The Google News Initiative, one year inThe Google News Initiative, one year in

In the first year of the Google News Initiative, our efforts have centered around a spirit of experimentation, with programs focused on three pillars: working with the news industry to evolve their business models, raising up quality journalism and driving new thinking and approaches in newsrooms. There’s still much to be done, but we remain committed to collaborating with publishers to build a stronger future for journalism.

Empowering sustainable business growth

The business of journalism is undergoing a major transformation as the focus expands from digital advertising to other ways of making money, like subscriptions. Last year, we worked with publishers to design Subscribe with Google (SwG) which makes it easy to subscribe and access news publications across surfaces and devices.

Today, nearly 50 partners from 19 countries have signed up to implement Subscribe with Google and publishers like The Washington Post, the Financial Times, Folha and Nine Publishing are using the product. Beyond subscriptions we’re expanding to support publishers who monetize using contributions or membership-based models. The Guardian, a leader in the field, is our first partner to test this approach and will help to inform best practices before we fully launch later this spring.

Why You Must Unlearn What You Know About the YouTube Algorithm by @gregjarboe


Once in a blue moon, I see a presentation at an industry conference and hear a still, small voice that whispers, “You must unlearn what you have learned about the YouTube algorithm.”

Well, I’ve just seen such a rare presentation. It’s officially titled, “Advanced SEO Strategies to Dramatically Increase Video Views,” although the opening slide simplifies that down to “How to get your videos found in search.”

It was presented by Justin Briggs, the Founder and CEO of Briggsby, at VidCon London on February 15.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when someone I’ve never met shifts my paradigm. So, my initial reaction was to question the methodology that Briggs had used to come up with his counter-intuitive understanding of how the YouTube search algorithm works.

But, alas, I discovered that he had looked at 3.8 million data points across 100,000 videos and 75,000 channels.

Using a keyword sample that contained a variety of named entities (people, places, things, etc.) and questions (how, why, etc.), he checked the rankings for the first 20 results and fetched a wide array of data through the YouTube API, scraping, and additional analysis.

Damn, I can’t find fault with that.

So, I finally did what YouTube gurus do when they learn that everything they know about video SEO is wrong, wrong, wrong: I transferred my annoyance and irritation from the messenger to the source.

Hey, it would be nice if the world’s second largest search engine would update their YouTube creator playbook for brands, which was published back in October 2015, or had someone like Google’s John Mueller, who would share a strategic insight each fortnight with video marketing experts.

But, the only official statement that I’ve stumbled across recently is this one:

“The goals of YouTube’s search and discovery system are twofold: to help viewers find the videos they want to watch, and to maximize long-term viewer engagement and satisfaction.”

Thanks a bunch for this cryptic message.

Then, I got my hands on a copy of the presentation that Briggs delivered at VidCon London and wrote this post. Now, there were 77 slides. So, I can’t share all of them here.

But, I have identified and analyzed the seven most significant findings that overturn conventional wisdom the most dramatically.

1. The Value of Optimizing Metadata Varies

Basics of Keyword Targeting

Basics of Keyword Targeting

When I first saw this slide, I had a strange feeling of déjà vu.

What Briggs calls “Basics of Keyword Targeting” looks a lot like a slide presented by Greg Markel, the founder and CEO of Infuse Creative, during the video search engine optimization panel at SES San Jose 2008.

I remember it because I was also a speaker on the panel and thought to myself at the time, “Damn, I wish I’d created that.”

Then, Briggs slapped a red warning sign across this slide that announced that it represented a “limited view of video SEO.” At that point, I thought to myself, “Damn, I’m glad I hadn’t created that.”

Next Briggs blew me away with the slide below that proclaimed, “Keywords Matter Less Once YT Has Watch Data.”

Keywords Matter Less Once YT Has Watch Data

Keywords Matter Less Once YT Has Watch Data

You could have knocked me over with a feather. When YouTube replaced “views” with “watch time” in its algorithm back in October 2012, I mistakenly assumed that “relevance” was now a less important factor – even for new videos.

However, Briggs revealed that “relevance” is the most important factor – until a video accumulates enough “watch time.” So, video SEO isn’t dead! It’s sleeping.

And, you shouldn’t skip over the small print on the first slide above. What Briggs calls “basics” are still “fundamentals.”

So, let’s take a second look at it because YouTube is still the world’s second-largest search engine, and it continues to use metadata to index your video correctly and rank it initially.

To maximize your presence in YouTube search and suggested videos, you still need to make sure your metadata is well-optimized. This includes your video’s title, description, and tags.

When optimizing your title, put your keywords near the beginning, keep it to less than 50 characters long, and make it engaging for a high click-through rate (CTR).

When optimizing your description, keep it from 50 to 150 words long, use your keyword 1 to 3 times, and minimize the use of boilerplate.

When optimizing your tags, use your target keyword first, then others in order of importance, keep them tightly focused on a topic, use 1- to 5-word phrases, and keep them 100 to 300 characters long.

Yes, all this on-video text will become less important once your video has accumulated a substantial amount of watch time, but it will never do that if YouTube’s search and discovery system doesn’t help viewers find your video in the first place.

