Google tips the scales in its own favor–but do marketers care?; Tuesday’s daily brief
Plus, how inclusion leads to diversity in marketing
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Good morning, Marketers, and here we go again,
I’m sure you’ve seen the latest legal news surrounding Google’s antitrust cases (if you haven’t, check out the details below). We asked marketers for their reactions, and a common thread through this story and other Google-related news seems to be the marketers’ resignation to the issues. The prevailing attitude seems to be, “It’s Google’s world, and we’re just trying to do the best for our brands and clients in it.” The same attitude seemed to prevail in the zero-click search news. Many marketers said, “Yeah, it stinks, but what can we do?”
The opposing side, which Brad Geddes offers in the article below is that Google is trying to build a business and that any of us trying to do the same, would also use any competitive advantage. Similarly, some believe that Google is trying its best in search and advertising to serve the searcher and provide them the most relevant results — whether in ad or organic form.
It’s a common debate we have at Search Engine Land: What is the give and take between Google and marketers? How does the flux and flow between a tech giant and the rest of us work? What do you think? I’d love to hear your opinion. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Director of Search Content
Marketers not surprised by Google’s ‘Project Bernanke’, ‘Jedi Blue’
Ten states joined together in December 2020 to sue Google for allegedly monopolizing the digital advertising industry. The lawsuit claims that when Facebook began to gain traction as a rival advertiser, Google made an agreement with Facebook to reduce competition in exchange for giving the social media company an advantage in Google-run ad auctions. The project was called “Jedi Blue.”
Now, newly released and unredacted documents filed in that case (which have now been redacted) show Google operated a secret program that used data from past bids in the company’s digital advertising exchange to allegedly give its own ad-buying system an advantage over competitors. The advantage was called “Project Bernanke,” and it used bidding data that Google assembled from advertisers using the tech company’s own ad exchange to benefit itself.
Why we care. Well, it seems like some marketers just don’t. Many marketers just assume that Google is doing these things, and they have to work within that framework. “Unfortunately, there is no real replacement for Google when it comes to Google Ads,” said Amalia Fowler, director of marketing at Snaptech Marketing. “Microsoft is technically an alternative, but the sheer volume of searches on Google makes it no contest, so we’ve adopted this mindset of having to put up with Google.”
Others, however, do think the case will affect advertisers. “A central claim by the states is that advertisers were harmed. This is a key allegation in the amended complaint by the 14 states and Puerto Rico filed last month,” Mike Swift told Search Engine Land.
How inclusion can lead to diversity in marketing and communications
“The mission here is to spread the message. We’re quite evangelistic on our end,” said Dr. Lauren Tucker at the conclusion of a wide-ranging conversation about inclusion, equity and diversity. She is the founder of Do What Matters, a consultancy dedicated to promoting diversity in the marketing services industry, with a special focus on agencies. But when she talks about diversity, inclusion and equity, she puts inclusion and equity first. “We focus on operations and operational change, so we look to use inclusion-first management as a means of rewiring organizational behavior to make inclusion a default.”
Hiring a Chief Diversity Officer is not a panacea. “This is really top of mind for me,” said Tucker, “because I’ve had Chief Diversity Officers reach out to me in total frustration. Over the last year, it seems like everybody has decided to hire a Chief Diversity Officer. Don’t get me wrong, these are lovely people. Unfortunately, what it signifies is a bolt-on idea of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Instead, said Tucker, “what you need to do is focus on talent, and hire a Chief Talent Officer, whose sole responsibility is to manage that talent portfolio, and to advise the C-suite on what needs to be done.” Employee Resource Groups can help manage the social and cultural wellness of the agency, and they can help the Chief Talent Officer be the voice of the employees to the executive leadership.
“But they can also articulate the change narrative that needs to happen within, within the employee base, so that that communication goes both ways.” This, Tucker believes, is the way to leverage the positive aspects of employee activism.
SEO and security concerns drive the rise of headless and hybrid content management systems
Most of the Content Management Systems (CMSs) businesses use today were originally built for a single purpose — delivering content to a desktop web browser. Looking closer, WordPress — the open-source platform now used for everything from e-commerce to massive corporate sites and owning 65% of the CMS market — was built in 2003 as a blogging platform, competing with names you rarely hear today outside of a historical discussion.
The progress WordPress has made since its inception is undeniably admirable — it has nearly singlehandedly democratized web publishing and has remained incredibly versatile, in part because of a developer ecosystem responsible for nearly 60,000 plug-ins. This ecosystem enables the platform to be very responsive to trends — features often start as plug-ins and, as they gain popularity and utility, are later written into the core platform.
The flip-side of this strength is a debilitating weakness. Bolting-on functionality inevitably results in code bloat, and this vast ecosystem of plug-ins brings with it a not-insubstantial number of security vulnerabilities. Combine this with the increased importance of site speed for ranking in SERPs, along with marketers’ need to deliver content to more platforms than ever before, and you’ll understand why many are looking for an alternative to “Traditional” Content Management Systems.
With a value proposition similar to a customer data platform or a digital asset management platform, the Headless CMS serves as a repository for all of a company’s content — mostly textual, but also including images and other formats. It’s meant to be the “single source of
truth” for content marketers and it incorporates an application programming interface (API) that allows the CMS to deliver content to any channel.
How do most SMBs learn social media marketing? By winging it
The majority of SMBs learn social media marketing through trial and error, according to data from SkyNova. In a survey of over 400 entrepreneurs, 70% said they learned what works just by guessing, while 42% copied other brands and 39% used free online tutorials. The best part? Over one-third went off intuition. Sometimes when you know, you just know.
Microsoft acquires Nuance, Google blocklist investigations, Reddit tests its own Clubhouse, and Twitter pares down ad options
Microsoft acquired Nuance. Microsoft says it has acquired speech technology company Nuance for $19.7B, a 23% premium on its Friday closing price, as it boosts its healthcare offerings. We’re interested to see if Nuance’s AI technology will cross over into marketing solutions for searchers and advertisers, too.
Google hides YouTube hate videos from advertisers. Google uses a blocklist to try to stop advertisers from building YouTube ad campaigns around hate terms, but less than a third of the terms on the list were blocked in an investigation from The Markup.
Does Clubhouse need another competitor? Enter Reddit. Reddit is quietly exploring a new feature that would enable moderator-run voice chats, possibly similar to Clubhouse.
Twitter rebrands its advertising suite. In order to simplify and provide more clarity around their offerings, Twitter pared down their 22+ ad formats to just 5 advertising categories: promoted ads, follower ads, Twitter amplify, Twitter takeover, and Twitter live.
Does optimizing for “near me” work?
I remember reading a post in a general marketing Facebook group that someone had named their business “Plumber Near Me” to try to capture the local SEO audience looking for that exact term. My knee-jerk reaction was, “That’s not how any of this works.” Well, joke’s on me, according to data from Joy Hawkins with Sterling Sky.
“We have done a ton of testing on optimizing for ‘near me’ terms (ex: ‘plumber near me’) and have found that adding instances of ‘near you’, ‘nearby’ and ‘near me’ to the content of a page (including meta tags) does have a positive impact on ranking,” Hawkins wrote.
Another big surprise? Most “near me” searches are actually happening on desktop, not mobile. Hawkins said that, while small businesses may not have picked up this strategy yet, directory sites definitely have. So if your SMB and local SEO clients want to gain an advantage, try testing this strategy from Sterling Sky.