Episode 190 contains the Digital Marketing News and Updates from the week of Dec 4-8, 2023.

1. Google Ads Responds: Temporary Opt-Out for Search Partner Network in PMax Campaigns – Last week in Ep 189, I highlighted the study by Adalytics that revealed Google search ads were appearing on websites violating Google’s own publisher policies. This revelation raised significant concerns among advertisers about the placement of their ads. It seems Google has taken note of these concerns, as they have now introduced a temporary opt-out feature for advertisers in Performance Max (PMax) and Universal App campaigns, allowing them to avoid placements in the Search Partner Network (SPN). This move, unprecedented in the realm of automated campaigns, marks a significant shift in Google’s advertising approach.

Key Points from the Update:

  • Temporary Opt-Out for SPN: Advertisers can now temporarily opt out of placing their ads on SPN for all campaign types, including PMax and App campaigns. This change, effective until March 1st, is a direct response to the concerns raised by the Adalytics report.
  • Google’s Response to the Report: While Google has contested the methodology and conclusions of the Adalytics report, they acknowledge the importance of improving their products to meet partner needs.
  • Opt-Out Process: The opt-out feature is currently gated and requires a Google representative to enable it for advertisers. This process is being developed for wider accessibility.

For small business owners using Google PMax Ads, this update is crucial. It offers more control over ad placements, ensuring that ads are displayed in contexts that align with brand values and reach the intended audience. The ability to opt out of SPN in PMax campaigns allows for more targeted advertising and potentially better ROI. Google’s introduction of a temporary opt-out feature for SPN in PMax campaigns is a significant response to  concerns about ad placements. This development serves as a crucial reminder for business owners: always check your ad placements and don’t blindly trust any ad platform. Regularly verifying where your ads are displayed is essential. Failing to do so could mean unintentionally leaving money on the table or giving more to Google than necessary. Trust but verify – it’s a key principle in digital advertising to ensure your investments are yielding the best possible returns.

2. Google’s 3 Essential Tips for Technical Troubleshooting – Google has shared insights for diagnosing and resolving technical SEO issues that can affect a website’s indexing and ranking. This guidance is particularly crucial for business owners who may not have an in-depth understanding of SEO but want to ensure their website performs optimally in search results.

Google’s Three Key Tips for Technical SEO Troubleshooting:

Check if the Page is Indexed or Indexable: Use Google Search Console’s URL Inspection Tool to determine if a page is indexed and indexable. This tool provides information on whether a page is indexed and, if not, offers suggestions for why Google might be having trouble indexing it. It also shows the last crawl date, indicating Google’s interest in the page.

Identify Duplicate Content and Canonical Issues: Google advises checking if a page is being ignored as a duplicate and if another page is selected as the canonical URL. While it might not be the canonical URL you expected, if the content is indexed, it can still appear in search results. This is generally acceptable and not a cause for concern.

Review Rendered HTML for Code-Related Issues: Inspecting the rendered HTML, which shows the HTML after all JavaScript has been executed, is crucial. This can reveal issues related to JavaScript or other technical aspects that might not be visible in the source code HTML. Google suggests using Search Console and Chrome DevTools to view the rendered HTML.

Bonus Tip: Google cautioned against using the cache or site:search operator for any kind of diagnostic purposes. For example, a page can be indexed but not show up in a site:search. The site search operator, just like all the other site operators, is completely disconnected from the search index. This has always been the case, even when there was a site search operator for showing backlinks.

Understanding and addressing technical SEO issues is vital for ensuring your website is properly indexed and ranked by search engines. By following Google’s tips, you can identify and fix problems that might be hindering your website’s performance. This can lead to better visibility in search results, potentially driving more traffic and customers to your business. Regularly checking for indexing issues, understanding duplicate content and canonicalization, and reviewing rendered HTML are key steps in maintaining a healthy and search-friendly website.

3. Google Ads Gambling and Games Advertising Policy Update – Google Ads is updating its policy regarding gambling and games advertising, effective from December 12. This change is particularly relevant for businesses in the sports betting and lottery sectors, as it opens new advertising opportunities in specific regions.

Key Changes in Google Ads Policy:

  • Starting December 12, Google will begin accepting and running ads from state-approved entities for sports betting in Vermont and lottery couriers in Arkansas, Montana, New Jersey, and New York. This marks a significant expansion of the types of gambling-related ads that can be run through Google Ads.
  • To be eligible to promote these ads, advertisers must apply for certification. This process involves filling out an online gambling application form in the Google Ads Help Center, providing all requested information to prevent delays. Different forms are available for privately-licensed operators, state-run entities, and social casino game operators.

