Near Memo, Episode 21

Google’s delay of FLoC is due to both the confusion in the market & rejection by leading platforms. The successes of DuckDuckGo follows customer demand for privacy How to navigate the new covid reality vis a vis employees without losing customers?

Near Memo, Episode 21
FLoC is flailing, Privacy Success of DuckDuckGo, Businesses need employee vaccination policies

Part 1 Video Starts 00:13: Why has Google, so shortly after announcing FLoC, already pulling back?

Part 2 Video- Starts 5:25: The successes  of DuckDuckGo as the Avis of search engines indicates the customer demand for privacy

Part 3 Video- Starts 15:11: As economy opens up, businesses need clearly communicated vaccination policy to not lose customers

Reference Articles

1 Google's cookie announcement

2 Millions Choose Simple Privacy Protection with DuckDuckGo

3 The Changing Landscape for Business Covid Policy


Greg: Welcome back everybody. I'm Greg Sterling. I'm with David Mim and Mike Blumenthal is always every week as we discuss the most interesting developments of the week or whatever's top of mind, depending on how we feel. And today is a little bit more like that. Um, and, uh, so, uh, Uh, I got, I just got back. I went to the, I'm not, I'm not initiating my portion here.

I'm just teasing it. So, uh, I was at a conference this week and it was pretty weird. And I'll be talking about that a little bit later. Um, but first we're going to have the serious item today, which is, uh, uh, David's discussion of the, uh, impact of some of the privacy changes that apple is making on, on email and email analytics and the perceptions of emails.

Viability's a marketing tool going forward. Sure.

David: So there were a lot of stories this week, uh, around the, what was the WW DC event, uh, earlier that apple talked about some of these upcoming changes and a couple of them in particular, where I saw, I wish I could remember the source on this, but, uh, a full frontal assault on marketers.

And, uh, it's one of these changes is going to make for the death of email marketing. Uh, and I would, I I'm reminded of it. Mark Twain Quip that, uh, you know, his death was greatly exaggerated when it was reported in the, in the paper, on one of his trips to Europe. So,

Greg: um, so before you get into the debunking, that, what, what let's explain what the, what the impassion,

David: so the, uh, as I understood it anyway, the announcement was that effectively apple was going to sort of start pre-screening, uh, emails, uh, which would require them to effectively open them, uh, to trigger the, to fire the tracking page.

That a lot of, um, emails from all kinds of email service providers, MailChimp, HubSpot, whatever. They all typically include a tracking pixel to understand if a, if a subscriber has opened the email, uh, and that Apple's new implementation will, uh, essentially fake and open. Uh, so that those, those pixels are gonna fire.

No, E just on a send essentially to, uh, anyone who's opening on an apple, uh, in an apple mail client. So, um, So that was, that was really interesting. Uh, I, my take is that, you know, open rates are sort of, um, sort of like a vanity metric, right? They're, they're akin to the number of, uh, the number of likes that your Facebook page has or something like that.

Where, where they're not really where the rubber meets the road when it comes to emails. I think that they're, they're directionally important, right? You'd want to know if your open rates started at 50% and this week they're at 15%, you're probably either sending them. It's too frequently or the content you're sending is really crappy.

Um, but they never should have been your sort of be all end, all metric. I think a much more important metric. Uh, is, are you sending interesting content? Are your subscribers actually clicking on what you're sending? Uh, and as far as I can tell the announcement doesn't impact the ability for email service providers to track clicks, uh, which are typically done on a campaign ID and a subscriber ID.

Uh, basis. So not to say that apple couldn't come after those at some point, but that, that didn't seem to be part of this announcement. Um,

Mike: the one thing they did announce it, which is the, uh, apple cloud plus privacy initiative, which essentially runs all web trends. Through anonymous servers, offensive anonymous servers.

