Tag Archives: SOCIAL

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Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

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

The launch was accompanied by a landing page that labeled this “an experimental new podium”. That same landing page remains live, unchanged, and with the same call to action at its conclusion to “Join the Waitlist”.

Google Posts seemed to be a stripped-back version of Google+, devised with the intention of at least maintaining some of the functionality of a social network after sunsetting Google+.

The main premise of Posts had ostensibly been to work as a one-way social platform, where brands or individuals could publish (and be indexed instantly), but without the requisite mechanisms to allow the audience to engage in conversation with the poster or ‘like’ the update.

Since that tentative launch, Posts has perennially appeared in and disappeared from the SERPs in various guises, each time with very little fanfare. It initially appeared to be being trialed by a select few small businesses, then was spotted during Google I/O the following May, being used to publish live conference updates directly to the SERP.

A few months after that, Google Posts reappeared in search results for a charter school in New York, KIPP NYC, and then disappeared again. Each time, users have remained in the dark about whether a fully-fledged roll-out of Google Posts might be on the horizon, and nothing much has happened in this space to justify the tag ‘experimental new podium’. However, that may be set to change.

I noticed during a routine search for [red sox] that gifs were autoplaying within the knowledge graph sidebar, both on desktop (as in the screenshot below) and also on mobile.

Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

 

This is particularly eye-catching and is in line with numerous other Google initiatives to bring a sense of vitality and immediacy to its results, most notably in the shape of Accelerated Mobile Pages and the decision to allow emoji in select organic results.

Although the Posts initiative itself is not new and nor is its inclusion within search results, there is a clearly-labeled ‘New’ box in the top right of this section to alert users of a change.

The same was observed for [yankees], so at least Google shows no clear bias in that sense:

Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

 

This has been spotted by others in the last few weeks, although it does seem that is being rolled out in a piecemeal fashion.

The two entities that appear to be taking part in this partnership with Google are Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League, as seen in the screenshot below in a search for the ice hockey team [new york rangers]:

Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

If it’s new, what has changed?

GIFs were also spotted in SERPs on a few occasions when Google+ was up and running, but again this was isolated to a few brands, and it was clear that this was being pulled from their own Google+ account.

What is most noteworthy in this instance is that these results may not be showing up as a result of direct action from each individual sports team.

It is therefore worth assessing the source of the posts to ascertain whether brands will be expected to update their feed on an ongoing basis.

This is quite vital if we want to know where this platform could go in future, as it helps us define whether this is a streamlined social media network (more in line with Twitter than Facebook) or more of an automated content syndication platform.

Back to the Red Sox example for further investigation.

First of all, clicking on an individual post, as it appears within the SERP, opens up a larger window containing the image or GIF. As you can see from the screenshot below, this is all contained within the same results page:

Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

Clicking on the ‘More’ link leads to the original post which, intriguingly, is hosted on MLB.com rather than the Red Sox Google Posts page.

As such, this could be a welcome boon for brands like Major League Baseball, who will undoubtedly receive increased traffic. This will be of great interest to publishers, as there is the tantalising possibility of a new avenue to get their content in search results, should the initiative go mainstream.

The Red Sox ‘profile page’ is really just a feed of images and external links to more in-depth content – all of which are hosted on MLB.com.

Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

 

This arouses the suspicion that the functioning of Google Posts is changing, especially as this seems to be the case across all MLB teams. The same is also true of many ice hockey teams, which link out to NHL.com from all of their posts.

As a result, it is plausible that the partnership here is between the sites hosting the content (MLB.com, NHL.com) and Google, with the individual sports teams acceptant beneficiaries of the increased engagement.

In the initial announcement about Posts, the selling point was said to be that individuals or brands could publish directly to Google. That requires a certain complicity; one would have to take action to set this process in motion by posting content via Posts, whether fully-formed or just a link to an external site.

In our coverage from March 2016, we noted that a few small businesses had been given access to Google Posts. There didn’t appear to be much in the way of consistent rationale for choosing these particular businesses over others, although their feeds are all still live.

The fact that the links from the Red Sox are invariably from one website suggests that Google is automatically pulling these links through to its search results when they go live on MLB.com. This differs from the small business accounts, which are composed of unique updates written for Google Posts.

This demonstrates an important and telling distinction from the original functioning of Posts, and could be one with far-reaching implications.

Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

What is Google seeking to accomplish through Posts?

The reasons for doing this are self-evident.

Eric Schmidt was very public in admitting that the company “missed the boat” on social media, their only real foray into the market being their overdue and (in hindsight) always-doomed Google+.

That is a substantial missing piece in the jigsaw for a company that is competing with Facebook to maintain its digital advertising dominance.

Speed is of the essence, as indicated by the growing presence of AMP pages in search results.

Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

Of course, it stands to reason that having brands publish directly on a Google platform is of great benefit to the search giant, as it has a significant task on its hands to crawl, index, cache, and serve everything that is published on the web instantaneously.

Moreover, one reason for using Google+ as a content distribution platform in the past was simply that it led to faster indexing. If Posts can offer the same benefit, especially if updates about a brand are pulled automatically from relevant websites, there will be a clear use case for most companies.

What could this mean for businesses and marketers?

The results pages are crowded as it is, so the addition of GIFs could only serve to intensify the battle for consumers’ attention spans. However, as always, we can expect Google to test this in detail before taking the plunge and releasing the functionality to the masses.

One concern is that Google may give prominence to these results over other social networks, notably Twitter, in order to ensure its own success. Perhaps the reason for such a tentative entry into this space is the hope of avoiding another newsworthy social media misstep, should the initiative fail to take hold.