4. Google’s Cryptocurrency Advertising Policy Update – Google has announced significant changes to its cryptocurrency advertising policy, set to take effect on January 29, 2024. This update is particularly relevant for businesses involved in advertising cryptocurrency coin trusts, a type of financial product that allows investors to trade shares in trusts holding large amounts of digital currency. These trusts offer equity in cryptocurrencies without direct ownership and can diversify investment portfolios.

Key Aspects of the Policy Update:

  • Scope and Requirements: Advertisers targeting the United States will be able to promote these products and services, provided they comply with specific policies and obtain certification from Google.
  • Global Application: The updated policy is not limited to the United States but will apply globally to all accounts advertising cryptocurrency coin trusts.
  • Compliance with Local Laws: Advertisers must comply with local laws in the areas where the ads are targeted. This is a crucial aspect of the policy, emphasizing the need for advertisers to be aware of and adhere to regional regulations.
  • Warning Before Suspension: In case of policy violations, Google will first issue a warning, giving advertisers at least seven days to rectify non-compliance issues before imposing an account suspension. This approach provides an opportunity for advertisers to address any issues and align with the revised guidelines.

5. Google’s Criteria for Video Content in Search Results – Google has updated its requirements for video search results, particularly affecting the “Video Mode” feature in Google Search. This significant change mandates that videos must be the main content of a webpage to be featured in search results and Video Mode.

Video Mode is a feature in Google Search that displays under the video tab. It specifically showcases videos that are the central element of their respective web pages. This mode is designed to provide users with direct access to video content, ensuring that the videos they find are the primary focus of the pages they visit.

Key Aspects of the Update:

  • Stricter Video Requirements: Google now requires that for a video to show up in search results and Video Mode, it must be the primary content of the page. This means pages where videos are supplementary to text or other content will not be featured in these search results.
  • Impact on Video Mode: With this update, Video Mode will only show videos that are the main focus of their respective pages, enhancing the user experience by directing them to pages where the video is the central element.
  • Examples of Non-Primary Video Content: Google provided examples of pages where videos are not the primary focus, such as blog posts with complementary videos, product detail pages with additional videos, and video category pages listing multiple videos of equal prominence.

6. Google Analytics 4 Audiences Now Integrated with Google Ads – Google has made a significant update to Google Analytics 4 (GA4), integrating GA4 audiences directly with Google Ads. This update, announced on December 6, 2023, allows advertisers to create and apply GA4 audiences, including predictive audiences, within Google Ads. This integration streamlines the process of audience creation and application, enhancing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns.

Key Features of the Update:

  • Direct Integration with Google Ads: Advertisers can now build analytics audiences, including predictive audiences, using the Audience Manager feature in Google Ads. This integration simplifies the audience creation process and makes it more efficient.
  • Predictive Audiences: A predictive audience is defined by at least one condition related to a predictive metric. For example, an audience named “likely 7-day purchasers” consists of users predicted to purchase in the next 7 days. This feature allows for more targeted and effective advertising.

7. Threads Expands Keyword Search and Content Ranking Insights – Threads, the X (formerly Twitter) alternative social media platform, has recently made two significant updates. On November 30, 2023, Threads expanded its keyword search functionality to all regions, enhancing users’ ability to find relevant content. Additionally, Instagram Chief Adam Mosseri provided insights into Threads’ content ranking approach, emphasizing a mindful strategy to avoid the pitfalls of spammy tactics and divisive content.

Key Updates from Threads:

  • Expanded Keyword Search: Initially tested in selected regions, Threads’ keyword search is now available globally. This feature allows users to search for posts using specific terms, including hashtagged and topic-tagged content. The expansion supports all languages available in the app, with more search enhancements promised soon.
  • Mindful Approach to Tags and Search: Threads is cautious about adding tags and search features due to their potential to amplify spam and irrelevant content. To mitigate this, users can only add one topic tag per post, and hashtag use is not straightforwardly enabled. This approach aligns with Meta’s vision for Threads as a more positive public conversation app.
  • Content Ranking Insights from Adam Mosseri: Mosseri explained that Threads aims to avoid the negatives of engagement-focused platforms, which often amplify divisive content. Threads’ content ranking strategy is designed to foster healthier, more engaging conversations without over-promising reach and engagement to news outlets.