This post is part of the Hero Conf Los Angeles Speaker Blog Series. Jamie Smith will join 50+ PPC experts sharing their paid search and social expertise at the World’s Largest All-PPC Event, April 18-20 in Los Angeles, CA. Like what you read? Find out more about Hero Conf. If you are in search […]
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Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.
This week, Pinterest’s acquisition of Google’s former image search lead, Randy Keller, as Head of Search shows how serious the social network is about visual search; and Twitter’s Q4 earnings have raised questions about the company’s long-term prospects. Plus, a new study shows voice search on the rise, and Google tests a way for users to report offensive autocomplete suggestions.
Google’s Randy Keller joins Pinterest as Head of Search
We’ve known for a while now that visual search was becoming a key part of Pinterest’s offering as a social platform, and the past couple of weeks have seen Pinterest make even more moves to cement its position at the forefront of visual search. On February 7, Pinterest released a new set of visual discovery tools, including the long-awaited Lens, a visual recognition and search tool which lets users search the real world using the camera in their Pinterest app.
Then came the announcement that Google’s former Head of Image Search, Randy Keller, has jumped ship to join Pinterest as Head of Search – a brand-new role which has just been created at the company. If anyone was in any doubt before about Pinterest’s plans to make search a central focus, they won’t be now.
So what’s next for Pinterest and visual search, and more importantly, how can it use its visual expertise to drive revenue and keep users engaging with its platform in the long term? Clark Boyd took an in-depth look this week at whether Pinterest can crack (and monetise) visual search, and how it could potentially gain an edge over titans like Google and Amazon if it plays its cards right.
Twitter’s Q4 earnings raise questions about the company’s long-term future
While Pinterest explores new ways to monetise its platform, things aren’t looking so positive for another social network: Twitter.
Twitter’s Q4 earnings are in, and the numbers fell far short of analysts’ and Wall Street’s expectations, raising questions about the social network’s long-term future. And while Twitter is reporting a 11% year-over-year growth in Daily Active Users, it won’t actually release the figures, claiming that “Growth rate is what we are most comfortable sharing at this moment in time.”
Where does Twitter go from here? Al Roberts assessed the situation over on our sister site, ClickZ, concluding that some major changes may be in order if Twitter wants to turn its fortunes around.
New study shows a steadily increasing adoption of voice search
Voice search is already a fast-growing movement in the search industry – and the latest figures indicate that it’s winning increasing ground in daily use. A new study published by digital marketing agency Stonetemple shows the inroads that voice search is making into people’s daily lives, with 59% of Americans surveyed saying that they use voice search to look up information on their smartphones.
However, there are still obstacles to voice search becoming truly mainstream, such as the stigma around using it in public. Tereza Litsa took a look at the findings for Search Engine Watch to discover when, how and how often people are using voice search, and what that means for its future.
The downfall of PewDiePie could hurt influencer marketing on YouTube
If you follow news around YouTube, gaming or even online media in general, you’ve probably heard that YouTube’s most famous figure, PewDiePie, has been dropped by Disney’s Maker Studios following an investigation by the Wall Street Journal into videos he has published containing anti-Semitic themes.
This was followed not long after by a similar decision from YouTube to cut ad revenue to PewDiePie’s videos, removing him from the Google Preferred advertising program and cancelling the planned second season of his original YouTube series, Scare PewDiePie.
But PewDiePie’s series has been a core component of the promotion for YouTube Red, its paid subscription service; and while many support YouTube’s decision to distance itself from PewDiePie, the star’s downfall could also spell serious trouble for the future of YouTube Red and influencer marketing in general.
Google tests method of reporting autocomplete suggestions
We’ve all heard the jokes and stories about the weird autocomplete queries that pop up when you input certain things into Google, confirming beyond a doubt – as if we didn’t already know – that sometimes people are awful. But while Google can’t control the things its users search for, it has decided to start taking control of whether or not they show up as autocomplete suggestions.