2. Titles Are Essential

Although tags help get you started, Briggs said that they have little benefit after 3 months. However, he also said that titles are essential.

He found that 90 percent of high ranking videos had some had some variant of the keyword in the title.

Title Tags Are Essential

Title Tags Are Essential

Now, this works if you use compelling titles for your videos that accurately represent the content. While you are at it, you should also create thumbnails that accurately represent your content, too.

Why? Because your video thumbnail and title are the first thing viewers see when your video is suggested to them.

As we’ll cover in a moment, you don’t just want clicks. You want “long clicks.”

3. All Clicks Are NOT Created Equal

According to Briggs, “long clicks” are more valuable than “short clicks.”

What’s a short click? Well, if a viewer watches your video for only 8 seconds and ends his or her session, then YouTube’s algorithm figures that he or she wasn’t satisfied with your content.

So, what’s a long click? Well, if a viewer watches your video for 2 minutes or longer and continues to watch more videos during that session, then YouTube’s algorithm figures that he or she was satisfied with your content.

And Briggs found that 50 percent of the audience is lost in the first 20 seconds.

More Long Clicks - Improve Early Retention

More Long Clicks - Improve Early Retention

So, how do you improve audience retention? In other words, how do you turn clicks into long clicks?

Well, you need to create a compelling opening to your videos and then use the storytelling techniques to maintain and build interest throughout the video. But, it also helps to build your subscriber base.

Why? Because subscribers are your most loyal fans, will be notified about your new videos and playlists, and are more likely to improve your early retention and give you more long clicks.

And it also helps to engage your audience by encouraging comments and interacting with your viewers.

4. Video Duration Influences Rankability

One of the questions that I’m frequently asked is: “How long should a YouTube video be?” I often quip, “Long enough to tell a story.” So, how long does it take to tell a story?

Well, as the slide below illustrates, Briggs took a look at his data and found that videos which are less than 2 minutes long rank worse (on average) than videos that are between 2 and 20 minutes long.

Very Short Videos Tend to Rank Worse

Very Short Videos Tend to Rank Worse

Now, watch time is (eventually) an important ranking factor.

So, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that longer videos – if they use storytelling techniques to maintain and build interest throughout the video – generally rank higher than very short videos.

And we shouldn’t be surprised that highly ranked videos get a lot of views – like these six examples of Indian brands winning at video storytelling.

So, video duration influences rankability, but so does the ability to tell a good story. (Briggs’ study found 10-16 minute videos are well liked.)

5. There Is a Freshness Boost for New Videos

Along with metadata being more valuable when videos are first uploaded, Briggs said new videos get a freshness boost, as well.

As the slide below illustrates, a brand new gets a significant boost in the first 3 weeks and even a fresh video gets a boost in weeks 4 through 6.

Rank Better Right Away

Rank Better Right Away

This means you need to increase your upload frequency to take advantage of the freshness boost for new videos. So, if you’re currently uploading a video every 3 weeks, then consider uploading a brand new video every week.

And if you’re already uploading a video every week, then consider uploading a brand new video on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week.

If this seems excessive, then consider this: With 5.0 billion views on YouTube in 2018, Samsung was just named the top global brand in Tubular Labs’ VideoAces Awards.

How did they achieve that? Well, they uploaded 5,318 videos in 2018 – which is an average of 102 a week.

Now, they uploaded localized videos in 50 different countries. So, even if you just look at the 204 videos the brand uploaded in the U.S. in 2018, Samsung still uploaded an average of 4 new videos a week to YouTube.

6. Views from Embeds Are of Equal Value

Briggs shared another counter-intuitive finding from his study: Views from embedded videos are of equal value to views on YouTube.

He did add this caveat: Embedded YouTube videos do get watched, but don’t generally lead to longer sessions because viewers are less likely to watch a second video.

The way to solve this problem is to embed playlists that carefully craft them so a related video plays next.

Use Website Embeds for Distribution

Use Website Embeds for Distribution

Now, I have to admit that I wasn’t shocked to find that views from embeds are of equal value.

Several years ago, I advised SonoSite, the world’s leading manufacturer of portable ultrasound technology, to stop making two versions of every video – one for YouTube and an identical one for their website.

Instead, they started adding YouTube videos and playlists to their website by embedding them. They not only dramatically increased their views on their YouTube channel. They also cut their production costs in half.

So, why do I think this advice from Briggs overturns conventional wisdom? Because most companies are organized in silos – and conventional wisdom advises everyone to stay in their lane.

That’s the video people rarely talk with the website people, let alone work collaboratively with them to embed videos.

7. There Are 15x More Searches on Google Than YouTube

Briggs went beyond his own study and cited data from JumpShot, which says there are 15 times more searches on Google than YouTube.

And he cited data from Rank Ranger, which says that YouTube videos rank on 20 percent of Google keywords. And he cited JumpShot again, which says 2 percent of all search clicks on Google go to YouTube.

Now, the type of video results in Google can vary from a suggested clip to a video carousel to an embedded video. And the Google and YouTube algorithms differ. But, according to SEMrush, when YouTube ranks in Google, it gets a featured snippet on 5 percent of its keywords.

