We have seen individuals and businesses taking every step possible to deal with the pandemic and stay whole. At the same time, Google has gone above and beyond to help as many as they can, and I think it is truly impressive.
Google has been working hard to provide more services and options for over a month, and this past week was no different. Here are just a few of the updates to help businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Merchants can now sell for free on Google.
- There is fee relief for News partners.
- New availability of the Cloud Healthcare API.
- New schema for government benefits.
- Best practices for education websites.
But these are not the only updates Google has provided this week. Keep reading to see the highlights.
You Can Now Sell for Free On Google
Google announced the following on April 21st:
Beginning next week, search results on the Google Shopping tab will consist primarily of free product listings, helping merchants better connect with consumers, regardless of whether they advertise on Google. With hundreds of millions of shopping searches on Google each day, we know that many retailers have the items people need in stock and ready to ship, but are less discoverable online.
- Advertisers: This change means paid campaigns can now be augmented with free listings.
- Retailers: You can make your products discoverable in free listings by opting your existing product feeds into the surfaces across Google program
- Existing users of Merchant Center and Shopping Ads: If you have opted into the surfaces across Google program, you might already be eligible to show your products in the free listings; no further steps are necessary to participate. If you haven't opted in, learn how here.
- New users of Merchant Center: Google is working to streamline the onboarding process over the coming weeks and months.
Users should see the changes take effect in the U.S. before the end of April, and Google plans to expand this option globally before the end of the year.
SEMrush Tip: You can study the Product Listing Ads (PLAs) that already exist in your market with SEMrush's PLA Research reports. These reports allow you to analyze the performance and appearance of an advertiser's Product Listing ads on the SERP.
You'll find a report to discover PLA competitors, look at actual copies of PLAs, and research PLA keyword positions. Use these reports to see what Google Shopping ads are being run in your niche and what the prices of those products are.
Google has a new partnership with PayPal that will allow merchants to link their accounts. They are also working with existing partners like Shopify, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce "to make digital commerce more accessible for businesses of all sizes."
Visit the help center for more details on how to participate in free product listings and Shopping ads.
Schema Markup Released for COVID-19 Government Benefit Announcements
On April 16th, Dan Brickley announced that Schema.org 7.04 had been released, and several Coronavirus-oriented improvements have been made, including a governmentBenefitsInfo property on SpecialAnnouncement.
https://t.co/ooIuC1elTy 7.04 is out!— Dan Brickley (@danbri) April 16, 2020
Several Coronavirus-oriented improvements including a governmentBenefitsInfo property on SpecialAnnouncement, and a basic enumeration of benefit types which we expect to improve over time e.g. with per-country lists.https://t.co/HFd7JFyVd5
This markup allows schema to be added that includes details such as the name of the government benefits, who is eligible for them, and the name of the government organization providing them.
You can see an example new government benefit for small businesses announcement here.
Best Practices Released for Education Websites in Google Search
Under COVID- 19 resources and tips, Google provided recommendations to help education sites make their tools and content are more discoverable.
The following advice was included:
Ensure your free tool or content is available without needing a log-in, as pages hidden behind a log-in will not be crawled and indexed by Googlebot, which means the page will not show Google Search.
Ask Google to recrawl and reindex your URLs if you have recently updated or added new pages, lessons, or resources to your site. This can be done through the URL Inspection Tool for individual pages or through a sitemap file for many pages.
If you have coronavirus-related announcements, like school closure announcements or health announcements, you should add SpecialAnnouncement structured data to your web pages. For those that don't have access to make changes in the HTML or that have an urgent announcement, you do have the option of submitting the announcement in Search Console.
Check which coronavirus-related queries your website appears and ranks for in Google Search, as well as checking click-through rates on Google Search Console. Make sure any answers you provide are accurate.
Keep an eye on Google Trends to see what people are currently searching for and use this data to determine which questions you should be answering in content.
Check out the new web developer resources to make sure your website is accessible, secure, and usable during the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Optimize Feature Best Practices
Last week Google offered a new way for website owners to quickly post a banner at the top of their website that would inform visitors about any changes due to the pandemic. Optimize users were only able to run 10 site personalizations at the same time, but the rules changed and for 90 days, users can updates their site as often as they needed to.
