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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 expands Local Inventory Ad product search in Knowledge Panels and Maps.
Google announced this feature back in May and it is now live. The new feature lets searchers check if a product is available in their local store (of participating advertisers) from both Google maps and the Knowledge panel. Clicking on the link “Search items at this store” brings users to a Google landing page that displays all Local inventory available from that specific location. Users can filter by category or search for particular items from inside the landing page. The individual products also have their own Google-hosted landing page with map details as well as additional product details.

Local Products in Knowledge Graph

 

Google may count the content in your site pop-up as primary page content.
A couple weeks ago in a Google Hangout, John Mueller answered a question about site pop ups. He confirmed that the Google bot may give higher priority to the content on the pop-up instead of the true page content. Be careful with what you are displaying to your users.

A bug in the Knowledge Panel displays the wrong business name but edit has the correct name.
A number of users on the Local Search Forum have noticed that there are instances of Google displaying the incorrect business name in the Knowledge Panel. The strange part is if you are logged in and choose to edit the name, the correct business name is already saved.

Broken Knowledge Graph name

 

Google testing new card style layout for sitelinks in mobile search.
Google is testing a new feature in its mobile search that displays sitelinks as small, rectangular cards which can be swiped left and right. This is part of Google’s larger effort to continue improving their mobile user experience.

John Mueller responds to rumors that Penguin won’t run again.
John Mueller replied on Twitter to a question by Marie Hynes. Hynes asked that Google officially confirm that Penguin will indeed run again. Mueller tweeted that Google never said it won’t run again. Not a straight forward answer, but Penguin should run again. We just don’t know when.

Bing adds thumbnails to autosuggest dropdowns.
Bing has added thumbnail images to the autosuggest results when they are confident of their suggest result. Bing also provides multiple thumb nailed autosuggestions when the search term is still ambiguous (‘Artemis Fowl’ display thumbnails for both the individual novel and the series).

Bing image thumbnails

 

Google boasts of its Youtube anti-piracy efforts.
Google posted on its blog and released a report called “How Google Fights Piracy”, boasting of its efforts in the past years. Google’s current system of copyright enforcement is called ContentID. CotnentID is a proprietary build that cost over $60 million and is Google’s rights-management system. Though Google has made efforts in reducing piracy in their search results and in Youtube, many, particularly those in the music industry, feel the company is not doing enough.

Google adds voter registration information in a search update.
Google ran a recent update that will help voters better understand the registration process. When a user searches phrases related to voter registration they receive a state-by-state guide of voter registration rules at the top of the search results.

Google notes that voice searches are 30X more likely to be action oriented than text queries.
Google John Mueller and Mariya Moeva of Google ran a virtual keynote about mobile search. During the keynote, Mariya made an interesting point about action oriented queries. After mentioning that 20% of mobile searches are voice searches, she said that voice searches are 30 times more likely to be action-oriented than text queries. As you are creating content for your website keep this in mind, especially as voice search continues to increase.

Google releases its transparency report of number of government requests for user data.
Google released its transparency report, which showed that 40,677 requests for user data were made from governments around the world. The highest number of requests came from the United States (12,523), followed by Germany (7,491) and France (4,174). Of the total 40,677 requests Google said that that 64 percent resulted in some data being produced.

 

PPC (pay-per-click) ADVERTISING

Google begins displaying new price extensions in text search ads.
The new price extensions are displayed below the main ad copy and take up considerable real estate on the search. The extensions should be fully rolled out by this week. You can find the extension option under the drop-down menu of the Ad extensions tab in Adwords. The ads consist of a clickable title, a description up to 25 characters, the URL of the landing page associated with the extension and the price which can be qualified by per hour, day, week, month or year. You will need at least 3 price extensions per ad, but can have no more than eight. The ads will first be rolled out only in English mobile search. Most importantly, only the first ad displayed will have price extensions displayed.

Google price extensions

 

Google adds 3 new features to help Adwords users monitor their automatic bidding.
 Google released three new features in Adwords to help advertisers monitor the health of their automatic bidding:
 > Bidding issues will be immediately flagged with a news alert.
 > Bid strategy statuses appear directly in the campaign and ad group status columns.
 > Rich performance reporting for standard bid strategies is set at the campaign level.

Google announces AMP for Ads
Google has been testing AMP for Ads for several months now with various tech vendors. With the apparent success of the ad format in the DoubleClick AdExchange Google will be testing it more generally. Advertisers will be able to create AMP HTML Ads that will load as quickly as the AMP pages they are placed on. Advertisers can similarly build AMP landing pages that are linked to from their ads. The “amp-analytics” mechanism built into the format prevents any tracking code from costing bandwidth and run time. Before you start developing your own AMP ads, be aware that the project is still in the early experimentation phase.

