Digital Marketing News 1/30/2023 - 2/3/2023
This week: Google Ads lets you set negative keywords at the account level, Snapchat is still growing, and OpenAI released a not-so-reliable tool to help you detect auto-generated content.
Here’s what happened this week in digital marketing.
1. Google Ads Now Offers Account-Level Negative Keywords
This story is getting a lot of buzz.
Google Ads now lets you set negative keywords for your entire account.
If you’re unfamiliar with negative keywords, they’re words that people might use in search queries that will prevent your ads from showing.
In the past, you could set them at the campaign level. But now you can set them for the entire account.
It’s often the case that marketers use negative keywords to establish brand safety and suitability.
2. Google: If You Redesign Your Site, Prepare for the Google Dance
This past week on LinkedIn, Google’s Gary Illyes said that you can expect ratings to “go nuts” if you redesign your site.
"Among other things,” he said, “search engines use the HTML of your pages to make sense of the content. If for example you break up paragraphs, remove H tags in favor of CSS styling, or add breaking tags (especially true for CJK languages), you change the HTML parsers' output, which in turn may change the site's rankings."
Illyes went on to suggest that website owners should use “semantically similar HTML” when redesigning sites. He also said to avoid adding tags where you don’t need them.
3. Report: Facebook Usage Is Up
Finally, some good news for Facebook.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook usage increased worldwide year-over-year during Q4.
The report goes on to say that Facebook notched that increase with the assistance of AI.
That AI component also helped drive a 20% increase in Reels viewership.
Is this part of a continuing trend? Time will tell.
4. Twitter Applies for Licenses to Handle In-App Payments
Looks like Elon Musk wants to take a bite out of the market share held by his old company, PayPal.
According to The Financial Times, Twitter recently began applying for licenses to provide in-app payments.
“In November, Twitter registered with the US Treasury as a payments processor, according to a regulatory filing. It has now also begun to apply for some of the state licenses it would need in order to launch, these people said. The remainder would be filed shortly, in the hope that US licensing was completed within a year, one of the people said.”
Next up: Twitter will need to work with international regulators. It’s a global economy, after all.
5. Snapchat Adds 12M Users in Q4
According to the company’s latest earnings report, Snapchat added 12 million daily active users (DAU) in Q4, taking the total to 375 million.
Most growth came from India. And that’s a recurring theme with Snapchat.
The platform’s subscription service, Snapchat+, reached more than 2 million paying customers in Q4.
Still, Snap’s revenue per user fell a bit year-over-year. So investors will be disappointed.
6. OpenAI Releases Tool to Detect Auto-Generated Content
OpenAI released an AI Text Classifier. It can help detect content that was generated by an AI instead of a human being.
But it’s not 100% effective. So don’t fire that writer just because the tool told you he submitted an article written by software.
In fact, the tool only correctly identified AI-produced text 26% of the time. And 9% of the time it incorrectly identified human-produced text as AI-generated.
Expect that algorithm to get better over time, though.
7. Google: Still No Recommendation on Optimal Keyword Density
Are you still wondering about the “perfect” keyword density for your online articles? Well, you can keep wondering.
Google has no recommendations.
The subject came up during that same office-hours session. When somebody asked about keyword density, John Mueller replied: “No, Google does not have a notion of optimal keyword density.”
I don’t think that’s ever going to change.
One month down in 2023. Only 11 to go. So make sure you take care of these action items as quickly as possible:
- If you’re stressing over competitors who hit your site with negative SEO, don’t worry about it. Google is smart enough to not penalize you.
- Snapchat continues to add users so think about good ways to promote your business on that platform.
- Go through those Yandex search ranking factors and think about what you can do to improve rank for your own website.
- If you’re on Google Ads, start using those account-level negative keywords.
Digital Marketing News 1/23/2023 - 1/27/2023
This week: Instagram wants to surface photos over videos in its app, more news about OpenAI and ChatGPT, and Twitter offers a new advertising option.
