This year, Cyber Monday resulted in the largest online shopping day in history with $6.59 billion in online sales, which is up 16.8% compared to last year according to Adobe. Mobile accounted for a larger revenue chunk, accounting for 33.1% (24.1% smartphones, 9% tablet) of total revenue and revenue coming from smartphones marked 39.2% compared to last year.
Digital platforms are still massively evolving and getting more vital to marketing initiatives. That’s why I created a massive list of 51 digital marketing updates, which is significantly larger than my digital marketing updates from October and November.
Summary Of Digital Marketing Updates Recap December 2017
Instead of placing a summary at the bottom, I’ve placed a summary here so you can get a quick rundown of what’s been happening without scrolling all the way to the bottom:
Besides new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the major trends I see are 1) Google is increasingly moving to voice search along with their updates on Google Assistant (simply put, a voice search assisting tool), Knowledge Panels and Search Snippets, 2) Facebook is tapping into new ad revenue sources, 3) Instagram is focusing on enhancing user engagement with new features.
You’ll see Google has a lot of updates and tests on their Google Assistant, Knowledge Panels and Search Snippets this past month. I would assume they had to focus on voice search because the use of voice devices are drastically rising. In 2015, there were 1.7 million voice-first devices shipped. In 2016, there were 6.5 million devices shipped and VoiceLabs predicts there will be 24.5 million devices shipped in 2018. In addition, 64% of US voice assistant owners surveyed by Invoca said that they use voice assistants more frequently.
I would say improving their Knowledge Panels and Search Snippets is a part of their voice search improvement initiatives. In order for Google Assistant to answer the user’s questions and demands quickly, it’s better to have both within Google’s search results: Knowledge Panels and Search Snippets and it shouldn’t be on third party websites or apps.
In the future — maybe not in 2018 but around 2020, users won’t have to visit any third party websites or apps to complete their needs and Google will directly give them an answer in most cases.
As for Facebook, you’ll see more news about them tapping into new arenas including moving to a local selling model to touch on potential market such as Europe and Asia, the launch Of Facebook Creator app for video influencers, pre-roll ad test in Facebook Watch, and so on.
For Instagram, they’ve added several new features to encourage user engagement and to foster Instagram communities such as a new function to request to join a friend’s live video, a new function to follow hashtags on Instagram, the launch of their standalone Instagram Messenger app and so on.
For greater details, check out my updates below. I’ve put together important ones (meaning important important) up front and less important ones further down.
25 Important Digital Marketing Updates – December 2017 Recap
15 Important Google Updates In December
Google Assistant Updates To Make Google Assistant More Discoverable – Nov 15
Google updated the functionality on their Google Assistant. The notable features added are listed below:
1. The addition of a new section for further categorization (ie. Food & Drink -> Order Food or View a Menu): If you are an app developer, just make sure to put the information within your app description to encourage Google Assistant to show your app as a result. Also they added a new function for users to reach your app by contextual queries such as “book an appointment to fix my bike”
2. New APIs:
2.1. Connecting Google Assistant with a phone: you can now pass a map or transaction information to your phone.
2.2. Account Linking in conversation: now you can encourage users to link their account to your app, though users had to link their account before they had a chance to consider account linking.
They’ve launched a lot of other features too – visit Google Developers page to find out more.
Google Adwords New Features: Promotion Extensions, Custom Intent Audiences & Ad Variations – Nov 16
For holiday season, Google launched a couple of functions for Google Adwords.
First, a Promotion Extension that lets you showcase sales and discount offers on Google Search Ads.
Image: New AdWords innovations to drive better results for your business
Secondly, Ad Variations which lets you create and test small variations of ad copy and apply the change to pretty much any ads you wish in less than a minute. It’s available under Google Adwords Experiments function – Find out how to use it here.
Lastly this is the most important update:
Custom Intent Audiences, this allows you to reach people who want to buy a specific product you offer based on previous data from your campaign, website and Youtube. Available on Google Display Ads.
You can now go beyond the pre-defined audience categories. You can set keywords, URLs and services related to your offerings and capture those who are researching through websites, Youtube and apps.
Google Shopping Mobile Interface Updates: More Product Info & Buying Guides – Nov 21
Google redesigned their Google shopping design on mobile to showcase a bigger image of the product, product details and reviews without users going into the shopper’s page for product related searches.
