February is the shortest month of the year – but there’s no shortage of internet marketing news. From Google’s glitch to Super Bowl hashtags and so much more, we’ve gathered up all the latest info you need to know. Let’s get started!
Google’s Mobile-First Glitch
At the end of last year, Google announced their big plans for mobile indexing. During 2017, they’re going to implement significant changes to their search algorithm with the introduction of their Mobile First search index.
February started off with an interesting mobile-related glitch. Google’s mobile search was indexing desktop sites instead of the corresponding mobile version.
Fortunately, this turned out to be a temporary situation and didn’t seem to cause any permanent problems for sites. However, the glitch is a reminder that we might see some sudden shifts in both mobile and desktop indexing throughout the year as Mobile First rolls out.
Google Site Search Discontinued
Google Site Search is a paid product used to power internal website search. The product brings the power of Google search to an individual website of any size. Charges are based on monthly query volume.
Unfortunately for Site Search users, the product will be discontinued by the end of 2017. Current Site Search users are directed towards two options: Google’s free custom search engine or their new cloud search.
If you use Site Search, you’ll want to start making plans to switch to an alternate. While you do have all year to find a suitable substitute, you’ll want something in place before 2018.
Free-to-Use Photo Search Engine Launched
Images help increase the appeal and readability of written content. But finding the right photo can be a real hassle. Hopefully, that’s about to change with the launch of CC Search, a free-to-use photo search engine.
CC Search is from Creative Commons. For years now, they’ve been a reliable source of images free from copyright and other restrictions.
Searching for Creative Commons-licensed images used to be possible with a search filter on Google or Flickr. Creative Commons also had a search portal built into their website, but the portal would return both CC and non-CC images.
CC Search is a full-fledged search engine dedicated exclusively to images from Creative Commons. As CEO Ryan Merkley wrote in a blog post: “There is no ‘front door’ to the Commons, and the tools people need to curate, share, and remix works aren’t yet available. We want to make the commons more usable, and this is our next step in that direction.”
If you need a source of high quality, usable images, there’s never been a better time to check out Creative Commons. This could be their biggest year yet!
Consumers Don’t Particularly Care About Brands
The Super Bowl isn’t just a big day for fans of football. The big game is also a big day for brands, who typically spend over $5 million on game day advertising. Unfortunately, even the best ads don’t seem to have much of an impact as to how consumers think about brands.
This month saw the release of a gigantic Meaningful Brands survey conducted by the Havas Group. They polled over 300,000 people in 33 countries. Respondents were asked about 1,500 global brands across 15 industry sectors.
The result? Not great if you’re a brand. Consumers wouldn’t care if roughly 74% of all brands disappeared from the face of the earth.
The brands people actually liked? They’re some of the biggest names including Google, Disney, Nike, Kellogg’s, Paypal and Microsoft.
Super Bowl Ads: URL’s Up and Hashtags Down
Super Bowl ads are often used to boost brand awareness, which often includes boosting awareness of the brand’s online platforms.
Continuing their annual tradition, Marketing Land once again conducted their Hashtag Bowl. This is an in-depth analysis of each Super Bowl commercial’s use of hashtags, URL mentions and so on.
This year, hashtags appeared in only 30% of all Super Bowl advertisements. That’s a 45% decrease from last year. Hashtag use is on a decline in general after peaking at 57% in 2014.
URL promotion is on the rise. They appeared in over 39% of Super Bowl ads, overtaking hashtags for the first time ever.
URL promotion is likely to increase across the board in 2017. Brands are learning the power of directing consumers to a website instead of a social media service. After all, brands have far more than control over their own site than any specific hashtag.
Here’s a complete breakdown of the 66 ads reviewed during the Super Bowl:
- Hashtags: 20 total (30%)
- URLs: 26 total (39%)
- Twitter mentions: 5 total (8%)
- Facebook mentions: 4 total (6%)
- Instagram: 4 total (6%)
If you’re promoting more hashtags than URLs, you’ll likely want to change up your marketing strategies for 2017.