To make his point, Briggs showed an example of a traditional featured snippet using YouTube – and advised his audience to use a question as the title of a video and answer the question directly in the video’s description if they wanted to “get lucky.”

Traditional Featured Snippets Using YouTube

Traditional Featured Snippets Using YouTube

He also showed the example of a suggested clip below. And he advised creating videos that go directly to the answer to rank at the very top of results. Damn, don’t we all wish that we could get lucky?

Suggested Clips Go Directly to Answer

Suggested Clips Go Directly to Answer


Now that you’ve seen seven of Briggs’ most significant findings and nine of his slides, perhaps you understand why I heard a still, small voice whisper, “You must unlearn what you have learned about the YouTube algorithm.”

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author, March 2019

Eight tips to getting your videos ranked on YouTube in 2019

Eight tips to getting your videos ranked on YouTube in 2019

Look around you, people are either watching vlogs and video interviews or enjoying branded video content and live stream recordings. This goes to imply that video marketing is at its peak as people are engaging with video content more than ever before.

Talking about video marketing, one cannot help but mention YouTube, the platform synonymous with it. Being a video marketer, YouTube SEO needs to be at the top of your priority list.

You might be uploading stellar videos on a daily basis, but nothing matters if your videos don’t manage to get seen. After all, with 400 hours of video content being uploaded every minute, how do you ensure yours stands out and attracts viewers?

Don’t let your YouTube marketing efforts go waste. Here are eight effective ways to ensure your videos get ranked highly on YouTube and attract views.

1. Use relevant keywords

Be it Google or YouTube SEO, the first and foremost step is conducting keyword research. Start with making a list of potential keywords related to your video, it can be anything that people will use that can direct them to the video.

Next, use YouTube’s autocomplete feature to identify the popular keywords people use to search. You will be met with long-tail keyword suggestions here which prove to be a lot more accurate than the generic short-tail ones.

Example of YouTube’s autocomplete feature

Apart from manually searching for keywords, you can also use tools such as TubeBuddy and vidIQ to find the best keywords and tags to use.

2. Optimize the title, description, and tags

When you are browsing videos, the first element that catches your eye is the video title, isn’t it? Not only should the video title be compelling and interesting, but it should also contain the target keyword/s. The same applies to the video description and tags that best attribute your video.

YouTube video descriptions are highly underrated. Marketers don’t realize that this space provides context and influences ranking too. While you have 5000 characters to play with, YouTube just displays the first 157 characters. So use this space wisely, infused with keywords and appropriate call-to-action words.

example of YouTube’s video description

Another important SEO element is adding relevant tags which make your video easily discoverable.

3. Create engaging videos

Ultimately, people will watch your videos and will keep coming back for more if you upload fresh, engaging and informative content which happens to be an important ranking signal to YouTube’s algorithm.

The more compelling your videos are, the higher is the audience retention which automatically increases your chances of showing up under YouTube’s search suggestions.

In addition to the content, it is important to pay heed to the production quality too. For example, poorly lit and inaudible videos will certainly not entice viewers. So, invest efforts in enhancing the production quality of your video in order to drive views.

4. Encourage subscriptions

Managing a YouTube channel that barely has subscribers and viewers is as good as talking to a wall. Don’t stop at just uploading a video, make it work for you by reaching your target audience and encouraging them to engage with your channel and subscribe to it.

Building a strong subscriber base increases your chances of being ranked highly on YouTube because it goes to show that you have an engaged community which is a huge plus point.

Example of how to encourage YouTube subscriptions

Now, how do you get people to subscribe? Start with asking for it. Make it a practice to insert this call-to-action at the end of every video and include it in the video description. You must also encourage subscriptions outside of YouTube by adding a widget on your website or asking your followers to subscribe on your Facebook or Twitter pages.

5. Add compelling thumbnails

Example of customized YouTube video thumbnails

If you have been using YouTube’s auto-generated video still as the thumbnail, you need to stop being lazy and change your ways.

The thumbnail is the first visual reference your audiences get of your video which influences their decision to view it. So it needs to be compelling enough to grab their attention. Instead of settling for an auto-generated still, why not use customized thumbnails which are far more appealing?

It is a good idea to show the close-ups of human faces to strike emotional connect and the appropriate amount of text to make it click-worthy. You can also add your brand logo but make sure it doesn’t overshadow the thumbnail, given the restricted space.

6. Use the closed caption feature

Example of the closed caption feature

You might have come across “CC” while watching videos on YouTube. CC stands for closed captions, an important YouTube SEO tool.

Closed Captions (CC) refers to the text overlay or transcription of the video. Using closed captions in videos makes it appeal to a wider audience and lets your viewers watch your video with ease irrespective of their surroundings. This leads to higher user engagement in the form of likes, comments, shares, and subscribers.

Discovery Digital Networks conducted a study and found an overall increase of 7.32 percentage in views for captioned videos.

While YouTube generates auto-captions, you rather add closed captions for search engines to accurately index. This impacts your SEO ranking.

7. Name files appropriately

It’s easy to overlook this step but the fact is that naming your video file appropriately is more important than you think. Instead of going ahead with “video_final.mp4” or “brand_filmFINAL.avi,” it is important to rename the video to include the keywords as it is an indicator to search engines about what your video file is about.