Image: A merry mobile holiday with Google Shopping
They also added a function that allows you to compare reviews, prices and specs.
Along with the update on the knowledge panel, it seems Google wants to create a user experience where the user can satisfy their needs without visiting the website.
The Launch Of Google Lens For Google Assistant – Nov 21
Google launched the Google Lens which is only available for the Pixel phone. Working together with Google Assistant, Google Lens will tell you more information about what you’ve taken a picture of.
Image: Learn more about the world around you with Google Lens and the Assistant
What’s significant about the Google Lens is its ability to read text information. It lets you access URLs, call phone numbers and navigate towards an address from a business card. Other features listed are recognizing landmarks, art, books, movies and barcodes. You can see how accurate Google Lens is on this Search Engine Land post.
Google Trend Updates: YouTube, Google Shopping, News & Image Search Trends Are Now Available – Nov 28
Google updated Google Trends to show search trends for Google Image, News, Shopping and even Youtube searches. This is the first official tool that gives you Youtube search estimations. I hope they’ll add Youtube search volume estimations on their Google Keyword Planner soon.
Warning For Webmasters Promoting Coupons In Event Markup – Nov 27
Google pointed out the misuse of event markups, specifically for those who use it to promote discounts and coupons. An example Google mentioned:
Google said this will take a manual action and may result in removing all of the structured data markups from the search results. Check out the notification on Google Search Console in case you’re implementing this tactic.
Updates on Google Assistant To Help You Find Local Service Providers – Nov 30
Google Assistant started showing nearby services including electricians, plumbers, house cleaners and more. The following gif better explains how it works:
Image: Get local help with your Google Assistant
This feature is available only in the US. Only service providers that are prescreened by Google, HomeAdvisor and Porch appear. If you want to get the Google guarantee, visit their Google guaranteed page.
The Launch of Questions & Answers On Google My Business To Desktop Search – Dec 1
Google added Questions & Answers to their local knowledge panel on desktop. Originally this function was launched on mobile and has been causing spam or offensive comments within the section – example below:
Not just random users either. Some w/Local Guide status doing it too. Google should have learned their lesson from G+ years ago. pic.twitter.com/JgRxCmtUvO
— Taycan Darling (@TaycanDarling) August 28, 2017
There’s no real solution for businesses to remove these comments, but it would be good to check out your Google My Business account and see if there’s any negative comments.
The Extension Of Description Tag Length In Search Results – Dec 1
According to Search Engine Land, Google has confirmed their recent change on Search Snippet which provides more useful and detailed information in search results and the average length increased from 160 characters to 230 characters.
This is happening as a result of dynamic Search Snippet. Therefore, you don’t need to bother extending your description tag.
Google Often Tests Longer Search Results Snippets
Google officially increases length of snippets in search results
A New Answers Carousel Test Within The Search Results Snippets – Dec 5
Google is testing a new feature to show quick answers within search results.
OK, I see them again. Here are Answer Cards in both desktop and mobile search. The mobile version includes a carousel so you can swipe through answers. And check out the green "Best Answer" box with the number of votes. Looks like it's being tested now. h/t @cremf pic.twitter.com/F1tKQbwfnN
— Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe) December 5, 2017
If the update gets implemented, users may be able to get information they want for how-to searches without stepping into any web pages and site owners may experience traffic drops through organic search.
Google Mobile Search Interface With Fewer Organic Results – Dec 6
On mobile, fewer search results were reported. The first page only includes 2-5 search results and has “see more results” which loads more than 10 results instead of the traditional “next page”.
Voice Search Data May Soon be Available On Search Console – Dec 7
Google’s spokesperson, John Mueller, began asking the search community what kind of information they wanted to see in regards to voice search. Soon enough we’ll be able to see data from voice search through the Search Console.
Testing Easy Checkout on Google Search Results – Dec 8
Easy Checkout began appearing on Google ads on iOS devices. Previously, it was launched on Android, but now tests have started on iOS devices too. Easy Checkout lets you buy products directly through Google as long as you have payment set up through your Google account. They want to encourage more purchases through Google shopping ads to compete with Amazon. According to Search Engine Land, this has been in the works for a while.
Adwords Customer Match By Phone Numbers & Mailing Addresses – Dec 11
Now Google Adwords Customer can be set up by using phone numbers and mailing addresses. Previously, you needed email addresses to activate audience targeting.
