Facebook unfriends Australia and Maryland passes ad tax; 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, and is UX the new web standard?

I asked how you felt about Core Web Vitals last week, and we got some varied feedback:

I think Core Web Vitals do stand to be a game-changer, kind of. Unlike https and mobile-first, Google has put a ton of support towards developer tools, transparency in weighting/values of each metric, etc. which leads me to believe that this is going to matter. However, it’ll be very high-stakes table-stakes, if that makes sense, in that if you aren’t on par with your competitors on performance, you’ll see a hit to your rankings.
– Mat Reiss

Not everyone will not be implementing it before the launch. It costs way too much.  Implementing https is easy. Mobile-first indexing was a no-brainer. It is VERY difficult and VERY expensive to improve page experience. Given the fierce competition for rank based on content, many sites have equal or near-equal content footing. That will make page experience a game changer.
– Jennifer McDougall

I think we’ve seen some historical evidence of [Google] strong-arming websites into doing things their way through ranking penalizations… This strong-arm approach would result in websites with lower CWV scores to lose position (even if they have better content) – forcing them to focus more attention to improving CWV and thus improving the UX of the whole internet (in G’s eyes). Without this approach, content would still reign supreme and the website with the best content would still win out – signaling that UX is not very important.
– Tom Snyder

The common thread in these responses seems to be that we need to make user experience a priority. And, I get it. It’s hard. We want beautiful websites. We want multimedia elements. We want interactive content. But those awesome website elements can’t come at the expense of the user. A fast, accessible, easy to use site is crucial for both SEO and PPC.

P.S. SMX Report is all about data and metrics. If you haven’t signed up for this analytics-focused learning journey yet, don’t sweat it. There’s still time. Go ahead, snag your ticket and mark your calendar.

Carolyn Lyden
Director of Search Content

Facebook unfriends Australia after government proposes changing the rules

Screenshot showing Twitter conversation where Facebook has blocked marketers from sharing links to their blogs because it's mistaken for news

ICYMI: Facebook unfriended Australia this week after the government there proposed a legal code that would allow Australian news publishers to charge tech companies to use their content in search results and news feeds. Facebook responded by blocking users there from viewing or sharing news content on its platform. But it looks like it didn’t get it’s categorization completely right…

Thankfully, the faceoff may have turned a corner, as Josh Frydenberg of Australia’s Treasury department said he spoke with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday about continuing the conversation over the weekend. As of this writing, the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code has not been passed pending further negotiations between the Australian government, tech companies, and media outlets, the most notable of which is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. 

Why We Care. What does it mean for marketers that live downstream from news sites? And if Facebook can thumbs-down an entire continent’s move to support parity between tech giants and news publishers, what’s to stop them from blocking similar efforts in other sectors or countries? Also, what’s the fallout for marketers whose content isn’t news but who are still being blocked like Brodie in the screenshot above? Plus Facebook is now getting in trouble for falsely inflating ad metrics. Big yikes all around. Marketers may benefit from developing solutions that offer a detox from dependence on tech monoliths and walled gardens.

Read more here.

Digital-first commerce boosts Shopify’s earnings

With the COVID-19 pandemic closing down many in-person businesses, companies shifted to online stores and ecommerce to stay afloat. Shopify’s earnings call this week reflected that exodus–with Q4 earnings up 94% YoY and their 2020 holiday sales surpassing $5 billion. 

Not only are businesses moving online, but consumer behavior around online purchases is also evolving. Research from Publicis Sapient shows nearly three-quarters of consumers shopped online last summer with 48% of those interviewed saying they’ll continue to do so in the future. The research also indicates an opportunity for brands to acquire new customers through ecommerce experiences, with 74% purchasing products from retailers new to them.

Why we care. Like we mentioned last Thursday, platforms like Shopify are taking user feedback to improve the migration process–and now we know why! Ecommerce SEO and Shopping Ads are a big deal for businesses, and we expect that the trend will continue far past the pandemic. So if you haven’t invested in Shopify, Amazon, or general ecommerce SEO or PPC knowledge–it might be time.  

Read more here.

Maryland is the first state to tax digital advertising services

Last week Maryland passed a bill enacting a tax on digital advertising services. Operating on a sliding scale, the law requires companies that make money off the sale of digital ads to pay a percentage to the state. “Digital-advertising services, as defined in the bill, include ‘advertisements in the form of banner advertising, search advertising, interstitial advertising, and other comparable advertising services,’” said Kate Cox with Ars Technica.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Between $100 million and $1 billion in global revenue = Pay 2.5%
  • > $1 billion in revenue = Pay 5%
  • > $5 billion in revenue = Pay 7.5%
  • > $15 billion in revenue = Pay 10%

Why we care. So I’m sure you can guess where Google and Facebook fall… (Hint: They generate more than $15 billion per quarter according to AdExchanger.) Tech companies are, of course, suing to block the law from taking effect saying it violates the Internet Tax Freedom Act. If it does manage to go into effect unscathed, it could start a surge of similar legislation across the country. Some detractors believe this law will hit businesses the hardest during an already hard time because tech platforms will find ways to pass the added cost on to advertisers.

On the hunt for something new in 2021? Here are the latest career opportunities in search

Performance Marketing Manager @ Noble Studios (USA–closes today!)

  • Manage defined paid advertising budgets, monitoring spend pace and performance forecasting
  • Develop strategic plans and campaigns that drive measurable results

UX Designer @ ROI Revolution (Raleigh, NC)

  • Create and pitch recommendations and designs for a cohesive experimentation strategy
  • Initiate, monitor and report on the performance of A/B tests

SEO Growth Manager / Director @ Compound Growth Marketing (Remote)

  • Manage projects, prioritize, and manage external consulting resources
  • Manage client relationships and driving strategy that delivers

Associate Technical SEO @ DeepCrawl (US and UK)

  • Train client SEOs and developers on advanced usage of DeepCrawl
  • Work with DeepCrawl clients that have regular Professional Services calls

Enter a job opening for an opportunity to be featured in this section.

Block content from Google Discover, conferences and fireworks

Screenshot of Google search with fireworks superimposed over a search for "perseverance" the Mars rover

Perseverance Google fireworks. To celebrate the historic landing of the Perseverance rover on Mars, Google has special fireworks when you search for the term [perseverance].

Google SEO conference. After you are done with SMX Report on February 23rd (make sure you don’t miss it), you can catch the short Google Search Central Live conference. Registration is free, and more details are over here.

Block content from Google Discover. Google may give publishers a method to block their content from showing in Google Discover, said Google’s Danny Sullivan.

We’ve curated our picks from across the web so you can retire your feed reader.


About The Author

Carolyn Lyden serves as the Director of Search Content for Search Engine Land and SMX. With expertise in SEO, content marketing, local search, and analytics, she focuses on making marketers’ jobs easier with important news and educational content.

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