The February Digital Roundup

Neil Dawson
Reading time: 6 minutes
8th March 2019

Google dominated the digital marketing news cycle yet again as they announced a number of updates related to paid media and SEO in February. Some of those changes will even have an immediate impact on the user, who can now view hotel check-in and check-out times directly in the SERPs, for example. Of course, Facebook had a big news item to share, too, and you can find out more about all these announcements and updates in our digital roundup for February 2019.

Say more in your call-only ads with added lines of text

After launching call-only ads in Google Ads nearly four year ago, Google has expanded what you can say about your (or your client’s) business. The ads, which only appear in mobile search results, will offer the option for two 30-character headlines while the description lines are increasing to 90 characters (from 80).

According to Google, the company noticed that it was difficult to place the name of a business and a call to action within the same headline. As a result, they made it so the business title appears at the beginning of the ad description, allowing for more opportunities to create a compelling CTA in the headline.

The company said these changes would roll out over the coming weeks as of a 26th February blog post, so we’re not sure exactly when they’ll appear. Just make sure to double check your campaigns for any updates.

Average position will soon be gone from Google Ads

It’s time to say goodbye to average position (or at least start the grieving process) as part of Google Ads reporting. As the company noted, they have provided replacement metrics—absolute top impression rate and top impression rate—that they say more accurately describes your ad’s “prominence on the page.” They then released additional metrics—absolute top impression share and top impression share—that they say are best used for optimising for the top positions.

As Google gets ready to sunset the average position metric as of September 2019, it’s best to start getting familiar with these replacement metrics if you haven’t yet. Autumn will be here before you know it.

Three new features have been released by Google for responsive display ads

Google introduced three new features for responsive display ads that aim to allow for more creativity and improved insights. First, there’s the addition of video assets, which allows advertisers to include a 30-second video rather than the standard static image. You can also add up to five optional clips, all of which will stem from your YouTube account.

The second new feature is the “combinations report,” where you can see how different pairings of assets perform in your ads. Those assets include “your images, text, dynamic feeds, and videos,” according to Google, and you can see this report by clicking through the “View Ad Details” in the Ads Table followed by “Combinations.”

And finally there’s the “ad strength scorecard.” In addition to checking if you have unique images, descriptions, and headlines, it will also provide you with next steps to follow so that you can improve your overall score.

Facebook introduced Showcase for premium video advertisers

Just before the month came to a close, Facebook announced a brand-new video ad program called Showcase. It’s specifically tailored to premium video ad buyers who are interested in advertising within content on the social media giant’s Facebook Watch feature, which they’re pushing pretty hard with new series and partnerships (like with MTV).

Showcase has three product offerings for advertisers that starts with In-Stream Reserve, whose ads “are bought in advance at a fixed cost and delivered to in-target audiences verified by Nielsen.” Next is In-Stream Reserve Categories, which allows for more “contextually relevant” placements, and finally Sponsorships, which provides the opportunity to “sponsor” specific shows.

Showcase is only available for U.S. advertisers as of this writing, so we’ll have to wait and see when it comes to other countries.

Google My Business now supports hotel check in and check out times

Hotel owners and operators can now provide even more vital information to potential visitors thinking about booking a room through Google. If you (or your client) are using Google My Business to showcase your property on the search engine, you can allow users to directly view check in and check out times.

This is another step in the right direction for offering a streamlined, strong user experience for folks who want to handle everything in the SERPs, especially those searching for queries like “hotels in [city]” and the like. It’s also a win for hoteliers because the more information you can give a potential visitor, the better.

Google Search Console will consolidate web traffic on canonical URLs

Performance reports in Google Search Console will start to look a bit different as of 10th April. On that day, the search monolith rolls out a change to reporting that consolidates web traffic to canonical URLs, rather than the exact URL. For example, instead of seeing splits between your canonical desktop homepage (https://www.url.com) and a separate, mobile homepage (http://m.url.com), the reports will show the data for the canonical URL only.

It’s important to know that you’ll still be able to view performance based on the typical metrics, including device, search appearance (this includes AMP), and country. The difference, of course, is that it’ll all be consolidated to show “you the full picture about a specific piece of content in one property,” as noted by Google.

If you have questions for how this change may impact your reporting, you can ask them on the company’s Webmaster Help Forum.

Google updated the QA page content guidelines

Google updated their content guidelines for pages using the QA schema markup with clear examples of what you should and shouldn’t do when utilising this code. The previous guidelines had some dos and don’ts sprinkled into its language, but this update is even more transparent with its “valid” and “invalid” use case scenarios.

The two valid examples point to using the markup only when users can submit answers to a single question, be it on a product or forum page. The invalid examples are almost all related to a site answering the posed question without giving the user an opportunity to do so, such as within a blog post or FAQ page. Webmasters are also advised to not use the markup on product pages where users can submit multiple questions and answers.

Videos are now displayed in a new grid format in SERP

Could this be the end of the video carousel in Google SERPs? While it’s certainly too soon to say exactly that, it appears that some mobile users have seen a new approach to displaying videos in the search results. A pair of Twitter users (@Bhumikateliya and @glenngabe) pointed out that using Google search on mobile delivered a new grid format for video results, rather than the carousel we’re all accustomed to seeing.What’s also interesting about this is that different users are seeing a different number of results within the grid.

As noted by Barry Schwartz, some are receiving a grid with four videos, while others are being delivered six and even eight. Google hasn’t said anything about this change just yet, so we’ll keep an eye out for any official announcements.

Written By Neil Dawson
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