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Facebook Shrinks Mobile Ads; Google Cracks Down on Software Ads

July 24, 2019

Welcome back to the online advertising news round-up! The second half of July 2019 has been a busy one as far as marketers are concerned. We’ve got eight stories for you today: Facebook shrinking ads in the mobile News Feed, Google ramping up enforcement of their software advertising policies, LinkedIn launching new campaign objectives, and more.

1. Facebook shrinks mobile News Feed ads

Heads up, Facebook advertisers: As of August 19, 2019, your News Feed ads will be smaller than they are now. In a blog post shared late last week, Facebook announced two key updates regarding the formatting of mobile feed ads:

  1. Fewer lines of primary text: As of now, your mobile prospects can read up to seven lines of ad copy before being prompted to click “See More.” As of next month, they’ll only see three lines of that primary copy.

  2. Reduced maximum aspect ratio: As of now, the maximum aspect ratio—that is, the ratio of the width of an image to the height of an image—for mobile feed ads is 2:3. As of next month, that ratio is dropping to 4:5. Any image or video you share that’s taller than 4:5 will be “masked.”

facebook-shrinks-mobile-ads-before-after-comparison

Via Facebook.

This announcement follows up the introduction of a redesigned mobile app that Facebook unveiled at their annual F8 conference back in the spring. According to the company, the new mobile app was designed, in part, to put communities “at the center” of the user experience. Presumably, the decision to shrink mobile News Feed ads goes hand-in-hand with that goal. Additionally, the company says the new maximum aspect ratio will make it easier for you to use the same advertising assets across Facebook and Instagram.

Speaking purely from a tactical perspective, the aspect ratio update isn’t too big of a deal. You’ll need to adjust the sizes of your images and videos going forward, but the messaging of those visual assets shouldn’t be affected. The reduction in primary text, however, will require a new approach to Facebook copywriting. Now that you have half as much space to grab and hold your prospects’ attention, you’ll need to make an extra effort to frontload your copy with compelling, valuable content. Think carefully about where each of your audiences stands in your marketing funnel and make sure that primary ad text addresses their unique needs.

2. Google updates enforcement of software ad policy

If you’re using Google to advertise a software installation or download (e.g., a web app), this one’s for you: Per a recent email, Google will update their Unwanted Software policy on August 21 to require that your ads and landing pages are as transparent to users as possible.

facebook-shrinks-mobile-ads-google-software-ad-example

Basically, the Unwanted Software policy lays out the rules you need to follow in order to promote your product through Google Ads—the gist of it being that you’re not allowed to deceive people in regards to what your product does or how your product works. Towards that end, Google will soon require the following:

  • Each of your ads and landing pages needs to explicitly state what your software does.
  • Each of your ads and landing pages needs to explicitly state the type of software you’re promoting (e.g., software application, web app, etc.).
  • Each of your landing pages needs to explicitly explain the implications of installing or downloading your software (e.g., whether doing so will affect users’ system settings).

To be clear, the specifics of the Unwanted Software policy haven’t really changed. What have changed are Google’s expectations as to how you adhere to the policy. Beginning next month, with those three bullet points in mind, you’ll have to pay especially close attention to the copy you’re using to promote your software product on the SERPs and on your website.

3. Google adds customer photos to Shopping reviews

Good news for retailers who work with Yotpo, PowerReviews, Bazaarvoice, or Influenster to aggregate online reviews: Google is rolling out a new Shopping feature that will enable your customers to upload photos alongside their reviews. According to Search Engine Land’s Ginny Marvin, the feature is in the earliest stages of its rollout and will only be available to shoppers in the US for now.

On desktop, you can see the reviews for a given product by clicking on the star rating shown at the bottom of the Shopping ad. On mobile, you simply click View More at the bottom of the ad and navigate to the Reviews tab. Thanks to Yotpo, we have an example of what the new reviews will look like on mobile devices:

facebook-shrinks-mobile-ads-ugc-in-google-shopping-reviews

Via Yotpo.

With this announcement, Google is effectively bringing the power of user-generated content (UGC) to Shopping reviews. From the perspective of a potential customer, a photo of a real person using (and loving) your product can be far more persuasive than a standard ad. This decision from Google could be legitimately impactful for your ecommerce business.

As I said, you have to partner with one of the four review aggregators listed above to participate. Logistically, however, you don’t have to do any extra work. If a customer chooses to upload a photo as part of their review, Google will automatically add it.

4. LinkedIn unveils 3 new campaign objectives

In the company’s latest effort to ramp up their ad offering, LinkedIn has announced the addition of three new campaign objectives to their recently redesigned Campaign Manager: brand awareness, website conversions, and job applicants.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn will charge advertisers running brand awareness campaigns on a cost-per-impression basis (CPM). With this campaign type, you can reach users who’ve yet to interact with your business and expand your pool of high-funnel prospects. If content creation is part of your broader marketing strategy, this campaign type may be an effective way to spread the word to relevant audiences.

facebook-shrinks-mobile-ads-linkedin-adds-campaign-objectives

Via LinkedIn.

The website conversions campaign objective isn’t so much new as it is improved. Now, thanks to a tighter integration between Campaign Manager and LinkedIn’s conversion tracking tool, you can optimize your conversion-focused campaigns for specific on-site actions—newsletter sign-ups, content downloads, webinar registrations, and so on. 

Finally, the job applicants campaign objective is geared towards recruiters and HR professionals using LinkedIn Talent Solutions to find and hire new employees. Prior to the announcement of this objective, businesses using Talent Solutions didn’t have access to Campaign Manager. Now, you can run LinkedIn ads with the specific intent of connecting with job applicants.

