A roundup of today’s big stories in hyperlocal publishing, marketing, commerce, and technology…

Unpacking the Increasingly Complex Local SERP (Street Fight)
“While I think [these local ad changes] might be better for many small businesses AND consumers, it gives Google a great deal of power to approve or disapprove participants,” Mike Blumenthal tells David Mihm in their biweekly column.

Media Buyers: Snap Is Focused on Enabling Commerce in Ads (Digiday)
Snapchat is working on developing new commerce units to bolster its e-commerce offering, according to two media buyers who spoke to Digiday. Recode: Snap is giving small startups free ads.

People Are Talking About You: The Hidden Value of User-Generated Content (Street Fight)
Damian Rollison: Simply put, insights gleaned from reviews can help you do business better. Though reviews may contain bias of various kinds, they are still the best source you can find of detailed feedback from real customers.

Digital Video Industry Continues to Grow in Size and Complexity (eMarketer)
The growth of the US digital video advertising industry is unmistakable: Between 2018 and 2021, it will increase by double-digit percentages annually, topping $22 billion by the end of that period.

Why Old-School Brands Need to Learn New Tricks to Survive in the Digital Age (AdWeek)
On the third floor of Gap Inc. in San Francisco, near the western terminus of the Bay Bridge, a bank of 14 big-screen monitors displays web visits, order volumes, sales funnels, and other real-time analytics to a constantly rotating team of employees.

AR Set to Blow by VR (MediaPost)
Within five years, augmented reality — including mobile AR and smart glasses — could reach an installed base of more than 3 billion.

Triple, the Marketplace for Local Travel Experiences, Acquires Competitor Local Guddy (TechCrunch)
Founded in 2016, Triple is described as a marketplace where “passionate and outgoing individuals can organise their own activities, and earn money by acting as hosts in their hometowns.”

Ad Density Can Be Just as Problematic as Bad Ads (AdExchanger)
Daniel Meehan: Ad density — pages being far too packed with brand messaging and creative — is rarely talked about with regard to online and mobile media, yet the overload of ads is just as annoying to consumers as the disruptive formats.

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Remember Google+? While many of us have ditched the platform in recent years, Google has put a lot of time into improving it for those who are still big fans of the service. Now, Google is preparing to launch a “brand new version” of Google+ for Android.

The best gifts for Android users

Posted by Leo Deegan yesterday afternoon, Google is preparing to launch a new version of the Google+ app for Android devices. Leo says that, while the app might not look all that different, Google is rebuilding it from the ground up.

It’s unclear exactly what Google has in store, but we’re assuming we’ll be seeing a version of Google+ that is faster and more up to date with Google’s various standards. Leo mentions a few changes we can expect in his post:

During the rewrite, we were able to build in some subtle updates. For instance, stream rendering and scrolling have been improved, the photo lightbox has been redesigned, comment options slide up from a bottom sheet, and grey-spammed comments are now viewable by post authors.

Since this is a rewrite, there are a few known issues that we’re working through. For instance, leaving a comment on a post causes a full refresh of the post to include your comment. Take it for a spin if you get the chance, and we hope you don’t mind the dust.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about this coming update, such as if it will require an update from the Play Store to be “enabled,” but we’ll find out soon enough. Leo says that the changes will be available “over the next several days.”

Check out 9to5Google on YouTube for more news:

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Ok, sure…Bitcoin has had a volatile few weeks recently of jaw-dropping ups and downs. Coupled with everyone from international companies to foreign governments weighing in on the viability of cryptocurrency, it’s enough attention to spook nearly any investor.

Yet no one seems to doubt the future of finance continues to point toward its digital frontiers. Despite recent stumbles, all signs are clear that cryptocurrency remains a major player with staying power on world markets — so get your hands around it now with The Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Mastery Bundle. It’s available right now at 70 percent off — just $29 from TNW Deals.

With more than 22 hours of instruction, this collection of courses will take you deep inside the world of Bitcoin, including where it’s from, how it works, and, most importantly, how to get it.

Once you internalize this full theoretical and practical understanding of Bitcoin, you’ll be ready to buy and protect cryptocurrency as well as spot the scene’s always-emerging online scams.

