Ep 75: Instagram evolves (?), Google turns off reviews for women’s clinics , Google Commerce SERP Trends

Instagram evolves (?) to target Gen Z but leaves others behind, Google prevents reviews on listings that offer reproductive services, Local Packs show for 77% on Google commerce query SERP results

Ep 75: Instagram evolves (?), Google turns off reviews for women’s clinics , Google Commerce SERP Trends
Photo by Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

Part 1 Video start 0:13 - Instagram evolves (?) to target Gen Z but leaves others behind

Part 2 Video start 10:27 - Google prevents reviews on listings that offer reproductive services

Part 3 Video start 19:45- Local Packs show for 77% on Google commerce query SERP results

Reference Articles:

  2. Adam Mosseri confirms it: Instagram is over
  3. Google Cuts Off Reviews for Reproductive Care Clinics
  4. The state of ecommerce SERP Features

Transcript Ep 75:

Greg: welcome back to the Near Memo. I think this is episode 75 or 76. We'll figure it out. The session's over.

Mike: I'm pretty sure it's 75.

Greg: It's a moment. It's a moment. What is the 75th anniversary? You've got silver gold. Is it diamond, diamond. Yeah. Maybe might be all right. This, our diamond.

David: And we're only 25 episodes from syndication, which is where the real money comes in.

Greg: So, yes. Okay. This is our diamond episode here. So this is where we talk about what happened in this weekend. Search, social and commerce all through our collective local lens and filter and. We're going to start off today.

We're going to talk about Instagram and Facebook. Google shutting down reproductive healthcare reviews, and also the prevalence of local packs in commerce searches. We're going to start off with David and then go to Mike and we'll end with me. So David, take it away.

David: Sure. I came across a story in the verge by I wanna give the author some credit here, Elizabeth Lopatto that I think you shared either, either you shared it just as I was reading it, or I happened to see it in your Twitter feed.

And didn't remember that you had shared it with me, but the, the article is essentially about the tiktokification of, Instagram. Or as you described it in our newsletter, potentially the MySpace ization of Facebook and, and Instagram,

Greg: the gist of those are two  slightly different points, which we can get to, which we, which we will get to.


But the, the gist of the piece was just that the sort of evolution of Instagram away from a sort of more intimate social app where you sort of saw what your friends were up to. You know, occasionally saw the cat photos that you had expressed a, a given interest in, into something that is much more sort of influencer driven, algorithmically driven, and in particular video driven through things like stories and reels, I guess, is what Elizabeth mentioned and the.

Just of it, I think was she was expressing frustration about this, the, the, the way that Instagram has evolved in particular and it, and it strikes me that this is part of the same sort of theme that we've, we've discussed here over the last couple of weeks. First that Google I'm going to butcher his name again.

Kar Orba Raban. Raghavan thank you, Greg. Talking about the fact that oh, gen Z types are not using Google maps for discovery search. They're using TikTok. Then last week, Instagram coming out with its own sort of visual interpretation of the map interface, and now sort of this frustration by the, I think more than just Elizabeth with the sort of evolution of Instagram.

The splitting of Facebook's feed as part of the same piece where you have this younger generation, that it feels like the big tech product managers and product officers are steering their products too, in the case of sort of the tokenization. And of course, there's the revenue pressures that these companies face.

But that that's the consumption preference of, of gen Z and that the consumption preference, digital consumption preferences of older generations, including the ones that all three of us are part of may not be for that same type of, sort of. You know, video type of interface or in the case of Google, these sort of very rich results.

We talked about how refreshing the, the yup. Dot com interface was just being 10 blue links. So it, it strikes me that however you feel about the pollution of Instagram or the, or the, the devolution of Facebook. That there may actually be very different preferences across generations and that the, the smarter play for these tech companies might be actually to bifurcate their products into multiple apps, or at least allow for different experiences of these, of these products, depending on what the user's preferences are.

And you brought up an interesting point, Greg, in terms of the, the consumption patterns of gen Z. N going away from wanting to use a single app for everything and actually splitting their, their usage of apps across different platforms. So do you want to kind of bring that in as a segue and, and we can talk more about

Greg: that.

