Greg Sterling, Author at Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Thu, 03 Mar 2022 20:44:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.2 As local media lose budgets, Field Day offers ‘last mile activation’ for brands /as-local-media-lose-budgets-field-day-offers-last-mile-activation-for-brands-344661 Fri, 11 Dec 2020 18:20:48 +0000 /?p=344661 The company says it offers local human outreach at scale.

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Traditional media spending, including local TV, print, radio, out-of-home and direct mail, will be down between 15% and nearly 50% this year, depending on the medium. Some advertisers will never return, having shifted spending entirely to digital channels.

The decline of traditional, local media spending, however, doesn’t eliminate the need for a local marketing presence. Indeed, in some ways, the need for the trust and credibility that local media and marketing confer may be even greater now than in the recent past. Enter Field Day, which offers “last mile activation” and local field marketing to brands at scale.

Roster of B2B and B2C brands

Headquartered in Venice, California the company was founded in 2017. It has more than 50 national brand customers, including both B2B and B2C brands such as T-Mobile, Panera, Staples, Square, AT&T, Boston Market, Jamba Juice and Lyft, among others.

Field Day helps national-local brands realize ‘last mile opportunity’

Source: Field Day

Field Day has used the so-called “gig economy” model to build an extensive roster of local contractors that can offer a range of services on a one-time, periodic or ongoing basis to enterprises. This includes inside and outside sales, as well as the ability to physically interact with customers in and around business locations (e.g., deliver samples) or local events.

What Field Day offers is almost unique in my observation: local reach with human engagement, built into a digital platform that makes nationwide scale immediately accessible.

The shift to telephone sales

Field Day CEO Alex Nocifera says that the company has screened more than 10,000 applicants and interviewed and trained more than 2,000 local “brand ambassadors” in 500 local markets since its inception. Unlike many other gig economy companies that offer relatively low pay, Field Day is paying $25 an hour.

According to Nocifera, Field Day is an “end to end solution for local sales and marketing activations” for multi-location brands. While one might expect the demand for local field marketing to have radically diminished during COVID, Nocifera told me that he’s seen increased demand because many of his customers “weren’t seeing conversions on digital; the time to market on TV and radio takes too long and ‘good OOH inventory’ wasn’t available.”

As mentioned, Field Day’s local brand ambassadors historically went into the community or visited businesses. COVID has, for the time being, shifted focus to the telephone, where the company competes with more traditional telemarketing vendors. The difference, Nocifera says, is the local knowledge and presence his ambassadors bring, compared with people in an actual or distributed call center, often offshore.

Field Day local field marketing process

Source: Field Day

Nocifera said that 90% of calls being made by Field Day ambassadors are being answered, which is almost unbelievable, given how people increasingly ignore calls if they don’t recognize phone numbers. But he says it’s because Field Day ambassadors are calling work phone numbers, which are typically being forwarded to mobile phones. And because of the “local connection, empathy and trust” that local ambassadors offer, 45% of calls are capturing desired information, such as email addresses, or otherwise achieving the targeted objective. (In this context, Field Day offers an interesting first-party data collection tool.)

Brand and performance marketing at the local level

Brands typically buy packages of hours by store, restaurant or business location depending on their objectives. This can be in a concentrated period or over the course of an extended period of time. Right now, packages typically involve phone outreach and follow-up. However, in the past and presumably after COVID is over, Field Day will return to a broader mix of services. For example, fast-casual restaurants have used Field Day to distribute samples or offers/coupons to businesses within a radius of new store locations.

Nocifera says Field Day has been used by national-local brands for both awareness and performance marketing. And unlike some local media channels, the company also offers digital reporting and analytics.

One potential issue is whether brands have any hesitation relying on contractors to represent them. However, Nocifera said that there’s extensive training that occurs through the Field Day platform and that reps are closely monitored for performance. “We’re watching performance daily and coaching them or, sometimes coaching them out; we record every call.” (This call data offers another interesting opportunity for brands.) He added that the pandemic has also created an available talent pool of high-quality applicants.

Lots of industry discussion suggests the future of marketing is entirely digital. But companies that invest exclusively in digital campaigns may find those channels are sometimes expensive and often less efficient than expected. That’s what drove many direct-to-consumer brands offline and into traditional media before the pandemic.

The future of marketing for brands with physical locations or those that sell through stores is a mix of online and offline — a hybrid model that recognizes the parallel integration of the digital and physical in consumers’ daily lives.

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Even as more people shop online, searches for ‘available near me’ up over 100% vs. last year /even-as-more-people-shop-online-searches-for-available-near-me-up-over-100-vs-last-year-344558 Thu, 10 Dec 2020 18:51:52 +0000 /?p=344558 Google's Reena Nadkarni explains what retailers can do to drive local sales.

