Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer behavior was prone to shifting quickly. Now, it seems buyers’ needs are changing daily – if not hourly. If there is any place this is reflected, it is in our Google searches. 

Product and purchase-related searches have been rapidly evolving as people respond to the daily updates related to the pandemic and their state’s handling of the situation. To help businesses track these changing needs and consumer behaviors, Google is launching a new tool called Rising Retail Categories.

“We’ve heard from our retail and brand manufacturing partners that they are hungry for more insights on how consumer interests are changing, given dynamic fluctuations in consumer demand,” said the company in the announcement.

“That’s why we’re launching a rising retail categories tool on Think with Google. It surfaces fast-growing, product-related categories in Google Search, the locations where they’re growing, and the queries associated with them.”

Specifically, the tool shows the biggest shifts in product-centric search categories, as well as their associated queries and the locations where the product categories are showing making the biggest waves on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis.

The company also says “this is the first time we have provided this type of insight on the product categories that people are searching for.”

Currently, the Rising Retail Categories tool includes data for the US, UK, and Australia.

In the announcement, Google suggested a few different ways the information could be helpful for brands, including content creation, product promotion, and even the development of new products. 

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.

Google has released a detailed document they are calling the COVID-19 Marketing Playbook to help you create a strategy for marketing your brand during and after the ongoing pandemic. 

The recommendations included are based on Google’s own observations of how businesses are responding to the quickly changing situation and the company’s internal data.

The Three Stages of COVID-19 Marketing

According to Google’s guide, there are three stages of marketing as the situation has unfolded:

  1. Respond
  2. Rebuild
  3. Recover/Re-frame

Here is what each of those stages mean and how you can do to help your business during each step:

Respond

What’s Happening?

Businesses are responding and adapting to fast-changing consumer behavior and fluctuations in demand.

What Can You Do?

Solve what matters today to get your business ready to rebuild.

Rebuild

What’s Happening?

Businesses are planning for the recovery and rebuilding their marketing fundamentals, with deeper insights, tools, and measurement.

What Can You Do?

Prepare to capture dynamic demand and position yourself well for the recovery.

Recover/Reframe

What’s Happening?

Businesses are reframing their business models and digital marketing practices to restart or maintain growth.

What Can You Do?

Implement marketing learnings from the crisis into your long term business strategy to drive sustained growth.

The Three Stages of COVID-19 Marketing Strategy

Similarly, Google says there are three steps to marketing your business during the pandemic:

  1. Use consumer insights to drive your approach
  2. Assess the impact on your business
  3. Take action now

How COVID-19 Has Affected Search

Google has identified three specific ways the ongoing COVID-19 situation has affected search patterns so far:

Shock

Sudden change in behavior, unlikely to be sustained

Example: Quick rise and fall in school-related searches as shelter-in-place orders were implemented.

Step-change

Sudden change in behavior that may sustain

Example: Quick increases in exercise-related searches have stabilized at heightened levels during this time.

Speed up

An acceleration of existing behavior that may sustain

Example: Google has seen an acceleration in the growth rate of delivery-related searches that appear to be maintaining for now.

How Google Has Responded To COVID-19

To illustrate how to put these concepts into practice, Google points to its own response to the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights five principles to ensure your strategy remains effective and relevant:

  • Context – Related to localization
  • Constantly Reassess – Being flexible and responding to changing trends
  • Creative Considerations – Evaluate if artwork, tone, words, and other create aspects are appropriate
  • Changing priorities to navigate uncertainty – Being helpful in a way that fits the current reality
  • Contribution at every opportunity – Identifying ways your brand can help that are specific to the pandemic

 

Download Google’s COVID-19 Marketing Strategy Playbook here (PDF) or read the full announcement about the playbook here.

After 8 years, Google is finally bringing organic, unpaid listings into its Shopping search results.

Starting next week, the Google Shopping tab “will consist primarily of free product listings.”

Google Shopping Organic Listings

This is a huge shift from how Google has treated the section in the past. Since 2012, the Shopping tab has been exclusively for paid product listing or ads.

The decision comes during the ongoing shutdown of many local businesses, driving consumers to online retail. In particular, Amazon has seen a massive surge in usage this month.

Although the company says it had plans to open the Shopping tab for organic listings before this, Google’s President of Commerce Bill Ready noted the ongoing crisis was a major motivation for “advancing our plans to make [Google Shopping] free for merchants.”

Importantly, the change is permanent and will not revert as businesses across the country begin to reopen.

