Search results, but without the search results page; Thursday’s daily brief
Plus, leaked documents suggest Amazon is abusing its position in India.
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Good morning, Marketers, can you imagine a search engine without a results page?
That’s what Neeva, the ad-free, private search engine, introduced yesterday — a feature called FastTap Search that enables users to bypass the results page via a list of direct links that are generated when the user puts a query into the URL bar or the Neeva app (learn more about the feature below).
It is very interesting to see what kind of features are possible when a search engine isn’t reliant on ad revenue. Neeva is supported by its subscribers, meaning that the company has no skin in the game when it comes to whether users spend time on their properties or head directly to another site.
Of course, Neeva is not on the same plane as Google, but neither is its strategy. Google has a similar feature (the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button that takes users straight to the top result for their query), but appears to be moving towards more robust results pages. In fact, its MUM-related announcements from Search On in September gave us a preview of results pages that lead to even more search results, with featured snippets that may resolve queries without users having to click through to another site.
Will Neeva’s new feature change the way we optimize for search? Unlikely, but I’m hoping this spurs even more innovation among search engines. That kind of competition is important because it often provides marketers with more opportunities, like the free product listings Google introduced last year (and Bing also launched shortly after), which help it compete against e-commerce platforms like Amazon.
Neeva’s ‘FastTap Search’ feature presents direct links instead of a results page
Neeva is launching a feature that enables searchers to type queries directly into the URL field of their browser or the Neeva app to be shown a drop-down menu with direct links. Dubbed “FastTap Search,” the feature allows users to bypass traditional search results pages and head directly to a site via the list of links generated based on the query. As Neeva’s founder and former SVP of ads at Google, Sridhar Ramaswamy, said in the announcement, this type of feature is made possible by the search engine’s unique business model, in which users pay $4.95 per month for an ad-free, customizable search experience.
Why we care. This feature may take on more significance if Neeva is able to increase its share of the search market or if Neeva is popular with your particular audience. While this is a reimagining of the search results page, it is still a list of results and there is still a top position, which means algorithms have to determine relevance and award that position to a page, just as they do on other search engines. However, since FastTap Search only presents a few results, the brands or publishers that are able to earn that top spot stand to gain significant visibility, which can be important if you operate in a highly competitive sector.
Facebook changes how it measures users for advertising purposes; Instagram introduces notifications for outages and a new Account Status tool
Facebook changes how it measures accounts for advertisers. “If someone does not have their Facebook and Instagram accounts linked in Accounts Center, we will consider those accounts as separate people for ads planning and measurement,” Facebook announced Monday, adding, “Facebook and Instagram accounts that are connected in Accounts Center will continue to be counted collectively as a single person.”
Previously, if someone used the same email address for both their Facebook and Instagram accounts or accessed both platforms using the same device, the company counted them as one person when they interacted with ads. As this new methodology rolls out over the next few weeks, advertisers should expect increases in pre-campaign estimates such as estimated audience size, “but for most campaigns we do not believe this will have a substantial impact on reported campaign reach,” Facebook said.
Instagram launches notifications for outages and a new Account Status tool. Instagram is testing Activity Feed notifications to inform users when the platform experiences outages (like the one from last week), technical issues and when those issues are resolved. “We won’t send a notification every single time there is an outage, but when we see that people are confused and looking for answers, we’ll determine if something like this could help make things clearer,” the company said. The test will run in the U.S. for the next few months.
Alongside that announcement, the company also unveiled a new tool called “Account Status.” The tool is designed to inform users about whether their account is at risk of being disabled. Within the tool, users can see if their content has been removed and why. They can also appeal a removal by requesting a review from their Account Status menu.
For the visual learners among us
“Short Videos” carousel spotted on desktop. First appearing as a test in mobile search results in November 2020, Brodie Clark has spotted a “Short Videos” carousel in Google’s desktop search results (shown above). The screenshot even includes a video from TikTok. Search feature junkies might also want to bookmark Brodie’s timeline of Google SERP features, which is sure to become even more handy as the company experiments with more features.
I heard you like flowcharts. Aleyda Solis has published her 10 favorite flowcharts to support SEO decision making. The charts can help you avoid the “it depends” answer with stakeholders, they may be easier to understand for non-SEOs and can make the criteria for various decisions more transparent.
Shipping delays mean Santa’s got some bad news this year. Marketoonist Tom Fishburne addresses supply chain slowdowns with the help of Santa and a young child wondering whether a year of good behavior was even worth it. Fishburne’s take is especially pertinent since so many businesses pivoted to e-commerce over the last year and a half. If you’re looking to learn how shipping delays might affect your advertising, check out Fred Vallaeys’ post on the subject over at Optmyzr.
What We’re Reading: Leaked documents suggest Amazon has been doing exactly what some merchants and regulators have suspected for years
“Use information from Amazon.in to develop products and then leverage the Amazon.in platform to market these products to our customers” — That quote comes from an internal Amazon document that details the strategy for Solimo, a private brand Amazon created in India. Reuters reporters have analyzed thousands of internal Amazon documents showing that, in India, the e-commerce platform ran campaigns to create knockoff products, undercut the original brands and promote them using manipulated search results.
“The documents show that two executives reviewed the India strategy – senior vice presidents Diego Piacentini, who has since left the company, and Russell Grandinetti, who currently runs Amazon’s international consumer business,” wrote Aditya Kalra and Steve Stecklow for Reuters.
The documents are about as damning as it gets: There are specific instructions on identifying which brands to “replicate,” a strategy for partnering with the manufacturers of the original item, there’s even a designated term for the practice of placing Amazon’s own newly launched private brand items in the top three ASINs in search results — “search seeding”; seedy indeed. Focusing specifically on the above-mentioned Solimo brand, Amazon matched or exceeded the quality of competing products but were 10–15% cheaper, the documents from 2016 revealed.
This is bad news for merchants who have reached a high degree of success selling their own products on Amazon: “It is third-party sellers who bear the initial costs and uncertainties when introducing new products; by merely spotting them, Amazon gets to sell products only once their success has been tested,” Lina Khan, now-chair of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, wrote in a 2017 paper for the Yale Law Journal. “The anticompetitive implications here seem clear: Amazon is exploiting the fact that some of its customers are also its rivals.”
“As Reuters hasn’t shared the documents or their provenance with us, we are unable to confirm the veracity or otherwise of the information and claims as stated,” Amazon said in a written response. “We believe these claims are factually incorrect and unsubstantiated.”