YouTube announced a pretty big change to how it manages ads for longer videos across the platform. Effective immediately, the video streaming platform is turning post-roll ads on by default for all monetized videos that run over 10 minutes long.

This means any video over that length will automatically include these ads, unless you explicitly opt-out. 

The news came as part of the first news update of 2021 from YouTube’s Creator Insider channel. 

In the video, a YouTube representative tells creators:

“For monetizing creators, any videos over 10 minutes in length will automatically have post-roll ads turned on by default.”

What Are Post-Roll Ads?

When it comes to online videos and video advertising, there are essentially three different types of ads: pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll. 

Pre-roll ads run before your video ever starts. Mid-roll ads interrupt your content, similar to TV commercials appearing in the middle of your favorite show. Post-roll ads run after your video has completed. 

The obvious benefit to post-roll ads is that they are the least intrusive to the viewing experience. The viewer loses nothing by moving on to a different video.

Importantly, for any type of ad to be shown on your videos, you must have applied for and been accepted to the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). 

How This Might Affect You

With this change, all types of ads are now turned on by default. That means viewers will be shown ads before, during, and after your video.

Even if it is a 20-minute long video or longer, that can add up to be a whole lot of advertising for online audiences. 

This can cause burnout or frustration, potentially pushing viewers away from your channel over time. 

On their own, there is nothing inherently wrong with including post-roll ads on your videos. They may even become the preferred ad placement for many content creators. 

However, this change makes it more important than ever to strategically manage where ads will appear on your videos and take more active control of your advertising settings. 

If you’d like to find out more about post-roll ads or YouTube’s new ad policy, check out the Creator Insider video below:

I don’t think it is an overstatement to say that 2020 changed everything for businesses around the world – no matter what industry you are in. The spread of COVID-19 accelerated the migration of small and local businesses to the internet, making having an online presence no longer an option but a necessity. 

In turn, these changes have had a massive impact on digital marketing, driving a wave of new competition and seismic shifts in how we connect with customers every day. 

For better or worse, many of these changes are bound to stick around well into 2021, influencing the ways we shop, advertise, and connect with customers for the foreseeable future. 

With this in mind, predicting next year’s search trends is a little easier than it has been in the past, with some clear indicators of what businesses need to do to stay relevant and efficient in a post-COVID world. 

The 5 Online Marketing Trends You Need To Know In 2021

The Effects of COVID Will Linger

The most obvious trend brands will need to be prepared for in 2021 will continue to be the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While vaccinations are finally rolling out and we can be optimistic to relatively soon be returning to something resembling normality, it is also clear that many shopping habits and consumer behaviors are permanently changed. 

For example, virtual events and trade shows are all but guaranteed to stick around. Now only do they provide an easier and more affordable way to bring together top members of your industry from around the country, they do it without massively interrupting your day-to-day operations. 

Likewise, many customers will continue to prefer using online ordering and curbside pickup from local businesses out of convenience well after social distancing is a thing of the past. 

Social Media Purchasing Goes Mainstream

For years, social media has been a major tool for consumers to find and learn about new products they otherwise would have never known about. Recently, though, they have been expanding to allow shoppers to not just find products, but to buy them right then and there. 

The ease of going from discovering something cool to making a purchase without ever having to leave your current app is fueling a rush to provide the best social shopping experience and this trend is only going to get bigger in 2021. 

We Are Past Peak Facebook

Facebook has been the undeniable king of social media for more than a decade now, but the platform has been facing increasing challenges that are getting hard to deny. 

In sheer numbers, the social network still far outranks any other platform out there, but a growing number of its users are aging, with younger demographics turning to hipper alternatives like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. 

Add in the continuous issues with the spread of fake news, concerns about echo chambers, a relatively recent data breach scandal, and recent calls for the breakup of Facebook’s extended network of services (including Instagram and WhatsApp) – it quickly becomes clear Facebook is past its prime and is no longer the single platform you should be focusing on. 

Video Content Is The Standard

For the past few years, my year-end lists have consistently included one thing – video content has been increasingly important for brands looking to maintain effective marketing and outreach. 

Well, call 2020 the tipping point, because video content is no longer “on the rise”. It is the standard and it is here to stay. 

While blog content remains important for technical SEO and connecting audiences with some specific types of information, the data makes it very clear that consumers prefer the quick, digestible, and entertaining nature of videos over long, often repetitive blog posts. 

At this point, rather than clicking to your blog page shoppers are more likely to check out your YouTube and Instagram page when trying to find out the details of what you offer and why they should choose you over the competition. 