“For retailers, this change means free exposure to millions of people who come to Google every day for their shopping needs,” said Ready. “For shoppers, it means more products from more stores, discoverable through the Google Shopping tab. For advertisers, this means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.”

What Happens To Paid Shopping Listings

With Google moving to make the Shopping tab more like its traditional search engine results pages, the company will begin treating paid shopping ads similarly to ads shown in other areas.

Paid shopping ads will primarily appear at the top and bottom of results pages in the Google Shopping tab. Additionally, carousels of product listing ads will continue to be only for paid ads.

How To Get Your Products Indexed

Google says the revamped shopping tab will continue to be powered by product data feeds provided through Google Merchant Center. Although GMC was once a paid service, the company opened the Merchant Center to all retailers for free more than a year ago, as it began to integrate organic product listings into search results across the platform.

To get your own products included in search results within the Google Shopping feed and elsewhere across Google, you’ll need to start a Google Merchant Center account and upload a product feed detailing the products you carry. Additionally, you must opt-in to “surfaces across Google” to be included in organic results.

YouTube is launching a new tool to help small businesses with limited budgets or means create short, stylish promotional videos.

The company is releasing a beta version of the tool ahead of schedule in recognition that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made it unsafe to shoot in-person videos for businesses.

“Because businesses of all sizes are strapped for time and resources and in-person video shoots are no longer practical in many countries, we are accelerating the next stage of Video Builder availability.”

The YouTube Video Builder makes it easy to create videos between 6-seconds and 15-seconds long using an array of templates and aesthetics.

Importantly, you don’t need to have any existing video footage. Businesses are just asked to provide their own images, text, and logos which are then animated into a video.

You can customize the colors, fonts, and even music thanks to Google’s royalty-free audio library.

Once finished, you are free to share the videos anywhere you like. The obvious choice would be to use it to promote your brand on YouTube. However, you can also share it on Facebook, your website, or anywhere else you choose.

You can see an example of what a finished ad using Video Builder looks like below:

How To Use The YouTube Video Builder

As the tool is in beta access, you will need to sign up before you can get use the tool for the time being.

Once you’ve gotten access, creating a video is a simple process – as shown in the video below:

In the video, YouTube recommends creating your short video by taking these steps:

  • Select a layout suited for your goal
  • Upload your logo and select a color
  • Upload images and add copy
  • Select a font
  • Pick a music track from Google’s library
  • Click “create video” to see a preview of the finished video
  • Save the clip and upload it to your channel, website, and social media pages

The tool will save any videos you have created as a template so you can also iterate upon your finished product for several similar videos with small tweaks.

Finished videos can also be immediately used to create a YouTube or Google Ads campaign if you like, though it is not required.

For more information about using the YouTube Video Builder, check out the official help document.

As Google’s employees shifted to working from home or and limiting staffing, Google temporarily shut down the publication of several key Google My Business components.

Most notably, Google My Business put a pause on the publication of any new reviews or review replies, while also suspending the posting of new photos and Q&A’s.

GMB Starts To Gradually Return

In the last few days, Google has updated the page detailing the steps it is taking in response to COVID-19 to say:

“Review replies are now available. New user reviews, new user photos, new short names, and Q&A will gradually return by country and business category.”

Along with review replies, it appears Google is quickly taking steps to bring new user reviews back online.

New Reviews Are Coming Back

Several respected figures in the SEO community including Mike Blumenthal and Greg Sterling have reported being able to post visible new reviews for businesses in their area.

Sterling was able to independently verify his review was showing publicly for a restaurant in his area, despite a warning that the review might be delayed.

 

However, there are still plenty of reports out there of reviews being submitted but not being published, suggesting the process of bringing reviews back is still underway.

Pinterest expanded its online shopping capabilities this week to make it easier to find and buy products across the platform. The updates to three core parts of its commerce marketing services make its tools more accessible and provide real-time tracking of what’s in stock with which retailers.

Shop What’s In Stock

Users can now shop in-stock fashion or home decor products in multiple ways across the platform.

The most notable change is a new “Shop” tab which will appear on search and on boards to help filter in-stock products from retailers. The tab will also help filter based on price and brands available from retailers.

When it appears on boards, the Shop tab will highlight products from or inspired by the Pins saved within users’ home decor or fashion boards.

Visual Search

Pinterest is integrating its visual search functionality with shoppable Pins to make it easier to find products directly from your feed.

Style Guides

Home decor style guides are now findable using Pinterest’s search tools. These are curated collections based around specific styles such as “mid-century” or “farmhouse” and appear at the top of search results for queries like “living room ideas.”

