Google finally rolls out mobile-first indexing

After years of releasing free tools that evaluate the speed of mobile sites and make the business case for prioritising it, Google has announced the rollout of mobile-first indexing.

After years of offering advertisers tools to diagnose the health of websites and develop action items for improving speed on both desktop and mobile, Google has finally done it.

From now on, advertisers, publishers, and agencies that are interested in achieving a high rank in query results (in other words, all advertisers, publishers and agencies) will need to turn all their attention toward mobile-first digital properties.

That’s because Google will now rely entirely on mobile sites and the adherence to mobile-first indexing best practices to determine the quality of content for indexing and ranking.

According to the announcement blog post authored by Fan Zhang, a software engineer at Google, site owners and webmasters were informed of the migration through Search Console.

“Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our—primarily mobile—users find what they’re looking for,” Zhang wrote. “We continue to have one single index that we use for serving search results. We do not have a ‘mobile-first index’ that’s separate from our main index. Historically, the desktop version was indexed, but increasingly, we will be using the mobile versions of content.”

Site owners will see significantly increased crawl rate from the Smartphone Googlebot, Zhang added. Google will also show the mobile version of pages in Search results and Google cached pages.

“Brands who don’t have responsive, dynamic mobile content will see the negative impact of these changes even if this move on its own will not hurt their rankings,” said Attila Jakab, managing director of Infectious Media. “If you are brand and you’re not set up for a mobile-first world, you should hear the alarm bells go off, and look at every piece of content you have online through the mobile lens and focus on this as a business priority.”

Advertisers and agencies that have created unique URLs for desktop and mobile have been advised to rely on the Search Console to verify both versions of the site. This will be done by checking the URLs and ensuring that the servers supporting the sites can withstand the pressure of the forthcoming spike in site crawl rates—for desktop and mobile.

Google also recommends that site content that appears on a desktop version of a site be updated on the mobile version as well, including text, images, and videos.

Source: campaignasia.com; 28 Mar 2018

Google on top again as search beats social on referral traffic

According to research by content marketing platform Shareaholic, search outpaced social in the percentage of overall traffic that it delivered in 2017. This reverses a trend of social dominance that began in 2014.

The analytic platform looked at externally referred traffic from over 400 million internet users and 250,000 mobile and desktop sites. A year ago site visitors were more likely to be referred from social networks, but search seems to have made a comeback in 2017.

Search drove 35% of site visits in 2017 compared to 26% from social. Shareaholic consider the changes to the Facebook news feed algorithms to be a major factor in the shift over the last 12 months.

Another important factor is that search engines are indexing more and more social content and including it within their rankings and results pages. This means that internet users are increasingly finding social content being aggregated by search engines, rather than only being accessible through searches on individual social media networks.

This has seen Google reclaim their place as the world’s foremost referrer of traffic.

Facebook drops

With regards to the social media networks themselves, the biggest change overall was Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg’s site’s share of visits dropped a pretty significant 12.7% in the second half of 2017. The site has had a bumpy year, with the anger over its potential role in the US election continues to simmer and the major changes made to what content it displays on its news feed.

Facebook users are also spending 5% less time on the site, although they are spending more time watching Facebook Live broadcasts and watching video. Because video and live streaming tend to link out to less other pages, this could be a big factor in the big drop in referrals.

Pinterest and Instagram are the biggest profiteers of Facebook’s drop. Instagram in particular has double its user base in the past two years, while Pinterest has seen a 1.5% percentage point increase in share of visits year on year. The sites success is built on the fact that its 200 million monthly active users have saved over a 100 billion Pins, all of which provide opportunities to drive traffic to an external source.

The thing that links Instagram and Pinterest is that they are both heavily focused on images, indicating that image sharing is an important element of distributing and driving traffic to content and product pages.

Source: marketingtechnews.net; 1 Mar 2018

Following Google, Adobe ups its voice game

As advertisers look to voice as an integral touchpoint, Adobe has introduced a tool for voice analytics integrated into a marketer’s customer data sets.

A week after Google announced deeper integrations and additional languages to Assistant, Adobe has announced an update that promises to personalise voice interactions.

