Ep 69: The power of great CX, What % of searches are local? Antitrust laws & how marketing might change

Chewy’s provides great CX and it goes viral, A look at the top 1000 queries on the desktop and what it says about local, John Oliver & Rand Fishkin look at the two antitrust bills that might pass this summer & how that might affect marketing.

Ep 69: The power of great CX, What % of searches are local? Antitrust laws & how marketing might change
Photo by Austin Kehmeier / Unsplash

Part 1 Video start 0:13 - Chewy’s provides great CX and it goes viral

Part 2 Video start 8:33 - A look at the top 1000 Google queries on the desktop and what it says about local

Part 3 Video start 17:58 - John Oliver & Rand Fishkin look at the two antitrust bills that might pass this summer

Reference Articles:

  1. Anna Brose Tweet about Chewy’s Customer service
  2. Brands, Local Dominate Top Searches
  3. Top 1,000 keywords by search volume
  4. John Oliver's (Funny) Antitrust Pitch
  5. Google, Apple, and Amazon Stifle Innovation When They Favor Their Own Products - SparkToro

Transcript Ep69:

Greg: Welcome to Episode 69 of the Near Memo where David, Mike and I talk about search, social and eCommerce through a local lens. And we're excited today to be talking about a range of really interesting things today.

We're gonna be talking about a great example of customer experience, customer service, and how that translated into a sort of a huge blow up viral moment on Twitter. We're gonna be talking about the top 1000 keywords and what they reveal about the state of the web and local in particular. And we're also gonna be talking about John Oliver's kind of also viral, really cogent and funny take down of big tech and discussion of the antitrust bills and Rand Fishkin’s follow up to that, which he posted just recently. So. Mike take it away: Chewy

Mike: Into my stream yesterday, both on Twitter and off Twitter came a tweet from an Anna Brose who contacted @Chewy last week to see if she could return an unopened bag of dog food after her dog had died and one, they gave her a full refund and two, told her to donate the food to the local shelter. And then three, whoever took the call, had a flowers sent to this person's home with a little card. Like I said, I don't follow dogs, particularly other than Cindy Crum who retweets them forever but I know somehow this showed up multiple times in my threads.

And as Aaron Weiche from Leadferno pointed out that good brand customer experience can gain millions of impressions. Very cheaply. I mean, this tweet has been liked 350,0000 times. It's been retweeted roughly 25,000 times. And it's just because they were doing, giving the refund and acting nicely. And it didn't cost them very much to be a good company and to be perceived as a good company.

And it, it just went viral beyond what one would. expect, but I think in this context, customer service is the exception, not the rule, particularly at this level, even though it isn't very expensive to do it this nicely.

David: We finally see the other side of the double edged sword of reviews here. Not that this was a structured review, but the power of that positive experience being seen by you. You used to use the analogy, Mike, when somebody used to have a bad experience they'd tell 10 people. Now they post it online and a hundred people see it. Well now it's hundreds of thousands of people. So just a terrific example of that. I think the, the other interesting thing for me is, unless this is a policy with inside of chewy, which would be somewhat surprising to me, but if so, I mean, even more credit to them, but the enablement of a presumably lower level customer service person to do the right thing is, is pretty powerful, which you don't see in a lot of large enterprises.

Greg: Yes. I would argue that this probably is a policy that there's some, some way in which the, these reps do have a certain amount of discretion and they, and they do have a, a kind of a playbook probably for some, for these kinds of scenarios.

David: And this was the first time that it's gone viral. I mean, that seems well,

Greg: unless you have a particularly, unless you have a particularly kind of extraordinary or compassionate person, who's going to send flowers out of their own pocket, which is very unlikely. Then there's, they're using some sort of company budget and that's probably within a menu of, of options that are available to them.

I would, I would guess. And, you know, I. I think this kind of thing has to be institutionalized, has to be formalized, or you have to give people enough discretion to be able to really do the right thing at a, at a front first line customer service level, which most companies pay lip service to, but don't actually deliver on everybody in their brother is talking about customer experience and customer service and all the principles that we would agree to and support here.

