Google launches cross-device reporting feature

Google launches tool that can track users across devices, plus an additional line for text ads, and an app that allows public figures to address fans and stakeholders.

Advertisers, agencies, and publishers can now turn to Google Signals (GS) to track prospects, instead of devices. The new feature promises to help with the optimization of both advertising expenditure and the user experience across devices.

According to Prantik Mazumdar, CEO of Happy Marketer, cross-device advertising has been shown to increase conversions by around 40% in comparison to single-device marketing. He adds that a marketer can tailor the messaging and targeting of an ad in a more precise manner through the capability, potentially driving higher conversions.

GS is currently in beta testing and is part of wider effort to integrate the company’s web analytics service portfolio into the rebranded Google Marketing Platform, granting users the ability to base targeting on datasets generated in Google Analytics. In the age of GDPR, only users that have turned on Ads Personalization will be tracked.

“The consent-based opt-in nature of Ads Personalization means that users may be more receptive to the ads being served,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “We could potentially save ourselves the trouble of displaying an awareness-focused ad to a prospect on all her devices. This means we can map ads to appear in a sequence of the user-awareness journey, serving new ads with every in-device impression, increasing CTR or conversions over time.”

As the bridge between the analytics and marketing capabilities of Google, GS aims to offer advertisers, agencies, and publishers a better understanding of customers across devices.

“Given the popularity and prevalence of the Google stack globally, the global rollout of Google Signals will make cross-device tracking and marketing very accessible to a lot of marketers, and they would get a step closer to taking meaningful marketing actions based on the single view of the customer,” said Mazumdar.

Source: campaignasia.com; 14 Aug 2018

Google is gaining major ground on Amazon in the smart speaker market

Since snagging an early lead in the smart speaker market with the Echo product lineup, Amazon has maintained its dominance through the second quarter of this year – but it has less breathing room than ever.

As this chart from Statista shows, Amazon is credited with shipping 41% of the 11.7 million smart speakers distributed worldwide this past quarter, with Google coming in second with 27.6% of shipments. Apple came nowhere close to either of its rivals, with the Cupertino-based giant only shipping off 5.9%.

The big takeaway: Amazon’s competitors are slowly, but surely, gaining traction in the smart speaker race. The company no longer has as big of a lead as it did in Q2 of last year.

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Source: businessinsider.sg; 20 Aug 2018

Bing takes on Trivago, Google with intelligent search features

Microsoft has updated a search function in Bing, with the initial rollout fixated around the hospitality & travel industry.

A new update for Bing lets consumers view pricing trends, with the initial rollout focused around the travel and hospitality industry.

Functionally, the offering is similar to Google’s ability to offer searchers historical price trends for specific date ranges in order to assist in price-based decisions. It’s also conceptually similar to what Trivago offers for hotel seekers.

The price trend feature allows users to browse costs over a period of time, tied to a specific hotel. With this function, Bing intends to help users compare and contrast easily, with a user interface that allows multiple clicks to check the rates throughout a date range.

Available on both desktop and mobile, the new features are focused around the hospitality industry, including hotels and airlines. Similar to Trivago, the function also offers users a detailed breakdown of hotel prices, ratings, class levels, and amenities side-by-side.

Microsoft’s recent repositioning around digital transformation and focus around injecting machine learning across all consumer products is behind the recent string of Bing updates, which also included a hotel booking feature launched in May. This offers users aggregated pricing from third-party booking sites.

According to the Q4 2018 report by Microsoft, search advertising revenue through Bing Ads increased by 13% to $793 million due to higher revenue per search and search volume. The search engine and pay per click products rely on partnerships for monetization with multiple companies such as Oath. The growth of the engine is dependent on the ability to attract new users, understand search intent, and match intent with relevant content and advertiser offerings.