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Despite new state lockdowns and significant e-commerce growth over Black Friday weekend, large numbers of consumers continue to shop offline. Beyond this, local shopping remains critical for most small businesses (SMBs), many of whom may not survive if they don’t make their Q4 sales numbers.

Google, Facebook, Yelp, Waze and others have initiated programs and product changes to help local businesses throughout the pandemic. Google My Business introduced numerous updates and changes this year, most recently launching a Small Business Advisors program to improve Google product knowledge and utilization.

Consumers more cautious, yet focused

To gain a better sense of what Google thinks retailers (large and small) can and should be doing now to maximize local sales, I spoke with Reena Nadkarni, Head of Product Management, Local Ads.

“Most shoppers now plan ahead about when and where to shop,” said Nadkarni. That stands in marked contrast with past offline “browsing” behavior, where people typically went out and visited numerous stores on a spree, looking for inspiration.

“They want to feel safe; they’re trying to avoid crowds,” Nadkarni observed. Among other things, that means implementing contactless payments, curbside pickup, real-time product inventory and online communication about in-store safety protocols. Indeed, most local restaurants I’ve dealt with in the past six months have online ordering or take contactless payments or both.

In support of her observations and recommendations, Nadkarni cited a range of Google 2020 surveys and search data:

  • 80% of shoppers will consolidate shopping to make fewer trips than in previous years.
  • Searches for “available near me” have grown globally by more than 100% since last year.
  • 67% of shoppers plan to confirm online that a desired item is in stock before going to buy it.

Getting local product inventory data online

This last point, nearly 70% of consumers want assurances that their item is in-stock before visiting a store (or buying online for curbside pickup), relies on real-time product inventory. Large retailers can get their inventory online with a local product inventory feed through the Google Merchant Center. That inventory can then be showcased in Local Inventory Ads (or organic popular products), which indicate whether the item is in stock and available for curbside pickup — or will be available in a few days (“pick up later“).

In contrast to large retailers, SMBs have either not shown interest or been technically challenged by the idea of posting real-time inventory online. However, Google’s January, 2020 acquisition of Pointy enables small retailers to add products to their GMB profiles and simplifies the process of running Local Inventory Ads.

Pointy uses an ingenious and simple method to get local store inventory online, which can then be presented in organic search results or paid search ads. It uses a small and inexpensive device that attaches to a point-of-sale barcode scanner. It requires little or no effort on the part of the business owner and is compatible with multiple POS systems.

Local campaigns and smart bidding for store visits

Beyond Local Inventory Ads, Nadkarni pointed to Local Campaigns, which run across multiple Google properties, including Search, Maps and GDN. They can “highlight products available at your store, curbside or in-store service options, health and safety updates, special promotions, and important business changes on a store-by-store basis at scale for multiple locations.”

The primary objective of Local Campaigns is to drive offline sales. Nadkarni also suggested Smart Bidding for store visits, which enables local marketers to optimize campaigns (limited availability) for store visits.

She added that marketers also need to pay close attention to “digital tools and measurement reporting to keep a pulse on changing consumer behavior and foot traffic.” These include retail category reporting, store visits and store sales reporting, which can help marketers understand consumer intent and changing consumer behavior.

Options for ‘very small businesses’

Most businesses in the U.S. fall into a category that some call “very small businesses” (VSBs). In fact, roughly 90% of businesses verified in Google My Business have only one location (this comes via Google My Business Platinum Product Expert Ben Fisher). For businesses that can’t replace local sales with online transactions, Nadkarni again recommends Local Campaigns.

One issue is that many VSBs don’t have meaningful marketing budgets. In such cases Nadkarni advises that they take advantage the multiple Google My Business features, which are free:

  • Complete GMB profiles (including images)
  • Relevant business attributes (e.g., curbside pickup)
  • Publish Google Posts/COVID Posts
  • Product inventory information (if possible)
  • Regularly update hours and safety information to keeps customers apprised of changes in this volatile shopping environment

Finally, it’s critical for businesses of all sizes to actively manage their reputations on Google and other review platforms.

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New EU regulations compel more transparency for search rankings /new-eu-regulations-compel-more-transparency-for-search-rankings-344482 Tue, 08 Dec 2020 15:52:49 +0000 /?p=344482 Guidelines seek disclosure of major ranking factors by Google, Amazon.

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The effort to reverse engineer and improve visibility in Google search results spawned an industry. Now the EU wants to make it easier for non-SEO professionals, especially small businesses, to understand how search rankings work.

Guidelines support 2019 regulation. That effort is embodied in regulatory guidelines released yesterday in Europe. They ask search engines, “online intermediation services” (e.g., marketplaces) and travel sites to disclose ranking factors and update them each time a meaningful algorithmic change takes place. This extends to the influence of payments and ads on organic rankings.

