LinkedIn will begin showing all the sponsored content an advertiser has run within the past six months in an “Ads” tab on the associated LinkedIn pages.

The company announced the change this week as part of an effort to bring more transparency to advertising across the platform:

“At LinkedIn, we are committed to providing a safe, trusted, and professional environment where members can connect with each other, engage with relevant content, and grow their careers. Increased transparency to both our customers and members is critical to creating this trusted environment.”

When viewing an advertiser’s page, users will be able to click the “Ads” tab to view every ad that company has run in the past six months.

Users can also click on the ads as they typically would, but the advertiser will not be charged, nor will it impact campaign reporting.

Obviously, the tab won’t include any of the information behind the ads, like who they targeted or the budget for that campaign.

In my eyes, this seems like a reason to ensure your LinkedIn advertising is consistently high-quality, with the upside that high-performing ads have a chance to lead to sales without having to pay for those ad clicks.

A new study focusing on small businesses in the US reveals that a huge number of small brands are working without any sort of plan for their marketing.

The survey from Outbound Engine asked 350 small and medium business (SMB) owners about a number of areas, including revenue growth, stress, their biggest hurdles, their marketing strategies, and more.

Of the business owners surveyed, approximately half of all SMB owners do not have a marketing plan for 2019 and are unlikely to create one.

Small Business Marketing Struggles

The lack of marketing plans in the survey is largely attributed to an increase in small businesses being overwhelmed or working with limited budgets.

According to the report, 62% of SMB owners say they are as or more stressed about their business this year compared to last.

Further, the study finds that:

  • 25% of SMB owners surveyed are unsure of how they plan to grow their business in 2019.
  • More than half (55%) of SMB owners spend less than 5% of annual revenue on marketing.
  • More than 58% of SMB owners spend five or fewer hours on marketing each week.
  • 86% of respondents say they prefer to spend their time on other business activities rather than marketing.

Small Changes Lead to Big Rewards

While the study shows that many businesses feel lost or unable to focus on their marketing, it also reveals that investing just a little more time or money can pay dividends and reduce business stress.

According to responses about last year performance, small increases in marketing investment led to more revenue growth for SMBs in 2018. Additionally, spending just 5% more time on marketing was tied to increased revenue growth.

This is reflected in the finding that 81% of respondents who invested between 5% and 10% of annual revenue into their marketing reported revenue growth in 2018. Meanwhile, only 50% of respondents who invested less than 5% of revenue into marketing saw growth.

The full report is available in PDF form here.

This week Google held its annual Marketing Live event to reveal the latest innovations in online advertising, and the latest ad units aim to provide a more consistent experience across all of Google’s advertising platforms while also introducing new ways to advertise across the web.

The new ad units, including Discovery ads, Gallery ads, and Showcase Shopping ads, are all highly visual and highly automated, relying on the same automation model as Universal App Campaigns.

Here’s what you need to know about all the newest ways to advertise with Google:

Discovery Ads

Google has used the “Discovery” section of its platform to highlight content and sites it feels may be relevant to your interests. Now, brands and websites can also target this section with ads in the Discovery area, visible under the search box in the Google mobile app, in Gmail under the social promotions tabs, and in the YouTube home feed.

As Google VP of Product Management Brad Bender explained during the Marketing Live event, Discovery ads are intended to be “visually rich, mobile first, and use the ‘power of intent’”, meaning the ad service relies strongly on signals from users like past site visits, app downloads, or video views.

The company says the Discovery feed now reaches more than 800 million users around the world, making this a highly attractive area to target with ads.

Gallery Ads

Another new format introduced at the Marketing Live event is Gallery ads, which present a carousel of swipeable images at the top of mobile search results. The carousel includes between four to eight images, with up to 70 characters of copy possible for each image.

Notably, this changes the way Google charges for ads. Gallery ads are paid for on a CPC basis, which means you are charged if someone clicks on the ad. However, Google also tracks how far a person swipes through the carousel. When they wipe past the third image in the sequence, that also counts as a “click” or form of engagement. This means that you may be paying for ad interactions that do not include an actual click or landing page visit.

