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Hello and welcome to Digital Marketing Month in Review by Four Dots. This is our monthly column where we comb through some of the most relevant news and events that took place within the digital marketing landscape over the last month or so.

Let’s see what the “February 2021” edition brings us: 

  • Google my Business to Roll Out Read and Reply to Messages
  • Google Analytics Stops Gathering Data From Youtube Channels 
  • Facebook Reveals How They Rank News Feed Content
  • Pinterest Gaining on Snapchat and TikTok with 37% Monthly Users
  • Google Strikes a Deal With Australia to Pay for Some News
  • New Google’s Measures Against Sites with Inaccurate Pricing 
  • Youtube Launches Shorts in the USA in March

Google My Business to Roll Out Read and Reply to Messages

You can now turn on messaging and chat with your customers in real-time from your Google business profile. This new feature will give you a chance to address your customers directly, answer any questions instantly, and thus attract even more customers.

After you have turned on messaging, a “Message” button will become visible to your customers on your Business Profile, via which they can contact you anytime.

  • Messages will appear in your Business Profile on Google. You’ll receive notifications for incoming messages. 
  • You can customize the automated welcome message that customers will get when they message you.
  • You can share photos with your customers through messages.
  • If multiple people own or manage your Business Profile, each one can message customers.
  • Customers may find your name and profile photo from your About me page.
  • If you’re interested in the messaging API, you can check out the Business Messages developer site

We recommend this SEJ article for more information and insight into these new features. 

Google Analytics Stops Gathering Data From Youtube Channels

On February 1st, 2021, Google stopped gathering data from YouTube Channels. New data will not be collected, but historical data will still remain available. Although linking Google Analytics and YouTube was disabled in November 2020, channels that had previously connected the two were still able to track data – up until the beginning of the month. 

Google made little effort to announce this change which indicates that not many users actually made the connection in the past. This change might pose an issue for the users who previously relied solely on Google Analytics, meaning that they will have to get familiar with the new tool. The majority of users shouldn’t have any inconvenience whatsoever.

Unlike Google Analytics where the website owners have to install a tracking code, YouTube collects data automatically. All you need to do is sign up to YouTube Studio and go to Analytics.

Here’s a great video on how to use Google Analytics:

More information available in this SEJ article

Facebook Reveals How They Rank News Feed Content

In a newly published article, Facebook reveals how they rank news feed posts. As we already guessed, Facebook’s news feed algorithm is a machine learning system. What you might not know is that it comprises several different algorithms working interchangeably. The central element is, of course, the user.

As Facebook claims:

“For each person on Facebook, there are thousands of signals that we need to evaluate to determine what that person might find most relevant… to predict what each of those people wants to see in their feed…”

One of the ranking factors is the “characteristics” of the post. It compares content with which the user previously engaged with the content it is trying to rank and uses that data to decide. For instance, if a user tends to interact more with posts accompanied by videos, the algorithm will offer that kind of content to the user.

Time is also one of the ranking factors i.e. how recently something was posted. 

Facebook News Feed patent claims:

“…news stories may be ranked based on chronological data associated with interactions with the news stories, so that the most recently shared news stories have a higher ranking.”

Facebook uses a number of signals to determine if the user is likely to interact with the content.

“…the system determines which posts show up in your News Feed, and in what order, by predicting what you’re most likely to be interested in or engage with.” 

It also uses past interactions to make an “educated guess” on what might be interesting to the user in the future. 

As per Facebook:

“These predictions are based on a variety of factors, including what and whom you’ve followed, liked, or engaged with recently.”

So, Facebook uses machine learning models to predict these different factors – some models predict what content the user will like, others the content will the user comment on, etc. 

A very interesting piece of information is that not all ranking signals have the same value for every user – for some, likes will carry more weight, for others that would be the comments.

“Next is the main scoring pass, where most of the personalization happens. Here, a score for each story is calculated independently, and then all 500 posts are put in order by score.

For some, the score may be higher for likes than for commenting, as some people like to express themselves more through liking than commenting.

Any action a person rarely engages in (for instance, a like prediction that’s very close to zero) automatically gets a minimal role in ranking, as the predicted value is very low.”