Also worth noting: This was the first Super Bowl with the NFL’s new, relaxed rules on social media. Did you see more Super Bowl clips and comments in your social feed?
Custom 404 Pages are Important (but Misunderstood)
Many brands create custom 404 pages. When users land on a 404 page, the content will usually be a brief, often humorous message from the brand.
If you have a custom 404 page, chances are you probably created it and then never gave it much additional thought. But there’s some new info you might want to know about.
During a recent Google Webmaster Central Office Hours hangout, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller clarified how the search giant views 404 pages:
“So if we see a 404, then we see a 404 and don’t look at the content. We don’t look to see what is visible on your 404 pages, on your server error pages, we essentially assume that something that the user can look at and kind of deal with, we don’t follow the content on pages that return any of these error response codes.”
So, custom 404 pages don’t contribute directly to SEO. They’re still worth creating, however. The Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines recommend customized 404 pages. They help build brand awareness while reorienting lost users.
Google Tests Horizontal Scroll for Map Search Results
In general, Google seems to favor horizontal swiping over vertical. According to recent reports from some users, Google is now testing a left-to-right swipe on Google Maps local finder results for mobile.
Previously, this was a vertical list view. The horizontal swipe version is a card-style view. While many people are probably more familiar with the up and down scroll for the list view, this new style does have some appeal. Mainly, a horizontal scroll is similar to flipping pages in a book. Whether the new scroll test makes its way out of initial testing is anyone’s guess, but there might be some changes to local finder results by the end of the year.
Popular Google Employee Leaves
If you’re familiar with Google, you’ve likely heard of Maile Ohye. A Developer Programs Tech Lead for almost a dozen years, Maile was well-known for her webmaster videos. Viewers loved her ability to explain complicated topics in a simple, straight-forward way.
Maile left Google without much explanation, and her future plans are unknown. She simply said farewell on Google+ to her coworkers. Definitely a major loss for the company. Whoever is selected as her replacement certainly has big shoes to fill. This will be a position to watch.
Emojis Return to Google Search Results
Have you been missing emojis from the search results? Google removed emojis from SERPs in 2015. But emojis have returned in a limited capacity. Specifically, Google says emojis will be featured “where relevant, useful and fun. You’ll see them crop up across various snippets moving forward.”
If you’re looking to boost brand awareness and connect with your audience, try incorporating more emojis into your social media content.
Say Goodbye to YouTube’s 30-Second Pre-Roll Ads
Unskippable advertising for video services always requires a bit of care. If the unskippable ads are too long, people won’t stick around to watch the actual content. However, if the ads are entirely skippable, then people will never watch them and revenue can’t be generated.
At least, that was the prevailing philosophy. This month, Google signaled a new direction for ads. They’ve decided to remove the 30-second unskippable pre-roll ad. Perhaps the most unpopular ad format in existence, pre-rolls will be completely gone from YouTube by 2018.
Google, who owns YouTube, told Campaign that removing the ads is part of a larger strategy to improve user experience. “We’ve decided to stop supporting 30-second unskippable ads as of 2018 and focus instead on formats that work well for both users and advertisers,” said a Google spokesman.
While this is great news for anyone who hates to sit through YouTube ads, there’s a larger issue here. Specifically, Google seems to be reacting towards the rise of Facebook video. Facebook doesn’t use unskippable pre-roll ads (reportedly because Mark Zuckerberg hates them).
Facebook video was very popular last year, and that trend is expected to grow in 2017. Google’s changes to YouTube could possibly indicate a long-term strategy against what is a quickly growing rival.
Pinterest Hires New Head of Search
Pinterest is sending strong signals that they intend to focus heavily on visual search this year.
First, they released a new set of visual discovery tools. This includes the long-anticipated Lens, a visual recognition and search tool. Now Pinterest users can search using the camera inside the Pinterest app.
Pinterest also recently announced a big, new hire. Randy Keller, Google’s former Head of Image Search, is now Pinterest’s Head of Search.