Their stated purpose is “to improve predictability and help users improve the presentation of their goods and services, or a characteristic of those goods and services.” In other words, the EU wants to demystify search and marketplace rankings for marketers, merchants and publishers.

The guidelines were developed in support of “Article 5 of Regulation (EU) 2019/1150 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services.” They appear substantially directed at product search results but they’re written in a way that suggests very broad application.

Public description in plain language. The guidelines say they’re not legally binding but are designed to help “facilitate compliance” with Article 5, which says (in relevant part), “Providers of online search engines shall set out the main parameters, which individually or collectively are most significant in determining ranking and the relative importance of those main parameters, by providing an easily and publicly available description, drafted in plain and intelligible language, on the online search engines of those providers. They shall keep that description up to date.”

These ranking factors can be presented in different places though the guidelines recommend “a single touchpoint (for example in a user ‘dashboard’) that could reference or index all the relevant informational tools available to explain ranking transparency.” Regardless, the information can’t be buried in terms and conditions; it must be found in “an easily accessible location on the online search engine’s webpage. This may be an area that does not require users to log in or register to be able to read the description.”

As indicated, the discussion of ranking parameters should be presented “in plain and intelligible language,” although in some cases it can be more technical for “professional users.”

Ranking variables but not algorithms must be disclosed. Article 5 and the guidelines also say that search engines and marketplaces are not required “to disclose algorithms or any information that, with reasonable certainty, would result in the enabling of deception of consumers or consumer harm through the manipulation of search results.”

Accordingly, they need to enumerate the key variables or considerations that determine rankings but not the algorithms themselves. However search engines and marketplaces are obligated to “describe the ‘relative importance’ of the main parameters.”

Some hypothetical ranking parameters provided by the EU include:

  • Page-loading speed
  • Security (e.g. HTTPS)
  • Images (e.g. type, number, quality)
  • Consumer reviews (e.g. number, rating, recent)
  • Trader-Consumer Interaction (e.g. answered queries, responsiveness)
  • Dispute settlement history (e.g. number of consumer complaints, solutions found)
  • ‘Offline’ service quality indicators (e.g. hotel star rating, delivery performance, the degree to which places, brands etc. are familiar or well known in society)
  • Data protection ‘score’, e.g. based on reviewing the privacy policies of apps by an app store
  • Web accessibility
  • Content quality
  • Key word tagging
  • Title accuracy and relevance
  • Concise answers, for example as regards products or services offered, or in response to FAQs

Why we should care. While the intent of Article 5 and the corresponding guidelines is to bring more fairness and transparency to search and digital marketplaces, it’s not yet clear what any of this will look like in practice. One compliant model might be something like what Google does in local, with advice on how to improve visibility and rankings.

Yet the guidelines also ask marketplaces and search engines, effectively, to rank the ranking factors, identifying their “relative importance” — in other words, whether page speed, for example, is more important than reviews. Even though most of the ranking variables used by Google are widely known and openly discussed, the disclosure of their hierarchical importance could be significant for marketers and their clients.

Download The Periodic Table of SEO Factors

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YouTube remains dominant source of video in top Google ranking positions /youtube-remains-dominant-source-of-video-in-top-google-ranking-positions-344458 Tue, 08 Dec 2020 14:20:34 +0000 /?p=344458 Study found 83% of videos in search results carousel come from YouTube.

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There’s a perception that Google favors YouTube content above other video sites in search results. A July, 2020 Wall Street Journal analysis found “Google searches placed YouTube videos first in video carousel results by an overwhelming margin . . . [compared with] other video platforms.”

An earlier search ranking study from 2017 by Perficient Digital concluded, “YouTube videos rank far more frequently in the top 10 than videos that are either self-hosted, or hosted on other video platforms.” And now a follow-up study by Perficient reaffirms these findings.

For its part, Google has repeatedly denied that it gives any preference to YouTube over other sources of video content. Google’s Gary Illyes previously said that YouTube ranks well because they “do good SEO, or their pages are structured in such a way that it’s easy for us to understand them and to rank.”

Google, YouTube Ranking algorithms ‘fundamentally different.’ In the current study, Perficient found that YouTube videos continue to “dominate the videos ranking within Google,” especially in video carousels. It also found that the ranking algorithms for video in Google search and on YouTube “are fundamentally different.”

The research examined Google search and YouTube rankings for the same roughly 6,100 search queries on both sites. The objective was to “evaluate YouTube’s dominance in the Google SERPs and how video rankings vary between YouTube and Google.” It determined the ranking algorithms of the two sites were quite different and the top ranked videos (from YouTube) in Google results didn’t correspond to YouTube rankings.

