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Hello Digital looks at the highlights from the week that was.

New Year feels like a distant memory already. This week in digital we look at the launch of a new subtopics Google ranking factor, YouTube making a new feature to add shopping capabilities to videos, Google pausing all political ads in the U.S., plus more.

Keep reading for more. 

Google is pausing all political ads during the inauguration

Given the volatility of the political climate in the U.S right now and after the shocking riots last week in Capitol Hill, Google has announced that it will pause all political ads through the Presidential inauguration period. Beginning January 14th, they will temporarily disable political ads for at least a week but possibly longer. 

They have stated that they plan to monitor and reassess the decision as time goes on, which shows that they may be expecting more inflammatory rhetoric and behaviour in Donald Trump’s final days in power. 

The pause will cover any ads mentioning politics, the inauguration, impeachment, and the insurrection at Capitol Hill and includes ads being run by news organisations and merchandisers. It has caused many marketers to pause their campaigns or adjust paid ad strategies to make sure they don’t strike potential customers with insensitive messaging. This covers both sides of the political divide. 

In an email from Google, they stated that “Given the events of the last week, we are extremely vigilant about enforcing on any ads that might reasonably be construed as crossing this line.” 

It’s good to see Google taking steps to help events run smoothly, let’s see if they actually do. 


YouTube is testing capabilities for creators to tag products in videos

YouTube has announced that it is taking further steps to monetise their video content. The platform announced that they have started working on a new process to allow creators to tag products in their videos. The changes would also include direct shopping options, leading to more eCommerce opportunities on the platform.  

In YouTube’s statement, they said,

“We’re testing a new way for people to easily discover and purchase products featured in YouTube videos. Creators in this pilot can add certain products to their videos. Viewers can then see a list of featured products by clicking the shopping bag icon on the bottom left corner of the video. From there, viewers can explore each product’s page to see more information, related videos, and purchase options for that product.” 

It’s definitely a logical step for YouTube, particularly given the shift globally to digital and eCommerce markets. This general shift was only exacerbated by the pandemic last year and it means that we’ll likely start seeing more of these updates to well-known platforms. Facebook has recently published research that revealed a growing number of consumers are looking to shop via video content and even live video.

It’s estimated that the pandemic may have accelerated the growth of eCommerce by five years, pushing more businesses onto digital platforms and boosting digital consumption worldwide. 


Google launched subtopics ranking in mid-November

A Google spokesperson confirmed this week that a new ranking factor went live in November last year, the subtopics ranking feature. 

As Google explained, the subtopics rankings are essentially “neural nets to understand subtopics around an interest, which helps deliver a greater diversity of content when you search for something broad.” They gave this example, “if you search for ‘home exercise equipment,’ we can now understand relevant subtopics, such as budget equipment, premium picks, or small space ideas, and show a wider range of content for you on the search results page.”

Now we know that the ranking factor was rolled out last year, we can analyse if any noticeable ranking changes have happened since mid-November. If you’re looking for changes to the way search results look, you won’t find anything. Google said that “subtopics don’t change the look of search results.” The updates may have caused some ranking changes in search but likely not as many as expected from the passage indexing and ranking change. This is expected to create a 7% change to overall Google search results.


New app reunites lost dogs with their owners

In some lighter news, there is an app start-up making a name for itself in the U.S, and it’s aim is to reconnect lost pets with their owners. 

Every year in the U.S., around 10 million pets go missing. Millions of them end up in animal shelters where they aren’t always reunited with their owners. This can be for any number of reasons, but usually because they lack identification or microchip. Sadly, many of these animals end up being destroyed if they find themselves in kill shelters. 

The app Shadow aims to solve this problem by using a combination of a volunteer network and A.I. technology to help dog owners and other pet owners. It works with animal shelters and rescue organizations around America to pull photos of the dogs they’re housing, then also supplements it with photos pulled from social media platforms.