Accordingly, Search Engine Land has reported that Google is testing a new way to report offensive autocomplete suggestions, with a small gray ‘Report offensive query’ link appearing beneath the autocomplete options. The feature is in limited testing still, so it might look different once it’s officially implemented.
Image: Search Engine Land
A spokesperson for Google confirmed the test in a statement shared with Search Engine Land, saying:
“Autocomplete predictions are based on searches previously carried out by users around the world. That means that predicted terms are sometimes unexpected or offensive. We have been actively working on improvements to our algorithm that will help surface more high quality, credible content on the web. In addition, we’re experimenting with a new feature that allows people to report offensive Search predictions. We’re working to incorporate such feedback into our algorithms, and we hope to roll this out more broadly over time. Autocomplete isn’t an exact science and we’re continually working to improve it.”
Pinterest made a clear declaration of intent last week with the announcement that Li Fan, Google’s former head of image search, has joined the photo sharing site as Head of Engineering.
This appointment is reflective of a strategy to challenge both Google and Amazon in the product-based visual search market. Notably, Pinterest also rolled out their paid search offering, driven initially through a partnership with Kenshoo, in 2016.
Due to the glacial pace of advertising product launches from Pinterest over the past few years, some in the industry felt their opportunity to monetise their user base may have passed.
Moreover, the keyword-based paid search market is saturated as it is, with Google constantly trialling new ways to eke out more searches.
However, in many of the potential growth areas for the industry, such as voice search, personalisation, and most obviously, image search, Pinterest believe they have something different to offer.
As a social platform focused more on nourishing the self than sharing selfies, Pinterest is inherently driven by the power of images. Nonetheless, the history of image search has shown that mastering the requisite technology to tap into this potential is no mean feat.
How Pinterest plans to tackle visual search
On February 7, Pinterest launched their new Visual Discovery Tools, including Lens. Built into the Pinterest app, through Lens users can point their camera at an item and the app will make suggestions based on what it sees. Point the camera at some asparagus, for example, and the app will suggest some recipes.
This is a further stage of development from Amazon’s Firefly (available through the Amazon app), which can recognise objects and suggest similar items to purchase, but is not yet able to make the conceptual leap to suggest complementary products or ideas.
Pinterest posted the following in relation to the Lens launch:
“Sometimes you spot something out in the world that looks interesting, but when you try to search for it online later, words fail you. You have this rich, colorful picture in your mind, but you can’t translate it into the words you need to find it.
At Pinterest, we’ve developed new experimental technology that, for the first time ever, is capable of seeing the world the way you do.
It’s called Lens (currently in beta), and it lets you use the camera in your Pinterest app to discover ideas inspired by objects you see out in the real world.”
This is in beta and works best with food, clothing and decor at the moment, but the possibilities are endless if the technology continues to develop. With an estimated 75 billion Pins to sift through, it may take a while.
However at Pinterest, there is clearly a belief that cracking visual search can start to bridge the gap between language and the world around us.
The fact that they routinely refer to ‘idea searches’ rather than ‘keywords’ is indicative of this focus on adding a new spin to a deeply-ingrained feature of internet usage. This is intriguing on many levels, but strikingly it may offer a new avenue for advertisers to engage with consumers at an optimal time, through the ideal medium.
Pinterest and ad blockers
This leads on nicely to the current ad landscape, one in which many internet users have resorted to ad blockers to avoid overbearing messaging.
Another stated aim at Pinterest is to re-frame ads as a welcome way to discover new ideas, concepts and products, rather than an intrusion into a user’s browsing experience.
An advertiser’s product feed, if synced to Pinterest’s image search algorithms, could deliver increasingly timely and relevant results to users. Where this becomes most compelling is in the ‘related searches’ that Pinterest provides. So for example, a search for shoes could also provide recommendations for the rest of an outfit.
If advertising can become synonymous with the discovery of new and exciting ideas, it suddenly seems much more appealing to the consumer. As such, consumers could be much more willing to jettison their ad blockers and engage with promoted results.
