April 2021 News You Can Use

Don’t forget to check the bonus info at the bottom of this month’s issue of News You Can Use.

This month’s issue covers stories about the zero-click debate, open access to YouTube’s test projects, the proper length of a title tag (according to Google), and more.

Keep reading.

The Zero-click Battle: Fishkin and Google

Topic: SEO

Google app open on cellular device.

Key Point: Rand Fishkin says “It’s probable that more than two-thirds of all Google searches are . . . ‘zero-click searches.’” Google, on the other hand, says Fishkin doesn’t understand what’s really going on.

Which side of the fence is most accurate?

Is Google deliberately pushing users toward zero-click results? Has Google’s gradual takeover of search engine results page real estate been a deliberate march towards dominance? Should SEO practitioners and digital marketing managers adjust their strategy accordingly? You be the judge. See data surrounding “zero-click” searches

Discussion Idea

Statista says Google is currently drawing almost 90% of global search. Bing gets a paltry 6.7%, Baidu pulls in .54%, and the rest goes to the rest of the search engine pack. It is difficult to out-maneuver Google, and the outcry from online marketers hasn’t helped much (yet) either, so how can you use white hat techniques to get your share of organic search? Do the research, think about it, then get ready for a lively discussion.

“We’ve passed a milestone in Google’s evolution from search engine to walled-garden” (Rand Fishkin)

Did the Pandemic Change Marketing Forever?

Topic: E-commerce

Two people reviewing analytics on papers and computers.

Key Point: Wells Fargo analysts say e-commerce sales aren’t going to fade away — even after pandemic fears have subsided. A recent survey predicts online penetration of retail sales will “land 540 basis points above pre-pandemic levels.”

Other observations are that beauty and apparel sales will see a healthy uptick, home goods will still be in demand, and athletic/leisure wear will continue to gain the attention of consumers. Want proof? Amazon now sells more apparel than any other retailer in the United States — including Walmart.

Discussion Idea

Wells Fargo mentions several categories likely to be in demand as the pandemic threat subsides. Can you think of others? Can you name some that may drop in consumer demand?

The New TikTok Business Profile

Topic:  Online Advertising | Ecommerce

Hand holding cellular device with TikTok open.

Key Point: Here’s a new way to get tips and tricks on using TikTok for marketing: Follow the new TikTok for business profile. One way to get there is to log in to your TikTok account, then search for @tiktokforbusiness. To open up a treasure chest of info (like the TikTok Trend Report), follow the TikTok.ForBusiness link.

Why should advertisers care about TikTok? For starters, the app’s penetration in the 16-64 age bracket is at eighteen percent globally. More than 100 million of those users are in the United States, 100 million are in Europe, and 600 million in China (according to the company’s own stats). 

ALSO SEE: YouTube Begins Roll-out of TikTok-like Shorts Option

Snap Aims to Double-down on E-commerce

Topic:  E-commerce

Snapchat ghost logo.

Key Point: Snap (parent of Snapchat) just acquired Fit Analytics, a company that builds tools to help shoppers feel confident the shoes and clothing they order online will fit as expected. In one way, that seems unrelated to the Snapchat app … but in another way, it doesn’t.

Advertisers may have plenty to look forward to in this scenario. Fit Analytics claims brands like Puma, Calvin Klein, and Patagonia as clients, and the company’s CEO said this about the deal: “Our main focus going forward will be to scale the Fit Analytics business and work with Snap to grow their shopping platform, leveraging our technology and expertise.”

The Snapchat shopping platform? After you’ve read the TechCrunch article, check this super-cool Spectacles website for a look at “a camera inspired by the human eye.”  

YouTube Announces Testing of Two New Features

Topic: Online Advertising | Social Media Marketing

YouTube logo

Key Point: A new thread in the YouTube Help forum focuses on helping keep users up-to-date with “cool and interesting” feature updates.

