Autobots, roll out! Microsoft launches new Automotive Ads beta and FLOC trials begin; Thursday’s daily brief
Plus, Instagram engagement remains flat for brands
Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.
Good morning, Marketers, and how do you feel about big brands and April Fools’ day?
I’m all for a fun prank or a good pun, but April Fools’ has become such a “must-do” for so many brands, that I typically assume anything big that comes out on April 1st isn’t real. Plus, it can be risky in terms of brand trust. This week Volkswagen “accidentally” published a press release draft about how they were changing their name to Voltswagen. CNBC picked it up first on Monday and by Tuesday, Volkswagen had confirmed it was an April Fools’ joke.
Since then the news reporting on the prank has been pretty cutting. The headline from The Verge says, “Volkswagen of America lied about rebranding.” The AP called it “An unwelcome prank.” And MarketWatch took it a step further with, “Volkswagen caught lying again.” It all goes to show that, when done well, April Fools’ marketing makes us wish we’d thought of it. And when it goes wrong, we cover our eyes and cringe — glad we weren’t in the boardroom that approved it.
Director of Search Content
FLoC developer origin trials began on Tuesday
In a low-key announcement on Tuesday, Marshall Vale, Google’s Privacy Sandbox Product Manager wrote that, “Today, a new piece of web technology — Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) — will start to roll out as a developer origin trial in Chrome.”
The blog emphasized the “importance of ‘and’” as FLoC is Google’s attempt at both keeping users’ privacy safe and helping publishers target advertising: “FLoC is a new approach to interest-based advertising that both improves privacy and gives publishers a tool they need for viable advertising business models.”
The testing is currently live in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines and the U.S. We found out last week that the current versions of FLoC may not be GDPR compliant, and therefore testing is not taking place in Europe “at a later date,” a Google spokesperson told us.
Along with covering the basics about FLoC (individuals are targeted as part of groups based on interests and individual browsing history isn’t shared with anyone — even Google), the blog also pointed out that cohorts will not be created around sensitive groups. “Before a cohort becomes eligible, Chrome analyzes it to see if the cohort is visiting pages with sensitive topics, such as medical websites or websites with political or religious content, at a high rate,” wrote Vale.
Testing means that the model is still in development and will likely evolve and change based on the data collected.
Need to get the DL on FLoC? Check out our coverage here:
- What is FLoC? Here’s what we know so far
- Google’s FLoC open for advertiser testing in Q2 2021
- Google will not build or use alternate identifiers to track users across the web
Autobots, roll out! Microsoft Advertising launches Automotive Ads open beta
Automotive search marketers can rejoice as Microsoft Advertising announced the pilot program for Automotive Ads yesterday morning.
“Automotive Ads are feed-based product ads where automotive marketers can upload all the attributes of their car inventory (make, model, year, trim, image, URLs, etc.) and showcase them on the Microsoft Bing.com SERP right rail, the Bing image results page, and native placements on the Microsoft Audience Network,” said the announcement.
Why we care. The pandemic meant that fewer people felt comfortable taking public transportation, but it also put a halt to new car production. As a result, used cars were in very high demand. This meant that dealerships had to keep up with constantly changing inventory–and Microsoft’s existing options for auto advertisers wasn’t cutting it. In fact, many search marketers in the automotive space ended up creating their own tech workarounds to keep their ads up to date.
The new Automotive Ads format lets auto marketers use their existing feeds (like they would on Cars.com or even Facebook Marketplace) and allows dealership advertisers to expand their reach and see the same increase in conversions they might have from Image Extensions.
Instagram engagement remains flat for brands despite a jump in H1 2020
New data from SocialInsider and Sked Social looked at over 100 million posts to assess how engagement fared in 2020 for brands of all sizes. The big takeaways include the following:
- The Instagram engagement rate has been on a flat line in 2019, followed by a notable increase during the first half of 2020, only to go down to the initial rate of around 2.02% after that.
- Higher Instagram engagement is mainly brought by carousels, especially for small accounts (under 5K), but when it comes to medium ones, it’s better to choose video.
- Shorter captions, up to 10 words, combined with carousels form the posts to which users prefer to interact with. But worth mentioned, captions with more than 30 words are better paired with videos.
- The average impressions rate had greater values for 2020, compared to 2019, being found around carousels, which may tell us that Instagram is pushing this type of content in people’s feeds more.
- Carousels are getting more likes than any other media type.
- People are more open to comment on video posts across all profile sizes.
Why we care. If you’re a brand on Instagram, and especially a small brand looking to grow, it helps to know what’s working to draw in users and keep them engaged. Knowing what the app itself is prioritizing for consumers helps, too.
Consider creating a different kind of conference handout
Speaking at an upcoming event? Have you considered creating a handout or takeaway for the audience beyond a copy of your slide deck? Your slide deck is great for attendees to go back and remember or revisit what you presented. However, a handout that is used by attendees over and over again to help them do their job and has your branding on it could be a bigger benefit to you and your audience in the long run.
You may want to consider putting together a job aid. A job aid, which is often used in instructional design and training, is something that people refer to over and over again to remember a process, procedure, framework or other tips you taught in order to do their job better.
Here are a few tips for making a job aid to go with your educational session or presentation.
- It needs to be specific, useful and help the audience do something better in their job. This is not just about some notes or highlights from your presentation. It should be focused, actionable and task-oriented.
- Consider the format that is best for the information or task you are creating the job aid for. Possible formats include a step-by-step process, flow chart, checklist, decision table and worksheets.
- Design it to be fun, aesthetically appealing, and easy to print out. In other words, make it something people will want to post in their office. There are many tools out there to help you easily create a job aid.
So next time you’re presenting at a virtual event, or hopefully soon an in-person event, consider creating a job aid that will help attendees do their jobs long after your presentation ends.
Publishing on Facebook, community for in-house marketers, and April Fools search trends
Facebook explores paid deals for new publishing platform. Facebook will soon begin testing partnerships with a small group of independent writers for its new publishing platform. The pandemic has prompted many high-profile journalists to leaving newsrooms to launch their own newsletters or websites. Now, tech companies are getting in on the trend.
ALL IN: A career-focused community for in-house marketers. Brendon Hufford launched a new community for marketers who work for brands. “Together with members from eBay, GrubHub & more, we’ll explore building a career you’re proud of by becoming a person you’re proud of.”
April Fools prank search trends. If you haven’t executed your April Fool’s Day prank yet, there’s still time. Google tweeted some of the biggest search trends for April Fools to give you some ideas. New trends this year? “April Fools pranks through text” is a breakout and “virtual April Fools pranks” spiked +300% over the past week in the US.
PHP hacked: 100% of WordPress websites vulnerable
PHP makes up 80% of the known web, according to W3Tech, which is why it’s kind of a really big deal that some hackers were able to backdoor some shady code into the php-src Git repository.
“The PHP scripting language—the backbone of 100 percent of WordPress sites—is hosted on a Git repository that was compromised, presenting a potentially dangerous compromise to all sites on WordPress,” wrote Brian Harnish for iloveseo.com.
The updates pushed to the PHP Git server added in code that made it possible for visitors to execute the code of their choice with no authorization. “Thankfully, the Git Repo was able to catch these commits before they were released to the production version. Otherwise, the hackers could have done a lot of damage to all WordPress websites,” said Harnish.
Thankfully, “this hack does not affect WordPress sites in production due to the speed at which it was initially caught.”