Yeah. That, that was in an, a axis piece that cited, I think some third party research I thought it was interesting. That, you know, multiple apps are being used by, by gen Z for different purposes, for messaging, for entertainment, for communicating, with friends, for sharing information be real, has emerged as kind of the anti Instagram, where it's just a, sort of a, a, a very candid, literally candid photo of what you're doing.

Point in time, UN photoshopped UN staged and people are, are, are liking that I'm going to make two, two quick points in response to what you, what you said. Facebook is kind of doing a version of what you're, what you're describing in the sense that they have two feeds now where they will, when they roll it out, they're going to have a home feed and a feed feed.

I forget which one is which but one of them is the home

Mike: feed is algorithmic and the feed feed is your

Greg: friends. Right? Okay. So the home feed is the TikTok imitator and the, and the feed feed is your friend's current Facebook. So they're, they're kind of trying to split the baby in a way within the existing Facebook app.

And we'll see how, how well that works. The other point I wanted to make was that nobody is asking for this change at Instagram. It seems, you know, it's, it's, it's, it's one thing to evolve a product as your audience changes and your, you know, you're getting feedback from the customer, but this is clearly.

You know, part of Facebook's old playbook to appropriate features or capabilities of rivals and co-op co-op them. And, you know, thereby kind of try and kill the competition, which it won't be able to do in TikTok case, but it's worth noting that Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian, the two sisters who have hundreds of millions of followers on TikTok came out and.

And roasted TikTok and asked for it to be preserved in its current form.

Mike: And that you mean, you mean Instagram? Instagram? You said TikTok. Oh,

Greg: sorry. Sorry. Yes. Okay. Well, all these social networks is very confusing to me. Instagram,

David: we know you're one of their hundreds of millions of followers

Greg: too. So yes, I am not actually.

So it's so coming again, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian, don't like the changes. They, they made that very plain to their hundreds of millions of followers and Adam sari, the, the CEO of you know, the, the, the vessel CEO of Instagram basically came out and tried. Defend the changes and, and as well as saying, you know, it's still going to happen.

So, you know, we'll see, we, we, we, there's a, there's a kind of sense that Facebook is screwing up in multiple ways right now. And we'll see what that turns into in, in the broader market. They, they should have reported there or they're about to report their earnings if they're not doing it right at this moment.

So we'll see, we'll see. What's what's happening. Lucky. One of those articles,

David: the political ad season is about to kick into high gear here. So I have a feeling there Q4 results will be just fine, but

Mike: one of those articles. Maybe it was the access. One pointed out that something I've been saying for a long time, which is that messaging is often the primary social medium for most people.

And I think that's true across all these D. Generations. But I think it's particularly true with the younger ones, but it's been true for me for a long time. I've never used Facebook to communicate. I've always used, it's now either iMessage or slack as my primary way of interacting with people. I hold dear either in a business sense or in a personal sense.

And that it's something we didn't talk about here with. And speaks to David's point about how the bifurcation may make more sense. Leaving Instagram as a photo tool. You know, making, leaving Facebook as a friend's social tool, whatever, and then creating a more direct tic-tac competitor for those that want it.

But I, you know, I mean, you can never count the hegemon out of the game, right? They can always maybe Google with Google, but they can always screw up like Google with Google plus. They do screw up though. They have enough cash flow that they can make the next play, which, which is also interesting. Right?

They're not, it's not going to be a death now for them. It's just sort of a bit of an embarrassment. I think.

Greg: Well, it's interesting to me that, by the way, I just looked up their earnings, they just reported, they missed, they missed their revenues and earnings. Facebook did. So meta did as did Google and as did Google, but Google snap dramatically, right?

They've all, they've all. They've all done. It. Microsoft snap, Twitter Google was redeemed by strong paid search revenue and cloud revenue. And so they didn't really suffer in terms of their, their valuation. One, one final point, unless you guys wanna talk more about this it's, you know, Instagram could do something quite similar to what Facebook is doing.

They have a, a TikTok imitator feed and the current version of Instagram preserved in, in some other way. And I feel like they're trying to coerce people into using reels, even though they say that's happening organically. Because that's they wanna move it in that direction so that they can appropriate the, you know, tox momentum.

I mean, why couldn't you just have a feed, like an like on Facebook for the one and then for the other. So anyway Moving on now in a, in, in elegantly, moving on to, to Mike who noticed today, or has been noticing and wrote about today, the Google's shutting down reviews in the reproductive health category.