Source: campaignasia.com; 7 Aug 2018

Google launches game on Tencent’s Wechat as it eyes China market

Alphabet Inc’s Google has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) game on Tencent Holdings Ltd social media app WeChat, as the company continues to show tentative signs of re-entering China’s consumer market.

The U.S. technology firm has been experimenting with new inroads to the China, where the majority of its products including its internet search engine, email and app store are blocked by Chinese authorities over censorship concerns.

Last year, Google launched its ‘Google Translate’ app in China, and in May it added a file management app to several app stores run by local Chinese firms, a first for the company.

The latest product, Caihua Xiaoge, is a drawing game based on Google’s AI image recognition technology, and is a WeChat ‘mini app’, which works only within Tencent’s WeChat. Several foreign firms, including Starbucks Corp, have also launched mini apps.

Google in January announced a patent licensing deal with Tencent with the intention of collaborating further in the Chinese market. Last month, the U.S. firm also invested $550 million in JD.com Inc, China’s second most valuable e-commerce firm which also counts Tencent as an investor.

While it is unlikely Google will be able to open its global search engine in China, the firm is experimenting with less controversial projects in the market. In January it participated in a $120 million investment round by live-stream mobile game platform Chushou.

Source: reuters.com; 18 July 2018

Microsoft has unveiled visual search for Bing

Microsoft launched a new intelligent Visual Search tool for Bing — Microsoft’s search engine — that allows users to search the mobile web by uploading an image or taking a photo with their phone camera.

For example, taking a photo of a flower will not only identify the type of flower, but will also suggest where the nearest florist is. Visual Search is available in a range of apps, including the standalone Bing app on iOS and Android, as well as Microsoft’s web browsing apps for Android — Launcher and Edge.

Microsoft has joined the growing number of companies that are turning the smartphone camera into a discovery tool. Pinterest, Google, and Amazon have all rolled out visual search products within the past two years, for example.

And retail brands, such as Sephora, Asos, and Akira, have also integrated the tech into their smartphone apps to increase customer engagement and help drive conversions. Within two months of implementing a visual search feature into its site, 45% of Akira’s customers had used the feature, according to a case study by visual search company Markable.

For now, the technology is somewhat limited. But it has vast potential to transform the way consumers engage with brands and provide greater insight into consumer behaviour:

• Retailers can increase the accuracy of their product search and boost cross-sell opportunities: Visual search can help retail customers clarify ambiguities that occur when they attempt to describe objects and colours in text-based searches. For example, a consumer may see someone wearing a black hat that they might like to buy. Text search would return thousands of black hats, making it difficult for the consumer to find the hat they really want. Further, visual search offers an opportunity to “cross-sell” items based on contextual cues in the image, such as the customer’s shoes or shirt, by matching them to items sold by the brand.

• Publishers can increase consumer engagement with their content: Media and magazine companies can use visual search to bridge the gap between the printed page and real world. For instance, looking at a printed ad through the phone could turn the ad into an interactive video. The consumer could also scroll through the video to view more information about the product and even add the item to their mobile shopping cart.

And as consumers become more accustomed to using the smartphone camera as a search tool, it will find additional use cases in healthcare, government, transport and logistics, banking, and insurance.

Source: buisnessinsider.com; 26 June 2018

Devices supporting Google Assistant have more than tripled in last four months

Over 5,000 devices can talk to Google

Google Assistant has had a good few months: Google’s smart assistant is now compatible with more than 5,000 devices, up from the 1,500 it worked with back in January.

According to Google, it’s a list made up of a huge variety of products, including “cameras, dishwashers, doorbells, dryers, lights, plugs, thermostats, security systems, switches, vacuums, washers, fans, locks, sensors, heaters, AC units, air purifiers, refrigerators, and ovens.” It’s a big jump — at least, numerically speaking — and if nothing else, it’s a sign that the full court press that Google started at the beginning of the year with its massive Google Assistant-themed booth at CES is starting to show some results.

