All posts by Rebecca Sentance

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Four most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

We’re back with our weekly round-up of the most interesting search marketing news stories from around the web.

I hope you all enjoyed last Friday’s Easter search trivia quiz, and if you haven’t had a chance to test your knowledge yet, be sure to have a go and share your score with us on social media!

This week: a look at the newly-relaunched Google Earth and what it could mean for marketers, and a study has shown that 45% of marketers say their biggest difficulty with Schema.org markup is proving its value.

Plus, Google’s new “suggested clip” feature in search results shows how far its ability to search within videos has improved, and a new menu of Partner-only Features on Google’s Developer Blog hints at some exciting things to come.

Relaunched Google Earth introduces 3D local maps, visual storytelling opportunities

Google has just unveiled a stunning relaunch of Google Earth, with a wealth of new features and information to explore. On Search Engine Watch this week, Clark Boyd gave us a tour of the new Earth, including a look at how marketers can take advantage of the visual storytelling opportunities it presents, and what it means for local search, where “near me” searches will activate a 3D local map featuring business names, photographs and contact details.

45% of marketers have difficulty showing the value of Schema markup

A recent survey carried out by Schema App, a provider of tools to help marketers use Schema markup, has provided some insight into the difficulties that marketers encounter when using Schema markup.

Schema markup is often touted as a killer search tactic which is nevertheless seeing very little uptake among website owners. It can vastly improve the look of websites on the SERP with the addition of rich data, and it is integral to a number of Google features like featured snippets.

But according to Schema App’s survey, 45% of marketers say they have difficulty in “showing the value of doing Schema markup – reporting the impact and results”. Forty-two percent struggle with maintaining the ‘health’ of their markup when Google makes changes, while 40% cited difficulties in developing a strategy around what to mark up with Schema.

Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of respondents (24%) said they had difficulty understanding Schema markup vocabulary at all.

Four most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Google shows “suggested clip” feature in search results

Google is continually improving its ability to search within a video, and to surface a particular search result within the content of a video. In a previous search news roundup we reported on the fact that Google’s machine learning technology can now recognize objects within videos, as demonstrated at Google’s Next Cloud conference in early March.

Then this week, Ryan Rodden of Witblade reported that Google is now showing suggested video clips in search results for particular queries:

Four most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Image: Witblade

The suggested clip appeared in a query for “blur out text in imovie”, highlighting a suggested clip of 25 seconds in the middle of a how-to video. While it’s unknown how accurate this result was for the query, it shows that Google is making bold inroads into searching within video and is treating video like other kinds of content to be crawled, indexed and presented as a Featured Snippet.

Given the huge rise, and popularity, of video of all forms in marketing, social media and publishing at the moment, it’s a smart move and something we can probably expect to see more of in future.

Google adds extensive new menu of Partner-only Features

Google’s Partner-only Features are a forum for it to debut certain search features to a select group of approved and certified providers, before they are rolled out on a wider scale. Aaron Bradley noted in the Semantic Search Marketing Google+ group this week that Google has just added a huge new menu in the Partner-only Features section of its documentation.

The new menu features eight sub-sections including “Carousels”, “Indexing API”, “Jobs” and “Live coverage”.

Four most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

All of the links currently lead to a 404 error, but it could be an interesting insight into what’s to come from Google.

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The State of Schema.org: What are the biggest challenges surrounding Schema markup?

Using Schema.org markup, a form of structured data which helps search engines to interpret your webpages, is widely agreed to be beneficial from an SEO standpoint.

While it may not correlate directly to an increase in ranking, using Schema.org markup allows search engines to pull through rich snippets and rich data like images, reviews and opening hours, making your site appear more attractive on the SERP and thereby increasing click-through.

Schema.org markup is also becoming increasingly important in the age of voice search, acting as a signpost that points digital assistants towards the information that will correctly answer a user’s voice query. Voice queries depend heavily on implied context, and Schema markup can help give that context to an otherwise ambiguous page of text.

But while the advantages of using Schema.org seem obvious enough on paper, actually implementing it can be much more challenging. As a result, a startlingly small minority of website owners make use of Schema.org.

The figures vary as to exactly how many; Schema.org’s website claims that “over 10 million websites” use Schema.org markup, which translates into less than one percent of all websites; an investigation by ACM Queue put the figure at 31.3%, while a study by Bing and Catalyst found that just 17% of marketers use Schema.org markup.

Either way, even the highest estimate of Schema.org adoption still comes in at less than a third of websites.

With Schema.org being a well-known advanced search technique with well-established benefits, what is holding SEOs and website owners back from implementing it?

The state of Schema markup

Schema App – a provider of tools to help digital marketers use Schema markup – recently ran a survey which sheds some light on this question. The study, ‘The State of Schema Markup’, surveyed users of Schema.org markup on the size and type of their business, how frequently they maintained their markup, the challenges they experienced in using Schema.org, and any tools they used to tackle these problems.

It’s worth noting that the survey results were drawn from a fairly small sample of only 75 respondents, which limits our ability to generalize them too widely, but they nevertheless give some interesting insights into the use of Schema markup among marketers.

Perhaps surprisingly, respondents from the smallest companies – those with five or fewer employees – made up the largest percentage of Schema.org users, with two-fifths of respondents reporting that they carry out Schema markup for companies of just five employees or fewer.

The State of Schema.org: What are the biggest challenges surrounding Schema markup?

It’s hard to say exactly why this is – maybe smaller, more agile companies are better at keeping up to date with advanced search tactics; or maybe they will do whatever it takes to stand out on the SERP in order to increase their competitivity with larger organizations.