Your courses include:

  • The Complete Bitcoin Course: Get .0001 BTC In Your Wallet
  • Bitcoin For Business: How To Accept Bitcoin
  • Start And Secure Your Bitcoin Fortune: Join The Revolution
  • Initial Coin Offering A-Z: Become A Smart ICO Investor
  • Cryptocurrency Trading
  • Certified Bitcoin Professional

Your final course lays the prep work for taking the Bitcoin Professional Certification exam, an industry-recognized designation for those ready to dive into the cryptocurrency business and succeed. Little does more to enhance your professional standing than a host of sterling credentials.

These courses are learning by doing…so start working (intelligently) with cryptocurrencies now with this package, a $99.95 value you can buy today for only $29.

Get this deal

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Left to right, Evonne Heyning. CEO, Light Lodges; Danny Gordon, CEO, Auredi; Raffaelle Camera, NA Go-to-Market Lead, Accenture XR; Joel Vasquez, Solution Architect, Tailspin.

Interest in AR and VR is on the rise in the local space, as brands as well as the agencies and digital marketing companies that serve them aim to take advantage of cutting-edge technology to boost customer experiences.

Mike Boland, Street Fight’s analyst in residence, sat down with four players in the space at Street Fight Summit West in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon to get their takes on the latest in visual technology and digital marketing.

The conversation centered on rates of customer adoption, evaluating the return on investment in visual technology, and how AR and VR can improve customer experiences.

One of the clearest returns on investment in AR and VR is time, said Joel Vasquez, solution architect at Tailspin.

VR and AR can be used for employee training, an innovative practice that can make the training process both quicker and more effective.

For example, a home-services company could simulate the job of fixing up a home that has been struck by a leak. This sort of practice saves the employer time and also allows it to simulate the exact conditions for which it would like its employees to be prepared, Vasquez said.

VR-enhanced employee training can also be rewarding. “People shy away from the word ‘gamified’ … but work should be fun,” Vasquez said.

Evonne Heyning, CEO of Light Lodges, has experimented with visual technology as a way of bringing geographically distant people into a room together and enabling a meeting to happen, another move that saves time and money.

Restaurants are using Auredi’s visual technology to enrich customer experiences, showing them exactly what their food will look like.

“We want to please the restaurants and we want to please the users,” Auredi CEO Danny Gordon said. “It’s unbelievable the amount of excitement we see when we show customers dishes that look exactly like they do in person.”

“Snapchat brought AR into the public perception … but those still look very cartoonish,” Gordon said. “With the images we create, it looks realistic down to the details.”

The panelists agreed that businesses should refrain from turning to visual technology simply for the sake of doing something new.

For one, the technology needs to correspond to the goals of the brand hoping to deploy it.

“We have to figure out what the story we’re trying to tell is, and does it work with virtual reality,” said Raffaelle Camera, NA go-to-market lead at Accenture XR.

Companies also need to consider the adoption rates of consumers, who may not be ready to adopt at scale the technological solutions high-tech companies are prepared to roll out.

Mobile, for example, will continue to be the primary channel for customer experiences for at least the next year or so.

“For the next couple of years, mobile is still going to drive,” Heyning said. “When I’m working with design teams, I love smart glasses and I design for them now thinking of two years from now, but for now the phone needs to be the driver.”

Gordon was even more cautious.

“I don’t think smart glasses are mainstream for another seven to ten years,” he said. “Even the iPhone took about four years.”

Joe Zappa is Street Fight’s news editor. Photography by Shana Wittenwyler.

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A roundup of today’s big stories in hyperlocal publishing, marketing, commerce, and technology…

User Time on Facebook Declines for First Time Ever (Recode)
Zuckerberg said that “we made changes” in order for that time decrease to happen, and added that “focusing on meaningful connections, our community and business will be stronger over the long term.”

#SFSW18: How Yelp Is Partnering Its Way into the Future (Street Fight)
“We’ve made sure there’s an authenticity in Yelp so that people going to the service for reviews can count on it,” said Yelp SVP Chad Richard in the final conversation of Street Fight Summit West in Los Angeles. Richard called authenticity “the essence of the business.”

State of Hyperlocal: Attribution Is Top Industry Challenge and R&D Priority (Street Fight)
David Card: Companies selling local marketing and technology and services continue to believe that online-to-offline attribution is the toughest challenge facing the industry, and it’s now their top near-term R&D priority. That’s what we’re hearing from a preliminary analysis of our annual State of Hyperlocal survey of Street Fight readers.

Google’s Rivals Say Search-Page Practices Still Unfair (WSJ)
Google continues to stymie competition in online shopping, despite a record fine from European authorities and an order to modify its behavior, rivals say.