Compare that number to Apple’s Homekit, which has just 195 products listed on Apple’s official site of devices that work with the iOS-based smart home system, and it seems like Google is making some serious progress.

But Google still has Amazon to contend with in the smart home assistant space, and it’s still got some catching up to do there: there are currently over 12,000 devices that work with Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Source: theverge.com; 3 May 2018

Amazon launches Alexa Agency Plan

In a bid to accelerate adoption of Alexa for advertisers and agencies eager to attain first mover advantage in voice search, Amazon has launched a paid platform plan.

Amazon is accelerating adoption of Alexa as a preferred voice search platform.

Launching the Alexa Agency Plan, Amazon is targeting small agencies and consumer-focused SMEs with a set of tools to close the gap between planning and executing.

Supporting search engine optimization, content marketing, and paid-search for Bing and Google, the platform aims to help advertisers and agencies reduce time spent in analysing the validity of a media mix and more time executing on it.

“The research phase in understanding the industry of a prospective client should be cut in half,” said Danish Ayub, CEO of MWM Studioz. “Given what is offered and promised, an Alexa Agency Plan could eliminate the exhaustive time taken during the data collection and analysis phase in understanding competitors and audiences.”

He adds that while most SME’s in the APAC region do not have the required talent to execute digital in-house, most do hold Amazon in high regard and would be more willing to accept the strategy analysis endorsed by the platform.

Advertisers and agencies that use the platform can access intelligence about traffic sources, audience interests, keywords, backlinks, and a comparison tool for digital properties.

Source: campaignasia.com; 19 Apr 2018

Google and Facebook are expanding their video ads

Google and Facebook each recently announced video ad expansions to drive continued ad revenue growth and ensure that both advertisers and publishers continue to see the value in using their platforms either to advertise or distribute content.

The news comes as tech platforms increasingly disappoint advertisers and publishers over brand safety issues and transparency around reach and viewability. The news also comes as 78% of marketers say they plan to increase their video ad production in 2018, according to Clinch research per MarketingDive.

Google’s latest video ad format, called Outstream Video Ads, will operate on mobile devices across Google video partner mobile sites and apps, and will offer advertisers a way of reaching mobile users with video ads outside of YouTube, per Search Engine Land.

Google announced the new format on its blog. The ads will appear in banner ads, Interstitials, in-feed, and native for apps. For advertisers, the new format could enhance brand safety, because only Google video partners— a select group of high-quality publishers and mobile apps — will be eligible to run Outstream ads, improving advertisers’ access to a powerful mix of high-quality video inventory. The format could also offer better viewability assurances on video ads delivered to mobile devices, because advertisers will be charged on a viewable CPM basis. The format also offers advertisers a way of reaching consumers on mobile devices, which are rapidly consuming a greater share of consumers’ time spend across a range of media devices. Mobile ad spend is expected to become the top ad medium this year, capturing 33.9% of total media spending, surpassing TV (31.6%) for the first time, per eMarketer.

Facebook is reportedly expanding pre-roll video ads, after testing the format on Facebook Watch shows earlier this year, according to Variety.

With the expansion, pre-roll ads will appear more broadly in video content surfaced through search results or that’s posted on publisher Pages, as Facebook seeks ways to grow Watch. For now, Facebook won’t insert pre-rolls in News Feed. Along with promoting “good” video content through monetization, Facebook also aims to limit “bad” content by demonetizing low-quality video or publishers that engage in “sharing and distribution schemes,” according to a recent blog post. Limiting low-quality video and expanding available video ad inventory by adding pre-roll ads creates a compelling environment for advertisers and brands. Further, high-quality publishers stand to gain more of advertisers’ video spend on the platform as Facebook prioritizes content that builds engaged and loyal audiences. For Facebook’s part, the platform has identified video as a venue to drive ad revenues, which are the bulk of its total sales, as it reaches capacity for advertising pushed out on News Feed.

Source: businessinsider.com; 25 Apr 2018

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