Episode 184 contains the important Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Oct 23-27, 2023.

1. Google Introduces “Search Themes” –  A New Optional Performance Max Signal : Google has introduced a new feature called “Search Themes” for its Performance Max campaigns. If you’re not familiar, Performance Max campaigns use Google’s AI to automatically place ads across Google’s landscape after analyzing your budget, assets, feeds, and landing pages to predict valuable placements. . The new feature allows advertisers to have more control over these automated campaigns by providing specific topics or categories relevant to their business. This helps the AI system better understand what kind of traffic would be most beneficial for your business – better targeting means more relevant traffic, and more relevant traffic means higher conversion rates.

Why should you care? Traditional keyword-based advertising has its limitations. For instance, if you’ve just launched a new product or entered a new market, you might not have enough data for effective keyword targeting. Search Themes fill this gap by allowing you to provide additional context about your business, helping Google to better understand and target your ads. You can add up to 25 search themes per ad group  in your Performance Max campaign, and these themes will be treated like phrases and broad match keywords in regular search campaigns.  Search themes will respect any brand exclusions and negative keywords you’ve set at the account level. 

This is a significant step towards giving advertisers more control over automated systems, which has been a long-standing request from the business community.

Google has launched this feature in beta and plans to add more robust search term insights and guidance around utilizing Search Themes in 2024. Early feedback from pilot testers has been positive.

2. Google’s Latest Update on Structured Data! – Google has just rolled out an update that allows you to mix different types of structured data on your website. If you’re wondering what structured data is, it’s a way to label your website’s content so search engines like Google can understand it better. This helps improve your website’s visibility in search results, which is crucial for attracting more customers.

Before this update, you had to choose between using JSON-LD or Microdata formats for your structured data. Each has its own pros and cons. JSON-LD is easier to maintain and read, while Microdata integrates directly into your HTML. Now, Google says it’s okay to use both formats together. This flexibility can make your website more efficient and effective in communicating with search engines.

Why is this important for you? Imagine you run a blog on your business website. Previously, you might have had to duplicate your article content in the structured data to make it understandable to Google, making your code bulky. With this update, you can use Microdata for the article content and JSON-LD for other metadata, avoiding unnecessary duplication. This means cleaner, more efficient code, which can lead to faster load times and a better user experience.

This change is optional, so you don’t have to rush to update your existing structured data. But it opens up new possibilities for optimizing your website. Whether you’re looking to improve your site’s SEO or streamline its code, this update offers a valuable opportunity to do both.

3. Don’t Let Google Penalize You: Avoid These Content Mistakes Now! – Are you aware that the type of content you publish on your website can either make or break your online presence? Google’s Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, recently shed light on what the search engine considers “unhelpful content.” In simple terms, unhelpful content is material written primarily to rank well in search engine results, rather than to serve your audience’s needs.

Why should you care? Google is the gatekeeper to your online visibility. If your content is deemed unhelpful, it could seriously harm your website’s search engine ranking. This means fewer people will find your business online, leading to lost opportunities and revenue.

Sullivan pointed out that if you’re writing articles like “20 Fun Things You Can Do Today” just to rank well for the term “fun things,” then you’re on the wrong track. The focus should be on creating content that is genuinely useful to your audience. He also cautioned against using tools that suggest what to write about based on what might rank well. According to him, this approach often leads to content that Google considers unhelpful.

So, what’s the takeaway? Shift your focus from trying to please search engines to meeting the needs of your audience. If someone asks a question and your content provides a clear answer, that’s “people-first content.” And guess what? Google loves it!

Don’t risk your online visibility by making easily avoidable mistakes. Make the shift to audience-focused content today and watch your online presence grow.

P.S. Google’s guidelines are not just rules but opportunities to improve. Take action now to align your content strategy with what truly matters!

4. The Real Culprit Behind Your Website’s Ranking Drop: It’s Not CLS! – Have you noticed a sudden drop in your website’s Google search rankings and are scrambling to find out why? You might be tempted to blame it on “Cumulative Layout Shift” (CLS), especially if you’ve recently received warnings about it from Google Search Console. But hold on, Google’s John Mueller has made it clear: CLS is not the reason for sudden, significant drops in search rankings.

Firstly, what is Cumulative Layout Shift? It’s a metric that measures the visual stability of your website. For example, if elements on your webpage move around as it loads, that’s a high CLS score, and it’s generally considered bad for user experience. However, according to Mueller, even if you have issues with CLS, it’s not going to cause a drastic drop in your Google rankings.

Why is this important for you? Because focusing on the wrong issue can waste your valuable time and resources. Google has consistently stated that page experience signals, like Core Web Vitals (which includes CLS), are not significant ranking factors. They might act more like a “tie-breaker” than a major ranking signal. So, if you’ve seen a drop in traffic, the culprit is likely something else.