The second-largest group, conversely, was made up of companies with more than 1,000 employees, although this group still only amounted to 13% of respondents.

A third of respondents to the survey came from digital marketing agencies, while 28% said they came from small or medium businesses. Sixteen percent of respondents were from enterprise organizations, while a fraction under ten percent were from start-up companies.

The job titles of respondents to the State of Schema Markup survey revealed that it’s not just SEOs who are doing Schema markup. While more than half of respondents to the survey were search specialists (either SEO specialists – 45% – or Heads of Search – 8%), digital marketers, business owners, CTOs and even CEOs were among the remaining 47%.

The State of Schema.org: What are the biggest challenges surrounding Schema markup?

Another interesting finding was the frequency at which respondents update their Schema markup. Judging by the frequency of posts to the official Schema.org blog, updates to Schema.org are fairly sporadic, sometimes coming two or three months apart, other times going six or seven months without an update.

Google updates like the recent introduction of rich results for podcasts to the SERP can also give marketers an incentive to add new coding, as can regular site maintenance. However, I was surprised that close to a fifth of respondents (19%) said that they update their Schema markup every day.

A further 31% of respondents update their markup weekly, while the largest proportion (39%) update their markup once a month. An unstated percentage (which visually looks to be about 8%) say they work on their markup once only.

The biggest challenges surrounding Schema markup

Anyone who has tried to tackle Schema.org markup (or write a blog post about it), particularly without much of an understanding of code, knows that implementing it can be easier said than done. Even tools like Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper have their limitations, making it necessary to understand markup if you want to fill in the gaps.

This reality was reflected in the comments from marketers who took the Schema App survey. One respondent wrote,

“When I first learned about the existence of schema, I was so confused on how to implement it. I am not a developer. After trying many online generator tools and finding them unsatisfactory, I turned to my programmer hoping he could take over this task for me. He explained it was a different code altogether than what he writes. I felt overwhelmed when he confided he had no idea at all how to do it, even after spending a little time looking at it.”

Another respondent observed that “The examples given on schema.org were not clear and sometimes it seemed they did not follow even their own rules.” A third described Schema.org markup as feeling “a bit like witchcraft”.

Although a number of search blogs like Moz, WordStream, Yoast and indeed yours truly have set out to write guides on how to use Schema.org markup, there are still a limited number of resources available to help with this process; and comments on the State of Schema Markup survey reveal that many of those which do exist are flawed.

“Worse is that some of the schema is supported … but not in the Structured Data Testing Tool,” one respondent wrote.

Another wrote that, “It’s still very much a trial and error process for me as I find that some of the guides out there, when put through Google’s tool, don’t actually parse correctly. Very frustrating…”

Overall, the most widely agreed-upon problem experienced by survey respondents was “Showing the value of doing schema markup – reporting the impact and results” (reported by 45%). Close behind this was “Maintaining ‘health’ of Schema markup when Google makes changes” (reported by 42%).

Two-fifths of respondents cited difficulties in developing a strategy around what to mark up with Schema, while 37% struggled with how to implement Schema markup at scale – few solutions exist for the bulk markup of webpages, which can create huge challenges for companies with large websites, on top of the difficulties that we’ve covered already.

The State of Schema.org: What are the biggest challenges surrounding Schema markup?

 Although it ranked near the bottom of the list of concerns cited by survey respondents, close to a quarter (24%) of respondents still cited “Understanding Schema markup vocabulary” as one of their biggest obstacles to carrying out Schema markup.

And as we’ve seen, this is coming from a group of marketers of whom the majority use Schema markup habitually – no wonder the wider marketing community is having trouble getting on board with Schema.org.

Tools for tackling Schema markup

Finally, respondents were asked what tools they use to solve the problems they experience with Schema markup, from a range of options including WordPress plugins, Wordlift, Web JSON-LD generators, Schema App’s own tool, or no tools at all.

The last of these options was the most common by far, with 40% of respondents asserting that they do all of their Schema markup manually. I can’t help but notice that this corresponds exactly to the percentage of respondents from small companies with 5 or fewer employees – I wonder if there could be some correlation there.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they make use of Schema App’s own tool, while 13% use WordPress plugins. Another 8% use Web JSON-LD generators, while 24% use tools other than those listed in the survey.

The State of Schema.org: What are the biggest challenges surrounding Schema markup?

One business owner wrote that they tend to solicit help on Schema markup from online communities: “I ask for help in online communities and usually get answers. The definitions and examples have become better over time in both schema.org and Google.”

A Head of Search at an enterprise company wrote that they use “Internally developed tools and markup checkers that were developed for our specific needs.”

For those two-fifths of respondents who opt to do their Schema markup without the aid of automated tools, this could be due to a lack of technical resources, a lack of confidence in automated solutions, or perhaps because they simply don’t know that these tools exist.

But we can clearly see that there is a demand in the marketing and search community for more accurate and helpful resources surrounding Schema.org, whether these be in the form of web generators, apps, or how-to guides and tutorials.

Perhaps Schema.org needs to take the initiative to make its markup language more accessible by creating these, or perhaps they will be created by an interested third party. Either way, without them, we are unlikely to see the dial shift much on the uptake of Schema markup among marketers and SEOs, no matter how useful it is.

Test your knowledge! The Search Engine Watch Easter trivia quiz

Happy Easter, Search Engine Watch readers!

In honour of the season – and a bit of spring-like weather finally starting to creep into the air (well, at least here in the UK…) – we have put together a light-hearted search trivia quiz to test your knowledge.

What was the name of the project launched by Sergey Brin and Larry King at Stanford, which eventually became Google? What does the name of the Chinese search engine “Baidu” translate to in English? What year did mobile web traffic finally overtake desktop traffic globally – or hasn’t it yet?