In addition to these new campaign objectives, LinkedIn has announced two updates to its pricing system. First: If you’re optimizing your campaign for website visits, you’ll only be charged for clicks that go to your landing page. Second: If you’re optimizing for user engagement, you’ll be charged for every interaction—likes, shares, comments, etc.

5. Microsoft Advertising rolls out ad customizers

In a big step towards achieving parity with Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) has announced the global rollout of ad customizers to all Bing advertisers.

Ad customizers, for those who may not know, allow you to write an expanded text ad that dynamically changes according to the unique attributes of the person who’s seeing your ad. Using a basic feed file, you can tell Microsoft to adjust your ad copy based on user location, time of day, device type, audience lists, and more.

For clarity, here’s an example from Microsoft themselves. Let’s say you’re advertising on Bing to promote discounts on in-store purchases of home vacuums. Although customers across the US can expect a 10% discount, you want to offer a special discount of 20% to Seattle customers. Using an ad customization feed, you can tell Microsoft to change the discount promoted in your text ad according to where users are located:

facebook-shrinks-mobile-ads-microsoft-rolls-out-ad-customizers

Via Microsoft.

If you’ve never used ad customizers before—on either Google or Bing—you can get started by navigating to the Shared Library tab within the Microsoft Advertising UI and selecting Feed Management Tool. Alternatively, if you’re already using ad customizers on Google and you’d like to do the same on Bing, you can import your feed file into your Microsoft Advertising account via the Google Import Tool.

6. Facebook sheds light on ad targeting data

Responding to feedback that previous transparency measures have been “hard to understand and difficult to navigate,” Facebook has announced two updates to the way the company informs users about the data behind the ads they’re served.

facebook-shrinks-mobile-ads-why-youre-seeing-this-ad-tab

Via Facebook.

The first update pertains to the “Why am I seeing this ad?” tool that Facebook initially rolled out several years ago. The purpose of this tool, of course, is to educate users about the personal information advertisers use. Until now, users who’ve clicked on “Why am I seeing this ad?” have gotten the bare minimum—basically being told that they’re served ads based on basic demographic information or previous website visits. Now, in order to give users a more in-depth explanation as to why they’re seeing certain ads, Facebook will shed light on interest targeting. If you’re using Facebook Ads to target prospects based on their interests, they’ll now have the opportunity to learn more about how you’re doing it.

The second update pertains to Ad Preferences—the tab under User Settings that folks can use to “take control over their ad experience.” Facebook has added a new section within the Ad Preferences interface called Advertisers and Businesses. Here, users will find two lists: (1) a list of all the advertisers who’ve uploaded their information to the platform and used it within the past week; (2) a list of all the third-party businesses that have uploaded their information to the platform and shared it with advertisers.

As Facebook and other ad vendors come under greater scrutiny for the collection and use of personal data, we can expect more updates like these to roll out—and that’s a good thing.

7. Google expands TrueView for Action to partner sites

In order to connect advertisers with a wider pool of prospects, Google has announced the expansion of TrueView for Action—the video campaign type that enables you to optimize for conversions—to their video partner sites. With this new capability, you’ll be able to serve your video ads to users browsing the publishers and mobile apps that Google has vetted for quality.

As of now, all new TrueView for Action campaigns will be eligible for partner site placements by default—meaning the onus will be on you to opt out if you want to stay away from these placements. As for your existing campaigns, you’ll have to manually opt in.

facebook-shrinks-mobile-ads-google-expands-trueview-for-actions

Via Google.

Here’s my not-so-groundbreaking advice: If you want to take these partner site placements for a spin, make sure you’re targeting the right audiences. Keep in mind that the folks who see your video ads on partner sites won’t be actively looking for a product or service; instead, they’ll be consuming content or playing games on their phones. Because you’ll be—for lack of a better term—disrupting the user experience, I recommend testing these placements with audiences who’ve already interacted with your business in some way. If you ask people who’ve never heard of your business to stop what they’re doing and take some form of action, you’re most likely going to waste a whole bunch of money.

8. Microsoft Advertising launches A/B testing tool

Fantastic news in the realm of paid search optimization: Microsoft Advertising is fully rolling out the experiments tab—essentially a tool that enables you to run an A/B test within a single campaign—to all Bing advertisers. If you don’t already see the new tab in your Microsoft Advertising account, you will soon enough.

facebook-shrinks-mobile-ads-microsoft-rolls-out-experiments-tab

Via Microsoft.

With the experiments tab (found on the Campaigns page), you can create a duplicate of the campaign you’d like to optimize. After you’ve told Microsoft how much budget and ad traffic you’d like to allocate to this duplicate campaign, you can start making changes as you see fit. For example, maybe you want to confirm a sneaking suspicion that your ad copy isn’t as compelling as it could be. By creating a duplicate of the (potentially) underperforming campaign, you give yourself a controlled environment in which you can safely test new messaging. After a sufficiently long test period—two or three weeks is usually a good idea—you’ll have enough performance data to confirm or reject that sneaking suspicion of yours.

Of course, ad copy is only one example of something you can optimize with this new tool. Ad extensions, landing pages, bidding solutions—practically anything that impacts the performance of your campaigns is fair game. 

Note that Microsoft recommends running an A/A test—that is, keeping the original campaign and its duplicate identical—for the first two weeks of your experiment. That way, you’ll be certain everything is in working order before making any optimizations.

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Conor Bond

Conor Bond writes words about stuff on the WordStream blog. He likes to drink coffee, play basketball, and pretend he doesn't care about his inadequate facial hair.

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