So that location of clicks can no longer be tracked. So there is some loss of analytics data at the same time, even if there is a tracking number, which I'm all in favor is N nobody wrote about the end of analytics though, even though. But they're going to be totally hosed with the changes.

Greg: I mean, if you look at the whole, if you look at the market holistically, I mean now with Google sort of aping, Apple's kind of, uh, ad ID moves to some degree.

I mean, there's, there's a, there's a holistic, um, encroachment on the, the, uh, the credit, not credibility, but the, uh, the accuracy of analytics, the availability and accuracy of it.

David: Across the board. Right. And, and I guess my, my analogy, which I mentioned on Twitter was, was, you know, it's not like SEO is isn't valuable because it's way harder to track than paid search.

Right? It's not like email is, is all of a sudden, less valuable. It's just harder to track. So we're just going to do a hap, we're just going to have to do a better job of, uh, figuring out what content is resonating and making sure we're sending good content and all of those things. And I also think that there's still plenty of opportunity.

Email as a, as a conversion mechanism, even if apple starts, uh, discontinuing a click throughs for tracking, right? If you have a code that you need to redeem at checkout or, or things like that, you're still going to find it. Email is one of the most effective channels for you. So I just thought it was, you know, typical sort of tech press week in terms of, um, phonics every over every major announcement, whether it's apple or Google or Amazon or who.

Um, and, and over-hyping whatever the impact of that announcement was, uh, or at the very least misframing what the announcement actually means. So,

Greg: well, I mean, I

Mike: mean, I was just going to say apple traffic has mobile traffic has largely been dark in analytics for awhile. Right. We don't know which after using, we don't, we don't know a lot about them.

And as a result, people under us, I think undirected. Obviously one of the biggest spending populations in the world, which is iPhone users. And because we can't see them that clearly to some extent it gives Google like up, cause we can see the traffic that's coming from maps or from local or from the website and et cetera.

And we can't quite see it as clearly from applicant. And so a lot of people don't focus as much on it, but I think all of this is going to get further muddied together either. And we're going to have to come up with new techniques across the board, not just with email.

Greg: Um, just a quick point on the, the viability of email.

I mean, consistently in surveys, consumer said email was one of the primary channels that they respond to most. I mean, that's, it continues to be, uh, something that people are receptive to and that they're engaged with, you know, provided that the content is good as you say. So, you know, simply because it can't be tracked as, as, as accurately doesn't mean that it shouldn't continue to be used.

You know, you gotta focus on the customer. And not necessarily on the dashboard, you know? Okay. And now to Mr. Dashboard himself, Mike

Mike: Blumenthal. So I spent my week exploring, uh, abuses in the Google, my business arena of the names, business names. There's a longstanding Google rule that says the business name is supposed to reflect your business in the real world.

And somebody sent across my desk, a business that had. I dunno, 174 character name, a 93% of it was all made up. Keywords are all keywords added to the basic business name to help them do better in search. So. Introduced it as a competition on my personal blog to see who could find the longest business name, because two things, one, clearly this was just one example.

And the other was, uh, two years ago I did something similar and I determined that the limit to business names was a hundred characters. And clearly it was past that. I wasn't prepared to nuke my own personal listing in the experiment. So I challenged the others to nuke their listing instead. And what we determined one, we found it.

Up to about 289 characters, I think was the winner, although maybe that was in India. So somebody said India doesn't count because everything's spam there. But we found a number of names, Sam pepper from, uh, Stan of clever did some scraping and found four or 500 that were longer than that. And w w what we found was it's a fairly small percentage go to the extreme.

Uh, the one I really liked though, was the, um, fortune teller in China that had, uh, 200 and I don't know, 74 character name. And they also though had four hundred and sixty nine, five star reviews. And I was thinking that probably was four, you know, they probably knew that they were gonna be that successful.

Right. Um, so it's, it's curious to me one, why would Google increase the limit beyond any reasonable. To,

Greg: to encourage keyword stuffing too

Mike: well, right. I mean, spammers are getting more active. They need more space, but I mean, why don't they just go get rid of all the categories and just let people pile it into their name?

