Local Pack which shows storefront businesses. Having two packs on the same page simultaneously is an odd setup and, we will have to wait and see what the final version looks like in the coming months.


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Midweek SEM Rundown (11/2/16 – 11/8/16) Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:35:16 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Google drawing closer to marking HTTP sites as insecure.
Google has been talking about the importance of safesearch for years. To protect their users and encourage webmasters to adopt HTTPS, Google will be more clearly marking non-secure websites in Chrome. Google currently marks non-secure sites with a small information icon in the search bar of the Chrome browser. Google’s studies have shown that users do not perceive the lack of a “secure” icon in the browser bar. So, starting January 2017, Chrome 56 will label HTTP pages with password or credit card form fields as “not secure” in the browser bar. Eventually Google plans to label all HTTP pages as non-secure. If Google’s HTTPS ranking boost hasn’t pushed enough webmaster to move to HTTPS, this visual penalty may just be the ticket.

Google HTTPS Treatment


Google begins the transition to a mobile-first index.
Last year, Google stated that they were seeing more mobile searches than desktop searches. Now, they are finally transitioning to a mobile-first index to match the trend. In Google’s recent blog post, they explained that they are beginning testing of their new mobile-first indexation. The testing will occur over the next few months. For webmasters who don’t have a mobile version of their site, Google will continue to use the desktop version in their indexation. Responsive websites shouldn’t have to do anything. However, sites with an m.domain or sites using dynamic serving should make sure that their most important content is available for crawling in mobile.

Tabbed content no longer demoted by search engines.
It has long been the case that content in accordions or other tabbed content was ignored or demoted by search engines. If content was not immediately visible to a user, Google did not want that content influencing their rankings. However, Gary Illyes tweeted that in the new mobile-first world, content hidden for UX should have full weight. Webmasters will no longer have to make all of their content visible at the cost of the user experience. I am going to wait for a double confirmation on this, before suggesting webmasters make changes to their websites.

Gary Ilyes comment on Google Tabbed Content


Yandex announces Palekh Algorithm.
Yandex dominates search engine use in Russia and has recently announced its Palekh Algorithm. Palekh is named after the Russian city, whose flag is a long-tailed firebird. The Palekh algorithm brings improved results search results for long tail queries. Yandex deals with 100 million long-tail queries every day. This represents around 40 percent of all the searches on Yandex. Palekh looks for the meaning behind a query by looking at similar words in content and in other queries. By collecting this information, the algorithm teaches itself the underlying meaning of queries. Essentially, they have built their own self-learning, machine-learning system.

Yandex Palekh Algorithm


Notable Online drop down removed from search results.
The Notable Online feature was a small grey drop down displayed to the right of the URL in individual search results. The Notable Online feature could be very frustrating for webmasters as it often showed incorrect information or linked to the wrong brand. However, it was a helpful signal of brand prominence, especially for smaller brands. The feature was most likely removed as part of the Mobile-first display Google has transitioned to.

Large Turkish SEO agency confirms penalty.
SEO Hocasi (aka Webtures) is one of the larger SEO agencies in turkey. The company’s websites disappeared from rankings for their top keywords. It looks like the site was hit with a link manual action penalty (the site has been reported for spam by other Turkish SEOs). However, the company is claiming that their rankings dropped due to a duplicate content penalty, due to a technical error. However, the claim seems to be unlikely. The site was using a number of frowned upon link building tactics like building links via WordPress themes and heavy use of exact-match anchor text.

Google Showtimes is gone.
Google has shutdown Searches who would like movie showtimes will need to rely on another service or the fandango results that display in the Google search results.

Sitelinks demotion tool was demoted over the past 6 weeks.
A few weeks ago, Google removed the sitelinks demotion tool from Google Search Console. Webmasters will have to rely on Google to supply the appropriate sitelinks that display in brand searches. What was unknown about the sitelinks tool was that Google has been dialing down its influence to almost nothing over the past 6 months. John Mueller admitted this in a recent Google Webmaster Hangout.  If you had been using the sitelinks tool within the past 6 months, chances are it was having almost no effect.

Google testing a back to top button in their search results.
Sergey Alakov tweeted a screenshot of one of Google’s SERP tests. A floating “back to top” button shows up at the bottom of the search results. The experience is not great due to the unresponsiveness of the button. If any variation of the button does go live, it would push users back to the search box rather than page two results. This would make being on page one a necessity for businesses hoping to garner any real traffic.

Back to Top Google Test


AMP pages only used for search snippets if no other canonicalized version available.
In response to a question, John Mueller explained that the canonicalized version of a page is the source content for search results snippets that Google creates, and not the competing AMP content. However, John did later clarify that when AMP is the only content source, then AMP pages will be used for search snippets.

No changes to mobile ranking boost due to mobile-first indexing.
Google announced that they will be moving toward a mobile-first indexation of web content. However, this will have no effect on the current mobile ranking boost that mobile-friendly websites enjoy. Websites will continue to have a boost, even after the mobile-first indexation rolls out. Google is currently testing a mobile-first index and will continue testing over the coming months.

Google Removes Sitelinks from below most search results.
In an effort to make their search results more mobile-friendly Google has been making a number of changes to their SERP. Recently, they have begun removing the horizontal list of sitelinks that would display below individual search results. The larger list of full sitelinks that results from a brand search is still present though.

Google removes the Knowledge Graph Snippet overlay.
Back in January 2014, Google launched snippet knowledge graphs. These snippets were miniature knowledge graphs overlaid on the search results. The feature is currently missing. The removal may be intentional or just a bug.

Miniature Google Snippet Overlay


Google robots.txt tester fixed.
Last week, there was an issue with the robots.txt testing tool within the Google Search Console. The tool was not functioning, and instead displayed a blank screen. However, Google quickly fixed the issue and it is back up and running as of November 3rd.

Length of Domain Registration is not an SEO factor.
Back in 2009, Matt Cutts answered the question about domain registration. However, the question came back up recently and John Mueller responded that domain registration length is not a ranking factor. Most registrars don’t provide registration length, making it an unreliable ranking signal.

Google does not promote or demote based on Top Level Domain.
John Mueller and Gary Illyes answered a few questions about top level domains (TLDs). Gary explained that TLDs like .lawyer do not offer any ranking bonus. John said that .xyz and .ir TLDs are not automatically discounted. Google prefers to work on a more granular level. However, I would avoid using a TLD that is known for spam.

Google adding way to share link to AMP pages.
Currently, if you try and copy and paste an AMP URL for sharing you get www.googlecom/amp/ instead of a usable link. Malte Ubl, a tech lead of the AMP project, tweeted that Google is currently working on fixing this issue. Hopefully we will have a workable AMP URL in the near future.

Google AMP URLs sharing tweet


Requesting Google crawls does not hurt rankings.
John Mueller on Twitter clarified that requesting Google to crawl your pages (through Google Search Console’s Fetch tool), does not negatively impact a site’s rankings. Conversely, having Google crawl your web pages more often does not improve rankings either.

WordPress sites receive no preferential treatment from Google.
John Mueller responded to a question on Twitter, explaining that as far as he knows, Google’s algorithms do not explicitly check for any particular CMS. Although John does seem uncertain in his answer, it would be surprising if WordPress based sites received preferential treatment. Content Management Systems (CMS) are designed to be search engine friendly. While different systems have their own benefits and drawbacks, search rankings are not one of them.  

The Page Layout penalty is automated.
The Page Layout penalty targets websites that have an excessive amount of advertising, particularly above the fold. In a recent Google Webmaster Hangout, John Mueller explained that the penalty is automated and not run manually. So if you remove intrusive advertising from your site, you can expect Google to take note the next time your site is crawled.

No penalty for marking up content with two different schema formats.
Jennifer Slegg asked Gary Illyes on Twitter if there was a spammy structured data markup manual action penalty for websites that marked up the same content with two different types of schema markup, specifically JSON-LD & microdata. Gary responded that the additional markup should not be an issue. As long as you are using the correct formatting in two different markups, you should be fine. However, Google does prefer JSON-LD and may end up making it their default markup soon.

Two different schema markups


Having Rich Snippets does not mean your site is quality.
Though a website can lose its rich snippets over quality issues, having rich snippets does not mean that all of Google’s algorithms think your site is high-quality. If your site has rich snippets displaying, it only means that your site passed the quality benchmark Google has set and that you have the rich snippet format setup correctly. At least this is what John Mueller explained in a Google Webmaster Hangout. If you have rich snippets, that is great! But, it definitely does not mean that your site doesn’t need work.

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Adwords Automated Ad Extensions can now be disabled.
Cassie from Google posted in Google Adwords Help that you can now disable the automated ad extensions Google sets up for your ads.

To disable the ads:

  1. Sign into your AdWords account.
  2. Click the Ad extensions tab.
  3. Click the “View” dropdown and select Automated extensions report.
  4. Click Automated extension options (advanced).
  5. Click Edit next to “Show all automated extensions for this account”.
  6. Click Exclude specific automated extensions for this account.
  7. Check the box next to the automated extension you’d like to disable.
  8. Click Save.

Google testing Google Shopping carousel ads on Youtube.
Shopping Campaign ads have been on Youtube since 2015 and Google has continuously tested different formats. Recently, a new format was spotted by team members of s360, an agency in Denmark. Google has replaced the ads on the right-hand side of the video on desktop with a scrollable carousel below the video. The carousel displays 4 ads at one time. The ads are currently running only on desktop and it not clear if the ads are running outside of Denmark.


Google tests and then removes Home Services ads in mobile search.
Google has been running Home Services ads in San Francisco and Sacramento for months. More recently in October, Google had been running a trial of Home Service ads in Mobile results for San Francisco and Sacramento users. The test ended and the ads disappeared in November. This may indicate that Google is still not ready for the Mobile release. Or it could mean that Google is in the final steps in releasing Home Service ads for mobile in San Francisco. If Google is confident in their mobile version, it is likely that the program could soon be expanded to other geos.

Google Home Service Ads


Google updates its Google My Business editor.
Users can now bulk edit location of 10 or more in Google My Business editor using a faster method. The steps of the new method are:
Sign in to Google My Business.

  1. Select the locations you’d like to edit. Use the search box or filter your locations using the All locations dropdown menu in the top-left corner of the page.
  2. To edit a single location, click it. To edit multiple locations, use the checkboxes to select the locations, then click the pencil icon that appears in the top-right corner of the page.
  3. Click the field you’d like to edit. If there are any Google updates to your location, you’ll see them next to the information you provided.
  4. Make changes in the window that appears.
  5. Click Apply. Your edits may be reviewed before being published live on Google. Learn more about what happens to your edits


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Midweek SEM Rundown (10/26/16 – 11/1/16) Wed, 02 Nov 2016 00:04:58 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Manual Action bug in Google Search Console resolved.
Over the past few weeks, webmasters were not able to see manual action penalties in the Manual Actions section of Google Search Console. Though they still received notifications of a penalty in the notifications section, they could not submit a reconsideration request. John Mueller followed up with Jennifer Slegg on Twitter that the issues should have been resolved.

Manual Action Problem Resolved GSC


Malicious Subdirectory SEO spam becoming more prevalent.
Sucuri is a company that cleans hacked sites and protects them from further danger. In a recent post, the company noted a new kind of malicious SEO spam that is becoming more common – subdirectory installs. Websites are hacked and a subdirectory with outgoing links is added to the site. Since the face of the website does not change, the site owner may not even notice the hack. Review your site’s directory for suspicious new folders.  

FCC adopts new consumer privacy protection measures.
The FCC has imposed new limits on what ISPs and carriers can do with consumer data. Opt-in consumer consent is required when ISPs store sensitive information including precise geo-location, health information, financial information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history, the content of communication and children’s information. ISPs can still collect and share aggregate information that has had individual ids removed. These rules do not currently apply to websites or apps like Twitter or Facebook. This is great step forward in consumer protection, but more detail is needed in how prominent opt-in disclosures must be. Can a company sneak them into lengthy user agreements? The FCC will need to further clarify their ruling if it is to have any effect.

