Film Camera

Source: Flickr

One of the most hated forms of internet advertising are videos that auto-play when you open a webpage. You might be surfing the internet, listening to some music, and suddenly the voice from an ad starts clashing with the song or blaring in the middle of a library. Yet these ads are all over the internet and Facebook has decide to make them a part of your News Feed. Are you cringing? Well, don’t worry. They made one important tweak which will make the experience much less annoying.

The social media giant announced today that they will begin testing News Feed video ads that auto-play when you scroll over them. The testing is going to be for a limited number of accounts during the test, but the ads will be very similar to the way user videos are shown in the feed. Search Engine Journal notes that Facebook began recrafting their video experience in September, making changes to make the experience more similar to Instagram. All you have to do is scroll past the video and it begins playing without a single click.

So what keeps these videos from being a huge annoyance? The videos don’t have sound unless you click to unmute it or expand the video you want to see. Facebook is keeping this functionality for their ads, so user experience won’t be disrupted by the tidal wave of ads playing over each other as you scroll down your feed. You can also bet advertisers will be crafting their ads around this functionality.

Facebook explained they don’t intend this format to be used for every video ad, and it is entirely different from promoting a post with a video in it. From their announcement:

This premium feature is specifically designed for awareness campaigns that are meant to reach a large number of people to increase interest in a brand, product or content, in a short period of time. Page post video ads can then come into play to sustain the message of this initial campaign over longer time periods, in more targeted ways.

Currently, the video ad units will only be shown from a limited number of individuals and pages, such as sports organizations or entertainers. Facebook also heavily stressed that the ads are currently only a test and the brand will make long term decisions based on what is learned from the test.

Facebook MemeWhen the news broke of Facebook’s updates to their News Feed, advertisers everywhere scrambled to analyze the changes. Well, it appears we got it a bit wrong. One of the most reported elements of the updates aimed at “rewarding high-quality content” focused on the supposed removal of memes from user feeds, but it doesn’t appear that is actually the case.

Facebook really is revamping how they judge the quality of the content they deliver to users, but Facebook’s News Feed Manager Lars Backman gave some insight to the changes and denies there is an attack on memes during a recent interview with AllThingsD. Instead, Backman says it is a broader effort “to provide user value” in the News Feed.

The most interesting aspect of the interview actually says Facebook isn’t differentiating different forms of content for the most part. As Backman told Peter Kafka:

Are you paying attention to the source of the content? Or is it solely the type of content?

Right now, it’s mostly oriented around the source. As we refine our approaches, we’ll start distinguishing more and more between different types of content. But, for right now, when we think about how we identify “high quality,” it’s mostly at the source level.

So something that comes from publisher X, you might consider high quality, and if it comes from publisher Y, it’s low quality?


However, while this sums up Facebook’s approach overall, Backman did say there is a specific type of content they are trying to do away with, but it isn’t memes. Instead, Facebook is attacking the types of content that blatantly begs for likes or shares, such as Like this if you are having a good day!

So, when the text or photo has a call to action, those posts naturally do much better. And in a traditional feed ranking, where we’re evaluating just on the number of likes, those things all did very well.

In a way, Facebook is simply leveling the playing field, because those types of content offered very little to users aside from surface level interaction, but they were consistently doing very well on likes and shares which were making them more visible. However, if your user base responds well to the average meme, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them as a part of your content.

OldSpice BabyEvery brand wants their commercials to go viral, but how do you connect with viewers on the internet? It might seem like common knowledge, but the best way to get users searching for your commercial is comedy. At least, according to Bing Ads’ list of most searched for ad campaigns it is.

Just as with their recent list of 2013 search trends, Bing Ads has put together the most searched for ad campaigns of the last year, as well as the most popular brand searches on Bing in 2013. Perhaps unsurprisingly Old Spice took top billing with its “Baby” as starring Terry Crews, as well as their more surreal “Watermelon” ad, viewable below.

Despite mostly dominating the top 10, humor wasn’t the only thing internet viewers looked for in commercials. The third most popular commercial was from Skype’s “Stay Together” campaign, and GoPro’s “Fireman Saves Kitten” also closed out the list. Notably, two of the ads – Chrysler Ram Truck’s ad and GoDaddy’s “The Kiss” – originally appeared during this year’s Super Bowl.

Bing Ad’s Most Searched Advertising Campaigns of 2013

  1. ‘Baby’ and ‘Watermelon’ – OldSpice
  2. Baby & Me – Evian
  3. Stay Together – Skype
  4. Show Your Joe – Kmart
  5. Hump Day – Geico
  6. The Kiss: Bar Rafaeli’s Perfect Match! – GoDaddy
  7. ‘Grandma’ and ‘Werewolf’ – AT&T
  8. Test Drive – Pepsi MAX
  9. The Year of the Farmer – Chrysler Ram Truck
  10. Fireman Saves Kitten – GoPro

Bing didn’t stop with just the most popular ad campaigns though. They also collected the most searched for brands of the year, organized by their market. Ebay was the most popular shopping network, followed by Amazon, while Ford came out the winner for automobiles. You can see the rest below:

Most Searched For Brands 2013

The holiday shopping season is currently at a fever pitch, where it will likely stay until Dec. 26th, and more and more consumers are using the internet to aid their purchases. Online shopping isn’t new, but the prevalence of smartphones has made it easier than ever to turn to the internet to find what you need and shoppers aren’t shy about consulting the web before any purchase.

