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If you haven’t been able to keep up with everything going on in the world of online advertising, don’t sweat it—we’ve got all the news you need. Mozilla Firefox has blocked third-party cookies by default, Instagram has introduced branded content ads, Microsoft Advertising is rolling out local inventory ads for Bing, and more.

Firefox blocks third-party cookies by default

Last week, the Senior Vice President of Mozilla Firefox, Dave Camp, announced a new feature of the web browser that could have a serious impact on your conversion tracking: Third-party cookies are now blocked by default. When a new user installs and downloads Firefox for the first time, they’re protected from being tracked across websites.

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Current users can block cookies manually if they so choose. Via Mozilla.

Whereas a first-party cookie tracks a user’s behavior on the site they’re currently visiting—thus enabling the site to deliver a more personalized experience—a third-party cookie tracks a user’s behavior across websites. As far as digital marketers are concerned, third-party cookies are attribution tools—used to determine which website placements are driving traffic. By allowing marketers to see which ad placements are working (and which placements aren’t working), third-party cookies help them refine their display advertising strategies.

The new technology, known as Enhanced Tracking Protection, isn’t all that new—it’s been available to users of Firefox’s private browsing mode for a while now. It’s also virtually identical to the technology behind Safari’s ITP 2.0. What is new is the fact that it’s now default for people using the browser for the first time. For people already using Firefox, Enhanced Tracking Protection will roll out later this year.

The good news is that Google, Bing, and Facebook have all taken steps to ensure that advertisers can get around these measures and continue to attribute conversions accurately. That being said, you’ll have to be proactive. Here’s what you need to do on each of the platforms to keep your conversion tracking in tact:

  • Google: Update your tracking tag to use the GTag. This will enable you to track Google Ads actions and Google Analytics actions from the same tag. If you’re tracking both categories, make sure both account IDs are included in the universal tag. 
  • Bing (Microsoft Advertising): Start using the Universal Event Tracking tag and enable auto-tagging in your account. 
  • Facebook: If you’re prompted to update your conversion tracking, do so. Otherwise, you don’t need to worry.

After you’ve made these updates, make sure you’re habitually reviewing your conversion data and attribution reports going forward. If anything should change, you’ll want to identify the cause and nip it in the bud as soon as possible.

Instagram introduces branded content ads

If your business works with influencers or micro-influencers to promote your product or service on Instagram, I’ve got some good news. As of last week, you can promote branded content to targeted audiences of your creation. Behold—branded content ads!

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For those who don’t know, branded content is an umbrella term for organic posts shared by Instagram users with the intent of promoting a specific business. A common form of influencer marketing (or micro-influencer marketing), branded content is the product of a partnership between a business and an Instagram user with an above-average following. Basically, the business pays the user to promote their product or service as organically as possible. In case you’re wondering, yes—branded content is a form of user-generated content (UGC).

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S/O Gilmore Girls.

The key advantage of partnering with users to create branded content is that it taps into the influence those users have over their followers. The key disadvantage is that those followers are the only people seeing the content (which, of course, you’re paying for).

The purpose of branded content ads—now available for feed placements, soon available for stories placements—is to eliminate that disadvantage. Using the targeting parameters you would use for any other Instagram ad, you can now get that branded content in front of relevant users who don’t (yet) follow the influencer you’re partnered with. Essentially, Instagram is enabling you to use your existing UGC to reach new prospects in a compelling way.

Not only is this exciting, but it’s also significant of an emerging digital marketing trend. In a recent post about promoted answers on Quora, WordStream blog contributor Joe Martinez talked about the power of putting money behind organic content. Although Instagram and Quora are about as similar as a lizard and a watermelon, the point remains: Promoting organic content is the best of both worlds. By combining the authenticity of an organic post with the targeted nature of an ad, Instagram branded content ads offer a whole lot of promise.

Microsoft rolls out local inventory ads for all advertisers

Great news for Microsoft Shopping advertisers with brick-and-mortar stores: After a promising beta period, local inventory ads will be available to all businesses later this month.

With a local inventory ad—which, like a standard shopping ad, is triggered by a product-based search query—you can let online shoppers know that the product they’re looking for is available in your nearby store. The ad features an “in store” icon underneath your business’ name; when it’s clicked, the user is brought either to your website or to a Bing-hosted page. Either way, the landing page will display relevant information like store location, product availability, and so on.

