Welcome to your monthly roundup of the latest industry news from Distinctly. Below you’ll find stories on developments and rollouts in the worlds of PPC and SEO this month, as well as the latest updates from Google.
Google has unveiled a major overhaul of the way its Analytics platform collects, retains and uses data, designed to align it more closely with rapidly shifting consumer behaviour. To facilitate better marketing decisions and improve ROI, it automatically alerts users to trends showing in their data, as well as including predictive metrics such as potential revenues and churn probabilities. In addition, it provides less fragmented and more customer-centric measurements that give users a detailed understanding of the entire customer lifecycle.
Sidecar’s 2020 Google Ads performance statistics for retail verticals have been revealed, compiling data from over 300 US retailers to track shifting budget trends, changing spend strategies and significant updates. The headline findings from the report include a 7% spend growth on Google Shopping, mobile devices accounting for 69% of Google Shopping clicks, and Amazon taking a 60% impression share across a number of verticals.
Google Ads introduced a number of new automation features and campaign types this month. The new Insights page, set to roll out in the UK during Q4 2020, combines customised Google Trends data with the Rising Retail Categories tool that launched during lockdown to highlight fast-growing product searches. In addition, Performance Max uses machine learning to serve responsive ads across multiple channels, and all advertisers can use performance-focused Video Action campaigns on YouTube and Google video partners.
Google’s announcement last month that it would limit the visibility of search terms in reports, citing privacy concerns, has led to complaints about loss of transparency into ad spend. Optmyzr has developed a script which measures the impact of the change on individual accounts, by comparing data from account reports (which show all search queries) and search query reports (which are now limited by Google’s filters). Its results show a pronounced decrease in visibility during September into queries driving clicks and cost.
The People Also Ask (PAA) box now appears on 49% of Google SERPs, around four times more frequently than featured snippets. However, many SEOs are not using them to their full advantage. By including clear, concise Q&As on pages, businesses can make use of another opportunity for powerful brand exposure and reputational growth as a provider of accurate information. Additionally, unlike featured snippets, PAA boxes offer a chance for a URL to appear twice on the first page of Google search results.
Google has begun supporting a structured data markup for displaying shipping details in Google Shopping listings. Currently available in the US, the feature allows retailers to include information such as delivery time, delivery cost, available shipping destinations and more. With users abandoning shopping checkouts because of unforeseen or unclear shipping costs, delivery details are clearly a consideration for purchase decisions, and can now be made clear to a user before they click through from a search result.
Passage-based indexing is one of a number of changes to Search announced by Google this month. It allows Google’s algorithm to find answers to the most specific search terms, by understanding the relevance of particular passages on a page. Set to affect 7% of search queries when it rolls out globally, the update does not mean that Google is now indexing passages as opposed to pages – simply that it is zoning into text much more closely than just page titles or headings. This makes it a ranking change rather than an indexing change.
In addition to passage-based indexing, other AI search updates are set to change the way certain sites are ranked. Among these are the expansion of language processing algorithm BERT to impact virtually every English language search query (as opposed to the initial 10% at launch), the biggest improvement to Google’s spelling algorithm in five years, and Subtopic Ranking which is set to benefit businesses which optimise for specific subtopics but struggle with higher-traffic keywords.
John Mueller has offered his take on a wide variety of SEO topics this month, stating that SEO will continue to become more competitive as bigger companies become more savvy – but the outlook remains positive for smaller businesses that can take advantage of their flexibility to grow fast. Among Mueller’s other observations are the ongoing importance of UX and SEO testing to improve sites, that good SEOs don’t necessarily need to understand computer and algorithm coding, and that speed metrics are growing in importance and worth investing in.
Cross-industry research compiled by McKinsey highlights an irreversible evolution in B2B behaviour during the Covid-19 lockdown, shifting from temporary crisis management to a permanent digital new normal. Video and live chat have taken centre stage with over 70% of B2B decision makers preferring remote interactions and only 20% of B2B buyers hoping to return to face-to-face sales. In addition, customers are now open to making much bigger purchases online (70% would spend over $50,000 on a remote or self-service purchase), where e-commerce was previously considered a method for smaller items only.
LinkedIn has taken inspiration from Instagram for its newest tool. Stories allows members to post photos and 20-second videos to the networking platform, which then remain viewable for 24 hours. High-profile global brands including Christian Dior have already made use of the tool, which aims to become an integral part of marketing strategies by offering a way to post more spontaneous, ‘lightweight’ content that underpins brand personality.
While police need a search warrant to obtain an individual’s search history, court documents on an arson investigation in the US have highlighted that they can use the reverse method instead – asking Google to disclose a list of everyone who has searched for a particular keyword. In this case, the IP addresses of everyone who had looked up the address where the arson attack was committed allowed police to narrow down their suspects, but the idea of ‘keyword warrants’ has raised thorny issues around police surveillance.