But, how does this affect shopping patterns and what are these consumers looking for exactly? If your brand is online, chances are you want to capitalize on the huge amount of online shoppers both at home and those using their smartphones while they shop. Unfortunately, a new survey from Search Engine Land and SurveyMonkey suggests this may be harder for smaller brands to do than anticipated.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that many online shoppers are looking for well known brands, but it might raise your eyebrows to learn it is the most important factor to many shoppers. The survey conducted on November 21-22 of this year shows that 70% of shoppers are focused on finding brands they are already familiar with. The only other factor which received over 50% of the response was free shopping.

The good news is this doesn’t spell the end for local businesses trying to grow their brand during the commerce season. Location and reviews still made a strong showing in the results, as did sales. Many shoppers also focused on retailers who offer images and easily viewable prices for their products.

Smaller brands can also take some solace in knowing the survey was limited to a relatively small sample size of roughly 400 Americans using SurveyMonkey Audience. You can see a chart of the results below.

Online Shopping Survey Graphic

Source: Search Engine Land / SurveyMonkey

Paid ads on social media are becoming more and more prevalent, to the extent that Facebook finally admitted recently that businesses will be practically forced to pay for brand outreach on their platform. Which makes it so surprising that Google+ had, until recently, strayed away from paid advertising. But, the search engine giant may have had an ace up their sleeve this entire time as they have recently unveiled their form of promoted posts, called “+Post” and it is a doozy.

Most aspects of +Post are extactly what you have come to expect from paid advertising on social networks. A brand pays for priumium placement of a post, and more users are shown the ad. It is a simple model which has worked for numerous other social media platforms. What makes +Post different is where the ads will be shown.

The majority of social media networks are only able to show promoted posts on their social media platform. Facebook promoted posts show up in your Newsfeed, “Promoted Pins” will be appearing on Pinterest soon, and Instagram is rolling out their own curated form of promoted posting to ensure ads fit their market and the style of Instagram. But, Google+ is connected to something much larger: all of Google’s network and products. So, +Post will have a massively larger reach than other social networks’ forms of paid advertising.

As Google explains:

+Post ads amplify your brand’s content by easily turning Google+ posts into display ads that run across the web. The live, social ad format allows you to go beyond clicks to live conversations with your audience. People can join a Hangout On Air, add a comment, follow your brand or give a +1, right from an ad.

+Post Screenshot

This is an incredibly smart move for the search engine, as Google+ is still struggling to find a larger active user base, and the advertising model may drive more users to their social platform. The +Post ads act like regular posts in Google+ no matter where they are displayed, which effectively bleeds Google+ into all other aspects of Google (more so than before).

In Google’s own words:

Ads become more relevant with social context. Comments, +1s, and shares from friends can move people to engage with your ad. Social actions on ads and Google+ add up together, showing the full picture of engagement with your content. +Post ads expand in a lightbox to bring full screen social creatives across the web.

Jessica Lee from Search Engine Watch reports a few brands have gotten to try out +Post before the announcement, specifically Toyota who was used for Google’s promo video:

Google has been making a move towards providing searchers more lengthy and thorough content in recent history. They estimate that roughly 10 percent of all searches call for in-depth article information and they have been aiming to make those types of sources more available, especially when it may be more relevant for users.

The first big move came a couple months ago, back in August. The search engine launched an update to include in-depth articles for relevant searches, with a special block of articles at the bottom of the search results page.

Now, Google has expanded the in-depth articles section so that users can view even more comprehensive articles by adding a new link which reads “More in-depth articles” beneath the initial selection of sources. Clicking that link shows 10 more articles on the same page. A screenshot of the update is below:

In-Depth Article Update Screenshot

The latest update also implemented the ability to explore related topics with an explore section next to articles which may be connected to other keywords. Search Engine Land notes that you can also search exclusively for in-depth articles by adding &ida_m=1 to the end of your search URL.

Currently this new feature doesn’t have much impact on the content your brand creates, but the trend could have huge implications for the future of search and Google’s focus. For now the majority of searches call for less extensive results, but eventually longer and more detailed content could be hugely rewarding for those willing to put in the effort.

Google is attempting to bridge the gap between apps and normal internet use, and it appears their first step is to make apps part of the search results for Android users. When logged in, you will also be able to see what apps you have and search the content within them.

“Starting today, Google can save you the digging for information in the dozens of apps you use every day, and get you right where you need to go in those apps with a single search. Google Search can make your life a little easier by fetching the answer you need for you – whether it’s on the web, or buried in an app,” Scott Huffman, VP of engineering, announced on Google’s Inside Search blog.

Google App Search Graphic

These results won’t be ads for apps. Instead, when the best results for a query come from an app, Google Search will include the app in the result and make it easy to download or access. If you already have the app, you will just have to touch “Open in app” and you will be taken to the relevant content.