The waitlist for Google Posts has been open for quite some time now, after all, but very few companies are active on the platform. Either demand is suspiciously low or (more likely) Google is taking its time on this one.

Google Posts: GIFs and videos published directly to SERPs

That said, any opportunities to increase organic traffic are very welcome nowadays, and that could be what Posts comes to offer us.

For now, we can only join the waitlist and patiently look forward to an invitation to start Posting.

Optimization at the intersection of search, content, social, mobile and local in 2017

The digital environment is rapidly shifting. There are over a billion websites online, and customers have countless brands to choose from when seeking solutions to their needs.

Consumer behavior has rapidly matured with the growth of the online world. Customers access the internet through a variety of different platforms and channels. Two thirds of shoppers report using more than one channel when deciding to make a purchase.

At the same time, customers have also begun to abandon a traditional buyer’s journey. They now interact with brands through a series of high-intent touch points across multiple devices. Customers now guide the relationship, and brands need to be there to serve them.

Search engines responded to this shift by evolving the query algorithm to better understand intent and mold their search engine results pages (SERPs) and provide fast, convenient answers for users.

To succeed in this modern digital ecosystem, brands must do the same. They must understand how to develop content that accurately reaches the target audience based upon concrete goals.

Not only is understanding cross-channel trends within marketing key to reaching customers, but it’s also a key ingredient for brands to achieve greater ROI. Nearly 3/4 of marketers employing cross-channel methods report that these interactions result in ‘major’ impacts to the number of site conversions.

More than half also say that cross-channel marketing helps them improve their retention, and increases the likelihood of customers becoming brand advocates. Customers who arrive at your brand through cross-channel research also carry a 30 percent higher lifetime value. So organizations that go through the extra effort to create the cross-channel atmosphere will see value from their decisions.

Opportunities at the intersection of channels

For the modern marketer, the opportunity for brand success lies at the intersection between search, social, content, mobile and local. SEO is the core driver as it helps ensure material is easy to find online.

Social is then your megaphone. It broadcasts a message across the various ‘watercoolers’ of the online world, helping to engage customers in a personal way, while also drawing attention to content. These two work together to build visibility and traffic.

Next, combine efforts from these two channels with content, mobile and local strategies. Effective campaigns in these three areas grasp the devices customers use and their intent behind searches. Creating material that fills these needs builds engagement and drives relationships and conversions.

The key is creating content ready to serve customers across various devices and platforms. Brands need to meet customers where they are in order to provide them information; but without data, this is impossible. Data can let brands know what their customers search for and what they want to see when they make these queries.

It will also inform them of the success of their efforts and where adjustments can be made.

Our research at BrightEdge shows that organic remains the largest driver of traffic, with 51 percent of the people arriving on a site coming from SERPs. When using SEO as a multi-channel asset that can attract visitors across different touch points, it’s easy to understand how these different types of marketing intersect to spur growth.

Making a success of the intersection of search, content, social, mobile and local

Step 1. Analyze your current website

As companies adapt to a mobile-first world, they must create web experiences that are responsive and driven by rich experiences. However, without understanding or adhering to SEO best practices, content creators can inadvertently cause technical errors, duplicate content, or orphan pages.

These issues severely impact organic search performance resulting in decreased traffic, conversions, and revenue.

To best understand how the intersection between these various elements will work for your brand, you need to look at your site currently and gauge how leads arrive. Ensure that you break down traffic, including by device, to better understand the motivations of your existing customers.

This will provide insight into where to focus more of your efforts and safeguard your content and website.

Step 2. Perform keyword research

Looking at statistics behind applicable keywords will reveal traffic rates and competition levels, helping you better understand the terms and topics that most interest your prospects.

You also want to monitor trends as part of this research. Trends will reveal rising topics of interest, allowing you to create and promote content of interest before all of your competitors, establishing your authority and ranking.

Step 3. Look at the user intent behind keywords

Marketing today is about understanding the micro-moments that dominate user activity. Customers reach for their devices when they experience a particular type of need they want fulfilled. The better you understand the intent of these customers – whether they want to go, do, buy, or know something – the better you will be able to tailor your content to meet these needs.

Search engines have been tailored to predict the intent of customers, which explains why some searches have features such as local 3-packs, featured images or videos and Quick Answers. Understanding the intent behind searches allows marketers to create content messages and formats that will most likely appeal to customers.

Step 4. Make sure all content is mobile friendly

Customers today are on mobile for a large part of their digital experience. More searches today take place on mobile. Compared to desktop, mobile devices now account for 65 percent of all digital time spent. All content produced should serve the needs of customers on these devices through responsive web design, fast mobile load times, page navigation and layouts that reflect the needs of mobile users.

Remember that mobile also strongly overlaps with the need for local optimization. Over fifty percent of on-the-go searches have local intent. Local mobile search can be a powerful step in the conversion process. In fact, 80 percent of these searches result in offline purchases.

This means that as brands optimize for mobile, they should also pay close attention to the local and “I want to go” intent for particular keywords. Optimizing for hyperlocal search can be critical for attracting these customers.

Step 5. Optimize all content through SEO best practices

Remember, SEO is the driver of this explosive intersection between channels. As you create content for different user intents and devices, you must optimize it. This means more than just including keywords. You should also pay attention to meta descriptions, title tags, image alt tags, layout and how the content fits in with the rest of the website.

Familiarize your content creators with basic SEO practices and ensure they work closely with the SEO team to create material that will rank as highly as possible from the moment of publication.