#SFSW18: Factual CEO Talks Company’s Top-Notch Approach to Location Data (Street Fight)
Unlike so many location-based rivals, Factual’s goal is not to convert geospatial data into top-notch marketing solutions. The company, founder and CEO Gil Elbaz said Wednesday morning at Street Fight Summit West in Los Angeles, is laser-focused on providing top-notch location data. 

#SFSW18: Closing the Location Attribution Loop (Street Fight)
Cameron Peebles, CMO of InMarket, emphasized that data should not just be used for attribution — to prove past ad placements have worked — but also to predict future consumer patterns and increase long-term marketing success. “Consumers don’t live their lives in points; they live their lives in patterns,” Peebles said. 

Alexa Can Now Send Text Messages to Phones (MediaPost)
Voice devices in the home continue to evolve and expand with new capabilities. Now Amazon has enabled its Alexa digital voice assistant to send text messages through its Echo devices.

Instagram’s Carousel Ads Come to Stories (TechCrunch)
Instagram is announcing plans to bring its Carousel Ads into Stories. That means the ads in Stories are no longer limited to one piece of media (which could be a photo or a video) — they can now include three.

#SFSW18: The Local Ecosystem in Flux (Street Fight)
“Small businesses are people who are gutting it out,” said Andrew Morbitzer, VP of corporate development at GoDaddy. “They’re here to do a service or provide a product. They’re not here to use software. [Our job is] removing the decision to take on another capability.”

#SFSW18: Local’s Visual Future: The Rise of AR, VR, and New Customer Experiences (Street Fight)
“We want to please the restaurants and we want to please the users,” said Danny Gordon, CEO of Auredi, just one company at Street Fight Summit West using visual technology to enrich customer experiences. “It’s unbelievable the amount of excitement we see when we show customers dishes that look exactly like they do in person.”

Ad Tech Vendors Offer Customers Rosy Pictures of GDPR Compliance (Digiday)
Any ad tech vendor clinging to the notion that legitimate interest alone will render them compliant for the General Data Protection Regulation may need to think of a plan B — and fast.

#SFSW18: How Nextdoor Is Building a Business Around Neighbors (Street Fight)
Nextdoor is an app exclusively devoted to the local communities that keep the lights on for small businesses.  Prakash Janakiraman, co-founder and chief architect of Nextdoor, joined Mike Boland, Street Fight’s analyst in residence, at Street Fight Summit West in Los Angeles Wednesday afternoon to discuss Nextdoor’s growth into a billion-dollar local business.

Twitter Is Sending More Clicks to Publishers (BuzzFeed)
Alex Kantrowitz: The development could potentially mitigate the negative effects of Facebook’s News Feed changes on media companies.

Demystifying Agency Data Platforms (AdExchanger)
The major holding companies have each developed data platforms to meet their clients’ needs. The question is: What’s the difference between their offerings?

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Over the years, the different ways you can choose to highlight your website’s content in search has grown dramatically. In the past, we’ve called these rich snippets, rich cards, or enriched results. Going forward – to simplify the terminology –  our documentation will use the name "rich results" for all of them. Additionally, we’re introducing a new rich results testing tool to make diagnosing your pages’ structured data easier.

The new testing tool focuses on the structured data types that are eligible to be shown as rich results. It allows you to test all data sources on your pages, such as JSON-LD (which we recommend), Microdata, or RDFa. The new tool provides a more accurate reflection of the page’s appearance on Search and includes improved handling for Structured Data found on dynamically loaded content. The tests for Recipes, Jobs, Movies, and Courses are currently supported — but this is just a first step, we plan on expanding over time.

Testing a page is easy: just open the testing tool, enter a URL, and review the output. If there are issues, the tool will highlight the invalid code in the page source. If you’re working with others on this page, the share-icon on the bottom-right lets you do that quickly. You can also use preview button to view all the different rich results the page is eligible for. And … once you’re happy with the result, use Submit To Google to fetch & index this page for search.

Want to get started with rich snippets rich results? Check out our guides for marking up your content. Feel free to drop by our Webmaster Help forums should you have any questions or get stuck; the awesome experts there can often help resolve issues and give you tips in no time!

Posted by Shachar Pooyae, Software Engineer

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optimize your GDN accounts

In last month’s column, I talked about taking advantage of the summer months to optimize your SEM account. Using the summer slowdown (if it exists for you!) to examine your settings, review your ads and take a closer look at location options won’t transform your PPC account, but these small actions can add up to significant improvements.

