How Long Will Google’s “Calculative PR” Playbook Work in Local Search?

Mihm: The engineering mindset that millions of spammy listings in a corpus of hundreds of millions of legitimate listings worldwide, or a (hundred million?) spam reviews in a corpus of billions of legitimate reviews worldwide, are simply “edge cases” that are beneath Google to prioritize reflects a profound lack of empathy for how their technology impacts fellow human beings — both consumers and especially small business owners and their employees.

Blumenthal: Absolutely agree. And a related problem is that they see customer service in the same context: as an engineering/cost-benefit problem to solve, not as a way to improve their product. As such they see the last 5, 10 or 15% errors in their big data solutions as just a cost of doing business that they have no responsibility to solve. 

Startups Adapt to Shifting Privacy Standards

Two steps forward, one step back. That’s what it can feel like to be a technology provider in the location marketing space right now, struggling to strike a balance between the demands of brand marketers and growing concerns over consumer privacy and data regulation.

That push and pull is challenging vendors in the location marketing space. At the same time their firms should be seeing exponential growth, data regulations—including the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s forthcoming Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)—are establishing new rules for innovation.

But some companies are embracing the regulation as a challenge to innovate in its own right.

In the Wake of Spam Reports, Google Focuses on Brand and Small Business Engagement

Google’s calculated risk in creating a low bar for verification works out fine in a world where most business owners simply want to gain legitimate access to their own listings, and most businesses do operate within those ethical boundaries. But as we’ve seen elsewhere at this stage in the evolution of social networks, fraud and deceptive manipulation have become a kind of ghost in the machine, dominating darker sectors of the local marketplace and creating an atmosphere of distrust that may eventually prove more broadly contagious. 

All of this is only possible when lots of activity is consolidated on a few platforms. Just as fake accounts attempting to engineer the 2016 election thrived in the vast and complex Facebook ecosystem, so too has Google’s dominance in local attracted its own horde of opportunists, drawn like moths to its flame. Indeed, fraud in local listings is just the latest in a long history of attempts, from link farms to keyword spam, to manipulate loopholes in Google’s regulations and algorithms.

Alexa, Podcasts, and the Role of Voice in Today’s Marketing

The increasing popularity of smart speakers, digital assistants, and podcasts means we need to begin thinking differently about voice and marketing. That includes tailoring online content to users and how they engage with it, making voice functionality a part of the sales funnel, and creating podcasts or partnering with influencers to reach audiences in a new way. With the right approach, a creative brand could get a considerable head start in this new but quickly developing marketing landscape.

Google’s Fake Listings Problem Gets More Attention—and May Spur Regulation

Blumenthal to Mihm: It seems to me that Google could take the fake listings issue off the table by seriously investing in cleaning up the fake listing and fake review issue. I just don’t think that they think that way.

At a minimum, as the company that has the monopoly in the local space, Google faces the expectation and responsibility to provide a service that truly serves the public and businesses. And they seem to forget that.

Cannes Roundup: A Triad of Innovation is Capturing Advertisers’ Attention and Spend Right Now

This year, we saw the rise of three elements of technology-driven outcomes that, I’d suggest, represent a triad of innovation — and those elements are agility, speed, and the product-development capabilities to allow early-adopting brands to actually access emerging marketplaces (such as audio, as we saw this year). The first two terms are interconnected, and each fuels the drive for innovative products that big-name brands are beta-testing already. 

Report: Fake Google Maps Listings Ensnare Consumers, Harm Legitimate Businesses

“Chronic” local listings fraud on Google Maps, where con artists pose as handymen and other local service providers, sometimes stealing the names of legitimate operations, is endangering consumers and sucking business away from viable local businesses, the Wall Street Journal reported.

As Google seeks to prop up its lucrative but “cresting” search business and consolidate its lead in local, the tech giant is struggling to address the fraud issue and perhaps even to care about it. 

Outsourced or In-House Delivery? We Did the Math

Local delivery is rapidly becoming a must-have for all kinds of businesses—people have become accustomed to online ordering and speedy delivery. According to a Go People survey, 65% of retailers will offer same-day delivery by the end of 2019, and according to Technomic, food delivery volume will grow by 12% year-over-year from 2019 to 2023. The question isn’t whether your business should offer delivery, but how.

TRUSTX Takes Aim at Opaque Programmatic Trading Practices

The lack of transparency in the programmatic space has finally reached a tipping point. According to a survey on the state of programmatic media buying, conducted by Digiday, 27% of media buyers say the greatest concern they have with programmatic advertising is the lack of transparency. While many players in the space are claiming that their hands are tied, and agencies continue to push back against audits, upstart technology firms are carving out niches as leaders in the push to bring trust into programmatic advertising.