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Via Microsoft.

In the US, 89% of consumers research products online before making purchases in-store. The prevalence of this behavior—known as research online, purchase offline (ROPO)—is what makes local inventory ads so valuable. Generally, people like to see and feel products for themselves before pulling out their credit cards. By taking advantage of this new shopping ad type, you can turn that sentiment into some serious foot traffic.

There are a few required steps you’ll have to take before launching your local inventory ads:

  1. Import store location information from Google My Business to Microsoft Advertising. 
  2. Submit local product feeds through Microsoft Merchant Center. 
  3. Submit local product inventory feed through Microsoft Merchant Center.

Once you’ve taken care of those three things, simply enable local inventory ads under the Shopping settings tab of your desired campaign. You’re all set!

PayPal launches ecommerce solution for SMBs

In a recent blog post, PayPal COO Bill Ready announced the launch of PayPal Commerce Platform—an all-in-one solution that enables small businesses to deliver online shopping experiences on par with those found on massive marketplaces like Facebook and Instagram.

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Via Search Engine Journal.

Aiming to “finally put the same tech and capabilities in the hands of all businesses, regardless of size,” the new platform is something of an amalgamation of PayPal’s various tools and services. Beyond connecting ecommerce businesses with the hundreds of millions of consumers who prefer to make their online purchases through PayPal, the platform also offers backend features and services such as fraud protection, account authentication, and regulatory compliance.

Facebook Marketplace and Instagram Checkout—both of which enable businesses to sell to users as they’re using social media—are currently powered by PayPal Commerce Platform. In an interview with CNBC, Ready mentioned the proliferation of places where businesses can connect with consumers, saying: “We want to democratize access to that [capability] so all these millions of sellers can go engage more customers online.”

In a nutshell, the new platform—now available in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy, and expanding to dozens more markets later this year—will help small ecommerce businesses offer the easy, risk-free payment solutions previously exclusive to large retailers.

Mary Meeker releases 2019 Internet Trends report

This week, as she’s done every year since the mid-90’s, renowned tech investor and Bond Capital founder Mary Meeker has released her annual Internet Trends report. The 2019 edition, spanning well over 300 slides, is jam-packed with information relevant to passionate tech investors like herself—the expansion of the internet to new markets, the increasing popularity of wearable technology, and so on. The report also includes quite a bit of information that’s relevant to your everyday digital marketer. Let’s take a look at three charts in particular and reflect briefly on what they mean for you.

1. Ecommerce continues to grow

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The share of the US retail market attributed to ecommerce continues to skyrocket. As you can see in this graph, that share has practically doubled since 2012. For context, brick-and-mortar sales are still increasing year-over-year; ecommerce sales are simply growing that much faster. If you’re solely a brick-and-mortar retailer, now is the time to get online! While you’re here, we’ve got a guide to ecommerce PPC as well as a guide to increasing sales online.

2. Mobile ad spend also continues to grow

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Whereas the amount of money going towards desktop advertising has remained mostly flat since 2016, mobile ad spend has grown dramatically—up from almost nothing in 2011 to the majority of digital spend in 2018! The takeaway from this graph couldn’t be simpler: Optimizing for mobile has become table stakes. Whether you’re in ecommerce or lead gen, keep mobile users at the top of your mind as you work to improve your website!

3. YouTube & Instagram dominating social media

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Since 2017, nearly all of the major social networks have shown modest gains (or no gains at all) in the percentage of users engaging with them more than once per day—all except YouTube and Instagram, that is. While more than one out of every four users frequently checks out the Google-owned video-sharing platform, nearly one out of every five users regularly refreshes the Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform. Once again, the takeaway is simple: Because your prospects are on YouTube and Instagram, you should be on YouTube and Instagram, too.

Thanks to the recent surge in shoppable ad placements, it’s a particularly exciting time for ecommerce advertisers to get on these platforms. Regardless of your vertical, we’ve got the resources you need to get started. Check out Joe Martinez’s guide to YouTube placements and Margot da Cunha’s guide to advertising on Instagram!

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