Google says it is walking back a significant recent redesign of its desktop search results after widespread negative reaction.

Earlier this month, the company released an update which brought desktop search results closer to the current mobile results, including changing how ads appeared in the results.

However, many said the change made it difficult to distinguish between paid advertisements and organic search results.

This isn’t the first time Google has been accused of making it difficult to tell ads from organic results, however it is the first time the company has agreed to backtrack on the changes.

In a Tweet, the company said: “Last week we updated the look of Search on desktop to mirror what’s been on mobile for months. We’ve heard your feedback about the update. We always want to make Search better, so we’re going to experiment with new placements for favicons.”

Despite the negative response, Google says initial tests of the change were positive and cited the warm response to similar mobile search results designs.

Read the full statement below:

“We’re dedicated to improving the desktop experience for Search, and as part of our efforts we rolled out a new design last week, mirroring the design that we’ve had for many months on mobile. The design has been well received by users on mobile screens, as it helps people more quickly see where information is coming from and they can see a prominent bolded ad label at the top. Web publishers have also told us they like having their brand iconography on the search results page. While early tests for desktop were positive, we are always incorporating feedback from our users. We are experimenting with a change to the current desktop favicons, and will continue to iterate on the design over time.”

Twitter is launching a unique new ad unit which lets brands take over a section of the Explore tab – giving you massive reach with nearly every Twitter user.

The Explore tab is where users can find the latest trending topics and other popular Tweets, making it one of the most visited sections of the site.

In fact, Twitter users might recognize the Promoted Trend Spotlight ads as the same ad format used by Disney shortly before the launch of Disney+. The media giant was given early access to the ad format to help drive early awareness of their streaming platform.

Twitter Promoted Trend Spotlight Ad

While the ad format has now been expanded to all advertisers in the US, UK, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, and Thailand. However, running the ad still requires contacting a Twitter Partner to ensure consistently high-quality ads on such a prominent area of the site and manage scheduling.

When running a Promoted Trend Spotlight, all users who visit the Explore tab on a given day will see the ad on their first two visits to the tab. After those two visits, they can still see the ad in the standard Promoted Trend ad placement.

Based on their own early data, Twitter says the new ads are a powerful tool to get more attention to your ad and better drive awareness:

“[P]eople spent 26% more time looking at the Promoted Trend Spotlight as compared to the standard Promoted Trend unit. These longer dwell times generated impact throughout the funnel: from +113% higher ad recall and +18% higher brand consideration to +67% lift in stated likelihood to use a brand in the future. In addition, according to internal Twitter data, people were three times more likely to click through an ad in the Spotlight unit than the standard Promoted Trend.”

 

YouTube is rolling out new privacy restrictions which affect how creators can advertise or use data from children under the age of 13.

The new policies are in response to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which bars companies from collecting data from children under the age of 13.

Although this policy has been in place for some time, Google and YouTube were found to be noncompliant  by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and given a hefty fine in 2019.

What This Means For YouTube

The most notable change for the platform in the is that targeted ads will no longer be shown with videos aimed at children – no matter the viewer’s age.

To better comply with COPPA regulations, YouTube will now treat all personal data from anyone viewing videos aimed at children as coming from a child. As such, the company is also unable to show any form of targeted ads.

As for what exactly constitutes children’s content, YouTube says:

“According to the FTC, a video is made for kids if it is intended for kids, taking into consideration a variety of factors. These factors include the subject matter of the video, whether the video has an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys or games, and more.”

While some channels have “self-identified” themselves as being children’s content in their channel settings, YouTube will also use machine learning to identify other content intended for children.

What If You Are Wrongly Affected

The biggest concern for many brands and advertisers since the announcement of this policy is how it will affect those who could be wrongly identified as “children’s content”. For example, many gaming-related channels are not inherently targeted at children but could be labeled as “children’s content” under YouTube’s new policies.

Now, YouTube says creators will be able to override YouTube’s decision to label content as being for children so long as they do not detect signs of abuse. This means creators will be able to continue showing targeted ads and receiving revenue from them so long as they are clearly not aimed specifically at children.

Google has been slowly shifting its online customer support from social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to solely using an online form. Now, the company is making it final.

Starting on January 1, 2020, Google says that it will no longer provide support through direct messaging on Google Ads’ Facebook and Twitter accounts. Instead, customers seeking support will be directed to the online support form.

Why This Matters

In the past, many brands and advertisers had preferred to receive support through Google Ads’ social pages because they tended to be quick and allowed for easy clarification of issues that could arise.

The company says the decision to eliminate these support options was intended to streamline the process and improve security or spam risks.