Where videos in Google search results appear

YouTube videos appear mostly in carousel. Videos can appear on Google in featured snippets, rich snippets, carousels and in general organic results. Perficient found that YouTube videos tended to mostly appear in the carousel, and to a lesser degree rich snippets, while videos from third party sites were more often found in organic results lower down on the page.

The study discovered that video rankings for the same queries were different in Google and on YouTube roughly 64% of the time. Perficient conjectures this has to do with differing user intent on the two platforms and different monetization strategies for each site.

Google has been consistently criticized by rivals for appearing to “favor its own content” in search results. That contention is at the heart of the current antitrust suit against the company. And the Perficient study provides more ammunition to the company’s critics.

Why we should care. Of potentially greater interest to many search marketers are Perficient’s video optimization recommendations for both Google and YouTube that also appear at the end of the report. Video remains and under-utilized strategy by many marketers, as well as another opportunity to rank in search results.

The study observes that videos tend to appear in Google results most often for “informational queries, tutorials and how-to queries, reviews and entertainment.” Query relevance and links are the two major ranking variables for video. However Perficient said, “we saw many instances of videos with weaker link profiles outranking other videos due to higher relevance.”

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Apple’s data-collection ‘nutrition labels’ for apps will begin appearing next week /apples-data-collection-nutrition-labels-for-apps-will-begin-appearing-next-week-344374 Fri, 04 Dec 2020 20:27:11 +0000 /?p=344374 Developers are now required to self-report to Apple on the data they collect from users. Very few will escape the new rules.

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Whether marketers like it or not, Apple (and others) are forcing greater transparency on them. Although Apple delayed its “permission to track,” opt-in rules until next year, its “privacy nutrition labels” for app developers go into effect next week on Dec. 8.

Information self-reported. First announced at Apple’s WWDC developer event this summer, these data-collection disclosures ask developers to self-report the categories of information collected by their apps. Developers will need to provide the required disclosures in App Store Connect. It will be mandatory for app updates and new app submissions.

Data collection “nutrition labels” go into effect next week

Publishers will also need to report the data captured and transmitted to third party partners, which include “analytics tools, advertising networks, third-party SDKs, or other external vendors whose code you’ve added to your app.”

Few publishers will avoid this. Apple has identified a broad range of data categories that require disclosure in the App Store:

  • Contact/identity information
  • Health and fitness information
  • Location data
  • Financial information (e.g., payments, credit score, etc.)
  • Any “sensitive info” (demographic data, opinions, sexual orientation, biometric data, etc.)
  • Data tied to collection of information on a user’s contacts
  • User-generated content (email, texts, photos, videos, etc.)
  • Search or browsing history
  • User or device IDs
  • Purchase-history data (e.g., e-commerce/retail apps)
  • Usage/analytics data (e.g., launches, clicks, views, etc.)
  • Diagnostic data (e.g., crash information)

Apple also identifies a limited number of circumstances where data collection disclosures are optional. However, there are four criteria that all must be met to avoid the disclosures.

Mock up of required privacy disclosures

Image source: Apple

The vast majority of publishers will need to provide these disclosures and very few will escape them. The question is whether and how they might impact consumer behavior or app adoption.

Why we care. Privacy rules tied to Europe’s GDPR and California’s CCPA have produced few actual changes in consumer behavior because they substantially place the burden on users to understand and engage with the opt-in/opt-out tools. With Apple’s new labeling, many people may similarly gloss over or blow by them and download apps in much the same way people don’t read End-user License Agreements and click “accept.”

Apple’s moves should all be seen in the larger context of the demise of third party cookies, intelligent tracking prevention and advertising ID/IDFA “deprecation.” Tectonic change is coming to audience tracking, retargeting and attribution. Having said that, consumers may not be scared away by these data-collection disclosures and their impact on marketers may be marginal. Opting-in to tracking, coming next year, will potentially be a different story.

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Google adds more discovery to Google Maps with ‘community feed’ /google-adds-more-discovery-to-google-maps-with-community-feed-344258 Tue, 01 Dec 2020 20:38:37 +0000 /?p=344258 The new feed offers more opportunities for local business exposure.

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Google is further developing the “social features” of Google Maps with the rollout of a new “community feed” under the Explore tab of Google Maps. This is happening globally for both Android and the iPhone.

Last November Google started enabling users to follow LocalGuides. That was done in the name of local discovery. Expanding on that concept, Google’s new community feed presents a different types of content (essentially lists) tied to the user’s location.

Places and activities. There are a range of activities and places showcased. The lists all appear to have been compiled by Google Local Guides. Example lists are “Parks & Gardens in Paris,” “New York City Local Favorites” and “Best Dog Parks from Sacramento to San Francisco.” The lists change by location and don’t appear to be generic. However, each place features a “Trending Weekly: [location]” list.

