Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.
Good morning, Marketers, and on this day in 1995 Amazon sold its first book.
Interestingly enough, the book was Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought, which explored the concept of human intelligence through computer modeling. It essentially posits that “the notions of analogy and fluidity are fundamental to explain how the human mind solves problems and to create computer programs that show intelligent behavior.”
Here we are 26 years later and Jeff Bezos (former bookseller) is heading to space in a few days, machine learning algorithms and AI pretty much run the world (fintech, healthcare, security, software, media and more), and technology like Google’s MUM works to understand the fluidity of the connections the human brain makes to handle more complex queries.
While we may not be at the point where computers can “think” exactly like humans, we’re dramatically closer than we were when Bezos sold his first book — and we got here pretty quickly, too!
Director of Search Content
Optimized targeting expands your audience to those most likely to convert
Optimized targeting “uses audience & demo inputs as signals to find more conversions w/in campaign goal, so you’ll see impressions outside of your set targeting signals. To help distinguish, set signals are labeled as ‘Signal,’” confirmed Google Ads Liaison, Ginny Marvin in a tweet.
The new feature, which is not available for everyone yet, “expands to users that are likely to convert by creating a profile of what a converter looks like based on real-time conversion data.”
Why we care. This new feature can help you acquire new customers or encourage repeat buying from existing customers, but it can also be expensive for those with lower budgets. As with all machine learning or AI-driven search features, it’s important to keep an eye on how it’s using your money. It’s automatically enabled and must be turned off manually in your settings.
Deep dive: What does FLoC mean for advertisers? And what are the new opportunities using cohorts?
Frederick Vallaeys, co-founder of Optmyzer and one of the first 500 employees at Google, takes a deep dive into the issues and challenges surrounding FLoC in his latest piece for Search Engine Land.
“FLoC (Federated Learning of Cohorts) is an interesting bird: mysterious and on the verge of extinction,” he writes. “If it disappears without a replacement, then along with the end of 3rd party cookies, advertisers may see a dramatic shift in the effectiveness of interest-based audience targeting. So despite recently announced delays in the retirement of 3rd party cookies in Chrome, it’s worth knowing what FLoC is all about.”
Vallaeys explores the need for an alternative to third-party cookies; FLoC’s claims to protect user privacy; and possible benefits to — and new opportunities for — advertisers.
“Rest easy, even if there is no replacement for 3rd party cookies, this won’t necessarily be the end of interest-based audience targeting because ad tech companies like Google already use signals beyond 3rd party cookies to create audiences. It’s just that they would lose one powerful signal and as a result, advertisers would have to more closely monitor any resulting shifts in performance.”
The SEO Periodic Table: Content success factors
Ever since February 2011, when Google’s Panda algorithm update took the web by storm and affected nearly 12% of U.S. results, web admins have been on notice that content counts – and it counts a lot. Panda was said to be Google’s way of weeding out “content farms” – groups of sites with thin content that was often even copied from other places. But, because the algorithm’s emphasis was on penalizing shallow and low-quality content, it meant that efforts to develop in-depth, high-quality content would be rewarded.
In the Content element grouping, we explore the facets of high-quality, in-depth content. It starts with tried-and-true methods like performing keyword Research (Rs) to identify what users are looking for and then incorporating those Keywords (Kw) into your content. More important, however, is Quality (Qu) – which indicates how critical it is to have well-written pages that provide value to readers. Additionally, search engines reward Freshness (Fr), ranking sites higher if they’re frequently updated.
Images and video — Multimedia (Mm) — are important ways of delivering high-quality content with Depth (Dt), especially as the prevalence of high-bandwidth connections makes it easier to consume these formats, even when users are browsing on their phones.
And, speaking of new ways to access content, the Answers (An) element represents the value of explicitly answering users’ questions on your pages. We added this because, if you do so well enough, your page may be displayed as a featured snippet or returned as a voice search result on Google Assistant.
Dynamic exclusion lists, update your WooCommerce and GDS for local SEO
3 reasons to use dynamic exclusion lists. Dynamic exclusions help you protect your reputation, maximize your budget, and save time according to Susie Marino at Wordstream. “When you’re a smaller account running local PPC with limited time and a shortage of helping hands, this will help to alleviate that extra work of constantly adding content exclusions manually.”
Critical vulnerability detected in WooCommerce: What you need to know. This article conveniently doesn’t tell us what the vulnerability was yet (“If a store was affected, the exposed information will be specific to what that site is storing but could include order, customer, and administrative information”), but if you haven’t yet — update your WooCommerce plugin.
Google Data Studio dashboard for local keyword research. “It can be daunting for some to dive into GSC and find all those “what, where, why, when, how, etc.” type search queries, so that’s why I created a simple Data Studio dashboard to visualize the data in a much clearer format,” wrote Andy Simpson.
What We’re Reading: “The whole value proposition for Google is that it discriminates between different possible results”
While there is some merit to the motives behind regulating Google, the idea that it should be classified and treated as a public utility or common carrier simply doesn’t apply — that’s the takeaway from Gilad Edelman’s article for Wired.
“Public utility comes from a contractual relationship between the government and that entity that is supposed to be the public utility,” said Barbara Cherry, a professor at the Indiana University Media School who studies common carriage and public utility law. There is no such relationship between Google and governing bodies.
“A common carrier was someone who offered to carry something to any member of the public,” wrote Edelman, “Anyone who chose to do business that way was subject to certain legal duties, including nondiscrimination.” The thing is, Google doesn’t promise to behave neutrally because the foundations of its business are ranking search results and auctioning off ad inventory — two fundamentally discriminatory practices.
But surely, no one wants Google to stop auctioning off ad space or ranking results. “If you mean nondiscriminatory in a much narrower sense, like does Google’s algorithm include whether the webpage has a conservative or a liberal tint, or is based on anything else—gender, race, what have you—then, yeah, Google might say that they’re nondiscriminatory in these narrower senses. But this doesn’t easily map into the question of common carriage,” said Scott Jordan, former chief technologist at the Federal Communications Commission and a current professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Irvine.
The varying levels of familiarity with technology and law across stakeholders (the regulators, big tech and the general public) adds another layer of complexity that tends to stall momentum — and for good reason, since rushing these initiatives could establish poor precedence for the future.