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Getting acquainted with our plastic usage

Earlier this month the UK’s biggest plastic investigation took place.

Generally speaking, most people do their bit to recycle, but we can’t escape the fact that plastic waste is still EVERYWHERE. To put this into perspective, the numbers suggest the UK throws away an estimated 295 billion pieces of plastic each year.

In a bid to prove that something has to give, we stepped up and played our part in Everday Plastic’s initiative (in partnership with Greenpeace UK): ‘The Big Plastic Count’. The cause was founded on the basis of pushing the government, brands, and supermarkets to tackle the plastic crisis once and for all. 

With each and every one of us at Uprise Up sharing the common value of seeking to make the world better, whether that materialises as a more progressive, more inclusive, or greener world, the cause really spoke volumes to us and really didn’t take much convincing for us to sign up.

The team had their tally sheets handy to make a conscious effort to track their individual use throughout the week and as a result, we got very acquainted with our plastic footprint. Below we hear a couple of personal accounts of the team’s experience. 

How we got on

“I usually try to be fairly conscious about minimising the amount of plastic I use and actively recycling where possible. However, going through the physicality of counting every single individual piece of plastic I used in a week was revealing. Participating in the initiative has revealed I am definitely using more plastic than I would have thought.

I realise that as well as reducing my overall consumption I also need to distribute efforts to paying more attention to the type of plastic I’m using. A substantial 66% of my weekly use included soft plastic, which is more difficult to recycle in comparison to hard plastics. Tallying my individual use has also made me more conscious of my shopping habits and the type of brands and products I usually lean towards. It’s been invaluable reflecting on the bigger picture I’ve been made more aware of how I can make better choices in my day-to-day usage.”

Charlotte Agg, SEO Assistant

I was pleasantly surprised with my results. It turns out I actually use a lot less plastic than I originally thought. I think this is largely down to the companies I purchase my produce from and the recent changes to their packaging that has been introduced in recent years. 

Most of my plastic usage came from fruit and veg packaging or individual ‘snack-type’ packaging, I found that even if a punnet of fruit was cardboard it always seemed to have a thin plastic film lid! 

Although my takings from the count have been positive, on reflection I feel even more encouraged to cut this down further and make a concerted effort to avoid purchasing plastic heavy products. In reality, this will look like opting for loose fruit and veg produce and adjusting to snack items that can be bulk purchased and then separated into smaller portions in my own reusable tupperware. ” 

Brogan Carroll, Paid Media Analyst

 

Our group takeaways from participating look a little like this:

 Have a cause you really care about? Drop us a message, we’d love to talk it over with you. 

 

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    SEO Updates for April and May 2022

    April started spectacularly with Brighton SEO bringing together SEO enthusiasts from across the globe. We witnessed a great range of talks at the biannual beachside conference, covering everything from the fundamentals of search right through to the future of SEO in the ‘metaverse’. The weeks to follow have continued to offer several other interesting developments which we’re unpacking below. 

    Google Released Annual Search Spam Report

    In response to a world searching for ‘how to heal’, Google highlighted how they kept 99% of searches spam-free with significant improvements in fighting link spam, scam results, and ranking manipulation in their annual search spam report. 

    Google also focussed on reducing low-quality content through identifying behaviours that manipulated search rankings. These behaviours would narrowly avoid violation of the quality guidelines but negatively impact user experience. With the help of their AI-based system SpamBrain, Google stated they were able to keep 99% of searches spam-free in 2021.

    As ever, websites should follow best practice guidance and steer clear of ‘black hat’ SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing and product review manipulation, to avoid being penalised by Google’s spam algorithms. Producing high-quality, relevant content for your customers will always be the best way to help improve your search rankings. 

    Google Search Parameter Tool Officially Offline

    Back in March, Google announced it was going to retire the URL parameters tool, and this is the first month we can see it coming into effect. Google has now turned off support for the tool in Google Search Console. The decision was made by Google to turn off the tool due to the advancement in Google’s capabilities to decipher which parameters are useful on a site. With only a minute number of parameter configurations specified in the parameter tool deemed useful for crawling purposes, the tool was deemed unnecessary. 

    Google has stated that ‘Google’s crawlers will learn how to deal with URL parameters automatically’ in the near future. We would suggest making a note of this update on your reports and keeping an eye on your analytics over the coming weeks just in case any issues arise from this change. 