But you rarely encounter that. Practice. And so when it happens, it's an extraordinary thing and you get this and, and it's the, it's the very unusualness. of this kind of thing that has gotten the attention precisely because it's so rare that people have responded to it. I think

Mike: it does also speak to chewy and their understanding of, of their client base to understand the role that pets play in their lives as such a, I mean, it's like family and pets are people in this context and they treat it that way and they treat it with the utmost respect, which that also must be a corporate policy of sorts. An ethos to relate to the pet as if it were a family. And if this and this tragedy, it is a tragedy for this person and that to treat it as such, I think that's, that speaks well to chewy as well.

Greg: So there's another interesting dimension to this, which I think is, and we we're speculating of course the, the job satisfaction of the rep, him or herself who did that, a person who's empowered to take action like that, however constrained, but within some range of options is gonna be a better customer service person and more satisfied and is gonna do a better job for representing the company. You know, they're just a lot of people out there who are, you get a sense on the other end of the phone, they're just very dehumanized and there's just a lot of frustration and anger that goes back and forth and people just don't really feel. It's not a positive experience, and this is a totally different scenario. And I think that that person probably likes their job and probably has a better job as a consequence of being given whatever autonomy or discretion that they have

Mike: Contrast with my Verizon experience that I didn't talk about last week, just they knew the line was broken.

They still made me go through two hours of diagnostics to see if it was my problem. Even though they knew the line was broken down the. It's like, what was that all about? How could they not, you know, it's like,

David: A suboptimal playbook on Verizon's part, a suboptimal playbook,

Greg: for sure.

Bad, bad faith. You know, if they, if they know that, for example, something is happening on their end and they're still making you unplug and replug in the modem or whatever the hell they're doing. Yeah. It's really, it's really bad. And, and. so often customer service is about getting rid of the customer so often.

So often these calls.

Mike: This was a chat, but it was more frustrating because, oh, let me check that and check it. Let me check that. Oh, do this again. I had to unplug and plug it in three times once, cuz the internet told me twice cuz he told me and then I'm supposed to go outside and plug into whatever that box is outside my house.

And in the end it turned out, they knew they had a down line in our whole neighborhood.

Greg: well, I can speculate why they did that because that's some script that they have and these are the stages that they make everyone go through in a standardized. because of some

Mike: It could have flashed on my screen when I went to the internet, said “lines down in your area”, this isn't complicated. Please be patient.

Greg: Often, people aren't given the power or the incentives to do the right thing. And they just go through the motions and read a script.

Mike: All I can say is thank God that Verizon doesn't sell dog food.

David: I was gonna say, we can only hope that this podcast gets like 365,000 times.

Greg: So that's, we'll, we'll be sending flowers,

David: Verizon suffers the, the reverse

Greg: impact of chewy. Yeah. We we'll be sending flowers to all our, all our listeners, so, okay. Let's move on to item number two, which is the. Top 1000 keywords as indicated by a HFS and Kevin indig.

Who's the director of SEO four Shopify. He had a post on LinkedIn in which he made some observations about that. And then I looked at the Mike, Mike, and I have also both looked at the spreadsheet that that was generated. And it's very interesting. The first observation which we wrote about this.

Would be that the top 1000 keywords is dominated by brands. Most of the keywords, there are brands. I don't know what the percentage is, but it's much higher than you would think. Fewer categories. There's some pornography in there we can debate about whether it's as much or less than you'd expect. It,

Mike: it was the number one search by, by search.

David: Well,

Greg: the, the, the brand PornHub was tied. Facebook as the number one keyword,

Mike: but then number eight was porn. Number 12 was porn just the category porn. And so it's a, it's a frequent. It's good to know that we're using the internet for good, not evil.

Greg: this comes as a surprise to you?

Mike: no, just it's just, when you see it in hard numbers, it's just kind of a wake up call. That's all.

Greg: So, so one of the, so one of the far fewer category searches than you would expect. Many of the, the traditional local searches that we talk about and that our colleagues and friends spend their lives figuring out reverse engineering, not present in this thousand top thousand words.