I mean, I don't get it and it's a field that's so broadly abused. So I went and I looked at the pool cleaner that I think we got this all started. Yeah. You know, his competitions I'll doing it. Of course they weren't 174 characters. They were a hundred twenty five, a hundred thirty five, but in Los Angeles everybody's doing it.

So the enforcement has dropped way down. The rules are still there. These are not helpful to consumers. They're, they're deleterious to surrounding businesses. And basically there's a rush to. Bottom of the branding barrel by naming your business, David Mims, best internet search consultant ever, please call now kind of business.

Right. So I don't know.

David: I mean, uh, after whenever that experiment was that we were running, um, you know, it's so interesting, Mike, I'm just, uh, there's a couple, couple of anecdotes that it reminds me of the first. At least when Joel Headley was working at Google, he always advised that your business name in GMB should be, should be the same thing as what you say when you answer on the phone.

So I have a heart, I'm just wondering how these swimming pool companies answer their phones. If they actually align with, uh, the 274 care there's enforcement has

Mike: become very weak in this arena, just know, right? Well, that's

David: the second, the second thing is, you know, you go back to all of these bogus PR statements that Google puts out when stuff like this.

About, oh, well we have to, you know, let a certain percentage of spam in so we can understand what they're doing. And it's like, guess what? They're just stuffing keywords, Willy nilly, uh, based on a non-existent character limit and clearly no human review. So the solution here seems fairly obvious to

Mike: me.

Maybe rank could be inversely related to the length of them. All right. So the longer more characters you put in the lower, your rank, really I'm

David: switching my name to DM.

Mike: Good plan. I could see you still have some NCO blood flowing through your veins.

David: Always one step ahead.

Greg: There are SU who are well back before when there were conferences still, um, who, who would recommend keyword stuffing? You know, Google says no, no, but it's works. And so. You know, th th that was sort of a recommendation that was, you know, wink, wink passed along in some, some of the events it's still

Mike: in local it's still is because business names work.

If you add a category or two or three, or your business name, the risk is very low. The reward is quite high and there's no there's actively non-enforcement. And the question becomes why shouldn't a business.

Greg: Well, and this is what we were talking about with fake reviews, that there are no incentives for anybody to, to not, you know, there's no incentive for Google to truly enforce, uh, again, you know, to, to remove all the fake reviews because nobody's going to punish them and you've got section two 30 and there's no, there's no, uh, disincentive for businesses to do this.

Mike: Right. So in conclusion, Greg near media is what 11 characters I have to give or take. So anyways, You as the editor and

Greg: or you kind of get that on the CEO,

Mike: just her name and here media. So you as editor in chief have to come up with 179 digital. For our listing. Well, so, so make them literate, at least get the commas in the right

Greg: spot, you know?

Yeah. Well, I was going to ask you about whether there was any separators between these,

Mike: the pipe. Uh, some people use commas, some people don't put anything in it's really, they're quite hilarious when you see them, but it speaks to the dialectic of sort of gaming plus Google's dominance, how it distorts market.

All right. When th when you're as big as they are and have as much influence as they do, they end up distorting marketplaces. And this is a good example. Uh, you know, it's not a financial way. Here's a financial distortion just shows you how much influence they have that people are doing it.

Greg: Yeah, for sure.

Well, so I was at a conference this week where I gave a presentation on fake fake reviews, which I won't go on. Right now in some of the research that we did overall on this, which we haven't published yet. And interestingly, next week, there's a another organization. Uh, that's gonna put out a number tied to how much review fraud costs in terms of purchases, gross merchandise value.

That's motivated by review fraud, um, which I don't want to reveal cause it's, it's under embargo, but it's kind of interesting. It's only for, e-commerce not services. So it's a big number. Probably underestimating it. But, um, so, so I wanted to talk this week about this conference because I went back to this, this first live events.