Mobile SEO Is Now an Oxymoron

Since Google introduced its “Mobile-First Search Index” the writing has been on the wall. Having a mobile-friendly website was no longer an option or convenience. Mobile-optimized websites were quickly becoming the first thing anyone – including search engines – were likely to see when checking out your brand. 

With the recent announcement that Google would be dropping all desktop-only websites from its primary index starting in March 2021, the final nail is being pounded into the coffin. To be included on search results from the biggest search engine in the world, your website must be compatible with all the current mobile-friendly standards. 

With all this in mind, the age of considering separate SEO tactics and strategies for mobile users is long gone. There is just “SEO” and you must plan for mobile users if you want to have a chance of succeeding. 


We are all hoping that 2021 is a little less chaotic and a bit smoother than the past year has been. Still, even if we have the most tranquil year in history, there are bound to be a number of surprising new twists and factors in how Google ranks websites and content for users. If you want to remain competitive in an increasingly digital world, it is important that you stay up to date with all the latest from Google and be prepared to respond. 

YouTube has introduced a major change to how it handles advertising which has many content creators, users, and advertisers outraged.

Breaking with its tradition of sharing ad revenue with the channels they are shown on, YouTube is beginning to show ads on channels which have not opted into monetization. 

This means that the channel creator did not approve the inclusion of ads and – perhaps most importantly – they will not receive any revenue from the placement of ads within their videos. 

Until now, video creators had to join the YouTube Partner Program and enable monetization in order for ads to be shown on videos across their channel.

This helped strike a balance where those who wanted could create their videos planning for the inclusion of ads while others could rely on sponsorships to generate revenue or simply not monetize their videos. 

All of this was introduced via a change to YouTube’s Terms of Service with very little communication to users and content creators. 

Right To Monetize

YouTube added a new section to its Terms of Services recently titled Right to Monetize which introduces the ability to advertise on any and all videos. 

In order to use YouTube, all users must agree to the Terms of Service, making it mandatory for uploading videos or even viewing and  engaging with videos. 

A brief selection of the new section largely lays out the changes taking place:

“You grant to YouTube the right to monetize your Content on the Service (and such monetization may include displaying ads on or within Content or charging users a fee for access). This Agreement does not entitle you to any payments.”

Although YouTube says it is starting slowly by rolling out ads to a small number of channels which have not joined the Partner Program, it will be hard to track how true this actually is. The company has chosen not to notify channels when ads begin appearing on their videos, so it is hard to gauge how widely the change has been implemented. 

While YouTube says channels which are not part of the Partner Program can apply for the program if they wish to receive revenue, it is also true that not everyone is eligible for the YouTube Partner Program. 

YouTube Partner Program Requirements

To be eligible for the YouTube Partner Program, channels have to meet a number of conditions. The biggest hurdles for most channels are the requirements stating you must have more than 4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months and more than 1,000 subscribers. Adult-oriented topics may also run into issues with content guidelines.

How This Affects Advertisers

The most obvious group affected by this change are small video creators who do not meet the requirements for the YouTube Partner Program but will have ads placed on their videos nonetheless or have opted to not include ads within their videos. 

However, the new ad policies may also have an effect on advertisers. If viewers receive a double-dose of advertising through an in-video sponsorship and mid-roll ad, they may be less likely to engage with either advertisement. 

Additionally, smaller channels may cover more niche topics or themes making it harder to properly target ads to that audience. 

Lastly, the revised rules on advertising may have an unintended consequence of driving more users to YouTube’s ad-free premium service, YouTube Red. This means that although YouTube would keep getting revenue, ads may actually have smaller reach than ever and drive less sales. 

As expected, the new rules have not been warmly received. Countless creators both big and small have uploaded videos decrying the new Terms of Service agreement, with some going as far as to announce they will be changing platforms or altogether boycotting YouTube.

For now it appears YouTube is sticking with the policy change, though there is always the possibility for the platform to amend or revise its agreement if negative response is widespread enough. 

Twitter is rolling out a new form of carousel ads which let you showcase between 2-6 images or videos in a single ad. 

According to the social network, the ads are particularly suited to helping businesses reach their advertising goal with a more immersive and interactive format which includes:

  • An edge-to-edge design
  • Third party measurement reporting
  • Accessibility support
  • New reporting features (such as swipes within the Carousel and breakdowns to measure individual Carousel card performance)

The ads have an edge on most other Twitter advertising formats because they allow you to approach an ad from a variety of different directions. You could highlight a variety of features and benefits of a single product, highlight a small collection of products, or tell a story about your brand. 

Why You Should Try Carousel Ads

Carousel ads have already proven to be a powerful tool on a number of other platforms including Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads. 

