July 25, 2021

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Why the FTC didn’t sue Google in 2013; Wednesday’s daily brief

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, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs

Good morning, Marketers, hindsight is 20/20, right?

I have mixed feelings about that phrase, but I’m thinking about it for a few reasons:

  1. The Politico story about how the FTC dropped the ball by not suing Google in 2013 (read more about that at the bottom of this newsletter).
  2. Google’s career certificates, which may disrupt higher education (we discussed in yesterday’s newsletter).
  3. This tweet from Jamie Indigo; it reads: “Being an English major turned tech SEO feels a lot like trying to retro engineer better undergraduate choices.”

The “hindsight” saying is meant to relieve you of the burden of imperfect choices. That’s hard to do because, well, ownership. Nothing will ever get back the time or money you spent, but hopefully, those experiences will enable you to spend your resources more wisely in the future. After all, how many of us studied to enter a career in search marketing? And, how many people studied marketing and did something else?

I like to remind people (read: remind myself but aloud to someone else) that all we can do is the best with what we’ve got. So, don’t take it too hard on yourself, you have plenty of good decisions ahead of you — you got this.

George Nguyen,
Editor

P.S. I studied economics and international relations; ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ this is my third career.

FLoC is coming — Here’s what we know so far

Earlier this month, Google told us that it won’t use or build alternate identifiers to replace third-party cookies. Instead, it’s going all-in on Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which will replace cookies as a way to target audiences. The announcement raised concerns from both privacy advocates and advertisers.

Privacy advocates are concerned that FLoC may facilitate fingerprinting and/or enable advertisers to discriminate against audiences. Google has countermeasures planned: a “Privacy Budget” to combat fingerprinting; and Chrome’s FLoC analysis will evaluate whether a cohort may be sensitive (i.e., based on race or sexuality) so that it can reduce correlation. We already know that Google will begin testing FLoC with advertisers beginning in Q2 — I imagine these safety measures will be an important part of that testing.

The company told us that targeting capabilities should remain the same, except that advertisers will be targeting cohorts instead of individuals. On the remarketing side, the Turtledove API will enable browsers to conduct an auction to select the most relevant ad to show users — either one based on contextual data or an ad based on an advertiser-defined interest. Fledge is Google’s early prototype that builds on Turtledove, and the company will begin experimenting with it sometime this year.

There are, however, many unanswered questions: Will other browsers adopt FLoC? Will Google only allow advertising to FLoC-derived cohorts on Chrome, turning it into a walled garden? For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Read more here.

Google tests cost estimates in the local pack

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Google, in partnership with Homewyse is testing a feature to display estimated cost in the local pack in Google Search (shown above). These are not ads; these are organic results pulled in from a third-party service. Just beware, if your business cannot match these prices, I wonder if that may lead to more negative reviews in your Google Maps listing.

Read more here.

These made us LOL

Izzi does it again. Izzi Smith, the SEO industry’s meme queen, perfectly captures what navigating the interwebs is like in 2021.

The Marketoonist calls out Clubhouse. Who knows, maybe this really is the platform for your audience.

I’ll tell Google on you. Work in SEO for long enough and you’re going to get spammed — that’s just how it is. Myriam Jessier came up with a creative solution when a company called her directly: Threatening to forward their info to Google’s Martin Splitt. It seems to have worked.

The Google Files: How Washington fumbled the future

Back in early 2013, the FTC declined to sue Google, based on a 19-month probe into allegations that it was favoring its own products over competitors in the search results. Here are a few reasons why, according to Leah Nylen’s article for Politico:

  • Targeted ads “do not account for a significant portion of online advertising and . . . have only limited potential for growth.”
  • The regulators expected people to continue using desktop as their main way to search.
  • They thought competitors like Amazon and Microsoft would offer meaningful competition in the smartphone software sector.

These assumptions turned out to be incorrect, and now, facing off with governments seems to be table stakes for Google. The conversations occurring in light of these new findings have prompted a response from the company. Some of those rebuttals have merit, but I have a bone to pick with the first one — that competition is “one click away.”

In certain instances, the ability to move away from Google is a one-click choice. But in other cases, like assigning Android’s default search engine, it’s not truly one-click. And there are repercussions for moving away from Google, just like there would be for getting out of most ecosystems — the user is inconvenienced, or businesses lose access to Google’s users. We are bound to Google, and the company knows that which is why it can throw around phrases like “Competition is just one click away.”


About The Author

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George Nguyen is an editor for Search Engine Land, covering organic search, podcasting and e-commerce. His background is in journalism and content marketing. Prior to entering the industry, he worked as a radio personality, writer, podcast host and public school teacher.
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