Enhancements in the Adobe Experience Cloud will let advertisers and agencies plan scenarios in responses to queries directed at Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

“Imagine searching for a flight on an Amazon Echo device and finding the right one at the best price,” writes Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing at Adobe, in a post. “The travel brand you are engaging with has already connected the dots on the back end, and you can book instantly — followed by a travel confirmation sent directly to your smartphone.”

The enhancement comes from Adobe Sensei, an AI and machine learning framework that will allow advertisers and agencies to leverage machine learning and predictive algorithms to personalise experiences.

“Voice assistants that were previously seen as a somewhat futuristic idea are here today and moving very fast into our lives,” said V.R. Srivatsan, managing director, Adobe Southeast Asia.

With the increasingly attractive price points and growing ecosystem of apps created for voice devices, Srivatsan predicts it won’t be long before voice becomes as ubiquitous as mobile in the Asia Pacific region.

Adobe’s latest Digital intelligence Briefing reported 13,000 APAC respondents across marketing, creative, and IT roles placed the highest importance in creating personalised and relevant experiences in terms of improving overall customer experience.

Source: campaignasia.com; 6 Mar 2018

Google Assistant: More chatty in more languages

The Google Assistant is going global, with more languages and deeper integration opportunities for advertisers and agencies.

Google has announced more languages and deeper integrations for its virtual personal assistant.

By the end of 2018, Google Assistant will be able to understand over 30 languages, including Danish, Dutch, Hindi, Indonesian, Norwegian, Swedish, and Thai. The virtual PA will also support multilingual families, that speak, for instance, English and Urdu in the same household.

The second update pertains to routines and location-based reminders. Users will be able to customize a series of events that are part of their daily routines, such as “pick up the kids” or “collect laundry”, when a particular command is spoken such as “OK Google, I’m home.” Depending on where a user is, reminders will be issued based on location.

Advertisers and agencies have the opportunity to invest in voice-based search optimisation in order to send contextual voice-ads that line up with a routine or help achieve a goal.

The third update will allow advertisers and agencies to build out deeper integrations within Google Assistant, with Alphabet working with manufacturers of non-Android phones. This, Alphabet hopes, will make the Google Assistant more friendly on such devices.

Manufacturers can create integrations for device-specific commands, creating room to work with first-come-first-serve advertisers and agencies that want custom integrations. This opens room for a business such as Nestlé to sponsor the good morning messages and breakfast recommendation a device user hears every day, for example.

Source: campaignasia.com; 5 Mar 2018

Google introduces AdSense Auto Ads

Google is bringing more AI into its ad business with the introduction of a new ad unit for AdSense. The new release aims to use the power of machine learning to try and optimise ad placement.

The new Auto Ads uses machine learning to “read” webpages and work out what the most appropriate places to put ads might be, and how many ads should be run. Publishers can activate the feature by adding a single line of code to their pages.

The service first appeared in a quiet, limited beta in in the second quarter of 2017. Google claims that publishers taking part in the beta saw an average revenue lift of 10%, and revenue increases ranging from 5% to 15%.

Benefits

AdSense is already a fairly automated service, but so far it has been up to web publishers where they want ads to be placed. Google has then selected the ads based on analysis of the page that matches the content to relevant ads.

The service is incredibly important to Google’s parent Alphabet, accounting for a whopping $27 billion of its $32 billion ad revenue in Q4 2017.

Auto Ads takes the responsibility for ad placement away from web publishers. Google claims that the service will only show ads when they are likely to perform well and provide a good user experience. The use of AI to work out where to place ads based on how they are likely to perform is an interesting development.

AI will also estimate how many ads should be on your page to increase revenue. Whether this leads to web publishers logging on to site to find it filled with ads. This post seems to indicate to that some beta testers were not exactly elated at the number of ads that appeared on their sites. It will be interesting to see if the AI can balance revenue with user experience.

Source: marketingtechnews.net; 22 Feb 2018

Microsoft launches Custom Vision and Bing Entity Search

A series of AI offerings from Microsoft target advertisers beginning digital transformations

Microsoft launches Custom Vision and Bing Entity Search

With Amazon, Google, and IBM as competitors in cloud computing, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI), Microsoft is moving to triple down on what it sees as its strengths.

The company has announced advances in several tools that fall under a ‘Cognitive Services’ rubric, including Custom Vision Service, the Face API, and Bing Entity Search.