Customer Match lets you target users for all Google products, including search ads, shopping, display, Youtube and gmail. Like Facebook’s lookalike audience, it has a similar audience targeting option for Youtube and gmail campaigns. For more information about Customer Match, visit this adwords help.
Search Data For Last 12 Months Is Available on Beta – Dec 12
On Google Search Console’s beta version, 12 months of historical search data became available. Previously, only 3 months of data was available. This makes wider search data accessible to search marketers and will help them analyze search trend data more easily.
Personally, this is so exciting!!!
5 Important Facebook Important Updates
The Launch Of Creator App For Influencers To Build Video Communities – Nov 16
Facebook launched Facebook Creator, wherein creators can easily create a video, go live and engage with the community on Facebook. A notable feature is the community tab which lets creators connect with their fans and collaborators as well as foster their community. Here are some of the other features:
- Live Creative Kit: Access exclusive tools that make it easy to create live broadcasts with a personalized and fun feel. Creators can add intros as openers to their live broadcasts, outros that conclude them, custom live stickers that viewers can use to interact, and graphic frames to create a consistent brand.
- Camera & Stories: Use fun camera effects and frames and easily crosspost content to other platforms. Creators can also access Facebook Stories to engage with their fans.
- Insights: Easily access metrics to inform content creation, including analytics about your Page, videos and fans.
Facebook also launched Facebook for Creators where creators can learn about how to make great content and reach new tools to support their production.
Testing Messenger Broadcast For Businesses to Send Message Blasts Via Messenger – Nov 28
Facebook developed a mass-messaging tool called “Messenger Broadcast”. They are testing the function internally and it might be available soon.
Facebook said that brands only can reach people that have initiated conversation with them. Therefore, brands need to encourage users to use Facebook Messenger to communicate before they can take advantage of this Messenger Broadcast.
Temporarily Stopped Racial Group Targeting For Exclusion – Nov 30
As I mentioned in 17 Digital Marketing Updates Recap October 2017, ProPublica revealed Facebook’s multicultural affinity ad targeting violates federal law. In response, Facebook temporarily disabled the ad option which prevents advertisers from excluding people based on ethnicity.
Pre-roll Ad Test in Facebook Watch – Dec 1
Facebook rolled out their pre-roll video ads exclusively for Facebook Watch, not the newsfeed.
Facebook launched mid-roll video ads – or ad breaks – for non-live videos early this year. It doesn’t seem as profitable as they had projected according to Marketing Land. They needed other revenue source from video content and it is pre-roll video ads where viewers need to see ads before the content.
It might make sense to have a pre-roll video ad for Facebook Watch since the way people consume their videos is similar to the way they would on Youtube, whereas the way people consume videos on Facebook in-stream videos is more passive.
Anyway, advertisers may notice a boost for their video ads in upcoming weeks.
Moving to a Local Selling Model – Dec 12
Facebook announced they will have a local office to support sales to local advertisers for each country. They are aiming to implement this change through 2018 and to complete their plan by Q2 2019. TechCrunch pointed out the majority of Facebook’s ad revenue is made up by the US and Canada. They want to focus on international market.
3 Important Instagram Updates
Instagram has focused on reinforcing engagement on Instagram by adding several new features that encourage users to interact each other.
New Function to Request Joining a Friend’s Live Video – Nov 21
Instagram rolled out a new feature to their live videos: you can now request to join other’s live videos. When you’re live on Instagram, your viewers can request to join your live video. Previously, hosts could invite their friend to join a live video, but it had to come from the host.
The feature fosters more 2 way conversations between hosts and guests, as well as collaboration. It doesn’t mean everyone who requests to join will join the live video. Hosts can pick who to do live video with.
The Launch Of Story Highlights and Stories Archive – Dec 5
Instagram launched 2 new features:
1) Stories Archive
2) Stories Highlights
Allowing users more opportunities to share their stories. Stories Archive will automatically store your stories beyond the 24 hours. These archives can be seen by you and you can turn off the auto-archiving anytime. Story Highlights allows users to choose any Instagram stories to highlight and it stays on your profile. Viewers can access your collected stories unless the user has removed it.
A New Function To Follow Hashtags on Instagram – Dec 12
Instagram rolled out a new function which allows users to follow hashtags rather than people to encourage users to discover new posts easily. This update allows users see more photos from people they don’t follow in their newsfeed and will accelerate engagements on Instagram. From a business point of view, now it makes more sense to promote hashtags rather than the brand’s Instagram account to foster conversation in a more collaborative way.