Step 6. Broadcast content through social media

As you create optimized content for different channels, ensure your content and web teams partner with the social media team to develop a promotional strategy. Followers on your social media platforms have already revealed some degree of interest in your brand. A strong posting strategy will enhance this relationship and encourage more to enter the sales funnel.

As you publish content, promote it on the social media sites where the target audience most likely resides. For example, highly visual content developed for young adults in their late teens and early twenties might best promoted through platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. The better you understand your audiences, the more highly targeted your content strategy will become to generate returns.

Such promotion will broadcast your content, encourage sharing and increase visibility before it even ranks highly on SERPs. As an added bonus, promotion can also drive traffic and attention to your site, increasing the odds of others linking to your page from their own websites.

This can then help boost your reputation and authority in the Google algorithm, potentially increasing your position on SERPs. As you rise in rankings, your content will naturally attract a wider audience, showing how the different pieces of this strategy work together.

Although the dangers of siloed marketing have been apparent for several years now, the potential implications of relying on these outdated strategies cannot be more apparent than they are today. The customer does not live on one channel or one platform, and brands must meet these needs with a consistent voice.

Understanding how these elements intersect can help brands create an effective strategy. Follow this six stage process and see how using content, SEO, search, social, mobile, and local can spell success for your organization in 2017.

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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 influencer marketing can benefit your SEO strategy

Influencer marketing is a powerful tactic to add to your SEO toolbox.

With links continuing to reign supreme in SEO, but the difficulty of acquiring them increasing, influencer marketing can help you to generate authoritative links which have the additional benefit of an increase in your user engagement signals, traffic, and visibility.

In this article, we’ll explore a few ways influencer marketing can make your SEO campaigns into digital powerhouses.

Influencer marketing builds inbound links

The issue with using influencers for inbound links is that many will disclose the links as sponsored.  One way to get around this is to create content-driven influencer campaigns.  Traditionally, brands use influencers to create “commercials” for their brands.  They are very sales-driven and are focused on pushing a product or brand directly.

When working with influencers, why not create campaigns that are related to specific issues in your industry?  Instead of making them an extension of your sales team, get them to create video or text content based on their thoughts on a specific topic, citing your site as a resource. This may be a way to bypass the need for disclosure.

Depending on your budget, you may need to start with micro-influencers (influencers with smaller, but highly engaged audiences) to begin earning those inbound links.

Influencer marketing boosts brand visibility and engagement

The biggest challenge many brands and marketers face is getting heard over the buzz. The competition in today’s digital marketplace is fierce. In fact, engagement and traffic ranked number five among most important ranking factors, according to Moz.

Simply put, the more your engage your target audience, the more traffic you will drive to your site, products, and services. This makes influencer marketing an essential asset in every industry.

How influencer marketing can benefit your SEO strategy

According to an advertising survey by Nielsen, 92 percent of people trust recommendations from other people over brand advertisements. And whom do consumers know? The influencers they follow on social media. In fact, a study by Annalect and Twitter found that users have as much trust in influencers as they do their friends.

How influencer marketing can benefit your SEO strategy

Influencers amass followers who hang on their every product review or recommendation. You can take advantage of their community to enhance your brand’s visibility via social media, blogs, and vlogs.

The traffic your influencers drive to your site will boost your SEO rankings in ways paid ads simply cannot. But don’t forget about content engagement. An influencer with one million followers may not be as powerful as a micro-influencer in your niche with 20,000 followers.

“Posts from people with small followings get strong engagement, and bring an air of authenticity and trust,” according to Business Insider.

A great example of reach versus engagement is the different between the audiences of celebrity Jimmy Fallon and YouTuber Connor Franta. Falon may have a bigger reach, but Franta has a much higher engagement.

How influencer marketing can benefit your SEO strategy

Improve your social visibility with influencer marketing, and also keep your engagement high. This is an influencer marketing tip many marketers and brands will overlook.

Influencer marketing keeps your content fresh

Creating fresh content can be challenging for marketers and brands, thus emphasizing the need for influencer marketing. The sole job of influencers is to develop unique and compelling content that your target audience can’t resist.

Influencers can also leverage their followers to produce content for you. They can maximize a social campaign by encouraging their community to share unique images or thoughts associated with your brand or campaign.

One excellent influencer marketing case study is when the brand Gloria Ferrer used influencer marketing to boost their brand awareness by launching the #GloriousBites campaign. Influencers used the hashtag to create buzz around the campaign, netting 44 million social impressions.

How influencer marketing can benefit your SEO strategy

Generating millions of social impressions via influencer marketing will surely increase your social visibility and brand engagement.

Influencer marketing leads to collaborative content and publishing

Cultivating meaningful relationships with influencers is a powerful way to maximize your SEO efforts. A quality partnership with your influencers ensures exceptional content with collaborative opportunities down the road.

This is a long-term goal, but once you and your influencer have a mutually beneficial thing going, collaborative content like an interview series or industry report could be in the mix.

How influencer marketing can benefit your SEO strategy

You and your influencer can benefit greatly from borrowing one another’s authority, proving to add more visibility for both sides. As partners you can earn more links to add to your robust link profile for a boost in SEO.

The relationships you develop via influencer marketing could also provide you and your brand with an in to otherwise off-limit high-authoritative publishers. You influencer networking can open doors, and those doors could lead to social visibility on a global scale.

Finding relevant authoritative influencers

Finding relevant authoritative influencers is the most important aspect of influencer marketing. You want your influencer content to reach your target audience with engagement. This will make your influencers SEO assets to your brand.