Test your knowledge of all these questions and more in the Search Engine Watch Easter quiz. And don’t forget to share your score with us in the comments or on social media!

 

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Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

The search engine results page recently saw the return of Google Posts, the part-social, part-publishing feature that was launched by Google a little over a year ago during the US Presidential Election.

Billed as “an experimental new podium on Google”, Google Posts has attracted a lot of attention from marketers, search specialists and Google enthusiasts thanks to its prominent place on the SERP – appearing in the form of an eye-catching carousel of cards – and its mysterious deployment.

Over the year since it was first released, it has appeared in and disappeared from search results a number of times with no apparent pattern or explanation. Brands who wanted a shot at being part of Google’s new podium were forced to “Join the waitlist” and cross their fingers.

But last month Google suddenly announced that it would be opening up Posts to “museums, sports teams, sports leagues, and movies” in the United States, and all of the above groups along with musicians in Brazil – prompting a renewed flurry of interest from marketers. At the same time, the relaunched Posts became more visually eye-catching with the addition of embedded GIFs and videos.

 

One person, however, doesn’t believe that Google Posts is worth the hype. Michael Bertini, Online Marketing Consultant and Search Strategist at iQuanti, told Search Engine Watch why he thinks that Google has gone off half-cocked with Posts, and why marketers would be better off expending their energies elsewhere.

Google Posts: where is the value?

“I don’t think Google will admit that they made a mistake with this whole Posts thing,” says Bertini.

“Google already has a lot of great products and search results features on the page; to add Google Posts to that clutters up the results page unnecessarily. And I don’t think it offers much value to the end user.”

It’s true that while there has been a lot of excitement from brands and marketers around the prospect of publishing directly to the SERP, few of us have considered its usefulness to users. Google is still first and foremost a search engine; when users enter a search query, they are presumably looking for information.

While people Googling candidates in the run-up to the US Presidential Election would undoubtedly have been interested in what those candidates had to say about certain issues, subsequent versions of Google Posts have moved further and further away from a feature that is useful to the end user.

Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

Few people searching for “Boston Red Sox” are looking for pseudo-social updates from their favorite sports team; they’re more likely to be looking for match scores, game tickets, or perhaps a link to the team’s website.

A lot of the interest around Google Posts thus far has been driven by sheer novelty, with people Googling ‘Andrews Jewelers’ or ‘Escape Pod Comics’ simply to see how the businesses had been using Posts – rather than because they featured useful information. In and of itself, how much value does Posts provide to the searcher?

“I don’t think anybody should put a strict focus on getting into Posts – or any one Google feature,” says Bertini. “What I’ve noticed throughout my career is that people who make it a specific focus to get into an area of Google – let’s use Google’s Answer Box as an example – ultimately, they’re left with content that doesn’t fit the end user’s needs. And then it dies.”

“If someone did want to get involved with Google Posts, they should write content that really answers the search query, and then of course request access on posts.withgoogle.com. But that’s all.”

Everything is a test

Based on the fact that Posts has already come and gone from the SERP several times before this most recent, wider launch, does Bertini think that Posts is finally here to stay?

“Everything Google is about testing,” Bertini replies. “Even after they launch it to market, what they would consider ‘permanent’ is not really what we would consider permanent. Personally, I think it’ll last up until the third quarter of 2017, and then they’ll mix it up with something else.

“If Posts get a really high CTR, then Google might invest more in it and add more features. But at the moment, it’s still very much in testing. It still lacks features – there’s no real social interaction, for example.”

Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

Google Posts currently allows for limited social sharing, but doesn’t provide a way for users to truly interact with or respond to Posts.

If Posts, ultimately, is still in testing, it explains why it has disappeared and reappeared with so little fanfare – Google doesn’t want to attract a lot of attention to a feature that may not even be launched on a wider scale.

Bertini agrees that the lack of promotion speaks volumes about Google’s intentions – or lack thereof – for the feature. “If Google had complete confidence in this feature, they would be promoting it more.”

He goes on: “If I ran my own business, and I wanted to get more searchers to my site, there are better ways to do that than to focus on GIFs and videos to get into Google Posts.

“For example, if I were making videos already, I would create pages for my videos, transcribe that content, and optimize it for search – that would be a better use of resources than focusing on getting into Posts.

“Ultimately, people are going to invest time and effort into Posts, when Google itself has not yet perfected this feature.”

Google Plus revisited?

Given the pseudo-social nature of Google Posts, a lot of comparisons have understandably been drawn between Google Posts and Google Plus, Google’s last ill-fated venture into social networking. And it could be that Google Plus provides a blueprint for what to expect from the future of Google Posts.

“If we look back at Google Plus – when it first launched, Google’s idea of what Plus would be is not what it is today. And like everything Google, Google will never admit that they made a mistake, or that the product didn’t turn out the way they wanted it to be.

“But I think the search marketers who used Google Plus as a social platform are very disappointed today – if they invested a lot of time and money into building up their profiles and optimizing their Google Plus. It’s not used the way it used to be used, any more. I think it’s going to be the same with Google Posts.”

Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

Remember when Google Plus was a big deal?

Bertini believes the aim of introducing Google Posts to the SERP is to encourage more user interaction with the search engine results page. This would tie in with the recent addition of rich results for podcasts to the SERP, allowing searchers on smartphones and Google Home to play podcasts directly from the search page.

“Google is trying to make a different version of social [with Posts], which is social interaction with the search engine results page, where a user can interact with the search page itself. It’s just very early on at the moment.”

If Google can succeed in expanding the function of the search results page in this way, it would definitely be a means of keeping users inside its own walled garden for longer.