Source: Now You Can Follow Hashtags on Instagram
2 Important Updates For Other Digital Marketing Platforms
GDPR Is On Its Way To Businesses In North America – Nov 17
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a European Union regulation that protects personal data for users and this regulation is about to affect businesses in North America as well. Starting in May 2018, GDPR will apply to companies that have traffic from EU citizens no matter where the businesses is located. They will have to comply with EU’s notification requirements and data storage obligations. Think about it, if you operate your business in English, chances are you have some visitors from EU. There are 2 ways you can do to avoid GDPR penalties:
1) Blocking all EU users
2) Complying with regulations.
For more information, visit this article from Wired UK – they summarized this GDPR issue well.
Announcing support for AMP article analytics on Twitter – Dec 6
Twitter enhanced their support of AMP and added article analytics. Now you can record the view when Twitter loads the AMP version of articles.
Apple Launches ‘Set It and Forget It’ Search Ads Basic for the App Store – Dec 5
Apple launched Search Ads Basic which is a simplified version of their search ads to help advertisers who don’t have time to manage their campaigns. In short, it’s like Google Express for Apple.
27 Digital Marketing Updates Recap In December 2017
By now, you have been through all the important ones. But if your job as a marketer is to make sure you are on top of current updates. Here are a bunch more tidbits for you.
16 Google Updates
Google for Job’s Search Function Updates – Nov 15
Google updated their Google for Job’s search function. The notable updates:
1. Estimated salary range for each job – as you know, the majority of job postings don’t show salary and this may give users a better understanding of how much they’d earn.
2. Location filter that allows users to see job available near their location.
3. Ideal platform for you to apply to specific job postings. If you have a solid resume on Monster, for instance, Google will find if the job posting you found on another platform is available on Monster and give you a choice.
As an employer, you can either simply post your job opening on a major job posting site or create a page on your website to leverage Google for Jobs – see the technical instructions here.
Google Maps Design Updates – Nov 15
Google updated their user interface on Google Maps which boasts a new colour scheme and icons to better navigate users to reach what they are looking for.
More Transparency On News Content With The Trust Project – Nov 16
Like Facebook and Twitter, Google took a step further towards transparency on news content, partnering with The Trust Project. As their first step, they released eight indicators that newsrooms can add to their content: 1) Best Practices (ie. the mission of the news outlet, who funds them), 2) Author Expertise, 3) Type of Work (ie. opinion, analysis, sponsor), 4) Citations and references, 5) Methods, 6) Locally Sourced, 7) Diverse Voices, 8) Actionable Feedback – find the full details here.
From an SEO point of view, this action may not be ranking factor and may be just a label next to each article.
Announcement For Usage of AMP’s Canonical Pages – Nov 16
Google will require AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) and canonical pages to match as of February 1, 2018
Google announced that the AMP content needs to be comparable to the original content to show it as an AMP page. In case you’re not familiar with AMP, AMP is a super-fast-to-load version of html and Google has encouraged it to improve the user experience on mobile.
An example Google pointed out was an AMP page used for teaser content, like in the image below:
Google repeatedly emphasized that AMP is not a ranking factor so, you don’t need to worry about it unless you’re a publisher who gets traffic through Google Top Stories.
Google Flights Redesign – Nov 21
Google launched the new design for Google Flights.
Knowledge Graph Data Integration In Local Search Panels – Nov 27
Google was testing and added 2 new tabs to Local Packs, About and Posts. Not all brands are showing the new knowledge panel in Local Packs, but it will likely be added to more brands in the future.
Google Finance Updates – Nov 28
Google updated a couple features on Google search for finance and stocks. Now you will be able to access the latest news about your interests.
A New Donate Button On Search For US-based Nonprofits – Nov 29
Google added a Donate button within search results for brand terms of non-profit organizations. It’s available for US based non-profits. In order to activate this feature, visit Google for Nonprofits and find out more.
All Google Posts Are Now Available On Desktop – Nov 30
Now you can see all Google posts on desktop even though only recent ones could be seen.
Audiobook Results On Google Book Search – Nov 30
Google included Audiobooks in their Google book search feature.