Here’s what happened in digital marketing this week.
1. Microsoft Seals Multi-Billion Dollar Deal With OpenAI
OpenAI definitely hasn’t been in the news enough lately, so I think we should talk about it now.
This past week, Microsoft announced that it’s continuing its partnership with OpenAI to the tune of multiplied billions of dollars.
One of the primary goals of the new alliance: make AI accessible to everybody.
And, of course, the usual updates.
“In this next phase of our partnership with @OpenAI, we will deliver the best AI infrastructure, models, and toolchain for customers to safely and responsibly build and run their applications on Azure,” Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella tweeted.
If you’ve been asleep for the past month or so and don’t know about OpenAI, it’s the company that brought us ChatGPT. That’s the thing you’re not supposed to use to create content.
2. GPT-4 Is on the Way
Speaking of OpenAI and GPT, it looks like GPT-4 is on the way.
In a recent podcast, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman fielded some questions about the next generation of his natural language processing software.
During the podcast, Altman claimed that we’ll soon see “multimodal models” with GPT.
If you’re unfamiliar with multimodal models, they’re software that can interact with the speech in addition to standard keyboard inputs.
Altman also indicated that the new AI would actually function as a classic AI. That is, it will learn all by itself.
The future is now.
3. TikTok Employees Can Decide What Goes Viral
Virality is more of an art than a science. It’s difficult to predict if any piece of content will get shared hundreds of thousands of times.
Unless, of course, you’re an employee at TIkTok. Then you can pick and choose which video updates go viral.
According to Forbes, TikTok team members can “introduce celebrities and emerging creators of the TikTok community.”
They get to do that with the assistance of a “heating button.” They just press that button for a specific video and it gets more views.
“We promote some videos to help diversify the content experience and introduce celebrities and emerging creators to the TikTok community,” said TikTok spokesperson Jamie Favazza. “Only a few people, based in the U.S., have the ability to approve content for promotion in the U.S., and that content makes up approximately .002% of videos in For You feeds.”
But some reports claim that heated videos make up 1-2% of video views.
4. Instagram: Photos Will Get More Attention in 2023
According to CEO Adam Mosseri, the photo and video-sharing app will soon become more of a photo-sharing app.
Just like in the good old days.
“I think we were overfocused on video in 2022 and pushed ranking too far, and basically showed too many videos and not enough photos,” Mosseri said. “We’ve since balanced, so things like how often someone likes photos versus videos, and how often someone comments on photos versus videos, are roughly equal, which is a good sign that things are balanced.”
We’ll find out later if that turns out to be a wise business decision.
5. Google: Include Canonicals in Sitemap File
This past week on LinkedIn, Google’s Gary Illyes reminded website owners to include canonicals in sitemap files.
"It's normal to have some duplicate content on your site,” he explained, “but you want to give search engines as many hints as you can about which version should be canonical (I.e. shown in search results). Sitemaps are one of those hints. Not as strong as rel-canonical and definitely not even near redirects, but it can be useful still."
This isn’t new advice, but it looks like Illyes has seen lots of folks not following it.
6. Report: Google Asking Advertisers to Use Third-Party Resellers
In case you missed the news, Google is laying off thousands of employees. As a result, there will soon be fewer Google team members on hand to assist with your advertising needs.
According to Digiday: “Google has been increasingly encouraging advertisers to engage with its network of approved resellers over the past number of years.”
Leaders in digital marketing offered mainly positive reactions to the news.
One marketer, for example, had this to say: “The current system of contracting unqualified individuals to hassle Google Ads users provides little to no value as compared to professional service providers who have direct incentives to help advertisers get the most out of the platform.”
Another one posted a meme of Jimmy Fallon saying, “Yes!”
7. Google Will Sunset Google Optimize
If you’re a user of Google Optimize, you might want to start looking at other options.
Google will take down Optimize at the end of September. Until then, all your experiments and personalizations will continue as before.