This is a tall order and perhaps quite a utopian aspiration at this stage, but the theory is seductive nonetheless.
Offering an alternative to Amazon and Google
Much has been made of Amazon’s continued rise in the search market, and an oft-cited 2016 survey from Power Reviews placed them as the preferred starting point for product searches among US consumers.
This was particularly newsworthy for the fact that it relegated Google to second place. The battle for supremacy in such a profitable arena has only intensified since, with commercial searches the main prize.
The most interesting aspects of this – and where Pinterest comes back into the fray – are the reasons why Amazon has taken this lofty position.
Predictably, variety of products ranks as the most popular reason, followed by free shipping and competitive pricing.
Amazon led with these value propositions and they continue to drive the company’s success, even with the advent of more innovative home technologies like the Echo and Echo Dot.
Google has been at pains to streamline its purchasing processes too, in search, shopping, and their rival to the Echo, Google Home.
What these platforms ultimately provide to the consumer is a frictionless way to purchase products from reliable sources. The consumer knows what they want and they reveal this by searching for it, and companies are willing to pay for the chance to get in front of customers at this high-intent purchase stage.
But there is more to some product-consumer relationships than just a seamless transaction, and it is one that either Google or Amazon would have to work hard to avail of in its entirety.
Pinterest’s competitive advantage
Pinterest has the enviable asset of an engaged user base, not on the premise of deals or free shipping, but on the experience the platform allows them to create and the ideas it allows them to access.
Pinterest may not be a credible threat when it comes to some clear transactional searches, where the consumer knows what they want and is really looking for a comparison, by price or by review ratings. But this seems very unlikely to be Pinterest’s natural marketplace anyway.
It would be very interesting to segment the Power Reviews survey results further to understand the different categories within product searches. The act of searching can be nuanced; it implies uncertainty and a desire to be provided with an answer.
The answers Pinterest can provide, if technologies like Lens take hold and it delivers on the enticing promise to read the world through visual search, will go far beyond a traditional list of links and images, and into the realm of something much more inspirational for consumers.
As such, it would be fascinating to know how many product searches, whether on Google, Facebook, Amazon or Pinterest, fall into this category. Or perhaps more appropriately, how many searches would fall into this category if people knew the technology existed.
Combined with the one-click purchase technology Pinterest plans to integrate worldwide, this would see Pinterest tick many of the boxes that shape the ‘Why Shoppers Start on Amazon’ graph featured above, and also generate new demand.
Consumers can be fickle and if they prize the variety of products on offer (as evidence suggests they do), the platform that provides this will become their preferred destination. If it can do this by resolving the awkward paradox inherent in ‘traditional’ image search (using words to search for images, often with unconvincing results), it will be all the more attractive and effective.
Advertisers, of course, will follow where consumers go, especially if Pinterest continues to develop their paid search offering through 2017.
Delivering better search results through new technology and a growing pool of users is a model ripe for monetisation, a possibility not lost on Pinterest. For luxury goods, home decor, and fashion companies, this platform seems a natural fit and it would not be surprising to see these brands among the early adopters of paid advertising on Pinterest.
What does the future hold for Pinterest?
Attention spans are a precious, dwindling commodity, and simply shouting at consumers just won’t cut through.
By connecting to, and enhancing, our experience of the world around us, Pinterest may be in a position to steal a march on the competition – in technological terms, at least. A monthly user base of 150 million lags behind the giants in this arena and Pinterest will not gather the clout to tackle Google for Search dominance, but its development is no less compelling for that.
Ours is an increasingly visual culture, and Pinterest is well placed to challenge on the basis of the big focal points in search today; local, personalisation, voice, image, video, and app integration. It also offers a different experience to users that potentially allows advertisers to sell without intruding.
That makes for a potent combination and, should it all come together as planned, could see Pinterest offer a welcome alternative to Google and Amazon for marketers and consumers alike.