“Customer security and success is paramount. Due to the growing global concern around spam and phishing, we are making an effort to resolve all Google product customer questions via 1:1 communication through direct email, phone or chat,” a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land. “Streamlining these channels will provide faster and more secure responses for all global customers.”

It should be noted that while Google will first direct customers to an online form, this tool then provides a number of ways to contact the company including by phone or email.

Instagram is cracking down on influencers and brands publishing content relating to a few controversial topics.

While the company has had policies restricting branded content related to vaping, tobacco products, and weapons, the company is introducing a new policy which will more vigorously enforce these restrictions.

 

The ramp up of enforcement will come over the coming weeks, giving brands and influencers a small amount of time to plan their future marketing efforts.

Instagram also says it will be enacting more rules related to branded content promoting alcohol and diet supplements in the coming year.

Details on the initiative are limited, but the company says it is building new tools to help enforce age-based content restrictions which will help creators ensure adult content is not seen by minors.

While the site may be restricting a few types of branded content, the company says its overall goal is to help creators grow and connect more with their audiences.

As the policy announcement concludes:

“Creators on Instagram are a vital part of our community, and we will be investing even more resources in 2020 to help them build their businesses on Instagram.”

If there is anything that has remained true about online marketing over the past decade, it is that online marketing is always changing. Even the most conservative estimates suggest that Google makes around 9 changes to their search engine algorithm every day.

To stay ahead of the curve, businesses can’t just understand where online marketing and SEO is today. They have to be able to look forward to predict the next wave of updates they can expect in the coming months and years.

With that in mind, I wanted to spend some time today talking about some of the biggest trends you can expect to see in 2020 and beyond:

1) Snippets Become The New “Number 1 on Google”

For years, Google has been using Featured Snippets to highlight quick information that may answer your query without ever having to click on a search result. You can see these when you search for recipes, look for lyrics to your favorite songs, or ask questions with relatively simple answers like “How big is the sun?”

Brands have long avoided targeting these snippets which typically appear above all other search results, believing that they reduce the chance of a person clicking onto their website or otherwise converting. However, growing evidence suggests snippets actually drive higher click-through rates and engagement by quickly establishing a single site as the authority.

Over the next year, the competition for these snippets is likely to continue rising, making them the next big fight for search engine results dominance.

2) Mobile Really Comes First

We’ve been talking about this moment for years. We officially use our smartphones and tablets to access the internet more desktop devices.

As such, Google has announced that its ‘Mobile-First Index” would become its primary search index. That means Google is now looking at the mobile version of your site before it ever considers the desktop version when ranking search results.

With this in mind, having a stripped-down mobile version of your site or not having a mobile site is no longer a viable option if you want to succeed online.

Site speed will also continue to be a major ranking factor because of its importance when accessing sites on the go from mobile devices.

3) Visual Search Gets Serious

Visual search has existed as a novelty in online marketing for some time now, slowly improving with each iteration. Now, we are reaching the point where visual search is becoming a major player in search.

While we don’t have statistics from Google Lens or Bing’s Visual Search, Pinterest’s Lens has been a revealing foray into the viability of visual search.

Within a single year of launch, Pinterest Lens was receiving more than 600 million visual search queries every month. This September, the company announced the tool was able to identify over 2.5 billion unique objects within the fashion and home industries.

With this in mind, it is easy to imagine a day in the near future when people regularly find it easier to snap a quick picture than come up with a precise text query when trying to find a specific item online.

4) Voice Search

Speaking of convenience, people are quickly turning to their Alexas, Echos, Siris, and Dots for their casual search needs – whether it is checking the weather or quickly ordering a product.

Out of all the coming changes, this may have the largest effect on how brands optimize their websites and content. This is because voice queries tend to be almost completely different than the types of queries we make when typing into a browser form.

With some estimates suggesting voice search could account for nearly half of all searches by the end of 2020, brands will have to begin optimizing for more conversational “long-tail” search queries and the unique capabilities of voice assistants.

5) Video Rules The Content Landscape

This is another online marketing trend that has been growing for years, but shows absolutely no signs of slowing down in the coming years.

The simple truth is that videos are more engaging than almost any other form of media, providing both audio and visual information in a quickly consumable package. Thanks to faster internet speeds and improved search indexing, they have also been an increasingly effective tool for sharing your content and driving actual engagement.

To give you an idea, some statistics suggest that videos can increase engagement by more than 80% compared to sharing the same information in simple text or audio clips.

Despite this, many brands have still avoided investing in video marketing because they believe it is inherently expensive or ineffective in local markets. Ironically, most users say they often enjoy videos shot using “authentic” methods like shooting selfie-style using a smartphone as much or more than slickly produced commercial videos.