The company says it’s now leaning on Google Analytics 4 to handle split testing. Also, Optimize doesn’t have many of the features and requirements users ask for.
8. Twitter Launches Ad Targeting Based on Searches
You probably run ads based on search queries on Google, so why not on Twitter?
This past week, Twitter announced a new way to surface one of your promoted tweets: target them to keywords in search.
The new feature is called “Search Keyword Ads.” And it only applies to search, unlike Twitter Keywords campaigns.
You can also include location targeting in Search Keyword Ads. So if somebody searches for “order pizza” in your area and you run a pizza shop, you can show that person your promoted tweet.
Finally, Twitter includes broad match targeting so people don’t have to enter your exact search term.
9. Report: TikTok’s Pulse Program Isn’t Generating Much Revenue
There are plenty of influencers on TikTok. But how do they monetize their influence?
After all, you can’t really run mid-roll ads in short-form video. That’s too much of a disruption.
So last year TikTok introduced something called the Pulse program. It’s a way for advertisers to place ads alongside content from key influencers.
And how’s that working out? Not so well, apparently.
According to one report: “In interviews Fortune conducted with seven TikTok influencers, all of whom had followings of at least 100,000, all shared confusion about their enrolment in the program and none reported earnings exceeding $5.”
So apparently it’s back to the drawing board for TikTok.
Don’t let January get away before you complete these action items:
- Think about how you can promote your business with Twitter’s keyword targeting feature.
- If you’re using Google Optimize, start looking for other tools.
- Make sure you include canonicals in your sitemap file.
- If you’re promoting your business on Instagram with a lot of videos, think about how you can accomplish the same thing with photos.
Digital Marketing News 1/17/2023 - 1/20/2023
This week: Twitter disables API access for some social media management apps, Google’s updates have completed rolling out, and YouTube has some new analytics.
Here’s what happened this week in digital marketing.
1. Twitter Cuts off Access to Some Third-Party Apps
Hope you’re not a fan of Twitterrific. Or Tweetbot.
Because those apps have lost their access to the Twitter API.
Other apps, that you probably haven’t heard of, got blocked as well.
Twitter hasn’t yet explained the reason for its actions.
It’s speculated that at least part of the reason for cutting off access is because third-party apps don’t provide any revenue to Twitter.
But then why not block access to the big names in social media management? Like Hootsuite and Buffer?
Maybe soon they’ll get cut off as well.
2. Automattic Launches New Ad Network
Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has launched a new ad network.
It’s called Blaze. And you can use it to run ads on millions of WordPress and Tumblr sites.
Yes, Tumblr still exists.
Blaze actually launched last April. But back then it only served ads on Tumblr.
Now ads will run on WordPress.com and self-hosted publishers who use the JetPack WordPress plugin.
One word of caution, though: with this ad network you pay for impressions, not clicks. So it’s probably better for building brand-name awareness than getting immediate conversions.
3. Google’s Helpful Content and Link Spam Updates Have Been Completed
Google has finally completed its rollout of the Helpful Content and Link Spam updates.
They both completed on January 12.
The Helpful Content update started on December 5.
The Link Spam update started on December 14.
They were only supposed to take a couple of weeks to roll out. But Google postponed the updates until after the holiday season.
4. Google Issues Yet Another Warning About AI-Generated Content
In case you missed the news, Bankrate recently started publishing AI-generated content on its website. And the company wasn’t shy about admitting that.
On the same page as one of its AI-generated articles, you can read this disclaimer: “this article was generated using automated technology and thoroughly edited and fact-checked by an editor on our editorial staff."
So it’s not entirely auto-generated.
Still, Bankrate’s use of AI to create online content raised a few eyebrows.
In response, Google’s search liaison Danny Sullivan chimed in with this warning: “As said before when asked about AI, content created primarily for search engine rankings, however, it is done, is against our guidance. If the content is helpful & created for people first, that's not an issue.”