In a company blog post, Joseph Sirosh, corporate VP of AI at Microsoft, said that Cognitive Services are defined as “a collection of cloud-hosted APIs that let developers easily add AI capabilities for vision, speech, language, knowledge and search into applications, across devices and platforms such as iOS, Android and Windows.”

The purpose of the announcement is to extend reach, offering these tools to data scientists, developers, and advertisers interested to delve into AI with an existing Microsoft ecosystem. Businesses interested in introducing intuitive digital business models need not engage in myriad testing phases in order to find the best fit AI, and can instead rely on Cognitive Services, according to the company.

Custom Vision Service, which has moved from free preview to paid preview, allows advertisers to train a classifier with their own data, while exporting their own models in order to embed them into active applications, testing them in real time regardless of device operating systems.

A functionality that is well known to anyone using Facebook or Snapchat or an Android or iOS device, the Face API helps identify specific people, allowing developers working with advertisers with legacy systems around Microsoft to create groups of facial datasets in the millions.

Microsoft says that unlike existing variations, the Face API is scalable and not limited to a handful of faces.

Also available now is the Bing Entity Search API, which allows advertisers to embed search results from Bing into any application, going so far as retrieving results within an image or a site. Utilizing latent semantic indexing, the API can offer advertisers context on people, places, things, and local businesses, including TV shows, games, books, and movies.

“A social media app could augment users’ photos with information about the locations of each photo,” said Sirosh. “A news app could provide entity snapshots for entities in the article.”

Advertisers can include location information in photos that appear in social media stories as well.

Source; campaignasia.com; 5 Mar 2018

Google Launches ‘AMP Stories,’ A New Visual Storytelling Format

In a bid to compete with Snapchat and Instagram’s alternatives, Google has launched a “new visual storytelling format” called AMP Stories.

Google is the latest tech company to jump on the ‘Stories’ bandwagon, as it’s “AMP-ing up” its Accelerated Mobile Pages feature with its own version of Stories. The new format, AMP Stories allows publishers to combine text, images, videos, and graphics in single posts that can be indexed and surfaced in search. As a format, AMP Stories was built for mobile – as content is fast-loading, just like other AMP-ecosystem formats – but Google has also added support for desktop, allowing users to view and share content on different devices.

Searching for any of early-adopting big publishers, like CNN, Condé Nast, Hearst, Mashable, Meredith, Mic, Vox Media and The Washington Post, will lead to two tabs: “Top Stories From,” and “Visual Stories From.” AMP Stories appear in the latter.

 

In a recent blog post, Google AMP’s Product manager, Rudy Galfi, explained that AMP Stories will not have advertising from the outset, Google wants to allow publishers to be able to advertise within their content. More importantly, publishers will be able to keep 100% of the ad revenue from the feature. Recognising that advertising is a big part of any publisher’s monetisation strategy, Galfi explained that “Advertising is very important. Really great reporting and journalism needs to be funded somehow.”

At the moment, Google is concentrating on getting publishers involved, and will look into a “consumer-oriented approach” as it receives further feedback. Only then can the company “figure out how this will start to appear.” It’s not an easy game though, as it’s a challenge for publishers, “particularly small ones, to experiment or publish these types of stories.” The format takes some time to adjust to, and “necessitates close involvement of creative minds, journalists and other people at news organizations.”

Google describes AMP Stories as “immersive, fast, and open,” and main features include:

1. Support for rich visuals with native video and image performance
2. Storytelling through animations and tappable interactions
3. Support across mobile and desktop devices on the open web
4. Brings features on top of AMP’s component library to support features like analytics

Source: wersm.com; 19 Feb 2018

Google to offer users mute button for retargeted reminder ads

Retargeted ‘reminder’ ads can expect to see a drop in reach with Google’s announcement of a ‘mute button’ that will let users choose the reminder adverts they don’t want to see.

In a post on Google’s Keyword Blog, the company’s group product manager for data privacy and transparency, Jon Krafcik described how the feature will work and why it was needed.

“You visit Snow Boot Co.’s website, add a pair of boots to your shopping cart, but you don’t buy them because you want to keep looking around. The next time that you’re shopping online, Snow Boot Co. might show you ads that encourage you to come back to their site and buy those boots.

Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for Snow Boot Co.’s boots anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them. A new control within Ads Settings will enable you to mute Snow Boot Co.’s reminder ads. Today, we’re rolling out the ability to mute the reminder ads in apps and on websites that partner with us to show ads. We plan to expand this tool to control ads on YouTube, Search, and Gmail in the coming months.”

