Google Accelerating Its Path to the Transaction Layer of the Internet

Mihm to Blumenthal: Our mutual friend and Local U speaker Cindy Krum has long highlighted Google’s ambition to become the “presentation layer of the internet.” 

It’s been apparent for the last four years that they want to take that one step further and become the “transaction layer of the internet,” as we’ve discussed in this space before.

A little birdie told me that you’re seeing that ambition accelerate.

Google Hit With Another $500+ Million Fine

Google is in the news for the wrong reasons again. The search giant agreed to pay a 500 million euro fine (about $550 million) to settle a French fiscal fraud probe after investigators in the country accused it of dodging taxes, Reuters reported.

Google’s headquarters are in Dublin, Ireland, where it settles all sales contracts to avoid paying higher taxes in the rest of Europe. Alphabet isn’t the only company to take advantage of tax loopholes to avoid paying its fair share; Apple and Facebook also have large operations there.

Is Visual Mapping the Next Google-Apple Battleground?

As Google and Apple lead the way, we are getting closer to ubiquitous visual mapping. If that happens, there will be significant implications for entities that currently use search and mapping for marketing or online presence. They’ll need to make sure they are optimized in this new format.

This could lead to an extension of SEO to cultivate presence in visual experiences. Just like in search, correct business location and details will need to be optimized to show up in the right places. You don’t want the AR overlay for your restaurant floating above the salon next door.

Apple’s Edge in the App Store, Big Tech, and Antitrust

Apple execs told the Times that the company’s apps show up so frequently in searches not because it tips the scales but because its apps are already very popular and are designed to please consumers. But that logic is in itself concerning: A company with nearly unparalleled power and insight into what consumers are looking for in terms of apps uses its understanding of consumer desire and vast resources to create apps that will defeat rivals (especially startups or young companies) in the App Store it owns. Even if there is no foul algorithmic play, the competitive advantage is clear. The question is whether it’s enough for antitrust action.

Google Being Investigated for Antitrust Violations by Slew of States

More than half of US state attorneys general are investigating Google for antitrust violations, the Washington Post reported. Officials anonymously told the Post that the probes are expected to be announced on Monday.

This marks a serious escalation in mostly recent government efforts to increase regulation of the giant tech firms that have become the most powerful private enterprises in the world, squashing competition in their home industries and disrupting adjacent ones. The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are already looking into the potentially anticompetitive power of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

A Return to Contextual Advertising?

Digital advertising and marketing have long been positioned as “the future” of advertising. But with the rapid changes in media and information technology of the past two decades, the future has arrived. Google recently promoted the idea that “we’re now in an era where digital marketing is just marketing.” But as the industry advances and as new protective regulations around personal data privacy are introduced, it’s also possible that some of the change could involve relying more on previously established methods. Specifically, it is possible that we are on the verge of a return to contextual advertising as the dominant form of online ads.

Letter From the Editor: Mapping the Future of Local Commerce

Of all of the technologies and consumer touchpoints to local commerce, mapping is perhaps the most relevant. This centuries-old technology has gone into hyperdrive over the past 15 years since the launch of Google Maps, and it continues to be a primary tool for local search and discovery.

But what’s the state of the art and how is it evolving? This will be Street Fight’s focus in the month of September. This follows last month’s connected car theme and past months’ reporting and commnetary on privacy, retail transformation and the “beyond the screen” evolution of voice and visual search.

The Hidden Opportunity Cost of Google Plus: Review Volume

Blumenthal: I was able to look at reviews per month since 2015 for a large number of restaurant locations across the sites that are now common in the restaurant industry. Interestingly, Yelp’s and TripAdvisor’s review volume is roughly the same now as it was in January 2015, while you can see that Google’s review volume is now roughly 10x that of either of those two sites. And Google was receiving fewer reviews per location per month than either Yelp or TA in early 2015.

There is an interesting but not totally obvious point on the slide where Google’s review volume starts to take off and that is April 2016. For those of you who don’t track Google minutiae quite the way that I do, that was the month when Google finally separated reviews from Google Plus and no longer required a Plus profile to leave a review. 

LBMA Vidcast: InMarket Acquires ThinkNear, Google Assistant Upgrade

On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: InMarket acquires Thinknear, Google Assistant lets you send reminders to others, Kraken Rum’s dining experience in London, Wirecard launches app in North America, Nike buys Celect for data science, Infiniti teams up with JCDecaux in Russia.

How the Newest 5 Features from Google will Change the Role of UA Managers

Facebook and Google still haven’t figured out how to automate creative. They can’t really even automate creative testing yet. So, take all the time you used to spend with bids and budgets and media buying and shift it to creative. Odds are, you aren’t spending even 2-3 hours a week monitoring and analyzing your competitors’ ads. Shift from bid edits and go do that. Or even better, spend 4-8 hours a week monitoring and analyzing competitor’s ads, and even ads from outside your industry. This research can result in blockbuster new creative concepts — the type of 100x ads that rocket ROAS.