Sadly, summer is almost over (sniff, sniff), but you can still make the most of any lull in business to conduct the same kind of optimization process with your Google Display Network (GDN) accounts.

So when you find yourself with a moment to catch your breath, here are five GDN hidden gems worth looking into:

1. Audit your display remarketing setup and audiences

When you originally set up your display remarketing, did you set it up in AdWords or Google Analytics? If you set things up exclusively in AdWords, this might be a good time to switch to Google Analytics or (at a minimum) add in Google Analytics audiences.

Two reasons justify the change:

(a) If your remarketing code gets stripped, you’ll catch it sooner in Google Analytics.

Recently, my team and I saw a slow and steady drop in a client’s remarketing campaign audience numbers and conversions. The dip occurred over the summer, which isn’t unusual for B2B clients. So we didn’t immediately comprehend the significance.

But as the dip continued, we did some digging and found that our AdWords remarketing code had been stripped from some web pages.

It’s true that Google Analytics code can get accidentally stripped from web pages just as easily. But the difference is that when that happens, your PPC team won’t be the only ones affected. Other stakeholders, such as SEO and email marketing teams, will also witness the decline in performance. Odds are, the problem will get caught and solved that much faster.

In the case of our client, we decided to set up audiences in Google Analytics. And because we could do this without involving the client’s development team, we got it done quickly (another bonus).

(b) You have access to many more options in Google Analytics.

Another major benefit of setting up your audiences in Google Analytics is having access to many additional options. In addition to targeting certain pages, you can also target specific audiences, such as all users, new users, returning users and so on:

set up Google Analytics audiences

You can find this list of audience options in the Google Analytics Help documentation.

At the top of this list, you can see “Smart List” as an option, which is also worth exploring. Per Google, here is how Smart Lists work:

Analytics applies machine learning to your conversion data to determine which users are most likely to convert in subsequent sessions, and dynamically manages the remarketing audience to focus on those users.

Machine learning uses dozens of signals, including location, device, browser, referrer, session duration and page depth to identify users for the audience. The model is typically updated daily to reflect the latest data to which Analytics has access, and users are automatically added to or removed from the audience based on that model.

Learn more about Smart Lists in the Google help documentation.

2. Review your display remarketing strategy

You may find that some of your longer-term clients are still working with display strategies you hammered out with them when they first came on board years ago. It’s well worth taking a moment to see whether that strategy still makes sense.

Even better, get a team member who doesn’t normally work on the account to review the account and onboarding materials.

It’s amazing what a fresh set of eyes can turn up!

3. Update your display ads

In the day-to-day, it’s easy to get mired in the technical aspects of our jobs and forget that ad creative also needs freshening up.

I recognize that this is easier said than done. If it took you months to get the first round of creative approved, you may hesitate to step back into the fray.

One way to avoid this problem is to create more than one set of display ads at the outset and cycle through them over time, rather than having to drum up a new batch later.

A reminder: You can no longer create text ads on display campaigns, so you’ll need to test responsive ads.

4. Take a closer look at responsive ad performance

In most (not all) of our accounts, we’ve found that responsive ads generate more impressions and clicks — but not more conversions — than display ads.

Consequently, we devised a plan early on to segregate responsive and display ads into separate ad groups.

If you find the same discrepancy between responsive ad and display ad performance in your accounts, you, too, might want to consider a similar setup. Such a setup allows you to experiment with giving responsive ads a lower bid to increase display ad impressions and clicks.

Alternatively, this might be a place where AdWords labels come in handy.

5. Delve into mobile device performance on GDN

While we’ve seen an amazing increase in purchases from mobile devices (and therefore often grant mobile its own campaigns to optimize sales and messaging), we’ve found that mobile sometimes doesn’t perform as well on the GDN.

Take this new client account as an example:

display ads mobile performance

[Click to enlarge.]

As you can see, both of these display campaigns are struggling to convert on mobile.

The first one, for example, has had two conversions, at a cost of $1,119.24 per conversion! Granted, the product is a higher ticket item, but even so, this is a bit rich — especially when compared to 34 conversions at $129.25 per conversion on computers!

We don’t want to give up on mobile entirely, as we’re big believers in cross-device synchronicity. But we will certainly be testing lower bid adjustments for mobile on this account.

Don’t overlook these hidden gems!

Summer might be nearly over, but it’s not too late to pick out and polish these hidden gems.

They won’t single-handedly make or break your account, but they can add up to significant performance improvements.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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