How Google, The Original Gangster, Should Settle All Family Business

Three big eCommerce developments in the world of video. The key takeaways from a massive Instagram study. And experts squabble about whether SEO is growing or dying - who do you believe?

Should Google Get Back To The Basics?

As advertisers scramble to adjust campaigns and expectations through the tumultuous season of the iOS 14.5 rollout, I can’t help but think about the future of digital marketing.

Who is best positioned for the future? Who has the technical & political chops to navigate the current privacy climate? And who will innovate the fastest and be the trendsetter for the next generation of platforms?

The more I think about these questions, the more I believe, as with most things, the solution to our modern problems can be found in the past.

Google is the OG of digital marketing. Before social media was a thing, Google built AdWords on a backbone of their strengths - search and indexing. They intelligently placed ads where users wanted to see them - in the SERP. And they expanded all over the web with contextual-targeted Display ads. 

Although basic by today’s standards, the methodology was genius because it required very little knowledge about those consuming the ads. The searcher provided the search query, and the publishers’ pages were being crawled anyway. Essentially, Google knew about everything else besides the searcher. And that was enough. 

As we do this privacy dance between advertisers, users, and politicians, it seems painfully obvious that one solution is the original one. Google could (and perhaps should) play the noble knight. They could ceremoniously abandon all invasive user tracking (a game they are losing to Facebook anyway, btw) and triumphantly return to what last week I called their bread and butter - Search and contextual targeting (YouTube & Display). 

There are, of course, threats to this approach. Ad inventory is shrinking. The marketplace is saturated. Discovery is a challenge. And a more modern approach performs better (more data almost always does).

But if you are Google, you have leverage. If you can lower the bar that serves as the data collection standard through PR and political posturing, you win. You could reallocate the resources working on the modern approach to making search a better product, expanding Shopping into a discovery machine (think ‘more Pinterest, less Amazon’), bringing more eCommerce functionality to YouTube (the birthplace of influencers), and provide more placements for Display (after all, publishers are begging for more revenue).

Lest we forget, Google still has Analytics code on most websites and the world’s most popular email service. So they have properties they could leverage. And most users, myself included, would love to see Google build new digital productivity tools. Gmail & Drive were huge hits. But the shelves on which they sit are getting dusty. 

I, for one, am fascinated to watch this power struggle play out. The tech giants have existed for so long without stepping on each others’ toes. But those days are over. And to the victor goes the spoils. 


🗣 Social Advertising

Instagram Engagement Stats in 2021 | Socialinsider

• The Instagram engagement rate has been on a flat line in 2019, followed by a notable increase during the first half of 2020, only to go down to the initial rate of around 2.02% after that. • Higher Instagram engagement is mainly brought by carousels, especially for small accounts (under 5K), but when it comes to medium ones, it’s better to choose video. • Shorter captions, up to 10 words, combined with carousels form the posts to which users prefer to interact with. But worth mentioned, captions with more than 30 words are better paired with videos. • The average impressions rate had greater values for 2020, compared to 2019, being found around carousels, which may tell us that Instagram is pushing this type of content in people’s feeds more. • Carousels are getting more likes than any other media type. • People are more open to comment on video posts across all profile sizes.

TikTok will no longer let people opt out of personalized ads - The Verge

People will still be able to control whether TikTok personalizes ads based on data pulled from other apps and websites. The change in TikTok’s privacy settings reflects the way ads already operate on many social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Users can opt out of advertising that’s personalized based on tracking across different sites, but not the personalization based on activity within the sites themselves.

An odd announcement when most social apps are scaling back their user tracking and data collection. This change takes place on April 15th. 

NBCU unveils Facebook and Instagram e-commerce deals during developer conference | Ad Age

The new partnership will bring NBCU’s commerce tools and its retail partner network alongside Instagram and Facebook’s shoppable capabilities. This will allow consumers to shop products from NBCU’s 100-plus retail partners directly in posts, stories and livestreams on NBCU’s social channels. For example, if a Real Housewife is curating her favorite accessories, NBCU can share a shoppable article or video on Instagram and create a shopping experience around it.

This was one of several commerce deals NBCU showcased during the event today, which was designed to serve as an “open invitation for development partners to plug in to One Platform and help evolve and make it interoperable with the rest of the ecosystem,” says Krishan Bhatia, president and chief business officer, advertising sales, NBCU.

In a post-iOS 14.5 world, Facebook & Instagram want to keep the whole transaction on their network. So look for many more partnerships like this to emerge in the coming months. 

Anthropologie Debuts Digital-Only Catalog on Pinterest

AnthroLiving is a virtual lookbook of Anthropologie’s Spring Home Collection, which includes household decor and furniture. 

