LinkedIn has seen a swell of new content creation, consumption, and engagement this year, as many work to make the most of the recent months of lockdowns and reduced business – according to the company’s Director of Brand and Consumer Marketing.

In an interview with Social Samosa, Srividya Gopani noted that while the platform was already seeing growth this year, it has received a massive surge since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic:

“We are seeing a 55% year-over-year increase in conversations among connections globally, since March 2019. Members are increasingly reacting, commenting, resharing and replying to comments as they look to reconnect with their network and share advice and tips that can help them navigate this novel working environment together.”

Srividya Gopani/Social Samosa

This has also been tied to a 60% year-over-year increase in content creation for the LinkedIn during the same time. 

Specifically, Gopani said users are working together to provide advice, spread word about jobs and internships, and connecting with other professionals to assist each other during this time. 

Similarly, the company has seen an increase in the amount of time people have spent with LinkedIn’s online learning courses. 

In March alone, Gopani says users watched more than 4 million hours of courses.

“As the world’s largest professional network, we are recognizing that we are uniquely positioned to encourage members to build the right expertise, gain relevant skills and knowledge, and make the right connections at this time.”

Srividya Gopani/Social Samosa

Twitter is introducing a new way to tweet using just your voice – called simply Voice Tweets.

The company announced this week that voice tweets will soon be among the many different ways you can tweet, such as using photos, videos, and regular text. 

“Over the years, photos, videos, gifs, and extra characters have allowed you to add your own flair and personality to your conversations. But sometimes 280 characters aren’t enough and some conversational nuances are lost in translation.

So starting today, we’re testing a new feature that will add a more human touch to the way we use Twitter – your very own voice.”

To start, the feature is limited to a small number of people using the Twitter app on iOS devices, though it will be rolling out to all iOS devices in the coming weeks.

While those with Android devices and those on desktop computers are left out of being able to create voice tweets for now, everyone can still see and listen to voice tweets that appear in their feed.

How To Post a Voice Tweet

If you have been given access to voice tweets, you will notice a small icon resembling an audio wavelength next to the camera icon when composing a tweet. 

If you tap that icon, you will be presented with a screen showing your profile photo and a record button. Just tap that button to get started recording. 

Voice tweets are limited to 140 seconds of audio in each clip, though the company mentioned that you can keep talking and have your audio automatically split into a thread of multiple voice tweets. 

Once shared, your voice tweet will appear in other people’s feeds with a tappable image that will begin playing your audio in a docked window at the bottom of the screen. 

There’s a lot that can be left unsaid or uninterpreted using text, so we hope voice Tweeting will create a more human experience for listeners and storytellers alike.

Whether it’s #storytime about your encounter with wild geese in your neighborhood, a journalist sharing breaking news, or a first-hand account from a protest, we hope voice Tweeting gives you the ability to share your perspectives quickly and easily with your voice.”

Google is making a change to how featured some featured snippets function by taking users directly to the associated text when clicked. 

Featured snippets are the highlighted search results that appear at the top of some results pages, showing a specifically relevant bit of text.

The company announced the update through its Google SearchLiason Twitter account, which posted:

“As we have done with AMP pages since December 2018, clicking on a featured snippet now takes users to the exact text highlighted for HTML pages, when we can confidently determine where the text is.”

While it is a relatively small change, it makes featured snippets even more useful to searchers (and thus, more essential for businesses to put in place). 

Surprisingly, the company says there is no additional code or special markup needed to prepare your featured snippets for this change. 

Instead, the search engine is essentially using a trick that highlights specific text by tweaking the URL for each snippet.

As Roger Montti explained over at Search Engine Journal, this is a feature previously used for Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which has the dual benefits of being easy to implement and trackable.

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, LinkedIn is launching a slew of new tools designed to help the job hunting and hiring process go virtual.

Specifically, the country is launching new ways for applicants to provide video introductions to hiring managers and AI-powered tools for preparing for job interviews.

Here’s what you can expect from both of these new tools:

Video Introductions

LinkedIn Video Interview Prep

Although the tool is technically still in testing, LinkedIn announced it is launching a feature aimed at making the best first impression possible – even when you can’t meet in person.

“We’ve found that 65 percent of people believe that the impression you make online is just as important as the one you make in person, but it can be challenging to show your soft skills to potential employers when you’re not in the same room.”

With LinkedIn’s new video introductions tool, hiring managers can specifically request an introduction as part of their hiring process.

Applicants can then provide recorded video responses or written replies to your questions or prompts.

“A carefully crafted response can help you stand out before the official interview process even begins,” said the company in the announcement.

AI-Powered Interview Prep

LinkedIn AI-Powered Video Feedback

Another new tool LinkedIn is bringing to job hunters is an AI-powered instant feedback interview prep feature, which prepares job candidates for common interview questions.