But without value to the end user, Google Posts could be a Plus-style flop, and Bertini thinks that Google would be better off focusing its attention on perfecting existing features of the SERP that have more value to searchers.

Interview: Why marketers shouldn’t waste their time with Google Posts

“Google is constantly trying to mix things up, when – once again, personal belief – I think that they should focus on good products that they’ve launched like Answer Box, which is already effective. Or ‘People Also Ask’ – they launched this section, and it’s still not perfect, but it’s good.

“I think this is what Google should devote its energy to, rather than – I don’t want to say get rid of Facebook or Twitter, because I don’t think that will happen – but rather than trying to make the search results page a social platform.”

The future of Google Posts

Google Posts, as it stands, still lacks a lot of functionality. So an ideal world, what would a fully-featured Google Posts look like?

“One, people search for something; two, a Post feature comes up; three, there would be a rating system for whether or not the Post matches the search query.

“Then there would be a sharing function where the user can share the Post via social media. You could also have a Hangouts-style feature integrating chat into Posts, allowing people to chat about what they’ve just read.”

It remains to be seen whether Google will try to keep integrating more functionality into Posts or whether it will once again disappear quietly from the SERP.

But one way or the other, marketers should keep sight of the importance of catering to the end user – not just to the newest Google feature.

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Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, the Google SERP has got a bit more interactive with the addition of rich results for podcasts, and a new study has found that marketers are still failing to use advanced search tactics in their campaigns.

Plus, Google has launched a new website to bring all of its open-source projects under one umbrella, and an unlikely partnership has arisen between Google and Chinese search giant Baidu to bring faster mobile web pages to a wider user base.

Google adds rich results for podcasts to the SERP

Google has stealthily launched some new guidelines for structured data on its Developers blog, to bring rich results for podcasts to the SERP.

At the moment the new feature is only available via Google Home (where you can use voice activation to start up a podcast) or in the Google Search app v6.5 or higher on Android, but Google hopes to soon add support for Chrome on Android.

Google’s blog provided a sample image for how this will look in practice:

In his article for Search Engine Watch this week, Clark Boyd explains how you can get your podcast indexed on the SERP, and how to add the right structured data to your podcasts.

Study: Marketers still aren’t using advanced search tactics

Those of us who keep close tabs on search innovation and strategy – or comment on it – are probably familiar with search tactics like retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA), voice search optimization, ad extensions in paid search listings, and schema markup. We know how to use them, and the benefits that they bring to ROI and visibility.

But a study by Bing and search agency Catalyst has revealed that among marketers as a whole, very few still are making use of advanced search tactics like these in their campaigns.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

When asked which of a range of tactics their company used or was planning to use in 2016, only 34% of marketers reported using ad extensions; 30% said they used Product Listing Ads (PLAs); and 28% used retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA).

Just 28% of respondents reported using voice search optimization, 27% said they used sitelinks, and a dismal 17% reported using schema markup.

So why are many marketers still failing to tap into the full potential of search? Search Engine Watch spoke to Microsoft’s Rob Wilk and Catalyst’s Kerry Curran to find out what search marketers can do to improve their campaigns.

Twitter introduces pre-roll ads for Periscope

Pre-roll ads might just be everyone’s least favorite ad format – so much so that YouTube did away with 30-second unskippable pre-roll ads earlier this year. But Twitter-owned livestreaming platform Periscope announced this week that it will be adding pre-roll ads to live and replay Periscope streams.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

The new ad product is named, unsurprisingly, Ads on Periscope, and is an expansion of Twitter’s existing Amplify ad product. The Periscope ads are expected to share revenue with content creators in the same 70/30 split as Amplify ads.

Amidst Twitter’s struggle to drive revenue on its social platform, monetizing Periscope could be one way to bolster its flagging fortunes. But the autoplay ads may prove to be unpopular with users, especially with the news that they will run over streaming content – meaning that viewers will miss several seconds while the ad finishes.

Google’s new site brings all of its open-source projects under one umbrella

Google has launched a new website this week which is designed to act as a central directory for all of its open-source projects, bringing them together under one umbrella.

In its blog post announcing the launch, ‘A New Home for Google Open Source‘, Google wrote that the new site:

showcases the breadth and depth of our love for open source. It will contain the expected things: our programs, organizations we support, and a comprehensive list of open source projects we’ve released. But it also contains something unexpected: a look under the hood at how we “do” open source.

The site contains the source code for Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages Project official website, as well as the source code for its Android mobile OS, the Chromium web browser, its Tesseract Optical Character Recognition engine, and hundreds of other Google projects, both well-known and obscure.

While Google has always made the code for these projects available on GitHub and its self-hosted git service (this being the nature of open source), this is the first time users have been able to browse them from a central location, and is sure to provide Google enthusiasts with plenty of cool material to scour.

Baidu is working hand-in-hand with Google to accelerate the mobile web

And speaking of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), an unlikely partnership has arisen in the world of search, as Baidu and Google confirmed that they are teaming up to bring a faster mobile web to a wider user base.

Google has a rocky history with China. It has had a presence in the country since 2005, but in 2010 decided to stop censoring its searches in accordance with Chinese law in response to a Chinese-originated hacking attack on itself and a number of other US tech companies, redirecting the searches instead to its Hong Kong search engine. Access to Google’s search engine and services has been blocked by the Chinese government on a number of occasions.