Key influencer metrics include…

  • Check the influencer’s domain authority
  • How many unique visitors does the influencer get per day, week, and month?
  • What does the influencer’s engagement per post look like?
  • What are the audience demographics, such as age, location, and gender?

Despite influencer marketing’s trending nature, many marketers, SEOs, and brands are still coming up short. Don’t fail to utilize the true power of a well-cultivated influencer campaign.

Use the above examples to maximize your SEO strategy, and get a first page Google ranking for your brand.

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Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

Pinterest made a clear declaration of intent last week with the announcement that Randy Keller, Google’s former head of image search, has joined the photo sharing site as Head of Search.

This appointment is reflective of a strategy to challenge both Google and Amazon in the product-based visual search market. Notably, Pinterest also rolled out their paid search offering, driven initially through a partnership with Kenshoo, in 2016.

Due to the glacial pace of advertising product launches from Pinterest over the past few years, some in the industry felt their opportunity to monetise their user base may have passed.

Moreover, the keyword-based paid search market is saturated as it is, with Google constantly trialling new ways to eke out more searches.

However, in many of the potential growth areas for the industry, such as voice search, personalisation, and most obviously, image search, Pinterest believe they have something different to offer.

As a social platform focused more on nourishing the self than sharing selfies, Pinterest is inherently driven by the power of images. Nonetheless, the history of image search has shown that mastering the requisite technology to tap into this potential is no mean feat.

How Pinterest plans to tackle visual search

On February 7, Pinterest launched their new Visual Discovery Tools, including Lens. Built into the Pinterest app, through Lens users can point their camera at an item and the app will make suggestions based on what it sees. Point the camera at some asparagus, for example, and the app will suggest some recipes.

Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

This is a further stage of development from Amazon’s Firefly (available through the Amazon app), which can recognise objects and suggest similar items to purchase, but is not yet able to make the conceptual leap to suggest complementary products or ideas.

Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

Pinterest posted the following in relation to the Lens launch:

“Sometimes you spot something out in the world that looks interesting, but when you try to search for it online later, words fail you. You have this rich, colorful picture in your mind, but you can’t translate it into the words you need to find it.

At Pinterest, we’ve developed new experimental technology that, for the first time ever, is capable of seeing the world the way you do.

It’s called Lens (currently in beta), and it lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world.”

This is in beta and works best with food, clothing and decor at the moment, but the possibilities are endless if the technology continues to develop. With an estimated 75 billion Pins to sift through, it may take a while.

However at Pinterest, there is clearly a belief that cracking visual search can start to bridge the gap between language and the world around us.

The fact that they routinely refer to ‘idea searches’ rather than ‘keywords’ is indicative of this focus on adding a new spin to a deeply-ingrained feature of internet usage. This is intriguing on many levels, but strikingly it may offer a new avenue for advertisers to engage with consumers at an optimal time, through the ideal medium.

Pinterest and ad blockers

This leads on nicely to the current ad landscape, one in which many internet users have resorted to ad blockers to avoid overbearing messaging.

Another stated aim at Pinterest is to re-frame ads as a welcome way to discover new ideas, concepts and products, rather than an intrusion into a user’s browsing experience.

Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

An advertiser’s product feed, if synced to Pinterest’s image search algorithms, could deliver increasingly timely and relevant results to users. Where this becomes most compelling is in the ‘related searches’ that Pinterest provides. So for example, a search for shoes could also provide recommendations for the rest of an outfit.

If advertising can become synonymous with the discovery of new and exciting ideas, it suddenly seems much more appealing to the consumer. As such, consumers could be much more willing to jettison their ad blockers and engage with promoted results.

This is a tall order and perhaps quite a utopian aspiration at this stage, but the theory is seductive nonetheless.

Offering an alternative to Amazon and Google

Much has been made of Amazon’s continued rise in the search market, and an oft-cited 2016 survey from Power Reviews placed them as the preferred starting point for product searches among US consumers.

This was particularly newsworthy for the fact that it relegated Google to second place. The battle for supremacy in such a profitable arena has only intensified since, with commercial searches the main prize.

The most interesting aspects of this – and where Pinterest comes back into the fray – are the reasons why Amazon has taken this lofty position.

Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

Predictably, variety of products ranks as the most popular reason, followed by free shipping and competitive pricing.

Amazon led with these value propositions and they continue to drive the company’s success, even with the advent of more innovative home technologies like the Echo and Echo Dot.

Google has been at pains to streamline its purchasing processes too, in search, shopping, and their rival to the Echo, Google Home.

What these platforms ultimately provide to the consumer is a frictionless way to purchase products from reliable sources. The consumer knows what they want and they reveal this by searching for it, and companies are willing to pay for the chance to get in front of customers at this high-intent purchase stage.

But there is more to some product-consumer relationships than just a seamless transaction, and it is one that either Google or Amazon would have to work hard to avail of in its entirety.

Pinterest’s competitive advantage

Pinterest has the enviable asset of an engaged user base, not on the premise of deals or free shipping, but on the experience the platform allows them to create and the ideas it allows them to access.

Pinterest may not be a credible threat when it comes to some clear transactional searches, where the consumer knows what they want and is really looking for a comparison, by price or by review ratings. But this seems very unlikely to be Pinterest’s natural marketplace anyway.

It would be very interesting to segment the Power Reviews survey results further to understand the different categories within product searches. The act of searching can be nuanced; it implies uncertainty and a desire to be provided with an answer.

Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

The answers Pinterest can provide, if technologies like Lens take hold and it delivers on the enticing promise to read the world through visual search, will go far beyond a traditional list of links and images, and into the realm of something much more inspirational for consumers.

As such, it would be fascinating to know how many product searches, whether on Google, Facebook, Amazon or Pinterest, fall into this category. Or perhaps more appropriately, how many searches would fall into this category if people knew the technology existed.

Combined with the one-click purchase technology Pinterest plans to integrate worldwide, this would see Pinterest tick many of the boxes that shape the ‘Why Shoppers Start on Amazon’ graph featured above, and also generate new demand.

Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

Consumers can be fickle and if they prize the variety of products on offer (as evidence suggests they do), the platform that provides this will become their preferred destination. If it can do this by resolving the awkward paradox inherent in ‘traditional’ image search (using words to search for images, often with unconvincing results), it will be all the more attractive and effective.

Advertisers, of course, will follow where consumers go, especially if Pinterest continues to develop their paid search offering through 2017.

Delivering better search results through new technology and a growing pool of users is a model ripe for monetisation, a possibility not lost on Pinterest.  For luxury goods, home decor, and fashion companies, this platform seems a natural fit and it would not be surprising to see these brands among the early adopters of paid advertising on Pinterest.

What does the future hold for Pinterest?

Attention spans are a precious, dwindling commodity, and simply shouting at consumers just won’t cut through.

By connecting to, and enhancing, our experience of the world around us, Pinterest may be in a position to steal a march on the competition – in technological terms, at least. A monthly user base of 150 million lags behind the giants in this arena and Pinterest will not gather the clout to tackle Google for Search dominance, but its development is no less compelling for that.

Can Pinterest crack (and monetise) visual search?

Ours is an increasingly visual culture, and Pinterest is well placed to challenge on the basis of the big focal points in search today; local, personalisation, voice, image, video, and app integration. It also offers a different experience to users that potentially allows advertisers to sell without intruding.

That makes for a potent combination and, should it all come together as planned, could see Pinterest offer a welcome alternative to Google and Amazon for marketers and consumers alike.

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Six 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, we’ve got a bumper crop of stories from the search and marketing industry, including the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative’s acquisition of an AI-powered search engine, new ad-targeting features on YouTube, the most popular emoji on Instagram, and the news that mobile search and YouTube are leading growth in Alphabet’s fourth quarter earnings.

Also, you’ll never guess who one of Google’s most prolific advertisers is – it’s Google.

Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative acquires AI-powered search engine, Meta

The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the $45 billion philanthropic organisation founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, has made its first acquisition – of a search engine. Meta is an search tool which uses artificial intelligence to make connections between scientific research, making it easier for researchers to search through and link together more than 26 million scientific papers. The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative intends to make Meta, which was previously partly subscription-based, free for everyone to use after spending a few months enhancing the product.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “Didn’t Search Engine Watch already run a story recently about a scientific search engine powered by AI?”

You’re absolutely right, astute reader – as Adam Stetzer reported earlier this month, Semantic Scholar is an AI-powered search engine for scientific research which is already free to use. While there’s no reason why the world can’t have more than one AI-powered science search engine, it will be interesting to see how the two different projects interact over the coming months and years.

YouTube adds new ad-targeting features

One of the biggest weapons in Google’s advertising arsenal is the sheer amount of data that it is able to collect about users’ search and browsing histories, in order to better target ads in their direction. Last Friday, it was revealed that Google is bringing that scary amount of knowledge to bear on YouTube by allowing advertisers to target users based on their Google account activity.

A blog post on the Google Inside AdWords blog explained:

Now, information from activity associated with users’ Google accounts (such as demographic information and past searches) may be used to influence the ads those users see on YouTube. So, for example, if you’re a retailer, you could reach potential customers that have been searching for winter coat deals on Google and engage with them with your own winter clothing brand campaign at just the right moment.

Al Roberts reported on the news for ClickZ this week and examined why Facebook could be the driving force behind Google’s decision to give advertisers more flexibility in how they target users on YouTube.

Instagram is making Stories more appealing to brands

In August of last year, Instagram debuted Stories: a new feature on its social network devoted to posts which disappear after 24 hours, and a direct and unashamed copy of the Snapchat feature of the same name. Despite a bit of mockery at first, response to Stories has been positive, with 150 million users enjoying the feature daily – and some saying that Instagram Stories has all but replaced Snapchat for them.

Now, Instagram is bringing in some additions to make Stories a more appealing prospect for brands, with new Business Insights available to users with business profiles, and full-screen photo or video ads appearing in between Stories.

Ads will be initially tested with 30 clients around the world, including Capital One, Buick, Maybelline New York, Nike, Yoox, Netflix, and Qantas.

Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

These are 2016’s most popular emoji on Instagram

We’ve got a two-for-one special on Instagram stories this week, with a study by Quintly which has revealed exactly how and how often emoji have been used on Instagram.

Quintly analysed  20,000 Instagram profiles and 6.2 million posts during 2016 to observe how emojis have been used on the platform over the last year. Among its findings were the fact that 56% of Instagram profiles have used emoji so far, and there has been a 20% increase in their use during 2016 alone.

Also, the most popular emoji on Instagram is the camera Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week – commonly used as a way of attributing photos, which might speak to the amount of pictures on Instagram which aren’t created by the accounts who uploaded them.

Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

 One of Google’s most prolific advertisers is… Google itself

Google is the single biggest recipient of digital ad spend, with its well-oiled ad machine generating tens of billions of dollars of revenue every year. Now, an analysis by the Wall Street Journal and SEMRush has revealed that “ads for products sold by Google and its sister companies appeared in the most prominent spot in 91% of 25,000 recent searches related to such items. In 43% of the searches, the top two ads both were for Google-related products.”

Al Roberts took a look at the study’s methodology and findings over on ClickZ, and considered what this means in terms of conflicts of interest from the internet’s biggest search engine.

Mobile search and YouTube lead Alphabet’s revenue growth

Yesterday, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced its fourth-quarter earnings for 2016. Quartz reported that Wall Street was expecting Alphabet to post revenue of around $25 billion, but it in fact exceeded this prediction with more than $26 billion in revenue, up 22% over the same quarter the previous year.

Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week
Source: Atlas

In a press release, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said that the company’s “exceptional” growth was “led by mobile search and YouTube.” While this is interesting news for the search industry (especially ahead of Google’s mobile-first search index – coming soon to a search engine near you), the earnings report revealed that Alphabet’s non-search prospects haven’t been doing so well. Nearly 99% of Alphabet’s revenue came from Google, while its “Other Bets” – the other projects it is pursuing to diversify its revenue streams – posted a loss of roughly $1.1 billion.

Google is still finding ways to increase its revenue, and the company is by no means struggling to bring in the money. But thus far, its parent company hasn’t been too successful in shifting the focus away from the search and advertising it is best known for.

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Six 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, we’ve got a bumper crop of stories from the search and marketing industry, including the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative’s acquisition of an AI-powered search engine, new ad-targeting features on YouTube, the most popular emoji on Instagram, and the news that mobile search and YouTube are leading growth in Alphabet’s fourth quarter earnings.

Also, you’ll never guess who one of Google’s most prolific advertisers is – it’s Google.

Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative acquires AI-powered search engine, Meta

The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, the $45 billion philanthropic organisation founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, has made its first acquisition – of a search engine. Meta is an search tool which uses artificial intelligence to make connections between scientific research, making it easier for researchers to search through and link together more than 26 million scientific papers. The Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative intends to make Meta, which was previously partly subscription-based, free for everyone to use after spending a few months enhancing the product.

“But wait!” I hear you cry. “Didn’t Search Engine Watch already run a story recently about a scientific search engine powered by AI?”

You’re absolutely right, astute reader – as Adam Stetzer reported earlier this month, Semantic Scholar is an AI-powered search engine for scientific research which is already free to use. While there’s no reason why the world can’t have more than one AI-powered science search engine, it will be interesting to see how the two different projects interact over the coming months and years.

YouTube adds new ad-targeting features

One of the biggest weapons in Google’s advertising arsenal is the sheer amount of data that it is able to collect about users’ search and browsing histories, in order to better target ads in their direction. Last Friday, it was revealed that Google is bringing that scary amount of knowledge to bear on YouTube by allowing advertisers to target users based on their Google account activity.

A blog post on the Google Inside AdWords blog explained:

Now, information from activity associated with users’ Google accounts (such as demographic information and past searches) may be used to influence the ads those users see on YouTube. So, for example, if you’re a retailer, you could reach potential customers that have been searching for winter coat deals on Google and engage with them with your own winter clothing brand campaign at just the right moment.

Al Roberts reported on the news for ClickZ this week and examined why Facebook could be the driving force behind Google’s decision to give advertisers more flexibility in how they target users on YouTube.

Instagram is making Stories more appealing to brands

In August of last year, Instagram debuted Stories: a new feature on its social network devoted to posts which disappear after 24 hours, and a direct and unashamed copy of the Snapchat feature of the same name. Despite a bit of mockery at first, response to Stories has been positive, with 150 million users enjoying the feature daily – and some saying that Instagram Stories has all but replaced Snapchat for them.

Now, Instagram is bringing in some additions to make Stories a more appealing prospect for brands, with new Business Insights available to users with business profiles, and full-screen photo or video ads appearing in between Stories.

Ads will be initially tested with 30 clients around the world, including Capital One, Buick, Maybelline New York, Nike, Yoox, Netflix, and Qantas.

Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

These are 2016’s most popular emoji on Instagram

We’ve got a two-for-one special on Instagram stories this week, with a study by Quintly which has revealed exactly how and how often emoji have been used on Instagram.

Quintly analysed  20,000 Instagram profiles and 6.2 million posts during 2016 to observe how emojis have been used on the platform over the last year. Among its findings were the fact that 56% of Instagram profiles have used emoji so far, and there has been a 20% increase in their use during 2016 alone.

Also, the most popular emoji on Instagram is the camera Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week – commonly used as a way of attributing photos, which might speak to the amount of pictures on Instagram which aren’t created by the accounts who uploaded them.

Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

 One of Google’s most prolific advertisers is… Google itself

Google is the single biggest recipient of digital ad spend, with its well-oiled ad machine generating tens of billions of dollars of revenue every year. Now, an analysis by the Wall Street Journal and SEMRush has revealed that “ads for products sold by Google and its sister companies appeared in the most prominent spot in 91% of 25,000 recent searches related to such items. In 43% of the searches, the top two ads both were for Google-related products.”

Al Roberts took a look at the study’s methodology and findings over on ClickZ, and considered what this means in terms of conflicts of interest from the internet’s biggest search engine.

Mobile search and YouTube lead Alphabet’s revenue growth

Yesterday, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced its fourth-quarter earnings for 2016. Quartz reported that Wall Street was expecting Alphabet to post revenue of around $25 billion, but it in fact exceeded this prediction with more than $26 billion in revenue, up 22% over the same quarter the previous year.