This post is part of the Hero Conf Los Angeles Speaker Blog Series. Purna Virji will join 50+ PPC experts sharing their paid search and social expertise at the World’s Largest All-PPC Event, April 18-20 in Los Angeles, CA. Like what you read? Find out more about Hero Conf. Speculating about the future has always […]
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Swiftype started out helping publishers like TechCrunch offer better site search, but it’s been expanding into other areas like customer support and e-commerce. Now it’s making its biggest leap yet, with the launch of an enterprise search product. Basically, Swiftype is offering large and small businesses a place where they can search all their documents and files across a variety… Read More
Startups – TechCrunch
Query Refinements have changed since the earlier days of Google
In 2006, I wrote a post A Look at Google Midpage Query Refinements (Go ahead and read it; this post will make more sense if you visit the past and bring it in). The patent I wrote then was just granted again as a continuation patent, with new claims, reflecting a change in the process involving how it is being used by the Google. The new version of the patent is now at:
System and method for providing search query refinements
Inventors: Paul Haahr and Steven D. Baker
Assignee: Google Inc.
United States Patent 9,552,388
Granted: January 24, 2017
Filed: January 31, 2014
A system and method for providing search query refinements are presented. A stored query and a stored document are associated as a logical pairing. A weight is assigned to the logical pairing. The search query is issued and a set of search documents is produced. At least one search document is matched to at least one stored document. The stored query and the assigned weight associated with the matching at least one stored document are retrieved. At least one cluster is formed based on the stored query and the assigned weight associated with the matching at least one stored document. The stored query associated with the matching at least one stored document are scored for the at least one cluster relative to at least one other cluster. At least one such scored search query is suggested as a set of query refinements.
You May Recognize The inventors of this Query Refinement Process
You may recognize Paul Haahr, from his presentation last year at SMX West on How Google Works, in which he gave some really interesting insights into how the search engine operates. His co-inventor, Stephen Baker wrote a Google Blog post about Google synonyms titled Helping computers understand language
The ideal way of making sense of how Google may have changed around the way that they are making search query refinements is to compare the claims sections of the older version of the patent (filed on September 22, 2003, and granted on March 10, 2005) and the newer version (granted this past Tuesday).
What is new are Rank Scores
I noticed that the new version talks about rank scores for terms that clusters are built around and how those rank scores might be used:
5. The method of claim 2, comprising: obtaining, for each cluster, a rank score based on (i) the relevance scores of the search results that reference resources that match the resources of the cluster, and (ii) a quantity of the resources of the cluster; and selecting, as refinement clusters, a top n clusters with the highest rank score, wherein n is a positive integer, wherein each representative search query is selected from one of the refinement clusters, and wherein selecting a subset of the search queries further comprises selecting one or more search queries from the representative search queries of the m clusters with the highest rank score, wherein m is a positive integer.
Rank Scores Reminded me of Google’s Context Vectors
Counting up the amount of resources of different clusters that might be determined to be relevant to a refinement reminds me of Google’s patent on Context Vectors, which counts the number of times a certain meaning of a word is found in a knowledge base as a way of giving a weight to different meanings of words. This new patent’s rank score similarly gives weights to how often different refinements show up in search results.
So a refinement for “jaguar” that is a car is counted and considered against a “jaguar” that is an animal. Both are offered as refinements by Google, and are ranked differently based upon rank scores.
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Snapchat recently released its redesigned app on iOS; it now has universal search capabilities, so I decided to give it a try — you can watch me fumble around in the video above. The search bar functions like, well, a search bar — if you’re looking for another user, group chat or Discover publisher, you just type them in. It also introduces Quick Chat recommendations, so… Read More
Social – TechCrunch
When was the last time you really tore apart your search strategy and looked at why it is what it is? We’re much more likely to make necessary, iterative changes to our campaigns – but I challenge you to make 2017 the year you question everything.
