A new survey shows just how prominent voice search is becoming in the journey from shopping to purchase.

According to the latest survey from Chatmeter, approximately 90% of smartphone owners say they use their device’s virtual assistant. More importantly, a large group of those are specifically using voice search to look for local business information.

Approximately 40% of smartphone users specifically say they “use voice search to ask for directions, an address, or business hours for a nearby location.” Additionally, more than a quarter of consumers say their “number one use for their voice device is to find a local restaurant, show, or business.”

This reinforces recent statements from prominent figures in the world of search, including Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who said: “local mobile searches are growing faster than just mobile searches overall, and have increased by almost 50% in the last year.”

One of the biggest uses for virtual assistants is also making in-person purchases or to visit new businesses, with almost 90% of users saying they turn to virtual assistants for driving directions.

While the rise of voice search will likely have huge ramifications for how we understand and optimize for online searching, these findings actually reinforce the importance of optimizing local listings on both desktop and mobile devices.

For example, a business’s Google My Business listing is responsible for providing all of these types of information, including giving directions, facilitating phone calls, and providing business hours.

Google My Business is already an essential part of establishing your business within your local industry and finding new customers nearby. Now, it is also becoming a necessity for helping voice search users find your business when they are ready to take action.

Yesterday Twitter revealed that it has lost approximately 9 million monthly users in its latest quarterly report.

In most cases, such a drop would be considered a huge red flag. However, the company was not only anticipating the decrease in users but sees it as a sign that the platform is improving.

Since its earliest days, Twitter has been notorious for spam and bot accounts. The huge number of inactive, fake, or malicious accounts has been so bad that Twitter users have even created nicknames for these types of accounts. The most popular sobriquet is simply calling these accounts “eggs” for the original default profile picture on Twitter.

Notably, the company removed the egg profile picture in an attempt to shake off the nickname, though the term still lingers to describe accounts that are inactive, suspicious, or spammy.

Earlier this year, Twitter launched a new initiative aimed at removing these types of bad accounts and preventing the creation of new accounts for spammy or suspicious accounts.

Based on the news that Twitter’s active monthly account number has fallen from 335 million to 326 million in the third quarter of this year, it appears the company is making significant headway in reducing the number of low-quality accounts.

As part of the initiative, Twitter says it expects to continue seeing decreases in monthly active users through the next quarter. CEO Jack Dorsey describes the move as a positive act to improve the long-term health of Twitter.

Dorsey’s perspective may not be far off, as the company has seen consistent gains in daily users and revenue. The company reported a 9% increase in daily active users year over year. Revenue is also high enough for the company to turn a profit the past quarter, marking the first full-year period the company has seen profitability.

Twitter still has significant hurdles to overcome to prevent stagnation or loss of inertia. While these types of steps are likely to increase users’ overall satisfaction with the platform, there are still widespread issues of abuse, spam, and manipulation of the like and retweet functions on the site. If Twitter really hopes to continue to grow in sustainable ways, it will eventually have to confront these complicated issues and make some hard decisions about the direction it wants to grow.

Facebook is launching a new tool, called Creative Compass, aiming to help advertisers predict how well their ads will perform.

Creative Compass will assess your ads by examining key elements and scoring them on a scale from “low impact” to “high impact”.

Creative Compass Preview

Specifically, the tool will evaluate:

  • Noticeability
  • Brand association
  • Brand fit
  • Message comprehension
  • Believability
  • Information content
  • Emotional reward
  • Call to action

More than anything, Creative Compass is designed to help you understand how your ads will perform and how likely your target action is to take action after seeing one of your ads.

For now, the tool is being tested with just a small number of select partners, but Facebook says it aims to bring the tool to all marketing partners in 2019.

Facebook is launching a new feature for all Pages that allows you to publish pre-recorded “live” videos.

That may sound contradiction, but the new “Premieres” feature brings the best of Facebook’s live video and pre-recorded video features into one convenient package.

The biggest benefit of the premiering pre-recorded videos is that you can get the same boost to visibility received by “going live”, being placed in the top of feeds. Facebook will also deliver notifications alerting users to your video debut to those who have enabled them.

