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Good morning, Marketers, do you work for a business that cares about making its content accessible to all?
In our industry, we’re used to speaking of legislation in terms of antitrust or privacy, but for this newsletter intro, I’d like to shift our focus to another piece of landmark legislation: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — its 31st anniversary was yesterday. The ADA is directly responsible for the employment of so many people because it requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations, and we’re a more inclusive, stronger society for it.
In addition to brick-and-mortar facilities, ADA protection also extends to websites. Between 2018 and 2019, there were over 2,200 lawsuits filed in federal courts, and although some were aimed at notable brands like Dunkin’ Donuts, Bank of America, Domino’s Pizza and Nike, the majority were directed at SMBs. Today is a fine day to ask yourself and your team, “Are our sites ADA compliant?”
If you’re unsure where to begin, Microsoft’s Christi Olson has summarized “10 principles of digital accessibility for modern marketers” to help you get started. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a lot of new factors, like page experience, affect the rankings, and while accessibility isn’t currently a ranking factor, never say “never.”
Google publishes timelines for Privacy Sandbox proposals
Google recently published a timeline reflecting the stages of development for various categories of Privacy Sandbox initiatives. The timeline provides search marketers with a general idea of when the initiatives should be ready for adoption. That can give marketers some indication as to whether the company will meet its new deadline (late 2023) to deprecate third-party cookies.
Transition period: Stage 1 (in which APIs for each use case are available for adoption) is currently forecasted to begin Q4 2022. Sometime after that, we should have a clearer picture of what advertising with Google looks like as third-party cookies are phased out.
Google fixing two search bugs; review snippets and soft 404 detection
Google has confirmed it is resolving two bugs, one related to review stars showing in the search results and another related to how Google processes soft 404 documents. The two issues seem to be unrelated.
Over the past couple of days, Google Search has, for the most part, stopped showing review snippets — the image above shows the same results screenshotted two days apart. And, Google recently changed how it detects soft 404 pages, which caused some to see spikes in soft 404 errors but not clearly seeing if those pages were in the Google index or not. Both of these issues can directly affect your traffic from Google Search, so when the company does fix them, it may lead to more traffic.
New business openings remained strong in Q2 across categories, according to Yelp
In Q2, new local businesses opened in record numbers and across numerous sectors, according to Yelp. In categories like home, local, professional and automotive services, new business openings were higher than they’ve been since 2017-2018. Business owners may feel more confident thanks to widespread vaccine rollout and pent-up consumer demand — a phenomenon I’ve seen referred to as “rage spending.”
The economy is rebuilding its momentum and people are rethinking their lifestyles in the wake of the pandemic. We’ve seen massive shifts in the labor force, with many workers using their newly found leverage to find better, higher-paying jobs. While I’d like to say that “the pandemic is gone for good,” my guidance in today’s introduction still applies: never say “never.”
Why we care. Daily new COVID cases in the U.S. have spiked again and we’re currently at about October 2020 levels. The silver lining is that we have access to several effective vaccines, which should help keep businesses staffed and operational, and we have experience. Platforms have built features that enable businesses to pivot and convey important information to customers, and many marketers have developed new protocols to help them communicate with their audiences. Let’s hope the health of the nation and the economy continue to improve, but let’s also make preparations in case the latter half of 2021 resembles 2020.
Are you Team Google or Team BackRub?
It’s news to me. I just learned that at one point, Sergey Brin and Larry Page called their search engine “BackRub,” because it analyzed backlinks. Just imagine: BackRub Maps, BackRub+, BRMail, BackRub Shopping… So, what’s got a better ring to it? Vote here.
Google Maps updates “dangerous” Ben Nevis route. “Mountaineering groups said the dotted line crossed ‘potentially fatal’ steep, rocky and pathless terrain, while a suggested walking route for a different mountain, An Teallach, would lead people over a cliff,” the BBC reported. I’ve followed Google Maps directions on trails before and it hasn’t always turned out great — I’m glad this is now on the company’s radar, but I wonder if they’ll be able to resolve this issue at scale.
A Facebook group for SEO memes. I LOL’d.
The EU gives Google two months to improve hotel and flight search result transparency
Yesterday, the European Commission told Google that it has two months to improve how it presents flight and hotel search results and explain how it ranks them. If it doesn’t meet the deadline, the company may face sanctions.
“The latest grievance centres on the prices on its services Google Flights and Google Hotels,” Foo Yun Chee wrote for Reuters, “The final prices for these should include fees or taxes that can be calculated in advance, while reference prices used to calculate promoted discounts should be clearly identifiable, the EU executive and national consumer watchdogs, led by the Dutch agency and the Belgian Directorate General for Economic Inspection, said in a joint statement.”
In the U.S., Google is already showing why it ranked a specific search result, so I imagine this won’t be a huge leap for the company to achieve. However, some of the EU’s regulatory tactics seem to have an end goal (like more transparency or increasing competition), but also leave a lot of wiggle room, which companies are sure to take advantage of — for example, the auction that initially powered the search choice screen, which Google ultimately had to drop due to pressure from regulators and competitors. If vague instructions are given, don’t be surprised when the result isn’t exactly what you were hoping for.