The app results will be grouped together, so don’t expect them to hurt many sites’ rankings or visibility. These results are just another option added for user convenience.
Currently only a few apps are compatible with the Open in App feature, including:

  • AllTrails
  • Allthecooks
  • Beauytylish
  • Etsy
  • Expedia
  • Flixster
  • Healthtap
  • IMDb
  • Moviefone
  • Newegg
  • OpenTable
  • Trulia
  • Wikipedia

“This is just one step toward bringing apps and the web together, making it even easier to get the right information, regardless of where it’s located,” Huffman wrote.

Search Engine Watch reports the new ability is currently limited to English version users of Android 2.3 or higher within the United States.

Hacker Code

Social media users around the world have reason to be concerned as nearly two million login credentials have been found online by security researchers this week. The credentials included those for the largest social media platforms including Facebook, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Researchers from Trustwave’s SpiderLabs division posted a blog post reporting the information they found online after using the source code of a botnet controller, a controller for a collection of internet-connected programs, called Pony.

With that data the researchers were able to trace information connected to data-stealing capabilities and they discovered a massive collection of passwords from many of the biggest websites and social media services. In total 1.58 million website login details were stolen, along with 320,000 email account credentials, 41,000 FTP logins, and 3,000 Remote Desktop credentials.

The researchers believe the attack came from the Netherlands, based on a proxy server there which was operating as an intermediary between infected machines and the overseeing command-and-control server botnet.

“This technique of using a reverse proxy is commonly used by attackers in order to prevent the command-and-control server from being discovered and shut down. Outgoing traffic from an infected machine only shows a connection to the proxy server, which is easily replaceable in case it is taken down,” they wrote.

“While this behaviour is interesting in and of itself, it does prevent us from learning more about the targeted countries in this attack, if there were any.”

While they were at it, the researchers took the time to analyze the data and see what the most common passwords were. The results are depressingly unsurprising.

The most used password was the standard 123456 password, with 15,820 accounts using the simple code. The second and third most used passwords were variations on this, with 123456789 and 1234 filling the respective slots. ‘Password’ was the fourth most common password, and 12345 came in fifth. Sadly, it seems many will never learn to start using more difficult passwords.

Mobile Ad Impressions

Android phones may be outselling the iPhone, but proof that iOS users are more engaged with their devices just keeps coming. The latest confirmation that iPhone users are on their devices more often with more engaged usage comes from a third-quarter “Global AdMetrics” report from mobile DSP and ad buying platform Adfonic. Their study claims that in Q3, on a global basis, Android and Apple devices accounted for 95 percent of all add impressions on mobile devices.

However, Apple and Android weren’t as close as you would normally think. Apple claimed nearly two-thirds of all mobile ad impressions, while Android only received 32 percent, a 6 percent decline from the previous quarter. This wouldn’t be so interesting, except Android has a huge advantage over Apple in the global market share. According to Greg Sterling at Marketing Land, around 80 percent of all global smartphone shipments in Q3 were Android devices.

Previous reports have shown that iPhone users are more likely to purchase, spend more time with their devices, and are more engaged with their device when using it. It is obvious that there is a large difference between the types of people purchasing mobile devices, and their needs certainly aren’t uniform. Android may have the lead on sales, but it can be assumed that many of their customers simply choose an Android phone without the intention to utilize all of its capabilities, while iPhone users are more likely to desire a phone they can rely on for all of their mobile and online needs.

Google is making it easier for webmasters to identify and address smartphone specific errors they might not have known about in the past. Previously, detecting and fixing errors that happen on smartphone errors was complicated, so the search engine added a section to the crawl errors report in Webmaster Tools that displays the more common errors Google sees webmasters make in regards to how mobile users access their site.

Pierre Far, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst announced the feature earlier today, saying that some of the errors may “significantly hurt your website’s user experience and are the basis of some of our recently-announced ranking changes for smartphone search results.” While Google is trying to help make it easier for webmasters to solve problems with their site, the search engine is also using this as another means to push webmasters towards making their sites more mobile friendly.

The new report for smartphone errors looks like this:

Smartphone Errors

Some of the errors included are:

  • Server errors: A server error is when Googlebot got an HTTP error status code when it crawled the page.
  • Not found errors and soft 404’s: A page can show a “not found” message to Googlebot, either by returning an HTTP 404 status code or when the page is detected as a soft error page.
  • Faulty redirects: A faulty redirect is a smartphone-specific error that occurs when a desktop page redirects smartphone users to a page that is not relevant to their query. A typical example is when all pages on the desktop site redirect smartphone users to the homepage of the smartphone-optimized site.
  • Blocked URLs: A blocked URL is when the site’s robots.txt explicitly disallows crawling by Googlebot for smartphones. Typically, such smartphone-specific robots.txt disallow directives are erroneous. You should investigate your server configuration if you see blocked URLs reported in Webmaster Tools.

Not only are these errors capable of ruining the user experience for visitors on mobile devices, they can severely damage your site’s visibility if you don’t resolve the issues quickly. At least now there is a convenient way for you to find the problems.