It’s an exercise that really doesn’t need to cost a lot of time or money, but the answers you discover could have direct, sizeable effects on revenue.
Here are some questions to start asking about your search strategy:
What even is our search strategy?
A simple question on its surface, but it’s a great place to begin. When was the last time you actually defined your approach to organic search? Does that initial plan still apply in today’s environment, considering the rise of mobile and voice search, and with new insights into searcher intent? Reexamine how your initial strategy might adjust to better serve your current business goals (and ensure that those goals align with what your brand and its leadership is trying to accomplish).
What have our competitors been doing in search lately?
Has the competition been acting as content creating machines, publishing highly ranked content for phrases that you hadn’t thought of yet? There are tools to help answer this question. On the paid side, consider BrightEdge, which offers a valuable “Data Cube” for uncovering keywords that your competitors’ sites rank for. Using this tool, you can recognize some of those content strategies, and adapt your own practices accordingly.
Alternatively, you can use SpyFu; its free version will give you a small sample of this type of information. If that doesn’t uncover all the content strategy pieces you wish to see (and it probably won’t for most brands), the low-cost upgrade to the paid version of SpyFu may be well worth it.
Another solution that’s more tedious to use (but completely free) is the “site:” operator in Google search. Simply enter “site:www.example.com”, and the results will be the pages that Google has indexed from that website. By adding a tilde (~) and a related broad keyword, you can then find related pages with that term. Such a query looks like this: “site:www.example.com ~keyword”.
Where are our customers?
Emerging technologies and new customer bases can cause changes in where your potential customers find their information – and how they search for it. This is where you need to dive into web analytics data and understand how your current visitors are arriving at your site. Is there a big shift to mobile for your customers? (Yes, generally mobile traffic is very much on the uptick, but this definitely isn’t the case for every single industry or company.)
When looking at current data, it’s important to be thoughtful about cause and effect – do the numbers represent visitors’ natural intents or are you influencing their actions? For instance, you might have low mobile engagement because your site is not optimized for that experience, and thus customers don’t stick around for long.
Outside of your analytics data, you can further scrutinize the landscape by extending your view to areas where competitors are active and you aren’t. Ask yourself: do those areas align to customers you also want to target?
What are we trying to say?
Does your content just talk about you, or does it meaningfully address your customers’ needs? Most people don’t like being lectured to – they’d rather have a conversation, or have their question answered.
Now more than ever, search engines focus on satisfying the intent behind a query rather than just aligning results to the words typed in the search box. Is your content satisfying those search intents, or is a content refresh in your future?
Is our site quick to load and secure?
Maybe you’ve taken all of 2016 to implement an awesome new design that makes visiting your site an engaging experience. That’s good, but have you been thoughtful about your site’s load time? Speed is still a crucial factor for earning better visibility in search engine results, as well as in delivering a good user experience.
A detail that’s too-often neglected, it may be time to revisit this data point and revise some pages.
Maybe you’ve also made some smart moves in getting more information about your visitors. You use perfectly placed lead forms, and return visitors are now signing in. But are all the sign-in pages secured?
Google has announced that Chrome will start flagging pages that have sign-in forms but aren’t secured with HTTPS as “Not Secure.”
That’s not a message that visitors will find too inviting. As search engines trend toward placing a greater value on security – and as customers are ever more expectant of it – it’s beneficial to consider implementing more secure measures.
By asking the right questions, and putting the answers into action, you can set your business on the path to a more updated and effective organic search strategy.
Kevin Gamache is a Search Marketing Strategist at Wire Stone, an independent digital marketing agency for global Fortune 1000 brands.
Welcome to our weekly round-up of all the latest news and research from the world of search marketing and beyond.
And a happy 2017 to all of our Search Engine Watch readers! This week, we’ve got a health-conscious New Year’s update from Bing, a new AI-powered search engine which is transforming scientific research, and a look at why the fake information epidemic could be damaging to local search.