According to a Nielsen study cited by Twitter, using 3 or more assets in an ad format increases awareness by up to 20% and purchase intent by 7%.

Based on Twitter’s early testing of the ad format, that will continue to be true here. The company says carousel ads saw an average 15% increase in click-through rates compared to traditional single asset ad formats. 

Carousel ads for apps saw an even bigger boost, with an average 24% increase in installs.

Twitter Carousel Ads Best Practices

To help you get started, Twitter provided a set of recommendations and best practices for making the most out of carousel ads:

  • Use all of the available components: Including visuals, headlines, descriptions, and calls-to-action.
  • Tell a story: Craft a visual narrative with a beginning, middle, and end to keep viewers engaged.
  • Consider the audience: Show different product images to re-targeted customers than you would show to new, prospective customers.
  • Highlight the product and its benefits: The product should be visible and there should be clear, simple communication of benefit to the consumer.

Available Now To Everyone

The new ad format is available to all advertisers and marks a renewed effort by Twitter to create a more effective and enticing advertising platform:

“This investment in performance advertising also includes expanding the capabilities of our ad formats to enable advertisers with more options to show and tell their brand story, while providing a more intuitive, engaging experience for people on Twitter.”

Facebook announced a wave of new features this week for online advertisers and retailers heading into the holiday season. 

At the same time it revealed new product tags, new ways to target ads, and an experimental way to share online discounts, the social media giant also announced it was launching promotional tools and support for Black-owned businesses.

Let’s explore the array of new features for brands on Facebook and Instagram:

Product Tags For Instagram Ads

After more than a year of testing, Instagram is officially launching the ability to tag products in ads. Even better, the company has streamlined the process.Originally, advertisers had to make an organic post, tag your products, then promote that post. Now, you can create ads with product tags directly within the Ads Manager. 

When seen, product tags appear as white dots which can expand to reveal a range of details including the name of the product,and its price. 

Shopping Engagement Custom Audiences

Facebook announced a new type of audience targeting aimed at helping brands “reach people who’ve already shown interest in their product or brand by doing things like saving a product, viewing a shop, or initiating a purchase.”

Shopping Lookalike Audiences

Another new way to target audiences was announced, which allows you to reach shoppers with similar interests as your existing customers on Facebook and Instagram. 

Shopping Ad Discounts

Facebook is testing a new way to promote your sales and discounts directly in the Promotions tab within the Commerce Manager.

For example, you can highlight a discount on a specific set of products by grouping them together in product sets. 

At the moment, Facebook only allows you to run a few types of discounts – price reductions, minimum purchase requirement, and discounts using an offer code. 

#BuyBlack Friday

While the Covid pandemic has affected just about every business in America, black-owned businesses have been hit particularly hard. According to Facebook, more than 40% of black-owned businesses in America.

This is why Facebook is launching a new event every Friday through November 27. Every week, Facebook will be promoting #BuyBlackFriday across all its platforms, including publishing a gift guide and business directory of black-owned businesses. 

With many shoppers wary of facing crowded shopping malls and stores, most experts believe online shopping will shatter previous records this winter. Facebook is doing everything it can to make itself one of the premier choices for marketing, advertising, and ultimately selling your products.

The United States Department of Justice is filing a sweeping antitrust lawsuit against Google today. The suit comes after years of investigations and accusations that Google and it’s parent company Alphabet have unfairly stifled competition to maintain its leading place in online search. 

The complaints further allege that Google then used this leverage and dominant position to sell more search ads across its platform. 

The suit will be joined by 11 state attorneys general from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas. 

Some have pointed out that all involved attorneys generals are Republicans, though criticism of the search engine giant has been a bipartisan issue over the years. Democrats like Elizabeth Warren have called for similar lawsuits and breaking up the tech giant, and left-leaning states like California are reportedly pursuing similar investigations against the company. 

Notably, an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission in 2013 ended without charges, though a leaked document later revealed staff recommended a number of charges on several grounds. 

In the press conference, the DOJ said the search company has violated Section 2 of the Sherman Act by maintaining unlawful monopolies in markets for “general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising.”

Google has also received criticism for its anti-competitive practices, including over $9 billion in fines from the European Union. Still, this marks the first time similar charges have been filed in the company’s home country. 

Concerns About Anti Competitive Practices

The lawsuit focuses on a number of business moves made by Google over the years, including using massive contracts and agreements to block competition. 

For example, Google and Apple reached a multi-billion dollar agreement to use Google’s search engine as the default on Apple mobile devices, preventing users from using other search engines by default. 

Despite these factors many say the lawsuit is far from a cut-and-dry case and could stretch on for years. Meanwhile, it could also signal the start of an avalanche of legal problems for Google is other states follow suit.