  • AnthroLiving allows customers to window shop the latest home decor trends and pin products to buy now or later.

  • Of Pinterest’s 450+ million global monthly active users, 85+ million monthly active users “engage with home content.” That's the corner Anthropologie is targeting.

🔎 Organic

Google Refutes Data on 'Zero-Click' Searches and the Role it Plays in Guiding Referral Traffic | Social Media Today

As explained by SparkToro's Rand Fishkin:

"From January to December, 2020, 64.82% of searches on Google (desktop and mobile combined) ended in the search results without clicking to another web property. That number is likely undercounting some mobile and nearly all voice searches, and thus it’s probable that more than 2/3rds of all Google searches are what I’ve been calling “zero-click searches.”

Google zero-click searches That figure is up from 50.33% zero-click searches in 2019, which SparkToro also shared data on at the time.

The trend is a concern for SEO practitioners, as it suggests that, increasingly, Google is looking to limit the amount of traffic it's directing from search, with new additions like info-panels, featured snippets, videos etc. That could mean that, in order to maximize your search results, you should increasingly be focusing on these in-SERP elements, and content on Google's own properties (like YouTube). But it also suggests that Google may be angling the tables in its own favor, which raises antitrust concerns.

The report clearly struck a nerve at Google HQ, because today, Google has published an official response to the data, noting that:

"As practitioners across the search industry have noted, this claim relies on flawed methodology that misunderstands how people use Search. In reality, Google Search sends billions of clicks to websites every day, and we’ve sent more traffic to the open web every year since Google was first created. And beyond just traffic, we also connect people with businesses in a wide variety of ways through Search, such as enabling a phone call to a business."

Google, indeed, seems none-to-happy with the report, with the search giant arguing that the concept of 'zero-click' searches is not nuanced enough to provide an accurate picture of what's really happening:

"People don’t always know how to word their queries when they begin searching. They might start with a broad search, like “sneakers” and, after reviewing results, realize that they actually wanted to find “black sneakers.” In this case, these searches would be considered a “zero-click” - because the search didn’t result immediately in a click to a website. In the case of shopping for sneakers, it may take a few “zero-click” searches to get there, but if someone ultimately ends up on a retailer site and makes a purchase, Google has delivered a qualified visitor to that site, less likely to bounce back dissatisfied."

📈 Reporting

Google Will Not Run FLoC Origin Tests In Europe Due To GDPR Concerns (At Least For Now) | AdExchanger

“For countries in Europe, we will not be turning on origin trials [of FLoC] for users in EEA [European Economic Area] countries,” Kleber said.

Specifically, Google will not proceed with FLoC testing in Europe due to concerns over which entity will serve as the data controller and which will serve as the data processor in the creation of cohorts.

Kleber seemed pretty definitive in his statement. Several hours after the meeting, however, came a follow-up tweet from Marshall Vale, a Chrome product manager, who wrote, "We are starting this FLoC origin trial for users in the US and select other countries, and we expect to make FLoC available for testing worldwide at a later date."

GDPR continues to be a hot mess. It’s wild that a company like Google would be unable to tell how FLoC’s would be treated by a standards body like IWABG. That’s exactly why they exist.

📺 Video

YouTube test features and experiments - YouTube Community

Testing automated list of products detected in videos: We are experimenting with a new feature that displays a list of products detected in some videos, as well as related products. The feature will appear in between the recommended videos, to viewers scrolling below the video player. The goal is to help people explore more videos and information about those products on YouTube. This feature will be visible to people watching videos in the US. 

These innovations are clear opportunities for Google, and they require minimal customer data. This is exactly why I’m so bullish on Google. 

Peak Design claims Amazon copied its Everyday Sling bag - The Verge

Peak Design, a maker of fine bags and accessories, has a problem: Amazon appears to have copied its popular bag, the $99.95 Everyday Sling, with its own $32.99 Amazon Basics Camera Bag. It was even called Everyday Sling until Peak Design’s video. Rather than do anything drastic, yet, Peak Design decided to make a video about what customers “gain” by purchasing Amazon’s version.

Slow-clap for this video. Well done. 

🎙️ Audio

Twitter Expands Test Pool for Spaces on Android, as Clubhouse Falls in Daily Download Rankings | Social Media Today

Maintaining user interest is already set to be a big challenge for Clubhouse, with Twitter offering much broader audience reach. And with most of the platform's top broadcasters and hosts already having established, large Twitter followings, it makes sense that many of them will consider broadcasting on Twitter instead, in order to reach the largest possible audience with their efforts.

That then puts the onus on Clubhouse to provide more value in other ways, likely through clever algorithm matching, to highlight the best, most relevant broadcasts to each user, or banking on niche community interests to keep people coming back.

