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Facebook Tests Search Ads, Removes More Interest Targets

August 7, 2019

Welcome back to another edition of the online advertising news round-up! We’ve got eight stories for you this time: Facebook testing search ads and removing seldom used interest targets, Google simplifying navigation from the image search results to websites, Microsoft Advertising making dynamic search ads (DSAs) bigger, and more! Let’s dive in.

1. Facebook expands testing of search ads

Good news for those of you worried about the increasingly crowded News Feed: Facebook seems to be expanding its test of placing ads in users’ search results. Recently, as reported by Marketing Land, more digital marketers have noticed the option to select “Search” as a placement when deciding where they’d like their Facebook ads to run.

This expansion builds off the initial test that Facebook launched back in December of last year. Now, as was the case eight months ago, this is all the company has to say on the matter: “We continue to test placing ads in Facebook search results and are evaluating whether these ads are beneficial for people and businesses before deciding whether to roll them out more broadly.”

Indeed, even as the availability of this placement expands, it remains pretty narrow: Only select advertisers in the retail, auto, and ecommerce industries have been given access thus far. Plus, even if you are given access, you don’t have much control over which queries trigger your ads—there are no keywords to speak of at this point. Instead, once you’ve decided to give the search results placement a go, Facebook will serve your ads when users enter commercially motivated queries related to your business or industry.

facebook-expands-test-of-search-ads

Via Marketing Land.

As you can see, search ads don’t look all that different from standard News Feed ads. Once you’ve written your headline and your text copy, you can elect to use a single image or a carousel of images. At this point, you can’t run video ads in the search results. Also note that the only campaign objectives supported are traffic, conversions, and product catalog sales.

2. Facebook to remove seldom used interest targets

In an effort to declutter Ads Manager and simplify management of campaigns and ad sets, Facebook has decided to sunset thousands of outdated and seldom used interest targets. According to Marketing Land, among the targets getting the axe are things like old movie titles and obscure band names. Accordingly, most Facebook advertisers won’t notice any differences in the management experience.

As of now, these interest targets can no longer be added to new ad sets. If you’re using any of them in your existing ad sets, Facebook will notify you at some point this month. Once you’ve been notified, you’ll be allowed to continue using these interest targets for several months (exactly how many hasn’t been specified) before you’re told to remove or replace them.

Again—this isn’t cause for legitimate concern for most advertisers. Even if the deprecation of these niche targets does impact your business, there’s almost always a workaround when it comes to Facebook advertising. For example, let’s say you’re a retailer who sells products related to horror movies and you use Facebook to target users interested in Dracula. (I don’t know whether this target will actually be removed; according to Ads Manager, roughly a million users are interested.) You’ll still have the option to target horror movie fans, as well as fans of TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Vampire Diaries.

facebook-search-ads-interest-targeting-options

3. Google brings Swipe to Visit to image search results

For those of you whose websites support AMP—a publishing technology that enables mobile web pages to load quickly—Google is bringing new functionality to the image search results: Swipe to Visit. Now, when a mobile Google Images user clicks on your photo, they’ll have the option to swipe up on a header preview at the bottom of their screen and visit your site instantly.

facebook-search-ads-google-brings-swipe-to-visit-to-images

Via Google.

Don’t worry: Each time a user swipes up to visit your page, Google will register it as a pageview. This new solution isn’t some scheme to improve the mobile user experience while leeching your web traffic. In fact, at some point in the coming weeks, you’ll be able to use Search Console to see how much traffic you’re driving from AMP-enabled image results.

Obviously, we’ll have to give it some time before we can assess the impact this new feature has on publishers’ performance. The outlook, however, is bright. For a mobile user browsing Google Images, it’s pretty frustrating to wait for all the various pages to load. This frustration, of course, can lead to lost traffic on your end. By enabling users to simply swipe up and consume the content they’re looking for, Google will eliminate a lot of that friction and reduce the need for users to preemptively close out of your pages.

4. YouTube Masthead now available on CPM basis

After nearly six months of beta testing, Google has announced that all advertisers now have access to the YouTube Masthead placement on a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) basis. Prior to the beta test, which began in early February, the masthead—which enables you to advertise to users on the YouTube homepage—was only available on a cost per day (CPD) basis, thus making it feasible for only the biggest brands.

facebook-search-ads-google-rolls-out-youtube-masthead-placement

Via Google.

Crucially, along with the global rollout of CPM bidding on the masthead placement comes the ability to refine your targeting with the help of advanced audience solutions. Due to the immense volume of traffic the YouTube homepage drives every day, it would be ludicrously expensive to advertise on the masthead without any form of audience targeting. Thankfully, if you decide to buy this ad space, you’ll be able to boost ROI by restricting your reach to remarketing audiences or users who behave similarly to your past customers.

It’s important to note, however, that the masthead will remain a reserved placement—meaning you’ll have to adhere to a minimum spend requirement if you want to advertise on it.