Additionally, “Premieres” will be included within the Facebook Watch tab, making it easier for them to be found by more users.

While these videos get all the benefits of live streaming, they are also eligible for a number of Facebook’s tools for pre-recorded videos such as monetization, interacting with your audience through chat, and branding.

How to use Facebook Premieres

Posted by Facebook Media on Friday, September 28, 2018

When created, a premiere will be turned into a post notifying users about your upcoming launch. Then, at the scheduled time, the video will be played “live” until it is completed. Finally, after the Premiere has ended, the post will turn into a typical on-demand video post.

Currently, Facebook Premieres are only able to be uploaded and schedule on desktop computers and must be scheduled at least 10 minutes in advance. The furthest ahead of time they can be scheduled is one week in advance.

It should be noted that Facebook does have some limits on what videos are eligible for the Premieres feature.

The company says content must be entirely original and not available anywhere on Facebook or elsewhere online before the Premiere, though it is not entirely clear how they will ensure this.

Videos must also be at least 30 seconds long and no larger than 10 GB in size.

Google is some small changes to Google My Business Posts that could affect visibility.

Google Posts Go to the Bottom

A number of people have observed that Google Posts have been moved within knowledge panels, getting shifted down reviews and other business information.

Barry Schwartz gave an example of just how significantly the change demotes Posts within the knowledge panel on Search Engine Roundtable. The first picture shows his Google My Business listing in 2017, with a Google Post directly below the address information:

In the second screenshot, the latest Post is all the way at the bottom, only placed ahead of other search suggestions:

New Post Length Limits

Additionally, it appears Google My Business is changing how it limits the length of Google Posts.

In the past, Google required a minimum of 100 words per post with a maximum of 300 words per post.

Now, the company is changing to limit posts to 1,500 characters, rather than limiting the length based on words. There appears to be no minimum length for Posts.

If anything, the change will make Posts shorter for most businesses, since 1,500 words roughly equate to 250 words. Given, this depends on the length of the specific words a person uses.

Pinterest is expanding its Shop the Look Pins to all business accounts.

 

Shop the Look Pins aren’t exactly a new type of Pin but instead is a tool that allows businesses to tag products in photos to provide a seamless shopping experience.

The tool was previously exclusive to big brands who purchased advertising through third-party services like Pinterest Marketing Partners Olapic and Curalate. Now, however, all brands can add Shop the Look Pins through a self-serve tool.

Shop the Look Pins appear as simple white dots which can be moved to ensure they are always helping add information without blocking the product itself. When a user clicks one of the dots, it will expand to provide extra information such as pricing, availability, and a link to immediately purchase the product.

While the company didn’t release specific data about the effectiveness of Shop the Look Pins so far, it believes the new tool will help drive engagement and encourage conversions for businesses.

To help reinforce that point, the company said that of its 250 million monthly users, approximately two-thirds have engaged with new products from businesses. More than 90% say they use Pinterest to plan their future purchases, making them a prime audience for brands.

The company also noted that Pins have a significantly longer lifespan than most social media content which loses inertia after several days, if not hours. Pinterest claims that Pins can drive significant engagement for up to 120 days.

Twitter is trying to bring back the good old days when you could explore your feed chronologically.

The social platform announced it has changed how the option to “Show the best Tweets first” function, removing the “In case you missed it” and recommended Tweets from people users aren’t following.

By stripping all this away, it leaves users with a pure, reverse-chronological feed from people they are following.

“We’ve learned that when showing the best Tweets first, people find Twitter more relevant and useful. However, we’ve heard feedback from people who at times prefer to see the most recent Tweets,” reads the company’s statement. “Our goal with the timeline is to balance showing you the most recent Tweets with the best Tweets you’re likely to care about, but we don’t always get this balance right.”

Since the release of the default algorithmic feed in early 2016, many users have been relying on workarounds to access their feed in a chronological way. Unfortunately for those users, Twitter has recently been limiting the amount of access available to third-party developers, restricting the possibility for plug-ins or automated tools for accessing a chronological timeline.