This week, Google offered best practices for using Optimize to create a banner that works. There are tips on templates vs. custom banners, using Optimize to create a personalization that will temporarily display a different version of your site, and tips for reducing distractions, adjusting FAQ pages, and creating messages for mobile devices. See all of the best practices at A new Optimize feature to keep your website updated through COVID-19.
Google Provides Fee Relief to News Partners During COVID-19
We all need the news to stay informed, especially now. Google understands that ads on news pages help support the news organizations and journalists bringing us the latest information. The Google News Initiative has been trying to find new ways "to provide immediate financial support to those news organizations around the world producing original journalism."
Google decided to waive ad serving fees for news publishers globally on Ad Manager for five months.
This builds on the GNI’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund, which is delivering aid to thousands of small and local news publishers globally, and other programs to support the industry. With these efforts, we aim to help news organizations reduce some of the cost of managing their businesses and funding important journalism during this time.
For more information on this initiative and other programs, visit Fee relief to support our news partners during COVID-19.
Improvements Made to Ads Data Hub
Google has updated its Ads Data Hub to make it easier to obtain better data insights and analyze data faster.
Improvements to the Ads Data Hub include:
Adding self-service account linking for Google Ads, Campaign Manager, and Display & Video 360. This option will help you access your Google ad campaign data more easily across multiple products. Users can also create multi-tier account structures.
Running an analysis with a Sandbox environment is now easier, and it includes the rolling out of a new test dataset that can be used to experiment with data and query development.
Users have access to over 20 templates for the most common types of analysis run in Ads Data Hub in the newly launched query library, and they have the option of suggesting new templates through the in-product feedback form.
Google Launches Remote Access Cloud Solution BeyondCorp
Keep Your Teams Working With BeyondCorp Remote Access
Google has launched BeyondCorp Remote Access, a cloud solution that allows remote workforces to access internal web apps without needing a remote-access VPN. These can be accessed from almost anywhere using any device.
This is how BeyondCorp Remote Access works:
The cloud solution is based on the zero-trust approach used by Google internally for nearly a decade.
Here is what Google said about the announcement:
“As the number of remote workers increases drastically in a short period of time, one thing we’ve heard repeatedly is that organizations need an easier way to provide access to key internal applications. Workers can’t get to customer service systems, call center applications, software bug trackers, project management dashboards, employee portals, and many other web apps that they can normally get to through a browser when they’re on the corporate network in an office.”
Google Announces General Availability of Cloud Healthcare API
“Today, healthcare organizations are in dire need of easy-to-use technology that supports health information exchange.
Google announced on Monday that they have made the Cloud Healthcare API available to the industry at-large. "The API allows healthcare organizations to ingest and manage key data from a range of inputs and systems—and then better understand that data through the application of analytics and machine learning in real-time, at scale.”
Google mentioned additional solutions that can be used by healthcare providers to navigate the coronavirus pandemic. This includes the following:
- Virtual care and telehealth services: Healthcare providers can offer patients video appointments and keep patient information stored in Google Drive for easy access while maintaining data security and HIPAA compliance.
- Collaboration capabilities for remote work: Using G Suite and Google Meet, healthcare organizations can virtually connect with colleagues and maintain work remotely.
New Rapid Response Virtual Agent: This 24/7 conversational self-service support agent will help healthcare workers provide quick responses to patients and reduce stress on health hotlines and call centers.
High-demand public health datasets: The API will help healthcare organizations study COVID-19 with a pre-hosted repository of public healthcare datasets
Visualization of essential services: By combining the Google Maps Platform and COVID-19 datasets, healthcare organizations can utilize information to locate critical equipment, provide testing site locations, give patients directions, and route medical deliveries to recipients.
Google Cloud research credits: Google wants to help researchers, educational institutions, non-profits, and pharma companies gain access to COVID-19 research by accessing scalable computing power. Organizations can apply for research credits to receive funding for projects related to potential treatments, techniques, and datasets.
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