Six most interesting search marketing news stories of the week
Source: Atlas

In a press release, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said that the company’s “exceptional” growth was “led by mobile search and YouTube.” While this is interesting news for the search industry (especially ahead of Google’s mobile-first search index – coming soon to a search engine near you), the earnings report revealed that Alphabet’s non-search prospects haven’t been doing so well. Nearly 99% of Alphabet’s revenue came from Google, while its “Other Bets” – the other projects it is pursuing to diversify its revenue streams – posted a loss of roughly $1.1 billion.

Google is still finding ways to increase its revenue, and the company is by no means struggling to bring in the money. But thus far, its parent company hasn’t been too successful in shifting the focus away from the search and advertising it is best known for.

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The ONLY lesson from every social media brand fail example ever

Everyone wants to go viral on social media. But sometimes your brand ends up going viral for the wrong reasons.

After every such social media brand fail, we experience a familiar cycle. Somebody (or multiple somebodies) instantly shames them on social media. The brand (usually) apologizes. The world moves on.

Then a few days later, it happens. A respected industry publication publishes something like this:

X Social Media Lessons From [Brand’s] [Social Media Update About Whatever]

In 2016 – truly a year filled with disasters if there ever was one (and one best summed up by Vice in April after Prince died) – social media blunders still managed to spark swift and bitter outrage.

You see, apparently there are still some lessons that social media managers, directors, and coordinators need to learn.

I disagree. There’s only one lesson. But first…

May the Delete Button Be With You

At the end of the year we were treated to several “Top Social Media Fails of 2016” types of posts. Coming in at number one of just about everyone’s lists was Cinnabon.

In case you missed it, Cinnabon caused a big uproar on Twitter after tweeting what they considered to be a tribute to Carrie Fisher. The actress, who died that same day (Dec. 27), appeared as a image of her “Star Wars” likeness, Princess Leia, along with this message from Cinnabon: “RIP Carrie Fisher, you’ll always have the best buns in the galaxy.”

rip-carrie

A tasteful tribute? The Twitterverse didn’t agree.

Shortly thereafter, the tweet vanished. Cinnabon returned humbly to Twitter to say they were “truly sorry.”

Meanwhile, Cinnabon’s buns are as tasty as ever and people are still lining up to fill their bellies with tasty rolls at their local mall or airport.

PR lessons?

Look, your company at some point is going to screw up. An employee at your company will screw up – heck, maybe it will even be YOU who screws up.

Or some person outside your company, whether it’s an existing customer, former customer, or person who would have never been your customer anyway – is going to cause a lot of noise.

It will be scary. But don’t panic. Remember, negative reactions don’t have any more power than positive.

Some people will always get outraged. And these people will be as loud about their outrage as they can. Because it’s really about them, not you.

If you want to survive a tweet storm of negativity, follow this simple advice from comedian Ricky Gervais:

“Twitter? It’s like reading every toilet wall in the world. You mustn’t worry about it. It will send you mad.”

Will these poor brands survive the outrage?

What do Comcast, Bank of America, Mylan, McDonald’s, and Wells Fargo all have in common? Well, this year they were all named America’s Most Hated Companies for providing consistently terrible customer service or doing something the general public didn’t like.

But even some of the most beloved brands have done some incredibly questionable things, yet never make these sorts of lists.

Need we even mention the biggest social media disaster of them all? Hint: he was just elected President of the United States.

The only lesson

Here’s the real takeaway for marketers: a great product will always beat an epic brand fail. Customers who truly love you will overlook your faults because of self-justification.

They want to continue to view themselves as a special snowflake, which means doing the mental gymnastics of rationalization or simply ignoring the flaws of the brands they buy and love.

Any effects of what are often dubbed “social media disasters” are usually small and contained.

So make sure your product or service is good enough to withstand any mistakes you make on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks. Build a loyal audience that loves you.

The social media marketing checklist your business needs in 2017

As social media marketing becomes more challenging and time-consuming, it’s time to get more organised when managing your brand’s social presence.

It’s not easy handling a brand’s social presence, but its successful management can lead to great results. Social networks keep growing and are heading into a more mature phase, which means that the challenges grow for every brand that tries to stay current.

There are many reasons for a brand to invest in social media marketing, and the results depend on the goals set:

  • Increase awareness
  • Reach a new audience
  • Boost engagement
  • Increase traffic to the site
  • Explore new business opportunities
  • Gain new leads
  • Work with new clients

No matter what goals you set for the new year, you still need to stay on top of your brand’s social media marketing and the right checklist may help you with all the tasks you need to do at the beginning of the year.

Brainstorming

This is the initial stage, in which you’ll think of all the new ways you can boost your social media marketing.

  • Explore the latest trends and see if any of them fit in your own strategy
  • Learn more about new platforms, or examine whether the old ones are still suitable for your audience
  • Be creative and think outside the box
  • Come up with new content ideas and experiment with them on each platform
  • Ask for help from other team members to broaden your perspective

Planning

Right after your brainstorming session, it’s time to evaluate your planning to see whether it’s effective enough to help your social media marketing.

  • Go back to your content calendar and see whether it was effective enough to use it frequently
  • What needs to be improved to the existing content calendar?
  • Decide on the channels you’re using. Should you add new ones?
  • Examine whether the frequency of the content has been effective up to now
  • Organise your goals and your KPIs
  • Do you know how to justify your social marketing efforts?

Implementation

Now you’re ready to check the practical aspect of your social media marketing. Evaluating the implementation phase helps you understand whether your plan has been successful.