Local places and activities discovery in the Maps community feed

This is interesting and useful for consumers. But there’s a clear marketing angle. Users are able to receive updates (Google Posts) from business locations on Google Maps. Collected in one place these basically resemble Instagram feeds.

More exposure for Google Posts. Google wrote in its blog post, “In early testing of the community feed we saw that posts from merchants are seen two times more than before the feed existed. So now more people can see if a local business is offering a new service, has a limited time specialty or opened outdoor seating.”

Individual businesses can’t be “followed” in the same way as the lists — using a simple follow button. But users can save individual places and those Posts appear under the Google Maps update tab. Google should probably make the mechanism consistent so there’s no consumer confusion.

The update feed is not customized to your current location. It consists of every business saved regardless of location. So if you saved a bunch of places for that vacation a year ago (when that was still possible), you’ll get ongoing updates from those businesses, even though you’re no longer in Cincinnati, San Diego or Paris.

Why we should care. This is a very interesting development for Google Maps. It remains to be seen whether Google actively promotes the community feed and growing number of discovery tools in Maps. And it’s not clear how many people use the Explore or Updates tabs in the app. But even if it’s a tiny fraction of the overall base — more than 1 billion monthly active users — it’s still a lot of people.

The community feed, which features Google Posts’ content and links, could become an effective promotional tool for local-area businesses and retailers, even e-commerce. Of course, users need to opt-in to receive business updates. But once they do, I suspect Google sees increased engagement and a lift in conversions (e.g., order online).

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Google Guaranteed badge starting to appear on Google Maps listings /google-guaranteed-badge-starting-to-appear-on-google-maps-listings-343989 Thu, 19 Nov 2020 22:32:49 +0000 /?p=343989 Google seems to be testing how consumers react to Google Guaranteed badges in places other than in Local Services Ads.

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Google has been making a big push of late with Local Services Ads, which includes its two underlying “trust certifications,” Google Guaranteed (home services) and Google Screened (professional services). And recently the company started making the Google Guaranteed badge available to businesses for a monthly fee, outside of participation in Local Services Ads (LSA).

Badges in the wild. Positioned as part of an “upgraded profile,” the Google Guaranteed badge costs $50 per month or $600 per year. The badge will appear on the local business profile and in the Local Pack. Google has labeled this program “an experiment,” which may or may not continue depending on adoption.

Now, local SEOs Tom Waddington and Joy Hawkins are starting to see the Google Guaranteed badge appear in the wild. (I have not been able to replicate their screenshots.) So far, SterlingSky’s Hawkins says her agency hasn’t been able to detect any Google Guaranteed badges outside of the LSA program.

Google A/B testing placement of Google Guaranteed badge

Click to enlarge. Screenshot provided by: LocalU.

In the graphic above, Simpson Air is an LSA advertiser. On one version of their Google Maps local profile the Google Guaranteed badge appears but in other places it does not. The company does not rank in the top three LSAs for the query “HVAC in Tampa Florida.” It’s buried on a secondary “more pros” page of LSA advertisers that is likely to receive few if any impressions, let alone contacts. (Cue the joke about the best place to hide a dead body.)

Guaranteed badge may lead to higher CTRs. The visibility of the Google Guaranteed badge on the profile in organic results presumably offers added value for LSA advertisers and may generate additional organic clicks and/or leads.

Given that Google has just moved from fixed pricing for LSAs to bidding, it’s possible marketers down the line will compare the relative value of the $50 per month profile “upgrade” vs. the per-lead cost of LSAs. Provided they pass the trust certification, it’s easier to pay $50 per month than it is to optimize and bid for placement in the top three LSAs.

Conversely, we may see larger advertisers doing LSAs and smaller business marketers choosing the $50 fee, although LSA advertisers get the benefit of both placement at the very top of search results — if they’re successful that is — and the badge on their listings.

The presence of the Google Guaranteed badge on the profile and Local Pack may confer a consumer-trust advantage that will result in higher CTRs. I’ve asked Google about this directly, but the company declined to share any performance data. I suspect however, that organic listings featuring the Google Guaranteed badge do or will see better response rates.

Why we care. LSAs are a potentially disruptive program for many local advertisers. LSAs are both simpler and more “foolproof” than traditional Google text ad campaigns and even the largely automated Local Campaigns. Despite bidding, there are no keywords, no extensions and no ad copy to write. And attribution is much less of an issue because the contact or transaction is captured on the landing page, so it’s effectively a closed loop.

Don’t miss the upcoming SMX session: LSAs: Ranking in the Local Trust Pack

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Google’s new Small Business Advisors program aims to help SMBs grow /googles-new-small-business-advisors-program-aims-to-help-smbs-grow-343876 Tue, 17 Nov 2020 15:14:13 +0000 /?p=343876 Don't think of it as an enhanced version of Google Support.