The past six months have seen upheavals in just about every area of life, from schooling, to work, to our daily shopping habits. Now, a report from BrightEdge suggests these shifts are going to continue at unprecedented levels through the holiday shopping season. 

The report, based on an evaluation of eCommerce clients across a wide range of industries predicts a historic online holiday shopping season for a massive range of interests – emphasizing the need to start preparing now. 

What Changed

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many to do more online shopping this year. In-store shortages, quarantines, and general concern with public gatherings has made online shopping a go-to choice for both essentials and luxuries.

Interestingly, the analysis suggests that though shoppers are doing significantly more online shopping compared to 2019, the revenue per order remains relatively stable. 

The report offers two theories for why this shift is occurring:

“Here are our hypotheses:

1. Shoppers shifted purchasing behaviors online during the first few weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic and are more keenly aware of their budgets – refraining from placing big-ticket purchases online, while stocking up on more essential goods or affordable luxuries.

2. Shoppers started buying more frequently online after COVID-19, supplanting offline purchases. This would include the buy-online, pickup-curbside behavior that may include cheaper items that were previously always purchased in-store.”

Black Friday Goes Virtual

Another major factor contributing to the predicted surge in online shopping during the 2020 holiday shopping season is the cancellation of many Black Friday events. 

Not only does this mean consumers will be forced to look elsewhere for big deals, it is expected that many retailers will be pushing huge online sales for Black Friday to make up for lost revenue. It is also expected for Cyber Monday to gain an even higher profile this year. 

What You Can Do

With all these factors in mind, BrightEdge has one recommendation for brands trying to regain their footing this holiday season – invest in search engine optimization. 

As the report says:

“An impressive 60% of consumers have been shopping online more often since COVID-19, and of that group, 73% plan to continue after the pandemic. What digital marketers and SEOs have long known is finally coming to fruition: online shopping is convenient and easy. Now the trick is to make SEO important within your organization.”

Other Takeaways

In the conclusion of the report, BrightEdge offered a few key insights into the current behavior of online shopping and what they expect to see in the future:

  • “The research suggests that shoppers browse more frequently, leading to more purchases and overall revenue, though these purchases are smaller in value.
    This could be because shoppers are becoming more aware of their budgets – refraining from placing big-ticket purchases online while stocking up on more essential goods or affordable luxuries.
  • As we enter Q4 and the holiday shopping season, search is helping reveal radical changes in real-time.
  • The traditional customer journey is being radically altered in many industry sectors of the economy.  As a result, it has never been more important to truly understand how consumer behavior and use this understanding to drive engaging experiences.”

To view the full report, check out BrightEdge’s complete holiday shopping guide here.

Stories are perhaps the way to share content online these days, so it is only natural that Google has been hard at work preparing its own version of the short-form content. Many users have seen Google Stories in testing throughout its various incarnations, including “Amp Stories” in 2018.

This week, the company officially launched Google Web Stories within its Google app on both iOS and Android devices. 

Google Web Stories can be found in a new carousel shown at the top of the Discover tab, presenting several short video, photo, or audio posts from users and publishers around the world. 

When clicked, stories will expand to a full-screen view where users can click through to your website or swipe to the next story in the carousel. 

Brands and publishers will also be able to monetize, host, share, and add links to their Stories with integration for WordPress, MakeStories, and NewsroomAI. You can even manually code a Google Web Story entirely from scratch. 

6 Rules For Making Google Web Stories

Along with the official release of Google Web Stories, the company has published a set of rules for the format. According to the guidelines, also Stories including the following types of content are prohibited:

  1. Copyrighted Content – Overall, Google is taking a relatively loose stance with what types of content can appear in Stories, especially with regards to copyrighted content. Specifically, the company says it “may” remove content that infringes on an existing copyright or links to a webpage with similar issues. 
  2. Too Long – Google is designing its Stories specifically with short-form content in mind, as such, it may block longer content. To ensure your Story gets shown, keep text down to 180 words or less, and videos a maximum of 60 seconds long. 
  3. Low Quality – You don’t need to have expensive cameras and high-end lighting to create a Story, but you do need at least a smartphone with a decent camera. Videos or images with large amounts of pixelation or distortion are prohibited. 
  4. Lack of Narrative or Theme – Google Web Stories are expected to be just that – “Stories.” They should have a narrative or at least a general theme as users go from page to page. 
  5. Incomplete Stories – While you can link to your site at the end of a story, Google warns against making users click through your site to see the entire content. Your Web Stories must be a complete package on their own.
  6. Overly Commercial Content – Brands can publish Web Stories and even convert some display ads to the format. However, the content must still provide a story or message. Content that is entirely commercial (i.e., being a simple billboard-style ad) is not allowed within the format.