While reading some other coverage of this announcement, I’ve seen some folks suggest that the masthead placement is best used for brand awareness purposes. Although that may be true for massive brands with infinitely deep pockets, it’s certainly not the case for small or mid-range businesses. If you’re working with a limited budget and you want to tap into the value of this new real estate, make sure you’re targeting an audience that will make the expense worthwhile. In-market audiences, similar audiences, and past customers are all great options.

5. Microsoft Advertising expands dynamic search ads

In order to help you more successfully engage your prospects in the search results, Microsoft Advertising (formerly known as Bing Ads) has announced the expansion of dynamic search ads. Now, you’ll have the option to write an additional 90-character description, giving you a maximum of 180 description characters in total. Additionally, the dynamically generated headlines that Microsoft creates for you will be longer than ever before.

facebook-search-ads-microsoft-expanded-dsa

Via Microsoft.

For those who may not know, dynamic search ads (otherwise known as DSAs) allow you to reap the benefits of advertising on the Bing SERPs without doing the traditional work of identifying keywords and building landing pages. Instead, when you’re running a DSA campaign, Microsoft will crawl your website for pages relevant to your prospects’ queries and dynamically generate headline copy on your behalf.

As convenient and effective as DSAs can be, many advertisers (for good reason) are a tad uncomfortable with the idea of forfeiting so much control. Hopefully, the ability to write twice as much description copy will give you the reassurance you need to give this ad type a try. If you’re interested, Navah Hopkins recently wrote a comprehensive guide to DSAs on the blog.

6. Google unveils news placements for app ads

Heads up, app advertisers: Google has announced the expansion of app campaigns (formerly known as universal app campaigns) to three new placements: the Discover feed, the YouTube search results, and in-stream video across the display network. 

As of now, app campaigns running in the US are automatically eligible for placement in users’ Discover feeds. This will soon be the case for campaigns running in Malaysia, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Canada, Brazil, Japan, and Indonesia as well. Everyone is also immediately eligible for placement in the YouTube search results. As for in-stream video placements across the display network, app advertisers will get access at some point this month.

App campaigns are unique in that they’re highly automated. Basically, once you’ve given Google a couple lines of ad copy, some visual assets, an objective, and a budget, they take the reins and advertise your mobile app to relevant users across a range of their properties. Until now, those properties included the search network, the mobile display network, Google Play (the Google equivalent of Apple’s App Store), and YouTube.

facebook-search-ads-google-expands-app-campaigns

Now, obviously, the potential reach of your app campaigns is going to grow enormously.

That’s both a good and a bad thing—good in the sense that it’ll likely yield more users and higher revenue and bad in the sense that you’ll be at greater risk wasting money on useless impressions and clicks. After these new placements have been fully rolled out for a couple weeks (Google needs time to learn where your ads work well and not-so-well), take a look at your reports and make your own judgements. If it looks like things have gone south fast, you may need to rethink the channels you’re using to advertise your app.

7. Microsoft Advertising rolls out campaign-level associations

Striving to help you save time and simplify the campaign management process, Microsoft Advertising has decided to roll out campaign-level associations to all advertisers. If you’ve yet to notice this new capability within your Microsoft Advertising account, don’t worry—you will before the end of the month.

By enabling you to apply audience targeting parameters across all the ad groups within a given campaign—as opposed to manually applying them to each individual ad group—campaign-level associations are immensely helpful. As of now, all of your favorite targeting solutions (remarketing, in-market audiences, etc.) are available for campaign-wide application. Simply navigate to the Create Association page (found under the Audiences tab) and select Campaign from the drop-down menu.

facebook-search-ads-microsoft-rolls-out-campaign-level-associations

Via Microsoft.

Important note: For a given campaign, you can have either campaign-level targeting parameters or ad group-level targeting parameters—not both. However, you can target an audience at the campaign level and exclude it at the ad group level, and vice versa. If you set a campaign-level association and you know there are ad groups within that campaign that shouldn’t target that audience, make sure to set the appropriate exclusions.

8. Google updates algorithm to improve featured snippets

In step with their ongoing efforts to give users the best on-SERP experiences possible, Google has announced an algorithm update that will enable their systems to better differentiate between queries that require timely, up-to-date information and those that do not. In particular, Google is aiming to populate featured snippets with the most relevant content possible.

Here’s an example from the company’s official blog post. Prior to this update, a user interested in the premiere of Stranger Things season three would be given vague, largely unhelpful information. Now, when a user enters the same exact query, the featured snippet will populate with far more relevant content.

facebook-search-ads-google-search-algorithm-update

Via Google.

Though this is undoubtedly good news, it will likely create some extra work for those of you who publish content as part of your digital marketing strategy. For example, let’s say you’re a content marketer at a music school and you once published a blog post about the average costs of different types of music lessons. Though this may have once earned the featured snippet for relevant queries, this update to Google’s algorithm could very well replace your content with that of another publisher. If this were the case, you’d have to revisit the original post and refresh it with more up-to-date information.

The key takeaway for content publishers is that you need to keep an eye on the featured snippets for keywords you're targeting as well as the keywords you’re thinking about targeting. If you fall out of a snippet you once owned, you need to make some edits. Alternatively, if you notice outdated information in the snippet for keyword you’d like to target, that presents a great opportunity for you.

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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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