A new AI powered search engine is changing how neuroscientists do research
Google’s work in the realm of artificial intelligence and machine learning has succeeded in making web search more intuitive, effective and useful than it’s ever been before. But until now, the same couldn’t be said of scientific research.
That’s all changing with the development of a new, free search engine, Semantic Scholar. Adam Stetzer wrote for Search Engine Watch this week about how the AI-powered search engine is changing the way that neuroscientists do research, using data mining and natural language processing to truly understand the links between research – and what this means for similar search options like Google Scholar.
How Instagram became a powerhouse for social commerce
2016 was a busy year for Instagram, with more users, more brands, and a host of new improvements and features all joining the platform. In November, Instagram tested out a new shopping feature in a bid to woo ecommerce brands and give users a way to shop more visually.
This week, on Search Engine Watch’s sister site ClickZ, Tereza Litsa spoke to Olapic’s Paul Sabria about the steps that Instagram has taken to turn itself into a social commerce powerhouse, and what we can expect from the platform in 2017.
Bing rolls out health-conscious search updates in time for New Year’s resolutions
Bing has rolled out a health-focused update to its search platform just in time for everyone to turn over a leaf in the New Year.
In late November, we saw that Bing had launched a carousel of shopping flyers to promote deals in time for Black Friday. Now whenever you search for “workouts” or “exercises” on Bing, it will deliver a carousel of images which link to a wide variety of exercise options.
Users who search for information on yoga and pilates will also be rewarded with a carousel, and occasionally a how-to video on a specific pose at the top of search. Meanwhile, the Bing app has new updates aimed at making the food search experience “even richer”, including information on calorie counts and low-fat recipes.
Image: Bing blogs
Bing’s new updates are obviously aimed at providing more intuitive, quick answers to users’ search queries in the same way that Google already does with Quick Answers and featured snippets. While they might be on a smaller scale, the tie-in with different times of year such as Black Friday and New Year is a fun way to introduce these features and draw users’ attention to them through the things they are most likely to be searching for.
How the fake information epidemic will hurt local search in 2017
Headlines about the online fake news epidemic have been everywhere since the US Election, particularly if you follow news about publishing or social media. But Wesley Young, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Local Search Association, believes that this problem is set to get worse in 2017 – and that it will be damaging to local search in particular.
In a column for Search Engine Land, Young laid out how the issue of fake news and information can hurt marketers, along with eight ways that false information is currently being used which marketers should be aware of.
“As consumers search for information to help make purchase decisions, uncertainty about the veracity of the information they receive impacts the effectiveness of local search marketing. Online advertising already faces challenges gaining consumer trust, and the proliferation of fake content will only hurt it more. Worse, you may be spending money on advertising that no one ever sees, be competing in an unfair market, suffer from hits to your reputation or pay more than you should for marketing products or services.
Being aware of how false information is being used will help marketers avoid problems and identify when they may be affected, saving them from both headaches and wasted dollars.”
Google clarifies details of its mobile interstitials penalty
As part of Google’s ongoing efforts to improve the experience of browsing the mobile web, a penalty for sites which use annoying mobile interstitials – pop-ups which appear while a website is loading and cover the entire page – is due to take effect next week, beginning on 10th January.
The question of what kind of interstitials, exactly, will incur penalties has been the subject of considerable discussion amongst the SEO community. This week, Google provided some further clarification on the issue in the form of a tweet from Webmaster Trends Analyst John Wu.
He was responding to a query from Kristine Schachinger, technical SEO expert and founder of digital marketing agency The Vetters, about whether the penalty will only affect interstitials which appear when users are navigating from the search results page to a mobile site, or whether it will include interstitials which appear when navigating between pages of the same website.
— John ☆.o(≧▽≦)o.☆ (@JohnMu) January 4, 2017
Schachinger further enquired as to whether the penalty would affect interstitials which appear between an AMP page and a regular site page, to which Mu replied,
“I haven’t seen an interstitial there, but that would be seen the same as site-page -> site-page.”
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