Uh, it was the advanced search summit at Napa California, which is only about an hour north of where I live. So I drove and I had been scheduled to speak at it in 2019, and they just rolled everybody over to 2021. So I went and it was, it was, it was really interesting to be at a live event now after all of this, because.

I've been telling people I can't make small talk anymore. And I was really sort of nervous to see people and how, you know, oh, I've gained weight. How is that going to be anyway? So it was, it was at once really familiar and very strange at the same time. So, so it was great to see some of the people, people seem genuinely happy to be together.

Um, there was a lot of, um, joyful kind of socializing. Uh, the mask enforcement was really inconsistent, which was very sad, strange. I mean, people were supposed to wear masks inside and half the people weren't, um, at the social events, which were sort of the main emphasis of this, of this get together. Um, people were drinking and close talking and standing toe to toe, and there was very little, um, distancing or recognition of, of that even in people sort of essentially treating the whole thing as though it's all in the past.

Um, but there were some initial interesting conversations with people about how weird it was to be back together in this kind of a situation. And, um, and then sort of by day two. And now it's on day three. I came back yesterday. Uh, people are just back in the mode, you know, it seemed like everybody sort of snapped back into business development, schmoozing, you know, deal-making mode.

Um, and, and what, what, so. S w remained very strange to me, but what's clear is that people are going to come back to conferences in a big way, because you simply cannot get the value that you get from interacting in person in a virtual event. So,

Mike: no, but you said content became secondary. I mean, do you think that

Greg: well, so at this, at this particular event, people were not that interested in hearing the content.

I mean, that's often true for people who come to conferences to network. They don't sit in on the side. But it really seemed that way here. It really seemed that people were, it was almost like people were attending the conference either because they've made the previous commitment. And this was simply the fulfillment of that, or it was a novelty experience.

Wow. Here's a live event that we can go to and it's got some of these cool social socializing, you know, cool networking events around it.

David: Were there any, were there any vaccine passport requirements at all or

Greg: so, so honestly, no. In theory you were supposed to be. Bring your vaccine card or a vaccination card, or have a negative evidence of a negative COVID test.

But when I got there, nobody enforced anything, I had my car and I was ready to show it to people, nobody enforced anything. Um, so I guess the assumption is that everybody complied with that, but, um, it's an interesting as an interesting point, um, just in my session, which was on review fraud, uh, there was a woman who asked the question at the end, Who said that her company had taken over a business when she didn't say who they were, who the business was that they'd taken over, but almost all of their reviews, which were mostly five star reviews were fake and had been paid for.

And she didn't know what to do now, because should she take down her own reviews? Uh, or, you know, what, what, what I said to her was, you know, initiate your own program and then. Talk to somebody at Google talk to a Google rep about how to handle it because she wanted to do the right thing. But if she removed all her reviews right away, there would have been a kind of an immediate hit probably to their traffic.

But it was, uh, it was, uh, it was, it was validation of, of one of the points that I was making, which is the most common type of, uh, uh, of reviews or business owner fraud. You know, it's like either getting friends and family or employees to write reviews or paying for somebody to do that. So that was kind of.

But she, that she came in and saw that all their reviews were, were bogus and had been bought, you know, but, but, um, it was, it was great to see people at this event and, um, I'm not, um,

don't bother me, I'm working. Um, but, but, but, but I, I'm not, I am. Emotionally or physically prepared to go right back into the conference circuit. It was weird to get into the hotel room. It was just all the, all the familiar routines that everybody does. We're just, I, I'm not quite ready for that. You know,

Mike: I have so loved now traveling.

I was, I mean, in retrospect I was traveling too much. I was traveling almost once a month and it was too, it was too much. And now the question becomes what's right. Travel. And I decided I'm not even going to dress the question during the summer and I'll deal with it though.