In summary, while it’s good to optimize for a better page experience, don’t panic or “over-focus” on metrics like CLS when you see a drop in your rankings. Your time is better spent analyzing other potential issues that could have a more significant impact on your website’s performance.

P.S. Understanding what really affects your website’s ranking can save you from unnecessary stress and help you focus on what truly matters for your business. Don’t chase the wrong problems!

5. Stop Blaming Your Web Host: The Real Story Behind Google’s “Hostload Exceeded” Error! – If you’ve been scratching your head over the “Hostload Exceeded” error message on Google Search Console, you’re not alone. This error has left many website owners puzzled, leading them to question their web hosting services. But Google’s John Mueller has clarified that the issue is not with your web host; it’s something else entirely.

First, let’s break down what “Hostload Exceeded” means. This error appears when you try to index your website’s pages using Google Search Console. Indexing is crucial because it helps Google understand your website’s content, making it searchable and visible to potential customers. So, when you see an error like this, it’s natural to worry.

However, Mueller has stated that the problem is not with your web host or even with Google’s crawling and indexing processes. Instead, the issue arises when people “spam” the URL inspection tool by submitting too many URLs for indexing. In other words, the error is a result of user behavior, not a technical glitch or quality issue with your website.

Why is this important? Because understanding the real cause behind this error can save you time and effort. You don’t need to switch web hosts or make drastic changes to your website. Instead, be mindful of how many URLs you’re submitting for indexing. Normal crawling and indexing by Google will happen naturally, so there’s no need to force the process.

P.S. Transparency and accurate information are key to solving problems. Don’t waste time fixing what’s not broken; focus on what truly matters for your website’s success!

6. Google’s New Privacy Feature : IP Protection – Google is taking a significant step in enhancing user privacy with its new IP Protection feature for Chrome. If you’re wondering what IP Protection is, it’s a feature designed to mask users’ original IP addresses, making it harder for websites to track them. This is crucial for you as a business owner because it could impact how you target and reach potential customers online.

Why is IP Protection important? In today’s digital age, privacy is a growing concern. Many users are wary of how their data is being used, and Google’s new feature aims to address this by limiting cross-site tracking. This means that the feature could potentially disrupt traditional online advertising methods that rely on tracking users’ behavior based on their IP addresses.

Here’s how it works: Users will need to opt-in to activate IP Protection. Initially, the feature will focus on Google-owned domains and be available for U.S.-based IP addresses. Google plans to roll out this feature in phases, starting with a single company-owned proxy server responsible for routing web traffic. Future updates will include a more complex system for added privacy.

So, what does this mean for your business? If you rely heavily on targeted advertising, you may need to rethink your strategies. The feature is still in its early stages, but it’s essential to stay ahead of the curve and consider how these privacy changes could affect your marketing efforts.

P.S. Privacy is not just a user concern; it’s a business concern too. Stay updated and adapt your strategies to meet the evolving digital landscape. Don’t get left behind!

7. Google’s Q3’23 Ad Revenue Bounces Back – Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., has reported an 11% year-on-year increase in search advertising revenue for Q3 2023. If you’re wondering why this matters to you, it’s simple: this uptick indicates a stabilizing ad market, which could be a golden opportunity for your business.

Why is this important? The 11% gain in search revenue is a significant improvement from the 5% loss reported in the previous quarter. This suggests that the digital advertising landscape is recovering, making it a ripe time for businesses like yours to invest in online advertising. Alphabet’s CFO, Ruth Porat, stated that the “fundamental strength of our business was apparent again in Q3,” with a total revenue of $77 billion, up 11% year over year.

The report also highlighted a 12.5% increase in YouTube ad revenue, while Google’s advertising network saw a 2.6% decline. However, this decline is an improvement over the previous quarter, signaling a positive trend. Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, emphasized the role of AI-driven innovations in driving this growth, particularly in search and YouTube.

8. IndexNow Impressive Growth : 1.4 Billion URLs Submitted Daily For Indexing – If you’re a business owner with an online presence, you know how crucial it is for your website content to be up-to-date in search engine results. The problem? Search engines often lag behind in reflecting the latest changes on your website. This is where IndexNow comes in, a service that has made significant strides in solving this issue.

Established two years ago, IndexNow aims to streamline how websites communicate their content changes to search engines. The service has seen exponential growth, with 60 million websites joining daily and a staggering 1.4 billion URLs submitted each day. The platform bridges the gap between search engine results and real-time website content by sending a simple “ping” to participating search engines whenever a URL is added, updated, or deleted. This ensures that search engines crawl only the updated content, making the process more efficient for both businesses and search engines.