Instagram is making it easier for small businesses to get the most out of Instagram Shops with a new mini-site full of resources, guides, and set-up tools. 

Instagram Shops is a free way for businesses to set up an online store and complete sales on one of the most popular social networks.

While Shops require third-party e-commerce parties to handle payment, they make it possible for people to complete the entire purchase without ever needing to leave the Instagram app – making the entire process seamless. 

Since Instagram Shops only launched in May, many businesses may not even know Instagram Shops exist or how to get in on the action for themselves. So, Instagram took the step of putting as many resources in one place as possible to help get started. 

‘The Season For Shops’

The new mini-site is called ‘The Season for Shops’ and caters to brands trying out Instagram Shops for the first time. 

The most important features include:

Setting Up Shop

First and foremost, this guide provides step-by-step instructions for setting up your storefront, including signing up for and connecting accounts across platforms.

Help Guides

Once you’ve got your shop set up, these guides will help you take the next step to make your products easy to browse and purchase. 

Tagging Products

Tagging products in your feed posts, stories, and streams allows people to immediately browse and buy your products as soon as they see them. This is key for making it convenient to go from scrolling through your feed to clicking buy.

To help you get started tagging your products effectively, The Season for Shops site has two guides available:

  • Start Tagging: A 19-page guide with detailed information on the variety of product tag types.
  • Tag With Purpose: A simple guide to the do’s and don’ts of tagging.

Collections

Another important way to make your products easy to browse is by grouping related products into Collections. 

This allows users to browse through your products like any category on your store website. It can also gather related themes like “beach outfits” or “rainy day apparel”.

Find out how to make the most of collections with an 8-page guide outlining all the details and tricks you can use. 

Shopping Ads

Want to take your shop to the next level? By investing a bit of money for shopping ads, you can share your products with a wider audience and increase the chance of finding new customers. 

This can be as simple or complicated as you want to make it, with simple “boosts” which amplify the number of people who see your store or targeted ads which specifically connect with those most likely to purchase. 

As such, Instagram released three guides explaining everything from the basics to more advanced shopping ad strategies:

  • Holiday Shopping Ads Strategy: A simple motivational guide with ideas for advertising in the upcoming holiday season.
  • Set Up Shopping Ads: A 9-page “get started” guide with information explaining what shopping ads are, how to set them up, and how to monitor your results.
  • Custom Shopping Audiences: This 7-page guide details how to target your ads to specific audiences of ideal buyers. 

To check out all the guides for yourself, explore the ‘Season for Shops’ mini-site here.

Google is making several tweaks to its shopping-related search results to make it easier to find the products you want locally and choose the pickup method you are most comfortable with. 

As the country gradually returns to our normal in-store shopping habits, many are making adjustments to ensure the safest trips to the store. 

For example, Google says that searches for “curbside pickup” and “safe shopping” have increased tenfold over the past few months and remain heightened. 

Making this more difficult, many businesses remain closed after mandatory shutdowns have passed, while others are struggling with inventory due to shipping disruptions around the world. 

With all this in mind, Google has announced three significant updates to shopping search results which make it easier for shoppers to know who’s open, what’s in stock, and how they can most safely make a purchase. 

Filter By What’s Available Locally

When looking for a specific type of product, searchers can now limit their search results to only products available nearby. 

This can be done in two different ways. 

  • Users can tap on the “Nearby” filter when looking at results within the Shopping tab.
  • Users can add “near me” to product searches to automatically find products available nearby.

“Want to see an item in person before purchasing, or can’t wait for shipping and delivery?

Whatever you’re looking for, whether it’s a new laptop for working from home, a baby jacket for fall or a grill for backyard barbeques, Google makes it easy for you to see what’s available locally.”

Compare Local Hours, Locations, and Inventory

Making a trip to the store only to discover they are out of what you are looking for or the store is closed was already frustrating before the COVID-19, epidemic. 

To help solve this issue, Google is making it easier to compare the stock of local shops and see which businesses are open now. 

These details will be shown when searching “[product] near me” in a carousel of images and pricing details.

Find Convenient and Safe Pickup

Since the onset of the pandemic, Google has been prioritizing retailers who offer safe pickup options including contactless delivery or curbside pickup. 

Now, the company is introducing new ways to find safe purchase options with new labels in shopping searches. 

Along with these details, the listings will include a direct link to Maps directions so you can quickly and easily find the stores nearby. 

At the same time, Google emphasizes that calling to speak with someone is the most accurate way to check the inventory of products in real-time.