Leave it to Matt Cutts to always be there to clear the air when there is an issue causing some webmasters confusion. One webmaster, Peter, asked Matt Cutts whether geo-detecting techniques is actually against Google’s policies, as it is common for websites to be designed so that users are given the information (price, USPs) most relevant to their lives based on geo-location.

In some understandings of Google’s policies, this may be against the rules, but it turns out all is fine, so long as you avoid one issue.

In one of his Webmaster Chat videos, Cutts explained that directing users to a version of a site, or delivering specific information based on location are not spammy or against Google’s policies. It only makes sense to offer viewers information that actually applies to their lives.

What Google does consider spam is directing their crawlers or GoogleBot to a web page of content that users cannot see. Sending GoogleBot to a different location that what visitors see is a bad idea, which is considered spam or a form of cloaking. Instead, treat GoogleBot as you would any user, by checking the location information and sending the crawler to the normal page reflecting that data.

Facebook announced yesterday via Facebook for Business News that they have created a new platform which will allow advertiser to create ads and influence their impact more easily, as Kelsey Jones reported.

The news release said that Facebook has received feedback from advertisers wanting to create ads based on their overall goal or objective, not just the type of ads that would be displayed. The company identified eight objectives as being crucial for business advertisers, specifically:

  1. Clicks to Website
  2. Website Conversions
  3. Page Post Engagement
  4. Page Likes
  5. App Installs
  6. App Engagement
  7. In-Store Offer Claims
  8. Event Responses

To help advertisers meet their goals and create advertisements more based on what they want to accomplish, they released the new platform, which will help advertisers decide how they want to best serve their advertisements. Foe example, an ad viewed on a smartphone can be set so that the users are directed to the company’s mobile site, rather than a non-optimized full desktop site.

Advertisers can also see how their ads are performing based on the objective they chose when creating a campaign. If your focus is website conversion, the highlighted metrics will reflect that. This way there is less confusion and advertisers have easy access to what they consider to be the most important metric for their efforts.

The options will be available via the Ad Create tool, the Power Editor, and the API. It will be a gradual rollout, which may take weeks, but will eventually be available to all advertisers.

Most of the changes we see to Google are relatively minor. The average user might notice that the layout is a little different, or the ads are in a new place, but in general most of the massive changes to Google occur under the hood, in their search ranking and spam fighting algorithms. But, as you’ve probably seen by now, Google Carousel is Google’s latest update, and it is a fairly substantial change to how Google users see results.

The carousel is a row of images across the top of some search engine result pages (SERPs) laid on top of a black background. At the moment, the carousel contains up to 20 results, and it appears mainly on SERPs for travel, hospitality, or restaurant related searches. However, the carousel has also sporadically been appearing on queries for sports, entertainment, and education, suggesting the future directions the carousel may be expanding in.

Instead of getting what was called the 6- or 10-pack, users get these images as well as review ratings, property name, and address. To compliment the new carousel you also see the usual sponsored links you often get for other searches. Interestingly, the variation of terms for which the carousel appears seems to be random. Jim Yu from Search Engine Watch notes that a search for “hotels near disneyland” gets the carousel, while “disneyland hotels” did not.

The first bit of good news for search marketing professionals is that all of the results included in the carousel are essentially all in the first spot. Of course the majority of viewers will likely view the results from left to right, but they are not visually ranked in the same manner they were before.

The other good news is that the Google Carousel opens up numerous opportunities for local businesses to strengthen their brand online. BrightEdge research reported that the carousel currently affects 14 percent of keywords across all industries, with travel and hospitality being the most affected.

Restaurants are also highly impacted by the new layout, while entertainment terms only get the carousel for five percent of searches. Clearly, those most affected are also those with the most to gain: local businesses.
There are a few things you can do to ensure you’re business gets into the carousel for relevant searches in your area, and to be sure to beat the other competition within the listings. Yu suggests:

  • Set up a Google Places for Business and Google+ page. You can visit this post to learn more about the most important aspects of both services, and understand how to merge the two types of pages for a single business.
  • Make sure images for your pages are high resolution, unique, and up to date. Keep them sorted in terms of priority, so that users will see the images you want them to first.
  • Encourage happy customers to review your business on Google. Not only will it help you gain conversions online, research has shown it plays a large role in getting your business in the carousel.