So Mike, why don't you explain more about that?

Mike: I noticed this because in the Google. business profile forum, a number of pro healthcare women's reproductive healthcare provision have noted the inability of their users to post reviews. They get a message. Posting reviews is disabled for this location.

I would it's. It is an intentional thing on Google's part that has become clear and it, it appears to be an algorithmic driven change, although they did it. The following categories abortion clinics and pregnancy care, but they didn't do it like in women's care or doulas. If you were multi categorized and you had pregnancy care or abortion clinic, you would have your reviews automatically turned off.

This seems to have uptick in the last, this month. So I assume that it's a recent change, but when I looked at. Planned parenthood. The change seemed to have been implemented almost three months ago, cause there's been no new reviews on any planned hood planned parenthood location the last three months.

And it seems to be across all of planned Parenthood's locations, regardless of which category they chose. So seems to be two things going on. One is planned. Parenthood reviews were shut off. Now in abortion clinics and pregnancy care categories, reviews are shut off. If those, I was told by Google to tell these businesses that if they want to turn reviews back on, they can reach out to support to do so.

So it's clearly intentional. It's it raises a number of questions though, for me. One is, you know, was plan, did planned parenthood ask Google to have their reviews shut off and did Google, you know, the subsequently allow that. And if that's the case, then who else can ask, they didn't apparently notify any of these businesses that reviews were being shut off, waiting for these businesses to complain.

I don't know what that's about. You know, and it really, it's not clear to me their objective in shutting this off, but it does point out to me that they've been unable. To moderate these political attacks. They've never been able to successfully handle the uptick in, in reviews that happened because of political or social events in March.

They shut off reviews for all Russian businesses, because apparently the Ukrainians were leaving fake reviews. They just shut 'em all off. But in this case you would think that they'd be able to moderate these based on volume or some other criteria language, but they. Instead of moderating them, they just turned them off, which I think is fascinating.

I guess they're big, we're little. They can do what they want. And given section two 30, they're largely protected in their choices, but your thoughts?

Greg: Well, I, I, I would. I don't have anything factual to add. We did, we did ask planned parenthood and, and Google for comments, official comments, or even background information. And they, they declined to, they didn't affirmatively decline. I just, we haven't heard anything from them. So we don't know what's what's really going on, but it's, you know, it's a blunt instrument solution and it strikes me that these kinds of politically motivated review bombing or.

Or other kinds of, I improper term violations. It's just going to continue. I mean, we're, we're, the reviews are a battle ground now for hot button issues that come up. And it's a, it's a, it's an unfortunate thing because what it does together, as you pointed out at the end of the the piece that you wrote, Mike, what it does with, in combination with review attacks and, and fake reviews, is it just, it.

Continues to corrode the whole review segment, which, you know, plays into the TikTok alternative to local search kind of mentality is that, you know, there was a, there was a piece in. Central, one of the Android blogs written by a, a woman who's I think the managing editor and also a member, she seems to be a younger person.

And she was talking about how she uses TikTok as a search tool and, and the, the confidence that she has in seeing the person or seeing the, the content. As opposed to sort of just reading it in a very static form. So, I mean, I think all of this is playing into to a broad degradation of, of confidence and reviews, which is really unfortunate.

David: Is there any, Mike, is there any chance that this was done as a, some sort of protective to protect women who were going to these places from surveillance by law enforcement or other. Other types of prosecutorial malfeasance in some of these states where abortions is, are now

Mike: illegal, right?

As Greg pointed out, it's a blunt instrument. I mean, if there were that, then why wouldn't, I mean, New York state, for example, it's the same as. Tennessee or Alabama or Texas that if they used abortion clinic or the other category, they were no longer able to leave review. So, and they left a number of categories that are potentially trackable similar categories that are trackable.

Reproductive health, family planning women's clinic and they left those open. So it's a, it it's an arbitrary, somewhat arbitrary decision that it's not clear to me, their motivation other than to mitigate influx of review attacks in limited situations. It's a very, just a very heavy handed way to do it.

And that makes.

Greg: We would hope that what you're suggesting David is right. That they were being thoughtful and this was some prophylactic effort on their part. But I think it's just, this is the easiest way for them. To do it,

Mike: you know? Right. But then why wouldn't they also apply to reproductive health clinic or family planning center or women's clinics?