In the wake of this, native Chinese search engine Baidu overtook Google as the main search provider in China, and now enjoys around 80% of the Chinese search market, while Google China only has about 10%. But the two have evidently agreed to set aside their rivalry in order to pursue a higher goal: accelerating the mobile web.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

At Google’s first AMP conference in New York, Baidu’s Gao Lei announced Mobile Instant Pages (Chinese-language link), or MIP, Baidu’s answer to Accelerated Mobile Pages. Hermas Ma reported on Search Engine Land that MIP has very similar technology to AMP, the main difference being that MIP are optimized for the Chinese internet.

Mobile Instant Pages can reportedly reduce the rendering of above-the-fold content by 30 to 80 percent, and Baidu has been considering giving MIP a ranking advantage in search results (something which AMP doesn’t yet have).

Ma also notes that the AMP Project website now loads in mainland China where it didn’t before, further pointing to a burying of the hatchet between Google and its Chinese counterpart.

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Study: Why do marketers still struggle with innovative search tactics?

Many marketers who are seeing flagging returns from their search marketing campaigns might wonder what they’re doing wrong – especially if they’ve already got best practices like accurate site descriptions and keyword optimization covered.

But a new study commissioned by Microsoft’s Bing and search agency Catalyst, and carried out by Forrester Consulting, may have some light to shed onto why marketers aren’t realizing the full potential of search.

The study, whose findings are written up in a whitepaper, ‘Prioritize Search to Maximize ROI of Marketing‘, found that more advanced search marketing tactics like local inventory ads, voice search optimization, sitelinks and schema markup have low adoption by marketers, who may not even know about them.

In addition, marketers struggle to properly integrate search with other channels in order to take advantage of the demand which they themselves have created.

“We too often see advertisers spending significant dollars in, let’s say, TV, and then failing to fully fund their search campaigns,” says Rob Wilk, Vice President of North America Search Sales at Microsoft.

“So if a consumer hears a message somewhere and then decides to search on Bing to get more information, many times the advertiser isn’t present, and that consumer ends up taking a different path than what the advertiser would have desired.

“In a worst case scenario, consumers come to search and end up clicking on a competitor ad. Think about that for a moment – clients are spending their dollars to line the pockets of competitors.”

So what do Bing and Catalyst think is keeping search marketers from tapping into the full potential of their campaigns, and how can they go about addressing the problem?

Challenges in allocation and attribution

The study’s findings drew on online surveys of 300 US-based marketing agencies and B2C advertisers, together with Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data.

Wilk explained that Bing and Catalyst commissioned the study to “better inform the market about the importance of looking at search not just as an individual, effective marketing channel, but to clearly articulate the benefits of closely aligning all media spend in concert with search advertising investments.”

Overall, respondents to the survey gave a high rating to the ROI they receive from search marketing, with 74% of respondents who were investing in search giving its ROI a rating of “excellent” or “good”.

However, 53% of marketers cited cross-media attribution as one of their top three challenges in budget allocation, with another 53% citing a lack of data to inform strategy; 44% also cited measurement as one of their top challenges.

“Competing business demands force marketers to rely on hard attribution data to develop and support their cross-channel investment strategies,” notes the study.

“Unfortunately, their attribution models today do not necessarily paint an accurate reflection of the consumer engagement with cross-channel touchpoints, which inhibits them from moving budget fluidly from channel to channel.”

Study: Why do marketers still struggle with innovative search tactics?

Kerry Curran, Senior Partner and Managing Director of Marketing Integration at Catalyst, adds:

“The majority of the data supports that consumers consistently use and value paid search, and marketers find it to be a strong ROI driver; however, adequate budget allocation is still a challenge.

“With competing business demands and attribution data that does not measure cross-channel impact, paid search marketers are struggling to fully invest in their programs.”

Search marketers still aren’t being innovative enough

Those of us who keep close tabs on search innovation and strategy – or comment on it – are fairly familiar with concepts like retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA), voice search optimization, ad extensions in paid search listings, schema markup, and so on.

But for the majority of marketers, advanced tactics like these go far beyond what they would use for their campaigns. When asked which of a range of tactics their company used or was planning to use in 2016, only 34% of marketers reported using ad extensions; 30% used Product Listing Ads (PLAs); and 28% used retargeting lists for search ads (RLSA).

Just 28% of respondents reported using voice search optimization in their campaigns, 27% said they used sitelinks, and a dismal 17% reported using schema markup. (Findings like this shed light on why, even now, less than 1% of websites are using schema.org vocabulary to mark up their webpages).

Study: Why do marketers still struggle with innovative search tactics?

I asked Wilk and Curran why they thought that marketers weren’t going the extra mile with their search marketing tactics. Was it due to a lack of expertise, or perhaps just budget and time?

“It’s all of those reasons,” replies Wilk. “Doing all of the tactics well in search requires constant learning, constant testing and of course constant optimization.

“These days, all marketers are being asked to do more with less, and we don’t see that changing anytime soon. So in a world of squeezed time and resources, clients and agencies are forced to make trade-offs, and often the tactics mentioned tend to get a lower priority.

“Eventually clients do get to these things but every query we see, whether it’s voice, on desktop or mobile is a perishable good. That “magical” moment of someone expressing clear intent comes and goes in an instant. Getting ahead of these trends, and sticking to them, is where the return on investment lives.”

Curran adds: “There are so many advanced search tactics already available, and as search engines continue to innovate, they continue to release new options and update existing features.

“While the advanced tactics can drive campaign improvements, alignment between the search engines, paid search teams, and brand is required to roll out and test new tactics.

“In addition to the intricacies of day-to-day management, search marketers need to prioritize the opportunities, budgets, and resources to allow for testing in a manner that provides statistical significance.”

What can marketers do to improve their search campaigns?

It’s one thing to pinpoint where the problems might be, but if marketers want to take concrete steps to improve their search marketing, where should they begin?