He went on to say that Google will “take action” against content generated through automated processes.
5. Google: We Don’t Conduct Link-Buying Sting Operations
You won’t have to search for a long time online before you find people selling “SEO linking packages” that offer backlinks to your site.
Those linking packages are in violation of Google’s guidelines.
So you might be asking: does Google conduct sting operations to capture the people selling these link scheme services?
Nope. Because the company doesn’t need to.
This past week on Reddit, Google’s John Mueller said that he gets sent link-buying offers all the time to an official Google email address.
In other words, he doesn’t need to go find the SEO linking packages. They come to him.
So the black hatters are basically shooting themselves in the foot these days.
6. YouTube Rolls out New Analytics
If you’d like to further optimize your video marketing, YouTube is here to help.
The company is rolling out additional analytics for publishers:
- Subscribers per content type - see which types of content gets you new subscribers.
- Views per content type (on mobile) - learn about which types of content are getting the most views on YouTube Studio.
No timeline for the updates. So keep checking to see if you have access to the new metrics.
7. Google Probably Won’t Increase Indexing Request Quota in Search Console
By now you probably know that you can log on to Google Search Console and request indexing for a new site.
But did you know that there’s a maximum number of indexing requests you can submit on a given day?
And it looks like Google won’t be increasing that quota any time soon.
This past week on Mastodon, John Mueller said that “given how much junk we get submitted there, I don't see us increasing those limits.”
He went on to advise webmasters to make their sites “well-crawlable.”
8. Google: Publishing Frequency Doesn’t Have Anything to Do With Spam
You might think that if you crank out a lot of content on a daily basis, Google might view all of those new articles as spam.
Publishing frequency has nothing to do with whether or not Google brands your site as spammy.
This past week on Twitter, John Mueller said that “Google's algorithms don't look at the content volume as a spam signal alone.”
He went on to say that posting every day is fine if you have new and relevant things to share.
9. Google Will Ignore robots.txt If It Returns a 4xx Status Code
If for whatever reason, your robots.txt returns an HTTP status code in the 400’s when Googlebot examines it, then you can expect that Googlebot won’t follow any of the rules specified in that file.
Gary Illyes confirmed that much this past week on LinkedIn.
"PSA from my inbox: if you serve your robots.txt with a 403 HTTP status code, all rules in the file will be ignored by Googlebot,” he wrote. “Client errors (4xx, except 429) mean unavailable robots.txt, as in, a 404 and a 403 are equivalent in this case."
The first month of the new year is more than half over. Better take care of these action items:
- Make sure your robots.txt files return HTTP status codes of 200.
- Check out those new YouTube analytics to get more insight about the people who like your YouTube channel.
- If you’re thinking about using AI-generated content to save time or money, don’t. Google will pick up on that trick and you’ll lose rank.
- Check your keyword rankings to see if the recent updates had any impact on where you stand in the search engine results pages.
Digital Marketing News 1/9/2023 - 1/13/2023
This week: Google says that repetition is the key to success when it comes to putting a date on your content, Microsoft is having fun with ChatGPT, and YouTube will soon monetize Shorts.
Here’s what happened this week in digital marketing.
1. Google: Use Multiple Date Signals on Web Pages
Do you think the meta date alone is enough? Think again.
Google recommends that you use multiple date signals on your blog posts and online articles.
This is to ensure the correct date is displayed in the SERPs, and help you maintain the integrity and reliability of your site.
According to Big G’s docs: “Google doesn’t depend on a single date factor because all factors can be prone to issues. That’s why our systems look at several factors to determine our best estimate of when a page was published or significantly updated.”
- Use the <time> element
- Use the lastmod tag
- Use the pubdate tag
- Use the article:published_time tag
It’s in your interest as well as in Google’s to ensure that the proper date gets reflected in search results.