     

    Significant Changes to Featured Snippets being Tested

    Google has started some testing that may provide a major shake-up of the featured snippets section on SERPs. Our SEO Team certainly has a lot to say about these two new features:

    ‘From the Web’: Traditionally, the featured snippet shown at the top is a table, a list, or a snippet of text with a link to the webpage the content comes from. For text snippets, Google is now testing short excerpts from two to three other websites in the same section, with links to the sites added after the sites’ favicons. 

     

    ‘Other Sites Say’: Google is planning to group at least three different sites under a new ‘Other Sites Say’ section, which shares some resemblance with the established ‘People also ask’ section. Again, this will provide more exposure for brands, but equally will create more competition in the top-ranking results. 

      

    What could this mean for search?

    Sites that currently hold the featured snippet position for certain keywords could face a substantial loss of traffic as more competition enters position zero in SERPs. On the flip side, if you’re not currently featuring in any snippets, this update could increase your chances and improve traffic volume to your site. 

    It will be very interesting to see the impact of these tests on clickthrough rate (CTR) and visibility in the search results, and whether these updates are rolled out temporarily or permanently. One to keep an eye on!

    Google PaLM: The Future of Next Generation Search

    This month Google revealed a breakthrough in its efforts to create an AI architecture that can handle millions of different tasks by itself. Enter PaLM.

    What is PaLM?

    Google’s Pathways Language Model research (PaLM) is an AI architecture Google has been developing. PaLM can produce answers reflective of fluctuating contexts by learning how to efficiently solve millions of different tasks, including complex learning and reasoning. 

    What makes PaLM special?

    PaLM is a system worth recognising as it’s striving to combine the efforts of multiple existing AI systems, into a singular architecture. To achieve this, recent developments of the PaLM system have involved the scaling of the few-shot learning (FSL) process. This is a type of machine learning method that works with a limited training dataset, as opposed to deep machine learning, where an extensive amount of data needs to be manually input for the AI to learn each new ability. Essentially, FSL has the AI learning so it can make predictions based on a smaller dataset.

    Recently completed was the BIG-bench benchmark, where several tasks were designed to see how large language models, such as PaLM, responded. Of the 150 strong BIG-bench tasks (relating to reasoning, translation, and question answering), PaLM outperformed many of the current state-of-the-art models. There were many notable achievements on hundreds of language understanding and generation benchmarks, including: 

     

    • Enhanced reasoning abilities 
    • Explanation generation 
    • Inference Chaining

     

    This recent research shows PaLM delivers significant improvements compared to current AI systems and can even ‘outperform human benchmarks’ for certain elements of language processing and reasoning. However, humans still outperformed the new algorithm on 35% of tasks. So, whilst breakthroughs are being made, PaLM is not quite there yet. 

    What could this mean for search?

    Machine learning has a big impact on how search results are created, tailoring results more and more to the needs of the user. As PaLM seeks to consolidate all this machine learning into one AI system, the change to search may not be great. However, with capabilities in one place, it may mean Google can get an even greater understanding of the intent and needs of users when they use search engines. Either way, this is an update to keep an eye on.

    Did we miss any SEO news?

    Think we may have missed something worth exploring or if you have some thoughts you’d like to share on SEO developments? We’d love to hear from you! 

    Join the conversation and tweet us @upriseUPSEM, email us at [email protected], or simply send us a message through our contact page.

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      Noteworthy paid media developments in April and May 2022

      Staying on top of new digital tools, the latest channel updates, and user demands can be overwhelming, we know. Which is why we’ve assessed the latest paid media developments during April and May and put our heads together to evaluate what this means for the paid media landscape. 

      Have your pad and pen ready (definitely worth taking note of), below our team of digital media specialists, share what the latest developments are and what this means for digital marketers. 

       

      New Custom Columns in Google Ads
      Google recently announced some major updates to custom columns in Google Ads. The biggest change is the inclusion of functions. These operate much like functions in spreadsheets such as excel, and allow for a whole host of new uses for custom columns not possible before.

      Alongside this change, Google has also added the ability to reference custom columns within formulas, allowing for custom columns to work off of each other. This is useful with the new options functions have unlocked. We are also now able to pull text elements like campaign or ad group name into the columns. 

      These changes are very welcome, custom columns have until recently been mostly used to segment-specific conversions into a column for optimisation purposes. The options available for calculation within the columns were just not complete enough to allow for many more use cases. With these changes, however, there are many more situations where custom columns could be useful in optimising an account.

      Reference: https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/12041700?hl=en  

      Dan Biggs, Paid Media Consultant 

       

      New Cookie Choices for Google in Europe

      Google announced last month that they’ll be rolling out new cookie banners in Europe to anyone visiting Search or YouTube while signed out or in Incognito Mode. The update will give these users the additional option to ‘Reject All’ cookies:

       

      The update began with a roll out across France and will soon be introduced across the rest of the European Economic Area. 