75% of 2017 internet use will be mobile.
Zenith, is a unit of the French Ad agency Publicis Group SA, which had a global advertising expenditure of $71B. In a recent forecast the company released, it was estimated that in 2017, 75 percent of Internet use will be mobile (smartphone & tablet). This is an increase from their 2016 estimate of 71 percent. Zenith has also predicted that in 2018 Mobile advertising will total $134 billion. A sum greater than all the newspaper, magazine, cinema and outdoor advertising combined. We will have to wait and see if Zenith’s predictions hold true.

Google begins posting about Google Assistant.
Tanya S. From Google has posted the first Google thread on Google Assistant. This first post will be followed by other updates and the forum will be a place for users to provide feedback.

Only remove links from Disavow file after they are removed online.
In response to a question on Twitter, John Mueller explained that it is safe to remove a site from a disavow file only if it the offensive link no longer exists. More specifically, the link must either be removed or nofollowed on the source site and Google must have reprocessed the link. Otherwise, leave the link in your disavow file.

When to remove links from disavow file


Moz Features reporting 40% of Google’s Top Search Results are HTTPS.
The Moz Features tool tracks the different features present in Google’s top search results. This includes knowledge panels, images, Local Packs, etc. In January, Moz reported the percent of top listings that were HTTPS sites at 25 percent. In July the number climbed to 30 percent. Now it is 40 percent. Gary Illyes has confirmed that there has been no change to the HTTPS ranking boost. Has there been a rapid adoption of HTTPS by top sites or are these sites receiving some kind of additional preference?

Alphabet reports quarterly revenues of $22.5B
Google’s parent company Alphabet posted a quarterly revenue of $22.5 billion, greater than Wall Street’s expectations. Revenues were up by 20 percent year over year and net income was $6.3 billion. Ad revenues account for $19.8 of the total revenues with mobile search being the primary driver. Video and programmatic were also other areas of growth cited by Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat.

Hrfelang tag reporting error in Google Search Console.
A number of webmasters have reported that the hreflang international reporting tool is displaying errors and a drop in “known tags”. John Mueller tweeted, in response to questions, that he will be looking into the issue.

Hreflang error in Google Search Console


AMP ad limitations frustrating publishers.
AMP pages have seen a lot of recent development, including advertising capabilities. However, the functionality is still very limited and only allows for certain ad formats. Some publishing sites complain that they can only generate half of the revenue on AMP compared to their full mobile sites. Others like the CNN and the Washington Post have reported near equal revenues on their own AMP pages. AMP is still in its infancy and as developers continue to work on it, many of these complaints should subside. After all, it is in Google’s best interest that AMP be advertiser-friendly.

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Shared budgets added to Bing Ads.
Bing announced that advertisers can now assign one budget to multiple campaigns in Bing Ads. This should help advertisers more efficiently use their ad budgets amongst their different campaigns. Shared Budgets is live in the UI under the Shared Library. It is currently read=only in Editor and Apps.

Bing Ads Shared Budgets


Bug in Adwords Partners specializations.
Several agencies received emails from Google telling them they had lost their Search Ads specialization. The bug affected advertisers around the globe including in the US, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain. Fortunately, the issues was quickly resolved.

Google Adwords Managed Access will receive Administrative Access.
In the coming weeks, Google will be upgrading all managed access levels (Managed-Read only, Managed-Standard) to Administrative access. This upgrade will give these user the ability to add/edit/delete other users in Adwords. Make any necessary changes to avoid permissions issues.


Google adds business attributes management in GMB.
Google posted a recent update to Google My Business. Business attributes can now be managed in the Google My Business dashboard. This is helpful feature. Unfortunately, for those who uploaded attributes using the spreadsheet method, Google will ask for additional verification of these attributes in the dashboard.

Google Maps testing local business names alongside English names.
Google is running a test in Google Maps where the local name of a business, written in the local language, is placed below the English name variant of the business. Florent Abaziou posted screen shots on Twitter.

Local Name tested in Google Maps


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Midweek SEM Rundown (10/19/16 – 10/25/16) Wed, 26 Oct 2016 11:43:28 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Manual Actions not currently displaying in Google Search Console.
There is currently an error in Google Search Console that is preventing Manual Actions from being displayed. Sites receiving manual actions will still receive notice in the Google Search Console messages and in their email, but won’t see the manual action in the Manual Actions section. Unfortunately, this error is halting sites with approved reconsideration requests from being reindexed. John Mueller tweeted that the error was in the process of being corrected.

Manual Action Error in Google Search Console


Google Tag Manager now supports AMP.
Google announced that their Tag Manager now supports AMP pages. The AMP containers in Tag Manager also provide support across Google’s ad platforms. This includes Adwords and DoubleClick. Google Tag Manager received an update in its integration with Firebase. Mobile app containers can now tap into events that Firebase detects automatically.

Google Search Console AMP filter only shows Top Stories.
If you are tracking search analytics information for your AMP pages, John Mueller tweeted an important note. The AMP filter in the Google Search Console Search Analytics report only counts AMP pages in the Top Stories section. This means that any AMP pages that you now have showing in the core mobile results will not counted in the analytics report. Hopefully, Google will adjust this sometime soon.

Amp Tracking in Google Search Console


Google posts consumer data and advice for advertising in the Holidays.
Google has declared this holiday season the “Year of the Supershopper” in their new post. They also included some helpful consumer information for marketers prepping for the holidays. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  1. Last year, 50 percent of shoppers said they were open to purchasing from new retailers and 76 percent of mobile shoppers searching on Google changed their mind about which retailer or brand to purchase from. Brand Loyalty is continually diminishing.
  2. 64 percent of smartphone shoppers use mobile search to look for ideas of what to buy before going to a store. Users not only find new products but new brands to purchase from.
    3. Holiday searchers are looking for the best gifts that are both unique and cool. Last holiday mobile searches for “best gift” grew over 70 percent. Searches related to “unique gifts” grew 65 percent and searches related to “cool gifts” grew by 80 percent.
  3. Mobile searchers generally end up in store looking for what they searched. 76 percent of people who search for something nearby on their phone visit a related businesses within a day, and 28 percent of those visits result in purchase.
  4. Online conversion rates are consistently high throughout the holiday season and spike by 30 percent on Black Friday and 50 percent on Cyber Monday.

Google Stat Year of the Shopper


Google adds Surveys 360 to the Analytics 360 Suite.
Google has split its four-year-old Google Consumer Surveys into a new enterprise-level version in the Analytics 360 suite, and the current consumer-level surveys which has been renamed “Google Surveys”. The new Google Surveys 360 is all about speed as it lets marketers create a survey, find a specific audience sample, and generate statistically significant results in just a few days. You can find the new 360 tool here. The consumer-level Google Surveys is Google’s cheaper pay-as-you-go product. Google Surveys will see a design overhaul that will roll out over the coming months.

Yahoo posts better than expected earnings report.
Last Tuesday Yahoo posted its earnings report which included a total revenue of $1.305 billion, higher than the expected $1.3 billion. This is good news for Yahoo which is trying to close its $4.8 billion acquisition deal with Verizon, scheduled for Q1 of next year. In the report Yahoo highlighted its MaVeNS (mobile, video, native and social) ads, which saw a 24 percent increase to $524 million. However, Yahoo also had drops in other areas. Paid clicks were down by 22 percent compared to Q3 last year and Display ads were down by 5 percent. Some analysts had expected larger drops.

Bing improves its search results for radio stations.
Bing recently partnered with TuneIn to help users find online radio stations and where to stream them. Users searching for “online radio stations” in Bing will receive a carousel of links to streams of popular radio stations. Searchers who click on results will need to install the TuneIn app if searching from a mobile device. Bing says that this is just the first step into search for streamable radio stations. They justify the investment by pointing out that 93 percent of adults listen to radio every week.

Bing Radio Carousel


Google displaying Featured Snippets for site: searches
Google is now displaying featured snippets when users use the site: search function. Previously, Google was only displaying featured snippets for general search queries. Though a featured snippet displays with site: search, this does not mean that the featured snippet will display in the main search. However, this could be a useful tool for webmasters to see what their potential featured snippets look like.

Google launches a lot of algo updates at the end of the quarter.
During a conversation in a Google Webmaster Office Hours, John Mueller noted that Google teams try and complete project by the end of the quarter. This results in several algorithm updates being launched near the end of quarters.

Google prefers JSON-LD structured markup.
In response to a question during Google Webmaster Office Hours, John Mueller said that Google currently slightly prefers JSON-LD. In the future, Google may strongly recommend this format. John did go on to say that websites currently using microformats or anything else do not need to make the switch to JSON-LD. So if your schema markup is currently showing up in Google without issue, no need to switch for now.

Google has a bunch of original source detection algorithms.
John Mueller responded to a question about original content detection by stating that Google has a “bunch” of algorithms dedicated to content source detection. However, he also said that sites that steal your content and then add to it can potentially outrank your site, because of the higher relevancy score, due to the additional content. I am not so sure how reliable Google’s “bunch” of algorithms are in original source detection.

Sitewide or Blogroll links not necessarily bad.
John Mueller responded to a question regarding site wide links, specifically in blogrolls. He explained that links to your site from blogrolls or other site-wide links are not necessarily poor links and their removal or disavowal is not always necessary. Be careful when performing a link audit that you do not cut too deeply, even on site-wide links.

Exit Interstitials won’t be penalized by Google.
John Mueller explained, during a recent Webmaster Office Hours, that sites using exit interstitials will not lose their mobile-friendly boost in the upcoming Google Interstitial penalty. However, exit interstitials have become notoriously spammy and are considered poor user experience.  

Keep 301 Redirects up for at least a year.
During a Webmaster Office Hours, John Mueller explained that 301 redirects should remain up for at least a year, preferably longer. For webmasters who need to remove the old 301 redirects they should first check if there is any traffic coming from the old domain. If there is, check if you can update the old links to the new domain URL, by reaching out to webmasters with the links pointing to the old URL. If you are unable to update the backlinks or keep your 301s long-term, it could result in Google not crawling old backlinks and treating your new domain like a new site.

Hackers hiding their URL with AMP.
Because AMP pages are hosted by Google itself, hackers can disguise their URL. This prevents users from identifying a hacker site from the unusual URL they often use. If you receive suspicious emails or see odd links on a webpage, be wary, even if the URL has the google AMP TLD.

AMP Hackers


PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Bing rolls out Expanded Text Ads globally.
Bing’s beta of Expanded Text Ads (ETAs) has ended and the format is now rolled out globally. Advertisers can create ETAs in the Bing Ad Editor, the Bing Ads UI or through the Bing Ads API. Bing added recommendations to their announcement which include running variations of Expanded Text Ads, taking advantage of the additional ad copy space, and reusing existing campaigns and ad groups to maintain current ad extensions.

Bing updates its campaign creation process.
Bing’s updated campaign creation process makes it easier for advertisers to set up their campaigns. More options are made available in setup and performance estimates are provided to advertisers during the process. Bing now also allows advertisers to copy the the settings from an existing campaign. The improved workflow is live and Bing is looking for feedback in its forum or on Twitter.

Copy Campaign Setting in Bing Ads


Forecasting and trend data added to existing keywords in Google Keyword Planner.
Within the Keyword Planner Google has added an option for getting “forecasts for campaigns or keywords from your account”. The new addition provides performance forecasting and search volume trends when advertisers import their existing account. Advertisers can also see how bid changes can potentially affect the performance of their keywords or campaigns. There is a quality indicator displayed that is based on the data available in the account. Search volume trends show overall average monthly searches and can be broken out by device and location. Advertisers can also see forecasts for additional keywords or mixtures of new and old keywords.