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Google has beta-launched a program for small businesses (SMBs) to help them become better marketers on Google. Called Small Business Advisors (SBA), the program offers 50-minute individualized consulting sessions on a range of products from Google My Business to Ads and Analytics to YouTube.

No enterprises or agencies. Google told me in an email that the program is “is open to small businesses in the United States with an active Google account.  Large businesses, marketing and SEO agencies are not eligible to participate.” The cost is $39.99 per session. There’s no fee through the end of 2020.

Small business doesn’t appear to be defined, so theoretically companies with up to 100 employees or even 499 employees (the U.S. Small Business Administration definition). As a practical matter, the program will likely be utilized by very small businesses with relatively few employees. Suspended accounts aren’t eligible to book an appointment and must get reinstated before gaining access to the program.

Don’t call it ‘Google Care.’ When I first heard of this, Apple Care came to mind. However, the company says this is not an enhanced version of Google support – although many may be tempted to see it that way. Support, Google says, is intended for troubleshooting around discrete problems, such as reinstatement or merger of duplicate listings.

Google SBA is intended to help business owners become more proficient in the use of Google products. Advisors will do “pre-appointment research to come prepared and make the most of your 50-minute appointment.”

Google says SBA is specifically designed for business owners who:

  • Feel overwhelmed or uncertain about your business’s online presence.
  • Have advanced product questions.
  • Don’t have an online marketing specialist or outside marketing agency.
  • Have never used Google products.

The program cannot be used for real-time GMB verification.

Depending on the survey you consult, anywhere from between 60% to 70% of SMBs don’t work with marketing agencies and are trying to manage digital marketing in house.

Video chat and screen sharing. Recommendations will be customized and delivered over video-chat, which can also include screen sharing. SMBs are encouraged to “share their goals” prior to speaking with an advisor. The advisors themselves are internal Google personnel.

Google says that SMBs can expect discussion of two products per appointment. That raises the question of multiple sessions. I asked Google if they were planning discounted bundles for people who needed more than just one session. “There are no upcoming plans for a price bundle or subscription, but it’s something we might explore in the future,” a Google spokesperson said.

Why we care. Google local support has historically been criticized for uneven quality. This program represents a significant potential improvement for SMBs, who are often given inaccurate or self-serving marketing information by third parties seeking to sell them products. Yet the value of the program will ultimately depend on the quality of the advisors themselves and their level of expertise. It will sink or swim on that basis.

Google is often “shy” about promoting its products and services. I suspect, however, if the company does market this it will see significant demand from local business owners who are hungry for help and information.

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Hijacked Google My Business listings appear to be a growing problem /hijacked-google-my-business-listings-appear-to-be-a-growing-problem-343737 Fri, 13 Nov 2020 13:18:20 +0000 /?p=343737 GMB listings phishing is on the increase. Google says it's aware of the problem but business owners must be vigilant.

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The problem of hijacked Google My Business listings (GMB) – where someone other than the business gains control of the local profile – appears to be growing. SterlingSky’s Joy Hawkins has reported on the trend and some of the methods used by spammers and scammers.

GMB phishing. Unethical local marketers are effectively phishing, using the “claim this business” link in the local Knowledge Panel/Profile. That generates an email request for control over the listing, which is sent to the registered owner of the profile. There are many examples and complaints on the GMB forum.

The frequency of this tactic appears to be increasing. In one of the examples cited by Hawkins, a hijacked listing for a law firm was used to sell leads to other personal injury lawyers.

Asked about this phenomenon, a Google spokesperson told Search Engine Land, “We’re aware of this incident and are monitoring it closely and are continually working to keep the information on Maps safe and accurate. If a merchant ever receives a request to manage or to transfer ownership from an unknown person, they should decline the request. The rights to own or manage a Business Profile can only be granted if the verified merchant accepts the request or the requester proves their affiliation with the business.”

Listings merger leads to unwitting “hijack”

Merger of ‘duplicates’ leads to unintended hijack. In another more obscure hijacking example, Rasmus Himmelstrup of Resolution Media in Denmark (Omnicom Media Group) told me he was able to take control of a listing from a large Danish supermarket chain, Bilka. This was not by design.

Himmelstrup’s client is a European optometry chain called Specsavers, which in Demark is known as Louis Nielsen. The grocery store, Bilka, and optical store were flagged as duplicates (by Google or a third party) and merged. The merged listing shows a mix of information for both locations: photos from both businesses, booking link for the optometrist, store hours for the supermarket and so on.

Himmelstrup said he reported the problem to GMB support and was told to verify that the Specsavers location actually existed. He remarked to me that this response is “a good example of how inadequate the first line of GMB support is.”

Google reportedly told Himmelstrup to delete the duplicate and re-verify the Specsavers location, which he did. He added, “Upon verification I was granted access to the grocery store GMB listing instead, containing Specsavers info as well.”

