This week: Google gives the green light to some keyword-stuffing, Microsoft rolls out another SEO tool for free, and 6-second ads are getting results.
Here’s what happened this week in digital marketing.
Google and Facebook Under Fire
Google and Facebook – the two biggest pillars in online advertising – found themselves on the wrong end of a lawsuit this week.
In all, eleven states have filed an antitrust lawsuit alleging that Google gave Facebook preferential treatment.
The two came to an agreement in 2018 that gave Facebook advertisers the ability to run ads on Google’s vast network. Google struck a similar deal with several other advertisers, but the new lawsuit claims that the deal heavily favored Facebook, and Facebook had since given less support to other ad networks.
This is the largest antitrust case filed against a major tech company in the past two decades, and the third filed against Google this year.
Facebook Stands up for Small Businesses
In response to the new Apple iOS 14 update, Facebook has released a statement that outlines all the ways it stands to harm small businesses — and what Facebook plans to do about it.
In it, the social giant claims that the update is all about profit, and formerly free apps will still result in profit for Apple, specifically.
It also points out that the update will interfere with small business’s ad budgets. And while anyone in the app store will have to play by the new rules, Apple’s own ad platform won’t be subject to the new policy.
Facebook says that though it has no choice but to adhere to the new policy, it will be doing what it can to protect its partners and lessen any negative impacts.
You can read more about Facebook’s stance and guidelines here.
Google Tests Interactive Search Results
This is bad news if you’re looking to get clicks from search.
Google is testing interactive search results. They’re results pages that reveal images on the listed URLs.
In other words, users can view the images without ever visiting the website.
Apparently, Google thinks that those image previews will give users some insight about whether or not the page is relevant to what they’re searching for.
To repeat, though: Google is just testing this feature now. If users don’t show any interest in interactive results, it won’t get rolled out.
Google Structured Data Testing Tool Is Back at a New Domain
The news about the death of Google’s Structured Data Testing Tool are greatly exaggerated.
As you may recall, Google deprecated the tool about five months ago and moved its best features to the Rich Results Test.
Following that, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth among many members of the SEO community. They loved that testing tool.
Well they can be happy again. The tool is coming back next year.
And it will be hosted on the same site that defines structured data: schema.org.
However that relocated tool won’t duplicate the results of the Rich Results Test. It will just highlight syntax and markup errors.
The new tool launches in April.
Google Explains Why Sites With Lots of Ads Still Rank
Some sites do very well in the SERPs even though they have lots of ads, What gives?
This past week, Google’s John Mueller addressed that subject.
For starters, he said that Google does have algorithms in place to check for too many ads. The Page Layout algorithm, for example, checks for pages with an abundance of ads above the fold. It’s been around for eight years.
Google also penalizes sites with intrusive interstitials because they lead to a horrendous user experience.
However, even pages with a bad user experience can still rank if they’re relevant to the query.
One such example is if the user searches for a website’s domain name. Clearly, the person is looking for that site so Google will move it to the top of the results list even if it’s loaded with ads.
Additionally, some user-hostile pages optimized for very specific keywords might rank for long tail queries.
Mueller also said that Google doesn’t de-index websites for a poor user experience.
Microsoft Adds Clarity Features to Bing Webmaster Tools
Microsoft continues its mission to give digital marketers as many free tools as possible. This time, it’s adding features from Microsoft Clarity to Bing Webmaster Tools.
If you’re unfamiliar with Clarity, it allows you to see what visitors are doing on your website. And it does that without violating anybody’s privacy.
Clarity shows you click and scroll heatmaps so you can see where visitors are spending most of their time on your site.
It can even replay entire sessions.
Study: Response Rates to 6-Second Video Ads Are Increasing
So how effective are those 6-second video ads?
Pretty effective, apparently.
According to a new study by MAGNA Global, those short ads can have an impact on your bottom line.
“In the early days of short video ads, they were primarily effective at generating awareness and less so when it comes to persuasiveness,” the report says. “Today, however, both short and long video ads have the ability to impact metrics across the purchase funnel. The change can be attributed to the rise of short form premium content, creative tailored for short form viewing, and advertisers simply getting better at communicating in short ads.”
The study also points out that both 6-second and 15-second ads lead to nearly identical increases in brand preference and purchase intent.
However, the research also shows that 15-second ads can feel intrusive for many consumers.
So less really is more.
Google: Keyword-Heavy Titles and Descriptions Don’t Violate Our Guidelines
Breaking: keyword-stuffing is legal. At least if you do it in titles and meta descriptions.
That’s according to Google’s John Mueller.
This past week, Mueller took a question from a strategist who wanted to know why sites that stuff keywords in titles and descriptions rank well when they’re violating Google’s guidelines.
“It’s not against our webmaster guidelines,” Mueller replied.
Oh. That explains it then.
Mueller continued: “It’s not something that we would say is problematic. I think, at most, it’s something where you could improve things if you had a better fitting title because we understand the relevance a little bit better.”
Indeed, you might notice a poor click-through rate with keyword-stuffed descriptions, even if the pages rank well in search. In that case, the rank might not make much of a difference at all.
Not much happened this week but you can still pull some action items from the news.
- Think about how you can create keyword-rich titles that will rank well and get clicks. That’s the best of both worlds.
- Think about how you can reach people in your target market with 6-second ads.
- Check out the new Clarity features in Bing Webmaster Tools. You might find that Microsoft now gives you enough tools for free that you can stop paying for some of the other tools you’re using.
- Review and analyze Apple’s iOS 14 policy to determine how it may affect your business.