Adwords rolls out Affiliate Location Extensions.
Google announced that they have pushed live their new Affiliate Location Extensions. These extensions can be used by manufacturers to guide customers to third-party retail locations that carry their products. Google has posted a help document on getting the extensions setup.

Adwords Locations Affiliations Extensions


Google showing all shared reports in Adwords by default.
Google announced that all shared reports within the reporting section under an account will be shown to all users by default. Users in the Reports tab will be able to see all reports created by other account users, in addition to their own reports. There is a checkbox for users to “Show my reports only” in the top right of their Reports tab.

Google Adwords Report Sharing


IAB Tech Lab releases standard for dynamic content ads for comment.
The IAB Tech Lab has developed a standard for dynamic content ads and has now released it for public comment. The schema standard works to improve the relevancy of ads, creating numerous ad variations customized to the viewer’s location, gender, language and weather. The new standard functions across different devices and screen sizes and in several ad types including: display, audio, native, video and social. Public comments on the schema can be sent up till November 28, 2016 at  Comments will be used in making revisions to the markup before its final release.


Google tests ‘Write a Review’ in Local Knowledge Panel.
Google is testing a ‘Write a Review’ call to action inside the Local Knowledge Panel. The call to action only displays in mobile when users have reached the Local Knowledge Panel after clicking through a 3-pack.

Google Updates UX of Maps.
Google has updated the functionality of their map results. Users in maps will notice that the local results on the left of the page update dynamically as the user moves around the map with the mouse cursor. The dynamic updates also occur on the next button click. The functionality can be turned off by unchecking the option on the bottom left of the page: “Update results when map moves”.


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Midweek SEM Rundown (10/12/16 – 10/18/16) Tue, 18 Oct 2016 21:18:08 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Google Search is switching from Desktop to Mobile First Index.
Gary Illyes announced at Pubcon that Google is switching to a mobile-first index. Google has not yet implemented the new indexation, but is making webmasters aware so they can prepare for the change. No deadline has been given.

With mobile searches being over 50% of total searches for a couple of years now, Google feels like this is the obvious move. This change makes it very important for webmasters to check what content they are displaying on mobile. Especially if they have a different mobile version (m.domain) of their website or remove content in the mobile variation of their responsive site. Structured data will also need to be present on the mobile variation. Desktop will still be indexed but mobile will be the freshest and therefore the primary indexation. Google admits that ranking based on links may be an issue in this new indexation as users usually build links to desktop versions of sites.

Penguin 4.0 rollout is now complete.
Gary Illyes confirmed on Twitter that Penguin 4.0 is completely rolled out. Gary also confirmed that all websites that had been suffering from any of the previous Penguin updates should have recovered by now.

Penguin 4.0 Rolled Out Tweet


Manual Actions, not Penguin can result in devaluation of all links.
Gary Illyes clarified a statement he had previously made about the Penguin algorithm discounting links to a site. Penguin does not have this capability. Instead, manual penalties can result in not only the devaluing of poor backlinks to a site but all backlinks to a site. This is a form of punishment for site’s using manipulative linking practices. Penguin only devalues the poor backlinks of a website.

Penguin mostly focuses on link source.
Gary Illyes, provided a reminder to SEOs that Penguin focuses primarily on the source of your backlink. The number of backlinks from a source or the anchor text of the link are also important. But, what is most important is the trust and authority of the site that is linking to your own. Spam links from empty profile pages and other manipulative links are devalued by Penguin 4.0.

Google Search Console Site Links Demotion Tool removed.
In 2007, Google added the Site Links Demotion Tool within the Google Search Console. The tool allowed webmasters to identify webpages on their site that they did not want Google to display as sitelinks in search results. Sitelinks are the additional internal links displayed below a search result (usually as a result of a brand search).

Google Sitelinks Removed


Verizon pushing for better deal from Yahoo.
Yahoo experienced a data breach in 2014 that impacted over 500 million accounts. The breach was blamed on “state-sponsored” hacking. Verizon is currently closing on a deal to purchase Yahoo for $4.8 billion. But, Verizon has recently claimed that the 2014 data breach qualifies as a “material” event, and implied they may back out of the deal with Yahoo. This would send Yahoo into a panic and is not in the long-term benefit of Verizon. Verizon more likely  just using the breach as a way to press Yahoo for a lower acquisition price.

Google updates its AMP testing tool.
Google’s mobile-friendly testing tool checks the AMP markup and structured data of web pages. Google has enhanced its AMP testing tool. Any issues that are found can now be clicked on for more details and the problematic site source-code is highlighted. A live preview of how the AMP page would appear in the search results is also provided. Google also added a share button at the bottom of the tool that allows users to take and send results snapshots to their coworkers.

Updated Amp Validation Tool Google


Google may be working on a way to attribute unlinked citations.
Google does not currently have a way to count unlinked citations as a ranking factor for websites. However, based on an interview that Danny Sullivan had with Gary Illyes, Google may be working on the problem. The ability to measure these unlinked citations in aggregate may be in the works, but there certainly is no deadline for the project’s completion.

Google does not rate the quality of links by nationality or language of websites.
John Mueller explained in a tweet that Google does not rate the quality of a backlink based on the source site’s language or nationality. Having backlinks to your site from websites of different languages or countries is not an issue. The relevancy of the link, the authority and trust of the source site and the natural link behavior are what matter to Google. Acquiring quality links for your website is key, not site language or nationality.

The Panda Algorithm demotes/adjusts rankings, does not ‘devalue’.
While Penguin 4.0 devalues spam links, essentially ignoring them, Panda demotes spam content by lowering a site’s rankings. If Panda identifies that a website is gaming the system with content, the site will be pushed down in search ranking.

Google adds “Fact check” label for articles.
Google News articles that include the schema ClaimReview markup or follow the “commonly accepted criteria” for fact checks will now have  a “Fact Check” label in search results. This label may call users’ attention in the search results. Content publishers creating detailed and appropriately sourced content should implement this newly supported Schema markup.

Google Fact Check Label


AMP reaches its one year anniversary.
AMP has now been around for a year and has seen incredible growth. There are now over 600  million mobile AMP pages in 700 thousand unique domains. The AMP project has grown this quickly because of Google’s insistence as well as the support of top publishing sites that have gone AMP-friendly. These top sites include WordPress, Reddit, Bing, Ebay and Pinterest. Whether you like or not, AMP is here and it does not look like it is going away. If you publish content on your site, set up an AMP friendly version of the pages.

Google’s new Patent focuses on knowing the location of users.
Google has been granted a new patent, “systems and methods for generating a user’s location history”. Google hopes to move beyond GPS data in determining where its users are physically located. The patent discusses other sources of location data that can supplement GPS information. These supplementary sources include; search history, emails sent and received, photographs taken, request for directions, social media posts and receipts from mobile payments. While there will probably be a way to opt out of such data collection, Google hopes to be able to map out the daily routine of large portions of its users. Such detailed info would provide Google a method to provide more personalized search results, advertising and tools. Are these benefits to the user worth the cost of privacy?

Webmasters reporting drops due to Penguin 4.0
Not surprisingly, Penguin has had losers as well as winners. A number of webmasters volunteered their losses to Barry Schwartz on Search Engine Roundtable.

There is no advantage in Googlebot crawling of HTTP/2 sites.
GoogleBot now supports the crawling of sites using the HTTP/2 protocol. However, there is no direct SEO ranking advantage for sites using HTTP/2. There is also no advantage in Googlebot crawling or indexation of sites using HTTP/2.

HTTP/2 Ranking Boost


AMP sitemaps are unnecessary.
For those using AMP on their websites (a good idea), you will not need to create a separate XML sitemap for your AMP pages. The rel=amphtml links is enough for Google to index the AMP pages of your site.

Google not making machine learning the core of their algo anytime soon.
Gary Illyes of Google explained that while machine learning is a helpful tool in their algorithm, it is not the core. RankBrain was introduced by Google to focus primarily on serving results for unique, novel queries. However, Google’s current manual algorithms are working well and there is no incentive to use machine learning. This is particularly true, when there is no clean data for a machine learning program to digest. It is unlikely that Google will make machine learning the core of their algorithm, at least not for now.

Google Flights adds airfare cost increases and hotel discount filter.
Google flights now displays when a current airfare will expire for selected flights and the cost savings if a user books now. Tips will also be given to searchers on how to find the best fare. There is also a new filter users can use to filter for hotel discounts. Lastly, users are alerted when savings are available for hotel loyalty members.

Google Flights Alerts


Google only looks at URL for HTTPS ranking boost.
According to Gary Illyes, Google’s ranking algorithm only examines the URL structure in awarding HTTPS ranking boosts. More specifically, Google’s crawler only looks at the first five characters of the URL to determine if a site should receive the secure organic ranking boost. There is no validation of certificates or further site analysis. Google is planning on improving the qualifications for a ranking boost, but it is surprising they have not already done so.


PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

New Adsense Publisher Portal design is rolling out.
Google is pushing live their new design of the Adsense publisher portal. Similar to their redesign of Google Analytics, the new portal highlights relevant info in a simple clean layout. The new homepage is a stream of interactive cards that can be pinned to the top of the page or arranged in any way you like. The streamlined menu allows for easy access to different Adsense tools.

Adsense Portal Redesign


Deleting your Adwords account will not end campaigns.
If you are tired of Adwords and want to stop advertising, deleting your account will not take care of this for you. Instead, your campaigns, as they were set up, will continue to run and you will be charged for the activity. You will need to call Google to get them to turn the campaigns off if you made the mistake of deleting your Adwords account.

Yahoo artificially boosting their search traffic.
Yahoo is currently bartering their purchase deal with Verizon. They have found a couple ways to improve their search engine traffic for expensive keywords. Yahoo is running unorthodox display advertising across the web. The ads don’t link to a product page but instead link directly to the Yahoo search results for that same keyword. Yahoo is also pushing traffic from their homepage directly to their search results. In the trending topics section they sneak in a couple expensive keyword terms like “secured loans” and “MBA programs”. Normally clicking on a trending topic link from the homepage would bring you to Yahoo articles on the topic. Instead, these top keywords link directly to Yahoo’s search results for the terms. Will this manipulation of search traffic affect Yahoo’s deal with Verizon? We will have to wait and see.

Google Adwords click-to-text message extension leaving beta.
Google has been testing an Adwords ad extension that replaced the click-to-call text in ads to click-to-text. When users click on the new option their SMS app will open automatically, where searchers can be greeted by initial text by the advertiser. This new option can be set at the campaign and ad group levels and can be set to run only during certain days and hours. The new format should be rolling out globally over the next few weeks. For those interested, Google has updated their best practices guide.




Google testing unique ad notes in local vehicle ads.
In Google’s local 4-pack ads a bit of text “Nearby businesses” is displayed above the ads. Google is testing a variation of this text. For branded vehicle searches like “honda dealer Austin” Google replaces the normal text with “Honda dealers nearby”. This replacement varies based on the brand requested. A search for “ford dealership edmonton” will result in ‘Ford dealers nearby”. Google is currently only testing this adjusted text with car dealerships but may expand the customization to other verticals in the future.


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Midweek SEM Rundown (9/21/16 – 10/11/16) Wed, 12 Oct 2016 11:48:21 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Google releases Penguin 4.0
Google finally launched the algo update after SEOs waited over a year for its release. Google’s Gary Illyes said on October 7th that the Penguin rollout was nearly finished. By now, it should have been completely rolled out. If you thought your site had a Penguin penalty, hopefully you saw a lift. Otherwise, you may be out of luck. There were concerns after the rollout that blackhat spam techniques would now be easier to test and become more popular. This may also be true of negative SEO attacks. However, Google does not seem very worried. Webmasters also had concerns about the purpose of the disavow file now that Penguin was live. Rather than Penguin demoting sites that have spammy backlinks, those backlinks are devalued.