8. Be consistent

To improve your rankings and build an engaged community, you must be consistent with uploads. You need to be committed to churning out unique and relevant video content and stay at the top of your game because that is the only way you can improve engagement which in turn boosts search rankings.

Just like any other social media platform, maintain a content calendar for YouTube and ensure you reward your community with videos on a regular basis.

For more on getting videos to rank, also check out our guide on YouTube optimization. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Marcus is the founder of Brew Interactive, an inbound digital marketing agency that specializes in marketing to the affluent audience through digital. He is also the author of the highly raved book, Social Payoff.

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YouTube to Fact-Check Certain Types of Searches by @MattGSouthern


YouTube is planning to introduce a fact-check box in search results for topics that are prone to misinformation.

Buzzfeed News reports that this feature will eventually be available worldwide, and is currently available to some users in India.

A YouTube spokesperson tells BuzzFeed News:

“As part of our ongoing efforts to build a better news experience on YouTube, we are expanding our information panels to bring fact checks from eligible publishers to YouTube.”

Here is an example provided by YouTube of what the information panels look like.

YouTube to Fact-Check Certain Types of Searches

YouTube to Fact-Check Certain Types of Searches

YouTube is said to be working on this feature with a number of third-party verified fact-checkers.

The fact-check panels will automatically debunk false claims by pulling information from those third-party sites.

Videos with misinformation will still appear in search results, so the fact-check panels are more of a warning to let users know what they’re getting into.

YouTube cannot outright remove content that spreads misinformation unless it also violates the platform’s community guidelines.

Instead, YouTube will debunk false claims in search results in an effort to thwart viewership of videos with misinformation. However, users can still go ahead and watch the videos if they want to.

Fact-check panels will not prevent users from being able to access content. They’re simply designed to keep users more informed.

So it’s not a perfect solution, but maybe it’s the first step in fighting the growing concern of misinformation on YouTube.

YouTube + child safety: Is the service doing enough?

youtube and child safety: is the service doing enough?

It has been a challenging month for YouTube.

As we recently reported, fresh concerns over child safety on the service came to light back on 17th February.

In a video published to the site, vlogger Matt Watson details how the service is being exploited by paedophiles who were using comment sections under innocuous videos of children to leave sexually provocative messages, to communicate with each other, and to link out to child pornography.

Of course, journalists and news sites were quick to level criticism at YouTube. Many pointed out that this wasn’t the first time child safety on the service has been called into question. Others were critical that its methods for safeguarding children were too ‘whack-a-mole’ in their approach.

And then came the actions of the advertisers – with Nestle, AT&T and Epic Games (creator of Fortnite) all pulling their ads from the service.

So how has YouTube responded? Is it doing enough?

Memo directly sent to advertisers

On 20th February YouTube sent out a memo to brands advertising on the service.

It detailed the ‘immediate actions’ it was taking to ensure children are safe in light of the recent allegations from Watson. These included suspending comments and reporting accounts to the NCMEC.

YouTube memo with immediate actions they're taking to address issues

The memo reiterated that child safety is YouTube’s No. 1 priority, but also admitted there was more work to be done.

It laid out a roadmap of tweaks and improvements, including better improving the service’s ability to find predatory comments (set to be implemented this month) and potentially changing how ads are placed on channels.

YouTube memo: Looking ahead, what's on the roadmap?

Changes to Community Guidelines strikes system – are these related?

In a potentially related move, YouTube also announced via a recent blog post that it was going to make changes to its Community Guidelines.

The changes – which came into force on 25th February – include a warning for users the first time their content crosses the line.

YouTube says: ‘Although the content will be removed, there will be no other penalty on the channel. There will be only one warning and unlike strikes, the warning will not reset after 90 days.’

The ‘three strike’ system still exists but is stricter and more straightforward. Now a first strike results in a one-week freeze on the ability to upload any new content to the service. Previously, first strikes just resulted in a freeze on live-streaming.

A second strike in any 90-day period will result in a two-week freeze on the ability to upload any new content. Ultimately, a third strike in any 90-day period will result in channel termination.

That YouTube has taken this opportunity to address its creator community directly is interesting.

The Guardian has reported that the fallout from Watson’s video resulted in a number of prominent YouTube users criticizing him, rather than the service. Their reasoning was that it was overreactive and a deliberate attempt to drive advertisers away.

Additionally, a report at ABC News shed light on stories from creators who have been the victims of false claims and extortion attempts by bad actors who promise to remove strikes only after they’ve received payment via PayPal or BitCoin.

With this in mind, we can see that YouTube have been quite diplomatic in how they’ve rolled this Community Guideline change out. Imposing stricter penalties against a backdrop of better transparency and simpler rules is quite laudable.

Further questions over safety since

In the wake of Watson’s video, further news stories have emerged which relate directly and indirectly to child safety on YouTube.

On 24th February, pediatrician Free Hess exposed that some children’s videos available on YouTube Kids had hidden footage detailing how to commit suicide spliced into them (as reported at The Washington Post).

Additionally, on 25th February the BBC reported that the service was stopping adverts being shown on channels which showed anti-vaccination content.