Facebook is making some key changes to improve uploading and publishing videos on the platform, such as increasing the number of videos you can upload at one time and introducing a new way to manage multiple videos at the same time.

The new features include:

  • An update to Facebook’s bulk uploader
  • Updating how playlists are organized
  • New ‘bulk actions’ features
  • Introducing the “Series” feature to organize content into episodes

Check out the details of each new feature and update below:

Updating the Bulk Uploader

Facebook is making it easier to upload multiple videos at once by allowing you to upload up to 50 videos to one page at the same time.

Even better, you can manage details of videos as they are uploading, including editing the title, description, tags, and scheduled post time.

Additionally, the company is introducing new ways to schedule your videos by letting you choose to publish your videos at regular intervals rather than at a specific time. For example, you can automatically set your videos to publish once a day or once a week once they have been uploaded.

Improved Bulk Actions

The social network is introducing more actions that you can make to multiple videos at a time. The new available bulk actions include:

  • In-stream ads
  • Rights manager for RM Lite and RM Pro
  • Bulk Scheduling
  • Secondary edit features:
    • Add tags
    • Add custom labels
    • Add video to playlist/series
    • Auto captions
    • Audience Restrictions (only available at the time of upload)

These bulk actions will help save time and improve workflow by making changes to several videos at once.

Updates to Playlists

Facebook’s video playlists are being updated to make it easier to manage and organize related videos without having to start a new page.

The newly updated playlists provide a few key benefits such as:

  • Organization: Playlists are a simple, flexible way to organize your topical or thematic content
  • Discovery: In addition, playlists now have new discovery benefits:
    • Playlists increase your videos’ distribution through related content recommendations, helping you reach and and grow loyal audiences
    • Viewers can click to open playlists from posts in News Feed, when videos are uploaded into a playlist
    • Playlists are showcased prominently on your Page
    • When viewers open a playlist from your Page or a News Feed post, it will playback in the order you dictate
    • Playlists have a unique URL you can share with your audience on or off Facebook
  • User flow: When clicking on your playlists from your Page, the News Feed unit, or Videos tab, viewers are taken to a list of your playlist content, allowing them to browse and choose a video to start watching.

Facebook Series

Facebook is creating an entirely new feature similar to playlists which allows users to discover video content across multiple channels.

As the company explains, series offer all the benefits of creating a playlist while also providing the following unique perks:

  • Series episodes can appear in the continue watching unit in the series Page.
  • Users can continue watching a series within Facebook Watch.
  • Users can navigate between seasons and episodes. They can also continue watching where they left off at any time.

Playlists and Series can both be created and managed from Creator Studio.

“A series provides a viewer flow, feature set, and brand aesthetic that is best suited to support episodic content, whether a cooking show in which each episode can be independently viewed, or a drama that is best viewed chronologically, due to a narrative arc across episodes.”

The Videos Tab

To house the new Series and help centralize Facebook’s video content, the company is also launching a new tab available for all pages.

The tab collects your playlists and series, while also allowing users to follow your Page to be notified about your latest videos as they’re published.

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 has introduced a new way to quickly and easily show that your business is temporarily closed in accordance to Oklahoma’s “Safer at Home” order and other states’ shelter in place laws during the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic.

This comes at a critical time as people are turning to Google’s local listings to see what essential businesses are still operating around them and what revised hours they may be operating. For example, although grocery stores are remaining open, many are changing their hours to allow time to restock and let employees rest.

Meanwhile, countless others have been forced to close up shop for at least two weeks for the sake of public safety. Google is the first stop many are turning to in order to see what type of changes your company has had to make.

How To Temporarily Close Your Business On Google

To help, Google has shared easy-to-follow instructions explaining how to “mark a business temporarily closed.”

The first step is to sign in to your Google My Business account and select the “Info” section in the menu on the left.

From there, you will find a section marked “Close this business on Google.”

Within this section, you will be presented with three options – to mark you listing as temporarily closed, permanently closed, or entirely remove your listing.

Why It Is Important To Update Your Listing

With so much confusion and uncertainty, people are relying on the internet for up-to-date information more than ever. This is especially true for Google’s local listings.

However, the surge in GMB updates has overwhelmed Google’s reduced staff to the point that many areas of local listings are being suspended – such as reviews and Q&A’s. Closing your listing temporarily is currently the easiest way to let people know that although you have had to close for the time being, you will be back in action soon.