So should webmasters even bother with the disavow file? John Mueller answered that the role of the disavow file has not changed and that webmasters should still continue to use it. Lastly, Google has not increased the crawl rate of Googlebot as part of the Penguin rollout. Penguin 4.0 is good news for those sites with poor backlink portfolios, the live Penguin algo will make it easier for you to recover quickly (if you put the time in).

Gary Illyes Penguin 4.0 tweet


Google’s AMP will override app deep links.
Announced at SMX East by Adam Greenberg (head of Global Product Partnerships at Google), AMP pages will override app deep links for the foreseeable future. This means that even after a user has installed a publishers app, if they search in Google mobile results what they will find will be the AMP pages above links to the App. Clear preference will be given to AMP pages as they provide the better experience, at least according to Google.

Google only displays 8.5 blue links instead of 10.
Searchmetrics released a study that demonstrated changes to the Google user interface. One of the results of the changed SERP is that Google will often only show 8.5 blue links on average. The other 1.5 links are pushed off the first page in favor of showing other supplemental results like featured snippets, knowledge panels, images, etc. This is bad news for traditional SEOs. The good news is that these supplemental results are not paid, which means your site can be displayed in the new space. Learn how to optimize your site for features like rich snippets.

Google Analytics updates its desktop UI.
Google made adjustments to their desktop version of Google Analytics. If you don’t see these updates, it is because Google is rolling out the changes over the next few weeks. In an effort to simplify the UI Google has updated its navigation, removing the “Home Customization Reporting Admin” and allowing the user to resize the nav. The customization elements will now all be placed in one container appropriately called “Customization”. Users can easily switch to different accounts, properties from anywhere in GA with a new header format. Google has also removed Intelligence Events and placed custom alerts in the customization section. Automated Insights will soon replaced Intelligence Events. Lastly, In-Page Analytics have been removed, though you can see similar data using the Chrome Extension.

Updated Google Analytics User Interface


WordPress adds new SEO features.
WordPress’ new SEO features provide basic organic SEO functionality webmasters have previously relied on plugins to provide (unless you were on which doesn’t allow widgets). Webmasters can now add customized titles and meta descriptions to site pages. WordPress also allows you to preview your titles and meta descriptions in the reader, a Google search result snippet, a Facebook post and a Twitter card.

Google adds RGB to Hex tool in search results.
Similar to its calculator and weather tools, Google has now added a tool for users to convert RBG to Hexadecimals. Users searching “rgb to hex” can use to the tool to either choose values from a sliding color scale or place the exact RGB values directly into the tool.  

Google gives voice to Google Now, calling it “Google Assistant”.
While Google Assistant is not very human sounding, it functions much in the same way as Siri, Cortana and Echo. Google Assistant has a female voice like the others, though I would find it hilarious if Google had John Ratzenberger voice their product. Google Assistant will also answer questions similarly to the other assistants. However, Google has a serious advantage with direct answers because of their extensive knowledge graph. Google Assistant will available in a number of different devices including Google Home.

Google Home announced.
Google Home is Google’s competing product to Amazon Echo. It looks like a smaller version of Echo with a softer color palette (primary colors and white vs. Amazon’s black and orange). Home functions very similarly to Echo, answering user questions with direct answers. Unlike Echo, Google is able to leverage Google’s huge knowledge graph to give a greater range of direct answers. The product will retail at $129 and be available at the Google Store, Best Buy, Target and Walmart.

Google labels your site’s links.

The backlinks on your website are given labels that help Google’s manual action team to better understand your site and whether or not they have to dig deeper. Three types of labels the team might use are: “Penguin real time”, “footer” and “disavow”.

Some Google algos look at the the history of your site.
During Webmaster Office Hours, John Mueller confirmed that the history of a page or website can influence how Google’s algorithm interacts with it. Unfortunately, Mueller was not specific in his explanation. However, content, links, past penalties, and any spammy behavior are apparently recorded to some extent. For those blackhats out there burning and rebuilding sites, make sure you get clean domain names each time and start from scratch (also use different host, provider, who is info). Otherwise, Google will likely be on to you. Or you can just go white hat.   

Google updates its algo in overlapping cycles.
Google has roughly 200 ranking signals it uses to determine its organic rankings. In Webmaster Office Hours, John Mueller said that these ranking signals all had their own cycles of refreshes and did not update simultaneously. While this may seem obvious, it is still worth knowing more clearly how Google’s algo works.

Google displaying flight and hotel costs in search results.
For vacation searches [caribbean vacations], Google is displaying a box at the top of search results that lists four different options for your query with flight and hotel costs. The box also has a ‘More destinations’ link which brings users into Google Trips. SEOs can expect organic search space to continue to shrink as Google reaches its greedy fingers into new verticals.

Google Vacation Carousel


Google treats 301 redirects to your home page as soft 404s.
John Mueller of Google explained that when webmasters 301 redirect many if not all of their old internal pages to the home page, Google treats these redirects as soft 404s. Soft 404s have their linke value demoted if not ignored entirely. The loss of PageRank in these instances could very negatively affect a site’s rankings. Don’t let your developer be lazy in a site migration. 301 redirect from page to new related page on a one-to-one basis.

Google warns against directory links.
Both John Mueller and Gary Illyes tweeted warnings about directory link building. Gary was specific and said, “Directories are very often not the right way to build links. Make sure you know what you’re doing & remember that there’s manual actions too.” For those still using directories for link building, make sure they are legitimate, niche directories (think Chambers of Commerce, Industry associations, etc).

Google releases study on use of mobile.
Google published a study on searchers use of mobile. While the data shared was not surprising, it did reinforce the dominance of mobile. On a typical day 80% of people use a smartphone and 57% use more than one device, while only 27% only use a smartphone and only 14% only use a computer. Cross-device targeting is becoming increasingly more important. Now, we just need a method for cross-device customer tracking.

Google adds structured data & schema support for science datasets.
Google added a new supported data type called “Science Datasets”. This markup can be used for sciences, earth science, materials sciences, as well as for civic and government data. The dataset requires a table or CSV file with a proprietary format that contains data. A structured object with data and image capturing the data is also required.

Don’t add structured data to category pages.
In a recent Webmaster Office Hours it was explained that webmasters should only be marking up individual product pages rather than category or other broad pages. Not following this rule will most likely result in a manual action penalty for spammy structured markup. Be careful you are not accidentally breaking Google’s guidelines.

Google almost immediately accounts for new links.
In the Google Webmaster Office Hours, John Mueller explained that when Google crawls a new link to your site, they almost immediately take the new link into account for determining search rankings. This could potentially be delayed if the link was from an unknown site where Google would have to crawl the unknown site as well to determine authority.

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Google displaying more Adwords Local 4-Packs.
Google is displaying an increased number of Adwords Local 4-packs in the search results. The 4-pack lists ads for four different businesses in the format of the local business listings, complete with star ratings. These ads push down the organic results. They also replace the traditional advertising that displays on the SERP. Fortunately, the local 3-pack is displayed below the Adwords 4-pack. This is bad news for those who worked hard to rank in the local 3-pack, but it is good news for those who don’t rank well in the local results but are willing to pay for a similar placement.

New Search ad features announced by Google at SMX East.
During the keynote discussion of the conference Google’s Jerry Dischler, VP of search ads, and Babak Pahlavan, senior director of product management, announced several new search ad functions. Advertisers will now be able to setup cross-device remarketing campaigns to target the same users across devices. Advertisers will also soon be able to set up their RLSA ads at the campaign level. Demographic targeting for search ads will be rolling out. The targeting lets advertisers target by gender, age and household income. Similar ad audiences are also now in open beta.

Google Adwords Editor v11.6 launches.
Google has launched version 11.6 of its Adwords editor. The new version brings support for various ad formats and adds new device bidding options for desktop, tablet and mobile. Universal app campaigns can be created/edited and single promotion and image templates for Gmail can be created in the Editor. The updated editor is available for download.

Google changes product listing ads to carousel format on desktop.
Google has updated the format of their product listing ads on desktop. Previously, four to five ads were displayed in a static format on the top or side of the page. Now a scrollable carousel displays the ads at the top of the search results page. This allows users to see many more ads on the same page. This may provide relief for advertisers who were unable to competitively bid for the first page before the change. Edit: The scrollable carousel does display but some searches also display the old static format as well. Google currently uses both formats. 

Google Product Listing Carousel

Google introducing cross-device remarketing.

Google’s new cross-device remarketing is meant to “close the loop” for advertisers targeting users on multiple devices. The new remarketing in the Google Display Network and Doubleclick Bid Manager allows advertisers to target the same users as they move across devices. You can still control the frequency of advertising displayed to your target. This new functionality will become available over the next few months. Google also made a couple other improvements to its remarketing campaigns. Advertisers can hold users in their remarketing lists for up to 540 days and will now be able to set up remarketing at the campaign level.

Adwords testing click-to-text business option.
Google is testing an option in its mobile advertising that allows users to click-to-text rather than click-to-call businesses. This could be helpful way for businesses with automated texting setup to respond to customers when there is no one at the business to pick up the phone (closed hours).

Adwords can now link accounts with Salesforce.
Adwords has had a feature in beta that allows marketers to import conversion data from Salesforce. The feature is now coming out of beta and is available to everyone. The option can be found under the Linked accounts section. The Google Click ID (GCLID) passes to Salesforce whenever a conversion is completed on the site. Milestones selected in Salesforce are then automatically imported into Adwords and logged alongside the corresponding conversion events.

Updated Google Adwords Anroid & iOS apps.
Google’s Adwords Android and iOS apps have received a number of updates.

Android Updates
– Favorites. Access your AdWords accounts faster by tagging the ones you most frequently use in your manager account
– Notifications. Receive important notifications about the status of your ads, budget and billing for all of your active accounts
– Search and filter. Search and filter your account for specific campaign, ad groups or keywords so you can quickly drill into the areas that need your attention
– Quality Score. Use the Quality Score column under Keywords to get an estimate of the quality of your ads and landing pages
– Expanded text ad data. View performance statistics for your expanded text ads:

iOS Updates
– Manager accounts. Easily navigate your manager accounts (previously known as My Client Center)
– Notifications. Receive important notifications about the status of your ads, budget and billing for all of your active accounts
– Quality Score. Use the Quality Score column under Keywords to get an estimate of the quality of your ads and landing pages
– Expanded text ad data. View performance statistics for your expanded text ads []

Google Adwords App

Adwords adds support for display URLS in Unicode characters.

Display URLS in Unicode characters will be displayed as Unicode characters regardless of the user’s Google language preference. Previously unicode was only displayed if the characters matched the user’s language preference.

Google makes call conversion tracking easier.
Google has made call conversion tracking with Adwords easier. The new method requires only one dynamic piece of code per landing page and Google will dynamically serve the right number (that you assign in Adwords). This is a clear improvement of creating a unique javascript tag for each different landing page. This method only works well if you only need one phone number per page.

Bing Ads device bidding pilot testing.
After Google’s move back to separate device bidding, Bing is making its own move. Bing is separating tablets from desktops in the bid adjustments and allowing mobile and tablet to be raised to 900 percent, up from 300 percent. Desktop bids can only be set as low as 0. The current changes are being tested in a pilot. For those interested in being part of the test email:

Bing Ads Device Retargeting

Apple rolling out search ads in their App Store.
The beta period for these ads is ending and the format is being opened to all publishers and developers for the iPhone and iPad in the US. The main goal of the advertising is to aid in App discovery and is Apple’s response to Google’s Search Ads in the their Play store. In Apple’s setup, only one ad will be displayed per search and developers will be able to set a max daily budget and an overall campaign budget. The familiar second price auction will be used in bidding. Apple is providing a $100 credit for developers starting their first campaign.

Google announces new ad unit design for Adsense.
For Adsense text & link unit ads, Google is updating the look with a new “minimalist design” to bring focus to the content. The new ad has text left justified with a clean white background and button placed in the right corner. These newly designed ads are still customizable.