Mumbrella has contacted Google to find what details advertisers will receive about users blocking their campaigns but at first glance this feature seems to be a good move for advertisers choosing the CPM option in Adwords as it reduces irrelevant views.

The Mute This Ad feature has been available since 2012 but has been restricted to specific ads and user devices. The upgraded feature will remember a user’s choices across any device they use.

Krafcik claims feedback from that feature has enabled Google to remove over a billion intrusive ads from the network.

Source: mumbrella.asia; 29 Jan 2018

Slow mobile pages will hurt your ranking: Google

Advertisers have until July to get their mobile pages up to speed.

Starting in July, Google will include page speed among the factors that determine mobile search optimisation and by extension, page ranking in search results.

Advertisers and agencies have six months to optimise digital assets for mobile-based search, with existing issues identified by the updated PageSpeed Insights tool.

Page speed has been a ranking factor for desktop-based search since 2010.

”We encourage developers to think broadly about how performance affects a user’s experience of their page and to consider a variety of user-experience metrics,” said Doantam Phan, a Google product manager, in an announcement post.

While slow sites with quality content still stand a chance, over time page speed will outweigh content strategy as a measure of a site’s value to a user, the company said.

Google is rewarding advertisers and agencies that create digital assets that allow users of Google Search to go from query to answer in the shortest time possible while retaining relevance.

Advertisers and agencies that intend to get ahead of the update rollout can optimize their digital assets by drubbing Google’s benchmarks for mobile page speed. They can start by cross-checking mobile page speed with TestMySite, a free Google tool. The free report includes a mobile friendliness report and a mobile speed score.

Specifically, Google said advertisers and agencies will need to beat three benchmarks:

1. Drop the request count below 50

Google recommends keeping requests (the number of times the browser has to call on the server for information while loading the page) below 50. The minification of images, Javascript, and CSS are great starting points.

2. Reduce page weight below 500 kilobytes

The main culprit for data-heavy pages is images. WordPress sites rely on Smush Image Compression, while others use Compressor IO, among other tools. Reducing the image load is critical for sites meant to deliver a commercial outcome, but the irony is that more images drive faster conversions. While image optimisation is a tedious task ignored by most, image compression is relatively less time-intensive.

3. Dwindle TTFB

TTFB, or time to the first byte, is a measure of how fast a site sends the first byte of data to a browser once a request is made. With numerous requests and black-hat redirects plaguing the ecosystem, this is one of the toughest pain points to correct, even more so considering that the user’s internet speed also makes an impact. For WordPress sites, W3 Total Cache helps a browser store site data better.

Advertisers and agencies can take comfort in the fact that most websites are nowhere near the halfway point of Google’s benchmarks, which means there is plenty of time to get ahead of the competition and get indexed as a mobile-optimised site that has steadily implemented and maintained best practices.

Source: campaignasia.com; 18 Jan 2018

Google updates local search results by user location

Google has updated the trigger with which it determines the location of the user.

Local search results will no longer be determined by the country-specific browser being used by a user. A new update by Google has done away with domain dependency and transitions towards picking the user location as the main factor for serving local search results.

This means that logging into Google.com.my from Singapore will lead to search results pertaining to Singapore.

Google will no longer rely on top-level domains, such as Google.com.sg, as a trigger for determining the location of the user. Country services on the mobile web, the Google app for iOS, desktop search, and Google Maps will now correspond to the location of the user’s device.

The change only impacts users so advertisers needn’t worry about any changes to PPC and SEM campaigns in progress.

According to a blog post, 20% of searches on Google are related to the location according to Evelyn Kao, the product manager at Google. “So providing locally relevant search results is an essential part of serving you the most accurate information,” she adds.

Similar to settings for Google products such as Google Earth, Gmail, and YouTube, users can change the location manually if they choose to.

“While this update will change the way Google Search and Maps services are labelled, it won’t affect the way these products work, nor will it change how we handle obligations under national law,” Kao writes.

The update is meant to rely on a user opting to keep their location tracker on in order to find the most relevant search results, which ties into Google’s dependency on mobile search as evidenced at the quarter three earnings call.

Source: campaignasia.com; 31 Oct 2017