This week: Google rolled out an algorithm update, Instagram has a new toy for ecommerce webmasters, and wait until you hear why some spammy sites rank well in search.
Here’s what happened this week in digital marketing.
Instagram Introduces In-App Checkout for E-Commerce Businesses
It was only a matter of time.
Instagram is releasing in-app checkout for e-commerce brands.
That means shoppers can buy products without even leaving the app.
Companies that sell products online will use the new in-app purchase feature because it shortens the customer journey.
Here’s how it works: Instagram displays a “Checkout on Instagram” button when a user clicks on a product tag within an image. The user just needs to click that button to begin the purchase process.
Before users can buy anything, though, they’ll need to enter their purchasing information within the app. They only need to do that once.
As of now, the new feature is only available to a limited number of businesses. Among them:
- MAC Cosmetics
The folks at Adidas appreciate the way that in-app checkout makes it easier for customers to get to the end of the sales funnel.
“The new technology gives Adidas’ audience the power to go from inspiration to purchase in an instant,” said Scott Zalaznik, Adidas SVP. “Our consumer-obsessed approach to e-commerce focuses on simplified immersive connections with the brand and Instagram Shopping allows us to deliver a content-rich experience on a platform where our creators are exploring and curating their lives.”
Instagram said it will make the new feature available to additional brands in the coming months.
Facebook Removes Some Targeting Features for Housing, Employment, and Credit Ads
Facebook is making it a little more difficult to discriminate.
The social media giant is eliminating targeting by age, gender, or zip code for housing, employment, and credit ads.
It’s part of a settlement that Facebook reached with the ACLU, CWA, and NFHA.
“There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment and credit, and this harmful behavior should not happen through Facebook ads,” wrote Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg when announcing the new policy.
Facebook also said that multicultural affinity targeting will remain unavailable for the same kinds of ads.
Google Removed 2.3 Billion Bad Ads Last Year
In 2018, Google took down 2.3 billion “bad” ads. That’s about a million fewer ads than the company removed in 2017.
However, Google said it terminated almost a million ad accounts in 2018. That’s roughly double the number from the previous year.
Ads were also removed from nearly 1.5 million apps.
Specifically, the Big G banned ads for the following sectors:
- For-profit bail bond services
- Addiction treatment programs
- Third-party tech support
- Ticket resellers
This past week, Google also announced the launch of a new Policy manager. It’s a feature that will help marketers spot policy violations.
Google Ads Will Recommend Columns for Reports
Not sure which data points you should view in your Google Ads reports? No problem, the tool will tell you.
Google is rolling out a “recommended columns” feature in its ad platform. It will let you know which analytics are most important to you.
How does it know that? Based on the type of campaign you’re running.
For example, if you’re using bid automation, the tool will recommend that you add “Bid Strategy Type” to your reports.
By the way, that means “Bid Strategy Type” is no longer a required column in reports. That’s a change.
Google lets you know which columns it recommends by underlining them in blue. You’ll see that when you’re adding or modifying columns in your reports.
You also have the option to tell Google not to recommend specific columns anymore.
Google Confirms Release of Core Update
This past week, Google confirmed the release of a core algorithm update.
It’s officially named the March 2019 Update. However, some digital marketers call it Florida 2.
What kind of update is it? Well, the search giant is staying hush-hush about specific changes. That’s typically the case, though.
Some SEOs think it’s a rollback of previous updates. Other strategists said that they noticed more gains than losses.
WebmasterWorld founder Brett Tabke reportedly had advanced knowledge of the update. According to him, it’s one of the largest updates that Google has rolled out in “a very long time.”
However, the company has publicly stated that it was “far from the biggest update Google has ever done.”
Tabke also said that traffic patterns on sites that were “abused” by Penguin have rebounded noticeably.
But Google made it clear that it was not a Penguin update. The company said it doesn’t do Penguin updates any more.
Here’s what SEMRush noticed after the algorithm change:
- Overall volatility levels are not significantly higher than run-of-the-mill unannounced Google Updates
- Update patterns are almost the same on Desktop vs Mobile
- All countries that we track are affected, but Germany and especially France and Italy seem to lag a day behind
- Most affected categories so far are Autos&Vehicles, Health and Pets&Animals
The update officially began rolling out on March 12.
DuckDuckGo Is Now a Default Search Option in Chrome
Here’s more evidence that DuckDuckGo is a rising star among search engines.
Google has reportedly added DuckDuckGo to its list of potential default search engines for Chrome.
That’s significant because Chrome is by far the most popular web browser. It currently commands about 62% of the market share around the world.
In the U.S., Chrome takes 49% of the market share.
If you’re not familiar with DuckDuckGo, it’s a search engine that promises not to track you.
In other words, it offers privacy.
There’s a market for that. DuckDuckGo’s share of the search engine market has grown steadily over the last few years.
It’s safe to say that trend will continue for the foreseeable future.
Google Reiterates: Quality Raters Don’t Directly Affect Search Results
It’s still true that quality raters don’t directly impact your searching rankings.
The subject came up this past week because Matthew Woodward posted an article entitled “How to Check If Search Engine Evaluators Visited Your Site.”
Google’s John Mueller got a heads-up about that piece. After reading it, he tweeted that the post “fundamentally misunderstands how Google uses raters and search quality.”
Mueller went on to say that quality raters “don’t evaluate and penalize sites.”
All the quality raters do is offer feedback to Google. Then, Google presumably tweaks its search algorithm based on the feedback.
Google Explains Why Spammy Sites Sometimes Rank
Ever wonder why websites with a bunch of backlink spam outrank you? Google has an answer for that.
But it’s probably not an answer that will make you feel a whole lot better.
According to John Mueller, sites that practice a few black hat tactics sometimes rank well because they’re doing a lot of other stuff right.
“For example,” Mueller said, “it might be that one site uses keyword stuffing in a really terrible way but actually their business is fantastic and people really love going there, they love finding it in search and we have lots of really good signals for that site. So we might still show them at number one, even though we recognize they’re doing keyword stuffing.”
Note that Mueller dropped a few clues about what helps a site rank in that explanation:
- Fantastic business
- People love going to the site (repeated traffic?)
- People love finding the site in search (high CTR?)
- Google has “lots of really good signals for that site” (see above?)
Bottom line: it looks like you can still get a great rank as long as your white hat SEO outweighs your black hat SEO.
You probably don’t want to put that to the test, though.