December 2020 News You Can Use

A new one-day online sales record for U.S. shoppers, YouTube is flexing its muscles, and Google’s senior trends analyst tells us (well, sort of tells us) that exact match keywords really aren’t all that important anymore.

With a hearty wish for a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season … Stukent brings you these stories and more in this issue of Stukent’s News You Can Use.


Topic: E-commerce

Key Point:  Cyber Monday 2020 online sales jumped more than 15 percent over 2019 to ring in at $10.8 billion. That figure fell short of the potential $12.7 billion predicted by Adobe Analytics, but it still created an all-time high for U.S. online sales in one day. (The previous record, $9.4 billion, was set last year on Cyber Monday.)

One thing to consider, though, is that the coronavirus pandemic has extended the typical holiday sales schedule. The special pricing and consumer rush to buy won’t be focused on just a few days for 2020. Cyber Monday may end up being Cyber Week this year.

RetailNext says brick-and-mortar traffic was down 42.3 percent during the three-day period beginning with Black Friday, but brick-and-mortar sales were down by only 23.9 percent, thanks to better conversion rates and a 4.9 percent increase in average transaction value.

That same Forbes Magazine article quoted Taylor Schreiner, Director of Adobe Digital Insights, as expecting to see “record sales continue throughout the remainder of the holiday season and curbside pickup to gain even more momentum as shoppers avoid crowds and potential shipping delays.”

Amazon says this year’s holiday shopping period has been the biggest in its history


Topic: Social media marketing

Key Point: Updates to YouTube’s Terms of Service raised the eyebrows of a few digital marketers, but (surprisingly) not many. Changes include stiffening the injunction against harvesting personally identifiable information (including facial recognition) and a new “Right to Monetize” section that will allow YouTube to run ads on any channel not in the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) without compensating the channel owner. There are also updates to the way royalty income is reported for tax purposes.

Industry commentary includes an article by Gadgets 360, noting that “Content creators on YouTube aren’t happy with the new move. It is quite valid since the website is not providing any share of the revenues it would generate from the ads it is rolling out on small channels.” 

The Verge pitched in to point out that “a new line acts as a reminder that the company doesn’t have to keep any video up that it doesn’t want to. ‘YouTube is under no obligation to host or serve content,’ the new terms of service policy reads. It’s another way of saying that just because YouTube is a relatively open platform, it doesn’t mean that the company is required to keep videos up.” And a BGR article headline says, “YouTubers are understandably terrified after this change to the Terms of Service.” Other than that, the commentary is pretty well nil.

DISCUSSION IDEA: Why do you think the prominent players in social media and online advertising news (you fill in the blanks) haven’t run stories on the YouTube TOS changes? Are YouTube creators “terrified,” as BGR suggests, or are the changes of no real consequence?


Topic: SEO

Key Point: Given last year’s introduction of BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers), natural language machine learning, and considering the move towards contextual search … do keywords matter anymore?

If I’m looking to buy a Ford pickup truck, for instance, do I really need to use “Ford pickup” or a similar exact match keyword in my search parameters, or will Google (through various avenues of information collection and algorithmic matching for my query) know what I’m looking for without the need to spell it out precisely?

In a recent Google SEO office-hours hangout, John Mueller, Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, put it like this: “With all of these, kind of, machine learning approaches, we try to figure out what these pages are actually about, what the query is actually looking for, and we try to match that a little bit better.”

Mueller went on to point out that SEOs have been seeing the diminishing need for exact match keywords, “maybe subconsciously,” over the years and realizing you don’t need to have singular/plural coverage. You don’t need to include misspellings — those things are “less critical,” but you do need to match what the user is “actually looking for.” The aim, said Mueller, is to “show the right versions to users when they ask.” 

Google Search Central holds office hours regularly. Use this link to ask questions in advance and to find out when the next session will be held. To see Mueller’s (less than fully committed) response to the keywords question, check the video below from 12:10 to 13:54 on the timeline.

DISCUSSION IDEA: Mueller seemed hesitant to commit to a solid answer during the hangout. Why do you think that is? Are keywords important to SEO?

The Importance of Exact Match Keywords


Topic: Digital marketing

Key Point: Imagine this: You have a web page with content you think could do well if turned into a video presentation. Rather than reach for the camera, though, you just click on a start button, provide a few directional inputs, and wait for Google to convert the page to video for you.

Sounds a little far fetched, even though you KNOW artificial intelligence is making the seemingly impossible quite possible? Google research scientists say their URL2Video approach “converts a web page into a short video given temporal and visual constraints.” You set the desired aspect ratio and duration; Google does the rest. Need to make changes? No problem, you’ll get a user interface to perform that magic. 