If Pinterest is part of your marketing strategy, their increased focus on visual search will be worth watching.
Twitter’s Earnings Report Raises Questions
2016 wasn’t a great year for Twitter’s financials. As we discussed in previous Round-Ups, the social platform had a rough 2016. Unfortunately, 2017 doesn’t seem to be starting off so great for Twitter, either.
Twitter’s Q4 reports fell far short of expectations. They generated $717 million in revenue, which is quite a bit less than the $191.3 million Wall Street analysts expected.
Even more worrisome for the platform is year-over-year growth rate. Twitter claims an 11% increase in Daily Active Users. The problem? They won’t actually release those figures.
Is Twitter in financial trouble? Almost certainly, but don’t go writing their eulogy yet. The platform still has time to change their financial future. Twitter’s performance this year will be watched closely by the entire internet marketing industry.
Users Grow Increasingly Comfy with Voice Search
Do you use voice search? If so, you’re not alone. Voice search was popular last year, and a new survey shows that popularity is growing quickly.
Digital marketing agency Stonetemple released a survey this month showing the increasing acceptance of voice search. Over 59% of respondents said they use voice search on their smartphones.
This shows a steady increase in the everyday use of voice search. But there are still issues many people have with voice search. The biggest obstacle is the stigma of talking into a device in public.
PewDiePie’s Controversy Hits YouTube
PewDiePie, one of the internet’s most famous personalities, recently become embroiled in controversy. The effects are likely to have a substantial, long-term impact on all YouTube influencer marketing.
A Wall Street Journal article highlighted some potential anti-Semitic videos created by PewDiePie. The resulting fallout led to the internet superstar being dropped from a Disney deal as well as a distancing from YouTube.
Other influencers have taken notice. Pewdiepie’s future, as well as the future of all influencer marketers, will be a hot topic to watch during the year.
Google Tests Autocomplete Refinement
We’ve all started to enter a search query only to find a hilariously inappropriate suggestion from autocomplete. This is such a common issue you can find list and list of completely bizarre autocomplete suggestions (beware – some of these are pretty NSFW).
As amusing as these suggestions can be, Google would prefer if autocomplete delivered more useful information. This month the search giant began testing a new way to report ineffective and offensive autocomplete suggestions.
A small group of searchers now have the option to report these unwanted autocomplete suggestions. Underneath the suggestions is now a small gray button where users can “Report Offensive Query.” While the feature is currently in limited testing, this is still worth keeping an eye on. Don’t be surprised if autocomplete is quite a bit different by the end of the year.
Bing Refocuses Their Approach to Search
There are no two ways about it: Google is the top dog of search. They’re the biggest, most popular search engine in the world. Bing is, at best, second place.
But Bing isn’t happy being second best. During the recent ClickZ Digital Advertising Breakfast, Microsoft Product Manager James Murray explained Bing’s marketplace philosophy. Perhaps surprisingly, their philosophy has a lot to do with vacuums.
Ever heard of Hoover? They’re one of the world’s largest manufacturers of vacuum cleaners. But in recent years, Hoover has faced increased competition from a British vacuum maker named Dyson.
According to Murray, Bing wants to become the “Dyson of search.” Similar to how Dyson used innovative design to take on Hoover, Bing plans to introduce a variety of new features and improvements throughout 2017.
For starters, they plan to introduce a “get a ride” button, which ties car services such as Uber and Lyft directly to any business being searched for. They’re also planning to refine and improve Bing voice search.
Another recent improvement is the introduction of a carousel for product ads in the U.S. This new carousel will show eight listings for product keywords. This seems to be a direct response to Google’s Shopping Ads.
Bing has big plans to grow and improve throughout the year. Will this be enough to take on Google? Only time will tell – but the race for search engine supremacy is certainly worth watching.
Google Clarifies: ‘Natural News’ Not Fake News
Natural News is a website dedicated to alternative medicine, and they’re not without their share of controversy. Earlier this month, their site was removed from Google without warning. Almost immediately, Natural News claimed the removal was due to their pro-Trump stance.