And the past couple days, widespread internet concern has raged over “The Momo Challenge,” a supposed challenge encouraging minors to do dangerous / potentially self-harming acts.

However, this morning The Atlantic reported that this has been a digital hoax. And that it has followed similar cycles as the so-called Blue Whale challenge, teens eating toxic Tide Pods, and the cinnamon challenge — all of which were found to have no reported deaths/injuries associated.

And yesterday, YouTube tweeted this:

The company has also just updated their Creator Blog with a post titled, “More updates on our actions related to the safety of minors on YouTube.”

In it, they summarize “the main steps we’ve taken to improve child safety on YouTube since our update last Friday.”

These steps include:

  1. Disabling comments on videos featuring minors
  2. Launching a new comments classifier
  3. Taking action on creators who cause egregious harm to the community

It does seem that they are moving quickly to remedy the problems. But I think anyone would agree — they’ve had quite the month.

So the challenge is certainly ongoing…

All this does highlight the difficulty YouTube has in keeping all its millions of viewers, creators, and advertisers safe and happy.

We know the service is constantly updating its algorithm across its search function and its recommendations in order to give users better – more trustworthy – content.

We can also be quite sure that there has been a fair amount of activity in protecting minors on the service since 2017 when unsuitable content featuring Disney and Marvel characters was being found to be available on YouTube Kids. This timeframe is in line with the aforementioned memo which assures that the service has been working hard to improve in this regard for the past 18 months.

I’m not sure it’s entirely fair, then, to call YouTube’s approach to safeguarding children a ‘whack-a-mole approach’ or one which only sees the site take action when the instances gain media attention.

The sheer amount of content and users on the service is so massive, it depends on the community to produce the content and – at times – to monitor how it is used. In this instance, a user flagged an issue up and YouTube worked very quickly indeed. The service is always improving. But changes, tweaks, and improvements are not always newsworthy. The same can be said for Google.

Yes, there is more to be done. As online video continues to boom and the creator community continues to grow, we can expect issues to arise.

But I think it is unlikely that YouTube wouldn’t be proactive here. After all, its very existence depends on having great videos, trustworthy content, a safe community of users who are having a positive experience on the site, and an ecosystem where advertisers want to be.

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Google / YouTube and brand safety: What’s next?

Google / YouTube and brand safety: What's next?

At the ripe old age of 20, Google is synonymous with internet search. The famous Silicon Valley brand long ago became a verb.

Google Chrome remains the most popular web browser, leading on most mobile and desktop devices with more than 60 percent share across both platforms. It’s four times more popular than rival browsers.

In the U.S. alone, Google raked in about $34 billion in ad dollars tied to its dominant internet search business, per eMarketer.

With all its success and R&D spent to improve its search capabilities, it is surprising what a poor job Google and its core video offering, YouTube, do in two key areas of top importance to advertisers around the globe: search personalization and brand safety.

Just this week, YouTube once again became a shining example of what advertisers are desperately trying to fix: avoiding ad placements next to brand-inappropriate or dangerous content.

Google’s brand safety assurance is not fully baked yet

YouTube’s latest brand-safety debacle was sparked by a 20-minute video that has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times since Sunday.

Blogger Matt Watson said the comments sections on some YouTube posts that featured videos of girls performing things like gymnastics and yoga were being exploited by a “soft-core pedophilia ring.”

The videos were being time-stamped with minors in compromising positions and ads from companies like Disney and Nestle were being served up next to them. Unfortunately, YouTube’s recommendation engine was collecting and serving up more similar videos with associated ads being viewed and interacted with by pedophiles.

The outrage and furor over Watson’s discovery has caused major advertisers like AT&T, Disney, Epic Games and Nestle to pull advertising from YouTube as a result.

In response, earlier this week, YouTube has removed more than 400 channels amidst its latest child exploitation crisis.

However, significant brand damage and revenue loss for YouTube has been inflicted. A lack of faith in Google’s search algorithms and its brand-safety assurance is in the spotlight again following similar incidents that have occurred since 2017.

Brand safety concerns on YouTube

Following these well-publicized crises like YouTube’s most recent one, advertisers have grown increasingly concerned about ads appearing in brand-safe environments, especially on social-media platforms such as Google’s YouTube and Facebook.

A survey of more than 300 advertising decision-makers conducted by Oath, a Verizon company, last spring found that 99 percent of advertisers are concerned with their ads appearing in brand-safe environments. And 58 percent of them were more concerned than previous year.

A more recent study conducted by Teads found that “brand safety is keeping CMOs up at night.” Eight in 10 said that they’re more concerned with avoiding placement of ads next to brand-inappropriate content than ever before. It’s an issue that’s weighing heavily on the global digital ad industry that is now valued at more than $628 billion.

Ad platforms’ responses to protect brands

In response to advertisers’ concerns, major ad platforms have been adding more safeguards to avoid embarrassing and ineffective ad placements next to inappropriate content.

For example, Facebook rolled out new capabilities to exclude advertisements from predetermined categories such as conflict, gambling, guns, immigration, religion and tragedy. Google Ads offers some limiting functionality, but it is not as granular as what Facebook offers advertisers today.

