Episode 171 contains the notable Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of July 24-28, 2023.

1. Google and Microsoft Ad Revenue Up: What Does This Mean for Marketers? – Google and Microsoft both reported strong earnings for Q2 2023, with ad revenue growth outpacing overall revenue growth. 

Google’s ad revenue was up 3.3% year-over-year (revenue increased by $1.85 billion from the previous year, while YouTube ad revenue was $7.67 billion, up from $7.34 billion in 2022), while Microsoft’s ad revenue was up 8%. Google’s ad revenue growth was driven by growth in Search and YouTube. 

Microsoft’s ad revenue growth was driven by growth in Bing and LinkedIn. LinkedIn’s overall revenue increased by $197 million, driven by stronger interest in its Talent Solutions recruitment offerings. But LinkedIn saw a decline in overall ad spend in the most recent period, though Microsoft also reduced its overall marketing spend to offset this. On another front, LinkedIn is also still reporting that it has 202M+ users in United States.

Based on LinkedIn’s reports from earlier this year, is that the platform has seen

  • A 22% increase in views of updates in the main feed year-over-year
  • A 25% increase in public conversations in the app YoY
  • Newsletter creation increased 10X in 2022

What you really need to know, however, is who of your target audience is active in the app, and for that, you can use LinkedIn’s Audience insights, and/or your company page analytics, to glean more info on your specific active audience. Taking into account that LinkedIn is seeing ‘record levels’ of engagement, these types of data notes can help to inform your strategy, and reach the people that are engaging with your business.

2. Meta’s Ad Revenue Up 12% In Q2 – Meta’s ad revenue increased by 12% in the second quarter of 2023 compared to the year-earlier period, surpassing expectations.

Advertising revenue for Q2 2023 was $31.5 billion compared to $28.2 billion in the same period in 2022. This success helped drive total Meta revenue to grow 11% year-on-year from $28.8 billion in Q2 2022 to $32 billion in Q2 2023.

Meta’s Q2 2023 performance also showed impressive growth in user engagement.

  • Facebook’s daily active user count increased by 5% to reach 2.06 billion.
  • The number of monthly active users was 3.03 billion, up 3% year-on-year.
  • The “family of apps” category, which includes Instagram and WhatsApp, saw a 7% year-over-year rise in daily active users, totalling 3.07 billion.
  • The number of monthly active users in this category also increased by 6% to 3.88 billion.

This is the first time that Meta has achieved double-digit growth since the fourth quarter of 2021, with much of its strong performance driven by growth in ad revenue. This sends a clear message that digital advertising is bouncing back after it took a setback due to the economic downturn. Now, forecasters are predicting increased ad spend for later on in the year, which will create more opportunities for marketers.

3. Google: DSA And GDA Advertisers Should Upgrade To Performance Max – Google announced two voluntary upgrades to Performance Max for Dynamic Search (DSA) and Google Display (GDA) advertisers. The AI-driven platform optimizes performance across channels by allowing users to customize their inputs, making it more responsive to individual business needs. Advertisers have seen an average increase of 15% – 20% in conversions after upgrading to a unified campaign strategy.

One of the recent enhancements in Performance Max prevents your campaign from serving ads on traffic related to certain brands. This would offer more control over search results. Advertisers can now specify landing page URLs or exclude certain URLs at the campaign level, offering greater customization via brand settings.

Performance Max customizes your entire Search ad to match consumer intent better using automatically created assets. These automatic assets will soon appear in the asset reporting table, giving users more control. Performance Max also simplifies the implementation of audience strategies through goals directly integrated into the campaign, like new customer acquisition. Google plans to add re-engagement goals in Performance Max later this year to help retain existing customers. Instead of manually managing complex user lists and exclusions, Google will automatically distinguish between new and existing customers.

Although voluntary, the self-upgrade process is highly recommended to start with Performance Max for DSA and GDA campaigns. Advertisers who choose to upgrade can use best practices offered by Google to ensure new Performance Max campaigns are set up for success.

4. TikTok Text Posts: A New Way to Express Yourself – TikTok has announced a new feature called “Text Posts” that allows users to share text-only content on the platform. Text Posts can be up to 1000 characters long and can include images, stickers, and hashtags.

The introduction of Text Posts is a significant development for TikTok, as it allows users to share more creative and expressive content on the platform. Text Posts could also be valuable for businesses as they present a new avenue for content creation and customer engagement on TikTok.

5. Google Merchant Center Adds Customer Support: What You Need to Know – Google Merchant Center is a free service that allows businesses to manage their product listings on Google Shopping. Google has launched a new customer support feature on Merchant Center. The new tool enables retailers to input their customer support information and returns policy. Merchant Center is then able to share these details with shoppers without them ever having to leave the program.

Google explained the importance of providing customer service information via a statement issued on Merchant Center:

  • “Customer service is important for your business and your customers because it allows you to help customers solve any issues with your product or service.
  • “It also helps you build trust with your customers. So it’s important that your customers know how they can reach you for support.”

