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Google Ads is reducing the amount of information it provides advertisers according to recent alerts many account managers have seen in the past week.

The company says it will soon stop giving advertisers data about search queries triggered when there is not “significant” data.

As the alert says:

“We are updating the search terms report to only include terms that were searched by a significant number of users. As a result you may see fewer terms in your report going forward.”

Why Google is Doing This

According to a statement to Search Engine Land, the search engine made this decision to protect user privacy.

“In order to maintain our standards of privacy and strengthen our protections around user data, we have made changes to our Search Terms Report to only include terms that a significant number of users searched for. We’re continuing to invest in new and efficient ways to share insights that enable advertisers to make critical business decisions.”

What This Means For Advertisers

On one hand, the opinion could be made that Google is streamlining its reports and preventing advertisers from being able to identify users or personal information based on individual queries.

For example, it is not unheard of for advertisers to see search terms made a single time or driving a single click in ad reports. That is likely to go away in the coming days, removing outliers and better protecting users.

On the other hand, many advertisers have expressed frustration over the lack of transparency. The decision to remove this information entirely means advertisers know less about where their money is going.

Additionally, Google hasn’t been entirely clear on what “significant” means, making many wary of what this shift will look like. If it just removes queries with single impressions, then advertisers are likely to accept it and move on. Still, there are countless low-volume queries with no risk to privacy which could be removed if Google decides to use a higher threshold. 

Google is launching a new way to promote your brand with smart campaigns in Google Maps called Promoted Pins – and they are free for advertisers through September. 

Until the end of September 2020, advertisers running smart campaigns who also have a GMB listing will not be charged for any clicks, calls, or sales generated from these pins. 

Promoted pins help showcase specific or unique services your business offers, like curbside service, delivery, or pickup. 

“Every month, over 1 billion people use Google Maps to see what’s around them, search for businesses, and find directions. Promoted pins on Google Maps help your business stand out during these moments by displaying a prominent, square-shaped Google Maps pin.”

The company says the decision to make the ad unit free came from wanting to help small businesses get back on their feet after the nation-wide lockdowns. 

Promoted pins have already started rolling out to smart campaign advertisers and should be fully available within the next few weeks.

Google released a few sneaky updates to their advertising policies which could have a dramatic impact on many advertisers in the near future.

Among the announcements are new regulations which allow the platform to pause ad accounts under investigation and significant revisions to its Misrepresentations policy.

Pausing Ad Accounts

While giving an update about plans to verify advertisers on the platform, Google included a statement suggesting they may pause accounts believed to be breaking rules.

As the statement says:

“We may temporarily pause accounts to conduct investigations if we identify potentially harmful advertiser behavior. Paused accounts cannot run any ads.”

While this is in line with Google’s past policies, the surprising addition is a note that the company will take the same action for ad accounts which do not complete the identity verification process after it rolls out.

Changes To The Misrepresentation Policy

Another big change to Google’s ad policies is an extension to what types of ads are blocked for “misrepresentation.”

Beginning in July, these policies will be amended to include a “Clickbait Ads” policy which intends to prevent ads from using sensationalized imagery or text which is purposely vague to drive engagement.

Specifically, Google says it will block ads including these types of clickbait text or imagery:

  • Claims of secret or scandal revelations
  • Language that implies the click will give context (i.e. “click here to find out” or other similar phrases)
  • Imagery featuring altered body parts, mugshots and disaster photos
  • Before and after imagery of the human body

Additionally, the company will block ads using negative life events to evoke emotion, such as:

  • Ads related to potentially traumatic events like accidents, illnesses, bankruptcy, arrests, and more.
  • Ads using imagery to provoke extreme emotions like fear or shock.

What This Means For You

The result of these announcements is relatively limited to a few specific industries – specifically those which provide support or solutions during major negative life events. Under the new rules, ads for bail bonds, diet pills, funeral services, and even law firms will be very tricky – if not outright impossible – to run.

Additionally, the announcement that Google will pause ad accounts which are not verified or are under investigation ups the stakes for failing play by Google’s rules.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.

Google says it will be rolling out a new ad extension aimed specifically at driving leads for your business in the coming weeks.

The ads look similar to typical search ads with a unique call-to-action. If a user clicks on that CTA, they are taken to a form which can be quickly pre-filled with contact information from their Google account or manually entered.

In the announcement, Google says lead form ad extensions can:

“Capture interest when potential customers are searching for your company, products, or services on Google. A fast, mobile-optimized experience makes form submission easy and eliminates the extra step of navigating to your mobile site lead form.”

Based on their own testing, Google says one advertiser improved their closing rate for sales leads by 20% by using lead form extensions.

While the feature is currently limited to beta testers, it will become available to all Google Ads advertisers in the next few weeks. However, the ad extensions will not be available for advertisers in a few select areas.

Lead form extensions will not be eligible for ads relating to:

  • Adult-oriented content
  • Alcohol-related content
  • Gambling-related content
  • Healthcare and medicines
  • Political content

For more information about lead ad extensions, check out Google’s new help center document here.