Google Redesigned Adsense Ads

Bing Ads adds support for Shopping campaigns.
Bing Ads Editor v11.4 has added the ability to create new Shopping campaigns and edit existing campaigns directly from the editor. The new Shopping settings tab is found in the editor panel where advertisers can set Store ID, region of sale and campaign priority. The Type, Bid, and Destination URLs for products can be adjusted in the editor. If you are still using Bing Ads Editor version 10 you will need to download version 11 seperately.



Google testing advanced verification to prevent spam in local results.
Google is testing a new “advanced verification” process for locksmiths and plumbers in San Diego. If businesses in these two categories do not complete the advanced verification process by November 10th, they will have their listings removed. Google is using a third party company (Pinkerton) to do run the verification. The process takes two weeks to complete. Here are the steps. Hopefully, this will help cleanup these spammed industries.

Google adds features in v3.1 of its My Business API.
Google My Business API Version 3.1 is out and comes with a few updates. The update includes: subscription for push notifications of new reviews, Google Maps URLs being included in location responses, additional location states indicating when a listing was published, a reopen flag that indicates closed locations that can be reopened, support for URL and Enum attributes and a list of supported categories for country and language (replaces csv files).

Google adds “Fom the menu” section in local results.
Google now displays a “From the menu” section in the local knowledge panel for restaurants. The section shows pictures of food that people have taken at the restaurant. The photos are being crowdsourced and users can add additional photos by clicking on the small blue photo icon in the top right of the local knowledge panel. The new section only seems to appear in mobile search results.

Google My Business adds recommendations for dealing with Local SEOs.
Google has added helpful guidelines in their Google My Business help page for businesses working with local SEOs. Google gives five best practices for making sure you are getting the best return for your local SEO work.
These are:
– Be selective
– Work with one at a time
– Educate yourself
– Trust experience
– Evaluate your performance
Each of these best practices have more specific recommendations. There are also warnings to protect businesses from deceptive behavior.


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Midweek SEM Rundown (9/14/16 – 9/20/16) Wed, 21 Sep 2016 12:53:36 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Google AMP rolls out to main mobile search results.
Last month, Google had been warning webmaster that it would be bringing AMP results into the 10 main mobile search results. The change is apparently live (at least for US users). AMP results are now displaying in the 10 blue links.  Google later confirmed AMP results were rolling out to the main mobile search results.

Google adds ability to move properties between accounts in Google Analytics.
Google now allows Google Analytics users to consolidate scattered properties into one account. Consolidating properties allows users to apply the same set of filters to the views in all properties, easily manage users for the properties and views in a single account, and use change history to see all events from all properties in the same account. In order to move a property from one account to another you must first have access to both accounts. No retagging is needed when moving properties between accounts.

Google Analytics property transfer


Google claims recent algorithm updates part of ‘normal fluctuations’.
This past week, webmasters noticed large fluctuations in their search results, as did tools like Mozcast, Accuranker and RankRanger. However, John Mueller tweeted, in response to numerous questions, that the fluctuations in the search results were normal. It is doubtful that many will accept this response.

Google explains how to best fix AMP pages.
Google created a post that explains the best way to debug and validate your AMP pages (since only ‘valid’ AMP pages are displayed in search results). The post reviews both the AMP web validator and AMP browser extensions tools that webmasters can use to diagnose issues.

AMP page correction


Google rolling out image thumbnails in mobile search.
Google had been testing image thumbnails in mobile search results for product based searches. Apparently, the test is now rolling out to everyone. It is unclear how Google determines the image to be displayed in search.

Google Webmaster Hangouts move to YouTube Live Hangouts.
John Mueller has been faithful in maintaining a weekly video hangout to answer the questions of webmasters. The hangouts had been run in Google+ hangouts, but have now transitioned over to YouTube Live Hangouts. The transition occurred because Google was closing the hangout on Google+. The next hangout will happen on September 23rd.

Google Data Studio now in beta.
Google Data Studio is a new part of the (paid service) Google Analytics 360 Suite. The tool allows marketers using Google Analytics to easily create reports from the data in GA. The tool is flexible and allows you to change fonts, colors, charts, etc. It provides an easy way for users of Google Analytics to create reports for both in-house and client-facing needs. Google is currently allowing users of free Google Analytics accounts to test out the new tool.


Google lowers image search box in web results.
Mozcast tweeted a lowering of the image search box in search results. A couple different tools noted the drop as well. The number of search queries with an image search box dropped by nearly 50 percent.

Google adds Courses to its schema markup.
Aaron Bradley spotted the change and tweeted that Google had added schema markup for courses. The new markup includes fields for the course name, course provider and a description of the course.

Disqus comments adds AMP support.
Disqus announced they have added support for Google’s AMP. Using the <amp-iframe> tag, Disqus is able to bring their comments into AMP pages. Disqus has posted a getting started document.

animated gif of Google AMP in action


Android Chrome adds ‘Make page mobile-friendly button’.
Beginning last month, it was noticed that Chrome for Android was adding a button at the bottom of non mobile-friendly web pages. The button prompts the user to view a mobile-friendly version of the webpage. If clicked, the text is resized and distributed on the page in a much more user-friendly manner.

Google’s interstitial penalty applies to pop-up on scroll.
During a Google Hangout, John Mueller was asked if pop-ups triggered by user scroll would be targeted in Google’s interstitial penalty. Mueller responded that yes, if the pop-up is blocking the content of a page, even after scroll, Google would consider it problematic.

Google still has no date for the Penguin update.
It is nearing two years since the last Penguin update and Google still has not rolled out an update. Last week, John Mueller said that Google was working on an announcement regarding Penguin 4.0, but recently tweeted that there are no dates to announce for Penguin. Everyone keeps guessing, but we all just keep waiting.

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Bing Ads rolling out Structured Snippets for text ads.
Bing Ads is rolling out Structured Snippets for text ads globally over the next few weeks. Structured Snippets are not clickable by users. They only display additional information for that can include: Brands, Types, etc. Up to 20 Structured Snippets can be associated with a campaign or ad group and up to 10 snippets can display with an ad. You can find Structured Snippets in the Ad Extensions tab at the campaign and group levels. Structured Snippets from Adwords campaigns can be imported into Bing Ads.

Bing Ads Snippets


Google will begin reporting null quality scores on Oct 10, 2016.
When a quality score could not be determined in Adwords a default score of ‘6’ was given. However, the default scores will be replaced with dashes, giving a null score. The rollout of these null scores was initially planned for Sep. twelth but has now been postponed to Oct 10. You should notice null scores for your newly added keywords or keywords that haven’t seen recent activity.

AdBlock Plus now selling its own ads in place of blocked ads.
In a twist of irony, AdBlock Plus has launched its own ad platform. Through a partnership with ComboTag, AdBlock Plus is opening the Acceptable Ads Platform, which will display ads over top of the ads that were blocked. AdBlock Plus is currently not displaying ads on publisher websites if the publisher has not adopted their new ad platform. AdBlock Plus also makes money by whitelisting certain companies like Google, Bing and Taboola to have their ads displayed (when the ads would normally be blocked). We will have to wait and see if users switch from Adblock Plus to one of their competitors over the issue. In response, Google has terminated its relationship with ComboTag. Google’s Sridhar Ramaswamy said the relationship was ending because, “this is not a business that we want to be a part of”.

Adwords conversions for shopify users double counted.
Google posted a note in their Adwords Help forum that warns Shopify users of potentially double-counted conversions. Shopify recently made an update that allows users to check past orders by viewing the Shopify confirmation page. Unfortunately, this page includes the conversion tracking pixel. This results in the double counting of conversions within Adwords. To avoid this, Adwords users need to update their conversion tags to include the Order ID. Here is how to do that.

Bing Ads supports bulk campaign editing.
Bing announced that users of their mobile apps now have the ability to manage multiple campaigns at the same time with bulk editing. Users can now enable or pause multiple campaigns, ads and keywords simultaneously rather than one at a time.

Are these the requirements for detailed Keyword Planner data?

Google explained that a threshold of activity needed to be reached in Adwords in order for users to access exact traffic estimates within the Keyword Planner tool. However, they were not sharing what the threshold was. One advertiser had their Adwords rep give them a bit more information. You must be running campaigns with clicks for a minimum of 3-4 months to gain access to focused keyword data. The exact spend needed over this time period is still unclear.

Google announces updates in Universal App Campaigns and YouTube ‘TrueView for Action’.
At DMEXCO 2016 Google announced that its app ads had driven 3 billion installs for developers. Google followed up the announcement with an unveil of the ability to run event-based optimization in Universal App Campaigns. Universal App Campaigns adjust ads in real time to target the more valuable users for a brand, based on past user behavior. Google also announced a new YouTube campaign called ‘TrueView for Action.’ The new campaign lets advertisers make video ads more actionable with tailored calls to action during and after the video. This campaign type will hopefully drive direct traffic in addition to building brand value.

Big brands join together to form the Coalition for Better Ads.
Due to the increasing percentage of people using ad-blocking technologies, big brands are forming a coalition to improve the quality of online advertising. The coalition will be using technology developed by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to better serve ads that are safe, fast and secure. Founding members of the coalition include: Google, Facebook, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, the 4As, The Association of National Advertises, The Washington Post, the World Federation of Advertisers, GroupM and the IAB.


Google announces Google Trips.
Google Trips is a digital travel companion app that includes local information grouped in categories: reservations, day plans, things to do, food & drink, etc. The app data is available offline and users can download trip information and save it on their phone. Google Trips is available on Android and iOS.

Google Trips


Google brings trip planning to desktop.
Google added the feature to plan trips in the Map Results for Android and iOS mobile users. The function allowed user to see weather information, flight durations, points of interest and visit itineraries. This feature has now been added to the knowledge box section on the desktop search results. The destination information is posted in a ‘Plan a trip’ section of the knowledge box.

Google testing local pack below organic results.
In an odd test, Google is running a SERP layout with the local pack placed at the bottom of the page. Daniel Thomason posted a screenshot of the test.

IOS10 Apple iMessage adds transactional local apps.
IOS10 includes an updated version of iMessage that comes with an App store and the ability for third party developers to build app integrations like stickers and app extensibility. New stickers can easily be created an added to apps and developers can also add iMessage apps. With the new functionality, users will be able to tap into the 2 million third-party apps in the App Store.


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Midweek SEM Rundown (9/7/16 – 9/13/16) Tue, 13 Sep 2016 22:29:25 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Prepare for AMP results in the 10 blue links.
Back in late July, Google provided a preview of the future of AMP – its placement in the 10 blue links (in mobile search). Google plans to expand AMP results into the main mobile search results. Users who click on an AMP result will be brought into the AMP viewer. The viewer allows users to swipe through the stories in the search results without having to return to the main search results view. Think of it as a Tinder experience for content. This will dramatically change the search experience. Webmasters need to have a plan to make their sites AMP friendly for search engines and visually appealing in AMP format for users. Google has really been pushing AMP, let’s hope they don’t bail on it.

Google preparing Penguin 3.0 announcement.
During a hangout, John Mueller said Google is working on an announcement for Penguin 3.0. Some assume that this means that the release of Penguin is finally drawing near. If you are working on backlink cleanup, you may want to hurry to finish up. Of course, we could just end up waiting another six months again.

European court rules, linking to illegal/unauthorized content is copyright infringement.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that “every act of communication of a [copyrighted] work to the public has to be authorized by the copyright holder”. In the case, a webmaster was repeatedly linking to illegal content, despite protests of the copyright owner. However, the general ruling can later be applied by other courts in a way that threatens the open information flow of the internet. Search engines may be imposed with a significant burden to determine if the sites presented in their results contain unauthorized content. This burden may also be placed on webmasters whenever they link out to another website.  

