March Digital Marketing News
Coronavirus forces brands to review ad spend

In a nutshell

Using China as an example – where the outbreak of COVID-19 originated –, a recent study of business leaders conducted by agency Dentsu found 47% said sales had been ‘significantly impacted’ by the effects of the virus, but at this stage only 7% said they had stopped ad spend altogether. Instead 14% have moved budget from offline media to online and 22% amended regional or creative focus of campaigns.

Only 9% said they had changed long-term plans; the majority having reportedly viewed it as a short-term dip. The 2002 SARS outbreak – the same virus as COVID-19 and also originating in China –, lasted from November 2002 to July 2003, when the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced it has been contained. During this period retail sales dipped slightly and were hit hardest when the number of cases peaked, however the trigger for an upturn was when the WHO announced SARS was contained; at this point demand returned to a normal level and even grew.  

What does this mean?

“Some of our clients have seen declines in clicks, traffic and conversions although none at alarming rates and our experience is that, whilst cautious, most brands have yet to reduce digital budgets,” says iCrossing UK’s head of strategy and planning Tim Lawrence.

“Speaking to peers around the industry it seems at present the only brands to be significantly pulling or deferring budget are those most seriously impacted – namely travel.

“In many markets, including the UK it is expected COVID-19 cases will increase over the next few weeks leading to greater restrictions on movement which will in turn impact purchasing, so we can expect search volumes and conversions to continue to decline in most categories.”

Our recommendations for brands are to:

  • Define key brand and category terms and review daily for signs of declining consumer demand

  • Avoid unnecessary delays, create an action plan based on agreed parameters for action, making stakeholders aware when certain actions (reducing budget, stopping spend, re-starting budget) will occur.

  • Explore new terms around online purchase that may be growing or will open up your business to new consumers – there is an opportunity for brands to switch to a more ecommerce model faster than competitors and win sales

  • Review channels that better reach your audience when in social distancing such as ecommerce and social media, as well as ensuring your creative and site are mobile ready.

Twitter tests disappearing posts

In a nutshell

Twitter is testing a feature that will see some tweets disappearing after 24 hours. ‘Fleets’, the new ephemeral content function, is similar to the vanishing posts on both Snapchat and Instagram Stories. It’s a way of sharing fleeting thoughts, and with DMs as the reply function, won’t be subject to retweets, likes or public replies.

What does this mean?

The test is mainly geared at improving the platform for individuals. Kayvon Beykpour, the social media platform’s product lead, said the new feature would help encourage timid tweeters, quelling the fear of Twitter’s “permanent and performative” nature thanks to the lack of public likes and replies.

We’ve highlighted the benefits of ephemeral content before. But Fleets could be hugely beneficial for brands with medium to large followings, says iCrossing UK’s strategy and planning director Maria Bain:

“Fleets might only last 24 hours, but with the average shelf life of a tweet being seven minutes, audiences might actually see more content from brands they follow. The reply by DM function will no doubt drive up community management time for the platform, but it will also give users that coveted one-to-one connection with their favourite brands.

“The real value will be if Twitter decides to bring images and links into the mix, giving more visual brands a chance to get creative. And just like the ephemeral content effect on Instagram Stories, there will certainly be an audience FOMO benefit for brands."

Google tightens FAQ markup guidelines

In a nutshell

Google has updated its content guidelines around Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), stating that a site can no longer use schema markup on the same FAQ across multiple pages.

The guidelines read: “if you have FAQ content that is repetitive on your site (meaning the same question and answer appear on multiple pages), mark up only one instance of that FAQ for your entire site.”

What does this mean?

If your site has the same question and answer across multiple pages, you’ll need to remove the FAQ markup from all but one.

For sites on which the same question can be answered on different store location or product pages, mirror intent to make these hyper-specific to each page. For example, 'Does this store have disabled parking?' would become 'Does the Brighton store have disabled parking?'.

Failing to do so will now be considered a violation of Google’s guidelines, which may mean your page content fails to show in FAQ rich results.

Google says 70% of sites have moved to mobile-first indexing

In a nutshell

With its aforementioned plans to switch all sites to mobile-first indexing, Google has confirmed that 70% of sites have already seen the shift. The remaining will be moved by September 2020.

What does this mean?

Wondering whether your site has switched yet? Check Search Console. Your site’s mobile-first indexing status is shown on the settings page.

If you’re one of the 30% left, make sure you’re following Google’s best-practice guidelines:

 “In particular, we recommend making sure that the content shown is the same (including text, images, videos, links), and that meta data (titles and descriptions, robots meta tags) and all structured data is the same [across mobile and desktop].”

Google shows PDF thumbnails in SERPs

In a nutshell

Google is now showing PDF preview thumbnails in mobile search results, as well as the content of these documents.

What does this mean?

 This recent update follows Google’s introduction of PDF content in featured snippets last year and confirms the growing importance of following SEO best-practices when creating and publishing in the format.

For example, optimising PDF title pages could now result in a higher click through rate.

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