SpeedometerHave you noticed a difference using Google on your smartphone this past week? Last week Ilya Grigorik, a Google developer advocate, announced Google was making a tiny tweak which should speed up mobile search on both Safari and Chrome by 200-400 milliseconds.

The company implemented an attribute called <a ping>, which allows them to basically do the click tracking and redirect practically at the same time, as Barry Schwartz explained.

You might not actually be experiencing search with the change, since Google is “gradually rolling out this improvement to all browsers that support the <a ping> attribute.” Grigorik also took the time to explain exactly how the change works:

What’s the benefit? Whenever the user clicks on a result, typically they are first sent to a Google URL redirector and then to the target site. With <a ping>, the click is tracked using an asynchronous call, meaning that the user sees one less redirect and a faster overall experience!

Instagram LOgoMany considered it only a matter of time before advertising would find its way onto Instagram, since Facebook purchased the app. However it took much longer than most expected. Instagram has remained ad-less until now, but over the next few months you will finally see that change. Instagram announced late last week that advertising would begin rolling out within the Instagram photo stream over the next few months.

This doesn’t mark the first possible attempt to monetize Instagram. Jennifer Slegg reminds us of late last year when Instagram altered its terms to suggest that Instagram would all the rights to all photos posted on it, implicating that Instagram would begin selling those photos to advertisers. The response was massive and overwhelmingly negative, as users began to flee from the service until the terms were reverted.

Since then, the waters have been quiet, but it was heavily expected that Facebook would attempt to turn Instagram into a revenue generating service, seeing as it cost Facebook $1 billion.

This attempt is a little more direct than their change to their terms, but it appears they will be slowly integrating advertisers. They are clearly more cautious this time around – Instagram even emphasized that there would be no changes to how image or video ownership would be viewed.

The company is starting with just a limited number of U.S. advertising firms only showing small and occasional ads. All ads are required to use high-quality images and videos, so they should blend in on the feed.

Seeing photos and videos from brands you don’t follow will be new, so we’ll start slow. We’ll focus on delivering a small number of beautiful, high-quality photos and videos from a handful of brands that are already great members of the Instagram community.

Our aim is to make any advertisements you see feel as natural to Instagram as the photos and videos many of you already enjoy from your favorite brands. After all, our team doesn’t just build Instagram, we use it each and every day. We want these ads to be enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.

Expect the ads to be similar to the sponsored posts you see in Facebook, but designed for Instagram. The company will also be heavily soliciting feedback from users about the types of advertising being tested and shown, including the ability to hide them.

It remains incredibly unclear what Google’s thoughts or plans are for PageRank, as Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, commented on Twitter yesterday that there won’t be any updates to PageRank or the toolbar anytime before 2014.

Neils Bosch asked the esteemed Google engineer whether there would be an update before next year, to which Cutts responded, “I would be surprised if that happened.”

According to Search Engine Land, it has been over 8 months since the last Google Toolbar PageRank update, back on February 4, 2013. Many have proclaimed the toolbar dead, but Cutts has personally defended the toolbar on a Webmaster chat within the past year, and said the toolbar won’t be going away.

However, as Cutts himself explained, Chrome doesn’t have a PageRank extension, Google dropped support for Firefox in 2011, and Internet Explorer 10 doesn’t support toolbar extensions. It seems clear there will be less and less of an audience for the toolbar, so its relevancy and use will likely taper off until it just kind of disappears.

It is always possible that Google might put out a surprise update next year, but don’t expect PageRank to be around forever.

AdWords Editor is one of the best tools available for editing and building out campaigns and ad groups, but it has its limits. For example, it would be convenient to be able to break up an ad group, clone a campaign, or copy keywords right into the Web UI. Thankfully, now you can, as Ginny Marvin reports. This week, Google added copy and paste functionality for the Web UI, making AdWords Editor even better than before.

Users are now able to copy keywords, ads, ad groups, or entire campaigns directly into the Web UI with the simple keyword shortcuts you are already used to. Simply press Ctrl-C/Cmnd-C and Ctrl-V/Cmnd-V. Though if you want, you can also use the Edit drop down menu.

Martin suggests the final version of the update might not be exactly as Google’s screenshot shows. Apparently you may see “Copy to” instead of “Copy” in the drop down, and you might not see the option to “copy keywords as paused”. Other than that, the tool is expected to roll out as planned.