Himmelstrup doesn’t want control over Bilka’s listing. Ironically, Resolution Media represents Bilka’s major competitor in Denmark and so if he wanted to, Himmelstrup could engage in all sorts of mischief. He wouldn’t of course, but, to date, he’s been unable to get Google support to fully understand the problem.

Why we care. Obviously, listings fraud, fake reviews and any other bogus local information in Google Maps and Search is bad for consumers. But it’s especially bad for the mostly small business (SMB) victims. Inaccurate online information can have a material impact on their sales, especially during COVID. For the many SMBs that are suffering ranking in local search results is a matter of survival.

It seems clear from looking at the GMB forum that business owners haven’t been sufficiently educated about the risks of hijacking and that Google needs to implement more SMB safeguards — and perhaps better training for its support people.

Related: How to optimize your Google local Knowledge Panel

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Concrete steps marketers should take now to get ready for CA’s CPRA in 2023 /concrete-steps-marketers-should-take-now-to-get-ready-for-cas-cpra-in-2023-343676 Wed, 11 Nov 2020 20:11:01 +0000 /?p=343676 The California Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act won't take effect for two more years, but don't wait to prepare.

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Last week California voters passed Proposition 24, the California Privacy Rights and Enforcement Act (CPRA). It builds upon the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which only went into effect this year. CPRA is slated to replace it in 2023.

Among other things, CPRA expands the types of data covered (any data “shared” with third parties); it also spells out specific categories of sensitive personal information that require special attention. It enables consumers (and employees) to opt-out of “automated decision making technology” (machine learning). And it creates a dedicated enforcement agency to ensure compliance.

We asked a number of digital marketers and technology companies to offer concrete advice for brands, publishers and advertisers about what they could or should do now to prepare for CPRA. Our experts included Cillian Kieran, Ethyca CEO; Simon Poulton, VP of Digital Intelligence at Wpromote; Kristina Podnar, Digital Policy Consultant; Gowthaman Ragothaman, CEO of Aqilliz; and Heidi Bullock, CMO at Tealium.

Kristina Podnar, Digital Policy Consultant & Author

Introduce/Increase transparency. CPRA introduces a slew of new requirements around data uses aimed at increased transparency. This will be a bit of a GDPR throwback for marketers who went through adaptation for that regulation. But for any marketer not yet subject to GDPR, this will be a tough hill to climb. Businesses should start paying attention to data privacy by design and governance practices. Specifically, pay attention to data minimization. In other words, only collect the information you need to do the things you say you will do for the user, tell the user how long you will keep their data, don’t extend beyond that timeframe for your own marketing needs, and only do with the data what you told the user you will do with it. Marketers will need to start paying attention to what data they collect, why they collect it, and how they manage that data throughout its lifecycle.

Show what you do and don’t control. Most digital marketers are oblivious to the AI and ML advances in the marketing stack, focusing only on the front-end functionality and desired customer experience outcome. That will need to change as a result of CPRA, which now recognizes the need for increased regulation around this machine-driven capability. Marketers will now need to tell users if they are profiling them and serving up advertisements and promotions using these capabilities. Businesses need to adjust for the cross-device, cross-channel, cross-business tracking and selling that is in place today. Why? Because under CPRA users can now say “don’t track me in that way.” This should remove the “creepy” noise from the marketing system from a user perspective. However it will certainly make it tougher for marketers and cause more business to move to a zero and first party data model.

Stop controlling users. Related to the above, CPRA specifically limits businesses from engaging users in any cross-context behavior advertising. In other words, marketers need to be transparent and can no longer push users towards services or products in a passive way (e.g., marketers can’t use dark patterns for collecting agreement/consent). The task here is for marketers to rethink consent structures, including CMPs, to avoid dark patterns and implied consents that are ubiquitous today.

Simon Poulton, VP of Digital Intelligence at Wpromote

Be CCPA compliant. Since CPRA will not take effect until 2023, focus on being CCPA compliant in the immediate future (if you’re not already). In many cases, CPRA expands on what is covered by CCPA, so compliance here will still be a step in the right direction. It should be noted that all regulations covered within CPRA will be applied to all data collected from January 1st, 2022 onwards. 

Sharing = Selling. Under CCPA, some brands (e.g., Starbucks) explicitly stated that they did not view the sharing of data as selling. This is now clearly defined, and brands should be mindful of all data-sharing points. 

Inventory your cookies. If you haven’t already, now is a great time to review all of the cookies and data-sharing functions that exist on your website and catalog what they do. It’s likely your legal teams will need to review these sooner rather than later. 