  • Are you happy with the way the posts are published?
  • Is the content calendar followed?
  • Is the level of engagement what you expected?
  • Are you replying to users’ comments?
  • Are you monitoring your brand’s social accounts?
  • Do you use all your social accounts consistently?
  • How is the collaboration between the team?
  • Is there a plan to deal with urgent situations?
  • When was the last time you dealt with a crisis, and how can you avoid another one?
  • Do you need to use social media for customer service?

Measurement

The last – but still important – stage in the evaluation of a social media marketing plan is to examine whether the measurement is effective.

  • Start by going back to your initial goals. Are these met? Are they realistic?
  • Keep your social reports up-to-date and prepare them for the year ahead
  • Check each platform’s native analytics to stay updated on their insights
  • Use your own analytics platform to have an overview of your social media marketing performance
  • Find the best performing platforms and raise the expectations in the new year
  • Find the platforms you need to focus on and come up with new content ideas to improve their performance
  • Plan the year ahead with new KPIs
  • Consult with the team on the best ways to track the KPIs
  • Align social media marketing KPIs with your wider marketing strategy

Although the checklist and the questions you need to answer might seem time-consuming, the actual process is faster than you think. This can even be an annual task, helping you create a successful social media marketing strategy, with a clear plan, goal and measurement. There’s still time to add it to your new year’s resolutions.

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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.

And a happy 2017 to all of our Search Engine Watch readers! This week, we’ve got a health-conscious New Year’s update from Bing, a new AI-powered search engine which is transforming scientific research, and a look at why the fake information epidemic could be damaging to local search.

A new AI powered search engine is changing how neuroscientists do research

Google’s work in the realm of artificial intelligence and machine learning has succeeded in making web search more intuitive, effective and useful than it’s ever been before. But until now, the same couldn’t be said of scientific research.

That’s all changing with the development of a new, free search engine, Semantic Scholar. Adam Stetzer wrote for Search Engine Watch this week about how the AI-powered search engine is changing the way that neuroscientists do research, using data mining and natural language processing to truly understand the links between research – and what this means for similar search options like Google Scholar.

How Instagram became a powerhouse for social commerce

2016 was a busy year for Instagram, with more users, more brands, and a host of new improvements and features all joining the platform. In November, Instagram tested out a new shopping feature in a bid to woo ecommerce brands and give users a way to shop more visually.

This week, on Search Engine Watch’s sister site ClickZ, Tereza Litsa spoke to Olapic’s Paul Sabria about the steps that Instagram has taken to turn itself into a social commerce powerhouse, and what we can expect from the platform in 2017.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Bing rolls out health-conscious search updates in time for New Year’s resolutions

Bing has rolled out a health-focused update to its search platform just in time for everyone to turn over a leaf in the New Year.

In late November, we saw that Bing had launched a carousel of shopping flyers to promote deals in time for Black Friday. Now whenever you search for “workouts” or “exercises” on Bing, it will deliver a carousel of images which link to a wide variety of exercise options.

Users who search for information on yoga and pilates will also be rewarded with a carousel, and occasionally a how-to video on a specific pose at the top of search. Meanwhile, the Bing app has new updates aimed at making the food search experience “even richer”, including information on calorie counts and low-fat recipes.

Five most interesting search marketing news stories of the week

Image: Bing blogs

Bing’s new updates are obviously aimed at providing more intuitive, quick answers to users’ search queries in the same way that Google already does with Quick Answers and featured snippets. While they might be on a smaller scale, the tie-in with different times of year such as Black Friday and New Year is a fun way to introduce these features and draw users’ attention to them through the things they are most likely to be searching for.

How the fake information epidemic will hurt local search in 2017

Headlines about the online fake news epidemic have been everywhere since the US Election, particularly if you follow news about publishing or social media. But Wesley Young, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Local Search Association, believes that this problem is set to get worse in 2017 – and that it will be damaging to local search in particular.

In a column for Search Engine Land, Young laid out how the issue of fake news and information can hurt marketers, along with eight ways that false information is currently being used which marketers should be aware of.

“As consumers search for information to help make purchase decisions, uncertainty about the veracity of the information they receive impacts the effectiveness of local search marketing. Online advertising already faces challenges gaining consumer trust, and the proliferation of fake content will only hurt it more. Worse, you may be spending money on advertising that no one ever sees, be competing in an unfair market, suffer from hits to your reputation or pay more than you should for marketing products or services.

Being aware of how false information is being used will help marketers avoid problems and identify when they may be affected, saving them from both headaches and wasted dollars.”

Google clarifies details of its mobile interstitials penalty

As part of Google’s ongoing efforts to improve the experience of browsing the mobile web, a penalty for sites which use annoying mobile interstitials – pop-ups which appear while a website is loading and cover the entire page – is due to take effect next week, beginning on 10th January.

The question of what kind of interstitials, exactly, will incur penalties has been the subject of considerable discussion amongst the SEO community. This week, Google provided some further clarification on the issue in the form of a tweet from Webmaster Trends Analyst John Wu.

He was responding to a query from Kristine Schachinger, technical SEO expert and founder of digital marketing agency The Vetters, about whether the penalty will only affect interstitials which appear when users are navigating from the search results page to a mobile site, or whether it will include interstitials which appear when navigating between pages of the same website.

Schachinger further enquired as to whether the penalty would affect interstitials which appear between an AMP page and a regular site page, to which Mu replied,

“I haven’t seen an interstitial there, but that would be seen the same as site-page -> site-page.”