Google now tells searchers how busy a place is in real-time, while Microsoft prepares to link LinkedIn in

Welcome to Tech Treats, our weekly feature where we provide our clients with the latest news on all things digital marketing. From current trends and innovations, to fresh tips on getting the most out of your marketing spend, we’ll ensure you’re always kept in the loop!

Google can now tell you how busy a location is in real-time

Back in July 2015, Google released a feature called ‘Popular Times’ to give users an insight into how busy shops, restaurants and other public locations would be before setting off on their journey.

Ahead of this year’s Black Friday, the feature (which appears directly in the search results for the specified location) was upgraded with a live feed for certain venues.

Using a red “Live” tag, Google Maps will now display whether the venue is busier or quieter than usual, as well as the historical data. Google has also added extra information to the Maps display, including how long visitors typically spend in the location.

For more information on the updated feature, check out this article from The Guardian.

The TJM take: Location data, meets big data, meets your phone… this has been on the horizon for a while and will build on their maps traffic feature. We can see this sort of feature being used to level out demand, incentivise alternative purchase channels and open up the option for other companies to bid on location specific info. All very smart stuff.

It does feel like Big Brother is getting too close though...

Google’s AI has created its own universal language

Google Brain’s Neutral Network AI has created its own universal language to aid in the translation of other unknown languages.

As The Inquirer reported last week, Google’s AI has learnt enough to create its own ‘language’ which, put simply, is its own algorithm. In a research paper published by Google, they explained how it taught the AI to translate from Portuguese to English, and English to Spanish. From this, the AI was then able to translate from Portuguese to Spanish by itself.

Check out the original article from Inquirer to learn more about how it works.

The TJM take: Wow.

Google tests adding images to the Sitelinks ad extension

As The Zebra spotted (not stripped) recently, Google is now testing images in text ads through the Sitelinks extension.

In the below image, you can see an ad from Quote Wizard that contains a swipeable carousel of Sitelinks. For reference, we have also included a screenshot of how Sitelinks currently appear in search results:

Sitelinks with images - Visual Sitelinks

Left: the new Visual Sitelinks. Right: Sitelinks as they currently appear. Image source: Search Engine Land

As the original ad was seen on a mobile device, it’s currently unclear if the test is also running on desktop. However, we do know from Search Engine Land that they are called ‘Visual Sitelinks’.

The TJM take: Having already tested Visual Sitelinks in 2013 (without success), it’s interesting that Google have decided to trial them again. (Bing are testing their own image extensions as we speak).  Images work particularly well on mobile devices and it may be that mobiles were not user friendly enough 3 years back, so they could have been waiting for the tech to catch up.

Microsoft faces hurdles in its proposed takeover of LinkedIn

Microsoft has submitted their plans to takeover LinkedIn to the European Commission, following concerns that they will favour the platform over its competitors.

The acquisition of LinkedIn, which would be completed in a $26 billion deal, will require Microsoft to allow LinkedIn’s rivals to have access to its software, Fortune has explained. They will also have to give hardware makers the option to install other services.

As Fortune suggests, this indicates “that the company is keen to avoid any suggestion of packaging products to crush competitors”. This comes to no surprise when you consider the fact that Microsoft were previously fined for tying certain products to its operating system.

The TJM take: The office is split on whether or not this is a good investment. Salesforce have already been crying foul, and the EC will no doubt impose some strenuous access requirements. We expect the lawyers to be making the most out of the first year!

…one last thing: Facebook makes desktop layouts more customisable

Facebook have rolled out a new layout for desktop users, Social Media Examiner reported on its Facebook page and website last week.

The new layout appears to be far more customisable, with new features including the ability to personalise the middle section of your profile. There will also be new templates for different business type, as well as various tab options. This will make it easier to share the unique URL for each tab.

To update your company page with the new layout, Business Managers can go to ‘Settings’ and select the ‘Edit Page’ option.

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