These are part of the long tail, but there was a ton of local content, as I indicated in the, in the newsletter present. And that consisted of categories like grocery store or gas station near me. There were about 126 near me references out of a thousand, which is about one out of every eight. And then there were a lot of other local queries retailers food related, Chinese food, et cetera, cetera, a lot of things that we could confidently say were local queries.

There were many that were ambiguous. So there's one question about whether a retailer brand is. An e-commerce query or a local query. Well, if you look at the data from the us government and others, most of those transactions still happen in store, or there's an online order and an offline pickup. So these are local queries by and large themselves.

So we came out with Mike and I independently did an analysis of the percentage of local queries in that list. And we both came out with basically the same number. It was about 34%. And this was all in. This was all desktop. This is not mobile. So mobile, we would expect to be higher, but that's a, that's a kind of a big, big deal.

And Mike, you had a, you did an analysis of the, of the volume as opposed to just the, the percentage of keywords. And what was your conclusion there?

Mike: 32.3% was local, slightly less than the 34%  in terms of volume.

Greg: So years ago from Google, although,

Mike: like I said, if we pulled the porn references out, it would be quite a bit higher.

I don't know if one should do that or shouldn't,

Greg: but I, well, we, we operate on the internet as though the pornography piece of it is, is really sort of cordoned off to the side. So let's, we, we can speak about it as though it doesn't exist. We were joking before we started here about the keyword Dick or dicks, which is an example of ambiguity, right?

Is that, is that a pornographic? Search or is that big sporting goods? We don't know, but which might be a local search as well? Yes, it's both in both cases, it's perhaps a local search anyway it was just very interesting to see because there have been various estimates over time about what percentage of searches are local, have carry local intent and Google years ago, I think it was Carter Maslin.

Who, at least confirmed that it was he, he said to me, there was just an ambiguity problem and there were certain they could not figure it out entirely, but they gave an estimate of about 20%, I think on the desktop that was local had carried local income and thirty, thirty three, let's call it a third.

Iy is a bigger number and impressive, and it would be higher if we were talking about mobile David, you wanted to make an observation.

David: I wanted to just highlight the fact that even among the, as you said, a retailer search, actually like Dick's or Walmart or Target or whatever, being such a huge chunk of overall search volume.

And you wonder if these large retail brands understand the impression that is being created of their brands by their local pack results. Right. Which are almost assuredly showing up at the top of a desktop search and certainly of a mobile search. Yeah. And when you think about reviews and photos, which we've harped on time and again on this podcast and in our writings. I think it's a complete blind spot for the Targets of the world or the Walmarts of the world, that every time a customer is typing in their name, they're seeing whatever 2.7 stars and potentially a totally inappropriate or at least suboptimal photo.

And you think about all of the money spent on branding and. Creating favorable brand impressions and billboards and out of home stuff and everything else.

And yet here are consumers with very high intent who are not being presented with a favorable impression.

Greg: Well, you make a, you make a hugely important point, which is that brand perception is being partly shaped by the local pack. And it's absolutely true that these brands are not devoting the kind of attention and care to the, to the results there that they, that they should, if they, if they were to consider it part of their brand spending, it would be, it would be a bigger and different SEO as, as a brand, as a component of sort of brand perception is what it really allows to. Yes.

Mike: Yeah, just looking at these top brand local queries. Walmart's number one by far almost 50% more than Home Depot, which is second.

Third was Costco. Fourth was Starbucks. Fifth was Best Buy, sixth with the Walgreens Lowe's McDonald's so those, and then Target were the top local brands, which is sort of interesting with a fairly steep Curve down from Walmart down to the rest of them?

Greg: Well, it was interesting because Starbucks was so high up on the list and coffee near me, which is one of the one, one thinks of as sort of a quintessential local query was way, way down.

I don't remember the precise number, but it was much, much farther down than, than Starbucks. And that was the only coffee brand. I think that appeared only cafe. Chain that appeared perhaps because all others have been consolidated into Starbucks, but I don't, there there's some regional and other chains that exist that didn't even appear didn't appear

David: at all.

I think it's probably true on a national base. I mean, they're the only really national coffee retailer with a physical presence in across the country.

