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An update to Google may help your competitive SEO research... Instagram doubles its data... YouTube starts testing what may be its future... TikTok's making it easier for you to sponsor influencers...

Google to Show Searchers Why They Got Certain Results

One of the nice additions Facebook did a few years back was to have a way for people to find out why an ad was in their feed. The "Why Am I Seeing This Ad" would reveal some rough targeting parameters and, for us digital marketers, sometimes a glimpse into how our competitors were putting their campaigns together — were they using custom audiences? Was this more broadly targeted?

And occasionally, you can spot mistakes those advertisers made. I recently got served an ad for a company that makes a projected light:

When I tapped on "Why Am I Seeing This Ad," it revealed that one of their interests targeting was Lights — but not projected lights, rather Lights the Canadian musician:

I guess this company just clicked on every Lights that popped up in the Suggested list.

Many of us have thought — wouldn't it be great if we had this feature for Google search results.

Your dream may be answered.

This week, Google started rolling out a new About This Result overlay that will disclose why Google is ranking that page for a given search. Like Facebook's version, this is high-level data only. 

Some of that data includes which keyword triggered the result or if Google substituted a synonym, whether an image on the page triggered it, and things like the impact of language and country on the results.

Google will also give searchers tips on how to get better results, like negative matching or changing your location. 

Snapchat Had Its Best Quarter in Four Years

In all the attention around TikTok, Reels, Shorts, and more, you could be forgiven for thinking Snapchat's just slowly withering away.

But they continue to keep growing and growing. This week, their Q2 reported both revenue and daily active users grew at the highest rates in the last four years. Snapchat now has 293 million daily actives — that's up 23% since last year.

It was looking tricky a while back. After Instagram copied Stories and Kylie Jenner tweeted that she didn't use Snapchat any more:

That caused a $1.2 billion valuation drop.

But they closed out the last quarter with nearly a billion dollars in revenue.

How? Well, partly they took a page from Instagram's strategy book and cloned TikTok. Snapchat calls their version Spotlight. And they're still considered the leader in both AR effects for organic content and for e-commerce.

Do not count them out.

Twitter Posts Encouraging Results

Twitter, too, released its Q2 earnings results this week — and also was good news: steady increases in both users and revenue. This after Twitter's board nearly threw co-founder Jack Dorsey out, complaining about a lack of innovation and growth.

That seems to be turning around now. Twitter's Monetizable Daily Active Users is now 206 million, that's an increase of 11% year-over-year. Pretty much all that growth has come from outside the U.S.:

Most analysts are still in a wait-and-hold attitude, and are carefully watching the company's interactions with India, which has both a whole lot of people and a whole lot of regulatory issues, to be generous.

Twitter's definitely in the middle of a huge change — introducing new monetization features, a live audio product, a newsletter subscription product, and they even said they'd be retiring Fleets next month (that's their take on Stories).

In terms of revenue, Twitter was up a whopping 74% compared to the previous Q2. Almost all of that comes from advertising. Let's not forget, of course, Q2 this year looks a whole lot different economically that last Q2, which was in the heat of the pandemic.

You know what else was up? Cost per engagement numbers — up 42% year-over-year.

Instagram Expands Insights Data to 60 Days

Good news, data nerds — Instagram's in-app analytics will now have double the time limit for insights.

Currently, the app shows 30 days of data. They say they're stretching that to 60 days, and soon will have it up to 90 days later in the summer.

To be fair, true data nerds aren't really using Instagram's in-app analytics — you're using a third-party tool, or some middleware like Supermetrics. But still, for fast glances or to quickly answer a question in a meeting, this is good for us.

As part of the upgrade, they've also added a new calendar tool within Insights to let you pick your time frame — and reports say soon you'll be able to pick your own start and end dates.

We can only assume they'll duplicate this over on Creator Studio, which they've been trying to make a single hub for content stuff. Right now, it's only 30 days there too.

This started rolling out this week, and should get to you soon.

TikTok's Spark Ads Sponsorship Tool

To TikTok now, and the company this week launching a new tool to let advertisers sponsor trending organic content. They call them Spark Ads.

This will let brand marketers search for TikTok videos that are performing well, and put a budget behind it. Yes, basically boosted posts. They've been testing this pretty widely for the last few months, and are now releasing it more widely.

If you try this and it's asking you to buy coins, like buying hammers in Candy Crush, that's a different thing. You can also promote your own content that way, which is terribly confusing. This one costs 702 coins? What is that in real money? Well, you can buy 660 coins $13.99 in Canada, so maybe that's about $15 bucks? 

But Spark Ads are in the actual ads manager. The process is you'll need to grab a code from the video you want to sponsor (or get the creator to give you that code), then input that code into Ads Manager to be able to select it.