Last month, new third-party software solutions from Integral Ad Science (IAS) and DoubleVerify were released to give YouTube advertisers more assurance that their video ads will appear next to brand-suitable content. This type of software is designed to reduce incidents of ads from tech giants, retailers, government agencies and media companies running alongside YouTube channels promoting controversial topics such as conspiracy theories, Nazis, North Korean propaganda and white nationalists, a trend reported on by CNN last April.

Tech giants like Google turn to artificial intelligence to improve ad effectiveness

The new software from IAS and DoubleVerify to improve brand-safety assurance on YouTube incorporates machine learning to create models for determining ad appropriateness.

Similarly, last year, Google launched new features with machine-learning technology – including a new service called AdSense auto ads that helps publishers improve monetization and ad placement. Google claims the relatively new feature ensures that ads will be displayed when they’re likely to perform and provide a good user experience.

Publishers who participated in the beta saw and average lift of 10 percent with revenue increasing ranging between five to 15 percent.

However, the personalization capabilities from Google to improve ad efficiency are not as good as they should be for publishers or advertisers.

How does current Google Ads personalization stack up?

As an example for the latter, I’ll cite a story about a good friend’s recent experience with Google Ads. A small business owner, he runs a local plumbing business in Milwaukee. He spent hundreds of dollars on an ad campaign a few months back to increase incoming business leads using Google Ads.

Google’s auto-generated keywords for the campaign it scraped from his landing page were not relevant, especially in terms of geo-targeting for a local plumbing business. His website traffic went way up, but he did not gain one qualified sales lead as a result of the campaign. It was a dismal failure for him.

How much will deep learning improve it?

Many industry experts view deep learning as the Holy Grail for “changing the game for both advertisers and consumers.” According to a ClickZ story by Daniel Surmacz: “Deep learning is changing the way we think about effectiveness. It’s the most promising field of AI-based research found in Google Translate and Tesla self-driving cars.”

Without an ability for machine learning AI-powered platforms to “think on their feet” like human neural networks, many don’t have the same speed and efficiency-drivers that deep learning provides. It’s simply not possible for machine-learning AI engines to act like personal shoppers and cross-sell relevant items to consumers without deep learning’s more highly advanced algorithms.

Unless Google improves its personalization and brand-safety capabilities, it stands to lose more market share to others, most notably Amazon.

The share of new ad dollars has been on the decline for the longtime duopoly of Google and Facebook compared to two years ago. Amazon, a master of personalization and controller of its own walled garden, has emerged as a search advertising powerhouse and it’s on track to generate more than $10 billion in ad revenues over the next year.

Gary Burtka is vice president of US operations at RTB House, a global company that provides retargeting technology for global brands worldwide. Its North American headquarters are based in New York City.

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YouTube Updates its Strike System for Community Guideline Violations by @MattGSouthern


YouTube is making changes to how it gives strikes to users who violate the community guidelines.

Strikes could result in penalties or even the removal of an account.

But first, YouTube will give users a one-time warning before handing out further strikes.

There is no penalty involved with receiving a warning aside from the removal of the content which triggered the warning.

This change comes into effect on February 25 and applies to first-time offenders only.

Traditionally, YouTube has relied on a strict three-strike system before users deal with more severe consequences.

The three-strike rule still applies after the initial warning. It’s an effective system, YouTube says, as 94% of those who do receive a first strike never get a second one.

Perhaps that’s why YouTube figures a simple warning is all that’s needed in most cases.

Other Changes to the Strike System

YouTube is making strikes more consistent across all types of content.

Previously, strikes on videos would incur a different penalty from strikes on custom thumbnails and other violations.

Now, all strikes will have the same penalty. This covers videos, stories, custom thumbnails, and website links in the video description.

Here’s how it works:

  • First strike: A one-week freeze on the ability to upload any new content to YouTube.
  • Second strike: A two-week freeze on the ability to upload any new content to YouTube.
  • Third strike: The channel will be terminated.

Strikes will reset if there are no further violations within a 90-day period. The one-time warning does not reset.

Lastly, YouTube is making email and desktop notifications clearer for users who receive a strike.

Notifications will contain details on which policy was violated and now be accessed on mobile as well as desktop.

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Get the scoop on Hollywood’s big night with help from GoogleGet the scoop on Hollywood’s big night with help from Google

It’s awards season, and that means glitz, glam and gold statues. Google is making it easy to keep up with your favorite flicks and celebs no matter where you turn, with new ways to stay up on the buzz with Google Search, Google Images and Google News.  

And as we await the announcements of Sunday’s winners, we took a look at the celebs and movies people have searched for—and the trailers they’ve watched on YouTube—to see who and what is capturing our attention, both on and off the screen.

Red Carpet Read-out

It’s arguably everyone’s favorite part of the night. Actors and actresses alike strut their stuff on the red carpet, and many people turn to Google Images to check out their camera-ready looks.

Stay up-to-date on your favorite celebrities this Sunday with a special “Latest” section on Google Images, available on mobile web browsers. If you search for pictures from the red carpet, or a celebrity nominated for an award, Google Images will not only show you the most relevant web pages and photos from across the web related to your search, but will show you the most recent images, too.