      This is a big change for Google, moving away from a design made to make it difficult for users to opt out of cookies. With a continued commitment to “building privacy-preserving tools”, Google believes they can protect people’s private data while also giving businesses the tools they need to thrive in their digital environment. One thing’s for certain, it will be interesting to find out how this is all going to work.

      Matt Hekkink, Paid Media Analyst 

       

      Upgrades to Google Ads Extensions 

      Starting this month, Google made some significant adjustments to ad extensions and upgraded all extension types (excluding image and location extensions).

      So, what’s the difference? Well, it means there’s now a distinction between “extensions (upgraded)” and “extensions” for the new and existing extensions, making it clear which extensions are legacy and which will have the new features, allowing you to retain your historic data.

      The new features include some very beneficial changes such as the ability to pause extensions, rather than outright removing them, and a “trickle-down” system for the different hierarchies of extensions.

      This means that where previously higher-level extensions were limited by existing extensions at an ad group or campaign level, with the upgraded extensions all extensions can serve despite existing ones. For example, an Ad Group with existing sitelinks can now pull sitelinks from the Campaign or Account levels where they were previously restricted to just the Ad Group level extensions.

       

      These features are definitely a big improvement but it’ll definitely be worth checking that your high-level extensions match with all of your ads just to be safe.

      Ross Stratford, Paid Media Assistant

       

      Updates to Google’s 3 strike system 

      A new three strike disapproval rule is being implemented for google ads in June 2022 after being trialled in September 2021. The strike system will be for the following policies in particular: Enabling dishonest behaviour, Unapproved substances, Guns, gun parts and related products, Explosives, Other Weapons and Tobacco. A ‘strike’ will be added to your account if a policy is repeatedly broken. 

      First Disapproval

      The first stage will just be a warning and will result in a normal ad disapproval. Google wants to be fair and make sure that everyone is aware of the policy rules before they start blocking accounts. 

      Strike One

      The first strike will come if google deems policy to have been broken again within 90 days of the first warning disapproval, in this case there will be a full account block for three days in which no ads will be able to run. After three days the account will be enabled again but the offending ads will remain disapproved until they comply with policy.

      Strike Two

      The second strike is much like strike one but the whole account will be blocked for seven days, rather than three,  if google deems policy to have been broken again within 90 days of strike one.

      Strike Three

      The third strike is another violation within 90 days of strike two. This will result in the full suspension of your account and google doesn’t specify if there is any timeframe in which you will be allowed access to the account again.

      You may appeal strikes but your ads won’t be able to show until either the block has been lifted and the appeal accepted or the temporary block time is over, you have fixed all policy violations in the account and completed an acknowledgement form. 

      Whilst this may not affect many accounts it’s worth considering the reasons disapprovals may occur, we often have surprising disapprovals due to some content linked to the landing page we are promoting rather than the ads themselves, as there is now more at stake we recommend everyone keeping their eyes out for disapprovals and brushing up on the policies!

      Reference: https://support.google.com/adspolicy/answer/10922738?hl=en-GB 

      Brogan Carroll, Paid Media Analyst

       

      Meta have updated their Facebook Ad’s Manager Objectives

      Meta have started rolling out changes to their Objectives in Ads Manager, or at least how their Objectives are named and grouped together. 

      Prior to the change, there were 3 broad categories of Awareness, Consideration and Conversions, with then 12 sub-category Objectives across these e.g. Reach, Traffic, Catalogue Sales etc. With the changes, Meta have now consolidated this to 6 core Objectives, which they say are “grouped together based on their expected business outcome”. It’s important to clarify that:

      • Objective names will change but you can still perform the same functions and access the features you’re familiar with.
      • Campaigns created before the update will remain with the previous Objectives, so there is no need to change these manually.  

      We think the most significant change to be aware of, is to how conversion-optimised campaigns are now set-up, as there are multiple ways to ultimately reach the same outcome. For example, you can optimise for website conversions under either of these 3 Objectives: Engagement, Leads, Sales, but will need to specify the correct ‘Conversion Location’ for each.  

       

      Engagement Objective: 

      Leads Objective:

       

      More details on the changes can be found here.

      Will Rhodes, Paid Media Manager 

       

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        How to successfully run responsive search ads (RSAs)

        Not long ago Google announced the end of an era for expanded text ads. As of June 30th 2022, you will no longer be able to create or edit expanded text ads. 