IndexNow is integrated with popular platforms like WordPress, Wix Premium, and Duda, making it easy for website owners to adopt. If you’re using SEO plugins like Yoast, All-in-One SEO, RankMath, or SEOPress, IndexNow is already included. Even if you’re not using these services, activating IndexNow is straightforward. All you need to do is generate an API key, host it on your web server, add the necessary code to your website, and monitor the details via webmaster tools.

9. Microsoft’s PubCenter Relaunch: The Google AdSense Alternative – If you’re looking to monetize your website, Microsoft has relaunched its PubCenter as a compelling alternative to Google AdSense. For those unfamiliar with these terms, monetizing your website means displaying ads to earn revenue. Google AdSense has been the go-to platform for this, but Microsoft’s PubCenter is stepping up as a strong competitor.

Why should you care? PubCenter offers a way to display both native and display ads from Microsoft’s advertising network. The platform is not new; it’s been around since 2008. However, Microsoft is repositioning it as a U.S.-only pilot program. The process is simple: choose an ad format, add some code to your website, and start earning every time an ad is displayed. There are no signup costs, revenue minimums, or volume requirements.

What sets PubCenter apart? Microsoft claims to offer “higher engagement and more revenue” compared to Google AdSense. The platform allows you to use their ads alongside Google AdSense ads, serving Microsoft’s ads only when they predict a higher bid for you. This flexibility can be a game-changer for small and mid-sized publishers looking to maximize their ad revenue.

Currently, PubCenter is open only to U.S.-based businesses, but if you’re outside the U.S., you can join a waitlist for when international support is added. If you’ve been relying solely on Google AdSense, this could be the perfect time to diversify your revenue streams.

10. Microsoft’s Q3 Surge in Ad Revenue – Microsoft has just reported a remarkable 10% year-on-year increase in its search and news advertising revenue for Q3 2023. If you’re not familiar with the world of online advertising, this is a significant metric that indicates the health of the digital advertising ecosystem. As a business owner, this news should catch your attention because it signals a recovering ad market and the growing importance of diversifying your advertising platforms.

Why is this surge significant? For starters, it marks a substantial jump from last quarter’s 3% increase. This growth suggests that ad spending is bouncing back after the economic downturn, offering a more fertile ground for your business to advertise and reach potential customers. Microsoft’s overall revenue in productivity and business processes also rose by 13% to $18.6 billion, further emphasizing the company’s strong market position.

So, what does this mean for you? If you’ve been solely relying on Google for your online advertising, now might be the time to consider Microsoft’s platforms as well. With the ad market recovering and Microsoft showing strong performance, diversifying your advertising strategy could be a wise move.

11. Meta’s Q3 Profits Skyrocket to $11.6 Billion – Meta Platforms, Inc., the parent company of social media giants like Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has reported a staggering $11.6 billion in profits for Q3 2023.

So, what’s driving this success? Meta’s Q3 revenue soared by 23% year-on-year to $34.15 billion. The company saw a 31% increase in ads viewed during the quarter, even though the average price per ad decreased by 6%. This is the smallest decline in seven quarters, signaling a robust ad market. Meta’s CFO, Susan Li, attributes this to “ongoing improvements to ad targeting and measurement,” which are driving better results for advertisers.

Cost-cutting measures also played a role. Meta has reduced its workforce by about a third and cut expenses by 7% from a year earlier. The company is also heavily investing in AI-powered marketing planning and ad measurement to drive growth. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to hire more AI-focused technologists, emphasizing the role of AI in the company’s future.

12. HubSpot and TikTok’s Game-Changing Partnership For B2B Lead Generation – HubSpot and TikTok have joined forces to redefine B2B lead generation. If you’re a business owner, you know how crucial lead generation is for growth. This partnership aims to make that process more efficient and cost-effective. HubSpot’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) platform will now integrate seamlessly with TikTok, allowing businesses to automatically capture leads from the social media giant. This is TikTok’s first CRM lead generation collaboration.

Why is this important? Small and medium-sized businesses are grappling with rising customer acquisition costs. HubSpot’s research shows that 53% of such businesses in the U.S. have seen these costs go up from 2021 to 2022. TikTok, a platform where over half of its U.S. users discover new brands, aims to alleviate this issue.

The integration offers automated lead capture from TikTok, turning its highly engaged audience into potential high-value customers. Once you link your TikTok for Business account with HubSpot, you can create lead-generation ads that automatically sync leads into HubSpot’s CRM in real-time. This centralizes all your prospects, making it easier to manage your sales funnel. Plus, you can engage with these new leads using HubSpot’s Marketing Hub and determine the effectiveness of your campaigns through AI-powered analytics.

As an added incentive, the first 500 advertisers to integrate HubSpot CRM with TikTok will receive $200 in TikTok ad credits. Currently, this integration is only available in the U.S. and Canada but is expected to expand to other countries soon.