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Google’s back-to-school shopping tips for local merchants; Monday's daily brief

Search Engine Land’s daily brief features daily insights, news, tips, and essential bits of wisdom for today’s search marketer. If you would like to read this before the rest of the internet does, sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox daily.

Good morning, Marketers, who should foot the bill?

More accurately, who should pay for digital service taxes (DST)? Earlier this week, Google announced that it would be passing on a 2% “regulatory operating cost” surcharge to advertisers’ invoices for ads served in India and Italy — the company is already doing this for ads served in Austria, Turkey, the UK, France and Spain.

These fees are imposed by regulators on companies that sell ads (e.g., Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc). “Typically, these kinds of cost increases are borne by customers and like other companies affected by this tax, we will be adding a fee to our invoices, from November,” a Google spokesperson told the UK’s City A.M back in September.

It’s true. One way or another, taxes imposed on companies usually end up getting paid by customers. If the motivation behind these taxes is simply to bring in more tax revenue, then it probably doesn’t matter to regulators whether a platform or its customers are paying. But, the thresholds for these taxes seem to suggest that large businesses are the target.

Take, for example, the UK’s DST thresholds: a company must make more than £500 million in global digital services revenues and £25 million in UK digital services revenues within a 12-month period to be subject to the tax.

While encouraging competition may not be a primary driving force behind these DSTs, it’s hard to imagine that it’s not a related subject, given the criteria above. Either way, taxes increase the overall price of a good or service, which affects how much of it we can buy, and that could have real implications for businesses that rely on advertising to generate revenue.

I’m still doing my research on this topic, and I’d love to hear your opinion. Send your thoughts to gnguyen@thirddoormedia.com (subject line: My two cents on that 2%).

George Nguyen,

Analyzing the top 10 YouTube results

Semrush YouTube video length distribution
Image: Semrush.

Semrush recently conducted a YouTube SEO study based on 15,000 keywords that triggered a featured video in the SERP. Then, it took a look at the top 10 YouTube results for each of those keywords. The findings seem to be in line with many of the YouTube best practices that I’ve seen. The study found that:

  • 45% of videos were between three to five minutes, and 5% were shorter than one minute.
  • 52% of videos ranking for “how-to” keywords are longer than five minutes. For the general sample, it was only 33%.
  • More than half of the videos that ranked in the first position have more than 50 words in the description.
  • Only 8% of videos with timestamps rank in position one — so while they may be important for UX, they’re not crucial to ranking highly.
  • Title similarity with keyword ratio, number of views, and video duration were the most important parameters, according to the machine learning model Semrush used.
  • 18% of videos were from channels that have less than 1,000 subscribers, so even smaller channels can find themselves among the top 10.

How-to content has been a topic of interest as of late, and the study zooms in specifically on those videos as well. You can read the entire study over at the Semrush blog.

Google’s local ads tips for the back-to-school shopping season

Local inventory ads with pickup options. Image: Google.

More than half of North American back-to-school shoppers say they’ll check for in-store inventory online before going into a store and 48% will shop at stores that offer curbside pickup or contactless shipping, according to Ipsos data commissioned by Google. To help retailers take advantage of these consumer preferences, Google has published a list of local ads solutions.

  • Get your local inventory online: Businesses that don’t yet have a local inventory feed can use Pointy from Google, a hardware device that attaches to a point-of-sale barcode scanner to pull its title, image and description to add it to Surfaces across Google. Pointy is free for eligible retailers until September 30.
  • Local inventory ads: These ads enable brick-and-mortar stores to showcase their inventory online. They can also indicate immediate curbside pickup or pickup later options.
  • Local campaigns: This campaign type can be used to promote your locations. Local campaigns measure and optimize specifically for store visits and local actions (calls and clicks to driving directions), and appear across Google Maps, Search, YouTube, Gmail and the Google Display Network.

Read more here.

Start the week off with some food for thought regarding “the algorithm”

“The algorithm” isn’t a singular thing. Understanding that many algorithms may be working together to power a platform is crucial to optimizing for that platform. Lea Kissner, head of privacy engineering at Twitter, has a great thread on this topic.

Google recommends one primary video per page. If you’re applying video structured data, Google’s John Mueller recommends doing it to just one main video per page.

“Pretty much.” This one’s for those who love doge and SEO memes. Tip of the hat to Izzi Smith.

From carrot to stick: The dam has broken on COVID vaccine mandates

“It took mandates to eradicate smallpox and eliminate polio,” Nicole Wetsman wrote for The Verge, “We control measles, diphtheria, and other infectious diseases by requiring kids get their shots before going to school. When vaccines aren’t required, uptake tends to stay low — it’s one reason rates of HPV vaccination aren’t as high as health experts would like, even though the shots can prevent cancer.”

Much of the marketing data that’s been published for Q1 and Q2 2021 show increased consumer demand (compared to last year) across verticals — we’ve even published a few of those figures in this newsletter. These positive signs were made possible by the COVID vaccine, but the future isn’t looking so promising now that new cases have spiked, giving way to the “fourth wave.”

As a society, we’ve stalled out on administering the vaccine. Incentive programs, ranging from free beer to baseball tickets and now, possibly even a $100 payment to newly vaccinated Americans, have only succeeded in nudging people who were on the fence. It seems that businesses and governing bodies are recognizing that mandates may be necessary to curb the threat of the Delta variant.

Last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs, which runs one of the country’s biggest health systems, became the first federal agency to introduce a mandate. Then, President Biden announced that all federal employees would have to get vaccinated or undergo regular COVID testing and other protocols. The private sector is moving in the same direction: Google, Facebook and Lyft have announced that only vaccinated employees may return to the office.

People need to stay employed to continue providing for their families and businesses need to stay operational to pay their staff. Nobody wants to give their employees ultimatums, but every government entity and business that does so sets a precedent, making it easier for smaller organizations to follow suit. “Mandates won’t fix [the COVID] problem on their own, but they’re one more strategy that could help,” Wetsman wrote, “At this point, we need all the help we can get.”

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