        The announcement surfaced last year and here at Uprise Up, we’ve been preparing our client’s accounts ever since. Introducing responsive search ads (RSAs) into each of our ad groups ahead of June 30th. To help you also get ahead and be fully prepared for the change, we’ve jotted down our top tips in this blog for running successful responsive search ads. 

        First things first, what are responsive search ads?

        Responsive search ads (RSAs) are another step in the direction towards automation from Google. Expanded text ads (ETAs) had a set of 3 headlines and 2 descriptions that are shown statically, whereas RSAs allow us to select up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions. Google then automatically tests the different combinations of these headlines and descriptions to give the user the ‘best’ performing combinations. 

        Ok, so what are the potential benefits of RSAs?

        • Improved performance. According to Google, advertisers that add RSAs to their ad groups achieve up to 10% more clicks and conversions. From our experience, we’ve also seen RSAs often out-perform existing ETAs when added into our accounts. 
        • Increase ad relevance and reach. More headlines and descriptions mean Google can serve more relevant combinations to the user. With more keywords in your ad copy, you’ll be entered into more auctions for relevant searches. 
        • They’re a time saver. Instead of needing to set up multiple variations of ETAs to test and learn, you only need the one responsive search ad which will test the combinations automatically.

        One thing to note is that while Google’s auto suggestions can often be useful, they are equally often not so useful. We’d advise taking a cautious approach when applying these.

        So, on the flip side, what are the potential downsides to RSAs?

        • Less control. Your ability to specify how an ad is formatted and reads overall is limited, due to the nature of the machine learning testing various combinations. This may lead to headlines appearing together which don’t necessarily work well or make sense to a user, or for your brand.
        • Reduced learnings. You cannot see as easily which headlines and descriptions have the best CTR and conversion rate, and therefore might work well outside of Paid Search.
        • Can actually take more time to select headlines and descriptions that work well together, but are unique enough, while also assessing whether to make use of the pinning feature (discussed below) can actually be more time-consuming than creating a standard ETA.
        • Beware of auto-suggestions. Google will be missing important context, so not all suggestions will be relevant.

         

        How to Run Responsive Search Ads Successfully

        Top tip time:

        • Include keywords in your headlines. To reach those good and excellent ad strengths you’ll need to make sure you have headlines relevant to your keywords. You can also use dynamic keyword insertions to insert your keyword into headlines, from experience this will help to optimise your ad strength. 
        • Include unique headlines. To give Google the variation it needs to test and optimise your RSA, you’ll need to keep your headlines unique. Try using a variety of calls to action and offers to improve headline uniqueness. 
        • Have a combination of short and long headlines. ‘Long’ headlines being within the 30 character cap.
        • Use all the headline and description fields available. If you can aim to fill out all 15 headlines and 4 descriptions, at a minimum include 10 headlines. 
        • Pay attention to ‘ad strength’. Google will offer you suggestions to improve the ad strength of your RSAs. You’ll want to get the ad strength up to at least “Good” but ideally aiming for “Excellent”.

         

        To pin or not to pin, that is the question.

        Responsive search ads are far from perfect, we’ll still quite often see Google pair similar headlines together as the highest serving combination (e.g. two branded headlines rather than a branded headline and a CTA). There’s definitely still questions to be answered. 

        Our biggest one is around the pinning feature. When setting up your RSA, you have the option to pin a headline or description so that they only appear in a certain position. While this sounds great (especially for controlling brand messaging), the ad strength of the ad is very much affected by the use of pinning. A lower ad strength may impact your achievable impressions share and your CPC, and may result in lower impressions/clicks as a result.

        With that in mind, you may be wondering: 

        • What is the actual impact of a lower ad strength on the total impressions?
        • Does this impact outweigh the benefits of improved brand messaging?
        • How do we best use pins to balance this impact?

        Fortunately, we have sought-out to find the answers!

         

        What we’re testing

        We’ve set up an experiment to test the pinning feature specifically. We’re running A/B experiments to test RSAs with no pinning, fully pinned, and a balance of pinning. 

        Specifically one thing we’re testing, is how the number of pins effects ad strength. For example will pinning 4-5 headlines in a single headline position still allow for a stronger ad strength compared to 1-2? 

        We’ll also be testing the impact of losing an ‘excellent’ ad strength in favour of pinning, looking at the effects on impression share against conversions. 

         

        We’ll be running this test over the next few months and look forward to sharing the results once they’re in.

        Here’s some examples of the types of variations we’re testing:

        Excellent

         

        Good

        Average

        Poor

         

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