Greg: I would. . Yeah. And then the, then I would just wanna reemphasize the, the, the brand dominant nature of this list. It was, it was substantially brands and that was really fascinating to see.

And it, it speaks to how other media drive search search queries, right. That the brands are created even not withstanding the discussion we just had about the brand impact. Local PAC presence brands are created on other media and that's reflected or amplified in search results.

Mike: It also reflects the nature of commerce in the United States to, to aggregate into these very large, big box entities that become dominant in their category.

Walmart home Depot, Costco best.

Greg: Walgreens. It's right. It's a reflection of the economy.

Mike: Absolutely. Right, right. So it's a dialectic that goes on in our, in our economy and it reflects this 10 tendency in our economy to support monopoly, monopolies, which I know we're gonna talk about shortly with the really big ones, but it happens in retail all the time with very little to no oversight, to the great detriment of every small mom and pop shop that used to.

You know, widgets, they don't sell widgets anymore.

Greg: well, that argues for aggressive, local SEO for mom and pops, where, where if they can appear in the local pack, that's an opportunity for them. And especially with inventory data, they can appear for certain kinds of product queries. They can siphon off some, some sales from some of these bigger boxes, but let's, let's shift now to.

What was a hilarious and very cogent and powerful segment that John Oliver ran in his show last week. Tonight, last week tonight, I was gonna dyslexia that last week tonight, which is an HBO program and that like the chewy tweet got enormous viral exposure on LinkedIn and Facebook and Twitter. So David, why don't you tell us about that?

What it, what it, what it said? Sure.

David: Totally endorse your characterization of it as hilarious was a great way to start my, my week I watched it first thing Monday morning, and he sort of goes through the arc of antitrust. I don't even know enforcement, I guess, over the years. And in particular, starting with the, at the story of, at and T and how at and T.

Executive made a very funny reference to a handwritten memo about ATT executives talking about choking startup competitors before they got off the ground and all of this stuff, it was very funny and it was basically an illegible memo that the justice department or some court had used to, to break up at and T but, but using that as an example of, Hey, the breakup of at and T is actually one of the reasons we have the internet in the first place is that removing the strangle hold on on the telco industry has, has.

Spawn a whole range of new businesses and even new industries and that something like that might happen if, if big tech were regulated and broken up in the same way. And in particular, the, I mean he talks about apple and Amazon. The most interesting piece to be was, was his, his Google piece at referenced actually ran, ran Fishkins spark Toro study of zero click searches that, that 65% of searches are answered by Google.

Without a click through to the website and talks about the self referenc of, of many Google properties at the top of, of search results. And it's just, it's a funny, funny segment. I think it did a better job of, of laying out the problems have that big tech oligopolies have, have created than pretty much anything else I've seen in, in.

Widely widely viewed press. It was hilarious. It kept, it kept you engaged for the full 26 minutes or whatever it was. And there's some really profound implications. These bill, he, he points out that the, the bills that are before the house and Senate right now, if they don't get past before the end of the.

July session that it's very unlikely. They're gonna pass in this, in this Congress and who knows what's gonna happen after November. So the, the time is really of the essence and hopefully his segment generates some kind of voter and, and consumer groundswell of, of support for these bills, ran Fishkin then posted.

Twitter survey to his audience, largely of marketers asking H how familiar people were with the two bills that are before Congress right now. And most people basically hadn't heard of them. I, I don't exactly know what his hadn't heard of them in air quotes. Option was in the survey, but it was a clear majority of marketers weren't even aware

Mike: almost 65% or something,

David: 65, 60 5%.

We're just are just not paying attention. And he's right to call out the fact that these are gonna have, if these bills pass, they're gonna have just a profound impact on how marketers do their jobs, how we do our jobs to garner eyeballs and garner customers from the internet and the. I, I don't know that it's entirely appropriate to speculate on exactly what the, the changes would be.

But I have a feeling if you know, the. For example, the local pack is forced to go away because Google can't self preference, its own results anymore. That will, that will lead to some big changes. I don't know what those changes are gonna be. It could be that there's more clicks on ads because the ads are now more visually compelling than the organic results.