Writing for TNW, Ivan Mehta says Baidu is working on a similar product … so, when will it be ready? We couldn’t find any promises, but Google says, “We envision a future where creators focus on making high-level decisions and an ML model interactively suggests detailed temporal and graphical edits for a final video creation on multiple platforms.”

Google AI Blog

DISCUSSION TOPIC: Let your mind wander down the road a decade or two. How might the online world then be different from today? How will digital marketing jobs change as a result?


Topic: Ecommerce

Key Point: The coronavirus pandemic left a wake of disruption in 2020. From schools and restaurant closings to almost 1.5 million deaths worldwide (to date), the beast has certainly left its mark. There’s one thing COVID-19 can’t do, though: It can’t stop Christmas.

Writing for Social Media Examiner, Val Razo compiled a truly helpful list of six gangbuster tips for Instagram marketers this holiday season. Methods include leveraging FOMO, partnering with micro-influencers, and four other excellent tips. Razo says, “The ability to sell products in-app with product tags and in-app checkout makes Instagram an important marketplace with great sales potential.” We think she’s right.

DISCUSSION IDEA: Is every business “right” for Instagram? If not, what qualifies or disqualifies a company from leveraging the steps Razo suggests?

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Review the brief SME article as a small group. Discuss the tips suggested, then see if you can suggest three more.


Topic: Online advertising

Key Point:  Danny Goodwin polled 32 PPC experts for his fourth-annual look at PPC trends. Top predictions include the continuance of the “data obfuscation” trend, hyper-focus on the target audience, moving away from Google-exclusive PPC to more data-inclusive platforms, new Instagram opportunities, and more.

You’ll get plenty of quotes from the experts when you check out the article. One of our favorites is from Arianne Donoghue, who says, “The right person – at the right time, in the right place – but with the wrong message, is a missed opportunity.”

This article is but a portion of the findings cataloged in SEJ’s PPC Trends 2021 publication. There’s a download link for that resource on the same page as Goodwin’s article.

SUGGESTED ACTIVITY: Review the 10 trends as a small group. Then discuss them. Do you agree with them all? Do you have other trends to suggest?


Topic: Analytics

Key Point:  Google says the term “webmaster” isn’t as identifiable as it once was. According to the Google Books Ngram Viewer, usage has declined sharply since 2005. For that reason, Google Webmasters Central is now deemed “Google Search Central.”

The name hasn’t changed the purpose of the site, though. The goal is still to “help people improve the visibility of their website on Google Search.” Other changes include the consolidation of help documentation and blogs. For info on which documents are now lodged where, to get the link for new blog posts, and to check out the new Googlebot mascot, check the Google announcement at this link.


Topic: Digital education

Key Point: Building on a relationship launched in 2018, HubSpot and Howard University announced plans to open a Center of Digital Business within the Howard University School of Business. HubPost executives have taught classes, helped with a pitch competition, and engaged in recruiting activities for the school. Now, they’ll take those actions a giant step forward.

Hubspot’s SVP of Corporate and Business Development, Andrew Lindsay, emphasized the rapid spread of digital business needs: “At HubSpot, we see across all industries that everyone is accelerating the digital transformation, no matter the age of the business, so students and recent graduates need to understand how business is changing at a faster scale and be equipped with the digital skillset to succeed.”

Anthony Dean, dean of the School of Business at Howard University, said, “This partnership is about providing experiential learning opportunities. Our students need the practical experience of learning to see what they learn in the classroom applies to the real world.”

Stukent salutes the school and the corporation for joining forces. One thing is certain: We can do a whole lot more together than any of us can ever do alone. Get the full scoop on the story by checking this article on Marketing Land.

Don’t Stop Now — More Records Will Likely Be Broken in 2020

There’s no doubt the coronavirus pandemic has proven itself a tragic force that threatens our schools, our communities, our nation, and our planet. Education has changed, business has changed, and we have changed as a result. 

There is a bright spot in the crisis, though. Every major challenge — from the Civil War to the Great Depression, and the attacks that shocked the world on September 11, 2001 — spawns heroes and pulls us back together. This epidemic is no exception. 

We’ve made the adjustments we need to make, and we continue to look for ways to keep moving forward. That is the essence of courage and the bedrock for the path that leads to success. Don’t stop. Keep moving. Keep trying. We will get through this together, and we’ll be both stronger and smarter because of the struggle.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, (and any other joyful celebrations you observe) … to you and yours!


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