Cillian Kieran, Founder and CEO of Ethyca

Review your ability to categorize data you collect, process or store. There’s lots more nuance in CPRA about how user data is categorized, and processors — including marketers — need to be able to treat different categories of personal information discreetly. An obvious example is the introduction of sensitive personal information (SPI). CPRA allows users to designate that their SPI be used only for the essential delivery of a good or service. This requires finer-grained control for data flows in backend systems. 

Review all contracts , whether you’re the contractor or contractee. CPRA requires a much greater level of specificity regarding your data relationships with partners. Any subcontractor used by a CPRA-bound business must also be able to offer CPRA-level privacy protections. Per IAPP, “Third parties, service providers or contractors [must] enter into an agreement binding the recipient to the same level of privacy protection as provided by the act, granting the business rights to take reasonable and appropriate steps to remediate unauthorized use, and requiring the recipient to notify the business if can no longer comply.”

We’ll leave you with one that’s, on the surface, a bit simpler (although you’ll need to spend plenty of time re-examining data “sales” vs data “sharing”). That “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link you placed on the homepage, tweak it to read: “Do Not Sell Or Share My Personal Information.”

Gowthaman Ragothaman, CEO at Aqilliz

Leaving third-party data — for good. A significant revision in the CPRA pertains to the amendment to the CCPA’s “Do Not Sell” clause which now covers the practice of data sharing, often leveraged as part of cross-site behavioral advertising and audience targeting. 

For marketers and big tech firms alike, who are already beginning to grapple with the impending obsolescence of third-party cookies, this should come as no surprise. At this stage, marketers should already be exploring alternatives to limit the use of third-party data for audience targeting. Investing in strategic partnerships with publisher networks that have gone on to develop first-party data pools of their own or joining data federations will be essential. Marketers must also adequately vet publisher partners to ensure that data is being obtained in a conspicuous, ethical manner.

Keeping count. Similar to the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, CPRA demands far more stringent reporting requirements, mirroring the GDPR’s clause on the Record of Processing Activities. Firms will be responsible to disclose all the information collected about a given consumer, directly or indirectly, irrespective of where data sharing took place.

In light of this, marketers should be prepared to bolster existing tech investments to incorporate record-keeping tools. Now, more than ever, due diligence will be key. Having a historical record of the data throughout its entire lifecycle, will be crucial in ensuring that marketers are sufficiently prepared for the more rigorous reporting and disclosure required under CPRA.

Focusing on what’s necessary, rather than what’s nice to have. The CPRA has also widened the scope of what it defines as “sensitive personal information.” Beyond financial account information such as credit card numbers and government-issued identifiers, this now also expands to include racial or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and perhaps most significantly, “precise geolocation,” which is key for audience targeting. Under the CPRA, consumers will now have the ability to limit both the use and disclosure of sensitive personal information. 

As marketers look to the future of audience segmentation and targeting efforts, significant changes will need to be made. Though the industry has historically reveled in a mindset of data abundance, marketers will need to make a crucial shift in thinking by taking data minimization to heart. In order to ensure adequate data minimization practices, businesses should not only reexamine their data retention practices for appropriate retention times, but also consider integrating data, storage, and purpose minimization into their data management strategies. Opt-out options for the collection and use of sensitive personal information should also be included. Audience engagement strategies will need to be re-defined and to go a step further. Tech vendors and infrastructures should also now be selected on the basis of better enabling a culture of data minimization. 

Heidi Bullock, CMO at Tealium

Understand your data alongside consent. Brands need to know the exact content and source of their data, especially as we face a future filled with myriad new regulations. This includes pinpointing the types of data being collected — from call center to email and website data — and how that data flows across the company. Other factors to consider include, where the data originates, how it’s stored and how it’s being used by the brand. All of this needs to be done in the context of the individual consent that’s collected with it, which lays out the rules for how each person’s data can be used.

Update brand policies. It’s good to revisit CCPA policies and ensure all processes are updated to adhere to the newest regulations, including the CPRA’s new right to correction. Ensuring that policies still align with and are clear for employees and consumers helps maintain an overarching understanding of privacy across the brand. 

Maintain consumer trust. This is pivotal, especially since these regulations are in the best interest of consumers. A recent Tealium study found that, pre-COVID, 91% of consumers wanted the state or federal government to adopt strict regulations to protect their data.

Acknowledge new governance concepts. CPRA now limits the time brands can hold onto personal information in a new storage limitation requirement, so it’s important to consider this timeline when collecting, utilizing or sharing consumer data to ensure it remains within a reasonable window. The ability to govern data at an individual level in an automated, real-time manner will be critical for companies to comply with these new concepts.

Designate a privacy expert. As more and more regulations surface, it becomes crucial for brands to assign tasks internally to remain both accountable and organized. Internal processes are just as important as consumer-facing communications. Privacy experts with deep understanding for Martech are now more needed than ever, as the complexity of Martech alone kept companies busy beforehand.

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