Greg: Well, this, this is I think, where people are going to be.

I think people will be discriminating about the events that they go to. They'll want to go to high quality events where they're going to get a lot of, you know, a lot of meetings or there's somebody they really want to see, or there's, you know, they really want to present people used to go to a lot of events and I think there will be a sort of a threshold.

Uh, and then a lot of the sort of lesser events made may not continue. Um, so either, either really big events where you're going to get a lot of efficiency. Or really sort of boutique events where there's a high quality interaction and it was nice that this event was relatively small. Um, you know, it, it, it made for better kind of interaction with people.

So, yeah.

David: I'm thinking about your comment about networking, you know, people not really there for the content and Mike, I remember our, that the cinder conference you and I went to and Valencia in 2017 or something like that. Not that it was all networking, but I think. They did such a good job of structured networking events, um, at that, at that show Kimberly and her team.

And I think that that to your point, Greg is probably what people are craving most right now. Um, more, more than any tactical tips to grow their business or whatever. So, um, I think that that's

Mike: yeah. And I'm just wondering if that means you should rethink how you structure a conference, know the relative weight of content.

Yeah. Now working in what

Greg: means? So I think, I, I think that's an excellent point. I do think it means fundamentally rethinking what a conference is and really, and really, um, you know, there's a lot of tension between continent networking very often at conferences because people pull out of the sessions to go network because there's not enough networking time.

And the, and the Europeans do do Kimberly does do a great job with the structured networking and, and at this conference they did a pretty good job. With that. But I think, I think there's, there's kind of hunger for real information at conferences, not just the blah, blah, blah, that you get in a lot of presentations.

So if you can create group discussions or, you know, sort of AMS or, or some, some sort of short presentation with a lot of engagement, that kind of format, it's going to be better than the standard. Here's a million stats and our sales people. Um, you know, that kind of perfunctory stuff that you get in a lot of shows.

Mike: Yeah. I mean, where I'm thinking about is local you, right. Which has always been leading edge content, tactical content that, you know, there's been developed over the past period of time.

Greg: Yeah. That's a little bit different. That's an exception.

Mike: Yeah. Or even their weather, the ground, which it's been intensely content-driven right.

Eight hours straight at content, maybe working events never given up. So, yeah. Right. But the question is whether that should even be ameliorated further, right. I mean, particularly the first one back. Should it be, should there be a much more conscious effort at networking during the day? You know, whatever, I don't know.

Greg: Well, there's also going to be a, there's also going to be like a, a transition period where the novelty of being an in person will be, people will be especially hungry to, to be in person with one another. And then over time, I think that will fade and we'll be back to some sort of regular conference mode or cadence, you know?

Mike: Yeah. I don't know. I went to the barber the other day. I was a guest to find out that my barber, after telling me not to take my mask off, that he wasn't vaccinated and he wasn't going to get vaccine. It's like, oh my God, what did I do? I sit down in the seat, but it brings out this whole stress though that every aspect of society he's going through, whether it's merchants and consumers or conferences and consumers, right.

So it's, it's going to be, uh, I, you know, I think, I think a growth business right now would be off. Well,

Greg: I think it's, what's really weird is people not knowing, you know, not knowing whether to wear the mask or not wear the mask. And a lot of the, a lot of the sort of, um, the, you know, whatever the, the PE your peer group is doing in the situation, determines your behavior.

I mean, it's very hard to be the only person wearing a mask. If everybody else isn't wearing a mask. Right. You know? Right. All right on, on that note, we will conclude this is number 15. Is that right? No, no, no much

David: 19 or something. Oh my

Greg: God. 19, I think where have I been? All right.

David: Number nine flies. Greg time flies,

Mike: Nick.

COVID time for today.

Greg: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. All right. Well

David: anyway, thanks for listening everyone. Yeah.

Greg: Have a good weekend or rest of your week, wherever, wherever you are.