Google reminding webmasters not to use widget links as a link building strategy.
Google posted an article on their blog, reminding webmasters to not insert links in their widgets as a link building strategy. The strategy used to be very popular and involved developers placing hidden links in their widget code. When a webmaster used the widget on their site a low-quality link pointed back to the developer’s site. This tactic has been considered grey (if not black) hat for a couple of years now. Webmasters with these links on their site or developer’s with these links in their backlink profile may start receiving notices and manual penalties in their Google Search Console accounts.

Google says AMP pages provide expanded exposure in mobile search.
In Google’s recent blog post about AMP, included is the line “all types of sites that create AMP pages will have expanded exposure across the entire Google Mobile Search results page”. This line has caught the attention of the search industry. When it comes to the future of AMP it looks like Google is not bluffing. If you have an “e-commerce, entertainment, travel, recipe sites” or essentially any topic based site, look into how AMP can be added to your site.

AMP in search results

Increase in Google Search Console Crawl Errors not an issue.
Webmaster have recently been noticing a larger number of crawl errors showing up in their Google Search Console accounts. John Mueller was asked about the issue during a Google Hangout. He responded that the uptick in crawl errors was not due to the recent algorithm update. Instead, Google had been crawling and updating information on a lot of older URLs, which are often removed. This explains the surge in crawl errors.

Google Analytics Real Time report down.
A number of webmasters were complaining that the Real Time report within Google Analytics was not working. Instead the report was displaying a line of text, “resource is not available, please try again later”. Google has been working on correcting the problem for a few days now and the issue should be fixed soon. Google did offer a temporary work-around: clear your cookies from your browser and use Google Analytics in incognito mode.

Real time reporting issue tweet


Check page quality if rich snippets not present in search results.
When you add schema markup to your website, you first need to test it is written correctly in Google’s structured data testing tool. If it is written correctly and doesn’t break any of Google’s policies, it should display in search results. However, if your page is low quality, the featured snippets may still not show up. To test if the page quality is the issue, John Mueller recommended doing a site query for your site. If the rich snippets do not show up in the direct site query (Site Command), this indicates an issue with the quality of the page.

New query modifier in Google featured snippets.
Pete Meyers tweeted a screenshot of an added query modifier that appeared in the featured snippet answer box. At the bottom of the box was the text ‘Search for’ followed by a modified query. Clicking on the query updates the search results and answer box.

Featured snippet variant


Code to text ratio is not a Google ranking factor.
John Mueller succinctly answered ‘no’ when asked if code to text ratio is a ranking factor for Google search. Many SEO tools include a code to text ratio analysis. You can now safely ignore it. However, sloppy code with unnecessary calls can affect site speed. Don’t let your developer grow lazy.

Bing improves autocomplete for academic and movie search.
Bing launched its new autocomplete features earlier this year, but only recently announced the improvements. Academic-related searches allow users to explore the relationships between papers, authors, topic and publications in a large object graph. Movie related searches are analyzed for natural language input and determination is made of the most likely interpretations. The new autocomplete can also generate extensions for queries never previously searched. The old autocomplete relied on adding extensions for queries that Bing had previously seen.

Google testing bolder, darker AMP icon in search results.
Google is running a test with a darker and bolder AMP symbol displayed next to AMP results in the SERP. This variation calls more attention to the AMP results than the light, greyed-out version they currently use.

Darker amp icon


Search Engine Strategies (SES) is shutting down.
Search Engine Strategies, founded by Danny Sullivan, was among the first search conferences, starting all the way back in 1999. Over the years it slowly faded as other conferences began to emerge and especially when Danny Sullivan left and started up Search Engine Land and Search Marketing Expo. Seeing the conference disappear is reminiscent of Yahoo shutting down its directory.

Google Search Console Search Analytics being fixed.
Last week, a bug in the search analytics section of Google Search Console caused data to stop updating. Understandably, a large number of webmasters were annoyed. John Mueller tweeted last Thursday that the report had a delay but should be catching up.

Security Issues report improved in the Google Search Console.
Google announced an improved version of their Security Issues report. The updated report includes more specific explanations, with context and detail, of security issues detected by Safe Browsing. Issues that are reported include malware, deceptive pages, harmful downloads and uncommon downloads.

Google reaches 1.75 Billion sites deindexed due to copyright infringement.
Google has reached 1.75 billion confirmed websites, deindexed due to copyright infringement. Google generally accepts copyright takedown requests and has only rejected 39 million (2 percent of total requests). Google does not identify copyrighted material on its own. It requires the copyright owner to submit a takedown request. If you are dealing with others using your content, first make sure you have canonical tags setup correctly on all content on your site. Then, submit offenders to Google.

deindexed copyright content

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Google removes detailed Keyword Planner data for all non-advertisers.
A few months ago, Google had limited the data presented in the Keyword Planner to those with an active account. All others were only presented with broad traffic estimates for keyword searches. Google has since expanded the limitation to all non-advertisers and now to all legacy accounts. Google has also added an undisclosed spend threshold as a requirement to prevent users from spending just $1.00 to see the keyword data. Other similar loopholes have been closed off. Google now expects you to pay for access to keyword data.

Adwords Campaign Experiments to be replaced by Drafts & Experiments.
Google will be replacing its Campaign Experiments with the new Draft & Experiments which launched back in February and was extended to display campaigns in August. Drafts allow you to make multiple edits to a campaign without the edits going live until they are posted. Beginning the week of Oct 17, advertisers will no longer be able to create new Campaign Experiments and the platform will be completely finished on February 1, 2017.

Google extends Expanded Text Ad deadline to January 31, 2017.
Google will continue to accept traditional text ads until January 31, 2017. The original deadline was October 26. After the January deadline, existing standard text ads will continue to run, but advertisers will not be able to edit them or create additional standard text ads. In its announcement, Google also listed a suggest set of best practices for testing expanded text ads.

Multiple account access & management in Google Adwords.
A new feature has been added to Google Adwords, which allows users to sign in with one account and switch between other accounts without using My Client Center. Up to 5 Adwords accounts (including manager accounts) can be associated with a single email address.  You can also invite additional users to access your account with a single click. No more email verification required.

Google Keyword Planner altering keyword queries.
The Keyword Planner has begun altering keyword queries, showing what appears to be the most searched for variant. If you place the word “dealership” into the tool, you will receive keyword data for the term “dealers”. This behavior is not very reliable and sometimes shows alternate keywords which change the intent of the search. The Keyword Planner seems to be less reliable than ever.

Error in Google Keyword Planner.
A number of people are complaining on Twitter that the Keyword Planner in Adwords is not working. When they try to access the tool they receive the message, “to use Keyword Planner, you need to have at least one active campaign. If you have an active campaign and are still seeing this message, try reloading Keyword Planner in a few minutes.” Google has responded to these complaints, saying they are working on the issue.  

Google alerts users to combined data in Keyword Planner.
Google updated its Adwords Keyword Planner to be more transparent when it is displaying search volume estimates for combined search variants. Google started combining variant data earlier this year, but it was unclear when it was happening. Now, when combination happens the data is displayed on a single line and a notification appears on the top of the page.

Adwords ad preview now includes expanded text ads.
Google updated the ad preview in Adwords to include expanded text ads. This should help advertisers have a better idea if their headline might be truncated. The updated ad preview has separate mobile and desktop views and a separate section to view sample ads. The ‘view more’ link brings up a window with more examples of expanded text ads.

Ad preview expanded text ads


Google rolls out Adwords Shopping Tab Results in ten countries.
Product listings in the Adwords Shopping Tab, specific to their host country, wer initially limited to: United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, France, japan, Italy, the Netherlands, Brazil, Spain Switzerland and the Czech Republic. Google recently added the following countries to the list: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Russia, Sweden and Turkey. These new countries previously showed country specific products in search results and in Google Partner search results, but not as a standalone shopping tab. Google’s help documents have been updated to reflect the change.

Google making adjustments to ads in Play Store search results.
Google is updating how app promotion ads display in the Play Store. A second ad slot will be available on some non-branded, broad queries. A second ad will not always display for these queries though. Also, when users search for a specific app they will no longer receive an ad for the app above the app itself. Instead the app will be top result, followed by related apps and ads for related apps. This will help prevent advertisers from paying for clicks from users who were going to their app anyway.


‘Reviews from the web’ now on Local Knowledge Panels.
Google announced, last Wednesday, that they would be adding reviews from around the web on the Local Knowledge Panels for individual businesses. This change is now live. On an individual business local knowledge panel, below Google’s own reviews is a section that provides aggregate ratings from other sites across the web. These can even include reviews from your own website if you have an aggregate review system setup. Businesses now have an additional reason to mind their reputation across multiple review platforms.  (grab a screenshot of Connecticut basement systems)

Reviews from the web

Yelp removed from ‘Reviews from the web’ section of Local Knowledge Panel.
After being displayed for a short period for of time, the reviews from Yelp have been removed from the Reviews from the web section of the Local Knowledge Panel. It appears this removal was at the request of Yelp. Other sites like 4Square and Zomato have filled Yelp’s place in the section.  

Google updates its schema review guidelines.
The new guidelines split the old version into two sets of rules, covering critic reviews and review snippets. The updated critic reviews guidelines make it clear that reviews must be written by a human and not be machine generated. Additional guidance was also provided for the use of Review Snippets. The most important note regarding Review snippets is that businesses are still restricted to only adding schema markup to reviews generated on their own site (and not from third-party websites).

Potential refresh to Google local ranking filter.
It appears that Google is running a local filter that cycles in a period of weeks or months (rather than continuously). The filter scans the listings appearing in the 3-pack or in the Local Finder (viewed when you click “More Places”) and removes any that are marked with a spam score beyond a certain threshold. This cyclical filter may be to blame for the shrinking of local listing results back in July. What gets tagged by the filter seems to vary widely by search industry.

Google Maps hiding addresses from listings.
Google used to display the addresses of listing underneath their name in the left hand bar of Google Maps. They now hide the exact addresses from the user. The addresses still do display in the local 3-pack and in Maps if the user clicks through from the local 3-pack.

“Helpful” button being tested in Google Reviews.
Google is testing a small thumbs-up icon next to the word “Helpful” underneath reviews. Clicking on the button allows users to rate reviews.

Google adding reviewers name in rich snippets.
Google has added the name of the reviewer to the rich snippets displayed in the search results. The name of the reviewer only appears when there is a single review available.


Google adds pricing information to displayed mobile rich snippets.
Google updated its mobile organic review rich snippets. The snippets now have additional space and display pricing details.


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Midweek SEM Rundown (8/31/16 – 9/6/16) Wed, 07 Sep 2016 11:28:03 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Google rolls out two large algo updates.
Google has not yet confirmed, but it looks like two updates were rolled out on September first. The first was an update to Google’s core search ranking. The update applied to all industries rather than a niche. The other change affected local pack ranking. The local update was a quality update, with Google removing a lot of spammy local results. Some webmasters believe that the update was an update to the local ranking algorithm that affected more than just quality.

Search Flux Graph

Google’s weekend update was not Penguin 4.0

John Mueller confirmed in a Google+ hangout that the updates over the weekend were not Penguin related. Google has not yet confirmed what the updates were related to.

Google recommends the forecasting tool (for those who lost the keyword planner).
Cassie from Google provided a recommendation for those who lost access to the Adwords keyword planner tool. She recommended using the forecasting tool for collecting keyword data. She even lays out steps for how to access the tool and collect keyword data. A more detailed step-by-step guide can also be found here.

Improved Security Issues reports in Google Search Console.
Google updated the Search Issues report within the Google Search Console. The report now provides more specific explanations of the identified security issues. The explanations give more context and detail and can include sample URLS webmasters can check to identify the source of an issue.  

Security Issues Report

Google Search Console Search Analytics report stuck on August 31.

There is an error in the search analytics report within the Google Search Console. Data stopped updating on August 31, 2016. Google is aware of the issue and currently working on adding the missing data.  

