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The October 2020 Search & Digital Marketing News Round Up

G

oogle has unveiled a completely new version of Google Analytics, which it first introduced with a beta version last year. The tech giant has left no feature or methodology untouched, giving marketers even great insights into user behaviours on their site.

“…With major shifts in consumer behavior and privacy-driven changes to longtime industry standards, current approaches to analytics aren’t keeping pace.”

Included in the newest version of the analytics platform we can expect to see new ways of gathering data (Streams), easier integration between Analytics and Google Tag Manager, automatic tracking of features such as Scroll Depth and Clicks and the bringing together of Data Studio elements into existing analysis tools. As with all of Google’s current updates, Machine Learning & AI are at the heart of the new Google Analytics – meaning that we might be able to expect even more exciting features in the future!

On top of this, we have also seen some exciting announcements for PPC marketers this month around Google Ads – including updates to activate real-time alerts, and improvements to streamline the creative process – meaning faster creation of campaigns and ad-copy. Google Shopping also got some nifty new features including price tracking & price comparison tools.

Elsewhere in the paid landscape, Google announced a range of new and improved ways to reach audiences with changes to its Programmatic Guaranteed systems on Display & Video 360. Highlights include integration with Google Audiences, more efficient reach for your budget & expanded access to premium inventory across the platform. All of this means that you can more accurately reach the audience most likely to respond to your ads, increasing your ROAS.

Tracking without the cookies?

As part of Google’s long term objectives for its advertising platforms we’ve also been introduced to the new “Consent Mode”. Simply put, Google has thrown down the gauntlet to data-protection authorities in Europe by introducing two new tag setting for advertisers – allowing automatic customisation of advertising consent based on an individual user’s preferences without the use of cookies!

What does all of this mean? Well, Google’s aim here is clear; to help advertisers effectively measure conversions, while respecting consent choices for ad and analytics cookies.

Ultimately, cookie-less conversion tracking is now theoretically possible with Google Analytics, changing the post-GDPR tracking landscape once again.

More Links than Hyrule

In other news, we learned during October that Google has a “stupidly high” limit on the number of links it can read on your page according to work undertaken by Techmeme. This is a departure from the 2014 party-line, when Google claimed there was no limit at all to the number of links it could handle on a specific page. As if anticipating the question from SEO’s, Google quickly followed this up by saying there is no optimal number of links you should have on your page.

Google’s John Mueller has suggested that just a handful of slow-loading pages on an otherwise speedy website can impact how Google bots interpret your website. Clearly, this sounds worrying – but Google’s reasoning is pretty logical; if Google is unable to accurately measure the speed of your pages, it’ll place greater emphasis on the signals it can measure. In other words, if Google is unable to measure your fastest loading pages, but it HAS measured a slow loading page with a similar URL structure, it’ll assume that the unmeasured URL is slow too, until a second crawl proves otherwise.

A new player has entered the game?

If the rumours are to be believed, Apple might be preparing to launch it’s own rival to Google Search on iOS systems. This would be a massive shake up to online search engines, and could be the first real challenge to Google’s dominance of the space. Those who remember the Apple Maps debacle of 2012 may not be getting too excited just yet though…

Across at Microsoft, there were reports that Bing had suffered from some indexing issues throughout October 2020, but is working quickly wioth CloudFlare to fix the issues that have been reported. Fabrice Canel from Microsoft offered some advice to Microsoft Bing users to ensure they’re being correctly indexed by Bing:

The Bite-Sized News

Chrome is blocking intrusive push notifications -although it remains unclear what impact this might have for users.

Google has been tweaking  dictionary & encyclopedia results in an attempt to increase content quality.

Webmasters shared thier Black Friday best practices for 2020 – including getting your page set up as early as possible!

Finally, happy birthday to Google Ads, which turn 20 years old in October! Where would we be without you?

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The September 2020 Search & Digital Marketing News Round Up

Yet another massive digital marketing news month, and the cake-topping story was the revelation that UK advertisers will foot the bill for the 2% Digital Sales Tax (DST) intended for Google, Facebook, and other tech giants to pay. Response has been mixed, with some advertisers reducing their budget to account for the rise, and others maintaining budgets as-is, taking the additional charge on the chin.

Google News, Google News & More Google News

In equally concerning news, Google announced it would reduce the visibility of search terms shown in reports for advertisers. Initial estimates from a number of agencies suggested up to 30% of ad spend will be impacted by the change, hugely limiting the potential to manage out poor quality queries. Google’s motivations are – as yet – somewhat unclear. In comments to Search Engine Land Google advised the search terms report will

“only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users.”

What does “significant” mean? Nobody knows. Google stated the motivation for the change is

“to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data.”

Some industry pundits are (correctly) noting that Google’s general direction of travel is towards campaign automation, so it’s no surprise to see this happen, but set against declining growth in Google’s core search business – could this be a revenue play first, privacy second? Only time will tell.

Google introduced more ad features for businesses with physical locations including Smart Bidding for in-store sales, “Pick up later” for Local Inventory ads, and more. Gift Cards are being nixxed from Google Merchant Centre starting 30 September. 

Also making its debut was the new Performance Max campaign type. Running across all of Google’s inventory, Performance Max marks a significant further move towards aforementioned automation and is designed to complement search campaigns.

For a bit of really good news, Google Shopping is now rolling out free globally, following a roll out to the US. Make sure you’re opted in to the programme. Google also launched new Schema for retailer shipping data allowing shipping costs and expected delivery times to be displayed in search results. The shop-ability of search results increases again…how long until you can buy exactly what you need, directly from Google? Tick tock, tock….that’s the sound of the ticking clock.

Google is giving certain publishers a new content ‘Showcase’ on News, Search, Discover. Launching as a partnership with over 200 publishers in Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, the U.K. and Australia, the new platform is designed to address some of the concerns news publishers have about the movement of advertising spend to Google and the other tech giants. To sweeten the deal, Google is committing over $1billion of investment in publishers over the next three years, and is providing tools for news outlets to curate, format and display their content how they wish.

Clicked the Facebook ad on Monday, had another look on Tuesday, I had it in my cart on Wednesday*….

Facebook is ditching its 28-day attribution window, starting 12th October, defaulting your attribution window to 7-day. Spurred in no small part by Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention measures, the change will impact on advertisers who experience a longer lead-time for purchases. The contrarian view: with its wealth of data Facebook knows that most purchases from ads happen within a 7 day window, and this is simply a far better way to measure performance. Could it be that simple? Possibly.

Instagram and Facebook Messenger have now merged replacing the old Instagram Direct service with Messenger. This represents a continuation of the vision to unite all of their (somewhat disparate) messaging platforms under one system.

This shift comes with the launch of ‘Facebook Business Suite’, a new mobile app and desktop interface aimed at SMBs combining Facebook and Instagram (with Whatsapp added within a year) publishing, messaging and analytics in a single dashboard. The tool doesn’t yet include Pixel, Ads Manager or Advanced Audiences, but for the millions of SMEs that rely on Facebook, it’s a simpler and arguably more pragmatic solution than Business Manager.

* apologies to Craig David

The Bite-Sized News

Snapchat is floating a new advertising offering called Platform Burst. Campaigns start at ~£100k – as yet no known takers in the UK.

A helping hand: SEMrush put together an evergreen content guide.

Ever wondered which CMS is the fastest? This study helps answer that

And it should come as no surprise that paid search and social media spend are growing fastest in 2020. 

Finally, a good watch, ‘SEO mythbusting’, with Google’s ever-colourful Martin Splitt and the multi-talented Lily Rae.