Who knows. But I do, I do think it's going to have a big impact and people should be paying attention to the outcome

Greg: of these bills. Yeah. The, the, the two bills just real quickly, we've written about 'em a number of times is the times there's the American. Commerce and innovation act. I believe if I didn't get the order wrong.

And then the open markets act, the open markets act is really about app stores in particular. And the other one is the one that is much more sweeping and is designed to target so-called gatekeepers, the big tech companies who have control over access to different, you know, search results listings on Amazon, et cetera, and, or, or Or I suppose the app store in some cases, but this is the one that's really gonna have the most sweeping impact.

And the self-referencing piece of it could be quite, as you say, quite profound, the, we, we it's too, it's too early, really to know exactly what that would mean from a, from a practical enforcement standpoint, but certainly there would be consequences there that would be significant. So I, I just have to say that the thing that he, the example of a search that Oliver uses to illustrate zero click is the, is totally very funny, hilarious.

It's this dolphin example. You have to watch this because it's, it's so effective. He, he, he gets absolutely apoplectic about dolphins and their relationship to humans. and he's, he goes through this whole Google SERP illustrating the, the zero quick phenomenon. Just very, it's just brilliant. Largely

David: going down the rabbit hole of people also ask boxes, which I don't think is an atypical consumer behavior in any, in any stretch.


Greg: no, exactly. So so are we done, Mike? Did you want to,

David: did you wanna say anything? I'm surprised you? Yeah,

Mike: the only comment I. I, I don't, I can't speak intelligently to the laws. They're complicated laws. I haven't read out 400 pages. The one comment I have about both John Oliver and Rand is the tendency to moralize around behaviors.

In this context, we live in capitalism. We've decided for example, that a 30% fee to run an app store is appropriate. It isn't, it is a problem when that app store becomes a monopoly, but that doesn't all of a sudden make. Evil and phrasing it in, in moral terms. I think muddies the conversation because it's the monopoly, that's the problem, not the 30% fee because Sony, which has a monopoly in PlayStations, 80% of the market share, they charge 30%.

Everybody else charges 30%. So if the fee is bad, It's bad. Every place, if it's inappropriate in the context of monopoly, then the conversation should be about the monopoly, not about the, the evilness of the 30% and both Rand and John Oliver fell into that sort of laziness, which I object to.

Greg: Well, I, I, I think that that's a valid point.

However, I think when, when you've got companies that are affirmatively or willfully acting to prevent competition or to kill competition,

Mike: Well, that could, that could be an immoral act, but charging 30% isn't by 30%

Greg: by, by itself standard by, by itself. I think that's right. It's just, it's just a question of what the, what the tolerance of the market is for that kind of thing.

The, the, the example that Oliver gives that's most. I think consistent with the notion that a company is doing something willful to harm competition is the, is the Amazon example where he talks about them using their own, their using seller data. Yeah. Knocking off a

David: well, knocking off that bag, I thought was just a, a really powerful example that a small small company had built this very cool, like sort of backpack thing.

Fanny pack dad was

Greg: fan dad, whatever it is, dad pack dad pack. I don't. Yeah. Right.

David: and I mean, Oliver just showed the two side by side. I think the company itself had produced this video, just showing exactly how close of a knockoff it was. I mean, it was just in incredible and that Amazon had used the data about how popular that bag was selling to build their own Amazon basics version.

Well, but this,

Mike: this happens all the time in the grocery industry though. I mean, it's a standard practice in the grocery industry. So the practice per se, isn't the problem. It is in the context of limiting and injuring intentionally other business entities and the consumer. Right? Well,

Greg: you could, you could argue that Amazon is just acting rationally as you sort of impliedly do with your previous comment, that they they're observing trends in the market.

They seek that that's

Mike: a, well, it's assuming that capitalism is rational, but in the context of capitalism, that's totally rational. We're we're not gonna

Greg: we're right. We can have another debate about the, the capitalism as an economic system later, but in the context of cap capitalism, Amazon is just acting rationally, arguably by observing trends, data that they, they capture.