But before we get into this year’s red carpet looks, we decided to look back at the past 10 years of worldwide Oscars fashion searches on Google Images to see which stars shone brightest:

  1. Anne Hathaway
  2. Jennifer Lopez
  3. Jennifer Lawrence
  4. Charlize Theron
  5. Scarlett Johansson
  6. Cate Blanchett
  7. Natalie Portman
  8. Halle Berry
  9. Angelina Jolie
  10. Olivia Wilde

Popular Performers

To help you learn more about your favorite celebrities, we recently launched stories on Knowledge Panels in Search, which provide an overview of notable moments from their lives and help you visually discover information from across the web. For the first time, we’re bringing these stories to Google Images, and we’re also introducing new stories about popular events like award shows.

Rolling out this week, if you search for nominees on Search or Google Images, you’ll see a story showcasing information about their nominations, fellow nominees and other nods they’ve received throughout the 2019 awards season.  Searches for “Oscars” have been on the rise leading up to the big night, and Search can help you explore more info about the films and actors, and stay up to date as results roll in on Sunday. If you want to go in depth, Google News will help you dive into all the news stories behind the nominees, red carpet, presenters and more.

You may have your guesses about which roles will earn top acting prizes, and we have the trends to see who’s coming out on top in Search. Here are the nominees leading the pack in search interest for Sunday’s top categories:

Actor in a leading role

  1. Bradley Cooper
  2. Rami Malek
  3. Christian Bale
  4. Viggo Mortensen
  5. Willem Dafoe

Actress in a leading role

  1. Lady Gaga
  2. Melissa McCarthy
  3. Glenn Close
  4. Olivia Colman
  5. Yalitza Aparicio

Actor in a supporting role

  1. Sam Elliott
  2. Adam Driver
  3. Sam Rockwell
  4. Mahershala Ali
  5. Richard E. Grant

Actress in supporting role

  1. Emma Stone
  2. Amy Adams
  3. Rachel Weisz
  4. Regina King
  5. Marina de Tavira

Favorite Flicks

If you’re placing any bets on the big screen’s best films of the year, perhaps you can take a hint from top lists from Search and YouTube. Even if they don’t take home a statue, these films have captured people’s hearts this year.

Top viewed Best Picture trailers on YouTube

  1. Black Panther
  2. Bohemian Rhapsody
  3. A Star is Born
  4. BlacKkKlansman
  5. Vice
  6. Green Book
  7. The Favourite
  8. Roma

Top searched Animated feature film nominees

  1. Incredibles 2
  2. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  3. Isle of Dogs
  4. Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
  5. Mirai

Top searched Foreign Language Film nominees

  1. Roma
  2. Cold War
  3. Shoplifters
  4. Capernaum
  5. Never Look Away

Thank you to my agent, producer, director, fellow castmates and everyone who made this blog post possible. *orchestra begins playing, exit stage right*

Mobile search and video in 2019: How visible are you?

mobile search and video in 2019: how visible are you?

Here at Search Engine Watch we know that video content is a great way to achieve and maintain visibility online, as well as being a successful means for providing engaging content for followers and prospective customers.

A quick look at our Twitter feed is testament to that.

Last month I argued that YouTube channels could – and should – be optimized in much the same way as our videos and websites.

And Ann Smarty’s 5 YouTube optimization tips to improve your video rankings is worth a look if you want to ensure your videos are really sticking out from the crowd.

But in 2019 are there any other considerations for ensuring that our videos are visible?

We know that Google frequently tweaks its algorithm and we should assume that YouTube does too. We also know the habits of searchers and viewers change as time passes.

Today I want to turn our attention to video search visibility in the mobile context. After all, most of our search activity is mobile and most of our video viewing activity is as well. How should this affect the way we approach SEO for our video content?

How much search activity is mobile?

US-centric statistics from Statista show just how much the mobile share of organic searches has grown in the past few years.

During Q3 2013 27% of searches were made on mobile compared to 73% on desktop, but by Q3 2018 things were firmly weighted the other way.

Now, at least 56% of searches are being accounted for by mobile.

graph showing how much the mobile share of organic searches has grown in the last couple years

How much video viewing is mobile?

With more search activity happening on mobile, can we expect the same of video activity? The short answer is: yes.

According to eMarketer, more than 80% of video viewing is expected to be on mobile in 2019.

This is up 10% in just three years and it looks like it will keep growing.

mobile video viewers and penetration worldwide, from 2016 to 2021

YouTube videos on Google – differences between desktop and mobile

So with more people searching for, and viewing, video on their handheld devices, do we need to think a little differently about how we optimize this content?

It seems logical that Google might present video differently on mobile compared to desktop. But initial differences appear to be very small – at least for the search phrase I use as an example here, ‘top youtube videos of 2018.’

search for "top youtube videos of 2018" on desktop

search for "top youtube videos of 2018" on mobile

On both desktop and mobile, the video results for this keyphrase appear presented in a carousel in around position 3 of the SERPs. Position 1 is given over to an infobox taken from an AdWeek ‘top 10’ style article and position 2 is a ‘People also ask’ box.