“One – prioritize their search budget,” says Rob Wilk.

“Two, when running media campaigns – especially expensive TV commercials – marketers need to make sure they have strong search campaigns so that consumers can easily engage with the brand and find what they are looking for via search engines.”

“Three, make sure they have full alignment across all channels. Marketers must keep their ear to the ground when it comes to search.

“We have billions of moments every month where consumers express their desires, and marketers must tap into this wealth of data to inform marketing decisions in terms of what message to deliver, to whom and in what way.”

The search industry is constantly innovating, and it might seem overwhelming for marketers with limited time and resources to try and keep on top of developments. However, as we’ve seen, there is a large number of advanced search tactics available that most marketers aren’t taking advantage of.

Investing in even one of these tactics could prove to have significant benefits for search marketing ROI, which would pay dividends in the long run.

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Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, the mysterious “Google Posts” feature has made another return to the SERP, this time with GIFs and videos – could it be here to stay?

Plus, why marketers aren’t investing in the hottest new technologies as much as you might think; and Google announces a new type of search product with “shortcuts in search”, which could mean big changes for SEO and paid search.

Google Posts return – with GIFs and videos

Google launched its “Posts” initiative during the US presidential election last year to relatively little fanfare.

Dubbed an “experimental new podium”, Google Posts has since come and gone from the SERP several times, each with as little explanation as the first. Now it has reappeared in searches for several US sports teams, including the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees – complete with GIFs and videos.

Clark Boyd took a look at the new incarnation of Google Posts this week and considered what Google could be seeking to accomplish with the feature.

Google’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ ad could be the future of paid voice search

Google sparked a small firestorm last week when reports surfaced that its intelligent assistant device Google Home had delivered what appeared to be an unsolicited advertisement to unsuspecting owners: a plug for the new ‘Beauty and the Beast’ live-action film.

Al Roberts took a look at the reactions to what Google denies was an ad, and considered whether this could potentially be the future of “voice PPC”.

Google announces “shortcuts in search” – can it get users on board?

Google announced this week the launch of “shortcuts in search“, a new means of discovering quick answers to information via a set of tappable shortcuts within its Android app.

But will this initiative take off, what will it mean for SEO, and how will Google manage to integrate paid ads into this new search experience? Clark Boyd examined the new feature on Search Engine Watch and considered how it could impact search rankings, what paid placements might look like, and whether Google can get users on board.

Despite the hype, most marketers not investing in hot new technologies

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, apparently isn’t a concern for marketers when it comes to new marketing technologies.

According to a survey conducted as part of OnBrand Magazine’s State of Branding Report 2017, marketers are well aware of the new technologies that are expected to be important to their brands in coming years, but the majority aren’t rushing to invest in them before they’re fully-baked.

Of the more than 550 marketing executives and brand managers OnBrand Magazine surveyed, 65% have no plans to invest in new technologies like 360-degree video, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), chatbots and beacons in 2017.

So why aren’t marketers interested in these new technologies just yet? Al Roberts looked into the reasons why marketers are holding back from investing in newer innovations at the moment – and what it is they’re spending their money on instead.

Google to wind down Site Search by the end of 2017

Search Engine Land reported this week on the news that Google is due to sunset its Site Search product by the end of 2017.

Google Site Search, as it says on the tin, is an internal site search product which is powered by Google’s search technology, and is charged by monthly query volume.

Site owners who have been using Site Search up until now will be encouraged to move onto either Google’s ad-powered Custom Search product, or its new Cloud Search.

Google told Search Engine Land in a statement:

We are winding down the Google Site Search product over the next year, but will provide customer and technical support through the duration of license agreements. For GSS users whose contract expires between April 1st and June 30th, 2017, we are providing a free 3-month extension with additional query volume to allow more time for them to implement the necessary changes to their site.

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Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, Mobile World Congress confirms that mobile video is massive; Pinterest has launched its new Lens visual discovery tool to the US; and Target’s stock has reached a two and a half year low, despite being confirmed as the most effective marketer in retail.

Meanwhile in the UK, Google has come under fire over its advertising appearing next to extremist material; and Chinese search giant Baidu has released an AI-powered transcription app.

Mobile video is massive at Mobile World Congress

The annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona recently drew to a close, but industry pundits and publishers are continuing to analyze the the discussions and product demonstrations that were held over the Congress’ four days.

One thing that the Mobile World Congress confirmed, says ClickZ mobile expert Andy Favell, is that mobile video is the most important trend in marketing at the present moment.

If video is the new mobile (Facebook CEO Zuckerberg told shareholders in February 2017 that the company was going “video-first” because “video is a megatrend on the same order as mobile”), then mobile video is the giant honeypot.

And publishers, broadcasters, social media, content creators and creative/digital agencies are swarming all over it.

In his column for ClickZ, Favell examines the continued rise of native advertising in the context of video, why brands are falling in love with video, the impact of data and whether brands and agencies need to rethink video production.

Pinterest launches its Lens visual discovery tool to the US

As we’ve reported on Search Engine Watch in recent months, Pinterest is continuing to evolve into a force to be reckoned with in visual search, and its future business model clearly seems to revolve around the ability to help users discover visual ideas using its platform.

To that end, Pinterest has just launched the long-awaited Lens, a visual discovery tool that works by using a person’s smartphone camera to detect an object and find visually similar items on Pinterest.

Search Engine Watch contributor Clark Boyd took the new tool for a test drive to see how well it works in practical terms, and what this might mean for visual search.

Target is confirmed as the top digital retail marketer – so why is it struggling?