Here’s how Google said retailers can add their customer support information:

  1. Log into Merchant Center.
  2. Once on the Home page, navigate to the Add customer support info card.
  3. Select Add info.
  4. Input the following customer support information:
    1. Customer service telephone number
    2. Customer service email address
    3. Customer service web page URL (i.e. link to a customer service form)
    4. Select the “Live chat support available” toggle if your business supports this
    5. Select the “Chat bot support available” toggle if your business supports this
    6. After providing the relevant information, select your preferred contact method.
  5. Once these steps are complete, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click  ‘Save’.

6. Google Cracks Down on Automated and AI-Generated Reviews – On August 28, 2023, the “Product Ratings policies” will be updated.. The updated Product Ratings policies addresses the issue of automated and AI-generated content in reviews. The new policies state that reviews that are primarily generated by an automated program or AI application should be flagged as spam using the attribute.

The rules clearly state not to submit reviews that stem from conflicts of interest or contain inauthentic remarks. This includes reviews paid for, employee-written, or composed by individuals with a vested interest in the product.

This is to ensure that users see genuine and helpful reviews when they are making purchasing decisions. 

To ensure compliance, Google combines automated and human evaluation methods. Machine-learning algorithms will support this effort while specially trained experts deal with more complex cases requiring context. Actions against violations can range from disapproving violating content or reviews, issuing warnings, or suspending accounts for repeated or severe offenses.

You can read the updated product ratings policy here.

Businesses can now use a new tool called the “Review Spam Report” to submit spam reviews to Google for review.

7. Google Expands Site Names Support for Subdomains: Improve Your Visibility in Search – Google has expanded support for site names on subdomains through the alternateName property, allowing websites to display their preferred site name in search results. This is a significant improvement for websites with multiple subdomains, as it can help them to improve their visibility in search results.

Previously, Google would only display the main domain name in search results, even if a website had a preferred site name for a subdomain. This meant that websites with multiple subdomains could be difficult to find in search results, as users would have to know the exact subdomain to visit the website.

With the expanded support for site names on subdomains, Google will now display the preferred site name for a subdomain in search results if it is configured correctly. This will make it easier for users to find websites with multiple subdomains, and it could lead to an increase in traffic for these websites.

As a reminder, the best way to indicate a preferred site name to Google is to make use of WebSite structured data, as explained in their site name documentation.

Find out more in the blog post and in their documentation.

8. Are .AI Domains Good for SEO? – There are two kinds of domain names. There are gTLD and ccTLD. A gTLD is a Generic Top Level Domain. These kinds of domains are not associated with any country and can be used worldwide. Typical gTLDs are .com, .net, .org, .biz, .xyz and so on. A ccTLD is a TLD (top level domain) that is associated with a specific country. Google uses ccTLDs to localize the websites that use them with the countries those TLDs are associated with. The .in TLD helps Google to determine which country that domain name is relevant to. This aligns with how people of the world generally expect the Internet to work.

.AI domains are country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) that are associated with the island of Anguilla. However, they are also becoming increasingly popular for use by businesses and organizations around the world. In the July 2023 Google SEO Office hours session, Google’s Gary Illyes answered the question about whether there was a downside to using the .AI domain since it’s associated with the Caribbean island of Anguilla. “As of early June, 2023, we treat .ai as a gTLD in Google Search, so yeah, you can use it for your global presence””

Gary’s answer calls attention to the importance of verifying if a domain extension chosen for a website is treated as a ccTLD or a gTLD because that could make a difference in the website ability to rank worldwide.

There are a few reasons why .AI domains may be a good choice for SEO. First, they are relatively short and easy to remember, which can make them more likely to be typed into search engines. Second, they are associated with the concept of artificial intelligence, which is a growing field of interest.

However, it is important to note that .AI domains do not have any inherent SEO benefits. Whether or not they help your website rank in search results will depend on a number of other factors, such as the quality of your content and the number of backlinks you have.

Google publishes the list of ccTLDs that are treated by Google as generic top level domains. The list shows that ccTLDs like .eu and .asia are treated like gTLDs. Other international domains that are treated like gTLDs are .ad, .co, .fm, .tv and of course .ai.

9. Google’s John Mueller: Programmatic SEO is Spam – Google’s John Mueller has called out “programmatic SEO” as a form of spam. This type of SEO involves creating large numbers of low-quality landing pages that are designed to rank for specific keywords.

Mueller said that programmatic SEO is often used to target “hyper-specific” keywords, such as “songs about dogs” or “maps of schools.” These keywords are often not very competitive, so it is easy to rank for them with low-quality content.

Mueller warned that programmatic SEO can lead to penalties from Google. He said that Google is “trying to get rid of this stuff” and that it is “not something that we want to see in the search results.”