The post first provides some context to how feature testing works, then lists two new experiments many digital marketers will watch keenly:

  • Product identification will auto-detect products mentioned in videos, then list those and related products below the video.
  • YouTube on Twitter will allow users to watch YouTube videos … without leaving Twitter.

Remember, these are experiments — not updates — and are available to some (not all) users during the testing period. Because they can disappear at any moment, the value marketers might gain from each test is tiny compared to the value of the insight you can gain by asking yourself, “Where does this lead? What does it tell me about the direction YouTube is headed?”

ALSO SEE: YouTube Experiments With Automated Lists

Discussion Idea

Go to this list of companies and click on the letter that begins your first name (see the screenshot above). Choose a name that’s not now familiar to you, then invest 15 minutes or so to researching that company. How is the business now positioned in their market? Could the business boost its reach and presence with YouTube? Could the experiments described above help the company gain more market share? Once you’ve given sufficient time to research, meet as a group to discuss your individual findings. Ask hard questions of one another. Look for the differences in how each person approaches YouTube marketing. Take a break, think about your takeaways from the discussion, then meet again to share those insights with one another.

Spotify Plans Live Audio Experience

Topic: Social Media Marketing | Online Advertising

Two iPads with Spotify open

Key Point: Spotify advertising may be getting a big boost up. The company recently acquired Betty Labs, the creators of the Locker Room live audio app. The Spotify Newsroom announcement drops this gem of a quote: “Creators and fans have been asking for live formats on Spotify, and we’re excited that soon, we’ll make them available to hundreds of millions of listeners and millions of creators on our platform.”

Spotify plans to use the new app to enable creators to connect with their fans in real time. Betty Labs is sport-focused, but now the Locker Room app will be available to musicians, writers, athletes, singers, and others who have a following on Spotify.

Google Weighs in On Title Tag Length

Topic: SEO

Key Point: It’s been a bone of contention between SEO practitioners for years: Exactly how many characters should be used in the title tag for a web page? Many marketers argue for 65 characters, though some drop that back to 55 or 60, and others say up to 70.

After all these years, a Googler finally set the record straight: Google doesn’t care how long your title tag is (within reason). You should use as many words as you need to succinctly describe what the page is about.

The title tag is the clickable headline shown in the search engine listing for the page (see the screenshot below). If you need additional room for your title tag, you won’t get penalized in search, and you may even use the extra space to include keyword variants. You can even leave the readers hanging on a question, statement, or statistic that makes it difficult for them to resist clicking through.

Was the Volkswagen Prank a Good Idea or Not?

Topic: Online Advertising | Branding

Person gripping Volkswagen car steering wheel.

Key Point: This appears to be the correct story: Volkswagen posted a news release (March 29) saying USA products will now be branded “Voltswagen” in honor of the trend away from fossil fuels and towards electric vehicles. News agencies ate the story up, ran with it, and Volkswagen baited reporters along the “Voltswagen” farce for the rest of the day.

On March 30, the company announced the whole story was actually an “April Fool’s” joke that shouldn’t have been released so early. A prank gone bad or a prank badly played?

Writing for “The Truth About Cars,” managing editor Tim Healey said this: 

Intentionally or not, Volkswagen fooled a lot of people. I am not mad, but I am also not impressed — either VW really did want to change the name and is using April Fool’s as an excuse to back down from a truly dumb idea, or it was a prank all along and handled in the most ham-handed manner. Neither is a good look.

ALSO SEE: Volkswagen Steers Towards More Electric Future

The Tale of 2021

We know what’s behind us, and we know what’s directly in front of us … but none of us is able to confidently predict the challenges ahead. What will 2021 bring?

Whatever it brings, digital marketing professionals will stay steady at the helm and make the adjustments necessary to meet consumer demand. We’re proud of the professors and students who have rolled with the changes the past year and kept the motivational energy going. Kudos to you all! Together, we can and will pull through.

Bonus Info

Check out the following:

Facebook provides additional monetization options for creators

Twitter Spaces set to release soon

How the iOS update will affect Facebook

Google says you won’t be tracked online in the near future

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