2. Microsoft Bing With ChatGPT Rolls out in March
Last week I pointed out that it’s a bad idea to use ChatGPT in content marketing. Search engines don’t like auto-generated content.
Microsoft plans to update the Bing search engine so that it can answer search queries in complete sentences using OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool.
The update is expected to roll out this March.
It’s not surprising that Microsoft would use ChatGPT. The company invested a billion bucks in OpenAI about three years ago.
And now Microsoft is looking for some payback.
But will it give users what they want? Time will tell.
3. Google: Feel Free to Use ChatGPT for Title Tag Ideas
Speaking of ChatGPT, Google’s John Mueller says it’s okay to use it to generate titles.
The subject came up this past week on Mastodon.
Here’s what Mueller said: "I don't know if AI is the right approach to making titles & descriptions, but if you're running out of ideas, and especially if you see pages showing up in search for the wrong terms, it seems like a good way to get inspiration or to try new things out. I would strongly discourage blindly following it though: you know your audience much better than any tool."
So there’s clearly a caveat involved.
Mueller also said that he and his fellow Googlers spend a lot of time working on titles themselves. Probably a good idea to follow their example.
4. Google: Updates Might Take a Couple More Weeks
It looks like the Helpful Content and Link Spam updates might take two more weeks to roll out.
The subject came up this past week on Twitter with Dr. Marie Haynes asking Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan about the timeline for the updates.
“Likely within two weeks, maybe only one,” Sullivan replied. “But that’s not a guarantee. Timings might change.”
As I noted last week, those updates went on pause during the holiday season.
5. Google Drops 110-Character Limit From Article Headline Structured Data
According to a recent update to Google’s structured data help docs on headline properties, you should “consider using a concise title, as long titles may be truncated on some devices.”
In the past, that same advice read: “The value [of the title] should not exceed 110 characters.”
But even without that restriction, take heed to Google’s warning that very long titles might get truncated on mobile platforms.
According to Google’s John Mueller, you should put it below the HTML <head> tag.
“The html headers (<head>) should be pretty much on top,” Mueller said on a Reddit thread. “I’d move any JS to below the HTML headers, and check with the rendering tool in search console that the JS doesn’t mess up the <head> section.”
Putting the code at the bottom of the page enables the HTML to get rendered first. That means the page loads more quickly and your visitors get a better experience.
7. Google: Remove Redundant Keywords Across Match Types
The drama surrounding the removal of redundant keywords in Google Ads continues.
Once upon a time, you were advised to remove redundant keywords within the same ad groups, landing page, bidding strategy, and match type.
But now Google says you should remove redundant keywords across match types.
For example, let’s say you’re using “women’s hats” as a phrase match keyword and “ladies hats” as a broad match keyword. Google advises you to get rid of the phrase match keyword because it’s covered by broad match.
Google said it’s making the change to help you manage your accounts more easily.
But advertisers aren’t buying that.
Many strategists think Google is nudging people towards broad match keywords with the change.
8. YouTube’s Shorts Monetization Starts in February
You can make money off of your YouTube Shorts videos starting next month.
“Starting February 1st, 2023, monetizing partners will be able to earn money from ads that are viewed between videos in the Shorts Feed,” YouTube said in a statement. “This new revenue sharing model will replace the YouTube Shorts Fund.”
So you’ll share the revenue with other Shorts creators.
9. Google: Core Web Vitals Not a Discover Requirement
You don’t need great Core Web Vitals scores to get your content included in Google Discover.
According to John Mueller, “we don’t have that connection documented anywhere.”
He went on to say that he’d be surprised if Core Web Vitals is a requirement for Discover.
Before you start that 3-day weekend, take care of these action items:
- If you’re into YouTube Shorts for the money, think about how you can maximize your revenue stream when the monetization starts next month.
- Some advertisers are refusing to accept Google’s recommendation to remove redundant keywords across match types. Do your own research and make the decision that’s best for your business.
- Add multiple date signals to your web pages so Google knows for sure when those pages got published.