Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Google has been rapidly releasing new tools to assist shoppers looking for contactless pick-up options, delivery, and keep consumers up-to-date on frequently changing business hours or closings and openings. 

Now, the company has released a way for retailers to easily signal that they provide curbside pickup for products appearing in Local Inventory Ads. 

Delivery Is Overwhelmed, Consumers Shift To Pickup Options

With many stores across the country closed, many shoppers quickly turned to online retailers like Amazon to find their necessities and enjoyment during quarantine. Unfortunately, this led to shipping being massively overwhelmed, creating delays of up to a month for any product deemed “non-essential.”

Google says this situation directly contributed to a 70% global increase of searches for “in-stock” products within just one week from March 28 to April 4 and has continued to be an important search query for shoppers. 

While the company doesn’t provide specific data, it also suggests that searches for “curbside pickup” have been elevated since late March. 

How To Add Curbside Pickup To Local Inventory Ads

To help advertisers alert customers to alternative pickup or delivery options, Google has implemented a new label for products shown in Local Inventory Ads available with curbside delivery. 

The label is a small but significant badge for many shoppers, even as businesses reopen across the country. 

Although technically still in beta, Google announced it was opening the badge to all advertisers running Local Inventory Ads who have completed the process of onboarding for store pickup. 

Because it is still in beta, accessing the feature also requires a few unique steps. Specifically, advertisers must contact a Google Ads rep or fill out this form.

The new tag is available to all eligible advertisers anywhere Local Inventory Ads have been launched, including Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the U.S.

If you do not fit the criteria for this feature or are not utilizing Local Inventory Ads, the company notes that you can still use your Google My Business profile to notify shoppers to curbside pickup or delivery options by adding these attributes to your listing. 

Google announced recently that it is requiring advertisers to provide documentation of their identity and geographic location to be eligible to run ads on the platform.

The new policy is an expansion of similar restrictions put in place in 2018 requiring the advertisers behind political ads to provide identification verification.

How Advertisers Verify Their Identity

Google is rolling out the new policy in phases and will be selecting certain advertisers to verify themselves first. Specifically, Google says it will prioritize those who do the following across its Ad Network:

  • Promotion of products, goods, and services.
    • Examples: Retail, media and entertainment, travel, B2B, technology, etc.
  • Promotion of informational, advisory, or educational content.
    • Examples: Content promoting educational resources, research and statistics, free health or financial advice, charitable or social causes, etc.
  • Promotion of content related to regulated industries.
    • Examples: Gambling and games, financial products or services, healthcare products or services etc.

If selected, an advertiser will be required to provide documentation to verify their identity within 30 days. Accepted documentation will include:

  • Personal identification methods
  • Business incorporation documents
  • Possibly other items to verify who they are
  • Operating geography

If documentation is not provided within the 30 day limit, all ads will be stopped until the issue is resolved.

Google also says it will begin the program in the United States before rolling out globally. The new requirements will apply to every aspect of Google’s multi-faceted advertising platform, including Search, Display, and YouTube ads.

Currently, the company expects that it will take a few years to fully implement the program.

Notably, the information currently available suggests that Google is specifically focusing on the individuals or companies running the ads, not necessarily the individual managing the ads. This means your ad agency will likely be asked to verify your identity on your behalf.

New Disclosures For Ads

Part of the reason Google is requiring this information, is that it is beginning to add new disclosures about the identity of advertisers when displaying paid ads.

The disclosures are available below the “Why this ad?” option when clicking for more details.

The disclosure will include information about the advertisers’ name, country location, and will provide an option to stop showing ads from that advertiser.

Why Is Google Doing This?

As the company explained in its announcement, the new program is part of a larger effort to “provide greater transparency and equip users with more information about who is advertising to them.”

Director of Product Management for Ads Integrity, Jack Canfield, elaborated by saying:

“This change will make it easier for people to understand who the advertiser is behind the ads they see from Google and help them make more informed decisions when using our advertising controls. It will also help support the health of the digital advertising ecosystem by detecting bad actors and limiting their attempts to misrepresent themselves.”

For more information, read Google’s announcement here or explore their additional guidance on the program here.

Over the past two weeks, several of the largest online ad platforms have taken swift steps to address problems with advertisers attempting to profit by stoking fears during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Google Ads, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube have all responded in unique ways to stop the flow of misinformation, prevent profiteering, and provide new resources to protect public health.

Google Ads Blocks Advertisers Capitalizing on Crisis

This week, Google Ads updated its Inappropriate Content policy to specifically disallow content which:

“…potentially capitalizes on or lacks reasonable sensitivity towards a natural disaster, conflict, death, public health emergency, or other tragic event.”

The new regulation specifically cites price gouging, selling essential supplies that are in high demand but scarcely available, or ads that use sensitive keywords to manipulate their click-through rate.

For more details about which strategies to avoid and what keywords to be careful about using during this time, check out the full help page Google Ads has created for advertisers.

Google and Bing Block COVID-related Ads

Initially, Google had introduced a policy which entirely disallowed advertising products or services related to coronavirus across the entire platform. However, recent reports suggest they have internally revised this policy to make an exception for trusted organizations like hospitals, medical providers, or other major organizations attempting to provide reliable information to the public.

The search engine is also blocking the sale of face masks on its ad platform, following similar policies from Facebook.

Bing has taken similar steps by blocking all ads related to COVID-19, except those coming from trusted sources.

As a Microsoft spokesperson explained:

“Microsoft Advertising has taken precautionary measures to block ads for delivery related directly to COVID-19 under the Microsoft Advertising Sensitive advertising policy. This precaution also applies to some COVID-19 related medical supplies. We will only allow Public Service Announcements from trusted sources, such as official Govt. agencies, to promote COVID-19 content.”