In testing, the search engine says Gallery ads saw “25% more interactions” compared to other search ad formats. Though, it is unclear how the actual CTR of these ads stacks up.

Increased Visibility for Showcase Shopping Ads

Showcase Shopping ads have been around since 2016 as a way for retailers to highlight a curated list of products in non-branded searches (which Google says accounts for 40% of queries).

Now Google is expanding these ads to a variety of new areas of the platform, including Google Images, the Discover feed, and the YouTube feed.

The ads include a large main image, as well as smaller images. When clicked these ads expand to showcase a variety of relevant products from the retailer, and may include other information such as store locations or in-store availability.

Major changes are coming to Facebook as the company tries to balance a more privacy-focused approach with several new features aimed at encouraging people to interact with their Facebook accounts more.

At the company’s F8 developer conference this week, Facebook announced a wide range of features, changes, and redesigns which will roll out over the next year.

At the same time, representatives from Facebook hammered home the importance of privacy and protecting data with more advanced encryption and a huge redesign to shift how people use the platform.

The Redesign

Leading the pack of changes is Facebook’s most significant visual overhaul since its launch. While the most noticeable difference is the removal of blue on the page to create a more vibrant space for you to explore, it also holds many deeper revisions which intend to change how we use the platform.

For example, the interface will now highlight more Groups and private messages to make the platform feel more cohesive.

The redesign is already rolling out on Android and iOS mobile devices, though the company says it will take a few months for the full update to go live. Meanwhile, Facebook says it will begin testing the desktop redesign in the “next few months” before bringing it to the public.

Facebook Dating?

Facebook Dating

Image Source: Facebook

One of the most bizarre introductions during this year’s conference was the launch of a new feature called “Secret Crush” which allows users to pick nine of their friends which they have a crush on. Then, if any of those nine friends also select that user as a crush, they will be notified. If the attraction is not returned, however, the other person will never know.

Meet New Friends

In a similar (but less creepy) vein is Facebook’s coming “Meet New Friends” feature. As you might expect from the name, the opt-in feature aims to help connect people who share schools or jobs, or those who live in the same city.

Messenger Comes To Desktop

Image Source: Facebook

As part of an effort to make Facebook’s Messenger a more widely accessible platform, the company is launching a standalone version of the service for desktop computers. While Messenger has always been available on the desktop version of Facebook, it has been limited in several ways. For example, features like Group calling have been exclusive to the mobile app. With the launch of the desktop app, users will now be able to take advantage of all of Messenger’s features from any type of device.

Instagram Create Mode

Instagram Create Mode

Image Source: Facebook

Facebook isn’t the only platform getting an overhaul. Instagram also has several changes on the way, including a considerable reworking of the camera in Instagram Stories. With the new Create Mode, users can now create images for Stories that don’t come directly from their phone without extensive workarounds. Now, you can easily edit your Stories to create the images you want to share without leaving the app.

Instagram Likes Go Secret

Instagram Likes Disappear From View

Image Source: Facebook

One of the more surprising tests Facebook announced is that it will begin hiding the like count on photos and videos on Instagram in an effort to encourage people to pay more attention to the content and focus less on popularity contests.

In the test, followers will not be able to see a photo’s total likes or a video’s view count while viewing the content in their feed or visiting another user’s profile. However, the person sharing the content will still be able to look at their post’s metrics by tapping through a post. The test is expected to begin this week for users in Canada, though it is unclear when this might appear in the US.

Google My Business is updating Google Posts to allow brands to highlight glowing reviews from customers.

With the new update, you can feature 4 to 5 star reviews that have been left on your listing.

As Google said in the announcement on Twitter:

“In some countries, Google My Business now provides suggested posts to help you showcase positive reviews. These posts are automatically suggested based on 4 or 5-star reviews recently left for your business”

“You may get suggestions for new testimonials to post when you sign in to Google My Business, or via email notifications. These posts are automatically suggested based on 4 or 5-star reviews recently left for your business. You’ll be able to review and edit the post before publishing it.”

