What We Learned in March 2017: The Digital Marketing Month in a Minute

This month’s industry news has well and truly broke free from the industry bubble, with mainstream media extensively covering the ongoing issue of certain online adverts showing next to extremist content, which has gotten Google into serious trouble. There’s plenty of other Google news this month, along with some deeper dives into the state of the agency industry and the future of smartphone technology.

Industry News

Google claim advertising problem is "very small"

Google has seen many of its largest advertisers boycott the search engine’s ad software, after adverts were found running on extremist material uploaded to YouTube. Google claims the problem is very small, but have nevertheless promised a number of changes to solve the problem.

Read the full story (The Guardian)

Ad agencies and accountability

With the news furore surrounding the above Google ad problem, it’s thrust the idea of accountability into the limelight. Who should be responsible for making sure adverts don’t appear next to extremist or harmful content? Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP, claims it is the responsibility of Google, Facebook and other tech giants. Ben Thompson from Stratechery digs deeper and takes a more nuanced look at the situation.

Read the full story (Stratechery)

Google AI video classifier easily fooled

In response to the Google video ad problem covered above, Google is pouring more and more AI capabilities into recognising the kind of content in a video. However, research has uncovered that this AI is simply not up to the task - specifically that it can be fooled by subliminal messaging. Google’s Cloud Video Intelligence API, which is designed to automatically classify the content of videos with object recognition, can be tricked with ‘image insertion’.

Read the full story (The Verge)

AdWords moves the goalposts again for ‘Exact Match’

Originally exact match was just that, ads would only appear when the exact version of the keyword was searched for. Since close variants were introduced, the high degree of control has been lost. Now they are pushing it even further to allow ‘additional rewording and reordering for exact match keywords’.

Read the full story (AdWords Blog)

Google Mobile First Index is still 'months away' according to Gary Illyes

There’s been a lot of speculation since Google announced in November 2016 that they would be introducing a Mobile First Index. This means that Google’s algorithm will primarily use the mobile version of a site to understand content and to decide where pages should rank. People have started seeing possible evidence of this in the last few months, but at the SMX West conference in March, Google’s Gary Illyes announced that the plan was to launch the mobile first index in "a few months or quarters”.

Read the full story (Search Engine Land)

Google putting ads on Google Home

There’s a lot of hype around Google Home, especially with the much-anticipated UK release also taking place in March. However, a lot of customers have been disappointed by the addition of voice ads to the personal assistant. While Google has pulled one particularly disliked ‘Beauty and the Beast’ ad, it still maintains that the 15-second clip wasn’t an ad.

Read the full story (Engadget)

The end of the smartphone innovation

As the each generation of iPhone, and indeed Samsung Galaxy S models, look and perform less and less differently from their respective predecessors, many will speculate that they’re running out of ideas, and that may be true. However, this is because the age of smartphones, like all tech, will eventually end. But when will it end? And what will come next?

Read the full story (Benedict Evans)

Google Site Search on the way out

In a spot of spring cleaning, Google has announced it will be shutting down Site Search. It has already closed renewals and new sales, and the service will be shut down entirely by April 2018. The closest alternative is Google’s Custom Search, but that comes with ads and Google branding, which could both be removed in Site Search

Read the full story (Search Engine Land)

Bing has a chatbot answering local search queries

Bing has recently added a Skype-powered chatbot designed to help users with local search results. So far the bot has only been confirmed in the Seattle area so far. Clicking on it opens a chat window, and while there are  no immediate instructions, the chatbot offers types of questions you can ask, like "what dishes do you recommend?" and "do you accept Amex?"

Read the full story (Search Engine Land)

Distilled news

In big SearchLove news, we have announced the first nine speakers for SearchLove Boston, and we’ll be announcing more very soon. Early bird tickets are also still on sale. You can save $200 and get a free year of DistilledU with every ticket. SearchLove London has also gone on sale, with a record number of digital marketers snapping up first-day tickets for the October event.

On the Distilled blog, Analyst Robin Lord looks at the digital marketing challenges facing nonprofits and charities, while CEO Will Critchlow speculates on ways Google might advertise to you in the near future. Over on the Moz blog, Consultant Tom Capper compares the ranking correlations for domain authority vs. branded search volume, and Jeremy Gottlieb shares his tactics for search marketing in a low-volume niche.

Bookmarklet time.

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