LBMA Vidcast: Google Launches Location Groups, Bumble Explores Physical Space

On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: PatientPoint’s proximity in healthcare, Boen Wines using NFC with Guala Closures, Bumble gets into physical space, Puma geotargets on Firefly’s DOOH, Google launches “seasonality” and “location groups”, Groupon acquires Presence AI for voice & text.

Fake Reviews Are Silicon Valley’s Next Fake News Problem

Local businesses are struggling to adapt to a world where online reputation drives offline sales, and fake reviews are making the transition harder. What’s more, the fake review problem is getting worse. A Harvard study found that fake reviews on Yelp grew from 5% to 20% over several years.

There are lots of reasons for this trend, but this is an area where big data can be used to the benefit of consumers and businesses to increase trust. This means it’s on the tech community—not small businesses—to fix fake reviews. Just as media platforms have a moral obligation to avoid the spread of fake news, review sites have a responsibility to their users and businesses to ensure their content is as accurate as possible.

GrubHub or GrabHub? Thoughts on the Latest Predatory Industry to Target SMBs

“Growth hacking” along these lines is enough to gag a maggot, but there is the more “benign” approach of Google that says, “Let’s add an order button to every restaurant for the ‘benefit of the customer’” that is equally reprehensible. The business is effectively paying a searcher “head tax” to the food delivery companies on brand searches where the consumer just wanted to get the restaurant phone number, and the searcher was offered a big order button that is so much more convenient to click. 

In Google’s case, it would be a simple matter to provide the local restaurant the option to turn off the Order CTA in the dashboard. Instead, if a business complains to Google, they foist them on the delivery service for resolution. (Or not.) 

The Importance of Online Review Management for SMBs

Operators of small- and medium-sized businesses can get by ignoring many of the tech innovations that large companies adopt. Managing online reviews is not one of them.

Like it or not, the widespread usage of review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even Google and Facebook have changed the landscape of how local businesses attract and retain customers. Left ignored or handled the wrong way, a business’s negative online reviews can be a deterrent to potential new customers. Managed the right way, however, those same review sites can be a valuable marketing and customer service tool that leads to improved revenue.

August Focus: Local’s Next Battleground is Your Car

Why are connected cars important to Street Fight (and to you)? As we continue to evolve the definition of “local,” one key component of its market opportunity is offline brick-and-mortar shopping. After all, about 90% of all U.S. retail spending, to the tune of about $3.7 trillion, is completed offline in physical stores. That is usually in proximity to one’s home (thus, local).

Could an increasingly digital and connected car influence those purchases when consumers are out and about? This is one extension of the local search that consumers used to do at home but now do on their mobile devices while on the move. The car could become a third point of connection and influence.

Low-Hanging Technical SEO Fruit for Local Ranking

Local SEO is powerful. If you run an ice cream shop out of Wichita, Kansas, then you’d probably want to show up on Google when a person there searches for ice cream. Search engines have become crucial for existing and potential customers to connect with businesses. 

Some business owners unintentionally set up obstacles to appearing on local search by improper site structure. Here are some low-hanging fruits to help your business appear for local searches.

Phone-as-a-Service?

It’s becoming clear that we’re headed toward a new vision for our devices: the Phone as a Service (PaaS). Yes, sounds crazy, but look at the parallels between your phone and how/why other “X”s have become services:

X-as-a-service (XaaS) is delivery of X directly via the internet, eliminating the need to use and manage multiple and independent solutions on locally hosted devices, right? So, PaaS is the delivery of personalized media via the phone, eliminating the need to use and manage multiple and independent, locally hosted apps. We’re already seeing that happen.

Multi-Location Marketers Want to Do More Social Advertising, But One Big Thing Stands in the Way

Unlike search, social is a push medium that marketers can use to reach new audiences. Social can leverage rich ad formats such as mouth-watering images of restaurant dishes, explainer videos for complex products, and eye-catching celebrity or influencer endorsements that are much more impactful and engaging at storytelling than search. 

Today’s local enterprise advertisers know that they should be leveraging the one-two punch of search and social together. One day they will. But until social advertising can offer the same streamlined workflow that can make managing hundreds or thousands of locations as easy as search makes it, social will still lag behind in the local marketing media portfolio. 

Spotlight On: Creative Testing Best Practices for Q3 2019

User acquisition advertising is evolving rapidly. Every quarter for the last few years, either Facebook or Google has made significant changes to their platforms that make it more and more possible to automate user acquisition advertising. Because these changes are available to everyone, competition has increased. Any competitive advantage that third-party ad tech tools had given is gone. 

The last thing the machines have not automated or started to automate – creative – ends up being a UA manager’s last competitive advantage. 

This makes every aspect of creative vital to success. 

The History and Value of Citations, or Citations are Dead, Long Live the Citation

Mihm to Blumenthal: Setting aside the fact that the vast majority of calls you receive from non-Google directories are from salespeople, if you’re paying for an expensive citation service with analytics, compare the non-Google numbers to your GMB Insights. It’s going to be a drop in the bucket.

It’s time that every brand, regardless of size, ask itself whether going beyond Google, Facebook, and maybe Yelp is worth paying any premium. 

If a tree falls in the citation forest and no customers are there to see it, not only does it not make a sound, but Google doesn’t care that it fell.