 

Waiting for the “next big thing” to blow up before you jump in is a surefire way to always be a step behind your competition online. You don’t have to invest in every whim or indulgence of the digital marketing landscape, but focusing on these five surefire trends is sure to have you starting 2020 at the head of the pack.

Snapchat is launching a new format for video ads called Extended Play Commercials which allows advertisers to run ads up to three minutes long.

The video ads are skippable after six seconds and will be shown as mid-roll ads – similar to how Snapchat handles shorter ads.

The goal behind Extended Play Commercials is to let advertisers tell longer, more engaging stories to users who are already actively engaged with the platform. As the company tells AdWeek, Snapchat believes these ads will help capture a greater share of the video ad market:

“The company believes the flexibility that extended play commercials provides to video advertisers will help it gain more share of the overall online video advertising market.“

While the new ad format is currently only available in closed beta, advertisers can request access by making a request through Ads Manager or contacting a Snapchat advertising representative.

David Router, Snapchat’s VP of Global Agency Partnerships, says the ads are a great way for advertisers to connect with shoppers this holiday season:

“We’re committed to building high-impact, long-form video ad formats, and extended play commercials are a great option for online video and TV buyers. Heading into the holidays, this format is a powerful new way to reach our Generation Z and millennial audience in Snapchat’s premium, brand safe Discover content.”

Facebook is using machine learning to launch a number of new personalization features for advertisers, as the company recently announced.

The goal is to make it easier for brands and advertisers to customize ads for their potential customers without having to create several distinct ads.

Dynamic Ad Formats and Ad Creative

When using Facebook’s Dynamic Ads, brands will be able to us the company’s machine learning model to predict a user’s ad format preference and deliver the best ad for their taste. This helps guarantee the best chance of catching users’ attention and driving clicks or conversions.

“The dynamic formats and ad creative solution aims to meet people where they are in the customer journey by delivering a personalized version of the ad to everyone who sees it,” Facebook said.

Multiple Optimized Text Options  In Single-Media Ads

The company has been testing a method for delivering responsive ads with multiple options for ad text, headlines, and descriptions for months, and is now officially launching the feature.

With this feature, advertisers can set a number of unique ad descriptions, headlines, or primary texts which are then selected by Facebook’s machine learning model based on users’ preferences.

Auto-Translated Ads

Lastly, the company announced that advertisers can select languages for their ad to be automatically translated into when using Ads Manager. By automatically,

As the company announced:

By using the “add languages” feature, advertisers can reach their international customers with messages in the local language quickly and efficiently. This helps advertisers save on resources to produce their own translations for key languages, while giving them controls to review and provide their own translations

Why It Matters

These features all work to speed up the process of creating ads for a wide range of users and audiences. Using signals directly from users, the company is able to deliver the best version of your ad for each user and create the best chance for your ads to convert every time they are shown.

Google announced this week it is bringing ad extensions – similar to those that appear in search ads – to YouTube ads.

The new extensions expand the capabilities of traditional ads by offering unique call-to-actions or additional information for users.

Specifically, the new YouTube ad extensions allow advertisers to include directions to brick-and-mortar store locations, show lead generation forms, or use a number of CTAs that better fit your niche.

Currently, the extensions are only available for TrueView in-stream or non-skippable video ads, though the company says it will be expanding the feature to 6-second bumper ads later this year.

Google is already exploring ways to bring more ad extensions for YouTube’s TrueView ads, and will continue to do so in the future.

For example, the company is already beta testing sitelink ad extensions which would add a series of relevant links underneath a video ad.

In the announcement, Google says the new features are aimed at driving more clicks and conversions. In a beta test with 30 advertisers, extensions like sitelinks increased conversions by more than 20% and doubled the number of clicks.

Google says it will be rolling out a new ad extension aimed specifically at driving leads for your business in the coming weeks.

The ads look similar to typical search ads with a unique call-to-action. If a user clicks on that CTA, they are taken to a form which can be quickly pre-filled with contact information from their Google account or manually entered.

In the announcement, Google says lead form ad extensions can:

“Capture interest when potential customers are searching for your company, products, or services on Google. A fast, mobile-optimized experience makes form submission easy and eliminates the extra step of navigating to your mobile site lead form.”

Based on their own testing, Google says one advertiser improved their closing rate for sales leads by 20% by using lead form extensions.

While the feature is currently limited to beta testers, it will become available to all Google Ads advertisers in the next few weeks. However, the ad extensions will not be available for advertisers in a few select areas.

Lead form extensions will not be eligible for ads relating to:

  • Adult-oriented content
  • Alcohol-related content
  • Gambling-related content
  • Healthcare and medicines
  • Political content

For more information about lead ad extensions, check out Google’s new help center document here.