You know, cause they're

Greg: not thinking clearly about it.

Mike: well, or they're like many things with Google, they have too high of an opinion of their ability to sort of. Make this change. I mean, it's unclear to me. I it's, it's very confusing to me cuz I, I feel conflicted about Google's position in this, whether they should even have the, well, they clearly have the ability as this arbitrator arbitrator in society to decide where they can and cannot leave reviews.

It clearly indicates their failures in, in moderating. These kinds of. Negative attacks. So it speaks to ill to me of Google, but I don't know whether there is good intention at the core. It's like hard to you say

Greg: you raise an interesting point by implication, which is why not give the business itself the capacity to turn, you know, as a, as a global matter turn reviews on or off, not individual reviews, but just shut it down for a period of time.

If they, if that's desire. I mean, that would be contrary, I suppose, to Google's interest in getting a steady flow of reviews and recent reviews. And it might, it might, some people might try and game that system, but it's worth cons, you know, maybe they could pause it for a limited period of time or something.

I don't know. That might be an

Mike: interesting, or likewise if they're finding a lot of review attack, shut it off, but turn, put a button in the dashboard that allows business to turn it back on. If they want to. I mean, there's a million ways to handle it. Yeah. This one is not particularly, I, I don't think it's going to be particularly effective, but again, and maybe it's algorithm, maybe they, maybe they saw a bunch of attacks across these particular categories and maybe the algorithm.

Maybe they've improved. I doubt it though. They've never invested much in review moderation. I don't expect 'em to start now.

David: Although we normally joke about Yelp. I don't think this is a joking matter here. So I ask this seriously, Mike, have you seen any evidence that Yelp is, is taking any similar action as they have on sort of hot, hot button listings?

For political reasons. And I

Mike: mean, they do have a, an ability. Measure unusual review quality increases and shut off a listing automatically. So, but I have not gone and looked specifically on this topic, this just, I became aware of this over the last two days and sort of explored it and it's become clear this what Google's done, but the whys and where force and what other people are doing are not clear to me yet.

Greg: Okay now our third and final item on a less contentious note, perhaps is is based on a study of 20,000 e-commerce keywords that Kevin indig did. He's the former Shopify SEO director, former as in, was just laid off this week. Unfortunately. Kevin is a very knowledgeable, good person, often writing a lot of helpful content and hopefully we'll have him as a guest on this podcast.

Just I'll quickly summarize kind of the, the highest level findings. There's a lot of, we, we wrote about it in the newsletter on Wednesday. It's a lot of good information in there. Couldn't reproduce it, but just. Captured some of the highlights. So the, he, he identifies four major trends in, in commerce SES.

And this is purely for the desktop. He he's clear that he's not talking about mobile SES. Although some of the features that obviously overlap one of them is that we're seeing a lot more visual information in commerce SES. That's no surprise to anybody who's paying attention. Google is putting many more S features.

Results that it considers to have ambiguous queries. He also identifies that in 77% of cases, Google is showing a local pack for e-commerce searches, which is very interesting. And we'll talk more about that in a minute. And then you know, to get maximum visibility as a. Retailer or product seller.

You ultimately have to spend money with Google because ads are, are very prevalent in the vast majority of cases. In 84% of cases, for example, product listing ads appear, and they're multiple ad types that are showing up in these commerce syrups. But the, but

Mike: also they're very. Right. The, all the, all of these commercial query ads are very,

Greg: very visual.

Right, right. And they're, and then, and they're much more valuable in some sense than other kinds of ads for services. It's interesting because you know, when you're looking for a product and you see that product represented and other information about the product and whether it's in store or not, that's actually a much more helpful ad unit as Google is sort of fond of saying.

You know, it's content versus some of the service ads that you see, or some of the ads you see on other kinds of queries, which are less communicate, less information and maybe you know, dubious in some other way. The


David: is there's no, there's no marketing in a PLA, right? It's, it's an image. It's a price, right?

It's a, is it available? It's reviews. So there's no sort of self marketing on the part of either the seller or the product manufacturer in a PLA that's.

Greg: So, and, and it's worth pointing out that one of the categories where Google got a, a big spending boost in its Q2 results was retail. So that retail and travel were apparently the two really most helpful categories, where there was a lot of spending and that, and in retail, you would assume that a lot of those are, are product ads, product PLAs, but so back to this, this point that local packs are being shown for 77% of eCommerce.