You will be prompted when copying keywords to select both the campaign and ad group where you would like them to be copied.

Facebook is revamping its News Feeds ads as part of their continuous efforts to make advertisements on their site more relevant to users.

They released an announcement late last week stating, “When deciding which ad to show to which groups of people, we are placing more emphasis on feedback we receive from people about ads, including how often people report or hide an ad.”

Facebook did say they believe advertisers will ultimately benefit from the updates.

“If someone always hides ads for electronics, we will reduce the number of those types of ads that we show them. […] This is ultimately better for marketers, because it means their messages are reaching the people most interested in what they have to offer.”

That isn’t the only change Facebook is rolling out though. They also announced the ability to search your posts and status updates within graph search, stating, “Today Graph Search will include posts and status updates,” which which you “will be able to search for status updates, photo captions, check-ins and comments to find things shared with you.”

You might not have access to either feature yet, but you can expect to see them within the next few weeks as they are rolled out.

Do you remember last year when Bing aggressively marketed their “Bing It On” challenge? Back then, Bing also made the claim that searchers prefered Bing in the blind test 2:1. Now, a recent study from the “Freakonomics” blog harshly disputes Bing’s claims as well as strongly critiquing their marketing of the study as possibly constituting deceptive advertising.

Law and economics professor Ian Ayers explained the study and says the claims made by Bing came from a small sample of only 1,000 participants, too few to be a reliable sample of the population. He attempted to replicate the study at Yale Law School where he teaches:

I set up a similar-sized experiment using Microsoft’s own BingItOn.com site to see which search engine users prefer. We found that, to the contrary of Microsoft’s claim, 53 percent of subjects preferred Google and 41 percent Bing (6 percent of results were “ties”)…

The thing is the results of this study still aren’t too bad for Bing. Yes, it shows that Bing’s claims may have been disingenuous, and Google could very possibly still be the more favored search engine. However, Bing still came out with a very respectable number of people favoring their search engine. This could be a sign that Bing could very feasibly grow their market share further than they have. They currently take 18 percent of the market, compared to Google’s static 67 percent.

Of course, Microsoft has responded to the study already. They issued a formal statement from Matt Wallaert, behavioral scientist at Bing, which read:

The professor’s analysis is flawed and based on an incomplete understanding of both the claims and the Challenge. The Bing It On claim is 100% accurate and we’re glad to see we’ve nudged Google into improving their results. Bing it On is intended to be a lightweight way to challenge peoples’ assumptions about which search engine actually provides the best results. Given our share gains, it’s clear that people are recognizing our quality and unique approach to what has been a relatively static space dominated by a single service.

There was also a much more extensive response to the Ayers study in the form of a post on the Bing Blog.

And of course, Matt Cutts from Google couldn’t help but share his two cents on Google+:

Freakonomics looked into Microsoft’s “Bing It On” challenge. From the blog post: “tests indicate that Microsoft selected suggested search words that it knew were more likely to produce Bing-preferring results. …. The upshot: Several of Microsoft’s claims are a little fishy. Or to put the conclusion more formally, we think that Google has a colorable deceptive advertising claim.”

I have to admit that I never bothered to debunk the Bing It On challenge, because the flaws (small sample size; bias in query selection; stripping out features of Google like geolocation, personalization, and Knowledge Graph; wording of the site; selective rematches) were pretty obvious.

So yes, Bing’s study had a fair amount of problems, and their critics seem poised to take action about deceptive marketing, but there is an upshot for Bing. The search engine still performed very well in the results and could gain a fair amount of searchers in the future. But, it also confirms something Bing may have been more worried about. As Greg Sterling points out, “the Google brand and not necessarily search quality is now what sustains Google’s dominance in search.”

Typography has become a fundamental part of design in every way, even making its way into web design over the past few years. You can’t just spill out words and letters onto a page and expect it to look good, and designers have turned the art of making typography look great into a science over hundreds of years.

Somehow, designer Ben Barrett-Forrest manages to condense all of this into a five minute long fun and informative stop motion animation about the history of fonts and typography, called… The History of Typography.

The short film starts out at Guttenberg and Blackletter, but manages to trace the history all the way through Futura, to pixel type and the technology that allows everyone to create their own typeface if they desire.

Barrett-Forrest used 291 paper letters, 2,454 photographs, and 140 hours of work to create the film.