You can see a few examples of what the new post format looks like from Twitter user Andy Simpson below:

While it is unclear exactly which countries aside from the US have access to the feature, the update brings yet another way to make your local search listing more visible and engaging for users.

As always, Google Posts showcasing your reviews remain visible for one week unless you manually remove or edit the post.

Facebook has announced sweeping changes to its news feed and the way it handles groups or pages that violate the company’s content policies.

The new changes, including a new algorithm signal, are aimed at reducing the reach of sites spreading content with misinformation by judging the authority of the sites the content comes from.

If Facebook believes the site producing content shared on the platform is not reputable, it will decrease its news feed reach and reduce the number of people seeing the content.

How Facebook is Changing its Algorithm

In the past, Facebook has teamed up with highly respected organizations like the Associated Press to validate sites spreading content across the platform.

Now, the company says it is introducing a “click-gap” metric designed to automatically evaluate the inbound and outbound linking patterns of a site to judge if it is authoritative.

Essentially, the click-gap signal measures the inbound and outbound linking patterns to determine if the number of links on Facebook is higher than the link’s popularity across the internet. This will allow the company to distinguish the forced spread of content rather than organic virality.

As Facebook explains in the announcement:

“This new signal, Click-Gap, relies on the web graph, a conceptual “map” of the internet in which domains with a lot of inbound and outbound links are at the center of the graph and domains with fewer inbound and outbound links are at the edges.

Click-Gap looks for domains with a disproportionate number of outbound Facebook clicks compared to their place in the web graph. This can be a sign that the domain is succeeding on News Feed in a way that doesn’t reflect the authority they’ve built outside it and is producing low-quality content.”

Changes to Groups

Notably, this new algorithmic signal isn’t just being applied to news feeds. The company explained it will also be using these algorithms to automatically remove low-quality content posted in groups, including private groups.

The company defended the decision by saying they can now identify and remove harmful groups, whether they are public, closed, or secret.”

“We can now proactively detect many types of violating content posted in groups before anyone reports them and sometimes before few people, if any, even see them.”

Admins are Required to Police Content

Along with these changes, Facebook clarified that its algorithms will consider what posts a group’s admins approve as a way of determining if they are a harmful group or eligible for removal.

The company says it will close down groups if an admin regularly approves content that is false, misleading, or against Facebook’s content guidelines.

This is how Facebook explained the new policy:

“Starting in the coming weeks, when reviewing a group to decide whether or not to take it down, we will look at admin and moderator content violations in that group, including member posts they have approved, as a stronger signal that the group violates our standards.”

What This Means for You

As long as the pages you participate in or run are sharing content from reliable sources, the new policies should have little effect on your day-to-day operations. However, the changes could have considerable impacts on brands or influencers who go against mainstream science or other non-approved sources. These types of industries have flourished on the platform for years, but may soon be facing a reckoning if Facebook’s new content guidelines are as strict as they sound.

The latest update to Google My Business’s listings makes product catalogs even more powerful by displaying them in both desktop and mobile search results.

Since October 2018, when they were first introduced, product catalogs on Google My Business would only appear in mobile search results.

To add your products to your own listing, all you have to do is upload a form in the ‘Products’ tab called to the product editor. Once added, all items in your catalog will be eligible to show in results for relevant searches that bring up your Google My Business page.

The catalog appears within the ‘Products’ tab of your GMB listing shortly after uploading it.

As always, the new GMB feature is free to use with your Google My Business account. The only requirement is that you have claimed your business listing.

While the new feature does bring product catalogs to desktop search results, they are still not viewable directly within Google Maps. To view the listing from there, you will have to click to specifically view a business’s local listing.

Often, businesses think of SEO and online advertising as being entirely separate. They may feel like they need to choose one or the other. However, a new study from WordStream shows that most experts agree that SEO and advertising work best together, not apart.