Google’s Programmatic Dynamic Native Ads and deal with Time Warner Cable
Google announced automatic, responsive native advertising a couple months ago. The ads are designed to automatically match the design and feel of publisher content. These same ads can now be purchased programmatically. This will allow advertisers to automate the creation and purchase of ads making them an appealing buy. In related news, Google signed a deal with Time Warner that allows Google to serve ads via programmatic ad buying on properties like CNN and Game of Thrones. This is all part of a larger push by Google to increase their ad services to stay competitive against the likes of Facebook.

Google adds administrative features for advertisers/agencies managing multiple Adwords accounts.
Google added two new features to help Adwords users managing several Adwords accounts. First, Google added manager account notifications which group together similar issues from multiple accounts allowing for quick prioritization and action. Managed accounts can also now give “Administrative Owner” access to manager accounts. Those with this access can easily add, remove and change access levels for users in the managed account.

Google faces new antitrust charges in Europe over its advertising products.
Google has received its third round of litigation. This third round was pushed by Margrethe Vestager, the region’s competition chief. Google holds around 90 percent of the European Union’s search market and has been challenged for anti-competitive actions in the EU. Google has so far continued unscathed from these challenges but even losing one of them could cost the company up to $7 billion, a 10% fine.

Bing Ads Editor and Bing Ads API having technical issues with extension uploads.
Bing Ads Engineering detected an issue affecting APAC accounts for July 7, 8 and 11. Advertisers were not billed for ad delivery and the impressions. The clicks and spend data may also be inaccurate for those dates. The engineering team is working on the issue and the restatement process should be finished by the end of the month. Delivery is not impacted by the issue.

Amazon Prime Day was a success.
Both Adobe Social and Amobee Brand Intelligence noted that the social media chatter above Prime Day was much more positive compared to last year. Amazon enjoyed a 60 percent increase in sales without ruffling as many feathers this time around.

Amazon Prime Day brought additional business to competitors.
Other online retailers including Walmart, Target, Macy’s and Best Buy saw a traffic rise on Amazon Prime Day as shoppers came online to look for deals. Many of these competitors showcased rival deals and sales against Amazon. While these retailers may have enjoyed a bump in traffic Amazon was definitely happy. They reported it was the biggest sales day they had ever had.

 

LOCAL SEARCH

Google Local Map results may be becoming increasingly hyperlocal.
Several conversations in the Local Search Forums have revolved around the Google Map Results becoming increasingly more local. There are fewer displayed map results within a tighter radius of the searcher. Check through your own results.

“People Typically Spend” times added to local Google business listings.
Google added a feature to the local knowledge panel that shows the typical amount of time people spend at a business. The feature can show an exact amount of time (45 min) or a range of time (20 min to 1 hr). The feature is only displaying for mobile searches and only for larger businesses.

Google time spent feature

 

Yelp adds ability to filter businesses by proximity to PokeStops.
Due to the intense success of Pokémon Go, Yelp has added a new filter in their results. Now users can filter businesses by whether or not they are near PokeStops (locations where players can collect items in the game). Yelp users can also flag businesses that are within the vicinity of a PokeStop.

Google may be testing a new email verification for Google My Business.
Kiran Kumar noticed the new email verification method that was placed alongside the traditional phone and mail options. We will have to wait and see if this test is expanded.

Google Email Verification

 

Yelp implements cleanup alerts when a business goes viral.
Business that are either surprisingly  good or notoriously bad sometimes receive strong reviews that go viral and are shared on social media outlets. Unfortunately this attention leads to a host of individuals looking to piggyback on the spotlight. These users leave fake reviews on Yelp for the business that are unrelated, like political advocacy, hoping to garner attention to their cause. To prevent this Yelp now imposes an “Active Clean Up Alert” and monitoring in an effort to prevent fake reviews from being published.

 

SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING

Facebook introduces Graph API v2.7 with a host of new features.
After analyzing usage of their Graph API, Facebook is adding a number of new features to improve the user experience and capabilities of their tool. Some of the more notable features include:
 > The new ability to restrict audiences on Live videos. Videos can now target audiences by age, gender, language and location.
 > The addition of a Continuous Live Video option to create unlimited live streams on Facebook.
 > A new page metric has been added that allows users to see daily follow/unfollow counts as well as additional breakdowns.
 > Advertisers can now select ad placements specifically on desktop, mobile, on_facebook and off_facebook.
 > There is a new Daily Ad Budget logic that allows you to be charged up to 125% of your daily budget but weekly spend will not exceed 7 times the daily limit. This allows for greater ad spend flexibility while staying within your weekly budget.