Google Structured Data Tool supports Schema v3.1
It was announced a couple weeks back that Google’s Structured Data Tool would soon support Schema v3.1. Now it officially does.

Google Android allows for “in app” indexation.
Google announced “in app” indexation on Android. Developers can integrate their apps to allow Google to index locally personal content without Wifi. This allows for content from within the app to rank for relevant queries in the Google app on Android or in the “in Apps” tab.

In App Indexation

Google Rolls out Search Live Coverage pilot.

Search live coverage allows publishers to submit breaking content (related to elections, sports, etc.) to Google in real time. The pilot program is open to selected publishers. You can apply here. Live coverage will help Google surface new, breaking content on their SERP faster than their traditional crawling methods. Interested publishers must be using AMP HTML and supply an Atom-based feed.

Google testing Webmaster Hangouts over YouTube Live.
John Mueller is looking for another format to hold the weekly webmaster hangouts. Mueller will be manipulating the Google Slides Q&A along with YouTube Live to continue answering webmasters’ questions.

Google adds automated insights to Google Analytics apps.
Google has added automated insights that display on the Assistant screen of the Google Analytics apps for both iOS and Android. The insights point out both good and bad changes in data to make users aware of potential successes or issues. These notifications can include changes in conversion rate, average session duration, performance based on device and based on screen resolution. The insights also come with a ‘view more details’ option, which provides additional data and segmentation on the topic.

Google Insights

Google bans Acuun Media.

On Monday, Google banned, the homepage of Acuun Media. The site is no longer ranking for its name in Google search. Acuun Media is one of the largest television networks in Turkey. What Acuun’s exact offense was is unclear.

Apple removing broken apps from its app store.
Apple will be cleaning up the 2+ million apps in its store. Apple will be sending out notifications to developers for apps that are broken, neglected or no longer comply with review guidelines. Developers with have a 30-day deadline to update their app or face its removal. Any apps that crash on launch will be immediately removed. Current users of non-compliant apps will not be affected. Apple will also target apps that use extremely long names in an attempt to boost their visibility in the App Store search results.

Over two-thirds of digital media time is now mobile.
Comscore released its July data, which showed that smartphone apps now account for 50 percent of all digital media time (up from 44 percent last year). Total digital media time spent on mobile was 68 percent with total time spent on desktop being only 32 percent. Mobile continues to dominate and webmasters and marketers must place their primary focus there. Don’t neglect desktop, but don’t spend too much time there either.

Digital Time Spent Graph

Google’s search share increases incrementally.

Google has seen a small but continuous increase of its search market share over the past year. Last year they had 79.17% market share in desktop search. That has increased to 79.88%. Google also dominates the mobile search market with 94.53% of the market. Google’s increased share has come at the expense of its competitors, which saw similarly small drops.

Google tests click to call on organic search results.
Google has been testing a variation of their organic search results that includes a click-to-call button directly beneath individual mobile search results. The phone number is most likely pulled from the organization markup on homepage of the search result. The click-to-call option looks reminiscent of the same Adwords feature.

Google testing additional spacing in Mobile SERPs.
Google continually runs tests in their search results and they have recently begun testing a cleaner search results page. The number of results info for the search is removed from the top of the page and increased space is placed between the search results. The additional space pushes results farther down the page and out of the user’s view.

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Google Adwords adds account-level sitelinks.
Google announced account-level sitelinks, which apply to any ad in the account automatically. Any campaigns or ad groups that don’t have campaign or ad group-level sitelinks will automatically use sitelinks created at the account level. (The new sitelinks will be rolled out to all Adwords accounts over the next couple weeks.)

Google Rolling out Adwords Campaign Groups.
Google announced the roll out of a new Adwords feature called Campaign Groups. Campaign Groups allow advertisers to group campaigns with common targets to monitor performance. Advertisers can select from clicks, conversion, spend, average CPC or average CPA target. The feature is found on the left sidebar of Adwords. Campaign groups is only for monitoring and does not have any management functionality.

Google Campaign Groups

New design & feed rules for Google Merchant Center.

Google announced an update to the Merchant Center feed rules and design of Merchant Center. Merchant Center was built as a self-service tool to allow advertisers to transform existing data from their inventory management systems into a format appropriate for Google Shopping. The recent updates include the ability to partially change or update existing values, to create new values by combining static values and to extract values from other attribute values. Along with update feed rules, Google also updated the look and navigation of Merchant Center, making it easier for advertisers to use.

Bug in Google Analytics showing ‘Not Set’ in Adwords Reporting.
A bug is affecting a large number of Google Analytics users. In the Adwords reporting section of GA, campaign and revenue tracking are being labeled ‘not set’. Google has responded that their technical team is working on the problem.  

Google testing mobile Shop the Look ads.
Google is adding a new format, to the mobile shopping experience, called shop the look. The new format will appear on broad queries like “wedding outfit”. The ‘looks’ provided come from a network of partners that include Polyvore, Curalate and After users click on a look, they see product listing ads with the exact or similar products as those in the image. The displayed product listing ads are powered by Shopping campaigns. Advertisers must have their Shopping campaigns optimized for mobile to be included. Advertisers only pay when their ad is clicked on.

Mobile Shop the Look Ads

Adwords report editor adds additional data.

Google announced that they added additional data in the Adwords report editor. This includes data in shopping, video campaigns, labels and final URLs.

Google’s Ad Grantspro program no longer accepting applications.
Grantspro was a program that offered up to $40,000 per month of Adwords spend as search advertising grants. This is part of Google’s effort to wind down the Grantspro program. New applicants will not be accepted, however, approved participants can continue to use the program.  

Adblocking continually on the rise.
Blockmetry produces a ‘weather report,’ which displays the webpages subject to adblock and analytics blocking. The weather report shows that worldwide ad blocking (by page view) has now reached 32.4 percent with analytics blocking at 5.2 percent. Individual country ad blocking greatly varies. The United States sits at 31.5 percent while Norway has 50.7 percent ad blocking on web pages.

World-wide blocking level


Google My Business adds ability to add/remove managers & owners.
Google My Business has added the ability to add multiple owners to individual locations or businesses. Listing owners can invite additional users to own or manage listings, without having to share personal account information. Owners control who is added to a listing, managers can only remove their access. The new feature can be found in the ‘manage the location’ in Google My Business. Google posted a help document with more detailed instructions.

New Access Map View in Google My Business.
Google My Business released a new feature, “Access Map View”. Access Map View allows users to see all the businesses they manage on a single map. A red or blue icon on the map indicates a business. Clicking on the icons shows users listing information as well as an edit option. The new feature is found in Google My Business by clicking on the map view icon.

Google My Business Map


Google selects “areas of interest” for users.
There were a number of changes in the update to Google Maps. One of the more influential changes in the update is Google’s highlighting new “areas of interest”. The areas of interest are highlighted in orange (everything else is in white) and contain information when tapped by the user. Areas of interest are chosen by Google’s algorithm. These areas of interest will affect where users end up going and which local businesses they choose to visit.

Google Update affects local ranking results.
Google rolled out a large update over the weekend that consisted of two parts. The first part appears to have affected the core search algorithm. The second part was targeted at the local search results. Based on the forum chatter, the update probably targets spammy results in the local results.  

Google sometimes displaying 2-pack local results.
Jennifer Slegg, posted screenshots of a couple queries displaying 2-packs rather than 3-packs in the local search results. This may be a test, or individual anomalies. Google seems to prefer 3-packs but may display 2-packs when no relevant third option is present.

Google testing local knowledge panel on desktop.
Google has been testing the mobile-based format of the knowledge panel on desktop search result. The new format provides more room for photos and places them in a carousel. The knowledge panel still displays on the right of the search results, but the option to favorite the business is removed.


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Midweek SEM Rundown (8/24/16 – 8/30/16) Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:15:03 +0000

Welcome to the Weekly SEM Rundown, where I recap the past week’s major SEM news and provide insights.

The news for each week is broken up between:

SEO (search engine optimization)

Google Mobile Interstitial Penalty coming January 10 ‘17.
Last week, Google announced that it would be creating a search penalty for sites using pop-ups and interstitial ads on their mobile sites. This penalty will replace and strengthen the previous app interstitials ad penalty. But, not all app interstitials will be penalized. Only those that interfere with the content of the site. Ads only using a reasonable amount of banner space are fine. Exception is also given for interstitials for cookie usage warnings and age. Expect the penalty to go live on January 10, 2017.

Google Mobile Interstitial Ad

Google Popup & Interstitial penalty applied to page level.
Google’s John Mueller confirmed on Twitter that Google’s upcoming penalty on obtrusive popup and interstitial ads will be applied to pages rather than whole websites. This is similar to how Google’s mobile-friendly penalty was applied.

Google index status report fixed.
For a number of weeks the index status report within the Google Search Console was broken. However, John Mueller said that the report has been fixed and is catching up processing data.  

Google not planning on creating mobile interstitial testing tool.
Kenichi Suzuki asked (via twitter) Google’s Kazushi Nagayama if Google would be adding such a tool to the Google Search Console or mobile usability reports. It turns out that the answer is no.

Mobile Insterstitial testing tool


AMP supports A/B testing.
AMP is supporting an <amp-experiment> which allows publishers to test variation of their pages. Multiple variants can be included in each test. The AMP Project has provided full documentation as well as a demo.

Google Analytics releases Workspaces for tag management.
Google Analytics is rebranding itself as Google Analytics Solutions and launched a new feature called Workspaces.  Workspaces is a collaborative feature found in Google Tag Manager and Tag Manger 360. Workspaces allows multiple teammates to work on tags at the same time, making quick changes without publishing everything. The Workspace is a place to work and set changes to new versions of tag management. When a new version of the workspace is published the list of changes is carried over to the new version, keeping a full history of what has been changed.

Workspaces - Google Tag Management


Bing search app for iOS & Android adds new features.
Bing rolled out new updates to its search app for iOS and Android. Version 6.7.2 of their app includes the ability to play a video without sound in the search results as well as a new Music page that lists trending songs and artists. The app will also tell users the name of a song that is playing. Users can add movie titles to their Netflix and prime watch lists from the app’s Movies page. Read Bing’s announcement for all the details.

Bing test replacing URLs with brand name in search results.
Bing is running an odd test, where it is replacing the URL in a search result with the company brand name. The test was spotted by Frank Sandtmann.

Isolated test shows that click-through rate does impact search rankings.
Columnist Brian Patterson ran a test on one of the test website that he maintains. In a small, isolated test of nine keywords he found that click-through rate did impact his search rankings. CTR impacting search ranking is something Google has consistently denied in the past. Of course this was a limited test and cannot be extrapolated to all search results.

Probably no more Panda update confirmations from Google.
In a recent Google+ Hangout, John Mueller answered a couple questions regarding Panda. First, he explained that although Panda took 10 months to roll out completely in this latest update, future roll outs will not necessarily take that long. Mueller also commented that Panda would continue to be on a gradual roll-out so there probably would be no spike to indicate an update. It seems unlikely that Google will confirm future updates as no one will be able to call them out on a roll-out.

Requiring a followed link for API access is same thing as a paid link.
John Mueller responded to a question on Twitter by Jordan Silton. Mueller explained that requiring a link to a site in return for API access is essentially the same thing as a paid link. This same reasoning could also be applied to any other exchange of value for a link, making many common-practice techniques grey-hat.

Paid Links via API


PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Bing opens Expanded Text Ads to all customers.
Standard text ads have a 25-character Ad Title, a 71-character Ad text, and a 350 character display URL manually entered. The new ad format includes a 60-character (two 30-character ad title separated by hyphen), 80-character ad text and a display URL automatically generated from the final URL, preserving capitalization and two customizable URL paths. The new expanded text-ads are available to all interested advertisers. Advertisers can apply for use of Expanded Text Ads here.