Facebook and Instagram Block COVID-19 Ads, Create New Resources

Since March, both Facebook Ads and Instagram have been blocking the sale of face masks on their platforms. The policy has since been expanded to include hand sanitizer, surface disinfecting wipes, and COVID-19 testing for children.

At the same time, Facebook has created several new resources for both businesses and the general public, many of which can be found in the new “Marketing for Uncertain Times” deck which contains industry playbooks and general advice for staying informed.

Twitter Gives Advertisers Leeway

After originally banning any and all ads which mentioned “coronavirus” or “COVID-19”, Twitter has revised its ad policies to allow some advertisers to mention the virus.

As the company explains:

“In response to the shifting advertising landscape, and in order to support helpful causes during this time, we’re now allowing managed clients and partners to advertise content containing implicit or explicit reference to COVID-19 in certain use cases, with restrictions.”

The specific cases Twitter will be allowing are:

  • Adjustments to business practices and/or models in response to COVID-19
  • Support for customers and employees related to COVID-19

Despite this, Twitter says it will continue to block ads which include:

  • Distasteful references to the virus
  • Content that may be sensational or likely to incite a panic
  • Inflated prices or products related to the virus
  • Ads for face masks, alcohol-based hand sanitizers, supposed vaccines, or treatments.

TikTok and Pinterest Partner With WHO and Red Cross

TikTok and Pinterest have taken similar steps as others by blocking ads which “reference coronavirus, including when promoting products or services, to create a sense of fear, or to cause widespread offense”, as a TikTok spokesperson said.

In addition, these platforms have also been working with major health organizations around the globe to help spread relevant information and prevent misinformation.

Pinterest has been redirecting any searches on the platform to official content provided by the WHO to prevent the chance of delivering custom results which could be difficult to monitor for disinformation.

TikTok has taken similar steps by donating in-feed ad space to notable organizations including the WHO and Red Cross to ensure users have access to helpful information.

YouTube Blocks COVID-19 Ads Except From Trusted Sources

YouTube’s ad policies have largely been in-step with Google’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, the platform would not allow any form of monetization on content relating to the coronavirus, citing “sensitive topic guidelines.”

Since then, the company has taken some steps to loosen that policy by allowing news organizations and reputable creators to produce videos about the issue in a sustainable way.

In a letter to the community, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki explained:

“In the days ahead, we will enable ads for content discussing the coronavirus on a limited number of channels, including creators who accurately self-certify and a range of news partners. We’re preparing our policies and enforcement processes to expand monetization to more creators and news organizations in the coming weeks.”

Despite this allowance, the company stresses it will continue to remove content that violates its policies or spreads misinformation.

Reddit is launching a new ad type which allows brands to “takeover” the discussion site’s trending section.

The new “Trending Takeover” ads let companies run prominent ads on both the desktop and mobile feeds of the Trending Today area for 24 hours. The ads will be slotted in the second position of one of the site’s most popular areas and will be identified with a simple “promoted” text in bold letters.

 

When clicked on, the ads take users to a landing page featuring the latest conversations, posts, and communities related to keywords specifically selected by you.

Due to the high-profile and limited nature of the ads, Trending Takeover promotions are sold on a reservation basis by contacting Reddit Advertising.

The ads signal the latest push by the platform to be more friendly to brands and advertisers, joining several other recent ad formats. As Vice President of Ads Product and Engineering, Shariq Rizvi said:

“With millions of searches taking place every day and over one-third of users coming to Reddit’s Popular feed daily, brands can now be part of where cultural trends are born online — Reddit. For Reddit, a large focus for 2020 is about maximizing new and premium opportunities for brands to authentically engage with Reddit users.”

Still, brands will need to pay close attention to the site’s communities and only highlight the most engaging content to reach the typically ad-averse audience.

Google Chrome, one of the leading web browsers available, is using its built-in ad blocker to block “annoying” or “intrusive” video ads.

The browser has been using an ad blocker to intervene when sites serve ads that are considered to be disruptive or problematic based on standards established by the Coalition for Better Ads.

Yesterday, the Coalition updated its Better Ads Standards to include new information about ads shown with online videos. As such, Google says it will be expanding its ad blocking features to block ads within videos less than 8 minutes long which are disruptive in any of the three following ways:

Disruptive ads - pre-roll

Image Source: The Coalition for Better Ads

  • Pre-roll ads: Long, non-skippable pre-roll ads or groups of ads longer than 31 seconds that appear before a video and cannot be skipped within the first 5 seconds.

Disruptive Ads - Mid-roll

Image Source: The Coalition for Better Ads

  • Mid-roll ads: Ads of any length which appear in the middle of a video.

Disruptive Ads - Image or Text

Source: The Coalition for Better Ads

  • Image or text ads: Ads that appear on top of a playing video and are in the middle ⅓ of the video player window or cover more than 20 percent of the content.

To be clear, these issues only apply to videos that are less than 8 minutes long. Longer videos can continue to include pre-roll or mid-roll ads without being affected.

For now, both Google and the Coalition for Better Ads are recommending removing any ads in videos which violate these standards within the next four months.

Starting August 5, 2020, Google’s Chrome browser will begin blocking these ads on sites. Sites which repeatedly run problematic ads of this sort can also be blocked from showing ads entirely.

Importantly, Google specifically states these standards will also apply to YouTube ads:

“It’s important to note that YouTube.com, like other websites with video content, will be reviewed for compliance with the Standards. Similar to the previous Better Ads Standards, we’ll update our product plans across our ad platforms, including YouTube, as a result of this standard, and leverage the research as a tool to help guide product development in the future.”

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.

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.