“When it comes to the interview, more than 50 percent of people say they lack confidence,” explained the company in a blog post.

The instant feedback tool listens to candidates’ responses to common questions and analyzes their speech content and patterns to provide real-time feedback and recommendations such as how often a person uses filler words, pacing, and sensitive phrases to avoid using.

After, users can opt to send their recorded responses to their personal connections to get even more feedback from trusted professionals.

LinkedIn Tips For Video Job Interviews

Along with the announcement, LinkedIn provided three tips all job hunters should consider when preparing for a video interview:

  1. Establish a relationship quickly: You don’t have the luxury of small talk on a video call, so it’s important to build a rapport quickly with your interviewer. Be sure to use the first few minutes of the call to establish that personal connection, as this will instantly put you at ease. Check out their LinkedIn page for background information or mutual connections that could provide a good base for conversation.
  2. Find a quiet spot: In this new age of remote working, there’s always the risk of being interrupted by kids asking for help with homework, or housemates wandering into the kitchen to make a sandwich. Let your family or housemates know you have an important interview scheduled so they don’t accidentally walk in on you or make too much background noise.
  3. Check your tech: An obvious but crucial tip: take some time ahead of the interview to make sure the tech works and you know how to use it. If you need help, check out these LinkedIn Learning courses to give you the lowdown on how to use the latest video tools.

Across the country, governors and mayors are implementing “shelter in place” or “safer at home” orders which are requiring a significant number of businesses to temporarily close during the COVID-19 epidemic.

In response, business owners are making hard decisions to cut costs and tighten belts to make it through these weeks. One such question on many business owners’ minds is whether to continue paying to maintain their website, or if they should take it offline in order to avoid paying hosting or maintenance costs.

Google Says Don’t Shut Down Your Website

It may be tempting, but disabling your site for any amount of time – even just a few days – can have long-lasting effects on your search engine rankings. Not only does it completely shut down the ability for people to find out about your products and services for the time being, it essentially removes your site from Google’s index.

In this situation, Google will have to reindex your website when you come back online, putting you back at square one.

What To Do Instead

In new recommendations, Google is suggesting that businesses limit their site’s functionality rather than go completely offline when you need to pause operations.

The company suggested a number of steps you can take to suspend your online services while still keeping customers informed and preserving your search visibility. These steps include:

  • Keep users informed with a popup or banner explaining how your business has changed. Follow Google’s guidelines for banners and popups to ensure that you’re not interfering with the user experience.
  • Adjust your structured data to reflect event updates, product availability and temporary closures. You can also mark your business as temporarily closed through Google My Business.
  • E-commerce sites should follow Google’s Merchant Center guidance on availability and, if necessary, disable cart functionality.
  • Inform Google of site updates by requesting a recrawl through Search Console.

If You Absolutely Must Take Down Your Site

As a last resort, Google does recommend a few things you can do to protect your search visibility if you must take your site down:

  • For a temporary takedown, use the Search Console Removals Tool.
  • If you’re taking down your site for one or two days, you can return an informational error page with a 503 Service Unavailable code.
  • For longer site takedowns, put up an indexable homepage placeholder for searchers using the 200 HTTP status code.

Don’t Overreact, Think Ahead

It is easy to get caught up in the current situation and lose sight of the long-term picture. While the COVID-19 epidemic is a serious concern for businesses, it will eventually pass. When it does, you want to be ready to hit the ground running, not starting again from square one.

Google is making some changes to its image search results pages by removing details about image sizes and replacing them with icons indicating what type of content the image is taken from.

For example, images pulled from recipes show an icon of a fork and knife, those from product pages show a price tag icon, and pictures pulled from videos include a “play” icon.

Google’s Search Liaison Danny Sullivan says the change is coming later this week for desktop search results and shared a few examples of what the icons look like in action:

As you can see, by mousing over the icons users can get additional details including the length of a video.

Where To Find Image Size Details

To make room for these new icons, Google is removing the traditional image dimension information provided in the search results.

However, the information is still available to users after clicking on a specific thumbnail and mousing over the larger image preview.

Sullivan also shared an example of this:

Licensing Icons In Beta

Along with the announcement, Sullivan provided an update on a test to include licensing information alongside photos.

Currently, the company is beta testing the ability to pull licensing information from structured data on a website, though it is unclear if or when this feature will be widely available. Interested image owners can find out more about how to mark up your images in Google’s guide.

Bing revealed major overhauls to its Webmaster Tools suite this week. The new layout and features aim to make the tools available to SEOs and webmasters faster, easier to use, and more actionable.

As SMX West, the company said the first phase of the overhaul would be coming the first week of March, with a sleeker interface and three primary new features:

  • Backlinks Portal: The current inbound links report will be merged with a disavow links tool to become part of the backlinks report portal.
  • Search Performance: Similarly, the company is combining its page traffic and search keywords reports into a unified search performance report.
  • Sitemaps: Bing is giving its current sitemaps page a general overhaul to make it more valuable to online marketers and webmasters.