Tim Cook Demands New Commitment to Responsibility from Big Tech

With the moral and commercial high ground in clear sight, Tim Cook used the spotlight at Stanford University’s commencement ceremony Saturday to slam Big Tech peers Google, Facebook, and Twitter for failing to take responsibility for the hateful content and disinformation on their platforms.

4 Marketing Use Cases for AR Today

Augmented reality is making the leap from hyped technology of the future to driver of cutting-edge marketing techniques today. To document the state of the field and shine a light on those use cases, the IAB released its AR marketing playbook earlier this month.

In case you’re too busy to peruse the pdf, I’ll detail the major use cases outlined in the report.

Google Antitrust: Is It Enough for Yelp?

Mihm to Blumenthal: I’m not averse to the idea of the government regulating Google’s practices in Maps or local search, but it feels like rewarding Yelp in particular is not going to bring consumers any particular benefit, nor will it meaningfully benefit small businesses, as Elizabeth Warren seems to indicate is a primary goal of her plan.

If anything, Google has gone out of its way to help small businesses compete in its search results with the introduction of the local pack and the Venice update, whereas small businesses continue to rate Yelp as poorly as any company in tech.

Consumers Still Do Not Understand How Companies Use Their Data

More than one year after the implementation of GDPR in Europe and with CCPA looming, consumers still have no idea how and why companies like Google and Facebook collect their data. That’s according to a global survey by mobile marketing firm Ogury, the largest of its kind to ask consumers about their understanding of marketing and privacy.

Nearly 40% of respondents in both Europe and the US were ignorant of what GDPR is. But more significant is that 52% of consumers report not understanding how their data is used.

LBMA Vidcast: Pokemon App Driving Traffic to Target, Google Integrates Food Ordering into Maps

On this week’s Location-Based Marketing Association podcast: Swatch goes drive-through, iGeolise raises £3.2, Pokemon app driving traffic to Target, Neustar partners with JCDecaux, Google integrates food ordering into maps, MTA accepts Google Pay on subway/bus lines.

Visual Search Moves Beyond Experimentation and Into Prime Time

After years of experimentation and broad discussions about how visual search would someday take hold, it’s clear that the future has arrived. Visual search has moved into the mainstream, and companies like Pinterest, Instagram, and even Google are paving the way for consumers to engage more deeply with the products they find online.

As visual search moves into the mainstream, questions are intensifying over what impact the medium will have on SEO and traditional search metrics.

Who’s Winning the Reviews Race? How Do We Define Winning?

In their latest Street Fight conversation, Mike Blumenthal and David Mihm examine the state of the local reviews space and assess the reasons for Google’s dominance. “For me, the question of the future is whether Google’s behaviors will impact the remaining vertical sites over the next 10 years,” Mike writes.

To Understand the Tech Industry’s Responsibilities, We Must Think Differently About Humanity

These questions would be preludes to less abstract ones that will seem more familiar to the creatures of Silicon Valley. Is Facebook responsible if people use WhatsApp and Messenger to spread false news and incite genocide? Is that just the fault of (heinous) people being (heinous) people or should the platforms be held accountable? As for privacy and data collection, what rights do people have to safeguard their information from the communications platforms they use? What does data scraped from Google search or Amazon’s facial recognition technology have to do with our identities? Can data be human?

Google Integrates Food Delivery into Search, Maps, Assistant

More or less following the model of Reserve with Google, which has seamlessly integrated the process of reserving a table at a nearby restaurant into SERPs, Google is now integrating food delivery into search, Maps, and Assistant, keeping consumers on Google properties for the entire journey as they make transactions via third-party couriers.

As GDPR’s One-Year Anniversary Approaches, Where Are We Now?

One year in, it’s clear that the full impact of GDPR still hasn’t been felt. The regulation is structured in a way that puts less pressure on large companies than smaller businesses, and that’s something that regulators will have to continue sorting out. But the changes Europe’s law portends are undeniable: Privacy legislation is coming to the United States, and the data collection practices that made many Silicon Valley pioneers rich will never be quite so unbridled again.

At I/O, Google Offers a New Vision for Local Search

The notion of “helping you get things done,” emphasized by Sundar Pichai in his I/O keynote, provides a through-line for many of the event’s announcements. It struck me watching the presentations how thoroughly Google has become a consumer electronics company, a marketer of devices where search is more a central feature than a standalone product. Google, in other words, has become thoroughly dedicated to marketing its famous search capabilities in the context of devices that help you perform daily tasks. In the process, it is transforming local search and how we relate to the world with electronic devices.