Turns out, that’s not the reason for the removal. Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller detailed the issue in a thread. Basically, the site was using sneaky mobile redirects.
“We’re seeing a bit of confusion & incorrect stories circulating about what’s happening here, so just to be super clear,” said Mueller. “Natural News is using a sneaky mobile redirect, which is prohibited by our webmaster guidelines (there’s a bit about this kind of issue at https://webmasters.googleblog.com/2015/10/detect-and-get-rid-of-unwanted-sneaky.html ). These redirects aren’t always easy to reproduce, they’re sometimes in widgets or served by ad networks, and can target specific devices, browsers, or user locations.
When we last checked, there was one on http://blogs. naturalnews. com/bentonite-clay-a-natural-medicine-cabinet-must-have/ . As soon as this is cleaned up, the site can submit a reconsideration request through Search Console, and once that’s reviewed things will return to normal. No action has been taken based on the editorial content of this site.”
In today’s polarizing political climate, amid cries of “fake news,” it can be easy to jump to conclusions. Expect to see similar misunderstandings throughout the year.
Google’s ‘Featured Snippets’ Strain Credibility
If you ask Google “Which US Presidents were in the KKK?” you’re going to get a pretty surprising answer. Specifically, the search giant will tell you Presidents McKinley, Wilson, Harding and Truman were all members of the KKK.
Turns out, this isn’t true at all. Unfortunately, not only is this the result Google produces, but the answer is also in the form of a featured snippet. This is the special box which sits away from the other search results. Normally, a Featured Snippet signals that Google has tremendous confidence in the accuracy of the info inside the box.
Of course, a Featured Snippet which wrongly claims four US Presidents were members of the KKK is obviously a big problem for Google (and searchers).
This isn’t the first misfire with the Featured Snippets. A few years ago a snippet claimed Obama was the King of the United States. Last year, a Featured Snippet referenced religious texts when answering “what happened to the dinosaurs?”
Google and Bing Fight Piracy in the UK
The UK Intellectual Property Office announced a landmark agreement between Google and Bing in an effort to combat online piracy throughout the United Kingdom. Any specific changes to search algorithms are a bit unclear. The policy goes into effect starting in June.
Google already uses a special algorithm to handle pirated content and DMCA complaints. This new agreement doesn’t seem to expand on anything Google is already doing. Instead, this “Voluntary Code of Practice” will help test the effectiveness of the existing practices.
Bing to Provide Hospital Search in UK
UK’s National Health Service has collaborated Bing to introduce a few new search features. The goal is to help UK residents find a variety of information related to the national healthcare system.
Bing now provides users with a comprehensive GP and hospital search experience. Results now include local options including directions to specific locations, operating hours, user reviews and more. All data is directly from the NHS system.
Google Assistant Arriving on More Devices
Google Assistant is an interesting tool. Similar to voice search, but with more features, Google Assistant aims for a more comprehensive and conversational approach to user interactivity.
The feature is currently available on a somewhat limited variety of smart devices including Google Home (and its Allo messaging app), the Pixel smartphone and Android Wear.
This month, we learned that Google Assistant will soon be available for Android 6.0 and 7.0 devices. The announcement came during the Mobile World Congress held this month in Barcelona.
Ida Lewis Celebrated with a Google Doodle
Let’s end this wrap-up with something positive and inspirational. The Google Doodle on February 25th honored Ida Lewis, also known as “American’s Bravest Woman.”
What makes her so brave? Ida was the owner of the Lime Rock Lighthouse in Rhode Island. She saved numerous lives from drowning, starting when she was 12 and continuing well into her sixties.
The exact number of lives she saved is unknown but substantial. In 1881, President Grant awarded Ida a Gold Lifesaving Medal after she saved two soldiers who had fallen through the ice. This year would have been her 174th birthday.
Hopefully, your year is already off to a great start! Lots of interesting issues to keep an eye on as 2017 moves forward. What news caught your eye this month? What internet marketing topics are you watching develop as the year progresses?