For further reading, we recommend this SEJ article

Pinterest Gaining on Snapchat and TikTok with 37% Monthly Users

It seems that Pinterest is getting back in the saddle, at least that’s what numbers are saying. New results show a 37% increase in global average users on a monthly basis. Although its main target is America, there are fewer new users from the USA than from the EU. 

Pinterest grossed $582M in the fourth quarter of 2020 revenue from the U.S. and an additional $123M worldwide.

Pinterest Gaining on Snapchat and TikTok with 37% Monthly Users | Four Dots
Image credit: Search Engine Journal

With a growth rate of 46% internationally and 11% in the U.S over last year, Pinterest now rivals TikTok and Snapchat.

As the company stated earlier:

“Gen Z and Millennials are driving much of our growth, with the number of men on Pinterest also jumping nearly 50% year on year, too.”

Google Strikes a Deal With Australia to Pay for Some News

As we mentioned in the previous monthly report, in a Senate hearing, Google Australia’s Managing Director Mel Silva testified that in case the new law should pass, they are pulling out of Australia.

“If this version of the code were to become law, it would give us no real choice but to stop making Google Search available in Australia. We do not see a way, with the financial and operational risks, that we could continue to offer a service in Australia.” 

However, in a new turn of events, Google converted their initial decision and have agreed to pay for Google News through their Google News Showcase program which licenses news for use in their search engine.

As they stated:

“To meet growing reader and publisher needs, last year we increased our investment in news partnerships and launched Google News Showcase.

Today we are happy to announce we are rolling out an initial version of the product to benefit users and publishers in Australia, with a keen focus on leading regional and independent publishers given the importance of local information and the role it plays in people’s everyday lives.

News Showcase is designed to bring value to both publishers and readers by providing a licensing program that pays publishers to curate content for story panels across Google services, and gives readers more insights into the stories that matter.”

Ozzies, however, feel they have been caught between a rock and a hard place i.e. between the Australian government and Google. As the SEO Professional Nigel Mordaunt claims:

“Business owners are generally concerned as local businesses thrive from Google and are worried about how this could potentially impact their sales. Australian business owners love google and want it to stay.”

Google News Showcase might have come too little too late as a number of companies blame them for the situation, although lots of companies did sign up anyway.

New Google’s Measures Against Sites with Inaccurate Pricing 

Google announced new measures against retailers and websites that present different prices at checkout than the ones listed in Google Merchant Center. They decided to uphold this practice since a number of webshops listed one price on the website but had hidden fees and additional expenses at the checkout. This fraudulent behavior goes against Merchant Center policies, but there were no actions taken to prevent it up until now.

New Google’s Measures Against Sites with Inaccurate Pricing | Four Dots
Image source:

To emphasize the importance of maintaining accurate pricing, Google has issued the following statement:

“Consistent and accurate pricing is one of the most important factors shoppers take into considerations when making a purchase. If the product’s price at checkout is higher than the price shown in an ad, free product listing, or on a product landing page, shoppers are more likely to abandon the purchase.”

Retailers have started to receive early notice of the changes that will come into effect on April 6, 2021. If a discrepancy occurs, the retailer will receive a warning. After that, they have 28 days to rectify the situation or will be suspended.

Youtube Launches Shorts in the USA in March

A short video format called Shorts is coming to the USA in March 2021, YouTube confirms. The format will be similar to Stories – a vertical video up to 15 seconds. 

World’s biggest video sharing platform is following suit in terms of short video content used by TikTok or FB and IG stories, so – somewhat expectedly – YouTube Shorts will have a similar set of features. 

The users can:

  • Create/upload videos of up to 15 seconds in length. 
  • Edit videos using various tools.
  • Use the multi-segment camera to stitch shorter clips together. 
  • Attach music to their videos using the content from the YouTube library.
  • Change the playback speed of their videos.
  • Set timers and countdowns.

Wrapping Up

That would be all for this installment of Digital Marketing Month in Review by Four Dots. See you next month! In the meantime, check out the latest edition of our Digital Marketing review column

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