Bing Expanded Text Ads

Google Adsense drops ad limit per page.
Google removed the language in their help thread that restricted ads per page to three Adsense content units. The policy has been updated to title the section ‘valuable inventory’. Site owners are cautioned to not let the amount of ads on a page exceed the actual content. Failing to follow the guideline could result in Google limiting or disabling ads. The change should hopefully improve content quality and suppress cheating webmasters…some had been breaking content into multiple page slidehows to allow for more ads.

Bing Ads allows separate ads for search and native ads.
Bing Ads Editor now supports custom ad development for native. Advertisers can create separate ads in bulk, specifically for native inventory on Distinct native ad copy is already supported within the Bing Ads web interface. Separate native ads will only be served when there is at least one search ad in the ad group.

Google does not rank expanded text ads over standard text ads.
Cassie from Google, noted in a Google forum that no preference is given to expanded text ads over standard text ads. The order is based on ad rank (bid + quality score).



Google’s upcoming popup/interstitial penalty affects AdSense Page-level Ads?
John Mueller provided a vague answer to a question posed to him on Twitter. He was asked how Google’s upcoming penalty against popup and interstitial ads will apply to Google page-level ads. Mueller responded that Google was interested in how the ad affected the customer experience, no matter where the ad came from. However, it is very unlikely that Google would attack its own ads. We will have to see how it is applied upon release.

Google launches new look for Merchant Center.
Google has released a new interface in the Merchant Center, built using Google’s Material Design. This is the same design used in many Google products, including the new Adwords interface. Product tabs and other topics are found along the left side of the page. The data in the diagnostics page is now updated near real time, instead of twice daily. The biggest change is that the new Feed Rules allow you to make changes to the feed without having to edit it directly. For a full list of updates, read Google’s announcement.  

Google Merchant Center


Amazon rolls out Vehicles, an online store for car shoppers.
Amazon has launched Amazon Vehicles. Vehicles is not a place to purchase cars, but it is a research destination for people starting the car buying process. Users can access images, videos, customer reviews and a forum for car enthusiasts to ask each other questions. Not only is Vehicles a direct competitor to sites like and but it may become a new starting search destination for vehicles, rather than Google.  


Google updates Google Schema review guidelines.
Google has updated its guidelines for use of review rich snippets on websites. There are several changes to the guidelines, one of the largest is that webmasters are not allowed to markup reviews from third-party sites. Reviews must be produced directly from the website. Webmasters are also required to allow customers to post negative and positive reviews. You can read all of the updates in Google’s help doc.

Google increasing number of reviews required to display Seller Ratings in ads.
Though not official, Google has told some customers that the new minimum for Seller Rating extensions to display in Adwords ads has been increased from 30 in the past 12 months, to 150. Other rules remain the same, including the composite rating requirement of at least 3.5 stars and the requirement that at least 10 reviews need to be in the users’ Google interface language. If this becomes an official policy it will make it much more difficult for small businesses.



Other internet companies support Yelp in case regarding reviews.
Dawn Hassel is a San Francisco lawyer who sued individual who had written a negative review on Yelp. Hassel sued for defamation and won the case, which resulted in the Judge ordering Yelp to remove the review. Yelp is refusing, stating that it was not involved in the case and denied due process. If the case is not overturned, it could set a terrible precedent where businesses can bully and threaten negative reviewers with lawsuits. Several companies, including Google, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are supporting Yelp and have submitted letters to the California Supreme court, urging it to overturn the case.

Google updates local 3-pack design.
Google made some subtle changes to the 3-pack design. The color is a bit lighter and the position of the website icon has been shifted to the right. Here is an example of the before and after.

Google My Businesses adds Accept or Discard Updates.
Google My Business has added the ability to accept or discard updates for individual fields in bulk. Their help document notes the steps to do so.

Google Home Services testing Mobile Carousel Layout.
Google has been testing home service ads in the greater San Francisco area for months now. The ads display local, Google-vetted contractors on the top of search results in place of the local three-pack. Google has recently been testing a carousel format in their homer service ads. This was spotted by Lee L Kennedy.

Mobile Carousel Layout

Google continues to crowd source Local Business data.
A few months back, Google began asking users of the local three-pack to verify information about local businesses. They have expanded this crowd sourcing effort by asking users to tag businesses with related topics. Specifically they ask for users to tag the business under three categories: Offerings, Planning, and Highlights.  


Imgur announces new ad unit: promoted posts.
Imgur, a social site for images and GIFs, has 150 million monthly users and is adding a new ad unit, promoted posts. Promoted posts, target mobile viewers and are inserted into users’ content streams. The ad can include video that plays in posts. The posts intentionally come without data targeting. But, targeting is probably unnecessary as Imgur is already centered around a target segment, male, millennial geeks. the place to go for Imgurians, male geeks. Imgur is boasting engagement rates of 20% for the new ad format.

Youtube working on new Backstage feature.
Youtube is attempting to make itself more of a social media platform with introduction of Backstage. Users will be able to share more with their subscribes including: photos, polls, links, text posts and exclusive videos. Backstage will first roll out to a few popular YouTube accounts and then to the general public. No exact date for release is set, but expect it to come out later this year.

LinkedIn rolling out conversion tracking.
Linked has begun rolling out conversion tracking (using the Linkedin pixel) to select advertisers and hopes for a 100% rollout by the end of August. This is hopefully the first of many steps to improve the frustrating LinkedIn advertising experience.  

Facebook displaying vertical videos in mobile news feeds.
Facebook previously cropped vertical videos into squares when displayed in news feeds. Now, vertically formatted videos, including ads will appear in vertical format for iOS and Android users’ news feeds. The change cements the format’s popularity but was also done because Facebook found that users were watching more vertical video and watching with the sound on.

Instagram videos becoming longer and more common.
Sensor Tower released its Q2 “Ad Intelligence Data Digest.” Their report reviews mobile advertising trends on social media sites. The report found one of every four ads on Instagram is a video ad and there has been a stronger push on mobile video ads. The average duration of video ads on Instagram has increased from 15 seconds in January 2016 to 25 seconds in June. The ads displayed on Instagram are a mix of games, shopping and entertainment.  

Instagram Q2

Twitter adds button for direct messaging business.
Twitter has released a new feature that lets people contact businesses through direct messaging. This feature seems to be a response to Facebook’s similar use of Messenger.

Snapchat to reach 217M users by end of 2017.
Snapchat now claims 150M users and is expected to grow by 27.2 percent during 2016 and 13.6 percent the following year. This will bring the total user base to 217M users by the end of 2017. This growth will help Snapchat continue to attract big advertising dollars.

Facebook adding text and music to its slideshow ads.
Facebook has updated its slideshow ads to allow marketers to create multimedia ads directly from the Facebook mobile app. The latest version of the ad allows for up to 10 photos, as well as text and music. Facebook is currently only offering their own themed music, but soon brands will be able to upload their own tunes. Facebook claims that the new format has improved click through rates and cost per acquisition for both small and large businesses.

Google Allo receiving good reviews even before release.
Google’s Allo is a messaging app, tied to phone numbers, which connects Google Assistant into user’s chat with friends. Users can also chat with the Google assistant one-on-one. Google Allo is only in private testing by direct invite but already has 4.8/5.0 average rating (66 reviews) in the Google Play Store.

LinkedIn adds new content search feature.
LinkedIn has added a feature that allows users to search for any topic and find relevant articles on LinkedIn, created by third-parties or by other members in the feed. This feature will allow users to search their feed, explore topics, and tap hashtags included in posts.

LInkedIn Search Function


LinkedIn ProFinder expands nationwide.
LinkedIn ProFinder is a platform for businesses and consumers to find freelance professionals in Design, Writing and Editing, Accounting, Real Estate and Career Coaching. ProFinder is being made available in all (and only) the US but already boasts 50,000 freelancers across more than 140 service areas. Users can get started by submitting a project request.

Facebook introduces Lifestage, a stand-alone app for high schoolers.
Lifestage allows users to build a profile entirely of “video fields” and share them with their school community.  The feature is about expressing who you are but now in the form of videos, instead of solely images.

Youtube rolls out a new TV app.
Youtube has updated its TV application to make its experience easier to use on the big screen. The new version will have a different look and improved categories that better fit the user experience on the television. The new category setup makes it easier for users to easily get to the most popular videos. Even on TV, Youtube is still focused on short-form content rather than longer viewing experiences traditionally associated with telvision.

Twitter adds night mode.
Youtube has added an update for Android users that adds a dark ‘night mode’ to make it easier for users to tweet in the dark.  

Twitter Night View


Facebook removes story descriptions and adds number of mentions.
Facebook has updated Trending topics, removing the story descriptions that were listed alongside the topics. Instead a “simplified” topic and its number of mentions are posted. Trending Topics are run using an algorithm, based on a user’s activity (page likes, location and previous trending topic interacted with).

Facebook using the data from WhatsApp.
Facebook had paid $22M for WhatsApp messaging app. However, they are now getting more than the messaging. WhatsApp updated its privacy policy, to allow it to share people’s account information, but not their messages, with Facebook unless users opt out within 30 days. With the data, Facebook will be able to connect users’ contact lists and other data from WhatsApp to determine which ads to display on Facebook.

Snapchat pushing brands to shorten their ads.
With users quickly skipping video ads, Snapchat is now pushing for advertisers to cut their 10-second ads to 7-seconds when running between Stories and down to 5-seconds when running within Live stories. These limits are recommendations and not requirements. While advertisers are annoyed at the prospect of retooling their ad campaigns, the shorter formats may result in better engagement and increased conversions.

Study says Youtube and Linear TV help each other.
A Nielsen case study commissioned by Google (take it with a grain of salt) found that TV reach drives YouTube engagement and vice versa. This is the opposite of the popular view that Youtube and TV steal from each other’s audiences. When shows have a presence on both mediums a rise is seen in both mediums as audiences are drawn back and forth. However, such mutualism is not always the case, especially as digital giants like Time Warner Cable pushback against Youtube’s efforts.

Facebook adjusts the button placement of live video for mobile.
Facebook has moved the live video button in its mobile app to a much more accessible spot on the top left of the page, where the “Status” used to appear. Users who click the button are brought to a video camera where they can start livestreaming by clicking “Go Live”. This is part of Facebook’s continued attempt to get in on the rise of livestreaming.  

Snapchat bringing live scores to high school football games.
Snapchat has signed a deal with ScoreStream and this fall will start to power real-time geofilters for high school football games in the U.S. The partnership with ScoreStream is the first time that real-time scores will including advertising. Gatorade will be a sponsor of the program this fall.

Facebook allows users to save offers in new Offers tab.
Facebook’s coupon product, Offers, is getting additional attention. Offers was first created in 2012 to allow brands to distribute coupons on Facebook. The product has been updated to make it easier for people to see, save and use coupons. Coupons can be saved in a new offers tab and alerts are sent to the user when coupons near expiration. To use the coupons, users can pull them up in the offers tab and stores can scan the bar code provided.

Twitter offering better revenue deal for creators.
To attract more advertisers to its platform, Twitter has extended its video ad program to individual video creators, allowing them to make money off their videos. Twitter will place ads alongside or in front of videos and offer a share of the revenue. Youtube and Facebook currently offer 55% of revenue to creators but Twitter will offer 70%. Even with the higher percentage, creators may not make much money because Twitter is being pressured by advertisers to lower its video ad rates.

EU requiring 14.5B in taxes from Apple.
The European Commission (EC) announced that Apple owed over $14 billion dollars in back taxes. The EC asserted that the Irish government showed tax favoritism to Apple. The favoritism came in the form of a one percent tax rate for Apple. The EC’s actions are part of a larger effort to crack down on individual governments using aggressive tax policies.

Facebook Ads Manager down last week.
Last week a number of marketers could not access their ad information because the Facebook Ad manager was down. The system is currently back up and running.

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