The new data published in WordStream’s report on the online advertising landscape in 2019 reveals that more than three-quarters (79%) of online advertisers are also incorporating SEO within their marketing strategies.

Even more, digital advertisers ranked SEO as the leading marketing channel aside from advertising for growing their business.

The full breakdown of responses is as follows:

Outside of digital advertising, what other marketing channels are you using to grow your business in 2019?

  • SEO – 79%
  • Email marketing – 66%
  • Content marketing – 60%
  • Word of mouth marketing – 47%
  • Direct mail – 32%
  • Event marketing – 26%
  • Guerrilla marketing – 9%
  • Affinity marketing – 6%
  • Telemarketing – 4%
  • Other – 1%

As WordStream explains, the findings show that while advertisers may prioritize paid search for bringing in immediate revenue, they also recognize the importance of fostering a long-term strategy for bringing in new potential customers:

“Like content marketing, SEO can be an extremely valuable long-term strategy when done effectively. Kudos to those surveyed for recognizing the importance of balancing short-term results with a long-term strategy for sustainable growth!”

The report includes a number of other interesting tidbits about the current state of online advertising, including the discovery that nearly half of advertisers are increasing their Google search ads budgets this year.

To read the full report, click here.

LinkedIn is expanding its ad targeting options to allow advertisers the ability to better target their ideal audience.

The professional social platform has launched lookalike audience targeting which allows you to create an ad audience similar to your dream customer.

As the company says in their announcement:

“LinkedIn’s lookalike audiences combine the traits of your ideal customer with our rich member and company data to help you market to new professional audiences similar to your existing customers, website visitors and target accounts.”

Specifically, the company highlights a few ways lookalike audience targeting can help businesses improve their advertising:

  • Reach high-converting audiences: Discover audiences similar to those who are already interested in your business.
  • Get results at scale: Extend the reach of your campaigns to more qualified prospects.
  • Engage new target accounts: Target your ads to additional companies you may not have previously considered. These companies match a similar company profile to your ideal customer.

In testing, LinkedIn says lookalike audience targeting led to a 5-10x increase in campaign reach without sacrificing ad performance.

At the same time it announced the launch of these new targeting options, LinkedIn also revealed a few other improvements to their ad platform:

Interest Targeting

While interest targeting has been available on LinkedIn since January, the company says it is now increasing the targeting capabilities of the feature.

Through a partnership with Microsoft, LinkedIn will now allow advertisers to target users based on not only their LinkedIn profile information but through the professional topics and content they engage with on Bing.

Audience Templates

LinkedIn has also created some new features specifically aimed at new advertisers. Audience templates provide advertisers with a selection of more than 20 premade B2B audiences. This way, you can start targeting your ideal audience without having extensive knowledge of ad targeting.

The templates cover a range of characteristics, from users skills, job titles, groups, and more.

In the announcement, LinkedIn says the new features will all be rolling out over the next two weeks.

Instagram is launching a new in-app checkout feature for a limited number of brands which will let users make purchases without ever having to leave the app.

For now, the new feature is limited to just 23 big-name brands like Adidas, Burberry, and MAC Cosmetics, but the company says it will be expanding the feature to more brands in the coming months.

The in-app checkout is Instagram’s latest effort to make its service more retailer-friendly without hurting their own platform. While they have included several shopping-related features over the past few years, shoppers would ultimately have to leave the app to make a purchase.

With the new feature, users will now see a “Checkout on Instagram” button on product pages from brands’ shopping posts.

When tapped, shoppers will be allowed to choose from a variety of options like size and color, then taken to a payment page within Instagram.

Users who make purchases within the app will also receive shipment and delivery notifications within Instagram to keep them informed.

“The new technology gives Adidas’ audience the power to go from inspiration to purchase in an instant. Our consumer-obsessed approach to e-commerce focuses on simplified immersive connections with the brand and Instagram Shopping allows us to deliver a content-rich experience on a platform where our creators are exploring and curating their lives,” said Adidas SVP of digital Scott Zalaznik.