According to the newly-released The Best Digital Marketers in E-Commerce report, produced by Internet Retailer, Target is the most effective marketer in online retail.

The reports scored how effectively each ecommerce brand marketed itself across email, paid search, organic search and social media marketing, and Target Corporation walked away with the crown thanks to its use of up-to-the-minute marketing tools, and use of customer data to target (ha, ha) its marketing.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

So why, then, has Target missed earnings expectations and seen its stock reach a two and a half-year low? Al Roberts looks into why, despite having developed an effective digital marketing engine, Target has been forced to cut into margins, and still isn’t driving sufficient foot traffic to its physical stores.

British advertisers pull Google ads over extremist content

Google has come under fire in the UK and seen a number of British advertisers withdraw their business over the past couple of days, after it emerged that their advertising was appearing next to extremist material online.

The British government, the Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 are among those who have pulled advertising from Google and YouTube in the wake of the discovery, and Google has been summoned for discussions in the Cabinet Office to reassure the government on how it plans to deliver “the high quality of service government demands on behalf of the taxpayer.”

Isba, an organization representing some 450 British advertisers, also called on Google to review its advertising policies.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week
Image by Personeelsnet, available via CC BY-SA 2.0

At the heart of the controversy is programmatic advertising, which automates the process of buying and selling advertising online, but can result in advertising material appearing in unforeseen places. Late last year, a number of brands and groups – including Kellogg, U.S. Bank and the Anti-Defamation League – discovered that their advertising was being displayed on the extremist “alt-right” website Breitbart News.

Baidu launches AI audio transcription app SwiftScribe

Baidu, the Chinese internet giant and China’s answer to Google, is making artificial intelligence its focus for 2017.

In February China’s National Development and Reform Commission appointed Baidu to lead a new AI lab, and in the same month, Forbes wrote that “Baidu is currently considered to be pack leader amongst the Chinese internet giants as they race to develop and deploy machine and deep learning technology.”

This week we are beginning to see the fruits of Baidu’s labor, as Baidu announced the launch of SwiftScribe, a web app which uses AI to help people transcribe audio recordings more quickly.

A blog post by Baidu Research announcing the tool called SwiftScribe “a breakthrough in AI-powered transcription software”, and claimed that it had the power to cut transcription time down by 40 percent.

“The core technology powering SwiftScribe is Baidu’s speech recognition engine, Deep Speech 2. Its neural network, which is trained on thousands of hours labeled audio data, learns to associate sounds with certain words and phrases. In addition to advanced ASR technology, we designed intuitive shortcut keys and innovative human-computer interaction to solve the problem of discontinuity, one of the biggest obstacles users face when transcribing.

SwiftScribe was designed for anyone who does transcription regularly – freelancers, transcriptionists working for transcription service companies, and data entry specialists. Because of its wide user base, SwiftScribe has the potential to positively impact a range of industries that benefit from transcription, including medical and healthcare, legal and law enforcement, business, media, and others.”

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Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.

This week, Google’s emoji conquest of the SERP is advancing on AdWords titles, Snapchat influencers may be fleeing the platform for greener pastures, and Facebook is making it easier for advertisers to compare the performance of their Facebook campaigns with their campaigns on other platforms.

Also, Google’s Next Cloud Conference has revealed that Google’s machine learning technology can recognize objects in videos, and an unconfirmed ranking update dubbed “Fred” has been shaking up the SERP over the past few days.

Emoji appear in Google AdWords ad titles

A couple of weeks ago, we reported on the official return of emoji to the Google SERP, after a decision was taken to remove them in 2015. Now, emoji have been spotted in the wild in AdWords ad titles, suggesting that a possible roll-out might be on the cards there too.

Clark Boyd reported on the development for Search Engine Watch this week, looking at where emoji have been identified in ads, and what this could mean for advertisers and marketers if it does become permanent.

As investors bet on Snap, some Snapchat influencers bet on other platforms

Last week, Snap, the parent company of Snapchat, went public to huge investor excitement, closing out the day with a $34 billion valuation, with shares valued at 44% above their offering price.

But as is so often the case with social media, the road for Snapchat hasn’t been completely smooth. Al Roberts reported on our sister site, ClickZ, that some Snapchat influencers are departing for other platforms after experiencing a rocky relationship with Snapchat.

One influencer, Mike Platco, was turned away when he attempted to visit Snap’s offices in 2014. Today, he has some 500,000 followers on Snap and reportedly earns as much as $80,000 for campaigns, but his relationship with Snap apparently hasn’t warmed much over the years. As a result, Platco is working to move his followers over to Instagram.

“Every single bad thing I could possibly say about Snapchat, I could say the opposite of how my relationship is going with Instagram,” he told BuzzFeed.

Roberts looked at the possible reasons for Snapchat’s decision not to roll out the red carpet for influencers, as well as whether this tactic may backfire if its user growth and revenue figures come as a disappointment to shareholders further down the line.

Facebook Advanced Measurement will let advertisers compare Facebook ad performance

This week, Facebook announced the launch of a new service known as ‘Advanced Measurement’, which will allow advertisers to compare the performance of their Facebook campaigns with their campaigns on other platforms.

According to Business Insider, Advanced Measurement will allow advertisers to compare their Facebook campaigns to the campaigns they are running through providers like Google AdWords and the Google Display Network.

Specifically, advertisers will be able to determine which campaigns on which platforms “drove the most purchases on their online store, or had the highest reach among their desired target audience.”

As Al Roberts wrote for ClickZ, by making advanced attribution tools like Advanced Measurement accessible to all of its customers, Facebook could help allay some of the growing concerns advertisers have about the accuracy of its metrics – providing that companies are still prepared to trust Facebook’s reporting.