Have audiobook, will travel. Book the perfect holiday road trip read with new audiobook options, now in Search. pic.twitter.com/GHPmAaDWjX
— Google (@Google) November 29, 2017
New Updates On Google Manufacturer Center – Dec 1
Google Manufacturer Center expanded their availability to more countries including the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Brazil and the Netherlands. The product information now appears in Google Knowledge Panels (only in the US for now) and can be updated through API.
Google Manufacturer Center lets brands upload product features, descriptions and images to make sure the information is accurate and attractive enough to appeal to their target audience.
Discounting The Old AJAX Crawling Scheme in Q2 2018 – Dec 4
Even if your website follows old recommendations for supporting ‘_escaped_fragment_‘, your website will be indexed the same as before according to Google’s Q&A.
Here are tips from Google:
- Verify ownership of the website in Google Search Console to gain access to the tools there, and to allow Google to notify you of any issues that might be found.
- Test with Search Console’s Fetch & Render. Compare the results of the #! URL and the escaped URL to see any differences. Do this for any significantly different part of the website. Check our developer documentation for more information on supported APIs, and see our debugging guide when needed.
- Use Chrome’s Inspect Element to confirm that links use “a” HTML elements and include a rel=nofollow where appropriate (for example, in user-generated content)
- Use Chrome’s Inspect Element to check the page’s title and description meta tag, any robots meta tag, and other meta data. Also check that any structured data is available on the rendered page.
The Test Launch Of ‘Notable Moments’ Carousel in Knowledge Graph Cards – Dec 3
Google added notable moments to their knowledge graph cards.
Google is testing "notable moments" carousel in knowledge panels pic.twitter.com/Wiu2shmEs7
— Sergey Alakov (@sergey_alakov) December 4, 2017
New Features For Featured Snippets: Images, Related Search & Content, and People Relations – Dec 6
Google updated their Featured Snippets and Knowledge Panels by adding more images and related searches.
Google AdWord Auction Insights & Impression Share Data Refreshed Multiple Times A Day – Dec 7
Now Google Adwords refreshes impression share and auction insights a few times a day. This allows advertisers to make adjustments quicker. To learn more about data freshness for Google Adwords, visit adwords help.
Now Google Shows You a Video Response Directly From Celebrities – Dec 7
Google started showing selfie videos when you ask frequently asked questions about celebrities.
Image: Your Search questions, answered selfie-style on Google
Right now, it applies to selected well-known personalities. They said it’s only available on mobile in the US, though I can see it from Canada.
5 Facebook Updates
PayPal’s New Chat Extension In Facebook Messenger For Sellers To Invoice Buyers – Nov 21
Partnering with PayPal, Facebook launched a Facebook Messenger extension that allows PayPal sellers to invoice buyers on Messenger without leaving the conversation.
Facebook has focused on their Facebook Marketplace to compete with C2C platforms including Craigslist and this initiative is one of their efforts. Deals in those existing platforms are done anonymously and often, it causes trouble. Here’s hoping Facebook will become the major platform for secured deals.
Facebook Drops $50M/year Worth of Fee on Donations – Nov 29
Facebook decided to eliminate their 5% fee for donation through Donate buttons on Facebook. Therefore, non-profit organizations will receive 100%. Facebook also announced a Fundraiser API to connect Facebook fundraiser to offsite campaigns partnering with limited non-profits.
Messenger Kids: a New Messenger App For Families – Dec 4
Facebook rolled out ‘Messenger Kids’ for users under 13 years old. The messenger app can be controlled from their parent’s Facebook including their kid’s accounts and contacts. There are no ads in Messenger Kids, of course.
New Functionality To Import Instagram Contacts into Facebook Messenger – Dec 4
Facebook started testing out a function that lets users import contacts on Instagram to Facebook Messenger. While I see why they did this, I’m not convinced that it works knowing the user demographic of Facebook Messenger and Instagram Messenger is different.
The Launch Of ‘Did You Know’ Social Questionnaire On News feed – Dec 6
Facebook launched a new feature on Facebook called “Did You Know” to encourage people to share about themselves, with questions like “The superpower I want most is”, “The first thing I’d do after winning the lottery is” and so on.
They wanted people to have a personal connection with Facebook rather than users only sharing content like articles and videos that may include commercial purposes.
3 Instagram Updates
Stories and Save on Mobile Web – Nov 16
Instagram rolled out 2 new features on Instagram mobile web: creating stories and savi