LinkedIn launched a similar option last May, using real money.

YouTube Testing Livestream Shopping

Whenever I do my lives on TikTok — and if you've not been there, our TikTok account name is @TodayInDigital — one question that always comes up: What do I think the next big thing in digital marketing will be.

I think there are two contenders: 

  1. Ad campaigns enhanced by augmented reality

  2. Livestreamed e-commerce

Apparently YouTube agrees with the latter, and this week said it will begin piloting a way for viewers to shop for products directly from livestream videos. 

If this sounds familiar, it's because they began beta testing a version of this — but that only worked for on-demand videos, not live videos.

Quoting TechCrunch:

YouTube’s video platform, for years, has been a powerful tool for product discovery, as its more than 2 billion logged-in users per month turn to the service to watch product reviews, demos, unboxings, shopping hauls and other content that could inspire future purchases. But creators who wanted to sell from their YouTube videos would often have to promote affiliate links to online stores through the video’s description or in-video elements, like cards or end screens.

In more recent years, YouTube also introduceda merch shelf that would allow viewers to shop a set of specific products the creator selected.

The integrated shopping experience, meanwhile, allows viewers to shop the products shown in the video itself by tapping on a “view products” button, which brings up a list of the items being featured.

There are a lot of startups trying to get into this space: Bambuser, Popshop Live, Talkshoplive, Whatnot and others have raised millions and millions of angel funding to hopefully be the next great thing.

The Lightning Round:

  • Clubhouse — the app that started the live audio thing — is finally out of beta and no longer requires you to have an invite from a friend to join. Is it too little too late?

  • Twitter is testing letting people upvote or downvote replies. They say this isn't going to be like Reddit — your downvotes aren't public, and your upvotes will show as Likes — rather, they're using it to train their machine learning. They said the votes "actually won't impact the ranking of individual replies at all, not now, nor in future."

  • Google has a nice new feature coming to its online spreadsheet — soon, you'll be able to select multiple sheets in one go by holding down Shift when clicking them. That'll make it a bit faster to do things like color, group, duplicate, and delete all in one fell swoop. It's rolling out now.

  • Facebook is adding new pre-approval requirements for medical brands who want to promote prescription drugs. As of August 25th, telehealth providers and online pharmacies will be required to present written certification from the third party certification provider Legitscript. Pharmaceutical manufacturers will also have to get pre-approval from Facebook prior to running ads promoting prescription drugs. And even if you do get through all that, your ads can only run to adults in the US, Canada or New Zealand.

  • TikTok has gained TAG Brand Safety Certification worldwide which is a big deal for big and regulated brands.

Today’s Zoom: Google Ads Expert

We had a great Zoom this afternoon — Google Ads expert Jyll Saskin Gales joined us. She spent 6 years at Google helping large brands with their campaigns. Now, she's struck out on her own as a Google Ads consultant for hire. You can find her at jyll.ca 

We talked about whether to accept Google's machine learning (probably not), how Google campaigns are affected by iOS14 (less than other platforms), there was some talk about non-profits — and one question was this: What can I expect to pay on a cost-per-click basis if I run Google ads?

Jyll said it depends, of course, but a general planning number could be $2 or $3 per click — however, remember that some industries are extremely competitive, and might be as much as $50 per click or more.

Next week's Zoom will be at: 

  • 1pm Pacific

  • 4pm Eastern

  • 8pm London time

The Zoom link is https://b.link/listenerzoom

Premium Newsletter members:
Look for another email, right after this one, with the link to a video replay and audio reply of this Zoom.

And finally…

Don't forget, we're looking for genuine experts in specific fields of digital marketing, for our weekly Listener Zooms and perhaps on the podcast itself. If you'd like to be one of our experts on-call, tell us about yourself at todayindigital.com/experts. The link is also in the bio.

Thank you for your patience this week with the weird publishing schedule. My wife and I enjoyed a lovely mid-week break outside of Victoria BC. Perhaps the most scenic location I've ever stayed in:

I have started the month trial of Apple's Fitness+ — god help me — I updated a bunch of my professional photos last week (you may have noticed the new podcast artwork) and, well, you know when you look in the mirror and are like: Wait, THAT'S what I look like? So, yeah. Hopefully shave a few pounds off with this new regiment.

I also got Apple's Airpods Pro — the new in-ear airpods. Holy crap the noise cancellation is amazing. I run a loud fan in my office. I put these in and actually thought I'd lost power to the fan because nearly the whole sound disappeared. Not an ad.

Today in Digital Marketing is produced on beautiful Vancouver Island by engageQ digital. Production support and fact checking by Sarah Guild. Our theme is by Mark Blevis. Podcast music licensing by Source Audio.