Google’s machine learning technology can recognize objects in videos

Visual search could be the next big frontier in search development, as developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning make it possible to recognize, compare and analyze images with increasing accuracy.

Until now, it has seemed like Google has been lagging behind slightly in the race for visual search dominance, as other contenders like Pinterest and Bing forge ahead with advanced visual discovery tools and technology. But that may no longer be the case.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Image: Google Cloud Platform

The Verge reported Wednesday on a revelation from Google’s Next Cloud Conference, which ends today, that a new “Video Intelligence API” developed by Google has the ability to identify objects in videos, understand the nature of those videos (e.g. a commercial), and can pull up videos with certain types of scenes in them, based on a keyword search.

The Video Intelligence API is currently in private beta, but should it become more widely available to the public, it would further expand the capabilities of visual search and recognition into the realm of video, in the same way that searching “sunset” in Google Photos can bring up your best shots of the early evening sky.

Unconfirmed Google ‘Fred’ update is shaking up search rankings

Another week, and another Google algorithm change has the search community abuzz with speculation about what could be going on.

The first signs that an update might be taking place came early on the morning of Wednesday 8th, and SEO Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz observed that most of the active conversation was centered around the Black Hat World and WebmasterWorld forums. Many users were reporting sharp drops in traffic and keyword rankings taking place late on Tuesday and early on Wednesday, although no-one was able to pin down an exact cause.

Over on Twitter, Google’s John Mueller was typically vague when asked to confirm whether an update was taking place:

However, an amusing conversation then spawned around naming the (suspected) update, which culminated in it being dubbed “Fred” after Gary Illyes declared that “From now on every update, unless otherwise stated, shall be called Fred”.

Have you experienced any ranking turbulence from Hurricane Fred? Do you have any theories as to what kind of sites Google might be targeting with the update? Leave a comment!

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How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!

We all know that our favorite search engines track and collect a lot of data about us in order to personalize the results – and the ads – that they serve us.

But that kind of tracking might not always be welcome, especially when it means that you have ads following you around the internet from a site where you bought a gift for a friend once, or for pregnancy products months after you’ve given birth. Or maybe you just don’t like your data being collected and used in this way.

Luckily, there is a way to get rid of them, as long as you know where to look.

Note that these methods won’t stop Google, Bing et al from showing you ads altogether, but they will keep them from using your profile information and online activity to target ads at you.

Google

First, navigate to myaccount.google.com, which can also be accessed from the Google homepage by selecting the little ‘grid’ icon in the corner next to ‘Images’, and selecting My Account.

Under ‘Personal info and privacy’, select ‘Ads settings’, then ‘Manage ads settings’ to get to the main ads dashboard.

To turn interest-based ad targeting off completely, toggle ‘Ads personalization’ from ON to OFF. If you don’t want to turn ad targeting off altogether, but want to fine-tune it, you can uncheck certain options from the ‘Your topics’ checklist lower down, until only the relevant topics are left.

How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!

To permanently save your opt-out preference, there is a link right at the bottom of the page which allows you to install the DoubleClick opt-out plugin. This will keep your opt-out status for that browser even if you later clear all cookies.

You can go one further than this and disable ad personalization for the Google ads you see when you’re signed out and across other online ad networks that work with Google. To do this, select ‘Visit AdChoices’ at the bottom of the page. This will take you to a new page that displays a list of different companies and whether they are currently delivering ads based on your interests.

 How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!

You can then toggle individual companies on or off, or to disable ad tracking for all companies, scroll down and a dialog box will appear with the option to ‘Turn off all companies’. (You will need to have Javascript enabled in order for the page to work properly).

There is one other way that you can disable ad personalization on Google, if you’re a user of Google Chrome. Navigate to your browser settings (accessed by selecting the three vertical dots icon in the top-right corner of your screen) and select ‘Show advanced settings…’

Under ‘Privacy’, select ‘Send a “Do Not Track” request with your browsing traffic’. The effect this has will depend on whether a website responds to the request, and how it is interpreted, but some websites will respond by showing ads which aren’t related to your browsing history.

How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!

Bing

In order to turn off personalized ad tracking on Bing, you need to opt out of customized ads on all Microsoft sites and partners (such as AOL). To do this, go to choice.microsoft.com or from the Bing homepage, select ‘Settings’ from the hamburger menu in the corner, then More > Personalization and select the link to the Personalization Settings Page. Under ‘Other privacy settings’, select ‘Advertising Preferences’.

How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!

From there, you can toggle ‘Personalized ads in this browser’ to OFF, and if you’re signed into your Microsoft account, you can also turn off ‘Personalized ads wherever I use my Microsoft account’.

How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!

You can also opt out of personalized ads from other companies served by Microsoft, by selecting ‘Do you want personalized ads from other companies?’ under ‘More choices’.

On this page, as with Google, you can opt out of ad tracking for individual companies listed, or select ‘Choose all companies’ at the bottom to opt out of personalized ads for all participating companies.

How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!

Yahoo!

To opt out of ad tracking on Yahoo!, go to the Yahoo! Ad Interest Manager or on the Yahoo! homepage, select ‘About our ads’ (in very small light grey text in between ‘Privacy’ and ‘Help’) and then under ‘What choices do I have?’ select ‘Manage interest-based advertising categories, or opt-out of all categories, from Yahoo.’

How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!

On the Yahoo! Ad Interest Manager, under ‘Your advertising choices’ there are two tabs, one for across the web and one for Yahoo! sites, widgets and apps. Select ‘Opt out’ for either tab to opt out of ads.

How to turn off ad tracking in Google, Bing and Yahoo!