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.

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.

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. 

Chatmeter Scores New Funding Amid Hiring Spree

Local brand management platform Chatmeter announced a new investment by Providence Strategic Growth aimed at helping the company increase its ambitions further after hiring 25 employees over the course of six months. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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.

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.

Visual Search and Local: A Match Made in Mountain View

Though visual search challengers such as Snapchat and Pinterest could shine in niche use cases such as fashion items, Google will rule as the best all-around utility for visual search. It has the deepest tech stack, and the substance (knowledge graph) to be useful beyond just a flashy novelty for identifying things visually.

The name of the game now is to get users to adopt it. Google Lens won’t be a silver bullet and will shine in a few areas where Google is directing users, such as pets and flowers. But it will really shine in product search, which happens to be where monetization will eventually come into the picture.

Will Google Ask Businesses to Pay for Listings?

Google recently sent surveys to a number of Google My Business (GMB) users, asking a range of questions about their local marketing activities and their level of interest in certain paid features within GMB. The survey suggests that Google is at least thinking about a paid version of the GMB feature set. For the local search industry, a paid GMB product offered to businesses of all types could be quite disruptive, especially if it ended up gradually degrading the value of organic listings.

Is Google Building an “Internet of Places?”

Use cases will materialize over time, but it’s already clear that visual search can carry lots of commercial intent. Point your phone at a store or restaurant to get business details. Point your phone at a pair of shoes on the street to find out prices, reviews, and purchase info. This proximity between the searcher and the subject indicates high intent, which means higher conversions and more money for Google. Moreover, visual search has the magic combination of frequency and utility, which could make it the first scalable AR use case: making the real world clickable.

Lead Gen Spam: Bad for the Consumer, Bad for Business, and Bad for the Local Ecosystem

Blumenthal to Mihm, on lead gen spam: The real issue for me is that Google Maps is really like a public utility, and Google is not doing enough to protect the consumers of that product. There is significant harm in the deception of the consumer, the blocking out of legitimate businesses, and the possibility that the consumer public will lose trust in the whole, creaky house of cards.

Things Not Strings: Google’s New Hotel Profiles Exemplify Its Approach to Entities

Google’s Knowledge Graph ambitions are expanding to include obviating heavy reliance on secondary sources like Wikipedia and being able instead to classify and cross-reference information as a native, self-sustaining activity on web pages themselves. That’s what makes a recent patent filing different from the evidence of the Knowledge Graph we’ve already seen in the wild.

While this more ambitious way of surfacing information about entities is not yet standard, in researching Google’s new interface for hotels, I think I’m seeing evidence of a real-world example.

SMB Marketers: Small Budget? Small Team? Search and Social Are Key

With the barrier to entry lower than ever, third-party platforms have made inroads to make it easier for marketers to leverage search and social more effectively. These platforms have made it attainable for marketers—regardless of their team size or level of experience—to launch and optimize sophisticated, targeted campaigns, providing an ideal foundation to build upon as their capabilities and budgets expand. With that, here are five reasons SMB marketers should consider digging deeper into search and social right now.

3 CRO Techniques That Actually Convert Visitors

The web is filled to the brim with quick conversion rate optimization tips. These include changing the color of your CTAs, making headlines catchier, and changing the background image of your landing page, among many others. While these strategies have shown results, there are a few effective CRO techniques that are often overlooked. In this article, I discuss less common CRO techniques that have the potential to drive significant results. 

mobile data

Why Conversion Mapping and SEO Go Hand in Hand

Terry Cane: Search engine optimization isn’t just about on-page technical elements. Not anymore. These days, it’s as much about user experience as it is how well you can appeal to search engine robots. And a big part of that is conversion mapping—understanding the route your leads take from their first click to their purchase.

Voice is Rising as Medium for Local Discovery

Voice is not only booming as a search tool but also seems to be cannibalizing search volume from the medium that last revolutionized the practice of digital discovery: mobile. That’s the headline from Stone Temple Consulting’s third annual survey of consumers regarding their use of voice-enabled devices.

Communicating on GMB Poses Some Challenges, but the Local Ecosystem Has Answers

Google has been hard at work on local in 2018 and 2019, taking strides toward making its Google My Business app the one-stop-shop for local businesses hoping to connect with customers through digital means. Nevertheless, local is a tricky, 24-7 business, and when it comes to connecting brick-and-mortars with customers nearby, Alphabet’s core business has some room for improvement.

Local Search Association Announces New President, Bill Dinan

The Local Search Association, which brings together over 300 companies intent on connecting enterprises and small businesses alike with consumers, announced on Wednesday morning Bill Dinan as its new president. The announcement follows the retirement of its previous president Neg Norton, who held the role for 15 years.

Marin Q4 Advertising Report Shows eCommerce Ads Skyrocketing, Instagram and Search Growth Strong

Digital marketing software firm Marin Software has released its Q4 advertising report, which points to major trends in social, search, and e-commerce. Instagram is taking on an increasingly central role in Facebook’s main business, e-commerce ads are booming YOY, and search remains fundamental to digital advertising, the report shows.

Alphabet Plays the Long Game, Expanding and Investing in R&D, with Focus on Video

Alphabet is investing in its future, spending record funds on R&D and pouring money into non-core businesses such as self-driving cars (Waymo) and its video platform (YouTube). While the company exceeded analyst expectations on the back of ever-strong growth from its core search business, it was actually trading down on Monday, reflecting investor anxiety over the cost and ultimately profitability of its many secondary businesses.