And then responding to that, oh, this is a popular. Briefcase. We're gonna create one that's similar now where, where it bleeds over into bad behavior is when they're seeking to duplicate the product so closely that the consumer can't necessarily distinguish them. And then what app, what Amazon often does is that they will put the cheaper and then they underpriced them.

They will put the cheaper Amazon basics version of the product on that page. So. You'll see the, the room fan, right. And at the, the Verdo fan. And it costs a certain amount. And here's the Amazon basics version, which looks very, very similar if not identical, absent the brown, the branding, and it's cheaper.

So here's a Walmart and they suggest that to you. Why don't you buy this

Mike: one? A Walmart story for you. There was a local company that produced very high end high quality, pepper grinders, maybe salt shakers, small local company that used locally sourced wood products to make a really nice pepper shaker they got in.

They were doing well. They got invited to meet with Walmart under a ton of NDAs. They brought all their stuff in, showed all their costs or, you know, talked about the product. Walmart never did visible, but went sourced the product in China. And put out a clone of it and you know, so Walmart's been doing this for years, right?

It, it not appropriate in neither context, but Walmart, you know, had Hillary Clinton on their board and was never got, got away with, gets away with it. It's not even illegal. That's the problem with it. It's kind of, you know, part of the problem is the lack of sort of clear laws in these areas. But the other is that if they're, if nobody's looking, it's gonna it's happening.

Well, an

Greg: example closer to home is the case of location mobile location and sky hook wireless, which was bought by somebody else a number of years ago. But in the beginning sky hook, wireless was a company that was providing databases of. Wifi and cell towers so that Google and apple could triangulate user location.

Based on that, on that data, both companies were customers of sky hook, and then subsequently both companies created their own versions of the sky hook. Methodology and booted sky hook. I, so that that's an example of somebody who is using a partner, basically rips off the partner and, and kills, kills that relationship.

And those are the there's the antitrust police arriving now the, and, and so that, that was a really blatant example. And I, I, I would, I would even say, I mean, we're, we're sort of starting to run over time, but I, there was another, at the risk of defaming our friends at Google, there was the whole, why spy episode with the street view cameras.

Right? You remember that? I do, yeah.

Mike: Where their engineer took the fifth in front of Congress.

Greg: Right. And they were capturing every single piece of data that they could. And one of the reasons for that was because they wanted location and getting these wifi. Signals capturing that would help them with, with location, make their location approach more, more accurate sky hook wireless did an exclusive, did a deal with Samsung who at the time was the largest and probably still is the largest Android maker.

They, they, to, to provide location for Samsung phones, which meant that Google was gonna be cut out of that relat. So Google was not gonna get location from Samsung phones anymore. Hypothetically, if this sky hook deal went through and Vic Gundotra, who was at the time, one of the higher ups at Google in the, in the mobile program, intervened and killed that relationship because Google needed cell phone data to at the time when this Wii thing happened and they were no longer gonna be able to get the, get the wifi location.

Through street view cameras, they needed the mobile phones to deliver that location information. Anyway, I'm going on and on and on about this, but that's bad behavior. It's an example of bad behavior. Willful quasi monopolistic behavior, Google used it's market power. They ripped off a, a partner. They use their market power to kill a business relat.


Mike: That was, I think it's, I think it's the market power is where this transitions from standard business behavior under capitalism to inappropriate business behavior. It's when it's, well, all these power allows them to destroy the

Greg: competitor. These bills are only focused on five companies. Basically you have to cross certain thresholds of scale and volume in order for them to apply to you, which I think is kind of a bad idea, but I mean, there should be some thresholds.

So small business. Don't get caught up in this, but they, they are, they are only focused on, on Microsoft. Google, apple, Facebook,

Amazon, Amazon. Yes. There you go. So anyway, it's, that's, that's a kind of a dubious part of it from my point of view, but scale is the thing that triggers that, you know, where it goes from just clever revenue maximization to. Monopolistic abuse of market power, but let's go back to chewy for one second. So we can end on an opposite note on a on a positive note.

So that is a great story. All these, all, everybody who's listening to this follow that example deliver great service, great customer experience, and your customers will do your, their marketing, your marketing for you. There you go. All right. Thanks for listening. Everybody. Have a great.