Either way, scale looks set to be a problem, with Clubhouse still in invite-only mode.

And already, that could be the cause of a slowdown in interest for the app.

As you can see in this chart from Sensor Tower, Clubhouse's download rankings have been on a steady decline over the past month, dropping from 37th on the US App Store charts, to 172nd today.

⚖️ Legislation

Memo: The End of Conglomeration – 2PM

Under the current interpretation of antitrust laws, Amazon seems to be getting a free pass. So I should say that antitrust laws in, their current state, don’t prohibit conglomeration. They don’t prohibit a single company from being involved in all these different lines of business. But what they are supposed to prevent is a company that enjoys a dominant footprint in one area of the market, using that footprint to leverage its way into other markets, and so I think that’s the area where Amazon potentially should be facing scrutiny.

This post wasn’t written last week, but that is when I discovered it. eCommerce Analyst, Web Smith, unpacks how Amazon is challenging antitrust law through a whole new lens, leaning heavily on the thoughts on Lina Khan. 

This is relevant to us today because the Biden Administration recently nominated Ms. Khan to be a FTC Commissioner. So we have a pretty good feel for how she might approach Amazon. 

Via The Verge

With Khan replacing Democratic Commissioner Rohit Chopra, Biden has one more seat to fill before Democrats have a 3-2 majority at the agency and can begin filing suits or making settlements. For the interim, Acting Chair Rebecca Slaughter is leading the FTC, but Biden hasn’t announced who he’ll officially nominate to lead the agency. It’s unclear if Biden’s FTC chair will be as skeptical of tech’s market power as Khan and Slaughter.

💰 Revenue

🛍 Marketplace

Study: Brand activism sways buying behavior, brand impression for 58% of consumers | Marketing Dive

Nearly half (49%) of consumers view the overall trend of brand activism positively, with 17% having a negative view and 34% remaining neutral, according to a survey by market research firm Piplsay. The activism in question included brands like PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Mars and Hasbro making changes to logos and product names to address social issues like racism and gender-neutrality.

Speaking of...

H&M, Nike Face Boycotts in China as Xinjiang Becomes Wedge Issue - Bloomberg

“Want to make money in China while spreading false rumors and boycotting Xinjiang cotton? Wishful thinking!” the Communist Youth League said in a post on Weibo, referring to H&M. One of the PLA’s Weibo accounts called H&M’s statement “ignorant and arrogant.”

The Communist Party’s move to target companies over Xinjiang shows President Xi Jinping’s government is seeking to impose real costs for governments and businesses that criticize China’s human-rights record as the Biden administration aims to unite allies over the issue. Beijing slapped reciprocal sanctions on European Union officials on Monday, following coordinated sanctions and statements by the EU, U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

H&M shares fell as much as 4.4% in Stockholm. Nike shares fell as much as 5.4% in New York before the start of regular trading Thursday.

Nike made a calculated brand move when it associated itself with Colin Kaepernick and the BLM protests. But now they find themselves in the middle of a much more difficult human rights discussion - do they side with the estimated 1.5 million Uyghurs China is currently holding in concentration camps or with the Chinese government and the world’s second-biggest economy.

📦 Distribution

On-demand logistics and fulfillment startup Flowspace raises $31M | VentureBeat

Founded in 2017, Flowspace offers fulfillment and distribution services, warehouses, and a team of workers that help pick, pack, and ship products. Customers can track inbound and outbound shipments to and from warehouses and access a network intelligence tool for real-time insights and logistics recommendations. Companies get an overview of all the items in their Flowspace warehouses. And they can see inventory, orders, and things that require action.

The company that commoditized everything, Amazon, continues to have their special sauce commoditized.

🦠 Coronavirus

4 Trends That Will Shape the Post-Pandemic DTC Landscape | Inc.com

  1. Small businesses and big brands will both be forced to adopt e-commerce

  2. Consumers will continue to double down on convenience

  3. Supply chains will be diversified--to make sure something like this doesn't happen again

  4. Text and mobile touch points with customers will increase

🛠 Tips & Tools

Name Your Business | Disruptive Naming Agency | Squadhelp

Launch a naming contest to engage hundreds of naming experts as you’re guided through our agency-level naming process. Or, explore our hand-picked collection of premium names available for immediate purchase

It’s 99designs, but for naming your business. 

Formfacade - Embed Google Forms in your website

Make your (Google) form look like your website

Clever idea. 

Final Report: PPC Salary Survey 2021 : PPC

Each year PPC Friend, Duane Brown, compiles salary data from hundreds of paid media managers. The 2021 report was published this week and provides lots of great data points if you are hiring a paid media manager.