That led to the past few days when things reached something of a boiling point. A trick to get the algorithmic feed from user Emma Kinema went viral with more than 15,000 retweets and almost 40,000 likes.

While Twitter says it has been working on this update for some time, the tweet helped underscore the demand for a simple way to access a chronological feed without all the “curated” content that Twitter had been including.

The change to how the “Show best Tweets first” option works is a temporary solution according to the company, which maintains that many users still prefer the algorithmic feed. In the meantime, it is working on a more accessible way to easily switch back and forth between “Tweets that are most relevant for you and a timeline of the latest Tweets.”

The company says it will launch within a few weeks.

Twitter is following Facebook and Instagram’s lead by prioritizing live streams in users’ feeds. The social network announced it would begin bumping live streams to the top of users’ timelines while the streams are active.

This means anytime someone you are following begins streaming, you will be able to see it automatically at the top of your feed.

As Twitter said in the announcement:

“We’re making it easier to find and watch live broadcasts. Now, when accounts you follow go live, the stream will appear right at the top of your timeline.

Catch breaking news, your favorite personalities, and can’t-miss sports moments. Rolling out now on iOS and Android.”

The decision to prioritize live streams in people’s feeds isn’t exactly shocking. While streams can be rewatched after the original event is over, being able to interact with streamers during the video is a big driver of engagement for streams. Once the initial stream is over, engagement with the post typically dwindles significantly.

This is why Facebook and Instagram have similarly prioritized live streams on their platforms by sending notifications to users and highlighting active streams in the primary feed.

Although Twitter has yet to clarify, it seems likely the boost applies to both video live streams and the new audio-only streams rolled out for users last week.

Not long ago, it seemed like every business website had a “Testimonials” page filled with reviews and references from either past-customers or fellow members of their industry. If you have a keen eye, though, you might have noticed these pages are slowly falling out of use in favor of posting your Google, Yelp, and other online reviews on your site.

The practice has led to some confusion, as many experts claimed putting your own online reviews from across the web on your site could be potentially dangerous for search engine optimization. There have even been suggestions it could lead to Google penalties.

Now, you can breathe easy and share your online reviews with pride, as Google webmaster trends analyst John Mueller has confirmed that it is totally fine to highlight your reviews on your company website – with one exception.

While posting your reviews on your website is acceptable, Mueller warns that you can not use review structured data on these reviews.

As Mueller explained on Twitter:

“From a Google SEO point of view, I don’t see a problem with that. I imagine the original is more likely to rank for that text, but if you use that to provide context, that’s fine (it shouldn’t be marked up with structured data though).”

Mueller then went on to explain that review structured data is intended for reviews “directly produced by your site” and using them on third-party reviews on your own site would go against Google’s guidelines.

Google's New Ad Strength Indicator

Google is giving advertisers a new tool to predict how their ads will perform before they start running.

The new ad strength indicator evaluates responsive and display ads, then rates them on a scale from “Poor” to “Excellent”.

The tool also gives specific tips on how you can improve your ads to improve their rating and improve performance.

When evaluating ads, the tool assesses a number of factors including relevance, quantity, and diversity of ad copy.

To help prepare for the rollout of the tool, Google provided a few bits of guidance:

  • For responsive search ads: Provide as many headlines and descriptions as makes sense for your business. At least five headlines are recommended.
  • For responsive display ads: Provide up to 15 images and five logos, headlines, and descriptions per ad.

The tool will roll out in stages and will likely take until early next year to be fully available.

First, the ad strength indicator will begin appearing when constructing responsive search ads within the next few weeks. Then, in early September the tool will be given its own column in the Google Ads interface. Finally, the ad strength indicator will be brought to responsive display ads in “several months.”

Along with the announcement of the ad strength indicator, Google also rolled out a number of several updates to responsive search ads.

The biggest change is that advertisers can now preview ad combinations as you are building them, letting you see several possible combinations while you work. This can help shape your ads to ensure ads will always be relevant and readable.

Google is also providing more information about responsive search ads in search reports, including data for headlines, descriptions, and top combinations.

These changes to responsive search ads are already rolled out and available to all advertisers.