When It’s Coming

As the company said in its announcement:

“We are delighted to announce the first iteration of the refreshed Bing Webmaster Tools portal. We are releasing the new portal to a select set of users this week and will be rolling out to all users by the 1st week of March.”

What It Looks Like

Search Engine Land provided several screenshots of what the new portal will look like once it goes live:

Search Performance Report

Backlink Report

Disavow Link Tool

Sitemaps

Once they go live, anyone with a Bing Webmaster Tools account can access the new features by navigating to the Sitemaps, Inbound Links, Page Traffic, or Search Keywords reports.

Why It Matters

Despite being frequently overlooked by brands and marketers, Bing has been quietly cementing its grasp on a significant percentage of the search market. The new tools will make it easier for those taking advantage of this opportunity to better understand their website’s performance and refine their efforts for even better performance in the future.

If you’ve ever doubted the power of search engine optimization, just look at the events playing out surrounding the recently released movie Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). 

After the film significantly under-performed on its opening weekend, Warner Bros. has decided to revise the name to the simpler Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey for better SEO.

As the company explained to The Verge this week, the new title places the popular character’s name at the front of the title instead of hiding it towards the end. The idea behind is a “search expansion for ticket sites” to make the title easier to find for movie-goers who may be less familiar with the Birds of Prey title.

Attentive watchers noticed the change occurring three days after the film’s release across numerous ticket sites.

Did SEO Tank Birds of Prey?

It is too early to really tell how big of an impact the change will really have to the movie’s success. There is some evidence that Google and other major search engines were already surfacing information about the movie and ticket availability when just searching “Harley Quinn” before the change took effect.

Image Source: George Nguyen/Search Engine Land

The revision could actually cause more confusion, as many details about the movie – such as its YouTube trailer – still show the original movie title.

However, the power of SEO and branding can’t be ignored. Studies have shown that more than half of consumers only click on brands they are familiar with within search results. It is also hard to gauge exactly how many potential film goers were turned away or frustrated by irrelevant search results before the change took place.

Either way, the events following the release of Birds of Prey provide a real-world example of how SEO and branding affect the viability of even the biggest products.

A surprising competitor has entered the arena of search engines, as Verizon Media has announced the launch of its privacy-focused search engine called OneSearch.

The search engine says it will not track, store, or share any data from users including personal and search-related information, aligning itself more with search engines like DuckDuckGo than Google.

The search engine is available now at OneSearch.com.

While DuckDuckGo may be more established, OneSearch hopes to make it easier for businesses committed to privacy by integrating the search engine with existing products.

As the company explains in the announcement:

“OneSearch doesn’t track, store, or share personal or search data with advertisers, giving users greater control of their personal information in a search context. Businesses with an interest in security can partner with Verizon Media to integrate OneSearch into their privacy and security products, giving their customers another measure of control.”

The search engine is also taking privacy a step further by adding an “advanced privacy mode” which delivers search results via encrypted links which will expire within an hour.

In the announcement, OneSearch highlights their full suite of privacy-centric features, including:

  • No cookie tracking, retargeting, or personal profiling
  • No sharing of personal data with advertisers
  • No storing of user search history
  • Unbiased, unfiltered search results
  • Encrypted search terms

As OneSearch promises not to sell users’ data, it will instead rely on advertising to provide its search engine for free. Rather than using users’ browsing data, the search engine says it will show ads based on contextual data such as the current keyword being queried.

Currently, the search engine is only available in North America on desktop or mobile browsers. The company says it plans to expand the search engine to other countries soon and will be launching mobile apps for Android and iOS later this month.

Facebook’s dominance of the internet continues, as reports say the company owns 4 of the 5 most downloaded apps in the world this year.

App Annie’s year-end report shows that Facebook helped drive a worldwide record for app downloads with 120 billion apps downloaded between iOS and Android in 2019 – a 5% year-over-year increase.

According to App Annie’s data, the top 5 app downloads of the year are:

  1. Facebook Messenger
  2. Facebook
  3. WhatsApp Messenger
  4. TikTok
  5. Instagram

10 Top Downloaded Apps in 2019

TikTok is the only app in the top 5 not owned by Facebook.

Breakout Apps

In addition to the top app downloads over the past year, App Annie also detailed the top “breakout apps” which showed the largest growth in downloads between 2018 and 2019. While most are still relative unknowns, they could potentially be chart-toppers in the near future.

  1. Likee
  2. Noizz
  3. Helo
  4. Hago
  5. YouTube Music

Top 10 Breakout Apps of 2019

Based on the its current estimations, App Annie believes 2020 is posed to be even more lucrative for app downloads and consumer spend. Excluding games, the report predicts spending to reach more than $30 billion in the coming year.