Facebook adds better app download ad targeting.
App install ads work fairly well to get users to download apps on their mobile device. However, only 42% of individuals who download an app use it a second time. To combat this Facebook introduced “app event optimization” which lets advertisers target individuals who are likely to complete a certain action within their app. Facebook provides 14 different events advertisers can choose from that include: Achieved Level, App Launched, Added Payment Info, Added to Cart…” Advertisers will only be able to choose one of these events in their ad targeting. Google has also been testing a similar product which still remains in testing while Facebook’s new targeting feature is currently available worldwide.

Twitter’s Gnip Audience API now generally available.
Google has been beta-testing their Gnip Audience API for the past nine months. The extensive testing was to ensure the API returns insights in real-time, integrates with existing Gnip APIs, protects privacy and best delivers information (not available via public analysis). The API allows advertisers to retrieve demographic data across 10 user models and use this information for better targeting and market segmentation.

Yahoo selling Tumblr ads through Facebook’s ad net
Tumblr is only able to sell 10-15 percent of its available ad slots and is now selling its ads through Facebook’s Audience Network. The deal made between Tumblr (owned by Yahoo) and Facebook allows Facebook to sell additional ad space without clogging its user newsfeeds. The deal also gives much needed revenues to the Tumblr’s crippled advertising. Yahoo is also beginning to display its “native” Gemini banner ads on Tumblr as well. It looks like Tumblr and its parent company are both in trouble.

Facebook brings Instant Articles to Messenger.
Facebook announced that it will be rolling out Instant Articles to the Messenger platform, starting on Android and later on iPhone devices. Instant Articles are fast loading content that gives immediate access to users. The articles are identified in the Messenger with a lightning bolt icon.

Pokemon Go receives update to deal with crashes and account access.
Niantic, the developer of Pokemon Go, released two new updates for their game on iOS. The game will now no longer receive full access to the user’s Google account. It will only know who users are on Google and view their email addresses. The update also fixes issues that had been causing game crashes and forced logouts. Pokemon Go has surpassed 15 million downloads on iOS and Android in the US and is available for free in the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

Pokemon Go account request

 

Facebook adds 3D touch support on iOS.
Facebook’s addition of 3D touch support on iOS allows iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 users to preview contacts, conversations, stickers, links, photos, locations and videos all within the app. Users can also access 3D Touch shortcuts, using the app icon on the top of their home screen. The shortcuts provide quick access to suggested contacts and the message screen. Lastly, users can now ‘peek’ into conversations before opening them.

Twitter renews contract with NBA getting original shows and overseeing ad sales.
Twitter signed a two year renewal with the NBA. As part of the agreement the NBA will produce two original live shows that will air on Twitter. As part of the agreement allows Twitter to not only carry pre-roll ads as part of their Amplify program but to also have exclusive control over ad sales and global expansion. Twitter is shifting its position from a simple social network to the location for everything ‘live’. We may even see NBA games on Twitter in the future.

Twitter supports Vine Videos via Twitter Kit
Developers who update their Twitter Kit to v2.3 for iOS and v1.14.1 for Android can now incorporate Vine videos into their applications. Their apps will automatically expand vine videos in the timeline and play loops as they appear on Vine.

Periscope adds curated streams with new Editors Pick section.
There is now a new channel under the suggested broadcasts. The Editor’s Pick or Featured content helps users browse for unique moments they may have missed. This feature should be useful to new Periscope users who are not sure where to start.

Periscope editor's picks feature

 

Facebook adds video save ability to Android
Facebook added the capability for users to save videos (to view them later) in the Android mobile app. The video is only available for viewing within the app and cannot be easily shared to other platforms.

Twitter creates application for account verification.
The method for having your account verified in Twitter has been a mysterious mess. Twitter has finally gotten around to creating an application process. Users can submit this form which asks for information that includes: a verified phone number, confirmed email address, bio, profile photo, header photo, birthday, website and tweets set to public status. All other requirements can be found on their help page.

Snapchat adds a “Suggest” button
Earlier in July, Snapchat launched Memories. As part of this feature Snapchat also added a suggest button. Suggest allows users to suggest their friends follow other users. The feature is found by tapping and holding other users’ names in the Stories list. Then tap on the blue arrow on the right which will send private chat message to friends suggesting they follow the tapped user.

 

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