Queries, which is really interesting, you know, that, that would've been something totally unexpected and counterintuitive a few years ago because you know, those commerce queries would've been about driving people to e-commerce sites to buy something online. But of course, Google has dramatically changed that with its kind of agnostic or hybrid online, offline commerce strategy.

So well, and Kevin rightly

David: points out something we've been highlighting. As long as this podcast has been going, that this is Google's competitive advantage against Amazon is, is the fact that they can deliver places that you can go and buy something in 10 minutes. That Amazon just can't do. And so it's a, it's a way for Google to try to move the, whatever the current number is.

53% of product searches that started Amazon to try to start to move those back to

Mike: Google. And it, so it's a. It's also when go ahead. It we've talked a lot about the confusing Google results with all these different elements in it. And product search is one of the most diverse from an element point of view, local and PLAs and images in organic and each Etsy boxes and all sorts of, of different units.

So it's, it's. It it's confusing, but it's also a way for Google to disambiguate and to train users that there is local inventory, because I assume product searches are a big category of, of searches at Google, even though they don't have the majority of them. Well,

Greg: and it's certainly an area of strategic emphasis for the reasons that David talked about in trying to sort of claw back some of that, you know, query volume from, from Amazon.

My interpretation is that this strategy is working for Google. There's they're having success. Although it's not clear that they're getting market share back from Amazon, but they're clearly drawing advertising revenue to them with, with all the effort that they're putting into product, product search.

David: Well, as I've mentioned previously, they've at least claw back. Some of my Amazon usage. I think, I think Google shopping is a is a very good user experience. And I do appreciate the fact I can see inventory from several dozen retailers whose names I actually recognize. Greg, you've brought this up previously that the Amazon results are largely you.

Sort of fly by night, third party sellers these days. And I think that it's, it, it, theoretically Google shopping is a potential competitive advantage. Even setting aside the advantage of showing merchants with in-store inventory and not just a pure e-commerce experience. So I think that they've done a, a nice job with the, the shopping piece of Google and I don't.

Necessarily think they've done such a good job with disambiguation, but they've certainly in my, again, just speaking totally. Anecdotally, I will now default to the shopping tab. If I, if I am doing a search that I may not have realized was a sort of more transactional query. I will actually click the shopping tab underneath the search bar and, and go into the pure shopping experience.

Greg: And I think the local piece of this is really a, a a huge advantage for them because. As eCommerce cools you know, they've got this local online to offline shopping experience that I think has been pretty well established that will keep people advertising there and keep people coming there.

Mike: So an interest, another anecdote.

Amazon search has gotten so bad that when I know I want something at Amazon, I go to Google and search for it on Google to get to the page I call 'em amazon.com. I don't even, I just type Amazon in the product. And then I get to the page and I, right. It's much better than Amazon search. I mean, Amazon is, I, I don't know how they've gotten so bad, but they're their search function is really.

Greg: Yeah. And that's

David: the same with John Shaw highlighted that several months ago and a tweeted, he he'd actually built his own third party client using the Amazon search API or something that he is now using instead of the actual Amazon search experience.

Greg: That's his personal search engine. Mm-hmm yep.

David: Okay. You're you're doing the same thing, Mike, you're just using Google instead of building your own app.

Greg: Well, that's the Reddit, that's the red. Hack that we were talking about for Google previously. It's true. So that brings us to the end of another exciting and hopefully interesting episode for you.

We still have a little bit of time left on our digital agency survey. So please take that survey. If you're part of a digital agency have and have yet to take it, it's going to be closing at the end of the week. And. We'll be analyzing the results and sharing

Mike: them. Don't forget to mention the huge reward, the $5 gift certificate that we are giving.

If you do complete the survey.

David: In all seriousness, the very significant discounts to a number of prominent SaaS providers, including white spark Len sendable, a lot of names that you've heard of CallRail Ferno. It's a really, really great list of, of SaaS companies that have offered discounts to folks who complete the survey.

So yes, if you're an agency and depending on when you're listening to this podcast we're going to close the survey Friday, July 29th at the end of the day, Pacific time. Please try to get your answers in before then.

Greg: Great. All right, we'll see you next week.