The first three videos that are viewable in this carousel are the same across devices – the leftmost being an embedded video in a VentureBeat article and the others being from YouTube. So Google might not be ranking things particularly differently depending on whether we search from desktop or mobile. But one instantly noticeable difference is the need to click (to scroll through the carousel) once on mobile in order to view the rightmost result and even half of the central result. In this case, the VentureBeat video certainly wins on instant visibility.

Another recent feature Google is including for video in its mobile SERPs is the preview

If a user scrolls to the video carousel and stops momentarily, the video begins to play silently showing selected moments. If we compare this to desktop – where the videos are static until played – mobile video SERPs are perhaps less likely to be clicked upon depending on the thumbnail it has.

The lesson for content creators here is to ensure the visual quality of your video is good throughout – you can’t simply depend on your colorful custom thumbnail to get these kinds of clicks.

While the video carousels in the Google SERPs are very similar on desktop and mobile, there are other ways video is presented which are notable.

mobile search results showing a video carousel in line with text results

This mobile video listing appears in-line with the text results much the same as a conventional desktop listing.

Note that it doesn’t include the video’s description, rather opting to show who has uploaded the content and when it was posted. Subsequently, the title and thumbnail are massively important for indicating to the user that this content is relevant to them. But the name of the channel and the freshness of content will also help that decision be made.

In this case, ‘Top Trending’ as a brandname is itself very relevant for our query – and we can also see how fresh the content is.

YouTube videos on YouTube – differences between desktop and mobile

So how do things fair when searches are made on YouTube?

youtube search for "top youtube videos of 2018" on desktop

youtube search for "top youtube videos of 2018" on mobile

Again, differences are subtle. Buy they are there. Ranking-wise we still see the videos we are familiar with from the earlier Google search and they are much the same across devices.

As we might expect, though, the mobile display of eschews video descriptions choosing to show the thumbnail aside the title, channel name, number of views and the age of the content.

Titles are also truncated if they exceed a certain length.

In this example, our second result loses nearly half of its character count of 57 down to 34.

App vs. mobile web differences

With the growth of mobile viewing habits, it also pays to see how things potentially differ on mobile apps too.

When it comes to the SERPs as a whole, we can see the YouTube app does a better job at displaying more results above the fold – showing five full thumbnails.

In our example we can also see the app does a better job at utilizing the space next to the image – with bigger fonts and less severe editing of longer titles. The YouTubers React… video still loses some of its overlong title, but only around 5 characters.


It’s important to remember this isn’t a comprehensive study. Different searches may produce different results. And allowances need to be made for the diversity of size and display of mobile devices (my examples were viewed on iPhone 7).

That said, I do think certain elements of video optimization deserve more consideration in the mobile context than they do in desktop.

Here’s my hotlist:

1. Titles

Always an important aspect of video SEO. But on mobile, we need to be wary that titles are more likely to be truncated in results across mobile web and app. Try to keep them concise and with the most important aspect of the title within the first 30 characters.

2. Previews

Thumbnails are still massively important, but the use of previews on mobile is an extra thing for video content producers to consider. Is your lighting good and consistent throughout? Simply, does your whole video looks good? Because, on mobile, users may or may not make a click depending on this preview.

3. Channel brand

While mobile SERPs often tend to lose video descriptions, the channel name on which the video is published is always included – and often fairly prominently. Even if you channel name is not massively well known, is it clearly relevant for the words/phrases you want your video(s) to rank for?

4. Freshness

Similar point to the above. The date or age of the content is always visible across Google, YouTube, desktop, mobile web and app. Ensure you are updating fresh content to your channel. Mobile users can clearly see if things are out of date.

Related reading

Gillette video search trends
youtube channel optimization

YouTube Introduces More Ways to Buy Masthead Ads by @MattGSouthern


YouTube is experimenting with new ways for advertisers to buy masthead ads, which is the most prominent ad unit on the home feed.

A YouTube masthead ad is a video unit that appears at the top of the home feed on mobile and desktop.

Masthead ads are usually reserved by one advertiser per country per day.

YouTube is now offering the option for advertisers to buy masthead ads on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis.

In addition, advertisers can customize the audiences they want to see the ad.

YouTube Introduces More Ways to Buy Masthead Ads

YouTube Introduces More Ways to Buy Masthead Ads

The placement will remain as a reserved buy. Impressions will be guaranteed across campaign flights that can range from a single day and up to seven days.

YouTube emphasizes the unique benefits of masthead ads, saying watch time from content on the home feed has grown 10X in the last three years.

Masthead ads also have a significant impact on ad recall, YouTube says, with an average lift of 92%, and drive an average 46% lift in purchase intent.

“The added flexibility that CPM buying enables, combined with the appeal of the YouTube Home feed, means the potential impact of the Masthead has never been greater.”

YouTube offers a tool that companies can use to see what their content would look like as a masthead ad.

Here’s an example with one of SEJ’s videos:

YouTube Introduces More Ways to Buy Masthead Ads

YouTube Introduces More Ways to Buy Masthead Ads

The video initially autoplays without sound. When viewers click on the video they’ll be taken to the video on the advertiser’s channel.

Advertisers can customize the ad title, description, and the call-to-action button that appears next to the video.

Contact your Google sales team for more details on this ad placement.

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